Friday, 6 May 2011

The Complete Fifth Doctor Adventures (so far...)

The Sirens of Time: As an opening story this is probably a little too ambitious, especially since Big Finish were still finding their legs. I’m certain had they tried this story around the time of Zagreus when both the company and Nick Briggs had had much more practice at this sort of thing it would have been more dramatic and much more of an impact. It’s a nice idea to have three separate episodes with individual stories and then tie them all together in the final episode but everything feels oddly disjointed, that fourth episode is a long time coming and ending each episode on a cliffhanger that we don’t get to see resolved is frustrating and hard to move onto the next story. Saying that the story boasts some lovely ideas, some crude but still atmospheric audio landscapes and a good pace that never flags. Baker and Davison are surprise highlights whilst McCoy sounds oddly amateurish in places. It doesn’t help that the individual stories aren’t that interesting; episode two stands out and gives me hope that Big Finish will attempt more grand Historicals in the future. The final episode is okay but muted considering it is about 3 Doctors saving Gallifrey from invading conquerors. There is enough here to promise better things for the future but Nick Briggs will write and direct far better stories in the future: 5/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/01/sirens-of-time-written-and-directed-by.html
Buy it from Bigh Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/01-Doctor-Who-The-Sirens-of-Time

Phantasmagoria: A far more assured and confident production than The Sirens of Time with Nick Briggs grabbing hold of Mark Gatiss’ atmospheric and opportunistic script and bleeding it for every laugh and scare. This is traditional Doctor Who to the core and it revels in the fact, the Doctor is clever and amusing, the guest cast colourful and enjoyable and the villain is despicably hissable. There is nothing here that is especially fresh but the pieces are put together with such gusto and as an example of how agreeable and visual these audios can be it is still a fantastic adventure. Davison seems to enjoy the material, although Strickson feels a little forced. There is an extremely impressive guest cast, an abundance of witty lines and the whole thing moves along at a fair lick. Because I can’t keep listing standout performers I want to put a word in for Steve Wickham who puts in a very sweet performance as Samuel and would go on to play a character utterly different in The Fires of Vulcan. Phantasmagoria would probably flounder later on in the range where we expect things to be constantly innovative but as a positive first step in to producing adventures these Doctors could never have on the TV this story gets a huge thumbs up: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/01/phantasmagoria-by-mark-gatiss-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/02-Doctor-Who-Phantasmagoria

Land of the Dead: I can see what Cole was going for; a frosty, atmospheric character drama with monsters and he may have succeeded if this was a McGann and Lucie 50 minute episode but Land of the Dead is far too long and very poorly executed so it is perhaps the perfect representation of season 20! There doesn’t feel like there is an evolving plot or any meat to the story, there are just a lot of scenes that would probably look really cool on the telly with a big budget. The first episode is unspeakably boring, talky and uninvolving with dull characters saying dreary things and things only get worse. Brett goes from charming host to ranting villain with no motivation and Monica Lewis should have died a horrible death at the hands of the lacklustre monsters. When you have a cast this small you have to make sure and get the dynamics right but everything feels awkward. Davison tries his best with the material he is given, Sutton makes a positive return to the series but they are the only plus points in this stinker of an audio adventure. The worst crime is the missed opportunity; a snowy wasteland could make an atmospheric story…oddly Gary Russell would make a far better job of it in Winter for the Adept: 3/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/01/land-of-dead-by-stephen-cole-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/04-Doctor-Who-The-Land-of-the-Dead

Red Dawn: Considering its subject (a manned mission to Mars wakes up the Ice Warriors) this is one of the most uneventful and unhurried audios yet. With their great rasping voices you would think that the Ice Warriors would make an excellent audio monster but you have to give the something interesting to do make that work and here they merely strut about questioning everybody’s honour and getting captured. Big woo. The fifth Doctor and Peri make an engaging pair but are separated for most of the story so I’m yet to be convinced that stabbing continuity in the gut was worthwhile. Gary Russell needs to find a way to make these science fiction tales as dynamic and pleasing on the ear as the earthbound adventures; Red Dawn has a pretty unimpressive sound design and is only enlivened by its fantastic music. Not very fun to listen to: 4/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/02/red-dawn-written-by-justin-richards-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/08-Doctor-Who-Red-Dawn

Winter for the Adept: Beautifully scored, Winter for the Adept is a damn good stab at a ghost story. The first episode is a treat; the location, the talk of spirits, the howling wind and the evocative music all combine to create a feeling of quiet menace. When the Doctor shows up (in one of his best materialisations ever) the explanations come with him so the rest of the story doesn’t really live up to its early promise. Andrew Cartmel writes a surprisingly good fifth Doctor but fudges Nyssa by making her too spiky and his guest characters all have good dialogue and motives. The last episode disappoints because the ghostly happenings vanish and it all becomes about a (frankly) pathetic alien race who want to take over the Earth, like we haven’t seen that before. All the same the direction is constantly fresh and the events (their execution and the acting) really involve the listener. Nobody seems to want to write a ghost story for Doctor Who that is just a ghost story (Empire of Death) but this is the nearest we have come to a successful attempt: 7/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/02/winter-for-adept-written-by-andrew.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/10-Doctor-Who-Winter-for-the-Adept

The Mutant Phase: I used to hate The Mutant Phase and never got past episode two. Oh what a fool I am. This is an expertly crafted tale that takes its time giving you the answers you want and uses its early episodes to set up some great revelations in the latter ones. The very nature of the story – what makes the Daleks scared – is worth the admission price alone but if you can work your way through the low incident level of episodes one and two you are suddenly treated to some innovative and remarkable concepts. The Doctor and Nyssa discuss the intricacies of time travel, the Dalek Emperor is murdered, Skaro is destroyed and the Doctor goes back in time to save their metal hides. The script gives Davison and Sutton some great moments and as a result their give their best performances to date, especially Davison who has never seemed more commanding. The ending is a little abrupt but this is an exciting and complicated tale that will please the high concept fans who enjoy their Doctor Who loaded with clever ideas: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/03/mutant-phase-written-and-directed-by.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/15-Doctor-Who-The-Mutant-Phase

Loups-Garoux: Simply a gorgeous piece of writing that is brought to life with spectacular style by Nick Pegg. The delayed script of Loups-Garoux is a work of art with some complex characterisation, evocative scene setting and a moving story. The unusual pairing of the fifth Doctor and Turlough works wonderfully and like two bachelors travelling through time and space they both get two very different romances. The howls of wolves terrify throughout the story whether they are stalking through the desert, raiding the streets of Rio or rounding on the Doctor. It is rather magnificent how Platt fails to use any of the werewolf clichés and instead portrays them as an ancient and noble race trapped in a bestial form. It is another terrific performance by Peter Davison who makes a great pairing with Eleanor Bron and together you wonder for a few moments if the Doctor will finally settle down. It is hard to explain how powerful the story is without experiencing it but this is one of those Doctor Who stories that doesn’t feel like a Doctor Who story at all but a piece of drama that the Doctor happens to turn up in. Different in all the best ways: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/04/loups-garoux-by-marc-platt-and-directed.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/20-Doctor-Who-Loups-Garoux

Eye of the Scorpion: History brought to life at its finest in a rip roaring tale that sees Peri take centre stage, the Doctor dazzle in politics and introduces a fascinating new companion. Debut writer Iain McLaughlin brings a fresh approach to his storytelling and injects action adventure, history, politics and horror into his script and Gary Russell brings it to life with his usual skill. We finally see the advantages of writing Peri as an upbeat character and Nicola Bryant grabs the chance to bring some warmth and wit to the character and she genuinely impresses. Whilst I usually complain about alien influences intruding on historical stories I feel this is one tale that is enhance by its science fiction elements and the two combine to make a potent brew. An impressive piece, all the more delightful because it was so unexpected: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/05/eye-of-scorpion-by-iain-mclaughlin-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/24-Doctor-Who-The-Eye-of-the-Scorpion

Primeval: This story isn’t simply a retread of The Keeper of Traken but an exploration of the planets history and a powerful look at superstition, religion and morality. The first two episodes are quiet and uneventful and almost lethargic with their developments but re-introduce Traken with some style. Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton grab hold of this grab and milk for every bit of pathos it is worth and the Doctor and Nyssa leave the story as the ideal Doctor and companion combination. Russell Stone’s music imbues the story with a seductive quality and makes the whole thing easy on the ear and the developments in the last episode, especially the revelation of who Kwundaar is makes the story very polished and rewarding. A nice story in every sense of the word with some lovely dialogue and character touches: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/05/primeval-written-by-lance-parkin-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/26-Doctor-Who-Primeval

