Monday, 30 March 2015

Big Finish licence renewed until 2020! More great stories...spin offs!

Bernice Summerfield:

Oh No It Isn't!: A delightful introduction to the world of Bernice Summerfield on audio. This is still one of my most listened to audios (along with The One Doctor, surprisingly…what do those two have in common?) because it cheers me up every time I listen to it. You have a fantastic cast who are clearly having the time of their lives with the witty, imaginative script and that enjoyment extends to the audience in waves. Paul Cornell has written a surprisingly thoughtful discourse on the nature of pantomime, looking at its conventions and (lack of) imaginative limitations whilst making us laugh until our sides hurt at the same time. Jac Rayner has cleverly taken all the best bits of the book and cut away all the flabby padding. The best fiction is clever, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining and Oh No It Isn’t! scores on all three. At the heart of this play is Lisa Bowerman playing Bernice as we always imagined her to sound, funny and sweet, commanding and flawed, entertaining and easy on the ear. She has that Tom Baker ability of making any dialogue sound utterly convincing. Very few Doctor Who stories have given me as much pleasure as this one.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/02/oh-no-it-isnt-written-by-paul-cornell.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/11-Bernice-Summerfield-Oh-No-it-Isnt!

Just War: Hard-hitting and dramatic, if you have any doubt that the Bernice Summerfield series could not deliver the goods than go and listen to this story now. What you have here is a polished script written with drive and bursting with great character scenes and a director who allows the story room to breathe at a relaxed pace to bring out some extraordinary performances from his cast. Bowerman and Fewell do their best work from series one here, Benny and Jason have never felt more like real people and their reunion never more touching. The stifling atmosphere never lets up and the story manages to sell the idea that the Nazi’s might win the war, one of the most hackneyed ideas ever. On audio this is a superb production, never letting you forget where we are and what it means. I’ve heard this story ten times and every time I have come away astonished at how good it is. Extremely scary in places.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/02/just-war-written-by-lance-parkin.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/15-Bernice-Summerfield-Just-War

Death and the Daleks: An epic, personal, unforgettable finale bringing together four seasons worth of audios, countless novels and assembling the impressive cast of the Bernice series and giving them all great material. The idea of kicking off this story with the gripping anthology Life During Wartime is inspired, giving the situation a great deal of depth as a novel before rounding off the story with numerous surprises as an exciting audio. There are lots of wonderful kisses to the past but Paul Cornell also manages to cement the latest develops in Bernice’s life as something that is unmissable. There is a wonderful drive to the story and no easy answers and lots of intriguing character threads to picked up in later stories. One of the highpoints in the Bernice Summerfield range.

The Judas Gift: Events on the Collection have not been this enthralling since Death and the Daleks and Nick Wallace taps it’s a rich seam of characterisation that sees Bev, Adrian, Brax and Benny getting some of their best ever moments. The Draconian/Mim conflict has been building for some time and now it explodes into warfare and the Collection finds itself in the middle trying to stay in one piece. We’ll be saying goodbye to the Collection at the end of the this season and it is fitting that its best storyline was saved for last. Everything that is great about this series comes into play – the regulars are on top form (Bev’s history allows the Draconians to gain a foothold on the Collection) and treated to some scorching dialogue, there is an intriguing archaeological mystery to solve, the universe building is first class and the running storyline is given some dramatic momentum with some heart-in-mouth twists forcing developments. If you are invested in these characters and this universe, The Judas Gift is about as riveting as it comes.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/10/judas-gift-written-by-nick-wallace-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/82-Bernice-Summerfield-The-Judas-Gift

Jason Kane: The End of the World: Dave Stone is another standout writer in the Bernice Summerfield range and here he does the audience a huge service by intelligently tying up years of plotting into Jason’s investigations of Braxiatel. It is entirely appropriate that the Jason’s creator should write his final story and tie in lots of continuity that has weaved in and out of his story over the years and remind us just how far he has come. This is the point of no return for Braxiatel – he has lied, manipulated and cheated his friends but murdering Jason because he has gotten to close to the truth is one kick in the gut too far for Bernice and Brax has stepped over the line from uneasy ally to enemy. And the fireworks haven’t even begun because she doesn’t know…yet. This is a beautifully written piece and that sees Jason at his intellectual and emotional best and allows Stephen Fewell to give one last, triumphant, performance. Lisa Bowerman’s direction is sublime because she understands that this piece needs to be all about Jason and so she strips away any sound effects during Fewell’s monologues to give them maximum impact. The last scene of this play is one of the most vital moments in any Big Finish production and I was slack jawed throughout as all the answers came spilling out of Braxiatel’s mouth. Spellbinding drama and the end of a very important chapter in Benny’s life.

Ressurecting the Past: ‘We’re changing the future…’ Exciting, epic and bringing so much of the last ten years of adventures up to date and relevant again, Resurrecting the Past had a massive amount to achieve and it succeeds in pretty much all of its goals. You might think that this would wind up being a box ticking exercise but this is anything but. We’re planet hopping, privy to Braxiatel’s machinations, dodging BPM’s, reunited with this ranges brilliant cast and introduced to a spanking new menace. It has that wonderfully dizzying Army of Ghosts/The Stolen Earth/The Pandorica Opens feel of pulling together many narrative threads into a cohesive and fulfilling opening act of a finale without any of the messy business of having to tie it all up at the end. The pace is relentless and its such a joy to be in the midst of adventure with Adrian, Bev, Hass, Joseph and all the others. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t missed them all. Robson very cleverly manuveres everybody into a position so the plot can finally be spelt out but via three different speakers so Brax, Doggles and Robyn it feels less like exposition and more like an exquisite masterplan that is reaching fruition. The story is also injected with real wit and creativity and the cliffhanger promises exciting things to come. On every level this is the Bernice Summerfield range firing on all cylinders, aiming high and shooting off into the stratosphere. I’m foaming at the mouth for the conclusion.

Escaping the Future: ‘Bernice your brilliance has cleaned up my mess admirably. You have been remarkable…’ Unpredictable and seeded with great ideas, the conclusion to this two hour blockbuster wasn’t at all what I was expecting and is all the better for it. What’s great about Escaping the Future is that it doesn’t go down the obvious path of telling a war story (the anthology Present Danger has already filled a lot of the messy, violent blanks during the Deindum invasion plus we have already explored a war setting on the Collection in the Life During Wartime/Death and the Daleks double bill and it was hardly going to better that) but instead uses its time to spoil us with long overdue confrontations, the joy of seeing enemies turn into allies and experience this team working together to create a plan of monumental importance to defeat the Deindum. What I thought was going to be a depressingly shallow combat tale instead becomes a hugely imaginative and triumphant piece about these characters we have come to know and love triumphing against all the odds even at the cost of their lives. There’s exciting moments (missile alert!), performance pieces (the riveting Bernice/Braxiatel confrontation which sees Bowerman and Richardson at their best) and a real atmosphere of doom as the entire population of the Collection try and provoke a conflict between two evolutionary stages of the same race and manipulate the timelines. They are literally playing God. It’s a story where Bernice gets to scrub an entire war out of history (it might be one that could have been avoided but that is a moot point now since it has happened) and even as she puts her plan in motion she understands (as do we) that it will mean consequences. Consequences for her and consequences for the range. This two parter has been triumph in both re-igniting interest in the series and polishing off over ten seasons worth of storytelling. It has managed to be epic and intimate, exciting and involving, clever and creative. Its all the things I have come to expect from this range at its best with the added excitement of knocking down the house of cards once and for all. Who knows what the future will hold but at least we had the chance to play with all these wonderful toys one last time. The last scene is brilliantly climactic and unforgettable.


The Bellova Doll: Alan Barnes has written an extremely intelligent script which cleverly takes a supernatural premise of a man rising from the grave and then plots a story with cunning details that convinces the reader it is genuinely so before revealing how we have been hoodwinked with a magicians flourish. Much like The Mahogany Murderers the pair of intrepid investigations regale us with their individual but equally compelling tales, they approach storytelling from very different angles but together make a very fulsome tale. The direction is faultless, never shying away from the terrifying reality of the Club and its member’s deception and the production values continue to shine (especially the music which really gives these stories a style of their own). The Bellova Doll provides an hour of shocks and thrills and another exemplary piece of entertainment with our two chums.


The Theatre of Dreams: Innovative and unpredictable, Theatre of Dreams is a surreal and inventive piece of character drama that kept me guessing until the last scene. Its brilliant to be able to explore Jago & Litefoot’s dreams and nightmares because it allows us to get even closer to the characters. Jonathan Morris deconstructs the reality of theatre and makes insightful observations on the nature of dreams. It’s the standout story of this consistently excellent season and the best the series has been since The Bellova Doll. Expertly put together by Lisa Bowerman who keeps things gripping and unreliable whilst guiding us to the truth with some judicious editing. Subversive storytelling at its best, Theatre of Dreams is packed with great imagery and is one of the most audacious audio productions Big Finish have released. 


