Doctor Who Big Finish and Audio stories review blog...

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Quatermass
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05 Jan 2013, 10:51 pm

After some thought, I've decided to do a new sort of review blog, a spin-off to my Doctor Who review blog. A big part of the Doctor Who mythos nowadays are a number of original audio dramas, officially sanctioned by the BBC. Although these have been going on since at least the 1970s, the audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions are now an even greater part of the mythos.

Therefore, I am committing myself not only to building up my collection of these audios, but listening to and reviewing them. This review blog won't just cover the Big Finish audio stories, but also other stories created by the BBC, like The Pescatons, Slipback, The Paradise of Death, and Hornet's Nest, where available.


The rules are as follows:

*I am to listen to every Doctor Who audio story that I have available. To date, these are: Davros, The Nightmare Fair, The Juggernauts, Zagreus, Terror Firma, The Davros Mission, and I, Davros. I will probablywait until I get a number of other audio stories, to give it some variety.

*These stories will be watched in story order. That is, not release or production order, but rather where they fit in story order.

*I have a week to watch and review each story. The next story will count as a week from the previous review.

I'll be starting this thread properly in a couple of weeks' time.


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12 Jan 2013, 10:01 am

I could probably buy a small car for the money I have spent with Big Finish over the years...



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14 Jan 2013, 1:14 am

Noetic wrote:
I could probably buy a small car for the money I have spent with Big Finish over the years...


I managed to get most of those mentioned above through the Davros DVD boxset, and two of them I managed to buy elsewhere. I'm also waiting for more Big Finish audio stories through a store.

Shortly, there'll be a review. This means all audio stories I can get a hold of, and the first story, through the library, will be The Paradise of Death.


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14 Jan 2013, 2:12 am

REVIEW: The Paradise of Death by Barry Letts

SERIAL:
JPR1, 5X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


My first story to review is one that I consider to be a rather sad one. After all, the three main cast are now dead, with Jon Pertwee dead in 1996, and Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney dead since 2011. But back in 1993, they recorded a pair of stories for BBC Radio, both written by the also now sadly deceased producer/writer for the series, Barry Letts. I remember reading the novelization of The Paradise of Death a long, long time ago, and can barely remember it. But would it be good?

A new amusement park called SpaceWorld has been opened in Hampstead Heath, and a body has been discovered, apparently savaged by an alien. UNIT investigates, along with the Doctor and Sarah, only to find that SpaceWorld is backed by an alien corporation, the Parakon Corporation, whose representatives Chairman Freeth and Vice-Chairman Tragan claim to only want to give humanity new technologies, even a highly addictive Experienced Reality system. Sarah is soon captured, and taken back to Parakon, while the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Sarah's bumbling colleague Jeremy Fitzoliver head to Parakon in the TARDIS, making a brief, accidental detour to a wartorn world. A wartorn world that curses the name of the Parakon Corporation. But on Parakon, the Doctor and his friends have managed to save Sarah, and are welcomed by the President of Parakon, who explains that the wealth of Parakon is based on the ultra-versatile plant known as Rapine. It is indeed a paradise, but at what cost? Who can the Doctor and his companions trust? And can the deadly Parakon Corporation be stopped?

Barry Letts is a pretty good writer for the series, even if he couldn't claim to be so officially for his tenure on the show, and The Paradise of Death is pretty good, showing his preoccupation with environmental themes. Indeed, one can see threads that would later be echoed by Avatar over a decade and a half later. All the same, however, it feels a little staid, and the story feels more than a little disjointed, given that we have two, albeit connected, plots.

Even so, the regulars shine through. Jon Pertwee's Doctor does betray the actor's age, but he still shines forth as the Doctor, while Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier may have stepped out of the TV show. We even have the Brigadier showing off perhaps his most awesome moment, instituting a bloodless coup d'etat. The other characters are perhaps lesser so great. Richard Pearce's Jeremy is less comic relief and more a sort of upper class twit with no redeeming features, rather like a male version of Mel (although at least Mel was competent), and while Harold Innocent's portrayal of Freeth is an excellent one, the character as written still seems to be too oily and slimy to be credible in his dealings. Peter Miles is a revelation as Tragan, who is like Nyder (his character from Genesis of the Daleks) turned up to eleven. Jane Slavin and Johnathan Tafler as Onya and Rudley respectively round out the better parts of the guest cast.