Spare Parts: Spare Parts is often cited as the ultimate Big Finish experience and whilst it is a very good production there is something lacking that prevents it from being one of my all time favourites. Don’t get me wrong this is a superb script which utilises the horror of the Cybermen better than most of the other stories they have appeared in and provides a clever and dramatic lead in to The Tenth Planet. Both Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are very well served by this story, turning their performances up a notch and providing a standout moment in episode two where they argue over the right to wipe out the Cybermen. There is a feeling of foreboding throughout the story but there is something a little too clinical about it all, not enough emotional beats for me to really care about what is happening to these people. It doesn’t help that both Dodd and Frank are utterly unsympathetic characters that I couldn’t give a fig whether they lived or died. What this story needed was the hellish vision of Armageddon of Inferno but it never quite reaches that level of discomfort. However, it is still a strong piece of drama and is one of the strongest Cybermen stories: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/spare-parts-written-by-marc-platt-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/34-Doctor-Who-Spare-Parts

The Church and the Crown: Extremely likable, The Church and the Crown is a very amusing dabble into historical politics that strikes just the right note of fun. The three episodes build up the discord between the church and the crown, which then climaxes in triumph as they unite and kick the shit out of the English! With Nicola Bryant wowing us with her turn as Queen Anne, a cast that relishes the amusing dialogue and turn out excellent performances and a TARDIS crew that makes you want to dive in there with them this story has just about everything you could ask from a story. It’s a fresh approach to telling a historical because it never takes itself too seriously and as a result you get swept away in the swashbuckling adventure of it all. More like this please: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/church-and-crown-written-by-mark-wright.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/38-Doctor-Who-The-Church-and-the-Crown

Nekromenteia: With Bang Bang a Boom just gone and The Dark Flame to come, Nekromenteia makes for the heart of a trilogy of terrible stories that makes you wonder if Big Finish are running out of steam. The first episode is too fractured, with your attention divided a million ways with lots going on but nothing to follow and the story quickly becomes a bunch of unpleasant people betraying each other. John Ainsworth’s decent direction is lost because the story is unbearably dull and treats the regulars like bit players and gives the guest cast far more time than any of them deserve. The witches are among the most irritating Doctor Who aliens ever. This feels like a love letter to Eric Saward’s gritty approach to Doctor Who without any of the charm. It’s all oddly distant, unlovable and uninvolving: 3/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/nekromenteia-written-by-austen-atkinson.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/41-Doctor-Who-Nekromanteia

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: 10/10

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

Omega: Its hard to know what to think of Omega because at verges between being brilliant, shocking on the one hand and highly imaginative and bland, expository and irritatingly theatrical on the other. The first three episodes are mostly useless; they plod along harmlessly enough with some sluggish direction but its episode four where all the meat is. For that half an hour you are treated to revelations, a conclusion bursting with ideas and some really fun moments. Peter Davison has rarely been better and it is a shame because he deserves a far more dramatic story to hang his performance on. His scenes with Ian Collier lack tension and chemistry though, which blunts the potentially terrifying idea of a duel personality inside Omega’s head. Fountain would jettison a lot of the pretension in his next script and really go for the comic jugular but it feels as though he is trying a little too hard here and the result is an patchy story with possibly Gary Russell’s weakest direction to date: 6/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/08/omega-written-by-nev-fountain-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/47-Doctor-Who-Omega

The Axis of Insanity: A nice return to form for Big Finish and the most Who-ish story since The Wormery. The Axis of Insanity is by no means perfect but here we have four episodes of fun and frolics, some tasty ideas being bandied about, a strong immersive production and some lovely moments for the Doctor and Erimem. Jarra is not the strongest villainess we have ever seen because she verges on the wrong side of hysterical cackling too often but she does make sure that the Doctor and co have a thoroughly unpleasant time and after all isn’t that what its all about. I loved the touch of the TARDIS graveyard but I do think the Axis could have been explored with some more depth. It would be nice to see some of the mistakes that Time Lords have cut out of reality. The Axis of Insanity promises good things from Big Finish still to come and I have never need that reassurance more than now: 7/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/10/axis-of-insanity-written-by-simon.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/56-Doctor-Who-The-Axis-of-Insanity

The Roof of the World: Halfway through I wondered if I had been too harsh on The Roof of the World since the story seemed to be progressing quite nicely but honestly nothing happens in the second half! As an exercise in prevarication and running on the spot whilst filling the story with pointless character moments those two episodes are second to none. That might be an ignominious reaction to this story, especially since the production itself is very strong and the performances are all quite subtle and nuanced but when the script lets you down there really is nothing that can salvage a story. I would recommend that any fan of Big Finish gives episode two a listen, a touch of atmosphere and insanity in all this blandness but otherwise there is nothing new to discover here. Inconsequential: 5/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2010/10/roof-of-world-written-by-adrian.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/59-Doctor-Who-The-Roof-of-the-World

The Game: Another strong story with a great blood pumping idea at the heart of the drama with the sports commentary is another great way to tell a story on audio. The episodes are short and punchy, exactly how a six parter should be and each instalment twists the story in a new direction. The fifth Doctor rails against a morally bankrupt system and Nyssa almost leaves him

in a fascinating turn for her character and both of them enjoy an intriguing relationship with William Russell’s Lord Carlisle. What a shame it becomes less interesting when Morian takes centre stage, a two bit gambling bully with little charm and a clichéd motivation. Still the story manages to keep up its swift pace for the two hour running time and there are plenty of exciting moments to keep things dramatic. A fun commentary on football hooliganism with lots of interesting moments: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/01/game-written-by-darin-henry-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/66-Doctor-Who-The-Game

Three’s a Crowd: Not so much slow paced as no paced, Three’s a Crowd is the epitome of dullness. It features a colourless location, characters who are either as irritating as pubic lice or unbelievably thick, banal dialogue and a lifeless narrative. Some people might rate it because Deborah Watling guest stars but she gives a mechanical performance and is playing a wretched character, it is simply another disappointment. No more stories from Colin Brake please, he cannot structure a story and his scripting is so plain there’s nary a good line for anybody. We’ve seen Davison, Bryant and Morris produce wonders together (The Church and the Crown) but this and Nekromenteia is making me wonder if they have already outlived their value: 3/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/01/threes-crowd-written-by-colin-brake-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish: http://www.bigfinish.com/69-Doctor-Who-Threes-a-Crowd

The Council of Nicaea: A powerful story that draws its drama from the characters by asking some powerful questions about religion and beliefs. The script is the most thoughtful and exciting we have had in an age and there isn’t a monster or corridor chase in sight. I have always loved the pure historicals and Caroline Symcox paints a gripping picture of Nicaea and gives an opinion to everybody from the lowest trader to the Emperor. It’s a superb story for the regulars as well, the Doctor fights to try and keep history on track and Erimem follows her heart despite who she might upset whilst Peri is desperately trying to keep them all together. Caroline Morris gives a dominant performance making Erimem’s righteousness a convincing condemnation of the Doctor being Time’s bitch. A welcome reminder of what Big Finish can achieve at its finest, ditching science fiction for gripping historical drama: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/01/council-of-nicaea-written-by-caroline.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/71-Doctor-Who-The-Council-of-Nicaea

Singularity: Often overlooked, Singularity has a substantial script and a top-notch production and is one of the strongest stories of late. James Swallow deserves kudos for not only providing a fresh new setting but also a cast of interesting, sympathetic guest characters and a wealth of deft concepts to play about with. There is some sublime material for both the Doctor and Turlough and Davison and Strickson once again make an intriguing all male team. The concept of the last of humanity heading into the past and changing their future is one that has been borrowed in the new series but it is not handled with half the audacity or conviction that it is here. This is precisely the sort of layered, confident storytelling Big Finish told far more regularly in its first 50 releases, these days it has to be a huge lurch from the norm to produce something this good. A welcome reminder of how good these audio dramas can be: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/02/singularity-written-by-james-swallow.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/76-Doctor-Who-Singularity

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: 10/10

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

The Gathering: The antithesis of The Reaping so it is astonishing that both stories came from the same writer – a barely plotted (you don’t discover there is a plot until the second episode) Cyberman story with nothing interesting to say about the creatures and some truly horrible characterisation of the guest cast to add salt to the wound. None of the characters are remotely likable and hardly any of them have any depth beyond bolshie Australian, misguided Doctor and jilted ex lover. This was a chance to bring Tegan back to life with some real sparkle but it turns out she left the Doctor and denied her previous lifestyle, turned away friends, lost herself in her boring job and resented pretty much her entire life – I never thought they could have made Tegan even more obnoxious and unfriendly than she was during her three year run and I have never been more displeased to be proven wrong. The Gathering suggests that travelling with the Doctor can poison your mind and that’s a concept so disgusting I don’t even want to consider it. As much as the last scene tries to suggest she is happy the proof of her dull, repulsive, miserable lifestyle wafts from every scene in this play. A very hard story to like and a huge disappointment after the sterling effort in The Reaping. What’s that? Tegan’s coming back again? Really looking forward to that: 3/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/03/gathering-written-by-joseph-lidster-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/87-Doctor-Who-The-Gathering

