Monday, 25 October 2010

Medicinal Purposes written by Rupert Ross and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about? Edinburgh, 1827. The infamous body snatchers William Burke and William Hare are at large. The local prostitutes dull their fear with cheap whisky. The graveyard owls are hooting. Business is good. When accidental tourists the Doctor and Evelyn Smythe stumble upon one of Britain's most lurid, illuminating chapters in history, a simple case of interest in the work of dedicated man of science Doctor Robert Knox, quickly turns sour. Just what is that time bending Scots mist? What ever it is may put the very fabric of the universe under threat. As always.

Softer Six: I cannot believe Big Finish are still managing to milk old Sixie for fascinating character insights. After over 15 releases he is still the superior audio Doctor and is still managing to surprise me. I have always been a fan of Colin Baker’s Doctor – Trial of a Time Lord came out when my Dad went to prison and my sister had a breakdown and I cannot tell you how therapeutic that box set was at the time, it took me away from all my cares and might explain why I have huge affection for such a loathed story – I am not one of those people who was appalled by his violent streak and acidic nature on the TV. Actually I found it a refreshing return to a Doctor I could believe in after three seasons of the fifth Doctor being awfully nice to everybody. However I wont deny that Big Finish have managed to take a controversial character (and wronged actor) and managed to mould him into something far more appealing to the masses and less abrasive, more approachable. Maybe he lost a little of his edge but considering he went from the bottom of most peoples ‘best Doctor’s’ poll to the very top in some cases prove how successful this transition has been. However stories such as Medicinal Purposes prove that the caustic, ethically challenged and the cuddly, ‘favourite Uncle’ sixth Doctor can be married together with some style. I love the discussion between the Doctor and Evelyn about the Burke and Hare murders, it is a superb example of how spiky and unpredictable their relationship continues to be and exposes the Doctor’s alien morals in some style. The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t condone the Burke and Hare murders but he can see the bigger picture and when you take into account the evolving benefits to medical science of their nightmarish reign of terror it almost makes it acceptable. Its not a likable viewpoint and I really respect writer Rupert Ross for pushing the point as far as he does and for Colin Baker for taking on this morally unprincipled attitude and playing it to the hilt. Evelyn’s appalled reaction makes it all the more balanced and you are left wondering who actually has the more relevant point of view. When I was angling towards the Doctor I realised how darkly suggestive this story really was. Great stuff.

At the start of the story he is tinkering with the one lady who has always held his hand throughout their adventures and focussing his mind (the TARDIS, not Evelyn!). She is the one constant thing in his life when even his own people have let him down and shares all of his memories. He admits that some companions leave deeper imprints on his hearts than others (I wonder how shallow the imprint for Dodo is?). Minutes into the story and the Doctor pulls a hooker! He reminisces about Jamie saying it is an honourable name and his Jamie threw himself in mortal danger for him on a regular basis (this is a nice precursor for City of Spires). Apparently his only weakness is soliloquising! His tastes in hobbies are becoming alarmingly grotesque and has an incredible thirst to meet Burke and Hare. The Doctor admits, ‘the names you drop have to bounce!’ When talking about his feelings towards the murders the Doctor reminds Evelyn that the universe is not broken down into good guys and bad guys. Does the possibility exist that fifteen murders saving the lives of thousands is justifiable, historically speaking? The Doctor’s philosophy is if you want something you should take it! Knox condemns him as a philanthropist sating his need for attention (there might be something in that). Thinks rudeness isn’t a crime and only shouts when he gets impatient. His morality kicks in when he believes that people are being killed for no good reason, unfortunately if there is no benefit to the act he cannot stomach it. Knox considers himself the Doctor’s intellectual equal. Lets not let Baker do a Scot’s accent again. The Doctor has had a lot of experience of the strange and his TARDIS is ‘so 20th Century!’ Arrogantly, the Doctor assumes that Knox is a Time Lord because he has a TARDIS and has all his illusions shattered to learn that others are far more adept at manipulating Time. How harsh is the Doctor when he tells Mary she should be dead! He only half listens to people. Wit never fails him. When the sixth Doctor tells his nemesis to get a new thesaurus you know he has been bested by an even more loquacious foe! Finalising this newfound jaded morality the Doctor tells Knox he has no problem tricking Knox into being infected with a virus that might kill him. In a scene that mirrors Terror of the Autons the Doctor admits that he hopes he meets Knox again.

Learned Lecturer: Its really interesting that after a string of stories which have climaxed in the death of likable characters and dealing with Evelyn’s reaction to that, we now land in a period where they know people are going to die. As stated above it leads to an attention-grabbing clash of morals between the Doctor and Evelyn. How’s a girl supposed to feel when compared to a rickety old box?
The Doctor understands that one day she will find her own path. She is mistaken for being the Doctor’s wife who has caught her husband looking for trade! She admits she likes a bit of a moan every now and then (she’s just so real). Pedantry doesn’t suit her. Knox manages to insult Evelyn’s age and class in one sentence, much to her chargin. If she had known there was going to be so much running involved she would have bowed out a long time ago! Evelyn fails Knox’s history test, failing to spot his anachronistic literary reference. Described as a mature lady the Doctor has alighted upon as a travelling companion. Wow, listen to Evelyn when she is arrested by the police…I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that tongue! She is very precious about things sometimes. I love love love the fact that Evelyn has not only had the most incredible character development over her excellent run of stories but that development has really affected how she feels about their adventures now. At the end of this story she understands that they have to take Daft Jamie back to the right place so he can be murdered by Burke and history will be put back on track. This mirrors the end of Pirates but now Evelyn can see the bigger picture, even if she doesn’t like it. She takes some comfort that Jamie finally managed to earn his fame and found a place in her heart.

Standout Performance: How long have I been waiting for the unbeatable Leslie Phillips to appear in a Doctor Who story? He’s a consummate actor and fills this story with some many wonderful scenes, butting heads with the forceful sixth Doctor and laughing in his face. Knox is one Big Finish’s best original villains; he’s dispassionate, murderous, misogynistic, oozes confidence, style and has a voice like dripping honey. He gets all the best lines as well, ‘Evil is much more fun. We get all the best lines…’ Wonderfully effete and menacing, Phillips’ smooth and growling voice is perfect for audio. David Tennant deserves kudos for taking on a potentially irritating character in Daft Jamie and making him childishly sympathetic.