Beautiful Things: Beautiful Things is an example of business as usual in the world of Jago & Litefoot but I don’t mean that in a negative way because this is about as perfect a representation of this series as you could find. It’s a gorgeous homage to The Picture of Dorian Grey which starts out resembling the SJS audio The TAO Connection (a sick man, his male companion and young men dying by supernatural means) but soon becomes an enthralling mixture of labyrinthine concepts and artistic criticism with some delicious Sapphire and Steel ideas thrown in for good measure. What makes this so Mary Poppins (that’s practically perfect in every way) is that the essentials of this series are so strong and well realised by writer John Dorney they simply add the finishing touches of sublimity to an already sensational script. You’ve got the joyous coming together of Jago and Oscar Wilde, Claudius Dark making his presence felt more keenly, Leela continuing to shine in this setting with her animal instincts at their sharpest and Litefoot back to his investigative ways showing off his deductive skills and brilliance. The dialogue throughout is acuminous, the interplay between all the characters had me howling with laughter and imagination that has gone into creating library that eats peoples imaginations has to be applauded. The inclusion of Wilde ensures there are some intelligent comments about his work and reminds us that this period of history had its own memorably famous characters – I wonder which one the intrepid investigators will look up next? It’s a confident, polished production that could happily have slipped into any of the first three seasons with a little tweaking but that isn’t a bad thing. Thisisn’t generic Jago & Litefoot and yet Beautiful Things is the epitome of why the series continues to shine.


Point of Entry: Wow. Astonishingly mature storytelling and the pinnacle of the lost stories season; Point of Entry combines theatrics and devilry to create an unsettling, dark mood with moments of genuinely chilling horror. This is the story of Marlowe bewitched by the Devil, looking for a sinister muse to shape Faustus and bringing an alien menace to fruition that is laced into Earth’s bloody history. Marc Platt has written his best script yet, an ominous historical atmosphere of storms, screams and sacrifices and John Ainsworth direction offers moments of spine chilling terror. Barbara Clegg’s pitch was the perfect change of scene for this science fiction heavy season and gives Peri her best material yet. People have bemoaned that this story is too long but I wouldn’t lose one second of its brooding piquancy.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/02/point-of-entry-written-by-marc-platt.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/106-Doctor-Who-Point-of-Entry

Farewell Great Macedon: A great loss to the TV series but a huge gain to The Lost Stories range, Farewell Great Macedon is a stunning six-part epic that only the format less Hartnell era would attempt. Like Marco Polo the story takes place on an impress canvas with months passing during the episodes and visiting some extraordinarily vivid locations. A huge round of applause should go to William Russell, Carole Ann Ford and John Dorney without whom this blistering tale would not be brought to life so vigorously and the mixture of narrators (I especially love how scenes are cut up dramatically with different voices) makes this a heady, memorable experience. I just happen to find the Hartnell historicals the pinnacle of Doctor Who’s televised achievements so this feels as though it has been made specifically for my tastes. The regulars are treated to some great material, the Doctor is grumpy, morally ambiguous and gets the wonderful sequence of walking on hot coals, Barbara enthuses about being able to experience history and enjoys a strong and affecting relationship with Alexander, Ian is the picture of bravery and protects his friends to the nth degree and Susan emotes like an emotional firework. Lisa Bowerman has been one of the standout directors to have emerged from Big Finish in the past few years (A Thousand Tiny Wings, Jago & Litefoot) but her work on this story is nothing short of masterful. She extracts all the sensuality and emotion from the script and encourages the blissful performances of the cast. Her work should be recognised for its incredible consistency and quality. Honestly at some points during this story you will think you are listening to a wiped story recording, that’s how authentic it feels.


Gallifrey: 

A Blind Eye: How could Alan Barnes and Gary Russell be responsible for perhaps the greatest travesty in the Doctor Who canon (yeah you know I’m talking about) and then follow it up with something as intelligent, clever, twisted and heartbreakingly climatic as this? It beggars belief! A Blind Eye ends a nourishing first year of Gallifrey on a real high dishing out brilliant twists that prove how intricately this season has been plotted. What’s more it gives Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson and India Fisher the chance to really impress with some top dramatic material. I’ve always thought there was a great story waiting to be told in the Doctor Who universe set on a moving train and it proves to be as atmospheric as I imagined. I loved the spoilt bitch fascist Sissy Pollard. I loved the timey wimey madness with the two Torvald’s. I loved Romana’s bossy, angry tirade. And I really loved the truth about Andred. I was gripped from the first moment to the last.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/09/gallifrey-blind-eye-written-by-alan.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/14-Gallifrey-A-Blind-Eye

Renaissance: A fascinating listen and pretty much everything I have wanted since the end of series three. Renaissance provides a foothold back onto Gallifrey Prime in a way that keeps everybody happy; those who wanted the series to pick up after series three can pretend that series four and five never happened because that is pretty much what this story does. And yet those who did like the two interim seasons have their faith justified because we witness the devastation on Gallifrey Prime and see that it was absolutely necessary to leave for a time to escape a terrifying fate. Win/win. James Goss is rapidly becoming one of my favourite of the current Big Finish contributors because he seems to understand the audio medium perfectly, that this is a world of dialogue (of which he has a good ear for memorable lines) and ideas (his imagination seems to be boundless). These were always Gallifrey’s strengths as well so handing him this assignment seems to have been the perfect union of series and author. Justin Richards is the other perfect Gallifrey writer, a man whose creative juices have been flowing in the Whoniverse for nearly two decades and guess who is writing the finale? Goss also understands that we cannot have an emotional connection to the concepts without relationships that appeal, excite and frustrate and characterisation is tops too. Leela and Romana haven’t been written this well in many years. Renaissance is the first opportunity to experience the new Romana that Big Finish are introducing and I am pleased to report she is a delight. Freshly played by Juliet Landau and hugely different from her predecessors, Romana III is a tactile and slightly kooky incarnation and all the more intriguing for it. With kisses to An Unearthly Child, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Three Doctors, The Face of Evil and Logopolis and daring to look forward to the Time War, this is both nostalgic and innovative. It builds to a climax that gave me goosebumps in a move that promises to change the fate of one character forever. What is so sad is that after flouncing around for two season that Gallifrey is coming to end in the next story just when the range has really found it’s groove again. Still at least they can say they went out on a high. Finally the events mean something again. 

Unbound: 

Auld Mortality: Proof that not all stories set on Gallifrey have to be stuffy political dramas; Auld Mortality is one of the most sensual and emotional dramas yet. Bristling with imagination and intelligence and taking the idea of ‘what if?’ to its most extreme (what if the Doctor never left Gallifrey?), I was impressed how this unique production sucked me in so completely. The potential for this to stretch into a series of adventures is irresistible with the gorgeous Geoffrey Bayldon giving a beautiful performance as the Doctor and accompanied by Carole Ann Ford who gives her best ever performance as Susan. The line between fantasy and reality is one that we all have to face and I have rarely seen it handled in such an optimistic and creative manner. The last scene splits the drama two ways that really shows that the possibilities truly are endless and it remains one of the best scenes in Doctor Who. Ever.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/auld-mortality-written-by-marc-platt.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/auld-mortality-362

Deadline: What if Doctor Who never made it to the screen? One of the boldest, most subversive scripts to bear the Doctor Who logo which also rather brilliantly takes the time to insult the hell out of me. There are so many spine tingling breaths of genius to the writing it would impossible to list them all but as usual Rob Shearman has put a lot of thought into his material and ensured that there is much to think about after you have turned it off. Big Finish should be proud for producing something that is so clearly going to divide opinion and a lot of the continuity is used as a weapon that knifes you in the gut over and over. Want to hear the Doctor swearing at Susan? Want to listen to Barbara talking about her scummy ex Ian Chesterton? Want to imagine Doctor Who as the work of a failed man who cruises through life treating people like shit for the sake of his art? Want to hear the brains behind Doctor Who mistakenly appearing to molest a young boy in a cupboard under the illusion of taking him for a trip into time and space? Maybe not but I suggest that you do. This is button pushing at its best and practically every line is a gem. I can understand why I used to hate this story but now I love it and oddly its for exactly the same reasons.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/deadline-written-by-robert-shearman-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/deadline-366

A Storm of Angels: Marc Platt has always enjoyed injecting a touch of poetry into Doctor Who but in A Storm of Angels he ups his game and conjures a story full of enchanting romantic imagery and ideas. A Steamship in space, cut treasures containing an alien intelligence, a tidal wave of flying Angels, an Elizabethan space station in orbit of the Earth, a man with a skin of jewels – yes its easy to fall under the spell of this dreamy brew of graceful creativity. Whilst the plot itself is quite thin there are simply a wealth of goodies to unearth; Geoffrey Bayldon’s masterful performance as the Doctor, Ian Hallard’s morally indignant Zeuro, gorgeous dialogue, stellar direction, an affecting musical score, dazzling imagery and set pieces and a hungry desire of what could have been. Every few minutes there is a moment that will take your breath away. It’s the rarest of things but A Storm of Angels is less of a story and more of an experience and it is best to switch off your critical faculties (because you wont find anything to feed on) and simply luxuriate into the beguiling atmosphere of the piece. Another favourite of mine. 

