Sunday, 20 June 2010

Season of Fear written by Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about? On New Year's Eve, 1930, the Doctor lets Charley keep her appointment at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. But his unease at what he's done to time by saving her life soon turns into fear. Sebastian Grayle: immortal, obsessed, ruthless, has come to the city to meet the Time Lord. To the Doctor, he's a complete stranger, but to Grayle, the Doctor is an old enemy. An enemy that, many years ago, he finally succeeded in killing. And this is his only chance to gloat. The Doctor and Charley desperately search human history for the secret of Grayle's power and immortality. Their quest takes in four different time periods, the Hellfire Club, the court of Edward the Confessor and the time vortex itself. And when the monsters arrive, the stakes are raised from the life of one Time Lord to the existence of all humanity.

Breathless Romantic: Seeing Charley and Alex together reminds the Doctor of why he had saved her – he loves seeing her so happy. As Paul Cornell points out so succinctly in his writers notes Paul McGann narrates beautifully and he directs us through this particularly time twisting story with real ease. Hilariously when he first meets with Grayle he suggests that his nemesis to be might have mistaken him for the Master or the Rani! I love how bashful he is about asking Charley if she has snogged Alex. His relationship with Grayle is fascinating throughout, we have never really had a proper villain for the 8th Doctor to butt heads with and they manage to wind each other up into a frenzy of emotions that is great to listen to. The Doctor promises Grayle he will be there every time he summons his masters for the sake of established history but you get the sense that he simply enjoys hampering his plans too! He’s like a thorn in his side, preventing his transcendence to Godhood. He sings a nursery rhyme about Zagreus which might just become important as the season progresses. He is very used to the bitchiness of Time Lord society and he sees a lot of it in Grayle. The Doctor thinks Time’s ability to make things change is beautiful and he stumbles his way through bodies – he thinks Grayle’s immortality is times way of killing him inside. One leap year Edith offered the Doctor the hand of marriage to the Doctor and he did a runner which has now caused bad blood between them. In one of the rare moments that he really shows his teeth he promises Grayle that if he hurts Charley he will show him suffering beyond anything he has experienced so far. The Doctor is the only man who is wily enough to understand the Queen. He has a moral code, an aversion to killing. It really worries him that for a moment he really wanted to kill Grayle as he represents everything that he despises a turncoat and somebody who betrays his own people for his own advantage. He rarely touches meat and turns his nose up at venison. He chooses a swordfight to dispatch Grayle and turns out to be something of a master of the blade! You can just see Paul McGann with wild hair and his Edwardian clothes brandishing a sword in a moonlit duel! The Doctor is stabbed several times during this story and yet he still fights on. According to Charley he smells of honey, lets his tea get too cold before he drinks it and lets her win at Scrabble.

Edwardian Adventuress: Finally Charley makes it to the Singapore Hilton to meet Alex and indulge in some serious smooching. Nobody could have survived the R-101 and as such Charley, fully aware of the messing with time she caused in Chimes of Midnights, wonders if she is responsible for the time disruption here as well. It transpires that Alex never really fancied Charley but was Grayle’s nephew and he manipulated her into bringing the Doctor to this particular location. Throughout the story Charley has a surprising taste for violence suggesting they stone Grayle to death and dropping him into a volcano! She promises not to make a habit of disobeying the Doctor’s orders (yeah, right!). She is poisoned by Grayle to allow him entrance into the TARDIS. In return she knocks him out with the hat stand! We learn that she adores wearing a good frock and once went to an orgy…but didn’t stay. She has read Austen and can play a very convincing upper class virgin! At the end of the story her mind is full of two sets of memories – one from this story and the other where it never happened. The Doctor promises they will last until she sleeps and they will become memories, stories and dreams.