Great Ideas: This is not your ordinary Doctor Who story – prostitution and brutal murder in the first few minutes! I love the history of Burke and Hare, I took a fantastic trip up to Edinburgh and went on a ghost tour of Gravefriars graveyard and so as soon as it was mentioned I was thrilled. The idea is touted that you can achieve more in death than you can in life. Something has gone very wrong with time when nobody has heard of William Burke. Can knowledge be considered a treasure? The Doctor calls body snatching ‘admirable, but not honourable.’ Six of Hare’s children died and the Doctor touchingly tells him that he will help to save the children of the future with his ghastly acts. Knox’s morality is gorgeous, he thinks the bodies hidden six feet under and locked away in mahogany exposes outdated laws that prevent the advancement of medical science (and when you think of donors today he does have a point). He also complains that the world would be better without whores and peddlers. Knox deliberately exposes himself as a time traveller by revealing his knowledge of Jekyll and Hyde 30 years before Stevenson was born. Probably the most horrible moment in this macabre story comes when Burke says he wants to pay Mary to sleep with him before they kill her (ugh!). Knox has a second hand TARDIS which he bought from a Nekistan dealer on Gryben (lovely references to Gallifrey) and sells time travel at the right price. The Doctor describes Knox as a sick time meddler playing God. I love the idea of time being manipulated being described as ‘chapters jumped’. Knox is a profiteer standing on the shoulders of giants, a force for destruction, a showman wallowing in the cesspit of human foibles (I think the Doctor is compensating for his foes mastery of language!). Knox is offering the ‘Burke and Hare Experience’, a circus of the grotesque where paying customers can be planted in Edinburgh 1827 and play Burke or Hare, sleep with Mary, murder consequence free. Knox merely takes the next lot of customers back and starts the whole process again, wiping out the last set of customers actions. He’s replaying time over and over, stretching this period until it threatens to snap. The mist is a déjà vu inhibitor, blocking out the memories of the real people in the scenario that are living this period over and over. It’s a peepshow for the dirty old men of the universe! The real Hare is hidden away in another time whilst other people play his part. Deliciously the Doctor draws Knox out of his time bubble and infects him with the virus so he cannot go back in time and rewind it.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He saw blood?’
‘I do wish Burke and Hare would bring the occasional fresh one.’
‘Clever people need comfortable pillows.’
‘The broken eggs are fine if the omelette tastes good.’
‘I wouldn’t give you a farthing for your destiny.’
‘I have the right to do as I damn well choose’ I have been waiting an age for a villain to tell the Doctor that!
‘The police are dim but no-one’s that dim forever.’

Audio Landscape: My one complaint in this otherwise highly atmospheric tale is the continually replaying anachronistic football chant during the tavern scenes. What are a bunch of Man Utd supporters doing in the past…oh Knox brought them? Given the bloodlust of the overall experience they are probably Millwall fans. The story opens with rumbling thunder, a busy nighttime street and a shrieking Scots crone screaming murder. Evelyn’s voice echoes hauntingly down the dripping tunnels. Owls hoot in the mist swathed graveyard and we hear the creaking hinges of a grave being opened. A horse screams profusely in the distance. Knox scribbles with his pen by crackling firelight and his laboratory bubbles with experiments. We hear horses clip clopping on the cobbles and church bells ringing in the distance.
Knox has an impressive sounding TARDIS. Rain attacks the roads. Evelyn bashes on the police cell door with a tap dripping nearby. There is a loud and destructive pub riot. We get to experience Burke’s execution, the crowd hungry for murder.

Musical Cues: After his Keff McCulloch inspired madness from The Harvest, David Darlington returns with his best score in ages. It’s creepy and adds to the general feeling of wrongness that creeps into the script. I loved the urgent string work as the Doctor tries to rush Evelyn and Jamie away.

Isn’t it Odd: There’s some odd subplot about a virus that I barely understood and felt distracted from the much tastier notion of the ‘Burke and Hare Experience’ which would have been more than enough to sell the story.

Result: Wowza, this is a cast to die for! Baker, Stables, Phillips, Tennant and the others attack this gorgeously verbose and colourfully worded script with some vigour and with the added atmospherics this is an extremely pleasurable story to listen to. My one complaint would be that some of the scenes seem overlong and you could probably trim the fat a tad in places, cutting the virus subplot and tidying up the confused episode three. However Ross manages to approach this period of history in an unusual and thoroughly entertaining way with some unpredictable moments and a fantastic role for both the Doctor and Evelyn. The atmosphere of the period bleeds from every scene and the dialogue is little sipping a rich fruity wine, explodes on the lips and leaves a glorious aftertaste. Medicinal Purposes is not an especially popular Big Finish release but I found it a very pleasing story: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Roof of the World written by Adrian Rigelsford and directed by Gary Russell

What's it about: Tibet. 1917. It's a time of great exploration, with intrepid teams of adventurers heading blindly into uncharted territory, determined to beat inexplicable odds and overcome any challenge they encounter. But some things are not necessarily that easy to defeat. An ancient evil, perhaps older than time itself, is stirring deep within the heart of the Himalayas. It has always known it will return and finish off what it started so many centuries before. But the time has to be right. As the TARDIS materialises, with the Doctor determined to take full advantage of an invite to a cricket match, the catalyst that the dark forces need unwittingly arrives.

An English Gentleman: Is possible to over characterise your regulars? I have frequently balked at writers who fail to add anything to the characters they are using to tell their story but in this case I had the impression that Rigelsford wanted to squeeze every last bit of information about them. It feels like an over egged cake, early scenes see the Doctor, Peri and Erimem stressing their English, American and Egyptian roots as though that is who they are. It’s a shame because the quieter moments in this story prove that Rigelsford actually has a good grasp of dialogue and this trio of adventurers. But by emphasising out that the Doctor likes cricket and has to play the Edwardian sportsman it kind of ruins what is actually should remain an unspoken character quirk. Plus there are so many faux fifth Doctor’s wandering about in this story it is hard to get a grip on which one is supposed to be expressing genuine feelings.