Dorian Gray: 

The Twittering of Sparrows: Speaking as somebody who is estranged from his sister and has experienced a great deal of hassle from her, a lot of this really resonated. I cannot believe that that is a Gary Russell script. Its tight (although typically the longest of the season…but I wouldn’t have lost a single word), restrained, atmospheric and to the point…it’s a gorgeous piece of writing from a man who I have always admired far his work as a director. The pairing of Handcock writing and Russell directing has always worked out rather well but reversing the roles is even more effective. The heavy narration is dumped in favour of a full cast drama (or as full cast as you are going to get with this series) and its refreshing change of scene. It’s the warmest portrayal of Dorian in this set of stories, contrasting him against his twisted, withered sister makes him even more personable in nature. The chance to explore a little of his family history is essential to his development and the scenes between Vlahos and Manning are loaded with tension, bitterness and ultimately affection. There’s something about sibling rivalry that brings the worst out in us and as this story continues we enter some very disturbing waters. This tops Beautiful Chaos as the best piece of writing to ever spring from Gary Russell’s pen and it pleases me to finally award something he has written full marks. It more than deserves it.

The Heart That Lives Alone: A vampire love story between two immortals…if you think you’ve crossed intoTwilight/Buffy territory then you are very much mistaken. Tobias is a mesmerising bloodsucker for Dorian to become infatuated with and their relationship walks that passionate line between fear and intimacy. You’ll never experience a romance quite like this again, one where we are privy to the romantic thoughts of both parties. In a way the audience is an almost voyeuristic third party to their liaison, experiencing all the emotional highs and the crashing lows that come with the curse of falling in love. Easily the horniest Big Finish drama I have ever listened to and one of the most tragic.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-confessions-of-dorian-gray-reviews.html

The Immortal Game: 'This is our immortal game…’ Beautifully written, directed and performed, The Immortal Game is the highlight of season two thus far. You know with Nev Fountain you are always going to get something a bit special and out of the ordinary and for once he has discarded his trademark humour and produced a riveting half hour drama based around a game of chess and a terrifying sibling rivalry of the most unusual kind. It grips from the first scene, indulges in some dark games and fires one knockout line of dialogue after another. A have to make a quick mention of Scott Handcock’s direction of this series, which is exceptional. It must an impossible task to try and realise a story told in half an hour and make it unique enough to stand up in its own right and he manages to pace these narrative vignettes perfectly so they never feel rushed and yet at the same time get to the point quickly enough to fit everything in. Both Fountain and Handcock have outdone themselves in that respect here; and it is the most fulsomely structured and satisfying release of the season and yet comes in at several minutes less than the others. The twist ending is brilliantly handled, and yet well signposted for those in the know but it doesn’t stop the moment running up and down your spine thanks to Vlahos’ delivery and the stirring music. I would suggest you buy the entire run of Dorian Gray but if you were only purchase one from season two, this should be your choice. 

Running Away With You: ‘I want to be your friend again…’ Clever title. Clever story. I thought I knew exactly where Running Away With You was going from about ten minutes on and I couldn’t have been more pleased to have been wrong. With ten extra minutes to tell his tale, Scott Handcock writes a dazzling drama that takes a probing look at its three characters, one seemingly to come out of nowhere and yet brilliantly foreshadowed in the play. There are only three performers in this play but they all give a masterclass in acting on audio; Lalla Ward takes an outwardly clichéd character and gives her lashings of depth, Vlahos impresses with a dual performance as Dorian at two stages in his life and Geoffrey Breton aces quiet malevolence as the ace up the sleeve. Should this serve as the last regular story for Dorian Gray then Handcock marks the moment in spellbinding fashion with a flashback across the last two seasons, highlighting the moments that have led to his climactic actions in this story. As we reach the last act you come to realise just how much you have grown to care about this character, as flawed and as malevolent as he can be. A dark, unforgettable place to leave the season. Sublime, I want more.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-confessions-of-dorian-gray-season.html

Dark Shadows: 

The House by the Sea: Flesh creeping terror brought to courtesy of Colin Baker, James Goss and Joe Lidster. Let's deal with each of these individuals in turn. Baker is one of the shining stars of Big Finish, a man who has taken his scant reputation with the majority of Doctor Who fans and has managed to become the most popular actor to play the role in this medium. He tackles The House by the Sea with unrestrained gusto, giving an extraordinary performance that tops some of his very best in the Doctor Who range. He kept me on tenterhooks throughout. James Goss is slowly becoming the most reliable pair of hands writing for Big Finish, his works have all been gripping, surprising and really get under the skin of the characters in an intimate way. The House by the Sea is magnificently written and characterised with some deft and chilling moments. There wasn't one point where Goss wasn't leading me on like a dog hankering for a stick. Finally we have Joe Lidster, the man responsible for this range and who encouraged me to give it a try. I'm truly pleased that he did. I have been hankering on about missing his subversive style of storytelling in the main range for some time now but what I didn't realise was just how skilful he would turn out to be in the directors chair. As a piece of audio, this is a fantastic piece of work with some stunning editing that had me lurching for the light switch as I sat here listening in the near dark. It's very easy to assault the listener with a variety of scary noises but it takes much more skill to send subtle goosebumps up the spine, to make you feel as if there is somebody in the room behind you, to make you wonder if those sound effects are in your headphones or somewhere in the far distance... Lidster has a bright future ahead of him in the directors chair if this is the sort of horror he can produce on audio. This is a slow burn mystery that gets under your skin and sinks deeper as the mystery thickens and the terrors emerge. This is exactly the sort of bone gnawing dread that I expected to experience with The Phantom Bride and its ghostly apparitions but there are number of important differences. The House by the Sea is an intensely personal experience and told from the point of view of somebody teetering on the edge of a breakdown, the attacks are far more subtle and thus make much more of an impact and the direction truly pulls you into the mystery of the house, allowing us to experience Gerald's foolishness along with him. That mixture of visceral thrills and psychological terror is a winning, horrific formula. Definitely do not listen to this one in the dark. You might just cack your pants. The ending is unforgettable. 

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-house-by-sea-written-by-james-goss.html

The Flip Side: 'You dance like a dead woman...' I love stories like this when the central character of a series is targeted for terror tactics. The New Avengers mastered it with Dead Men Are Dangerous. DS9 scored a winner with The Darkness and the Light. Doctor Who redefined the idea in Midnight. And now Dark Shadows has it's own masterclass to add to the list...and the target isn't even who you might think it would be. How awesome that Dark Shadows has the elasticity to take on massive science fiction concepts such as alternative realities and run with them. It's something that was played about with in some depth in both the New Adventures (Conundrum and Blood Heat aced the concept) and the EDAs (The Last Resort and Timeless took the idea to some imaginative and sinister places) and so you might think that I would be exhausted by the concept by now. Not a bit of it, The Flip Side shows that there are still stories to tell within the alternative universe format and that there are substitute versions of the Dark Shadows characters that are well worth exploring further. Many of my favourite stories in any franchise have been those that scale away the massive casts and focus on a couple of characters and explore storytelling possibilities in a highly intimate way. Cody Quijano-Schell has done a superlative job of that here, highlighting both Carolyn and Jonah as vivid, multi-faceted characters and using their history (both in this universe and others) to paint a much larger picture of the Dark Shadows universe. It's expertly done. Add to this melting pot a number of philosophical questions to ponder, the best acting you could ask for and the events of this story having a huge impact on potentially the most important character in this range and you have as close to a perfect Dark Shadows release as I have listened to so far. Sublime.