Sound design wise, it's not too bad a story. The electronic music is of a type that seems out of place in a Jon Pertwee story, but is pretty good, and the sound effects are competent, although at times, they are certainly not at the best standard that BBC Radio has done (like The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or The Lord of the Rings). But the soundscape works well enough to be immersive, and audio is less hampered by budget, and can afford to be more epic than TV.

Overall, The Paradise of Death was a good, but not great story. Still, it's rather moving to listen to three now sadly deceased greats of the show's cast, giving it their all.


SCORE: 8.5/10


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16 Jan 2013, 5:13 am

REVIEW: The Pescatons by Victor Pemberton

SERIAL:
TBR1, 2X25 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


Long ago, I had read the novelisation of an audio story for Doctor Who, known as The Pescatons. I thought the story decent enough as I read it, but I knew also that it had been based on an audio story, debatably the first for the series. Now, I come to the original audio story. But is it any good?

The Doctor and Sarah land on a desolate beach near London, near where a meteorite landed in the estuary some time ago. An alien creature lurks in the fog, the vanguard of an invasion of the amphibious Pescatons, an evil race that the Doctor encountered long ago. The Doctor and Sarah are hard pressed to save the world from the invasion of the vicious, predatory Pescatons, and it may very well be too late...

The problem is with this story is that it is rather too simple and thin. A lot of the story is related as if it was an audiobook, in the first person from the POV of the Doctor, which also hampers the story, and there are many aspects that are silly (like the Doctor singing "Hello, Dolly!", or playing the piccolo when anxious, something more suited to the second rather than fourth Doctor). Some of the story is quite atmospheric, but most parts don't work, which is a pity, given how good Victor Pemberton's Fury from the Deep was.

Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are, as usual, excellent as the Doctor and Sarah. What a shame, really, that they don't get much really to do. Bill Mitchell is wonderfully menacing as Zor, the only other speaking role in the entire story, but is not used enough. A pity, really.

The sound design is competent, and succeeds in building up the atmosphere needed for the story, with the Pescaton heartbeat being chilling and horrific. The music is okay, but not quite right as far as I'm concerned.

The Pescatons was something of a disappointment, to be perfectly honest. A real pity, and I hope that the next audio story is somewhat better...


SCORE: 7/10


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18 Jan 2013, 5:29 am

REVIEW: Hornets' Nest: The Stuff of Nightmares by Paul Magrs

SERIAL:
HN1, 1x70 minute special

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


Tom Baker, until recently, was known to be reluctant to reprise the role of the Doctor for the Big Finish audios. However, in 2009, the BBC persuaded him to come back for a series of stories, linked by an overall story arc, and this not only led to two further story arcs on audio, but also to him reprising the role for Big Finish. Hornets' Nest, then, is a five part story series, four of which (excluding the third) are available at my local library. And I will review them by story, starting with The Stuff of Nightmares...

Mike Yates, long since retired from UNIT, has responded to a mysterious advertisement, seemingly tailored for him. Arriving at the Nest, a mysterious country house, he finds himself with the acerbic Mrs Wibbsey, and with the Fourth Doctor. The Doctor seems preoccupied, and soon, Yates discovers why: the stuffed animals throughout the house come to life and try to kill people, and the Doctor is holding them back with hypnosis. The Doctor tells Mike of how he came to learn about the stuffed animals, the shady Percy Noggins, and what links them to alien hornets...

Like The Pescatons, this is more of an audiobook, albeit one with more fully-fleshed out acting. Most of the narration is done by Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, and Tom Baker as the Doctor. Paul Magrs managed to write a good story, but even so, the dramatised audiobook story does have its limitations. Simplistic, albeit of good quality, and quite creepy.

Tom Baker is excellent, albeit going somewhat OTT at times, and sounds like he just stepped back into the shoes of the Doctor, while Richard Franklin as Yates is nice. I can't pass that much judgement on Susan Jameson as Mrs Wibbsey, but Daniel Hill seems to have been made too OTT as Percy Noggins, although his performance as the hornet-possessed Percy is more suitable. Overall, though, enjoyable all up.

Sound design is pretty good, much better than The Pescatons. And the music works well too. Indeed, leaving aside the whole audiobook thing, this story is quite lavishly produced, with appropriate sound effects.

The Stuff of Nightmares is an interesting start to the Hornets' Nest saga. Here's hoping that the further installments live up to the high tidemark...