Ideas: Another extremely innovative story. Rather like River Song in Silence in the Library Grayle meets the Doctor out of time and their first meeting is at very different times for each of them. Grayle tells the Doctor that he has killed him in the future and the timeline that has created sees the Time Lords no longer top dog with his Masters feeding on the energy of worlds. The Doctor uses Alex’s DNA (which somehow made its way into Charley’s mouth!) to locate Grayle’s family home. Hopping back to the Hellfire Club they discover Grayle happy to sacrifice everyone to complete the first stage of his immortality. In a very odd moment a Dalek makes a cameo at the end of part one (watch this space, folks). King Edward’s homosexuality is described as an affliction! Nobody wants to invade England because they all think they are going to inherit. Grayle doesn’t age – he was married 12 times and watched each one fade into a crone whilst he didn’t gain so much as a wrinkle. He plans to kill the King and Queen using jewellery made of plutonium to poison them but the Doctor has pre warned them and they wear fakes and outfox him. At one point in this story Grayle has lived even longer than the Doctor has but we see the danger of living such a long life unchanged, it turns you twisted with hatred. Regeneration keeps things interesting and keeps you sane. There are lots of clues to point that it might be the Nimon behind all of this (Mithras the Mighty Bull, a Black hole on the doorstep, they invade one at a time…) but you would never imagine the return of such a derided Doctor Who monster so all kudos to Cornell and Symcox for pulling them off with such style! For all their shoddy design (which we obviously don’t have to look at) the Nimon are a surprisingly effective and serious idea. A plague of intergalactic locusts preying on the weakness of people’s greed. I love it when one character says you wonder what will fall out of the sky next…and down screams the Doctor! The Doctor defeats Grayle in the only way he can imagine…to head back to before they have ever met and stopping him contacting the Nimon. In one of the twisted climaxes we have the evil immortal Grayle face up to the innocent Grayle who has never turned to evil and the as Grayle stabs his nastier version to death time heals itself and the new timeline quietly replaces the old one. In a dramatic climax we realise that the Nimon made use of the conditions that the Doctor saving Charley caused. The last scenes sees a creature of terrifying possibility appear and kill Lucie and Richard, a creature that hungers for time energy and swallows them down for the paradox they are. The Doctor and Charley have unleashed something and it is coming after them…

Standout Performance: Stephen Perring deserves a round of applause for his strong performance as Grayle, a new nemesis for the Doctor. Perring gets to play a whole range of emotions from niavete and innocence to scheming and plotting to twisted and bitter Godhood. He manages to be melodramatic, a little bit sexy, verbose, smug, sweet and completely insane. Not bad at all and surely a fascinating character to play.

Audio landscape: Weird bells raining over the opening scenes, heavy rain hitting mud, religious chanting, alien voices over the intercom, fizzing time energies, a Dalek screaming, a temple exploding, wind whipping, ticker tape in the TARDIS, trees swaying, owls hooting, church bells a ringing, the Nimon pod arriving and their fabulous distinctive voices, growls and electric bolts. The sound effects were the best thing about the Nimon so on audio we get the best of them.

Musical Cues: The music for Seasons of Fear is extremely distinctive and unusual, not the usual orchestral helpings but more of an electronic feel. The heartbeat music at the end of part one suggests things are hotting up nicely. There is a Kings Demons style of synthesised historical music during the scenes in 305AD only it actually serves to enhance the mood of the piece. There is a haunting female vocal during the duel. The Nimon get a heavy techno beat in the last episode that really suits them.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m shopping around, trying out all the different cults!’
‘Well you please stop believing in things Decurion! It’s really very messy!’
‘What sort of things did they get up to in here?’ ‘You know…rude things…’
‘I shouldn’t be in your universe. We don’t like each other very much…’
‘I am coming for you Charley Pollard. And for you Doctor…’

Standout Moment: The end of episode three is a triumphant return of a pretty naff monster and for that it should be celebrated!

Result: For content and interest, this is one of the most involved Doctor Who stories but it is a little too fractured to be an all conquering classic. Seasons of Fear tells a more detailed, less emotional version of the Girl in the Fireplace with the Doctor walking through Sebastian Grayle’s long life and outfoxing him at every turn. It breaks the curse of Doctor Who quest stories by being rather good and offering up a number of fun locations and lots of clever ideas. Paul McGann and India Fisher have an effortless chemistry at this stage in their partnership and are a joy to listen to together. The second eighth Doctor season is proceeding with real drama and drive with lots of hints that something is not at all right with time and the Doctor made a terrible choice in saving Charley’s life. Extra points for the fabulous return of the Nimon and a script that works itself into knots to keep us entertained: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Chimes of Midnight written by Rob Shearman and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What’s it about? Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring... But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don't stay dead. Time is running out. And time itself might well be the killer...