Circular Time: Despite his New Adventures and Human Nature television masterpiece it is Circular Time that feels like Paul Cornell’s most personal opus. His favourite Doctor and ideal companion, the theme of the seasons, romance and regeneration – all of Cornell’s strengths burst into life within this story. Mike Maddox proves an excellent collaborator and together they produce four very strong, distinct, evocative stories. Circular Time is a superb first innings for the Nick Briggs’ produced audio dramas and kicked off the anthologies that would turn up sporadically and already raises the bar that none of the subsequent attempts have quite matched. A top quality release, superbly put together by John Ainsworth and one that turns evolves Nyssa’s character beautifully, this is highly recommended: 9/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/04/circular-time-written-by-paul-cornell.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/91-Doctor-Who-Circular-Time

Renaissance of the Daleks: Vietnam, Crusades, alternative realities, deadly toy Daleks, the Omniverse junction, wormholes to different times, a City made of Daleks, conditioned human Daleks – you certainly cannot accuse Renaissance of the Daleks of not being ambitious! I honestly don’t see what is so confusing about this story since everything (the time tracks, the toy Daleks, the whispering voices) is explained and tied up in the last episode and with some swagger I might say! Is this much criticised story as bad as people say it is? Not at all and I would go as far as to say it is worth seeking out because of its piss poor reputation – the ideas are incredible, there is some really fun imagery, the Doctor is on form and the story builds a threat that is unusually bloodless and fascinating. I even really enjoyed the hoping about from place to place, beautifully brought to life by John Ainsworth who is back on form. There are problems – Alice is the most irritating creation since Monica Lewis in Land of the Dead, the story feels top heavy with concepts at times and there is a massive gap in the middle of the story where all the characters hang out in the TARDIS for half an hour. Plus the conclusion isn’t quite as spectacular as I would have hoped for, it reminds me of one of those Star Trek style endings where Captain Kirk convinces the living bomb to kill itself. However I went into Renaissance of the Daleks expecting pain and was hugely surprised to find such a wealth of goodies – I haven’t even mentioned the terrific musical score which really adds to the drama. There’s about four stories going on at once here and they aren’t all given adequate time but as a quirky, labyrinthine bit of madness that genuinely gives the Daleks a new spin I give this story a thumbs up: 7/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/05/renaissance-of-daleks-written-by-who.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/93-Doctor-Who-Renaissance-of-the-Daleks

Exotron: The fact that I have spent much of this review discussing its chronology, the quality of cliff-hangers and plot similarities to other stories goes to show just how much interest I had in the actual story. Not a lot. Poor Barnaby Edwards, such a skilled audio director and lumbered with this uninspiring script from the usually reliable Paul Sutton. I’m not sure why Peri was included in this story, she really doesn’t contribute anything at all and it would have worked just as well if we had had three solo Doctor stories in a row. I read recently an opinion that every Doctor Who story should feel special – the person who wrote that seemed to be suggesting that every story until the current administration of Big Finish was special which I disagree with whole heartedly – but I do agree with the sentiment as in its most basic form. Exotron doesn’t feel special, it doesn’t even feel remotely interesting, it’s a cobbled together story of ideas I have seen better elsewhere and has the feel of mid season padding than an important part of the opening salvo of a spanking new era of audio storytelling. It doesn’t inspire great performances, there wasn’t any memorable dialogue and it doesn’t leave the debut director any chance to show his mettle…its just sort of there: 3/10

Urban Myths: I have seen this sort of thing done before (The X-Files was probably the most successful attempt with its comedy gem Bad Blood) but this is another delightful burst of sunshine that wont take up too much of your time. I’m not sure if the writers have got this quite the right way round as they seem to be injecting their one part stories with the shits and giggles that their main stories are lacking! This is a nicely constructed little comedy, written with some flair and with two bright central performances from Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant. What more could you ask for: 8/10

Full review here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/05/exotron-written-by-paul-sutton-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/95-Doctor-Who-Exotron

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: 10/10

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 Mind’s Eye: With the news of Erimem’s impending departure how clever to open a story with her already having left the Doctor and setting up shop on a colony in the future. Maybe it is cutting him down an episode and forcing a tighter script or perhaps the writer has learnt from past mistakes but The Mind’s Eye is hugely superior to Colin Brake’s previous audio - Three’s a Crowd. He throws so many ideas into the script that the audience doesn’t have time to get bored and whereas the regulars were handled dreadfully in his debut script all the Doctor, Peri & Erimem get some superb material here that once proves that it is one of the finest TARDIS teams Big Finish have produced. Several things stop this from being a complete success however; Brake’s plotting is too linear for its own good (simplistically so) and he fails to play about with the nature of reality in a way that is usually a given in these stories preferring instead to ultimately tell a far more traditional Doctor Who story. However there is a pace and sense of drama about this story that keeps it interesting and the direction has a drive and atmosphere to it that makes this story well worth a listen. Whilst this is a good story I honestly think Barnaby Edwards could direct the ass of anything (a shopping list) and make it work: 8/10

Mission of the Viyrans: Mission of the Viyrans is like one of those specially written scenes you get for comic relief which bridges the gap between stories like The Parting of the Ways and The Christmas Invasion. It is in no way a satisfying story within its own right but more a teaser for what is to come. It scores points over 100 Days of the Doctor for not looking to the past for its inspiration but the future and hints of the Viyrans abilities and Erimem’s departure would both bear fruit before long. There’s some nice technical jiggery pokery and Nicola Bryant (as ever) gives it her all but there is nothing especially memorable about this interlude and it is the first one parter that doesn’t feel like a story in its own right: 5/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/06/minds-eye-written-by-colin-brake-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/102-Doctor-Who-The-Minds-Eye

The Bride of Peladon: Barnaby Edwards’ first script for the main range is an exciting reminiscence of past adventures on Peladon but with a darkly intelligent new take on the planet. The script is remarkably clear and full of incident and Edwards matches the quality of the dialogue and plotting with a futuristic gothic atmosphere that pervades the entire production. There is plenty here that will remind you of the seventies Peladon adventures but this is not simply a nostalgia fest because it continues the legacy of those tales by bringing it bang up to date and marrying it to some fascinating mythology from Earth. Of course this is where we wave goodbye to Erimem and it feels like it is too soon to say goodbye to such a strong character but at least she goes out on a high with her fans wanting more. Her decision to leave is perfectly understandable (and well built up in a number of her previous adventures) but that doesn’t mean that saying goodbye is any less upsetting. Another very strong story in what is turning into a splendid run of adventures: 9/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/06/bride-of-peladon-written-and-directed.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/104-Doctor-Who-The-Bride-of-Peladon

The Haunting of Thomas Brewster: In sharp contrast to The Dark Husband which featured probably the worst first episode to a release since Big Finish have begun, The Haunting of Thomas Brewster opens on the most attention grabbing, moody and exciting first episode in many years. Set over Brewster’s miserable childhood with the TARDIS is a beacon of hope appearing many times across his youth, I was dragged straight into this opening instalment thanks to its focus on the strong guest cast over the regulars. Just when you think episode two is going to tell the same tale from the Doctor and Nyssa’s point of view Morris trumps your expectations again with a brilliant conceit of the Doctor spending twelve months in Victorian London waiting for Nyssa to arrive. A hint of Dickens, a splash of Holmes, scares, action and innovation and even room for a sweet unrequited gay romance, this is a story that never stops giving. Haunting has all of the atmosphere and chills of the New Series’ The Unquiet Dead but wins out with its stronger cast of characters, more intelligent narrative and the host of surprises that get more insanely engaging as the story progresses. Even the brisker running time works in its favour because the story never feels as though it outstays its welcome and finishing flourish of the Doctor and Nyssa losing the TARDIS caps off an ingenious and practically flawless puzzle. Again in contrast with The Dark Husband (where it was the best thing about it) the really distracting music is probably the only thing preventing this story getting full marks: 9.5/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/06/haunting-of-thomas-brewster-written-by.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/107-Doctor-Who-The-Haunting-of-Thomas-Brewster

The Boy That Time Forgot: Sometimes I think Paul Magrs has gone stark staring mad and I’m often extremely glad that he has because he adds a welcome touch of the fantastic to a series that can so often get bogged down in the formulaic. You certainly couldn’t say that The Boy That Time Forgot conforms to any of the rules; it has a unique setting, a disparate bunch of characters, it shits all over continuity and it writes the TARDIS out of the equation completely in a way that feels rather permanent. For the most part these innovations conjure up a feeling of originality that is very refreshing and I found my enjoyment fuelled by the thought of fan boys weeping into their Tom Baker underpants and stamping their feet at the thought of continuing Adric’s story. That alone makes the exercise worthwhile. This is easily the darkest of Magrs’ plays by some stretch and benefits because of it, all the evocative fantasy elements are as you would expect but skewed by a sense of the macabre which makes the experience pleasingly disquieting. On the strength of some heated viewpoints I didn’t expect to like this very much and to my delight it turned out to be far more agreeable than the button pushing failure some of repute. It just goes to show – don’t read to reviews before you have heard something. Not even this one. Make up your own mind and mine says this is a worthy coda for Adric with some real bite: 8/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/06/boy-that-time-forgot-written-by-paul.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/110-Doctor-Who-The-Boy-That-Time-Forgot