SCORE: 9/10


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19 Jan 2013, 9:58 pm

REVIEW: Hornets' Nest: The Dead Shoes by Paul Magrs

SERIAL:
HN2, 1x70 minute special

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


Having dipped my toes tentatively into Hornets' Nest, I found myself intrigued and a little disappointed by The Stuff of Nightmares. I wasn't a fan of the enhanced audiobook style used to deliver the story, though the story was atmospheric and enjoyable. But what would my next sojourn into Hornets' Nest yield?

The Doctor and Mike Yates are beseiged in the basement of Nest Cottage by a small army of stuffed animals possessed by alien hornets. To pass the time until the animals become dormant again, the Doctor tells the further tales of how he investigated the hornets. Having learned of a ballerina called Ernestina Stott getting stung by an unusual hornet in 1932 Cromer, the Doctor travels to that place. There, he finds Stott at the Museum of Curios, run by the forbidding and dry Mrs Wibbsey. Stott steals a pair of old ballet shoes, still with the mummified feet of the previous owner in them, but when she uses them in her performances, she is possessed by the hornets. But returning them might only make things worse, for Wibbsey is an agent of the hornets, and they have plans for the Doctor, and Ernestina...

After the marvellous atmosphere and scene-setting of The Stuff of Nightmares, The Dead Shoes is something of a letdown. True, it's not actually bad, and has some nice horrific elements that are reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen (specifically The Red Shoes), and prefigures a similar sequence in a dollhouse in the new series story Night Terrors. And there's some delightful use of the possibilities of time travel that prefigure what's to come. But the story itself is thin on the ground, and lacks the atmosphere of the original installment.

Tom Baker is a delight as the Doctor, but he still has a tendency to go OTT, especially so in this installment. Mrs Wibbsey's origins are laid out here, and while her character is rather inconsistently written, she is nonetheless shown a more human side in the end compared to her earlier performances, and Susan Jameson is great in the role. So too is Clare Corbett as Ernestina, although her character is somewhat hard to sympathise with at first. And Christian Rodska's Reverend Small seems altogether out of place, marring the atmosphere of the story.

Sound design is, again, quite lavish. Indeed, the music lends an air of atmosphere that the story badly needs, especially with creepy renditions of The Nutcracker Suite (although the original version is creepy enough at times, I reckon). The sound effects too are quite good, but the enhanced audiobook nature of the release works against it.

Overall, The Dead Shoes wasn't bad, but rather, below average, considering what the benchmark set by The Stuff of Nightmares was. Hopefully, when I go to the next available installment, A Sting in the Tale (incidentally the fourth story in the Hornets' Nest arc), it'll be better.

SCORE: 8/10


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22 Jan 2013, 6:28 am

REVIEW: Hornets' Nest: A Sting in the Tale by Paul Magrs

SERIAL:
HN4, 1x60 minute special

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


Unfortunately, the third part of Hornets' Nest, The Circus of Doom, is not available at the library, so I had to skip ahead to the fourth and penultimate part, A Sting in the Tale. Having listened to the first two parts, and been both impressed and disappointed, I wondered how the next installment would turn out. And now, I know...

Having told the stories of how he encountered the Hornets in 1932 and 1832, the Doctor tells Mike Yates about how he found the Hornets when they first arrived on Earth. Back in the Dark Ages, at Tilling Abbey in Northumbria, where the nuns have a secret, and are beseiged by wild dogs, possessed by the Hornets. From the snowbound abbey to the depths of the TARDIS, the Doctor engages in a battle of wits with the Swarm, a battle he may already be destined to lose...

The story is a better one compared to The Dead Shoes, and while not having as much of an impact as The Stuff of Nightmares, it still holds its own. I still don't like the enhanced audiobook format of the story, but it works to great advantage during the surreal chase sequence that makes up much of the second half of the story. Indeed, that sequence and the resulting mental struggle between the Doctor and the Hornets are the highlights of the story.

Most of the story is carried by Tom Baker, and while he does ham it up a little, it's actually less noticeable, probably given the dialogue, than before, and the narration works wonders. The actresses playing the nuns feel slightly interchangeable, but of particular note is Rula Lenska as the Swarm. Her voice sounds androgynous, and eerily alien, with all the treatment given to it.

Sound design, as usual, is wonderful. The sound effects, particularly of the wolfhound attack and of the Swarm, chill to the bone. Music is fine enough, but seems to emphasise less of the horror and more of the adventure, although it does pick up during the chase sequences.