He is a superb batsman but rarely has time to practice. Even if it is a fake the idea of the Doctor having to deal with the death and funeral of one of his companions is a nice idea. Episode two portrays the Doctor as something more akin to the manipulative seventh Doctor, with schemes and plans that his companions no nothing about. It doesn’t really suit him. Another fake Doctor wonders if he has misjudged Peri by confiding in her as she (once again) overreacts to everything. He worries about several things a minute, forgets an equal amount every hour, figures out the solution to a problem before he knows what the question is and only realises things when its too late and when he knows he has time to fix them.

American Attitude (Problem): Howard always roped Peri into helping out on his digs and she remembers many a miserable hour up to her elbows in plaster of Paris! She states that she does not do hatchways in impractical skirts…hah, that’ll soon change when you switch Doctor’s! Why does Peri object to everything all the time? I’d rather take the acidic barbs between her and Sixie than this constant disapproval to anything that is asked of her. Her tears to Erimem’s graveside feel very real, she is inconsolable.
If you thought you had seen Nicola Bryant playing angry before wait until you see Erimem’s nightmarish version of her, she is positively vicious, claws out ready to blame her friend for letting her die. She is shocked when the Doctor reveals his fallibility and finds it hard to trust the Doctor. Using Peri as bait is as good a use of her as I have ever seen. She is surprisingly good at rallying the troops so perhaps her ‘Scourge of Sylvania’ guerrilla persona from Warmonger wasn’t so far from the truth as we all thought!

Dusky Babe: Wow, after some ropey moments with the Doctor and Peri Rigelsford scores a massive bonus with his portrayal of Erimem who once again steals the show. Cricket eludes her and she cannot see the point of it, you and me too, babe. Her reaction to rolling countryside is one of total awe since she is used to glowing sands. She still has something of a military mind and comments that the Doctor is going into battle with his cricket bat (there’s something pleasantly Leela-ish about that line). The Doctor has promised to show her other worlds at their height. When she was a child she was told about the white pyramid where the greatest evil was meant to sleep and if you see it it will take your soul. How awful would it be to be faced with your own funeral, to see the people you love grieving and not be able to touch them? Erimem expects that once she dies she would ascend above to be with the Gods, as is a Pharaoh’s right. Instead she is confronted with some of the most important moments of her life and we learn lots of interesting things about her time before she met the Doctor. Cleverly the Great Old Ones take her for a stroll through her insecurities and insidiously manoeuvre her into revealing her fathers secrets. Her father loved her but she is shown a scene where he wanted her cast out, that the Gods were angered by the birth of a girl as heir to the throne. She is told that he died before he could kill her. History has forgotten about her. She believes in the Doctor and Peri and trusts in Peri as though she was a member of her own family. It is haunting to see how the Doctor and Peri are used to convince her to surrender herself. In a desperate moment when she thinks all of her friends have turned on her poor Erimem agrees to death to be free of her damnation. This is actually some fine development of her character, exposing her self-doubt and how far she has become reliant on her relationship with her companions.

Standout Performance: Once again Caroline Morris knocks spots of the rest of the cast. Why did they write her out again? The only exception is when she is asked to do a silly voice to suggest she has been taken over by the Great Old Ones. Why can’t anybody act being taken over convincingly (or subtly)?

Great Ideas: The Great Old Ones are a part of the same pantheon as the Great Intelligence. They are stranded on Earth and annoyed at being outwitted. Dying, they are the last vestiges of their kind and being held together by the ravaged DNA of species they have obliterated, clinging onto the distant legends of what they once were.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Keep it up man!’
‘Since when have you heard of a storm cloud trying to book a room?’

Audio Landscape: I love crunchy, crusty, blowy snowy landscapes and this is one of the best realised yet. Whispering voices proceed to attack Erimem. The TARDIS materialises on a steam train full of goats and chickens! One character batters away at a typewriter. I tell you the Indian cricket pitches are certainly a lot rowdier than the English ones! I love the sound of the early morning birds crying out and twittering. There is much clinking of glasses and glugging of lemonade. Erimem is haunted by chanting in the decaying labyrinth. The Cloister Bell tolls the death of the universe. We’ve heard wind whipping up in Big Finish stories before but up the top of the Himalayas I was practically getting vertigo with the punishing gales!

Isn’t it Odd: Unfortunately Adrian Rigelsford work screams of a fan turned writer and there are so many kisses to the past there wasn’t really any room for anything original aside the characterisation of Erimem. We’ve got wartime psychic projections (The Awakening), a disembodied entity in the Himalayas (The Abominable Snowmen), taking all and sundry into the TARDIS (pick a Davison story), the title (Marco Polo)…the list goes on. Basically it is a story of conquest and domination, so far so clichéd, but you would be hard pressed to find that story because everything is mired in dreamscapes and conceptual nightmares. To be fair I still don’t have a clue what happened at the end. They were up the mountain, something was frozen and then they were in the TARDIS.

Standout Moment: The whole of episode two. It feels like a completely different story to the other three episodes and probably can be seen as a Erimem companion chronicle in its own right.

Result: 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

Buy it from Big Finish here:

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Harvest written by Dan Abnett and directed by Gary Russell (is there any other directors now?)

The Real McCoy: Something has happened. Either somebody has whispered in McCoy’s ear that he needs to step up his performances or a conscious effort has been made to give him better characterisation but his last few appearances have seen a marked improvement on the stagy buffoon who has recently been standing in for the seventh Doctor. The Harvest takes risks with his characterisation (like Master) and I really like that, especially when he barely appears at all in the first episode (and yet, New Adventures style, his presence is keenly felt). He lives inside something the size of a public toilet but is in fact bigger than Hex’s grans house. McCoy does a terrible Scouse accent and should be threatened to never do so again on pain of death. I love his scenes with System, the way he talks about intimate contact when he is violently causing conflict in the computers systems by forcing it to adhere to his will. She begs for him to stop and he merrily continues to f*ck her up. He knocks up a stink bomb ‘full of sound and fury’ out of cleaning products in the hospital. Why has nobody ever thought to give the seventh Doctor another male lead to work with? It’s an intriguing dynamic; far less paternal than he is with Ace and he gives Hex quite a hard time about his reaction to the shocks this adventure exposes him to. ‘That may result in another of your “Oh my God” sessions.’ Harsh, Doctor. How much feeling does McCoy put behind his description of the Cybermen, you well believe that he abhors the creatures. At times like this the Luddite in the Doctor is hard to control. He scoffs that he doesn’t take orders from petty bureaucrats. Its great to see the Doctor so conflicted in his reaction to the horror of what is actually happening – Cybermen aspiring to redemption? He admits he is sympathetic to their causes and is appalled when he realises he has been duped. He walks away from the dying Cyberleader without even attempting to save him. Ace knows that he can’t win every time and he takes appalling risks. The Doctor isn’t very good at goodbyes. Intriguingly he lets Hex come aboard the TARDIS after discovering he was Cassie’s son. That will open a whole world of hurt in the future.