Breathless Romantic: Wow, and I thought Invaders of Mars would be the best we would ever see of Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor. This is a superlative piece of Doctor Who in every fashion you can imagine but in its drawing of the regulars it really does transcend the usual adventuring schlock and become a piece of drama that genuinely says something about the Doctor’s relationship with his companion and how much he cares about them. Not only that but it sees the Doctor at his most scared, terrified of the awesome powers at work within Edward Grove and yet he is still brave, intelligent, witty and thoughtful in his dealings there. Whatever way you look at it it was worth bringing back the 8th Doctor to see just how bloody fantastic he could be as exemplified here. If The Holy Terror and The One Doctor showed us the sixth Doctor as the best Doctor, The Chimes of Midnight do exactly the same thing for the 8th.

He loves the dark as it encourages the anticipation of the mystery of where they have landed. He has been far too methodical of late and remembers there was a time when he recklessly joyriding from adventure to adventure. In his last couple of incarnations he has played it safe and set the co-ordinates for places he knew he would arrive in. Now it is time for the TARDIS to decide where they go. He proves himself to be as proficient as Sherlock Holmes at deducing their whereabouts from the contents of the larder alone. He exclaims ‘how lovely’ when he realises they have landed in an Edwardian Christmas. The Doctor understands psychopaths; they are ten a penny in his line of work. Throughout the story he questions various members of the household staff and manages to keep up with their evasions, lies and red herrings. He needs Charley, without her he would be a lonely old man rattling around in the TARDIS with no one to talk to, his life going round and round without meaning.

Edwardian Adventuress: Aside from her appointment at the Singapore Hilton and her general lust for travelling and adventure there is little that we know about Charley Pollard. The Chimes of Midnight takes the brave steps of dealing with the consequences of the Doctor’s actions in taking Charley away from her fate in the R-101 and shows how miserable the family and friends of Charley were at the news of her death. It gives India Fisher the first chance to really grab hold of a script and milk it for all the pathos it is worth rather than simply going ‘golly gosh’ and boggling at the surprises the Doctor’s adventures keep throwing up.

Charley can’t quite drop her upper class attitude and reveals that her family had quite a sum of money, a large house and maids. Her cook always used to make too much plum pudding and put threpenny bits in it which she used to chip her teeth on. Throughout the story we realise just what an impact Charley had on Edith the cook. She was the only person who ever spoke to her, who remembered her name and who smiled when she had nothing to say – Charley did not consider them very close friends or that she even spoke to Edith very often but to Edith these moments of kindness were a lifeline. Edith considered Charley to be her best friend and was devastated when news returned that charley had run away from home and no one knew where she had gone. Her diary was found in the wreckage of the R-101 and it was brought home and the house went into mourning but Edith who cared so much for her was not allowed to care – she had work to do. Everybody forgot about her and one lonely night she went into the kitchen, took out a knife and slit her wrists because living without the one person who was kind to her would have been unbearable. Because Charley turns up in Edith’s past after she should have died it creates a paradox – the very reason Edith killed herself is no longer real and it is before she has committed the act. Charley experiences her death on the R-101, the people screaming around her and knowing that she only has seconds left to live. Without the Doctor she would never have tread upon the beaches of alien worlds or marvelled at the eclipse of new suns, the birth of new stars. The Doctor makes her realise that she has seen the universe and made a difference and convinces her to choose to live with him rather than die on the R-101. She promises that she will never forget Edith Thompson and she will make her life count for something.