A Sting in the Tale picks up the pace nicely. Not great, but certainly an interesting story, enough to make me want to listen to the conclusion of Hornets' Nest...


SCORE: 8.5/10


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23 Jan 2013, 5:35 am

REVIEW: Hornets' Nest: Hive of Horror by Paul Magrs

SERIAL:
HN5, 1x70 minute special

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


After listening to the first three available installments of Hornets' Nest, I found myself impressed and disappointed by the stories. The story had certainly piqued my interest, and I've stuck with the story to the end. Having to skip the third installment because it wasn't available was annoying, but I am at the final installment, having listened to the other previous ones, and that's all that matters...

Having discussed the origins and conflicts he had had with the Hornets, the Doctor is ready to take the fight to the enemy. And he's taking Mike Yates and Mrs Wibbsey with him into the Hornets' nest, deep within the skull of a taxidermied zebra. But paranoia rages through Mike, who is worried that Wibbsey may be the Hornets' agent. But a confrontation with the Queen of the Swarm soon reveals that Yates is actually being influenced himself. What begins is a battle of wits, and where Yates is faced with the biggest temptation of his life, a temptation that might overwhelm him...

The story had been variable throughout the series, so to have this finale give a satisfying payoff was necessary. And as it turned out, it did work out that way. The whole story is shrill with horror, and we have a revistation of Mike Yates' problems and issues from the TV series. Simple as the story is, it's an enjoyable experience.

The minimalist cast works well. Tom Baker is, as always, a delight, and Richard Franklin's Yates gets some good bits. The narration from both work well to help this story, even if the Doctor telling Yates of the events afterwards does rob the story of a little suspense. Susan Jameson as Mrs Wibbsey is made ever more sympathetic, and Rula Lenska as the Swarm is quite good.

As noted before, sound design is, as always, quite good. Or at least as good as it can be with what is less an audio drama, and more of an enhanced audiobook. Music is good, if sometimes slightly too bombastic, and the sound effects are spot-on.

Overall, this installment of Hornets' Nest was a good payoff to what I had been waiting for. A pity the series wasn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be, but the beginning and the end were great, and that was what mattered...


SCORE: 9/10


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23 Jan 2013, 5:37 am

Now, I've decided to put off listening to the Big Finish audios, partly because I am waiting on a rather big order of them. So I'm going to end this round of reviews with the last BBC audio I can obtain through the library, Death Comes To Time.


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27 Jan 2013, 2:15 am

REVIEW: Death Comes to Time by Colin Meek (pseudonym for Dan Freedman and Nev Fountain)

SERIAL:
SMCR1, 5X approximately 35 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

In the early 2000s, a new Doctor Who drama was broadcast over radio, and via the BBC website. Death Comes to Time was to be the first of four webcasts, although this, for varying reasons, was non-canonical. Even so, as a drama in of itself, it should be allowed to be judged on its own merits...

The planet of Santine has been brutally taken over by the vicious and dictatorial General Tannis, but the resistance has been helped by the Doctor and his companion Antimony. Ace has been captured by Tannis' forces, only to be rescued by Cadmus, a mysterious Time Lord who wishes to become her teacher. The Doctor is then recruited by an old friend, a fellow Time Lord known as the Minister of Chance, to investigate the deaths of two powerful Time Lords on Earth, while the Minister continues to help the resistance on Santine. But the Time Lords have discovered something dangerous, something beginning to threaten the fabric of the universe. For Time Lords have powers they were never meant to abuse, and one of the Doctor's own people may be causing it. As Tannis' forces and ambitions push the Minister of Chance to the edge, and the Doctor returns to fight Tannis on his home turf, Ace embarks on a quest to become a Time Lord...

The story of Death Comes to Time is quite an epic and exciting one, it must be said, and introduces many new aspects to the mythos. But despite being a very good story, with plenty of epic moments, it does have many of faults that bring it down from true greatness. Besides the divergence from continuity, which can be ignored, there are some elements that don't work. Why does Tannis have those Time Lords looking into the disturbances killed? And it's not explicitly stated why the Minister was causing those disturbances, even before the events in the fourth episode. And the story's tone is a touch too metaphysical for a Doctor Who story. Scenes also seem to chop and change too much at times. These are more minor niggles, but they do bring the story down somewhat.