Just McShane: What has happened to Ace? The last time we heard from her (not including the New Adventures side step The Dark Flame) she was sinking under her own angst, shrieking hysterically at anybody who would listen and generally sound like a 40 year old attempting to pull off a troubled teen. Now she’s whipped into shape, gone is the wailing child and in steps the mature, experienced traveller. I don’t know if it was Aldred or Gary Russell who decided this would be wise (or perhaps because of fan reaction) but a conscious effort has been made to make Ace as intriguing as McCoy’s dark Doctor and against all the odds, just as all interest was dwindling, it works. Talk about a lifeline for the character. The dynamic of Ace being exceptional and Hex being ordinary really serves both characters really well – lets see how this develops. Needless to say Aldred is much more comfortable with this material and gives her best Big Finish performance to date.

Sugar is a long way down on the list of things that might kill her. She is posing as a human resources assistant and still insists its ‘just McShane.’ Ace seems to enjoy leading Hex on and recognises the look of grief in his eyes. He files her under ‘pretty, but mad.’ Its less cloak and dagger and more anaorak and baseball bat. I love how she tries to warn Hex away from their lifestyle, having experienced the worst of it herself. She is described as having far too much personality for her own good. Suddenly Aldred can play hysterical really well and her reaction to being cut open whilst she is still awake is genuinely horrific. She has been with the Doctor and surprisingly long time.

Sexy Scouse: It would be an overstatement to suggest that Hex’s arrival fixed all of the problems with the seventh Doctor and Ace since their characterisation has clearly been worked on independent of his character but it is a remarkable co-incidence that he turns up just as they get their act together. Trying to judge him by his acting rather than his looks (ooh this will be hard), Philip Olivier is still the most accomplished actor of the three and his presence seems to bring the best out of McCoy and Aldred. I really like how grounded Hex is, a modern day lad with a job and lots of mates, pootling around on a scooter and enjoying a full life. His reaction to events in this story (in particular walking into the TARDIS) is possibly the most convincing since An Unearthly Child (or at least Logopolis), sheer disbelief and mild horror. He refuses to believe what he is seeing and thinks Mark is playing a practical joke. I can’t tell you how refreshing this is after so many people just waltz into the console room and shrug ‘oh yeah dimensionally transcendental’ as though they are fans of the show.

His name is Thomas Hector Schofield, he’s a staff nurse and it’s his birthday. His present is his best mate mangled up in a motorbike accident and naturally he is gutted. He doesn’t like being set up with the other nurses but seems to enjoy a nice flirt with Ace and admits that he does fancy her. After being so gentle in his early scenes it is wonderful to see him losing his rag, screaming ‘Bloody nutter!’ I loved how he turned on the Doctor and snapped that he was coping pretty well considering the madness he has seen. Hex is really hard on himself for running away when confronted with Cybermen (I call it common sense). He thinks the Cybermen history is tragic and feels sorry for what they have become. The Doctor steps in to comfort him when he spies Damo’s corpse amongst those harvested telling him its always harder when its personal. It’ll be nice to have a nurse in the TARDIS, Hex’s frantic attempts to staunch Farrer’s bleeding and fury at Mark for not helping makes for some great drama and his efforts are rewarded in retrieving the password that saves the day. Apparently he was considering a change of career and stepping into the TARDIS he has no idea what he is getting in to.

Great Ideas: Homicidal eight-foot speeding bullets chase Ace and Hex. The Doctor insists there should be no relentless chases down hospital corridors (obviously he hasn’t spoken with the tenth Doctor about Smith and Jones). The Cybermen are described as ruthlessly logical, merciless, damn near immortal, incapable of feeling, implacable in war and impossible to reason with. The idea of the best and brightest volunteering for conversion to ensure they will win the space colonisation race is terrifying. Imagine astronauts that don’t require nourishment and can exist in Zero-G. Bodies harvested of organs and body parts and kept alive in stasis, a tissue bank of organic spares. A Cyberleader swapping metal for flesh, six Cybermen who want their organic identities back. Cyberkind want to overcome their one weakness, the rigidity of their logical thought. This facility contains the raw materials to covert 30,000 Cybermen and t would only take 6 weeks for total global conquest. The Cyberleader experiences pain and fear before he dies.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Don’t threaten me with your rentagoons!’
‘I can keep your organ banks fed…’
‘You’re needed. Well bits of you anyway.’
‘And you why? Because you will all be soulless silver monsters marching to a sterile alien logic a long with you and the rest of humanity!’
‘Doctor, please, don’t hold our lives to ransom.’
‘Sometimes Cybermen resistance is all that counts!’
‘The flesh is weak, isn’t it?’

Audio Landscape: Big Ben, heavy traffic and hospital chatter…this story opens to a very modern feel. I like the drunken madness in the pub, sounds authentic to me! Ace is almost run down by a speeding Merc. Coughing motorcycle leads to an echoey parking garage containing the TARDIS. I love the end of episode two, the hatches scream open with an almighty bang the Cybermen advance. The Doctor’s explosion causes mayhem in the atrium. The marching Cybermen is very NuWho! Gunning down everybody in the hospital is as horrific as it sounds. The flat lining Cyberleader.

Musical Cues: I’m really not sure about the techno inspired music for this story. It bridges the scenes far too insistently. After the superb scores for Arrangements and The Wormery David Darlington’s repetitive jingles are no longer good enough. One sting sounds alarmingly like a Chumbley humming along from Galaxy 4!

Isn’t it Odd: There are quite a few moments of a character explaining the room around him which reveals inexperience in audio writing on Abnett’s part – Hex talking aloud to himself and describing the laboratory is a particularly cringe worthy example.
I’m sick to death of seeing Gary Russell’s name on the directors credits…this is story 58 and the next time we get a new hand directing is story 70! Just call it Gary Russell productions and have done with it!