Great Ideas: Rob Shearman has such a twisted imagination you know you are in for a treat when his stories come around. This story is a melting pot of imagination, science fiction staples, Sapphire and Steel madness and clever quirks. Landing in the dark is a great audio device to have the characters explaining where they are. Charley thinks she has cut herself on glass but it turns out to be raspberry jam. They soon realises things are not how they should be when dust rearranges itself and Christmas crackers come back together after being pulled – it is The Space Museum all over again where they cannot make an impression on the world. The first episode builds up the character so we understand them very well and can see possible motives for murder before they have even taken place. Edith is drowned in the kitchen basin. The story assigns roles for the Doctor and Charley and spares them the inconvenience of having to explain themselves. Mrs Baddeley suddenly becomes Charley’s childhood cook and treats her like a child in some very creepy scenes. The Doctor interrogates Frederick and reveals some inconsistencies with time – he drives a Chrysler and knows about Agatha Christie but neither exists yet suggesting the discontinuity between Charley’s time and Edith’s. Mary brilliantly accuses Edith of her own murder because she has shifty eyes. Mrs Baddeley is suffocated to death with her own plum pudding after rattling on about it so much. Charley realises there is a killing on the hour that represents the victims job. The killer cannot be somebody that they haven’t already suspected because these sorts of stories have rules. Mary assumes the role of Edith who is promptly forgotten by all the staff in a terrific metaphor for her invisible life. The clock catches the Doctor and Charley looking at it and stops, the second hand quivering but then takes fright and starts running away going faster and faster. They go back in time before the first murder took place and Edith is murdered in a different fashion. Frederick and Mary own up to killing Mrs Baddeley before she has even been murdered. This is a murder mystery where the murders themselves are the red herrings – how bloody clever is that – to hide a suicide. The killer is revealed to be…number 22 Edward Grove, the house and they are all trapped within its belly. The house is given nothing but traumatic events and it feasts upon it and is given life by a paradox of Edith’s death that should never have happened because Charley is still alive. Edward Grove takes over the TARDIS in a surreal and terrifying scene, ripping away everything about Doctor Who that makes us feel safe and transforming the console room into the scullery. It is a temporal and spatial loop inside the TARDIS is the scullery with a TARDIS in it and inside that TARDIS is another scullery and so on and so forth. This is the beginning and the end of the Doctor’s travels with Charley, living forever in a looped two hours of life within Edward Grove. Edward Grove looks upon Charley and the Doctor as its parents because by landing in this time they have given it life by making the reason of Edith’s death impossible. The Doctor asks the house to commit suicide but instead it decides to crush existence down into one everlasting second when the time loops back at the chimes of midnight. By convincing Charley to live rather than die in R-101 and then Charley convincing Edith not to kill herself and promising to remember her ends the paradox and kills Edward Grove. Phew. That is one intense storyline.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Silent and fruity…sounds enchanting!’
‘I’m nothing, Sir, I’m nobody.’
‘Edith was so simple minded that she didn’t realise she couldn’t drown herself in the sink and so she did!’
‘He’s got shifty eyes…’
‘Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my plum pudding. It just wouldn’t be Christmas.’
‘Edward Grove is alive, together my poppet, we make him so…’
‘He was most particular about what I could do to you with my knitting needle, Sir.’
‘It’s quite clear that Frederick brought the car into the house, ran himself over with t and put it back outside before he finally expired!’
‘I was wrong to think we could escape the house, instead we’ve taken the house with us…’
‘I died for you Charley because you were the only one worth dying for.’
‘It took me a long time to die but I did it eventually…’
‘How can I be dead and alive at the same time?’

Standout Performance: This is the strongest ensemble cast yet and they work together superbly. How can you choose between Lennox Greaves’ silky voiced bullying butler or Louise Rolfe who will break your heart as Edith the maid that nobody remembers. Sue Wallace provides an unforgettable Mrs Baddeley and Juliet Warner and Robert Curbishley convince as the lovers caught in the headlights Mary and Frederick.

Audio Landscape: The first few second convince you we are dealing with something very special; a sweet lullaby, a fiercely ticking clock, a heartbeat and something unnatural coming alive. I love the little details like the smashed jam jar, the chopping of carrots and the Christmas chill that runs through the kitchen. Time is playing about and fire comes to life suddenly and crackers come back together. Edith’s ghostly singing is both haunting and festive. Charley’s audio assault is defeaning – every character is talking at her at once as she finally enters into the story. Charley’s name is scratched into the dust by an unseen force. I was genuinely disturbed by Edith’s ghastly scream each time she was murdered and even more so when I found its origin. There is a comedy sucking and popping noise as the plunger is pulled from Edith’s face. The moment when we switch to Edward Grove’s point of view, the powerful heartbeat, the terrifying music and his laughing that sound uncomfortably like someone throwing up is enough to break me into a cold sweat – I remember listening to this story in pitch darkness when I first got it and this scene scared the life out of me. The kettle whistles on the stove like a ghastly scream. The re-enactment of the destruction of the R-101 with wood snapping, fire burning and people screaming is every bit as uncomfortable as you would imagine.