Full Review Here - http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-flip-side-written-by-cody-quijano.html

Beyond the Grave: 'It's going to make us do horrible things, Maggie...' Do not, I repeat, DO NOT listen to this in the dark on your own if you are of a nervous disposition. Beyond the Grave is a terrific culmination of many of the Dark Shadows stories I have listened to so far, a chance to gather all the characters inconspicuously in one narrative and bring their stories together. It also manages to have a smart and original story of its own that exploits the audio medium to its full potential and provides many skincrawling scares. That is a fine achievement. To be honest you can tell, even on a first listen, that this is a script that has been crafted with great care. I make it sound so precise which isn't the case at all whilst listening, Beyond the Grave sports a fun Most Haunted style scenario with a presenter visiting Collinswood and poking his nose into all the sinister goings on...and suffering the consequences of that. Mad Jack (for that is the name assigned) is the most disturbing nasty that this series has come up with yet, a genuinely terrifying presence that I'll probably be seeing in the mirror now. There are elements of the cult classic Ghostwatch in this story and lots of clever narrative jiggery pokery that comes with a found footage tale. There might be three directors helming this tale and they all deserve a round of applause because this much have been an absolute nightmare to put together into a cohesive story. The fact that they manage to put the pieces together in such a riveting fashion and have time for so many chilling atmospherics is worthy of some kudos. Beyond the Grave is genuinely innovative storytelling wrapped up in that insidiously creepy Dark Shadows atmosphere, it breaks my heart to think that thousands are buying Big Finish's less challenging ranges and are ignoring where the treasures lie. If you want to experience something more demanding than a nostalgia rush, pick up this experimental horror.

Full Review Here - http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/beyond-grave-written-by-aaron-lamont.htm



And the winner is...

It's time to choose the winner of the CD competition...

...the link here will lead you to a YouTube video and a very old school method of selecting a winner!



Sunday, 29 March 2015

Big Finish Licence Renewed Until 2020! More great stories...

Continuing the celebration of the fantastic news that Big Finish has had its licence renewed until 2020, here are some recommendations of stories from the first four Doctors...

The Transit of Venus: For fans of the Hartnell era of which I am a massive aficionado it doesn’t get much more authentic than this. Returning us to the dangers of the unknown and the remarkable characterisation of the regulars in the first season, Jac Rayner has written a powerful and involving script that gives Ian the rare chance to stand centre stage. There’s a pleasing amount of history thrown in and after listening I looked a little more into the voyages of Captain Cook and Joseph Bank’s debt to botany – I love it when Doctor Who piques my interest in times past enough to get me to read up about it. Nigel Fairs directs the story delicately, never letting the terrific atmosphere of the piece pull us away from the central relationship between the Doctor and Ian and the mystery surrounding Banks and the answers when they come prove satisfying and build the characters. A superb snapshot of the past written with care and performed beautifully, Transit of Venus restores my faith in this range and then some.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/04/transit-of-venus-written-by-jacqueline.html
Buy it From Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/37-Doctor-Who-The-Companion-Chronicles-The-Transit-of-Venus

The Guardian of the Solar System: Guardian of the Solar System is less of a story in its own right and more of a continuation of the previous two Sara Kingdom stories but as a conclusion to the trilogy it proves to be very satisfying. Simon Guerrier has struck on such a winner with his Sara arc and there really isn’t a weak moment in all three exceptional stories. The story of Robert lacing through all these memories links the trilogy and the format of the Dalek Masterplan makes the vignettes of stories feel as though they are the perfect length. What’s more he has managed to take an is she/isn’t she companion and turn Sara into the definitive article for me and adding a number of wonderful stories to what I already consider to be a Doctor Who masterpiece. None of these achievements are easy and Guerrier’s skill with both the first person narrative and running arcs should be applauded. Lisa Bowerman’s direction has never been better than in this remarkable trilogy, nothing is rushed and yet there are still moments of great tension and drama and some incredible shocks and the performances she coaxes from Jean Marsh and Niall McGregor are extraordinary. Somewhere in the depths of Doctor Who’s arsenal of storytelling lie three Sara Kingdom companion chronicles and they contain some of the finest drama, moments of poetry and philosophy and represent this crazy little series at its most meditative. Breathtakingly good. 

Find and Replace: ‘We’re going back to the seventies!’ Jo Grant at her dazzling best, Iris Wildthyme making me laugh myself silly and the return of Huxley who made such an instant impression in Ringpullworld – Find and Replace has all the ingredients to make me one very happy chappy! The sense of nostalgia for the Pertwee era that Paul Magrs conjures gave me goosebumps for much of the second episode and left me grinning from ear to ear. This is a brilliantly funny play with a very touching reunion taking place and lots of delightful characters to spend your time with. Of the stories I have heard it is still Lisa Bowerman’s best ever direction as far as I am concerned and the music brews happy emotions with exactly the same skill as the script. With the two working together you don’t have a chance of resisting this companion chronicle. This is everything the best Doctor Who audios should be - imaginative, pleasurable and filled with great lines and performances. Easily my most re-listened Big Finish of recent years and one of the stories I grab for automatically when I am in a bad mood. It never fails to make me laugh and to cry and love Doctor Who.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/09/find-and-replace-written-by-paul-magrs.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/503-Doctor-Who-The-Companion-Chronicles-Find-and-Replace

Peri & the Piscon Paradox: A magnificently written comedy masterpiece that probes deeply into Perpeguilliam Brown and ultimately has some very deep things to say. Peri and the Piscon Paradox is my favourite companion chronicle because it takes the format of the range and turns it on its head brilliantly, not only breaks down the fourth wall but obliterates it and walks through to shake your hand (the sixth Doctor notes he is an underrated performer!) and offers more surprises, cheats and twists than a whole series of stories. The dialogue sparkles for its entire running time with too many laugh out loud moments to mention but what really impressed me was when the comedy was stripped away and we focus on the awful realisation of what has happened to the older Peri. Some of my most favourite Big Finish scenes occur during the course of this audio and they brought to life with absolute conviction by Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker who once again prove themselves to be one of the strongest pairings on audio. Few stories can claim to tie up messy continuity threads from twenty years ago with this degree of success but we finally hear what happened to Peri after the Trial and Fountain pleasingly leaves all the alternatives untouched. Imaginative, clever, silly, serious, hilarious and thought provoking, Peri and the Piscon Paradox has it all.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/11/peri-piscon-paradox-written-by-nev.html
Buy it From Big Finish Here: http://www.bigfinish.com/507-Doctor-Who-The-Companion-Chronicles-Peri-and-the-Piscon-Paradox

The Rocket Men: This is an example of the companion chronicles at their very best. John Dorney seems to have the Midas touch, his script for this story is bursting with romantic ideas, gorgeous character development, a superbly sketched setting and an authentic tone for the period. His descriptions of the regulars shows that he has shown great observation watching the actors in their televised stories as he gets all their quirks and characteristics spot on. The dialogue is memorable and dramatic and the unconventional story structure gives the story another boost. Lisa Bowerman steps in with some of her best ever direction (those who know how good she can be will know that is high praise indeed) and she fills the exciting story with some real moments of triumph and beauty. I hope we get another sixties story from this writer/director team because they clearly both have an authentic flair for the era and for an hour this morning I was whisked away to the most exciting time in Doctor Who’s long run. I never thought we would get a story where Ian confesses his love for Barbara but it is something I have always wanted to happen and thanks to The Rocket Men I am left blissfully happy at their romance. Performed with real passion by William Russell who makes these companion chronicles come alive so vibrantly, The Rocket Men is a standout adventure that manages to capture its era and do something innovative with it.

Full Review Here: The Rocket Men
Buy it from Big Finish here: The Rocket Men

The First Wave: As soon as I see that writers name next to that director with those musicians and I add in the words ‘first Doctor era’ I know I’m in for something very special. Some people might moan about the fact of two Simon Guerrier scripts in such close succession but when they are of the quality of The First Wave and The Memory Cheats that argument just doesn’t hold up. Oliver’s inclusion in the range has been a fascinating experiment of an all male TARDIS crew and a handling of some intriguing historical (and sexual) politics and my only issue with it has been that he did not have a longer run. Guerrier does a massive service to Doctor Who fans by bringing back the Vardans not as some ridiculous in joke but as a genuinely malevolent force that wants to subdue the planet. Their spine tingling electric crackle and blink of an eye powers really works on audio and they make an impressive enemy. Like all of Guerrier’s companion chronicles director Lisa Bowerman injects an unsettling atmosphere to the proceedings, a spell of anxiety that sets my teeth on edge waiting for the moment when everything goes wrong. What starts as a an investigation into their own involvement in this period ends with a futile race against time to prevent the Vardans from attacking the Earth and I was literally on the edge of my seat as the Doctor’s friends defied all the odds to oppose these flesh crawling nasties. There’s real momentum to The First Wave, wonderful dialogue and complex characterisation – its another masterpiece for season six. Simon Guerrier can write all of the chronicles for all I care if he can keep this standard up.