The Doctor and Ace are, as usual, well-portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, and Kevin Eldon as Antimony is both charming and bemusing as Antimony, and while he seems almost like a parody of the Doctor's perfect companion, there's a darker reaosn in story. Stephen Fry is a delight as the tormented Minister of Chance, and John Sessions is a pretty good villain as Tannis. While the characters aren't always as developed as they should be, they are certainly acted well.

Presentation wise, Death Comes to Time is great. It's like listening to a big-budget movie version of Doctor Who. The music is great and works well. So too do the sound effects, with a few exceptions. The radio effects used for the Canisians and the Santine distorts the audio so much, it's hard to make out words properly, even if they are vital to the plot, and the Dalek-like effect used for the vampires also seems very out of place, making them sound artificial rather than bestial.

Death Comes to Time is a very good work, don't get me wrong, and would make a great alternate reality version of the series. But it still feels somewhat set apart from the main part of the series, being perhaps too cerebral and metaphysical at times.


SCORE: 9/10


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27 Jan 2013, 2:16 am

I'm going to put off reviewing the Big Finish audios until later. I'll finish the other review blog, getting it up to date with listening to The Space Pirates, and watching Shada.


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29 Jan 2013, 1:29 am

REVIEW: Energy of The Daleks by Nicholas Briggs

SERIAL:
4S/D, 2X25 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

My Big Finish odyssey begins with one of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Tom Baker was finally enticed back to the role of the Fourth Doctor for the Big Finish audios, with the first season also starring Louise Jameson as Leela. All of my first stories, with some exceptions, have familiar enemies, and the first story will be Energy of the Daleks. As the tagline for the first season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures said, it's Saturday teatime in 1977, all over again...

London, 2025. Damien Stephens, a former political radical, has founded GlobeSphere, a powerful energy corporation, intending to pipe solar energy from the Moon down to an Earth in an energy crisis. Stephens' old friend, energy scientist Jack Coulson, is leading protests against GlobeSphere, and when the Doctor and Leela end up in the middle of one of them, they are separated by GlobeSphere security. Leela is interrogated by strangely dull guards, and then by Daleks, while the Doctor must infiltrate GlobeSphere with Jack Coulson. The Daleks have a plan to destroy the world, and the Doctor may not be able to stop them...

I heard that Energy of the Daleks was done deliberately as a Dalek story without Davros. It's a cracking good story, regardless, rather topical for the present day (rather than 1977, as far as I know) given the energy concerns present in the story. It's not a particularly deep story, given how it is split over only two half-hour episodes, but it's an enjoyable one nonetheless, with some pretty good dialogue.

Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are wonderful as the Doctor and Leela, although Leela spends rather too long as a damsel in distress (although she more than makes up for it when she resists Roboman conversion). Nicholas Briggs is, as he is in the new series, an excellent Dalek voice. The other cast members are fine enough, though not particularly spectacular.

This story has the most cinematic of sound design. The music seems rather too modern for the Tom Baker years, but is nonetheless excellent. And the sound effects are excellent as usual. Such a wonderfully produced story, and I expect no less from Big Finish. To hear a full-cast audio drama after the enhanced audiobooks is a delight.

Energy of the Daleks, while not spectacularly great, is nonetheless a good sign of things to come. Average by Who standards, it's nonetheless a rollicking good, if simple and not particularly noteworthy yarn...


SCORE: 8.5/10


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01 Feb 2013, 1:03 am

REVIEW: Spare Parts by Marc Platt

SERIAL:
6C/E, 4X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

For the new series of Doctor Who, the return of the Cybermen was set in a parallel universe, where on a parallel Earth, the Cybermen were created by a dying scientist obsessed with immortality. It has been stated by Russell T Davies that the story was inspired by this 2002 Big Finish audio about the origin of the Mondasian Cybermen, Spare Parts. Although the new series story took some cues from Spare Parts, it was a very different beast indeed...

The Doctor and Nyssa land in an underground city that seems to be like London in the 1950s. But cybernetic policemen enforce a curfew, graves are being robbed, and a government run by a sinister Committee. The Doctor knows that this is Mondas, and doesn't want to get involved, but matters force the issue. While Nyssa tries to help the Hartley family, the Doctor falls in with Thomas Dodd, a shady organ dealer. And on the surface of Mondas, Cybermen are working on a propulsion unit to bring Mondas back into the solar system. But Mondas is about to plunge into a dangerous nebula, and the Committee is determined to survive no matter what. And the Doctor is soon to find out that he will be key to the genesis of the Cybermen...

