The Real McCoy: Sounding unrehearsed and garbled, as has been the case of late. McCoy started out his Big Finish adventures is the weakest main actor to participate in the main range, struggling to realise his Doctor on audio. Once Nick Briggs took over there was a real attempt to give him a renaissance which was highly successful and even cynics about his performance like me had to admit that he had come on in leaps and bounds. But somewhere along the line the past three years (I would say around the time he was clearly busy with other projects) McCoy has begun to lose his way again, sounding unsure and as though he has only just look at the script for the first time when he walked into the studio. That might work for some actors, but not McCoy who has a tendency to sound like an actor who is making up the story as he goes along (and not in a way that makes the Doctor seems improvisational, in a way that makes him sound utterly unprepared). Did the Doctor fail to tell Hex about the pain he would suffer because he would be letting the Swarm in on his plan...or was it because he's actually a pretty twisted bastard who wanted to avoid an awkward conversation?
Oh Wicked: The whole idea of Ace falling in love and sleeping with Hex's alter ego is just too icky for words. For one thing I never got the sense that this was a reciprocal romance, it was always portrayed as an unrequited one with Hex being the one who was doe eyed for Ace whilst she thought of him more as a brother. However it seems that the trauma of his death has provoked some stronger feelings in Ace and she is clutching at straws by falling into bed with an alternative version of the young man. It's a bit weird to say the least, and reminds me of the Rose/meta Doctor situation in all the worst ways. Ace is convinced that Hector can become Hex once again...but surely that would mean he would forget all about their relationship and consider it a bit...advantageous that she chose the moment he was out of his mind to make the moves on him. Somebody had to do the 'contact has been made' with the additional of a right hook and I cannot think anyone more worthy than Ace.
Standout Performance: Oh dear. Why is it whenever good actors are called to play possessed versions of their usual characters they suddenly become...not so good actors? When Jonathan Morris is trying to turn the Swarm into a genuine threat by having the crew committing suicide to force the Doctor's hand, it rather fights his intentions by having actors like Olivier hamming it up as one of the possessed. Kudos to Big Finish for getting John Leeson back to play the Nucleus.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'I looked through the microscope at the virus...and it looked back!'
'So basically it is just the internet but across the galaxy' 'I can't think of a way of describing it more basically.'
Audio Landscape: All the correct sound effects are in place; the infection via the TARDIS console, ships landing on Titan...they all sound authentically The Invisible Enemy.
Standout Scene: The best moment is a completely superfluous one. The Doctor and Ace racing about in the hypernet on Harley Davison's. Great fun. 'A bit different from the buggies on Terra Alpha!'
Result: You might think that a sequel to The Invisible Enemy, hardly the most celebrated of Doctor Who stories, smacks of desperation on Big Finish's part. They have systematically been working through practically every story in 70s Who and providing an alternative take on pretty much every threat that the Doctor faced in that period. A cynical marketing ploy or a genuinely innovative procedure? Perhaps a little of both...but where does Revenge of the Swarm fall? Taking place in the misbegotten seventh Doctor/Ace/Hex arc (which technically ended in A Death in the Family and then again in Gods & Monsters and yet somehow rolls onwards inexorably), this half baked reunion between the Doctor and Swarm plays out in a disturbingly similar approach to their first get-together. To the point where at times it feels like a copy and paste job. Morris is an excellent writer and he runs with the idea of the nucleus of the swarm in some imaginative directions but even he cannot leap the hurdles inherent in this arc; a Doctor who sounds unprepared (that's down to McCoy's rushed performance), an assistant who is sexually taking advantage of a corrupted personality and a male companion who should have left ages ago. When all three of your regulars are sabotaging the story you are trying to tell (through no fault of your own) it almost seems a little unfair. When the first ten minutes of this story is catching up the audience with what they have missed out on, explaining away the adventure this story is inspired by and dragged down by the domestic arrangements of the TARDIS crew you have some serious problems. Not only that but this one struggles to find comic or dramatic moments within its scenario because they often fight one another, both the funny and the serious moments being dreadfully overplayed. The only other time Jonathan Morris has provided a script that has struggled before was also an incomprehensible sequel (Hothouse). Whilst that is a fantastic track record given how prolific a writer he is, it stresses that he should be allowed to let his original mind run free rather than being hampered with a shopping list of unwieldy ingredients. This is meekly entertaining but completely throwaway and after a brief resurgence in quality with Breaking Bubbles the main range feels like it is coasting on past glories again. Personally, I prefer The Invisible Enemy. It might be over ambitious, but at least it is ambitious: 5/10