Musical Cues: A beautiful musical score, perfectly fitting the atmosphere of the piece and Russell Stone’s triumph. He manages to conjour up a perfect Christmas mood and then subverts it and terrifying us with the exact same music. Listen to the cue when the Doctor says ‘its mocking us’ in the first episode – utterly chilling. The clock moving forward towards the cliffhanger in episode two is exciting and surreal. Best of all is the music in the last episode as Edith gives Charley the knife to kill herself and then the piano score as the Doctor jumps in to rescue her from herself.

Standout Moment: Well two to be precise. I love the cliffhanger to episode two as time runs away and murder approaches and it is captured with dazzling performances and excellent music to trap you within that moment and make you desperate to hear the next episode. The climax of the story is unbelievably moving where the Doctor steps in and convinces Charley not to commit suicide. The pace and the performances are perfect and it remains the most touching, haunting and life affirming scene in Big Finish’s repertoire.

Result: As good as you have heard and then some, The Chimes of Midnight is one of those very rare Doctor Who stories that get everything right and even when you are told about how brilliant it is it still manages to surprise you. With peerless performances, a script that constantly plays with your mind and leaves you breathlessly emotional at the climax, direction that couldn’t be bettered and more clever concepts than both series of Sapphire and Steel I can’t think of a more accomplished piece of time twisting drama. Paul McGann is given more opportunities to prove just how right he was for the part and India Fisher finally comes out of her shell and rocks Charley up into the higher ranks of the companions. Like The One Doctor I have heard this story more times than it is probably sane to admit and I still find it as thrilling as I did on my first experience. This was a really good time to be a fan of Big Finish where they were producing some of the finest Doctor Who we had been privileged to enjoy: 10/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Invaders from Mars written and directed by Mark Gatiss

What’s it about: Hallowe'en 1938. A year after a mysterious meteorite lit up the skies of New York state, Martian invaders laid waste to the nation. At least, according to soon-to-be infamous Orson Welles they did. But what if some of the panicked listeners to the legendary War of the Worlds broadcast weren't just imagining things? Attempting to deliver Charley to her rendezvous in Singapore 1930, the Doctor overshoots a little, arriving in Manhattan just in time to find a dead private detective. Indulging his gumshoe fantasies, the Doctor is soon embroiled in the hunt for a missing Russian scientist whilst Charley finds herself at the mercy of a very dubious Fifth Columnist. With some genuinely out of this world 'merchandise' at stake, the TARDIS crew are forced into an alliance with a sultry dame called Glory Bee, Orson Welles himself and a mobster with half a nose known as 'The Phantom'. And slowly but surely, something is drawing plans against them. Just not very good ones...

Breathless Romantic: Throwing away all of the incoherent nonsense that was suggested in Minuet in Hell, Mark Gatiss kicks off the second year of the 8th Doctor’s audio adventures by writing for his character with as much zest and enthusiasm as possible. He is extraordinarily fun throughout, making it all up as he goes along and juggling up super powers and Martians with equal aplomb. The closest comparison I can think of is Tom Baker in Talons of Weng-Chiang – in that story the Doctor seems to adore the living homage he is experiencing and has a sense of glee about the whole experience, throwing out witty lines and dazzling the enemies with his fiendishness. That’s exactly the same feeling I got with the 8th Doctor and Invaders of Mars – that he loved every second of his stroll around 1930’s America.

He loves a detective story and always seems to end up helping the police with their enquiries. It is a constant mystery to the Doctor that whilst he is showing his companions the wonders of the universe they are striving to get home and return to a normal life. He has a stab at the witty film noir-ish dialogue swearing that he is an expert at the local patter but Glory Bee merely thinks he is ill. He only sleeps once in a while. Every now and then he treats himself to a complete makeover – what a great way of explaining regeneration. By episode three he is juggling the Nazis, the Russians, the CIA, gangsters and Martians and he barely breaks a sweat. Devine asks if he is a part of Victorian revival week. He is a huge fan of Orson Welles and has seen all of his movies even though they haven’t been made yet. He has the brilliant plan of using the War of the Worlds scare to scare of a genuine alien threat and wants to get in on the action so orders Charley into the TARDIS so he can grab the mike and have a go at playing the monsters trying to take over the world!

Edwardian Adventuress: Does Charley appear in this? Not really…she is kidnapped early in episode one, drugged in episode two, escapes in episode three and tails behind the Doctor in episode four. This is the Doctor’s story through and through but never mind as the next story is the ultimate Charley story.