The Judgement of Isskar: Result: The first half of The Judgement of Isskar is a bizarre hotchpotch of other stories that have been done better elsewhere. We visited Mars in Red Dawn (whilst the story wasn’t up to much the evocation of the Red Planet was more atmospheric and references her, encouraging the comparison), the panic of a natural disaster was brought to life more intimidatingly in The Last and as an introductory story to the Key to Time its no Ribos Operation. The one thing that The Judgement of Isskar manages to cling onto is the sense of epic; with the decaying Key to Time having to be discovered in a hurry across diverse cultures to prevent the collapse of the universe. It’s a rather gripping scenario for a trilogy of stories to be built around but its shame that it doesn’t come into play until around halfway through the story. The Key to Time season worked so well because it allowed for the time to tell its individual stories as well as exploring the umbrella theme but since we only have three slots to tell this quest in the opener takes in a myriad of locations and times. Even with two and a half episodes taking place on Safeplace I never connected with any of the characters or the situation that was unfolding. The direction is another weakness that hampers its success, with some very awkward jump cuts, a generally flat atmosphere and some awkwardly blended sound effects that rarely sound naturalistic. The last episode seems to devolved into lots of running around on tippy toes trying to avoid Martians and Tracers. I don’t want to say that I lost all interest but it had waned severely by the conclusion. For a Simon Guerrier script this feels messy and undisciplined but I think that was the quality he was aiming for in this whirlwind of ideas and locations to kick start the Key to Time trilogy. I just don’t think it was pulled off particularly well here. Even the last minute appearance of the Black Guardian failed to rouse me: 4/10


The Destroyer of Delights: Given that it is written by one of my favourite Bernice Summerfield writers and directed by Benny herself (and also the person responsible for the best of the companion chronicles range), I was expecting great things of the middle segment of the Key2Time trilogy (see what I did there?). This wasn’t quite I was expecting. Kick starting the trilogy format for Big Finish, these stories seem to be going out of their way to be as busy as possible as if they are trying to distract the audience from the fact that they really aren’t particularly good. I always thought that they missed a trick in season sixteen (one of my favourites, incidentally, so must have done quite a lot right as well) by not allowing the Guardians to have a larger presence (especially with actors of the like of Cyril Shaps and Valentine Dyall to play them) but The Destroyer of Delights proves that I should be careful what I wish for. Mis-characterised horribly, they indulge in an overly theatrical version of some Arabian soap opera in what I can only assume is supposed to be a really bad joke. There’s plenty of scenes of people standing around jabbering, issuing threats and insulting each other but not a lot actually seems to happen. Episode four seems to consist of all the characters indulging in a bizarre amount of technobabble. At least the direction is more fluid this week with Lisa Bowerman giving the extra an extra layer of polish but it feels in parts that she has lost all control over both the actors and the musician which makes the sound design its only salvation. Once Russell T Davies said that you needed a recognisable element to every story (hence why so many of his were set on contemporary Earth) to give the audience something to recognise and invest in. I often thought that was hogwash because alien environments when done well can be just as involving but with the past two releases my faith in that belief has been sorely tried. There has been so little to grasp hold of that is either something I can buy into or even give a damn about its almost as if they are making this trilogy for somebody from another planet. The trouble is it felt as though nothing mattered; the situation felt contrived, the characters one dimensional, the consequences irrelevant and the Doctor’s involvement little more than shouting to be heard. In all these cases it was really hard to give a damn. Apparently every story has its champion but surely this isn’t anybody’s favourite: 3/10


The Chaos Pool: Pluses to The Chaos Pool; the best direction of the trilogy with Lisa Bowerman upping her game from The Destroyer of Delights, a fabulous debut score from Jamie Robertson (just listen to the cinematic bluster towards the end of episode one) and the decent twist about the identity of Lalla Ward’s character. Already that is more pluses than the first two stories combined. Minuses include more aimless storytelling that fails to go anywhere, more ridiculous alien races that make no impact, more incoherent technobabble that replaces actual plot twists to navigate the plot (‘your singularity Matrix is amplifying the effect of the second Teuthoidian attack!’ and similar such nonsense) and a conclusion to this trilogy that fails to cohere into anything remotely plausible or satisfying. And as for Romana being the sixth segment…where the hell is the script editor? Its rare to find three such inept scripts in close proximity from Big Finish since their run of form is usually pretty consistent (even the first Divergent Universe season had The Natural History of Fear wedged between The Creed of the Kromon and The Twilight Kingdom) and as an indicator of how well these trilogies are going to play out I am surprised that they continued with the format after this disastrous first attempt. I was desperately hoping that this trilogy would not only do something pioneering with the Key to Time itself (it’s a device that can turn itself into anything, there has to be more imaginative storytelling possibilities with something as malleable as that) and show the Guardians at their powerful best, juggling with universes to bend reality to their will. Beyond the suggestion that the White Guardian is far more amoral than we might have appeared (and I would question whether that was a good move – why can’t they be as black and white as they were clearly set up to be?) there is very little worthwhile exploration of these beings of any kind. What a waste of time and of three stories; why did we need 360 odd minutes of poor storytelling to reach exactly the same conclusion as the series did the last time this situation played out? I despair: 4/10


Castle of Fear: This is massively enjoyable but I beg of you not to give up on this story on the evidence of the first episode because it is a plotless half an hour of inexplicable mummery and setting up clues but the plot kicks in mere seconds after the second episode has begun and the story gets better and better and better. Big Finish have this uncanny ability of adding detail to televised stories without touching the continuity established on screen and this 12th century escapade offers a great explanation for why Linx was trapped on medieval Britain in The Time Warrior. I really appreciate the continuing use of Nyssa in the audios because they are giving more weight to Peter Davison’s assertion that she would have been an ideal solo companion for his Doctor and Sarah Sutton is ablaze with vigour throughout. Davison is no slouch either, clearly delighted to be back in cahoots with his favourite. I love the idea of a Rutan story where all of the characters aren’t who they claim to be but aren’t the Rutan either, it’s a deceptive concept that gives the third episode a real boost (everybody is putting on a duff accents because the characters are putting on a duff accents!). The comic tone of the piece is so unlike anything we have had from the main range for a while it has to be commended and once I had cleared the hurdle of the introductory episode I had a oodles of fun as the story uncoiled and all the characters dropped their masks. There are some great gags in there and the performances are all sublime and I desperately want to mark this story higher. A terrifically energetic start to the Stockbridge trilogy and like authentic mid eighties Who ends on an explosive cliffhanger: 8/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/12/castle-of-fear-written-by-alan-barnes.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/127-Doctor-Who-Castle-of-Fear

The Eternal Summer: Spellbinding, a story that continually evolves as it continues but feels skilfully structured throughout, juggles all manner of clever plot devices but ties everything together satisfactorily at the end. Scripts of this quality don’t come along every day and we’re fortunate that Barnaby Edwards was the director chosen to bring it to life because it has the same glorious mixture of genuine sentiment and splintered plot games that made his earlier masterpiece, The Chimes of Midnight, such a success. Edwards puts the puzzle together with real dexterity, capitalising on the choking moments of emotion whilst ensuring the mystery keeps you guessing and excited. There is an energy to the piece that is easy to be swept up in and the atmospherics of an English village make this adventure easy to conjure before your eyes. My favourite scenes where with the rancid old Doctor and Nyssa as they greedily fed on the villagers pain and love – it was such a gloriously macabre spin on the characters we know I was lapping it up. Jonathan Morris deserves a huge round of applause for continually coming up with the goods for Big Finish – his work has been of such a consistent high standard I fail to understand why the new series hasn’t snapped him up. I’ve always been fond of conundrum tales like this and enjoy working at solving a complicated plot and when it reaps rewards as much as The Eternal Summer I couldn’t be happier. A top notch fifth Doctor release of the type that is quite a rarity these days – this really was a phenomenal year of Big Finish adventures: 9/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/12/eternal-summer-written-by-jonathan.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/128-Doctor-Who-The-Eternal-Summer