Result: With the arrival of Hex the seventh Doctor and Ace go from being hopelessly dated to bang up to date. This is an impressively dramatic production which achieves the near impossible (for me) by making the Cybermen interesting. The first episode shown entirely from hex’s point of view has a nice Unearthly Child vibe to it and whilst the first half is atmospheric it is distressingly short of incident. The second half picks up the pace considerably and gives the seventh Doctor (and McCoy) his best role for an age. My biggest complaint is that Matthias is supremely annoying and perhaps conversion would have been for the best. Scouse babe Philip Olivier gives and impressive debut performance and makes sure the story has some real emotional beats. The Harvest continues the run of confident, atmospheric stories: 8/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Arrangements for War written by Paul Sutton and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Onboard the TARDIS, nerves are strained. After escaping the Forge and the murderous clutches of Nimrod, the Doctor and Evelyn have things to talk about. The Doctor's attitude towards death is a subject that these days is too close to Evelyn's heart, and eventually she demands to be set down somewhere where she can be free of him for a while. And so they come to Világ, where the Doctor's meddling lands him in the middle of a truly dangerous liaison and Evelyn meets a man who wants to change the course of her life forever. Love is everywhere. But then war is too. Is it time for Evelyn to leave the Doctor? Or is the choice about to be taken out of her hands? And who is to say what is the beginning and what is the end of love?

Softer Six: Pretty much as soft as the sixth Doctor ever gets, or any other Doctor come to think of it. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself of how lucky we are to have the Big Finish audios and to remember that this is the same actor who beat up and abused Peri in The Twin Dilemma. If you would have told me then what that this brash, arrogant and prickly Doctor would go on to become cuddlier than Troughton, cuter than McCoy and yet still as quirky as Baker 1 and verbose as Hartnell and Pertwee I would have laughed in your face. Colin Baker is such a fine actor he deserved better than his short tenure on the telly and as a great Doctor Who author said to me recently he has had a far more satisfying and enjoyable tenure on audio now way above and beyond anything he did in his two short seasons. The characterisation of the sixth Doctor in this story is fantastic and if it weren’t for one brief moment in episodes four (it goes something like ‘Nooooooooo!’ which is horrendously overplayed) it would be flawless.

Repeating his statement from the end of Project: Lazarus, he doesn’t always win, he is often the catalyst to terrible events and he can’t go back and change them. When he has needed to rest in the past he has gone to the Eye of Orion and walked and contemplated. Watch how gentle and delicate he is with the wounded Evelyn in the first few scenes; he really cares what she thinks about him. He still enjoys fishing and rock skimming competitions. You have to be able to live with the consequences of your actions and Evelyn can’t live with his. As we all know he is al expert at making speeches and we get to here a political announcement of his in the background that goes on for an age. He wishes he could talk with Evelyn but she is avoiding him, ignoring his calls. He misses her. The Doctor shares a paternal connection with Krista that we haven’t seen since his relationship with Susan, it is extremely affectionate and loving. He never stops to grieve but that is just the man he is. I love the scenes that see him squirming with discomfort as Markus and Krista flirt outrageously. His ridiculous gangster accent (‘Get in the car, doll!’) is hilarious. A Time Lord’s TARDIS is his castle. The Doctor’s reaction when he thinks Krista is dead is one of a parent losing his child, like his world has come tumbling down. His fury and when she is murdered by Pokol is unrivalled throughout his lives, near hysterical, insane, unthinking and perfectly willing to shatter the laws of time to put things right again. It takes Evelyn to remind him why they can’t play God with peoples lives and thus completely her therapy to the same idea. He sits and watches Markus and Krista for a while, two young people in love that he brought back together. Having met him in the future h doubts he will wear his heart on his sleeve. He has been fond of all of his companions and each has been special to him, unique. He’s travelled with his intellectual equals and his emotional betters but no one other than Evelyn has been the whole kit and caboodle. The TARDIS is the second most important woman in his life, after Evelyn.

Learned Lecturer: Evelyn’s story has been meticulously played out over the past four stories to give her the sort of development that some Doctor’s never even achieved. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and not always entirely enjoyable because she has become much more than a companion but a good friend and to see her so distressed has made for uncomfortable listening, but utterly gripping all the same. We have been fortunate indeed to have had the unmatchable Maggie Stables on hand to play Evelyn, surely one of the strongest actresses to play such a role and some of the best material as well. Thank goodness her horrors are over for the time being and we can get on with some good old-fashioned adventuring but Arrangements for War is one of the most important stepping-stones in Evelyn’s evolution and its events would return and help her to make a very important decision in her life.

In the opening scenes she is cold, clinical and frosty and her attitude is painful to listen to, the love affair is finally over. Evelyn cannot just switch her emotions off when a n adventure ends and she has been thinking about the Doctor’s ability to do this and it shocks her. She still hasn’t told the Doctor the truth about her heart but confesses she wants to do things with the time she has left, to sample a culture without actively getting involved. She needs time on her own having had enough of his pedantry and avoidance. You might think she is rather hard on him in the first episode but she is trying to handle some very strong emotions. Plenty of things are reminding her of her age these days. Evelyn admits she was coming to the end of her tenure at the university and regardless she is finding travelling a far more stimulating environment but she does miss the communication of ideas (but not the politics). She becomes a Special Envoy in an advisory role. Evelyn’s scenes with Rossiter are a delight; there is a real feeling of warmth and affection between them. I love it when they throw aside their political notes and run off down the beach for a paddle! She feels alive again in a political role, it seems that all she has thought about lately is death and this has been the perfect antidote. Something has been lifted. There is a very telling moment where she accuses the Doctor of letting Cassie and Jem die, falters, and changes her mind – they both let them die. Evelyn makes Rossiter feel as if he can do anything and in an impulsive moment he asks her to stay with him. She tries to convince him to form a coalition to save his people but he needs to know why. As a political prisoner Evelyn is extradited. Her hysteria as she is dragged away is expertly played by Maggie Stables; you could well believe her heart is about to give out there and then. Never handcuff a woman with small wrists and Avon hand cream in her bag. She’s a driven, intelligent woman and leaps off the train to get back to Rossiter and warn him. Evelyn’s confession that she is dying is heartbreaking and her tears will break the heart of even the most hardened fan. When she first met the Doctor he was so strange and exciting she didn’t dwell on her heart problems anymore. She has started to remember her husband’s good points and thinks in his own way he was a truly wonderful man. Her mum used to call her a bookworm and her sister was always the favourite. Rossiter tells her she needs people around her who love her like he does. Watching the Doctor experience what she has been through with Cassie and Jem, she realises that you cannot change what has happened and changes the time co-ordinates to prevent the Doctor from doing so. She comforts him, tells him she doesn’t want him to change because she likes him just the way he is. Now they understand each other better she wants to put this all behind them. Evelyn is going to miss Rossiter.