Great Ideas: As you can imagine this is full of the imagination you would come to expect from one of the League of Gentlemen. Cosmo Devine is such a fantastic character, the life and soul of every party and the biggest crook on the planet! He uses Jimmy and Biro and murders them both afterwards. Glory Bee is revealed to be a Russian Agent and ends up falling off the Brooklyn Bridge to her watery death. The Nazis, the Soviets and the CIA all want to get their hands on the alien technology and created weapons to control the world. I love how the Martian scare of War of the Worlds is subtly squeezed into the story around all the political shenanigans going on elsewhere. It is a great use of a genuine historical event. Devine’s associates turn out to be the Nazi’s and he is a most unusual sympathiser and has visions of the Master Race with flying saucers and death rays – it is such a clich├ęd idea but a refreshing way of telling the same sort of story. The story really kicks off when Streath and Noriam show up – adult aliens who are as mischievous as the Slitheen when it comes to manipulating the human race and exploiting their wealth. It is basically one big protection racket where they shoot a ship full of alien eggs to different planets and let them hatch and cause the local populace to panic. After fooling them into thinking they are vulnerable they step in and look after them for a modest fee! Devine cottons on to their scheme and steps in to convince them to actually conquer the world! The Doctor sneakily arranges a second broadcast of War of the Worlds for the aliens benefit only and they scarper thinking that beefier invaders have turned up.

Sparkling Dialogue: This is probably Mark Gatiss’ strongest script for Doctor Who when it comes to witty dialogue – it is as sharp as a needle being dragged down your arm! Gatiss clearly adored Devine and every single syllable he utters is as gorgeous as his name.
‘I see little green men all the time! All I need is a few hours with my old friend Jack Daniels!’
‘I better get you to a darkened room’ ‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Nice equipment’ ‘I bet you say that to all the girls’
‘Listen to me you lousy faggot!’
‘What are you waiting for, Fritzy?’
‘Martians! From the planet Mars! The red one you passed on the way in…’
‘’How does it feel to betray your own planet?’ ‘A lot like betraying your own country but a teensy bit more satisfying.’
‘Err…what’s that ticking?’

Audio landscape: Good golly gosh! Gary Russell is not directing this baby! Wonders will never cease! Gatiss treats this piece like a labour of love and makes it sound as authentic as possible with lots of brilliant US accents and framing the story within a radio broadcast. Cars blast their horns in the pack American traffic, windows smash, the TARDIS grinds through the vortex and there is a fabulous 30’s style death ray effect. I loved the sequence when the Doctor opens up the second storey window and lets in the noise of the traffic, they clamber down the clattering fire escape and bullets bounce off of the walls. Welles reading War of the Worlds in episode two is very creepy. The tacky and melodramatic voices for Streath and Noriam are belly-ache funny. Insects hum in the evening air.

Music: It was a wise move to include less music as it allows you to focus much more on the performances but the dramatic stings at the end of scenes really drives home the feel of a 1930’s radio broadcast. The Doctor Who theme is worked in a few times to amusing effect.

Standout Performance: What a cast! How can you choose one performance in this repertoire? John Arthur rocks on as the delightful Cosmo Devine, one of the slimiest Doctor Who villains it has been my pleasure to listen to – a homosexual Nazi sympathiser with all the wit of Noel Coward and the ruthlessness of Genghis Khan! Streath and Noriam are a very amusing pair; one is a histrionic world conqueror and the other a cataloguer in awe of what the planet has to offer. Any story with Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg is going to stink of quality and Don Chaney and Glory Bee allow them to have great fun with a number of accents. A small mention as well for Ian Hallard’s squeaky voiced Mouse in the first episode who meets a very unfortunate end.

Result: I am starting to wonder if I used to be a superficial youth (despite always thinking the contrary as all youths do!) as I used to find this story as boring as sin but in hindsight this is one of the better McGann audios with an infectious sense of fun and lots of marvellous and imaginative ideas. Using the real War of the Worlds Martian scare to excellent effect and giving Paul McGann to take centre stage and wow his audience, Mark Gatiss proves to be the perfect choice to kick of the second season of 8th Doctor Audios. The plotting is watertight and the characters manage to walk that fine line between realism and melodrama with Cosmo Devine taking the place as the campest Nazi sympathiser of all time. India Fisher is sidelined completely but that just makes way for some other fantastic performances and a general feeling of old school Doctor Who produced with real verve. A very strong start: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @


Hi guys, I am about to crack on with McGann's second season and after which I will move onto another spin off series so I thought this was a good time to have a little catch and see how well Big Finish have done to this point. I'm sure you will agree with me that the first 25 stories saw some of the absolute finest that Big Finish would offer...