Spare Parts is a brilliant story. It is to the Cybermen what Genesis of the Daleks was to the Daleks, and takes the opposite view. Whereas the Kaleds are analogous to the Nazis, the Mondasians are closer to a more communist state. It's a wonderful and horrific tragedy, even more so than Genesis of the Daleks, filled with a dark and decaying world, filled with rather more moral ambiguity than Doctor Who stories of this era, and is certainly better than the new series story inspired by it. And there are many moments of genuine and excellent horror. The only inconsistency is that if the Doctor rubs out the Cybermen, he may not meet up with at least one companion (Zoe).

Peter Davison is great as the Doctor, although some of his characterisation is (albeit understandably) a bit shouty and aggressive. And Sarah Sutton is a more moral character as Nyssa than the Doctor this time. Sally Knyvette (aka Jenna of Blake's 7 fame) is brilliant as the driven and tormented Doctorman Allen, and Derren Nesbitt is great as the shady Dodd. The other characters are fine enough.

I think it's hard to find fault with production values with an audio story, as radio drama have been something of a tradition. Music is quite good, and so are the sound effects. Nicholas Briggs' voices of the Cybermen mimic those heard in The Tenth Planet quite well, but his voice for the Cyberplanner is occasionally hard to decipher, and even once impossible. Still, there are more than a few moments of horror conveyed through sound alone, including an excellent scene where a converted Cyberman goes back to their family.

This is virtually a perfect story, with only minor quibbles. Far better than the story it inspired, dark, horrific, and tragic....and utterly wonderful...


SCORE: 10/10

The next story will be Omega...


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06 Feb 2013, 1:51 am

REVIEW: Omega by Nev Fountain

SERIAL:
6E/A, 4X35 minute (approx) episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

For the 40th Anniversary of Doctor Who back in 2003, Big Finish released a series of four stories, one for each Doctor acting in the Big Finish audio series at the time. The first three would be based on enemies already appearing in the series, and the fourth, Zagreus, would involve an original villain. I have three of these four stories, and I am starting in relative continuity order, with the Fifth Doctor story Omega. I like the character of Omega, and I hoped that this story would give Omega his due...

In the future, in the Sector of Forgotten Souls, an unstable region of space around a black hole, Jolly Chronolidays has set up a heritage centre, dedicated to the memory of Omega and his legend. But the actor Tarpov is channelling the very spirit of the man he is portraying, the traitorous assistant of Omega, Vandekirian, the legendary ship of Omega has appeared out of nowhere, and the Doctor, on a tour, is haunted by the ghost of Omega. What links tour guide Sentia to this manifestation of Omega? What is the terrible secret of the Scintillans? And what horrible truth is there to the Doctor's presence at the Jolly Chronolidays heritage centre?

One of the best things about Omega is also one of the things that prevents it from getting all the way to the top: it balances a rather dark storyline with some pretty good humour (making me laugh out loud at times), and some observations on the nature of history, memory, and truth.And Nev Fountain has to be commended for his skill at setting up a major plot twist at the end of episode 3 that will throw the casual listener for a loop. Unfortunately, sometimes, the humour does tend to detract somewhat from the drama at times, which is a pity, considering how good the story is, and the reason for the Scintillan attacks and the channeling of Vandekirian didn't sit right with me.

Peter Davison is great as the Doctor, and here, he is given some substantial meat to his role, although exactly what I can't say. Ian Collier, in his second and last performance as Omega, is mostly good, imbuing a humanity needed for the role, although it has to be said that at times, he does chew the audio scenery a bit much. But the writing of the character is certainly sound. Of the remaining characters, they are fair for the most part, though Caroline Munro's obsessed Sentia is noteworthy.

Again, as is the norm for Big Finish and audio dramas in general, the audio design is quite stellar. The music is great, feeling somewhat more like a Fifth Doctor story compared to Spare Parts, and the sound effects are quite good for the most part. But the atmosphere feels like it could have used something else to bring it up to the next level, and at least one important scene, where Tarpov amputates his hand with a waste disposal device towards the end of episode one, does feel slightly confusing, with it not quite being clear what is going on.

Omega doesn't quite reach the heights of greatness, but it is still nonetheless an excellent story marred by a few things. It certainly shines a new light on one of the most powerful, and pitiable villains in Doctor Who canon...


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be The Veiled Leopard...


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(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...