Wow, that is some stunning development. Again to compare the delicate and shattering characterisation with that of her peers – Charley and C’rizz – the strength of this material shines all the brighter.

Great Ideas: This is a story about character rather than incident but there are some lovely touches. Krista talks of growing up and facing responsibilities, a very potent theme that pervades throughout. Suskind suggests there is dignity in war that is lacking in the sham marriage between Krista and Victor. The states have been locked in tragic and violent disputes and the marriage will unite them. I love a story with a ticking time bomb and the revelation of the Killoran invasion in a months time gives this story and added layer of frisson. The Doctor convinces Markus to declare his love for Krista not understanding what is at stake if he does so. Pokol shoots and slits the throats of his own guards to frame the Doctor. Suskind admitting he was wrong and protecting Krista is a great moment. Markus is killed as the Killoran’s attack the palace and Krista is gunned down by Pokol but because of the Doctor’s interference they died together.

Standout Performance: A superb cast, one of the best. It was going to take a high calibre of actor to win Maggie Stables heart convincingly and Gabriel Woolf does a great job as Rossiter, an extremely incisive and gentle man. Philip Bretherton plays Suskind with just the right level of underhandedness that keeps him interesting and thoughtful at the same time. The star-crossed lovers are perfectly matched; Katarina Olsson and Lewis Rae share some blinding chemistry and acquit themselves well. The lonely weak link is Kraig Thornber’s Pokol who frankly comes across as a comedy character rather than a threatening one (every time he turns up with his gun the Doctor declares ‘Pokol!’ in a wearying voice).

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Oh sod it!’
‘I’m asking you to leave the Doctor.’
‘It’s a building and buildings can be rebuilt.’
‘It’s okay because this was our choice.’
‘We always remember the things that are important to us.’

Audio Landscape: Just who is this Steve Foxon fellow? What an incredible job he does with the sound design and the music, this is the most immersive audio experience for many releases. Vilag comes alive with an authenticity that we haven’t seen for a while in the Divergent Universe and before the story is over you will feel as though you have visited as well. Rossiter makes an impressive speech to a large crowd. Reed’s muffled voice in his helmet. The bomb blast is loud and nasty and traps Krista and Markus in a precarious sounding lift shaft. When Evelyn departs the TARDIS she is greeted by the sounds of children laughing, flowers humming and water trickling nearby. The rebuilding of the palace is all hammering and drilling. Evelyn’s attack is an audio triumph because we share her assault of noise, the flowers singing louder and louder and Krista’s burbled voice. Stones skim across a lake. We hear a dialling phone, walking on gravel and fluting birdsong. I love the sounds of splashing through the thermal baths and how their voices suddenly echo as they head inside. Riots, assassination attempts, gunshots and cameras clicking and flashing. Evelyn’s seaside apartment has rolling surf at the end of her terrace. Pokol’s humming electric rod sounds nasty. Delightful playing about in the sea and giggling. The opening to episode three is fantastic, a montage of a world crumbling into chaos and warfare. Snoring in the cell next to the Doctor. A motorcycle. There is a rumbling train, clunking on the tracks. Evelyn’s heart monitor. The descending Killoran ship. The invasion sounds awesome, chest thumping music, vicious animal growls and warfare. Traffic jams and honking horns. Soldiers jump into a helicopter. Cock their rifles and the craft ascends, blades whirring. Markus and Krista on the bridge in the distance, the water bubbling beneath them.

Musical Cues: Dramatic, dynamic and yet gorgeous and soothing in places as well. The music box plays a sweet tune and it bleeds into the score effortlessly. Some lovely piano work. Episode three opens to attention grabbing drum music. Definitely a top five score.

Isn’t it Odd: Pokol is such an annoying twerp, his sole purpose in this story is to get in the way and turn up at the end and kill Krista. Shame he’s such a comedy stooge because he does some really nasty things.

Standout Moment: Evelyn talking about her mother and ex husband. I was weeping with her.

Result: Romance and warfare combine to make a gripping, heartfelt adventure with the best characterisation for ages and a dedicated cast. This is Evelyn’s story through and through and it is her apotheosis, where she leaps from a great character to my favourite companion. This quadrilogy of stories – Jubilee, Pirates, Lazarus and Arrangements for War - has seen her emotionally crushed and battle scarred and as a result she is a much more vulnerable, lovable character. My only gripe with this story would be that it pushes too hard at the end, I understand the point of the Doctor having to experience loss like this but its portrayal tips the story over into melodrama for a minute or two and the last scene is a little too self congratulatory. However I don’t want to complain about a story which got me this involved, that has a rousing battle in the last episode, some gripping politics and is directed and scored with this much talent. Stables and Baker have become the Big Finish team now and have yet still not been toppled. Arrangements for War is not the Mills and Boon soap that some people represent it as, it has enough action and romance to satisfy both parties. If you are in love with Evelyn this will break your heart, if you’re not, you don’t deserve one: 9/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Axis of Insanity written by Simon Furman and directed by Gary Russell

The Axis of Insanity written by Simon Furman and directed by Gary Russell

(It is at this point that I must complain that Gary Russell has directed the last ten stories and will continue to direct the next few. Whilst I find his direction is generally very good, it does seem to match the quality of the scripts he is directing so with Zagreus, Creed of the Kromon and The Twilight Kingdom he may as well not have bothered! This is going beyond vainglorious now and I genuinely think that some other directors deserve a look in. It might simply be that he was the only director available but that seems highly unlikely. I want to listen to a Barnaby Edwards or a Nick Briggs directed story. Rant over.)