Plague of the Daleks: The Daleks are in this story why exactly? One of the most sloppily written Big Finish stories for an age, Plague of the Daleks will strain your patience until it is worn away and you are left with angry frown lines etched into your face. Episode one is an irritating composite of unanswered questions, episode two is a zombie tale interlaced with some surreal moments of melodrama, episode three introduces the Daleks but fails to integrate them into the plot and the last episode has to catch up and try and explain everything that has been introduced in the story so far and fails spectacularly to bring the story to satisfying close. If you listen to the interviews on the disc you realise that the writer and the script editor both came to this story with different ideas (Barnes: the heritage Stockbridge and the Daleks, Morris: the zombies turned by rain) and the resulting story feels like a discordant clash of concepts that don’t belong together. What this story needs is a script editor who can tie all the disparate strands together into a satisfyingly coherent whole but what we are left with is a slapdash first draft. Proof that even the best of directors can have their off days because Plague of the Daleks feels as though it has been assembled without much care almost as if Edwards knows he is onto a stinker. Even the performances lack the usual conviction of a solid Big Finish cast with Liza Tarbuck and Keith Baron failing to make any impression at all. Forgettable roles for both the Doctor and Nyssa means Davison and Sutton’s contributions are pretty workmanlike too which is unthinkable after the last two scripts afforded them such luxurious opportunities. I considered turning this story off at the end of episode three and coming back to it later but I knew that if I did that I would never listen to the end so I forced myself to endure the conclusion. That is never a good a sign: 2/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/12/plague-of-daleks-written-by-mark-morris.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/129-Doctor-Who-Plague-of-the-Daleks

Cobwebs: The first episode of Cobwebs is purely designed to get everybody in a state about the return of Tegan and Turlough, re-introduce Nyssa as an older character and enjoy that 1980s atmosphere of exploring a derelict location (Mawdryn Undead,  Terminus and Enlightenment feature similar explorations in their first episodes). For the most part this succeeds admirably and with some fine Jonny Morris dialogue steering the action its probably the most energised Davison adventure for some time (although your reaction will be determined on your opinion of Tegan, as exemplified above and below). The central mystery is a good one (if not entirely original to anybody who has put themselves through The Space Museum) although there are times when the script is seriously lacking incident and seems to allow too much time for characters to stand around arguing with each other. Barnaby Edwards’ direction is as stellar as ever, he builds up a terrific atmosphere in the early episodes and he gives the more animated moments of the script a real sense of urgency (aided by a superb Steve Foxon score). The second half improves with the pace picking up as the future catches up with our friends and Morris mines the morally bankrupt economy of the time to provide some tense scenes. Unfortunately the nuts and bolts of the story are a little too close to Morris’ earlier Festival of Death for my liking. Terrance Dicks has been mining his own oeuvre for ages now…I just expect something more original from Morris. My one serious complaint about Cobwebs is a personal one. I don’t like Tegan and I find Janet Fielding’s approach overly hysterical and unpersuasive. At times I desperately wanted to skip to the next track just to get away from the characters horrific, unceasing wailing (‘you might want to stick around and get killed but I’d rather not if its all the same to you!’). For Cobwebs and me that is a bit of a problem because Tegan is specifically spotlighted here and she poisons great swathes of the story. Somehow this is even worse than her appearance in The Gathering. Without this dermatological (she made me want to itch all over) hindrance it would score an easy 8 but as it is: 6/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/cobwebs-written-by-jonathan-morris-and.html
By it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/cobwebs-302

The Whispering Forest: I’m coming to the conclusion that achingly traditional stories simply aren’t my cup of tea because I found my mind wanting to wander throughout much of The Whispering Forest and I had to force myself to keep it on track. It’s not a bad story, per se, it’s just commonplace with very little that you wouldn’t have seen elsewhere in Doctor Who done with a great deal more oomph. It’s not even that indicative of season 20 which, for all its flaws, is a time of the thematic exploration of some quite weighty scientific ideas for the show. Beyond The Kings’ Demons there is little that year which is as conventional, plot wise, as this story. Whilst the story plays out along familiar lines (monsters in the forest – Nightmare of Eden, Planet of the Daleks, a colony that has been seeded by a crashed spaceship – The Face of Evil, Frontios, cod SF politics – Meglos, Arc of Infinity) it’s weighed down further by unbelievable dialogue (everybody talks as though they are imparting notifications all the time – ‘we must deal with my step-daughter and the strangers!’ or ‘so this is how the Takers keep taking!’) and weak characterisation (not so much the regulars because even Tegan is well handled for the most part here, but the guest cast fail to inspire) and a resolution which fails to bounce (the nature of the Shades is easily guessed). Valiantly trying to breathe some life into all of this is director Barnaby Edwards and Fox and Yason taking care of the sound design and music but it’s not their best work by a long chalk and adds to the feeling of dissatisfaction.  The Whispering Forest has some pretty hefty credentials propping up what is a very suspect script and like many an episode in series six of the new series it tries to convince you with a riveting cliffhanger that it is a lot better than it actually is: 4/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-whispering-forest-written-by.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-whispering-forest-303

The Cradle of the Snake: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Cradle of the Snake. Looking at opinions online (something I rarely do before listening to something) seems to find this tale caught in a state of marmite flux, some love it and others loathe it. I’m not so enamoured with the Mara tales on television as everybody else seems to be (Snakedance is very good but I could pick many holes in Kinda) and if anybody was going to be brave enough to step into Christopher Bailey’s shoes then I too would have suggested Marc Platt. One of the things that made the best parts of Kinda and Snakedance so special was that they handled their themes and ideas subtly but that seems to be entirely absent here. The Mara is less of a conceptual horror and more of a tenapenny villain that can hop from one mind to another (dream imagery aside, its no different from Cassandra in New Earth) and the melodramatic performances from the regulars merely support the idea that this is a bog standard nasty that revels in carnage but has little depth beyond that. Big Finish have been known to innovate elements from the TV series (the Daleks, Davros, the Master) and they’ve occasionally taken something that did work and fudge it (the Metebelies Spiders, the Krynoid, the Kraals). Platt seems to have fundamentally misunderstood what that Mara is all about and as such perhaps this was one sacred element (that might sound like hyperbole but this villain really is revered) of the show that should have been left alone. What I really took from this adventure was that Revenge of the Sith feeling of all the elements dovetailing together, the story of the Mara’s emergence and Empire building as spoken of in Snakedance is recounted here and there is something quite stimulating about having the foreknowledge that things aren’t going to turn out well for this civilisation. Its unfortunate that the early promise devolves into what is little more than turbulent shouting in the last episode – it really does feel that Marc Platt and Barnaby Edwards (two of the most competent staffers at Big Finish) have bought into the Eastenders school of thought that histrionics equals drama when it so often has the reverse effect. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, there are some elements that are worth highlighting (particularly the performances of the regulars, especially Davison) but taken as a whole this fails to live up its potential and squanders an opportunity and I’m not sure which is more disappointing. Marc Platt is one of the most involving and intelligent writers to have ever worked on Doctor Who but he seems to have lost his way with this script, plumping for standard action adventure rather than engaging with the (potentially interesting) ideas in a penetrating fashion. I don’t want to say that this trilogy has been entirely without merit because that would be disingenuous (Cobwebs paints an ugly picture of the future, The Whispering Forest eventually gets Tegan right and Snake plays about with some weighty ideas) but each story has been weighed down by some pretty hefty flaws. I sometimes feel that when a character/actor returns to the fold the audience gets so wrapped up in the excitement and freshness of that and that is blinds people from the deficiencies inherent in their opening stories. The first season of fourth Doctor adventures was given a reprieve in that regard and this trilogy is another example. Tegan and Turlough are back and it is refreshing to have the fifth Doctor stories re-animated because of this but this isn’t the strongest run of tales to greet their return: 4/10

Full Review Here: http://www.docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-cradle-of-snake-written-by-marc.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-cradle-of-the-snake-304

Heroes of Sontar: The worst first episode for a release in many years…Heroes of Sontar had to get better as it went along and thankfully it does. The biggest problem is that the humour fails more than it hits the spot and there is nothing more painful than something that is trying too hard to be funny and failing. It’s in its moments of pathos that the story scores its biggest triumphs; the trooper who cannot admit he is afraid, questioning his people’s warlike attitude and refusing to commit suicide because of who he is are all great moments that actually mean something. Tegan and Turlough are a fantastic pair and work far better on audio than they ever did on TV and the story at least skips along a fair old pace. But the narrative itself is pretty mediocre, the ideas tired and beyond the few moments that I smirked and overall it felt more like filler material than the impressive reintroduction of one the Doctor’s greatest enemies. An energetic failiure: 5/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2011/07/heroes-of-sontar-written-by-alan-barnes.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/146-Doctor-Who-Heroes-of-Sontar