The Sirens of Time: Overly ambitious but with some lovely ideas, a historical episode that works better than the others combined and promising great things for the future: 5/10

Phantasmagoria: Confident, assured and as traditional as they come, this is a positive step in convincing that Big Finish could pull of classic Doctor Who with aplomb: 8/10

Whispers of Terror: An aural masterpiece with some excellent sound design and a brilliantly bombastic sixth Doctor: 8/10

Land of the Dead: The first Big Finish disappointment which lacks a strong plot and features one of the most irritating characters in Monica Lewis: 3/10

The Fearmonger: A world of bombs, politics and guns awaits and Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred both give strong performances in this hard hitting drama: 8/10

The Marian Conspiracy: A feel good introduction of Evelyn Smythe and a superbly written historical romp to boot: 9/10

The Genocide Machine: A script that undersells its threat, introduces the Daleks as faceless thugs and reduces the regulars to stereotypes: 3/10

Red Dawn: A confident production of a poor Justin Richards script that lacks punch and takes ages for anything to happen: 4/10

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor: A gothic fantasy, a spooky setting and nice dose of nostalgia awaits the sixth Doctor and the Brigadier in their long overdue meeting: 8/10

Winter for the Adept: A beautifully scored and atmospheric ghost story which comes unstuck in its last episode when it jettisons the paranormal for science fiction: 7/10

The Apocalypse Element: Grossly undervalued, this is a Hollywood blockbuster that gives the Daleks a chance to kick some serious ass and presents its threat in as grander fashion as I could imagine: 8/10

The Fires of Vulcan: A brilliant use of Melanie Bush is the icing on the cake of this beautifully produced and intense historical drama: 10/10

The Shadow of the Scourge: Paul Cornell writes with wit and beauty and Gary Russell masterfully opens out the world of the New Adventures: 8/10

The Holy Terror: A flawlessly intelligent and witty script which gives Colin Baker the chance to become the best Doctor we have ever seen (or heard): 10/10

The Mutant Phase: An interesting paradox tale which gets more complicated and enjoyable as it goes along: 8/10

Storm Warning: A sublime re-introduction of the 8th Doctor which introduces a brilliantly alien new race and sees the beginnings of the Doctor/Charley partnership that teams with energy and chemistry: 9/10

Sword of Orion: Thunk goes Sword of Orion, a story that trades intelligence and fun for atmosphere and violence. A spectacular failure and a chore to listen to: 1/10

The Stones of Venice: Delicious dialogue, an evocative setting and a real sense of magic and wonder sees the Doctor and Charley enjoying their best adventure yet: 10/10

Minuet in Hell: Dull characters and banal dialogue wound this excursion to the US and sees the inconsistent first year for McGann end on a low note: 2/10

Loups-Garoux: An evocative production, a complex script and some unexpectedly deep characterisation of the fifth Doctor and Turlough: 9/10

Bloodtide: A traditional story told with some real gumption, Jonathon Morris gives the Silurians some fascinating development and writes a fantastic Evelyn Smythe: 8/10

Dust Breeding: Handicapped by the regulars by featuring a strong number of imaginative concepts that keep this mildly diverting story ticking over: 6/10

Project Twilight: Surprisingly nasty with some real horror and character drama, the sixth Doctor and Evelyn tip toe their way through this ultra modern and yet surprisingly tradition piece of storytelling: 8/10

Eye of the Scorpion: A rip roaring tale of politics and history that introduces us to a fascinating companion in Erimem. Nicola Bryant steals the show throughout: 9/10

Colditz: A mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, Lyons fascination with history and time travel continues and the script enjoys a number of excellent twists. However both Ace and Sophie Aldred need to be toned down: 6/10

Primeval: Quiet, uneventful but also polished and rewarding, Primeval sees some fine development of Nyssa and Traken: 8/10

The One Doctor: A real achievement, a hilariously funny and entertaining story which delights and thrills in equal measure and has some of the best performances and wittiest lines of any Big Finish story: 10/10