Full Review Here: The First Wave
Buy it from Big Finish here: The First Wave

The Last Post: ‘My name is Liz Shaw and I’d like to stop the end of the world…’ How would you react if you received a letter telling you when you are going to die? Witty, creative and nostalgic, The Last Post is a superb final story for Caroline John. Weaving a narrative through the classic adventures of season seven is a terrific idea (so good David Bishop had a similarly memorable shot at it in the novel Who Killed Kennedy) and the whole idea of portentous letters making targets of the scientists that featured in those stories is inspired. The events of the first episode leading up to the prediction of the apocalypse are beautifully handled and the ideas feel fresh and involving. I’ve listened to an awful lot of Big Finish adventures now and have always been impressed by their increasingly stylish production values and thought I was pretty much taking for granted how these adventures sounded. However the immersive sound effects and stirring music in The Last Post really impressed me and captured my attention completely. It’s a fitting final hurrah for Caroline John who was able to reveal brand new facets to the character of Liz Shaw but even more importantly had the opportunity to thrill us one last time with such a memorable reading of such a inventive story. I will miss her companion chronicles very much; Big Finish has lost a fantastic actress, Doctor Who has lost one of its greatest companions and John’s family and friends have lost a magnificent woman. It seems fitting that the final Liz Shaw story to be released celebrates so much about what made her era great – wonderful storytelling, smart ideas and complex characterisation. A big hurrah to all involved. I’d like to blow one final kiss to Caroline John.

Full Review Here: The Last Post
Buy it from Big Finish here: The Last Post

Return of the Rocket Men: Listening to the first ten minutes of Return of the Rocket Men I could have sworn that it was written by Simon Guerrier. Its that good. Whilst I would never take away from Guerrier’s obvious scripting abilities it becomes clear that much of the atmosphere of his best companion chronicles is the work of director Lisa Bowerman and sound technician and musician extraordinaire Howard Carter. This is Matt Fitton’s third script for Big Finish and its his finest work yet, proving that he can mix the intimate and the exciting with genuine potency. Big Finish has had a good record of discovering strong scriptwriters during their experimental anthologies and Fitton has emerged as the strongest of late and I am really happy to see his name cropping up more in the schedules. The first Doctor companion chronicles remind me just how perfectly formed the characters were back in the monochrome pioneering days of Doctor Who and Steven once again emerges as someone very special. There’s a Colony in Space feel to the first episode but its told with far more fluidity, personality and exhilaration whilst still capturing its essence. The Rocket Men make another unforgettable appearance and I hope the chat about a third story to feature them in the interviews at the end wasn’t just a throwaway joke. They come with a real sense of danger and a promise of violence, intimidating in a way that so many Doctor Who villains fail to achieve. All these treats and another astonishing turn from Peter Purves who once again eases you into the story with consummate skill and provides many dramatic and personal moments that absolutely hit the mark. This range continues to deliver and Fitton’s sequel proves to be more than worthy to follow in the footsteps of John Dorney’s original Rocket Men tale.

Full Review Here: Return of the Rocket Men
Buy it from Big Finish here: Return of the Rocket Men

The Scorchies: 'It’s time for death all over the world!’ Absolute madness and a complete joy to listen to, The Scorchies sees the companion chronicles letting their hair down, camping it up and heading out for a rave on the town. James Goss is starting to make a name for himself, having penned two of the best third Doctor adventures for this range and two of my favourite adventures in the last year. Whilst this is a joyously anarchic adventure that doesn’t just not play by the rules but also makes a mockery of them, there is something truly sinister about a TV programme that is apparently so light and fluffy that is inherently evil and sadistic. I think this is the sort of tone that The Celestial Toymaker was aiming for but was too stuffy to truly aspire to whereas The Scorchies pushes that sinister playfulness right in your face until you are gagging on its gooey goodness…of Death! Rather gloriously we take part in the action, playing the part of a catatonic television audience slaved to entertainment shows (shouldn’t be too much of a stretch then) and watching the events unfold on screen. The story is beautifully plotted so that as Jo attempts to use their own rules against them to break free and save the day in the present, we experience flashbacks from her point of view showing how she became embroiled with them in the first place and further flashbacks from the Scorchies point of view explaining why they do the things they do. By the end of the tale the seemingly inexplicable opening scene that introduced us to this world feels like it has been placed entirely in context. The script is hilariously funny, imaginative, post-modern, energetic and full of great characters. Katy Manning and Melvyn Hayes deserve kudos for their efforts and for making the story come alive so effervescently and Ken Bentley once again proves why he is one of company’s most prolific of directors…because he is just so damn adaptable to whatever genre or tone they throw at him. The Scorchies might not be your cup of tea if you like the Pertwee era po-faced and militaristic (say, The Mind of Evil…mind you I love that one too) but if you’re in the mood for a Paul Magrs’ style of post modern insanity then snap this one up. I promise you’ll have great fun with it.

The Library of Alexandria: Talk about making a rod for your own back! Although I don’t recall ever seeing this particular roll call of credits coming together before the three main contributors to this story (William Russell, Simon Guerrier and Lisa Bowerman) have become synonymous with the highest quality of companion chronicles and so the expectation to deliver something spectacular is stacked up against them before I even pressed play. And a historical to boot – my favourite genre! Nobodydisappoints. William Russell could read a dull old textbook and make it sound like the most gripping story ever told but grappling with Guerrier’s exceptional writing he produces more of his indefinable magic. Bowerman has directed too many of these companion chronicles to make any silly mistakes now and paces the story expertly, allowing us to sink into the atmosphere of the setting in the first part before all hell breaks loose in the second. Guerrier is one of the ranges most prolific writers and his oeuvre has become more dense and idea packed of late, which I think is perfect for audio. In a medium of sound you can knock about big, intelligent ideas where there are no visual distractions and The Library of Alexandria mimics the historicals of the time, favouring strong, educational dialogue. It means you have to pay attention more than usual but the rewards if you do are mind expanding. It’s not to say that this story scrimps on spectacle though, episode twos action seems barely perceivable on the budget of the time but in my head the harbour is torn to shreds in blockbusting style as the Mim attack. It might feel as though I give too many of the companion chronicles full marks but I gauge that score not on the story being absolutely flawless (if you dig hard enough there is always a flaw to be found somewhere in every story) but on my own personal reaction to the material. When it excites me, thrills me with its possibilities and makes me drift off completely to another time or world I will offer full marks and so many of this range score on all three counts. It is adventures like The Library of Alexandria that add to my devastating reaction that the companion chronicles are soon to come to an end. It’s a story that captures the early days of Who, does something innovative with it and flatters your intelligence at the same time.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-library-of-alexandria-written-by.htmlBuy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-library-of-alexandria-753

Second Chances: 'Nobody gets a second chance in life...' This is not where I thought the Companions Chronicles would park themselves for the time being, the decision to bring them to a close with a second Doctor story quite surprising. Keeping me off guard right until the end, just as they always have done. I imagined a powerhouse first Doctor story would take this slot, probably read by William Russell or Peter Purves since they have been the strongest of the range. The second Doctor entries have been far more varied in quality, the Zoe stories especially so (Fear of the Daleks and Echoes of Grey did nothing for me whilst The Memory Cheats and The Uncertainty Principle were both superb) but they have been building a mini arc of their own for some time now (in the same vein as the Sara Kingdom and Oliver Harper arcs) based around the idea of Zoe and her inconsistent memories of the Doctor and Jamie. John Dorney scores a double whammy in Second Chances with both storylines proving to be a gripping draw; the framing narrative coming to an unforgettable climax and the space station based disaster movie utilising Zoe's skills in a riveting race against time scenario. Brilliantly he finds a way to tie up the two stories, bringing the horror of Zoe's haunting memory into the present and having some intellectual playtime with the idea. The second episode reminds me pleasingly of Peri & the Piscon Paradox, the events of the first part taking on much greater meaning (both emotionally and narratively) when they are re-considered in a different context. Second Chances is clever, personal, dramatic, emotional and imaginative...all the strengths that have come to associate with the strongest range Big Finish has ever put out. What a fantastic opportunity to put them to rest on a euphoric high. This is one of John Dorney's best ever scripts and if you know anything about the standard he regularly delivers, this is high praise indeed.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/second-chances-written-by-john-dorney.html
Buy it from Big Finish here:

The Foe from the Future: Hugely enjoyable and perhaps a victim of its own success, The Foe From the Future captures the era it is set in so well and received such rave reviews that it is almost squarely responsible for the two, ultra traditional and often mundane, seasons of 4DAs that followed. I realise it is unfair to start a review of a story this enjoyable by casting aspersions on it’s accomplishment, but the truth is this is the template for what follows but nothing can quite match it’s piquancy. John Dorney is one of Big Finish’s star writers and rarely puts a foot wrong and when it comes to authentically capturing a era this could be his greatest achievement to date. There is a giddy thrill at the very idea of bringing Tom Baker and Louise Jameson back together that imbues this entire production with a touch of magic and coupled with Dorney’s witty, adventurous script it is enough to leave you beaming like a madman. This comes in at almost three hours worth of listening but it passes by like a dream, Banks-Stewart has penned a story that consistently innovates and surprises and Dorney ensures that the interaction between all the characters is witty and wonderful. Because I enjoy more complicated, radical stories this isn’t the sort of nostalgic tale I would want to hear week in, week out but as a one-off kiss to the past there really is no finer example. What delights especially is how you can see precisely how this could have been filmed had it been made back in 1977, there are no concessions made to the fact that this is an audio rather than a television production and it exchanges budget for imagination and humour to intoxicating effect. Had I listened to The Foe from the Future first instead of Destination Nerva I think my approach to the Tom Baker released might have been very different indeed. The Foe from the Future is a rare thing indeed, one of those much vaunted stories that deserves all the plaudits that are thrown at it. Stop what you are doing, stick it on and get whisked back to a time when Doctor Who was the most glorious television on the box.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-foe-from-future-written-by-john.html

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Big Finish licence renewed until 2020! Recommendations!


It cannot have escaped your attention if you are follower of the Big Finish audios that there has been a wealth of exciting news from the company of late. A genuine regeneration story for Colin Baker's sixth Doctor, the first crossover range with the new series, more exciting adventures for the 8th Doctor and Liv Chenka and most exciting of all the recent news that their licence has been extended to produce audio drama until 2020. What a huge compliment from the BBC to hand the company another five year contract. It gets me very excited because it means there will be a wealth of material to enjoy and review.

So this is a congratulatory post for Big Finish where I will list some of my personal highlights of the prolific amount of material they have already released. These stories aren't just the best Big Finish stories, they are some of the best Doctor Who to have been created...

Fifth Doctor:

Creatures of Beauty: A forgotten masterpiece and a stunning experiment in fractured narration that results in grit your teeth suspense. It’s a piece which opens up some disturbing questions about the Doctor’s effect on the places he visits that wisely leaves you to come to your own conclusions. I love how the story’s climax is the end of part three and its beginning is at the start of part four, Briggs has clearly put a lot of thought into making this experiment work and manages to save a whoop-ass twist until the final few seconds which demands you give the story a second listen. David Daker gives the performance of a lifetime as Gilbrook; he is sinister, sadistic and yet rather wonderfully departs the story on a moment of pure poetry. Creatures of Beauty is not afraid to make its audience feel uncomfortable and in doing so it manages to be one of the most thought provoking stories yet. I cannot fault this story.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/creatures-of-beauty-written-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/44-Doctor-Who-Creatures-of-Beauty

The Kingmaker: The last time I had this much fun with history and time travelling antics was City of Death and I don’t exaggerate when I hold this ingenious story in exactly the same league. Nev Fountain has written a fantastic script, which juggles passionate ideas, belly laughs, moments of genius and great character drama. No aliens in sight and yet this is still Doctor Who through and through, the guest cast are phenomenal and the direction keeps the story skipping along energetically. Fountain’s handling of the regulars is perfect, giving the usually colourless fifth Doctor some witty and wonderful moments, touching on Erimem’s ancestry and best of all pushing Peri into the limelight and have her go off like an emotional rocket. Two of the best Big Finish moments come with the revelation of who the Master really is and the identity of the real Princes – this story is beautifully thought through and has some delicious answers. Even the title is on the subterfuge. After an inconsistent run of stories that verged from ball squeezingly awful to tickle my fancies sublime, The Kingmaker is the first out and out classic in an age.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/03/kingmaker-written-by-nev-fountain-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/81-Doctor-Who-The-Kingmaker

Son of the Dragon: The third gripping historical in a row for the team of the Doctor, Peri and Erimem and one of the most effective Big Finish adventures I have heard, The Son of the Dragon is a shocking reminder of what we have been missing from the main range of late. I am more convinced now than ever that Steve Lyons is one of the most effective audio writers and he understands the medium and how to exploit the lack of pictures and yet still paint some effective imagery, stir up the emotions and teach the audience something about his chosen period of history. This powerful script coupled with some dramatic direction from Barnaby Edwards and a gorgeous cinematic score leaves you with a story that aims high and scores big. Vlad makes for a startlingly effective villain, stripping away all the myths that surround the character but making him no less bloody and the performance by James Purefoy had me on edge throughout the production. It’s a fantastic story for the three regulars too with the Doctor being punished by history, Peri struggling to cope with the morality of the period and Erimem once again every bit as spellbinding and as alien (at least to Peri) as she has ever been. This isn’t just ‘I’ve been waiting for a great story for ages’ good, this is bloody brilliant.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/05/son-of-dragon-written-by-steve-lyons.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/99-Doctor-Who-Son-of-the-Dragon

The Emerald Tiger: Beautifully written and realised, The Emerald Tiger is an incredible piece of work and the first adventure for this TARDIS team that I can fully support. There are so many things to praise its hard to know where to begin. Firstly as a purely auditory experience this is a thing of beauty with a lush, contemplative and exciting score, an impressively exotic soundscape that plants you in historical Calcutta and some exciting and imaginative set pieces that somehow come alive through sound even more effectively than they would if you could see them. Next up is the treatment of the regulars which is exceptional and fully endorses the idea of continuing to use this foursome. Everyone gets something to do, Edwards highlights their strengths (the Doctor’s curiosity and closeness to Nyssa, Tegan’s temper and amiability, Nyssa’s empathy and Turlough’s resourcefulness) and they all take a share of the memorable dialogue. The script can also take a bow for it is packed full of incident and substance, planting me in Indian culture in an understandable way so that I took a great deal from the experience and telling a gripping narrative that utilises all of its characters well. The casting is inspired and nobody gives anything less than 100% and I was particularly refreshed by the multicultural nature of the cast. Lastly I have to mention the handling of Tegan which is something I have been particularly critical of of late. Edwards nails her character here in a way that few writers ever have and this is precisely how she should have been portrayed on television; good humoured, resourceful, funny but still with that acerbic bite. Her characterisation in The Emerald Tiger is masterful and I never thought I would say that. The last ‘written and directed by Barnaby Edwards’ I listened to was The Wreck of the Titan and I thought that was a near-perfect cinematic treat. The Emerald Tiger is even better, a clear highlight of 2012’s main range output and one of the best ever fifth Doctor stories in any medium.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-emerald-tiger-written-and-directed.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-emerald-tiger-327

Psychodrome: A palpable hit that somehow manages to package the season nineteen crew as something fresh and compelling. I've made the observation myself that having three companions is too many to be able to tell a decent story and give everybody a fair share of the action. Jonathan Morris takes that criticism as a challenge and manages to make the over crowded TARDIS of season nineteen a huge strength in the story that he is telling and the first episodes, whilst setting up an intriguing scenario, almost solely concerns itself with establishing the four unique personalities that are currently fronting the series. At their worst, this is the most obscenely mismatched bunch of characters that can literally drag a story into the mud (Four to Doomsday) but at their best they gel together rather well and provide some nice banter and relief in the stronger stories (Castrovalva, Black Orchid, Earthshock). Psychodrome paints an authentic picture of the crew, albeit with some of their more extreme characteristics toned down so they are much more approachable. Imagine if this had come after Castrovalva instead of Four to Doomsday? It would have been exactly what the season needed, a story that gelled this team into an effective family, that explored their characters and explained why they stay together. Four to Doomsday had an impressive budget and there is nothing in this story that couldn't have been realised on that. Consider it the highest compliment that the next time I do a TV marathon of Doctor Who I may have to slip this in between Castrovalva and Kinda and forget that the other story existed altogether. When it comes to characterisation, Psychodrome is the strongest audio in a long, long time. The final episode is literally weighted down with quality character scenes and examination. In what has to be one of the most satisfying conclusions of any Big Finish productions, the most fractious of TARDIS teams show their faith in each other and combat their insecurities. What a marvellous idea for a story, how beautifully placed.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/psychodrome-written-by-jonathan-morris.html


Sixth Doctor:

The One Doctor: The crowning achievement of Big Finish. Don’t listen to those people who say that it is Chimes of Midnight…although that story is fabulous too but it far easier to scare people than it is to make them laugh and The One Doctor makes you really laugh. There is never sense that the writers are trying to take the piss out of the show but merely affectionately poke at its extremes and for a story that sees the sixth Doctor and Mel having the piss taken out of them so much they come off with more dignity and humour than any serious story could achieve. Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford deliver peerless performances and Christopher Biggins and Clare Buckfield are an absolute delight as their cahoots and alter egos. I may have moaned at Gary Russell’s constant turns in the director’s chair but his work here is nothing short of genius and the music and sound effects really drive the story along. Full points to Clayton and Roberts for such a witty script with so many great one liners for the actors to gobble up and tons of fantastic ideas as well. This story was a total surprise when I first heard it and I cannot think of a single Doctor Who story that cheers me up more. Orgasmically good.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/05/one-doctor-written-by-gareth-roberts.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/27-Doctor-Who-The-One-Doctor

Jubilee: Alarmingly inventive and brooding, I adore this story. Doctor Who rarely has the capacity to make me feel genuinely uncomfortable but Jubilee had me in a cold sweat throughout, compiling one horror and dramatic set piece after another. The humour is jet black and quite inspired making the terror all the twitchier. It is full of strong emotional beats, highly atmospheric and leaves you with lots to think about when it is over. Evelyn gets a really meaty role and Maggie Stables excels in a powerful, angry performance topped only by Colin Baker’s agonising take on the Doctor tortured for 100 years. This story is a (not so) subtle commentary on the horror of mankind and it drives its point home like a knife in the gut. Rob Shearman’s greatest gift to Doctor Who is his ability to make you think in brand new ways about staples of the series we thought have become mere clichés. This is beyond doubt the most interesting exploration of the Daleks we have seen. And the wittiest. And the scariest. John Scott Martin will never complain about getting into a Dalek casing again.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/jubilee-written-by-robert-shearman-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/40-Doctor-Who-Jubilee

Doctor Who and the Pirates: Strikingly experimental and yet still an absolute pleasure to listen to, Doctor Who and the Pirates has taken all the style and effort that has been missing from recent stories and injects them all into four episodes of bliss. Jac Rayner has written a superb script, easily her best for Big Finish, which manages to be a beautiful character study, a rip roaring adventure, a hilarious comedy, a blinding musical and a striking piece of drama whilst offering a treatise on narrative techniques at the same time. It should be utterly schizophrenic but the story shifts mood effortlessly from humour to horror. Colin Baker and Maggie Stables continue to shine in what has become one of the great Doctor/companion pairings and the guest cast instil the story with some priceless performances. The jokes are funny, the songs are wonderful and the direction is faultless. Why can’t every story be as good as this? Remarkable.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/doctor-who-and-pirates-written-with.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/43-Doctor-Who-and-The-Pirates

Davros: A story that redefines Davros beautifully and drips with malevolence. When I first heard this story I thought it was far too long (150 minutes!) and was quite blandly directed but I was so wrong on both counts. I wouldn’t want to cut a single scene from this story and I found that the two and half hours of material flew by this time. As a character tale there is none finer as it uses its extended time to flesh everybody out with real clarity before leaving them gasping to get out of Davros’ homicidal grip. The dialogue is crisp and thoughtful and the music ramps up the tension to unbearable levels. Colin Baker gets another chance to shine and unencumbered with an assistant he is as naughty and rebellious as we will ever see him. But this story belongs to Terry Molloy who gets to explore a whole range of emotions as Davros and manages to tug at the heartstrings and terrify you, sometimes at the same time! Its one of the best portrayals of a villain we have ever seen on the show and elevates Davros to some nightmarish pedestal when he can glare down malevolently at the other bad guys we have encountered and laugh at their ineptitude. He’s really scary and that just feels right.

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/09/davros-written-by-lance-parkin-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/48-Doctor-Who-Davros

The Reaping: A revelatory story for Peri, Joe Lidster writes a script that explores her character like never before and really give her substance. Nicola Bryant grabs hold of this opportunity and gives her most assured performance as Peri, ably backed up as ever by Colin Baker and they once again prove what fantastic chemistry they have. It’s an innovative Cyberman story too which I find something of a novelty, often the metal meanies are dumped into a story for no rhyme or reason but to boost ratings or increase sales. Lidster takes the Cybermen and gives their story a definitive ending and a new beginning and their brilliantly over complicated plan could only come from a mechanical mind. Some tasty moments of body horror, a genuinely emotional exploration of losing somebody to the Cybermen and subtle blanket of control over America – somebody is finally exploiting the potential of these creatures. Its Peri’s homecoming that makes the most impact, Joe Lidster takes all the domestic elements that made The Rapture such a disaster and skilfully provides some emotionally choking moments in this outstanding tale. 

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/03/reaping-written-by-joseph-lidster-and_27.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/86-Doctor-Who-The-Reaping

The Fourth Wall: John Dorney has written a superb sixth Doctor story which is unlike anything that has come before and doesn’t so much break down the fourth wall but blow through it with dynamite and then stamps all over the debris so it can never be sealed up again. It’s a delirious mixture of clever observations, broad comedy, strikingly dramatic moments and laugh out loud dialogue that begins deliberately predictably and then defies your expectations at every turn. I loved the commentary and inclusion of melodramatic plot devices (hysterical heroines, florid talking villains, karate wielding heroes and lack of motivation and backstory amongst them) that can be traced back to many points in the series because the observations don’t just serve to point out these absurdities but also smile affectionately at the gleefully silly moments Doctor Who has offered us over the years. Dorney introduces the Porcians who are the first deliberately duff alien race (as opposed to all the intentionally terrifying aliens that wound being duff!) and I hope this isn’t their only appearance in Doctor Who because they are hysterical and might just have you honking with laughter! Flip gets some fantastic satirical dialogue in the first two episodes that really helps to sell her as a confident companion with a brain and by having the Doctor lose her so soon into their relationship I was convinced of the bond between them far more than I would have otherwise. There is more than a touch of Pleasantville about this (one of my favourite films) with the fictional characters coming to terms with their roles and as such evolving into real people and it tinges the comedy with tragedy and depth that makes it a far more remarkable tale. If William Gallagher can produce something magical with the Wirrn in the last of this trilogy it might just be the best threesome we’ve had in over a year because The Fourth Wall kept me smiling throughout with its fiendish ingenuity and riotous spoofing and coming so soon after The Curse of Davros which I also directed this praise at this is another story that could happily sit in season seventeen alongside City of Death. Quite brilliant.

Full Review Here: The Fourth Wall
Buy it from Big Finish here: The Fourth Wall

The Widow's Assassin: This story had some of my favourite twists and turns in it of any Big Finish story so I had to listen to the story twice within a day to make sure that I was giving it a fair review and not just judging on my reaction to it's surprises. I had thought we were long past stories that were as whimsical, as colourful, as emotive and as outrageously inventive as this in the main range. It would appear that Nev Fountain has an endless stream of creativity locked up inside of him and he has been allowed to let his imagination run riot with this tale. It's a story that has so many layers to it that it might take several listens to realise how perfectly the jigsaw of insane concepts comes together. It heads to some pretty whacky places but what anchors the story is the genuine emotion that Fountain manages to generate. Whilst it is making you laugh at the gags and gasp at the revelations, there is an seam of poignancy and pathos that runs throughout that prevents it from tipping over into farce. I can understand why those who like their Doctor Who stories grounded might reject this as it is off somewhere in the stratosphere for the majority of its running time...but you would be denying yourself the pleasure of an intricately plotted, madly funny and startlingly creative piece of work. It's a story that evolves with the advent of each cliffhanger, the sign of good writer utilising them well. Episode one brings together the Doctor and Peri, sketches in this corner of the galaxy and the vibrant characters, episode two mixes the comedy of the battle of suitors with the drama of the murder mystery of who poisoned the Queen, the third episode plays along much more traditional lines of crazy science fiction ideas and answers a lot of questions left hanging by Trial of a Time Lord and then the story rouses for genuinely surprising fourth episode where we learn something quite extraordinary about the Doctor's past. Those who have rejected Steven Moffat's attempts to add to mythology might sniff at the shading that is added to the Doctor's character but I for once found it far less off-putting than the climax of Listen. At the heart of all this is the sixth Doctor, who is characterised magnificently, and Peri who enjoys some of her best ever moments. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant seize the opportunity to play a script this nuanced and have cemented their place as my favourite current Big Finish regulars. They learn a great deal of intimate knowledge about each other because of this adventure and going forward it will make them an even stronger pairing. Like all of Nev Fountain's opus, repeated listens only add to the overall experience and this is his second knockout in the main range this year. It's the best cover for ages, too.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-widows-assassin-written-by-nev.html