Kiss of Death: To give Steve Cole his credit he has written a perfectly authentic season 20 story. The Doctor is as dull as dishwater, Nyssa is sidelined, the plotting is slack, the dialogue is banal and lifeless and the guest cast lack any character whatsoever. The only noticeable difference I could find from stories such as Arc of Infinity, Terminus and The Kings Demons was that Tegan seemed to be extremely complimentary about everything but that wierded me out too much to be effective. There are two massive issues with this story and the first is that it opens with a wham bang thank you ma’am opening of kidnapping and pursuit but then 15 minutes into the story we arrive on the winter planet and where the plot yawns to a halt for the rest of the story. To term this story as a run-around actually insults that particular genre of Doctor Who so lets call it a stand still-around. Secondly the Turlough/Deela relationship fails to convince on any level, the writing keeps them at arms length and the actors sound awkward together which results in a flat subplot and highlighting the most predictable cliffhanger in yonks. Add to this a general lack of enthusiasm from the cast and a dearth of original ideas (oh look…doppelgangers!) and it actually makes me yearn for the comedy Sontarans to return. An excellent musical score aside, Kiss of Death is extremely forgettable stuff: 4/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2013/02/kiss-of-death-written-by-steve-cole-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/147-Doctor-Who-Kiss-of-Death

Rat Trap:  Rat Trap tries to mix politics, social commentary and action adventure to brew up a potent tale of Rats (they are so latitudinous they deserve the capital) turning the tables on humanity. Unfortunately in the first two cases the script barely scratches the surface and with the latter the plot fails by resorting to a lot of rather tedious running around. The villains of the piece are so ineptly handled in both their realisation and their motivation I was longing for somebody to just toss down some poison pellets so we could get on with something more engaging. The location is ideal to tell an effective, claustrophobic Doctor Who story in but beyond some insistent (read: raucous) sound design it fails to live up to that promise. It strays into torture porn territory with characters being tormented, wading through rat shit and mutilated but that’s just a tasteless layer of nastiness to distract the audience from the fact that the plot is failing to shift. Proof that Ken Bentley suffers from the same affliction as Gary Russell, his direction is only as good as the script and if it is a particularly fine example he will produce magic but if it’s a duffer he can barely find the enthusiasm to inject any existence into it. With Rat Trap he seems to have lost control, the performances are hysterically over the top for the most part, the sound design gave me a headache with its ceaseless echoes and inaudible rat voices and the (excellent) musical score is lost amongst the cascade of noise. With its attempts to brew up an attention-grabbing situation but fudging it spectacularly in the realisation (both scripting and direction), this might be the finest interpretation of season 20 yet. The human characters aren’t what they seem? Check. The evil scientist that created the Rats is actually a misguided good guy who sacrifices himself at the end? Check. There is a Rat who wants to help humanity and works against his own kind? Check. The Doctor turns up in a last minute triumph and defeats the Rats with a quirk of technobabble? Check. Its just so routine on every level. Some people might say that I should cut Rat Trap some slack because it was a last minute replacement for something that fell through which would be a reasonable argument if The War Games, The Shadow in the Glass and Midnight weren’t also last minute concoctions that just happened to be brilliant. If you want to experience a truly chilling story about rats taking on humanity than check out James Herbert’s Rat Trilogy. Its more imaginative, horrific, exciting and satisfying than anything here. I’m so bored of criticising this run for the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough…there must be a decent story for them soon. Rat Trap is a noisy, empty affair that climaxes another disappointing trilogy for this team: 4/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2013/02/rat-trap-written-by-tony-lee-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/rat-trap-314

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: 10/10

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

The Jupiter Conjunction: The Jupiter Conjunction reminded me of classic Who more than practically any other release I have heard in an age. It has an engaging setting, a small group of caricatures who offer up the odd surprise as the plot chugs on, there are some neat ideas at the heart of the story, a weak third episode and a narrative that rallies for the final installment. Its so formulaic you could construct half a dozen classic Who adventures out of its constituent elements. I’m not complaining too much, every now and again a story that plays by the rules is nice to relax in to and something a little more pedestrian and set within prescribed limitations can offer a great deal of entertainment. It appears that the writers are going to some lengths with this trilogy to make sure that all the regulars are given adequate mike time and Robson has a firm grasp on all of them (Nyssa’s unexpected development in the last story being completely ignored, excepted). My biggest issue with Jupiter was that none of the guest characters really came alive (I couldn’t decide whether that was down to the superficial characterisation or the earnest performances, probably a little of both) and so I couldn’t sympathise with their plight. It didn’t surprise me that the half the characters were military officers in disguise. They all speak with the sober intensity of the law. Constructed mostly of clichés but told in a fairly engaging way (Ken Bentley ensures things never get dull), this is terrific entertainment if you are not looking to have your boundaries stretched. If you enjoy a hit of nostalgia this will be right up your street. Story wise this probably deserves a 6 but because of the awesome use of the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough it inches higher. I am genuinely astonished how the portrayal of this set of regulars has improved so much: 7/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-jupiter-conjunction-written-by.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-jupiter-conjunction-328

1001 Nights: 1001 Nights is an odd release in that there is a lot of good in it but it doesn’t quite come together as spectacularly as I think it was hoping for. The framing device is very clever but has an adverse effect of making the individual stories more throwaway than they need be because I wanted to get back to what was being pitched as the central storyline. Each individual segment has much to recommend it but every one is weighed down by flaws – the first tale has a superb premise but it feels wasted on such an economic piece of storytelling, the second does some fine things with Nyssa but feels a little generic in tone and its plotting and the third tells tales within tales but doesn’t really do anything truly imaginative with the potentially subversive concept of chronicles as currency. The best story is the scattered segments set in India, a bonus feature if you like which coalesces in the final episode and ends the release on a high. There are some subversions along the way and even a handful of laugh out loud moments and the whole piece reeks of entertainment. Its just not demanding or intellectual enough to really engage you so it only works on a switch your brain off level. If this is your first Big Finish ever you will probably be blown away with how enjoyable it is but after 15 years of audio adventures I think that even the producers themselves would admit that this isn’t one of their finest collections. 1001 Nights is a perfectly fine audio release with plenty of decent content but it compares unfavourably with Circular Time which really pushed the boat out to be something different and attention grabbing. However I’m adding an extra point for more solo Sarah Sutton because it doesn’t happen enough these days and because she continues to impress me with every release: 7/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/1001-nights-written-by-emma-beeby.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/1001-nights-336

Eldrad Must Die!: Deeply unengaging, Eldrad Must Die! serves as a sequel to both The Hand of Fear and Mawdryn Undead and on the strength of this story neither were strictly necessary. And in the way Platt explores possession through dream sequences this also feels like a predecessor to Cradle of the Snake as well. The first episode is a long winded affair that wants to get Turlough in exactly the same position as Sarah Jane Smith in the original (possessed, and chanting a slogan about Eldrad) but takes twice as long to get about it. The story feels as though it has no framework supporting it, scenes of  random weirdness compound each other (Look a village of crystal people! And a Quartzberg! Quartz rain!) in an attempt to distract the audience from the fact that nothing terribly original is going on. I often find Big Finish audios are at their best when they are examining interesting ideas through thoughtful dialogue and engaging characters (check out this months companion chronicle) but Eldrad Must Die! is one of those tales that comes off like a weak television soundtrack with characters constantly describing what is happening and reacting in a state of shock at everything. To give Platt some credit he tries to examine Turlough to some small degree but its hard to take anything from the dream sequences because it is hard to determine what is memory and what is fantasy. The Emerald Tiger proved that there was a rich seam of goodies to be mined from placing this quartet of regulars in an innovative and unique story. It kicked started the last trilogy in such a delightful fashion. Eldrad Must Die! proves to be the antithesis of that tale, the depressing result of trading on the shows past for no rhyme or reason, indulging in clichés and failing to do anything fresh with the source material. Some interesting imagery aside, it’s about as tired as the main range has been in over a year. It’s the worst kind of story, one that feels like it didn’t need to be told: 3/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/eldrad-must-die-written-by-marc-platt.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/eldrad-must-die-710

Prisoners of Fate: After the slack and uninteresting Eldrad Must Die! and the slightly bland Lady of Mercia, the Main Range really needed to strike out with something special to regain its chutzpah in the 50th anniversary year. Fortunately the ever reliable Jonathan Morris is on hand to give the range a shot of adrenalin and he has crafted one of his finest scripts, easily matching his work on last years Protect and Survive and then some. Whilst I always find his work of a high standard, Morris tends to buck the trend of most writers by doing his best work in the Main Range whereas pretty much every other current writer scores their wins in the spin off series’ (the Companion Chronicles, Jago & Litefoot and The Lost Stories especially). I remember Mark Gatiss recalling on the Earthshock DVD range that his younger self had the feeling that ‘something different is going on here…’ when he watched Logopolis and Earthshock and that was precisely the feeling I had with Prisoners of Fate, that tingle of excitement as things complicate and evolve with a crushing sense of doom and a feeling that perhaps this time things might not work out in the way they usually do. My one disappointment was that the story seems to be promising big developments but the net result is that everything resets at the end to precisely how things were at the beginning. Classic Who was often plot heavy and Morris in particular has always been able to construct a abundant narrative and with Prisoners of Fate he blends some very strong ideas (the Chronoscope and it’s predictive power, Nyssa’s temporal nightmare, an old friend of the Doctor’s returning to haunt him) with excellent character work to produce something truly surprising and captivating throughout. Once again Morris out Moffat’s Moffat by creating a timey wimey puzzle to unravel with an emotional sting that will stick in your memory for some time – the decision that Nyssa makes in episode four is heartbreakingly difficult – but the net result is agreeably tied up in a satisfying fashion rather than leaving a million questions, threads and moments of illogic unresolved such is the method of the series’ current show runner. It’s a story that manages to feel as though it has spiralled out of the characters control whilst at the same time feeling precisely crafted and Ken Bentley ensures that the mass of information is conveyed in an engaging and dramatic fashion. Sarah Sutton grabs hold of the opportunity to take centre stage and shares some excellent moments with Peter Davison whilst the rest of the regulars are afforded the chance to play a very different role in these events. Easily on par with The Wrong Doctors without quite toppling it (that story lost its way in the middle but scored a massive high with its ending, the opposite of Prisoners of Fate), this is still a terrific achievement and another top dollar tale from a writer whose imagination clearly has no limits: 9/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/prisoners-of-fate-written-by-jonathan.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/prisoners-of-fate-712