An English Gentleman: I am so pleased to hear Peter Davison back in the role after his longest gap away yet. It feels ages since he tickled my fancies on Omega and I can’t tell you how nice it is to listen to an actor who seems to give a damn about the part. What’s more he gets to have great fun playing the Jester, Davison really matches Garrick Hagon’s tone and inflection and has a real laugh fobbing off Erimem. Whilst this story doesn’t probe his character as much as others do it says rather a lot about the Time Lords themselves for which the Doctor seems genuinely apologetic about. The whole concept of the Axis as a Time Lord scrap yard causes Peri to leap at him and demand answers about their nipping and tucking of the timelines. He proves himself a true Time Lord, willing to sacrifice his life to serve Time and ensure that it is not threatened. With their responsibility also comes pomposity and arrogance it seems! He comments that Time Lords are just one step ahead of the Reaper. Because of his responsibilities he cannot have long term relationships or roots – the fifth Doctor mentions this proudly – can you imagine if this had been the self-deprecating eighth Doctor. We’d all be grabbing for our violins! He tells Peri and Erimem he likes having them around because they don’t allow him to get too maudlin but he ensures them he’ll get over his complimentary streak pretty soon.

American (with) Attitude: The characterisation seems a bit off in the first couple of episodes but she levels out in the second half. Nicola Bryant has always played Peri with earnest enthusiasm (making up for her characters pessimism on the telly) but here she comes across a bit too eagerly. At points in the first episode she is irritating and immature, prodding at the Doctor’s embarrassment about the Time Lords until he dumps them in the TARDIS. Peri is teaching Erimem how to read and the pair of them seems to have developed a affectionately bitchy attitude towards each other which really makes them sound like sisters. Peri seems to Erimem’s keeper, bossing her around and being the season time traveller she seems to be the one to make all the decisions. She’s not out to make any trumpeting gender statements but in a true symbol of women’s lib she grabs a crowbar and threatens to smash Jarra’s skull in!

Dusky Babe: Another great Erimem story which sees her step into the limelight and enjoy all the scenes with the villain of the piece. Caroline Morris continues to impress as the former Pharaoh to be and she seems to know exactly when to emphasise her character and when to calm her performance right down. I adored her sketchy reading skills and her comment that English all squiggles and scratches, slighting the language because it does not have pictographs. Peri rather cruelly tells her a child of five could do better. Quite usefully she can make herbal ointments for practically any remedy. She tricks the Jester into revealing her true identity. Erimem takes an affront to the suggestion that the Doctor thinks of her as a lesser life form, a pet and indeed when she finally meets up with him she asks him not to talk to her as if she was! A hitchhiker riding on the coattails of somebody far more grandiose? Jarra insults her, telling her she wants a pet that’s less yappy! My favourite moment came when Erimem turns on Jarra during a self-pitying ramble about her treatment by the Time Lords and Erimem screams ‘Get over it!’ Those are the words I have longed to here somebody say to the TARDIS crew of the last five stories…can’t we transplant her into the Divergent Universe to know their heads together?

Great Ideas: Simon Furman is a comic strip writer and you can tell by the number of big ideas that he brandishes. You have to wonder if some of these imaginative concepts were kept in the drawer for upcoming strips he was planning to write because I could just see some impressive panels coming to life with his visual storytelling. The TARDIS library has texts that span the whole length and breadth of human civilisation. The Axis is an interdimensional hub that regulates and maintains truncated realities and ensures that the contamination doesn’t spread to primary timelines. The damaged timelines are the work of the Time Lords, dabbling in the affairs of others and not tidying up, this where they tuck away all of their mistakes. Peri faces beasts plucked from myths and legends – the Fire Breeds. The Doctor is lead into a gaming hall where they are gambling with galaxies. The cries of the lost souls can be heard, those potential people from the cauterised timelines. The Jester is the sum of all our fears, from one of these twisted off realities. From the Oracle Room she can watch the dead timelines live on, looping through tired damaged finite history. Time Lords have an aura about them that they can recognise in each other and they can disguise. Jarra was carrying out experiments with Time Scoop technology and she was visited by a Time Lord to put a stop to it. She murdered him and he is now a festering, rotting corpse in her fun house. The Time Lords seized the planet and cut its timeline dead, leaving her to rot inside. Now she has control of the Axis she wants to destroy her world and infect the whole of time and space with the contamination of madness from the severed realities. When a Time Lord dies so does its TARDIS and the Doctor takes Peri and Erimem to an elephant’s graveyard of TARDISes.

Standout Performance: Marc Danbury gives a sweet performance as Tog, a character from one of these dead timelines. In any other circumstances his backstory and the fact that he is a total darling would have set him up as companion material but as we have only just gained Erimem and four is definitely a crowd he has to sacrifice his life instead. Can’t we have him instead of C’rizz? Both Garrick Hagon and Liza Ross give irritating performances as The Jester/Jarra but the character is supposed to be irritating so I could just about bear it and there were some humorous touches that salvaged the character (especially Jarra’s conversation with Erimem with her playing both parts. ‘But why, Jarra, why?’).

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The lunatics have taken over the asylum!’
‘Would have been fun watching you smash your friends head open like a ripe melon!’

Audio Landscape: I was extremely impressed with the production of Axis, the sound FX are exceptionally good and all at ERS make sure that we take a trip through some hallucinatory landscapes. I liked the touch of the Jester’s bells, a nice audio indicator that he is nearby. The Fire Breeds cause mass destruction and have some very hungry sounding growls and belch fire with real gusto. There is an authentic sounding arcade and festival and I really liked the seaside jingle. The Doctor shouts out to Peri and it sounds like his voice is all around us. The Fortune Telling booth is great fun. Mirrors smash to dramatic effect and there is the sound of stars twinkling all around. The bubbling magma field pre-empt a raging Earthquake!

Musical Cues: The music is amusing and waggish for the Jester scenes, sounding not unlike a sinister fairground. There are a few cues that sound like the music in Zagreus but considering the music was the best thing about that story I’m not complaining.

Result: 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

Artwork by Simon Hodges @

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Twilight Kingdom written by Will Schindler and directed by Gary Russell (again!)

What’s it about? The blood of innocents has been spilt ­ a terrible sequence of events has been set in motion. The forces of darkness are on the move. Deep underground, an army of light prepares itself for the oncoming war. The Doctor's used to winning. Stumbling in, reading the face of the enemy, and then beating the odds but what if this time he's got it wrong? Charley and C'rizz think he has. Stripped of all that is familiar, just who is the Doctor? Major Koth thinks he knows. Lost among the dark caverns of an unknown world, has the Doctor finally met his match?