Seventh Doctor:
The Fires of Vulcan: A Scotsman and a redhead visit Pompeii and argue over the morality of their foreknowledge of the future, sound familiar? This is something very special indeed. So many areas of this story could have been fudged (McCoy could have phoned in his performance, Bonnie Langford could have over enthused, the script could have been too maudlin, the atmosphere too grim) but every aspect of this production is spot on from the cast to the director and the musical score. I have always loved Historicals and Steve Lyons produces a powerhouse of drama here, a cast of memorable characters and a emotion drive that runs through the story and makes pressing stop to go to sleep (grrr) very hard indeed! It’s clever, involving and dramatic and it never cheats the audience of the spectacle of Pompeii whilst telling quite an intimate story within it. Possibly the best performance Sylvester McCoy has ever given as the Doctor, it is a triumph for the seventh Doctor and a real highlight amongst the fluff of season 24.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/03/fires-of-vulcan-written-by-steve-lyons.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/12-Doctor-Who-The-Fires-of-Vulcan


LIVE 34: Phenomenally good, the boldest departure from the norm since The Natural History of Fear and just as gripping. There is a real urgency to the live broadcasts with on the spot terrorist attacks, disturbing discoveries and political depositions and as someone who rarely listens to the news this really captured my imagination. Censorship, propaganda, terrorism and politics all come under the microscope in an intelligent, hard-hitting way. The regulars all get the chance to shine and the guests cast is the best assembled for quite some time. You wouldn’t want every story to be like this but it makes for a chilling, inspired one off.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/01/live-34-written-by-james-parsons-andrew.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/74-Doctor-Who-Live-34

A Thousand Tiny Wings: A Thousand Tiny Wings is one of my all time favourite Big Finish adventures. Such a simple, evocative, intelligent, beautifully characterised script from Andy Lane complimented by Lisa Bowerman’s atmospheric and disquieting direction that rings every nuance and moment of tension for what it is worth. Whilst you are soaking up all the intellectual discussion between the Doctor and Klein, taking in the ambience of the Kenyan jungle and enjoying the complex characterisation of the guest cast there is the terrifying approach of the Mau Mau keeping everybody on edge and the discovery of an alien creature to solve. As I said in my audio landscape section at times it is the silence that impresses the most because we are waiting on tenterhooks for the Mau Mau to make their move and slightest twig snapping or footstep can be very frightening. Practically every line of dialogue is a gem and the story develops in exciting and unusual ways with the cover and title for once offering hints rather than spelling out the answers. At the heart of this splendid tale you have two towering performances from Sylvester McCoy (whose Doctor has taken off since Briggs took over) and Tracey Childs and their fractious, nascent dynamic makes for an engrossing new partnership. Absolutely top notch, this is the kind of Doctor Who Big Finish can revel in and the New Series couldn’t even touch.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/12/thousand-tiny-wings-written-by-andy.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/130-Doctor-Who-A-Thousand-Tiny-Wings

A Death in the Family: ‘Words have power…’ Bending reality has never been so intoxicating! The finest Big Finish adventure for many a year and one of the best expressions of what this company can achieve on audio, A Death in the Family is a benchmark story that is packed with substance and realised in style. Steven Hall’s script is remarkably dense and intelligent, juggling multiple narrative and screaming with clever ideas, memorable dialogue and handling its four regulars with absolute perfection. It’s a significant writing achievement. Where Project Destiny was hysterical (and embarrassing) A Death in the Family is subtle, restrained and about a million times more effective. The seventh Doctor has never been better. Ace has never been better. Hex has never been better. Evelyn has rarely been better. With a script that looks inward into what makes all of these characters tick they come alive like never before and whereas Philip Olivier always knocks my socks off I have never experienced such beautifully judged performances from Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. Its almost as if they knew how good this was one was and wanted to make it even better. Ken Bentley’s direction shifts tones effortlessly and he plays the audiences emotions like a finely crafted musical instrument taking us on an emotional journey that climaxes on a devastating note. Each instalment takes on a different texture and narrative so they could almost be listened to in isolation but all the details are important as they dovetail in the final episode and the complex scheme laid down becomes clear. You’ve got a terrifying opener, what accounts for two heartbreaking companion chronicles in the middle two instalments and a furiously clever final episode. Packed with startling concepts, moments of poignancy and a truly terrifying villain, A Death in the Family deserves its chart topping reputation and then some. I think it will be a while before Big Finish achieves another story that scores quite so highly in every regard.

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/death-in-family-written-by-steven-hall.html


Eighth Doctor:


Death in Blackpool: An unusually melancholic Christmas episode that despite the tragic events still manages to capture the magic of the normality of a family Christmas. This is character drama of the highest order with the eighth Doctor series returning to the dramatic events of an earlier story and letting its consequences spiral out of control and devastate the relationship between the Doctor and Lucie. Christmas is not always mince pies and laughter and Death in Blackpool taps into the darker side of the season that really appealed to me, its far more thoughtful than the usual twee muck. The last scene is a Big Finish highlight, proof that these audio adventures have taken on a life of their own because I always burst into tears when the Doctor and Lucie are torn apart. A story that means a lot to me in many, many ways.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/04/death-in-blackpool-written-by-alan.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/401-Doctor-Who-Death-in-Blackpool


To the Death: A devastating finale that will not be forgotten for a long, long time. The first half of To the Death is a protracted scene amongst the major players of the seasonand sees some of the most brutal character work the range has ever provided. It’s an astonishingly raw extended sequence and it maintains its edge throughout. The second half is a bloodbath the likes of which we haven’t seen since the finale of Blakes’ 7, the Doctor’s friends and family slaughtered by the Daleks and leaving our hero a battered man unsure of his place in the universe anymore. The links to Patient Zero are a wonderful touch, adding a lot of depth to both stories and the Daleks scheme this time is more brutal and devastating than even I could have imagined. To the Death rounds of this incredible season on a climactic, melancholic finish that proves this series was not afraid to take risks and make Doctor Who as exciting as it can be. Monumental.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/04/to-death-written-and-directed-by.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/410-Doctor-Who-To-the-Death

The Stones of Venice: Controversially this might be my all time favourite Big Finish. It’s not the most intelligently written or the most innovative, it doesn’t have a huge mission statement and it doesn’t once threaten to become an exciting story. The script is captivating all the same, full of delicious dialogue, magic, love and wonder and perfectly taking me back to one of the best weeks of my life spent in Venice. The Doctor and Charley are perfect for this story and have their own adventures, wrapping themselves up in the seductive atmosphere of the place and enjoying some of their best ever dialogue. This is a world of secret cults, lost love and revolutionaries hiding under the surface, a story where the conclusion sees lovers sacrificing themselves so they can be together and a City reborn. I could listen to this one over and over. How on Earth did Tom Baker say no? What a nutter.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/03/stones-of-venice-by-paul-magrs-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/18-Doctor-Who-The-Stones-of-Venice

The Chimes of Midnight: As good as you have heard and then some, The Chimes of Midnight is one of those very rare Doctor Who stories that get everything right and even when you are told about how brilliant it is it still manages to surprise you. With peerless performances, a script that constantly plays with your mind and leaves you breathlessly emotional at the climax, direction that couldn’t be bettered and more clever concepts than both series of Sapphire and Steel I can’t think of a more accomplished piece of time twisting drama. Paul McGann is given more opportunities to prove just how right he was for the part and India Fisher finally comes out of her shell and rocks Charley up into the higher ranks of the companions. Like The One Doctor I have heard this story more times than it is probably sane to admit and I still find it as thrilling as I did on my first experience. This was a really good time to be a fan of Big Finish where they were producing some of the finest Doctor Who we had been privileged to enjoy.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/06/chimes-of-midnight-written-by-rob.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/29-Doctor-Who-The-Chimes-of-Midnight

Neverland: What else can I say that hasn’t been said above? This is superb climax to McGann’s second season, brilliantly dovetailing all of the hints that have been whispered throughout the year and bringing the paradox of Charley’s survival to a dramatic climax. I can’t remember a companion ever being given this much focus and India Fisher holds the story together beautifully, both as Charley and Sentris. Gary Russell has assembled a fantastic cast and each them bring something special to the story and his direction is nothing short of masterful throughout. Neverland is a story with a wealth of mind-expanding ideas at its disposal but whilst it is thrilling you with its possibility it never forgets to have a heart and the touching scenes between the Doctor and Charley as they realise their partnership may be coming to an end provide the icing on the cake. Alan Barnes has written a thrilling script and it is joyously brought to life by all concerned. Triumphant.

Full Review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/07/neverland-written-by-alan-barnes-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/33-Doctor-Who-Neverland