Fanfare of the Common Men: Brilliant songs! Brilliant story! Fanfare of the Common Men is a delight to listen to and a massive departure from the usual dreary plod I have come to expect of the main range of late. There were probably a wealth of in-jokes that went right over my head because although I was exposed to a delightful amount of music from the sixties growing up thanks to my ma, she was never a massive fan of the Beatles. What I took away from this adventures was a sense of affection and nostalgia for the period, an energetically paced story with plenty of sunshine and feeling and a strong role for both the Doctor and Nyssa in a story that characterises them both beautifully. Eddie Robson has delivered a polished script with crystal clear narrative that poses an intriguing mystery that is cleverly thought through and I am starting to wonder if there is nothing that Barnaby Edwards cannot turn into gold. He’s by far the most consistently exceptional Big Finish director (if you go back almost a decade he was touching up the work on stories such as The Chimes of Midnight and Dr Who & the Pirates and he is still delivering work of that standard) and he knows precisely what he is doing with this reflective yet groovesome adventure. Perhaps those power hungry dictators should take a leaf out of the book of the Beatles and figure out a more agreeable way to hypnotise a nation. The nature of fandom and the power that stars have over them is woven into the story and discussed, just enough to give this stylishly realised tale some substance (‘All you need is love?’). The greatest contributor to this tale though (aside from the phenomenal guest cast who all deliver pitch perfect performances) is Howard Carter whose music design and songs go a long way to whipping the listener back to the sixties and the height of Commonmania. He’s always complimented any story that he has worked on with his music but he really has surpassed himself with Fanfare. I started listening to this at 11.00 in the evening and planned to review and hours worth and then the concluding hour in the morning. I found this all so delightful I whipped through the whole thing in record time, sleep be damned. I can only hope that the other 60s adventures can live up to Robson’s poptastic classic: 10/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/fanfare-for-common-men-written-by-eddie.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/1963-fanfare-for-the-common-men-716

Moonflesh: With the advent of this release there has been something of a backlash against the state of the main range over at Gallifrey Base (dissatisfied customer on that forum - what a shock!) and when Moonflesh is latest example to test the quality of the merchandise currently being produced it is hard to argue with the air of disillusionment. Looking back at the past years worth of releases there has been a wildly inconsistent altitude of quality with Eldrad Must Die!, Persuasion, Daleks Among Us and Antidote to Oblivion being amongst the worst Big Finish have ever delivered. This story can be added to that list; an intellectually stunted, over described, under characterised period piece without an iota of innovation. Moonflesh embodies the worst of Doctor Who when it is churned out ad nauseum like a string of sausages in a factory. There's nothing about this story that demands it be told on audio and I think this is something that needs to be addressed. Moonflesh would still be a rush job, predictably plotted and ill characterised but at least if you could see the action it might come alive in some visually spectacular ways. On audio it is a painful experience, a bunch of characters hunting and being hunted, shouting 'hit it!' and the audience being assaulted by a number of animal noises. And lots and lots of shouting. If I wanted to listen to Doctor Who stories that sound like audio recordings of television adventures that have been destroyed I already have plenty to choose from (and in the case of stories such as The Myth Makers & The Massacre they work better on audio than some stories specifically made for the medium). The Doctor is pleasant. Nyssa is pleasant. The upper classes hunting party are toffy and arrogant. The foreign character talks in myths and legends. The alien presence isn't as lily white as it presents itself. I could make this stuff up in my sleep. Judging by the interviews at the end of the piece I figure this is the audio equivalent of The Time Monster, where the cast and crew were having much more fun than the audience were. Well, this audience member at least. Mark Morris at his best is a writer that can thrill, chill and surprise (Forever Autumn, The House of Blue Fire, The Necropolis Express) so I can only assume that a much superior novel (seriously check out his non-Who work, it's excellent) was stealing the time away that was needed to make this meagre effort work: 3/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/moonflesh-written-by-mark-morris-and.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/moonflesh-826

Tomb Ship: It feels like the well of talent is starting to run dry. If you had never heard a Doctor Who story before then this might...might just scrape a pass on the grounds of its novelty. But with 185 main range adventures coming before it (ranging from the ultra traditional to the boldly radical) the sheer level of banality that Tomb Ship offers simply is not good enough. It's another adventure that feels like it should be seen rather than heard and fails to exploit the muscles of the audio medium; the exploration of language, ideas, relationships and atmosphere. Whilst acceptable in their own right, the sound effects and music are starting to sound a little familiar too. I think script editor Alan Barnes needs to take a step back and ask himself if these stories need to be told because even a causal glance at efforts like Moonflesh and Tomb Ship would suggest otherwise. The setting might have been interesting had it been a little more incongruous and exotic. The characters might have excited if they had more than one dimension. The plot might have surprised if it had a single twist (especially the biggie regarding the treasure, a hackneyed concept when it was utilized in Enlightenment) that wasn't signposted from the very beginning. Except for that twist...which is just absurd. Tomb Ship could be made to work if it had its guts completely torn out, extra nuances added to the family dynamics, more spirited characterisation of the fifth Doctor and Nyssa and extra chills added by actually making us give a damn about the guest characters rather than wishing to see them all dispatched so we can head off and hang out with a more engaging bunch. More importantly it needs to be shortened to a two parter...although I still think it would struggle to fill half the length with a plot quite this thin. It breaks my heart to see the main range churning out such mediocrity - I can remember a time when this was the only product that Big Finish produced and each story was so thrilling to get hold off upon release (I travelled all the way from Crawley to London to Forbidden Planet to get my mitts on The One Doctor as soon as possible). Nowadays I find all the innovation and diversity in the spin off material and find myself in the unfortunate position of praying that the main range wont disappoint. That's two clunkers from Rennie and Beeby as far as I am concerned. No more please: 3/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/tomb-ship-written-by-gordon-rennie-emma.html
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/tomb-ship-827

Masquerade written by Stephen Cole and directed by Ken Bentley

Result: Hooray! A decent main range adventure! One which is packed full of twist and turns, is held up by a great premise and features some nice characters. I had almost given up hope that the range had lost the ability to tell a story this enjoyable and much like the mostly generic fifth Doctor trilogy of 2013, this years trio of tales ends on a high. The first two episodes are terrific with a narrative that is constantly shifting and keeping you on your toes but things do stumble a bit in the third episode where there was an awful lot of technobabble and to-ing and fro-ing to be endured. The final episode is the best of the bunch, saving some nice surprises and a pulling a smart resolution to the plot out of the bag. I really liked how the story is structured so that the explanations are told on the go and at essential moment in the plot - too often of late there have been great lumps of exposition that really hinder the movement of the narrative. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Steve Cole is an underrated writer in Doctor Who circles and whilst some of his latter day audios haven't been to my tastes (The Whispering Forest, Kiss of Death) plenty of his earlier efforts were sublime (The Apocalypse Element, The Plague Herds of Excelis, The Wormery) and his novels too (Shadow in the Glass, Timeless). Masquerade is his finest audio for some time, a script that offers the cast some duel opportunities to play different characters and strong dialogue that ranges from period to hard SF. The regulars are reasonably served but there isn't much going on to explore them beyond their contribution to the plot, Masquerade instead is far more concerned with building its own world and having some fun with it. This isn't quite the strongest main range story of the year (Scavenger still takes that crown because of it's dramatic conclusion) but it takes a happy second place. Engaging and fast paced with a unique atmosphere all of its own and a story that evolves incredibly from one genre to a very different one come the conclusion: 7/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/masquerade-written-by-stephen-cole-and.html

Psychodrome written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Ken Bentley