Breathless Romantic: Groan. Another less than stellar showing for the ever-dwindling eighth Doctor who continues his run of stories pontificating about his anxieties. He admits that he has become more judgemental and suspicious since he entered this universe and that he feels despair loneliness and guilt in abundance. Oh curl up and die then you selfish old ponce! Making matters ten times worse is Paul McGann sleepwalking his way through the story (who can blame him, so did I) as though he is seriously considering giving up this malarkey if things don’t improve. I swear I heard him stifle a yawn during his confrontation with Koth. His pain has been infinite, eight lifetimes worth of losing friends and worlds…blah blah blah. I’ll move on before I start to bore you all.

Edwardian Adventuress: Oh mother of all that is holy – what has happened to Charley? Its as though the producers have taken a how to turn a successful companion into a twat in four easy steps! Step One – have her fall in love with the Doctor and at the end of saving the universe have her turn his attempts to protect her into feelings of rejection, of being dumped. Step Two – have her repeat that she loves the Doctor over and over again until she moves beyond desperate into a an area of emotional self harm. Step Three – let said companion become the host for a breed of alien monstrosities and force your audience not to give a damn. Step Four – turn your companion into the previous record holder for utter twatness, Adric, by having your companion turn on the Doctor, have a massive paddy because she has a different view point and sulkily run away screaming nonsense like ‘I need some time to myself!’ Congratulations! You’re companion, Charlotte Pollard, is now a total prick beyond redemption in her present circumstances. Bravo. It is almost as if she is taking the Michael when she says that she should have had a far less interesting life – less interesting than this? She decries that she wants things the way they used to be (ahem) and that she has to be able to believe in the Doctor (like she cannot cope without him). I hate to say it but the last time I was as elated as when C’rizz grabs her by the throat and starts wringing the life out of her was during an episode of Star Trek Voyager when Tuvok grabbed Neelix and did exactly the same thing. Alas Neelix was a hologram and Charley survives to breathe another day but then nobody said life was fair.

Chameleonic Rogue: When C’rizz is the most interesting regular in your line up run for the hills! Three stories in we finally learn a few things about him, his skin adapts to its environment, he likes a damp atmosphere and he has the perfect constitution for the jungle. He admits he has different principles and beliefs as the Doctor and Charley, he used to be a priest and he finds his sudden liking for warfare quite unsettling. He was brought up in the ways of peace and serenity but since he met the Doctor and Charley things have changed. He wonders if this is what he is now, a man who will hold a weapon. I really like how unimpressed he was by the TARDIS but he does rather make it sound like they have been searching for the ship for years when in reality its been two stories, and they hardly featured in one of them. My favourite C’rizz moment was when one character looked at him and said ‘What is that?’ Right there with you.

Great Ideas: The Interzones are sectioned off from each other where you can step from Light City to the Amazon. It is a crucible world, a giant laboratory. Veyla dissolves into the cave walls, which pulse with organs. It is one vast organism that ingests the local fauna, its water are digestive juices. The TARDIS turns up. Somebody brought the creature here and it is hinted that it may have been Rassilon.

Audio Landscape: A verdant jungle with clicks, pops and humming insects. Water runs, bubbling and frothing. There are some laughing warbling alien voices that sound oddly like the Toclafane! A heartbeat pulses. Soil moves.

Isn’t it Odd: Anyone who likes this story please look away now – it took me a week to psyche myself up to listen to this (with some persuasion from some lovely GB posters) and then after I listened to the first episode I had to leave it another day before I could bear the second.
· The first episode is an unengaging mixture amalgamation of Planet of the Daleks (the jungle setting), Kinda (the cave) and Caves of Androzani (the unrelenting military) with nary an original line for any character.
· Koth is played by Michael Keating…its Vila! How are we supposed to take this guy seriously when he’s Vila? For a good example of how his villainous role was a mistake go and listen to the scene where the Doctor and Koth first butt heads – Keating camps his way through the scene and McGann sounds like he wants to go home. ‘I will take you down, you know. Yaaaaawn.’ Russell Stone’s music feels dreadfully inappropriate when the performers fail to match its level of seriousness.
· Congratulations to Dale Ibbetson who gives the worst performance in any Big Finish play as Quillian, knocking even Ann Bird from The Rapture out of the pool. He speaks every line with a blank, expressionless monotone I was wondering if perhaps the creature was sapping emotions from the characters. Imagine my surprise when it was supposed to be enhancing them!
· There are 57 tracks on disc two – I’m not sure if I have ever been so depressed.
· The big twist is…a living cave! There’s a bloody cave on the cover with a face! Who thought that one through?
· Episode four features some of the dullest psychobabble you are ever likely to hear out of a counselling session with Deanna Troi.
· Was this year even plotted in the slightest? At any point? There is no wrap up, no arc and no surprises at the end of five stories in the Divergent Universe. The Doctor turns to Charley and decides ‘I’m very pleased to have met you.’ That’s the blinding conclusion we have bee waiting for? The Kro’ka pops up to remind us this is all leading somewhere worthwhile even when we have yet to see any evidence to support this. He offers us no reward for wading through this muck but to promise more of the same. And what about that unbearably crap cliffhanger, not a patch on Neverland’s success, where we discover the Doctor is hunting Rassilon. Well, duh, he chucked him in the Divergent Universe in the first place!
· Our big bonus for suffering this year is that we’ve gained C’rizz. Big woo.

Result: Really good and really bad stories are both a joy to listen to for very different reasons. The worst stories are the ambivalent ones where the writing it okay, the production is okay, the music is okay but nothing stands out for good or for ill. The Twilight Kingdom is one such story and in its own bland, forgettable way it is even more torturous than Creed of the Kromon, which you could at least feel something about, even it is pure revulsion. The Doctor needs to lighten up, Charley needs some serious personality surgery and C’rizz needs to get a personality. The three of them front this achingly dreary tale about a living city and a rebel cause that don’t even realise they aren’t actually fighting for anything. I don’t care how bad people think the monthly series is now, the third McGann year is the nadir of Big Finish’s output and I can’t imagine it ever getting worse than this: 2/10

Artwork by Simon Hodges @