Result: 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: 10/10

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

Iterations of I written by John Dorney and directed by Ken Bentley

Result: 'I think our number might very well be up...' What a cracking first episode, atmospheric and haunting and landing this TARDIS crew in a chilling horror movie setting of the sort that the series lacked during its nineteenth year. This is another skilfully structured piece assembled by John Dorney with plenty of clues scattered about in the first two episodes for the careful listener to slot together to build up a picture of what happened on the island the summer previously. However even the most intelligent of listeners couldn't have foreseen precisely where this twisting storyline was going and once the cat is out of the bag about the nature of the threat I was both horrified and dazzled by the potential and complexity of the foe. Whilst Adric and Nyssa are served well, it was the handling of the fifth Doctor and Tegan that really impressed me. The dialogue is sharp and appealing and both Peter Davison and Janet Fielding respond to it by giving a pair of fantastic performances. I truly wish they had been this engaging on screen together but it is wonderful that the potential of this pairing is finally being realised. Where Psychodrome had a point to make by establishing the season nineteen team as a unit that can generate decent stories, Iterations of I is simply a cracking good story in its own right and would be regardless of the which regulars had landed here. Beautifully paced, packed with clever ideas and twists and with an atmosphere of dread that is hard to stop listening to, this is very good indeed. It's been a long time since I have given two back to back scores this high but this fifth Doctor box set has raised the quality of the year exponentially and the stories have been specifically tailored for my tastes. Between them they have been smart, funny, surprising, characterful, atmospheric and challenging: 10/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/iterations-of-i-written-by-john-dorney.html

Mistfall written by Andrew Smith and directed by Ken Bentley


Result: A fourth Doctor story that deals with the Exillons followed by a fifth Doctor story on Alzarius...am I starting to notice a trend here? Add that to two fourth Doctor releases that are audio productions of two books and you have four stories released in January that have very few original elements to them. Is this a mission statement of Big Finish now? Not 'we love stories' but 'we love appealing to your sense of nostalgia.' I wouldn't mind so much if there was a pleasing mixture of nostalgia and originality but the latter seems to have shrivelled up as died completely in favour of the former (the last three main range releases dealt with the fallout from Mindwarp, The Dalek Invasion of Earth and served as a sequel to both Mark and Time and of the Rani). Remember when the main range was spanking new and every release was a pleasure to listen to because it offered something fresh and interesting that hadn't been tried before or torn from a previously televised story? There is no reason why we can't return to those days but the creative minds behind the main range need to get over this obsession with Doctor Who of old and forge ahead with something unique of their own. What truly shocked me about Mistfall was the misuse of the regulars. Here you have four unique, very distinctive individuals who each bring something quite special to the party (check out The Emerald Tiger). And yet none of them display an iota of personality throughout this tale, nothing that makes them stand out or gives a reason why these particular characters were chosen for this particular story. They all behaved in a general way, how anybody might in this scenario. That's shockingly hard to achieve with the companions from the 80s. I think I might have even tolerated the argumentative Tegan of old over the bland alternative that stumbles through Mistfall. Ken Bentley's direction is uninspiring but that is hardly a surprise since he has been in the in-house main range director for yonks now. Remember when he delivered A Death in the Family? The actors sound half asleep with nobody bringing any life to proceedings. And the story ambles from one dreary plot turn to another. There is no part of this story that feels passionate, alive, willing to risk. It's as slumbersome and lacking in zest as I think I have ever seen an audio dip. I had no desire to listen to the last episode and forced myself through it. Andrew Smith wrote the stunning Lost Story The First Sontarans and played on my every expectation and confounded it. When I saw this story advertised that was exactly what I was expecting here but it was a false hope. No such luck. When Full Circle was transmitted it was an exciting time for Doctor Who, a bold new era of the show. Mistfall emerges from a creatively fallow period where trading on old successes is very much the order of the day. Enough now. No more Eldrad, Nucleus or Marshmen. If you love stories so much, start thinking of some new ones: 2/10


Equilibrium written by Matt Fitton and directed by Ken Bentley


Result: 'That's the trouble when you are trapped inside the system, you can't see any other way...' There is an interesting idea at the heart of Equilibrium and Matt Fitton does a fine job of exploring it. If you are going to set a story in E-Space then this is precisely the way to do it on an enchanting new world the likes of which we have never seen before and handling engaging concepts that would make the mighty Bidmead proud. I don't mean this as a criticism of either writer but Fitton is turning out to be the next Eddie Robson, not the highest class of Big Finish writer but astonishingly reliable and always turning out something that is worth listening to. He has been responsible for a fair amount of the better material to emerge from a handful of audio ranges of late and whilst it does occur it is rare for him to have an off day. Equilibrium sees him focussed, delivering a polished script with plenty for everybody to do and a plot which develops in a pleasing and surprising manner. I good sign of a strong Big Finish story for me is my willingness to plough on and see the story through in one sitting and not break it up in two halves. I was having a great time with this and lost my evening of study that I had planned. Damn you, Fitton. I really like how this trilogy is developing too, with each of the stories linked in a robust manner and the overall story gaining some dramatic momentum as it progresses. This isn't top tier main range like last years The Widow's Assassin or Breaking Bubbles but it is certainly high class second tier and reminds me of stories such as Time Works and Brotherhood of the Daleks. Solid stories, fascinating to listen to, classically done Doctor Who that is almost entirely plot driven. Hell, it's worth listening to this story just to experience Tegan holding the baby: 8/10


The Entropy Plague written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Ken Bentley


Result: 'It's like the world is coming to an end' 'Not just the world, the universe. We can only have a few hours left...' Genuinely very good, The Entropy Plague has caused me to reassess my opinion of the main range that has been on the wane of the past couple of years. That 24 month period can have hardly be called Big Finish's golden period but in the past six months of releases (from The Widow's Assassin to this adventure) I have scored the stories 109738 and 9 which is leads me to believe that things could very well be on the up. What could essentially be called the 'older Nyssa arc', the period of adventures between Cobwebs and The Entropy Plague has been championed by Jonathan Morris and he has provided the run with it's strongest emotional beats and progressive moments. So it seems quite apt that he should be able to tie everything up as well, a pleasing bit of scheduling because he is also the strongest writer on Big Finish's roster. It is a substantial story in every sense of the term. So many adventures of late have been fairly hollow, uninspired retreads of older, better stories but the content that fills The Entropy Plague is dramatic, satisfying, detailed, vivid ad emotional. It's has enough character, creativity and drama to fill several tales. Morris is always good but it feels like he has worked his butt off on this one. You'll be assaulted with powerful imagery, life or death action, mind expanding ideas, frightening monsters and emotional goodbyes. Not every Doctor Who story could be as full on as this but in a range that felt as though it had given up trying this amount of impact is highly appreciated. There is a feeling of desperation to The Entropy Plague that few Doctor Who stories manage to muster. As a result of all these things the performances of Davison, Sutton, Fielding and Strickson elevate considerably and they are all given a chance to narrate the story for an episode. Come the final episode you will come to understand the depth of feeling that exists between these four. Only minor flaws hold this back from being an absolute classic (Pallister and a few moments where there is a little too much talk and little action) but on the whole The Entropy Plague is a stunning release and the sort of standout release I expect of the main range on a regular basis from now on. A story that makes you feel, the last scene left me in tears: 9/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-entropy-plague-written-by-jonathan.html

The Secret History written by Eddie Robson and directed by Barnaby Edwards


Result: The most assured of the Locum Doctors adventures by some margin but it's isolated nature renders the other, lesser adventures in this trilogy as something rather irrelevant and even addresses that they are. It's less of a culmination of the trilogy and more of an example of how good all three adventures should have been. The treats are manifold though; a rich an engaging historical adventure in the style of a Hartnell story, a challenging and engaging guest cast of characters affording excellent roles to the cast, the surprise return of an old villain that works beautifully well in this context and with these companions, the surprisingly charming team of the fifth Doctor, Steven and Vicki and typically gorgeous direction from Barnaby Edwards. It strikes me that the last time Eddie Robson and Edwards teamed up they produced magic (Fanfare for the Common Men) and this isn't far off reaching the same standard. Certain contributors to the main range (Morris, Dorney, Robson, Edwards) can always be relied to generate the best results and I wonder if perhaps they should be left in charge of a range that is shockingly inconsistent month in, month out. The last episode opens on the most glorious of conceits and plays about with it successfully to justify the awesome return of a baddie from the past. Appropriately enough, removing the Doctor from the action has the adverse effect of reminding us why we need him there in the first place (Turn Left did something very similar). The Secret History isn't the best of the best as far as Big Finish is concerned (and it's a shame that Rob Shearman couldn't have been tempted back to write the celebratory release because he is still the writer responsible for the ultimate audio knockouts) but it's a stonking good audio all the same from the ever reliable (and showing no signs of exhaustion) Eddie Robson. I was educated, entertained and surprised. The only story of this trilogy I would heartily recommend:8/10

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