Thursday, 27 October 2016

Fallen Angels written by Phil Mulryne and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: 2015: When sightseers Joel and Gabby Finch encounter a strange man in Edwardian cricketing garb in the Sistine Chapel, their honeymoon suddenly takes a terrifying turn. 1511: Michelangelo is commissioned to create some very special sculptures by a mysterious sect. But as he carves, angels seem to emerge fully-formed from the rock. Almost as if they are alive… From Michelangelo’s workshop to the catacombs of Rome, the Fifth Doctor must keep his wits about him and his eyes wide open as he confronts the Weeping Angels.

An English Adventurer: Hat, door, rescue...that pretty much sums up the fifth Doctor very nicely. He always seemed to be spotting something on the scanner and dashing out of the door to save someone. A biege blur I think I described him as once. I was probably being derogatory but in hindsight it's not an inaccurate description. He finds if you act like you should be allowed in somewhere that you generally are. Actually that method has worked out quite well for all the Doctors. He's been at Heathrow recently, which sets this story near Time-Flight. The Doctor thinks that it is quite difficult to understand a general overview of time travel but if Dodo can get her head around it, anyone can. We've had enough lectures about fixed points in time for the fifth Doctor to get away with a throwaway 'and all that...' and we get the message that the Angels manipulation with time is important. When people are trying to kill hi he usually likes to know why. As his current companions will tell you, there are a manifest of reasons. The Doctor's method of covering his eyes and looking so he can see where the Angels are moving to is insanely dangerous...and very exciting.

Standout Performance: Matthew Kelly is not a name that you hear much these days but he was a formative part of my childhood hosting shows such as You Bet and Stars in Their Eyes. He brings a robust gruffness to Michelangelo, exactly the right sort of attitude and strength that you would imagine from one of the most famous artists this planet has ever produced. He's not somebody I would like to meet in a dark alley in a bad mood.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You wont get a signal in 1511 and even if you do just think of the roaming charges!'
'I'm just not really used to people doing this sort of thing around me' says the Doctor about two people kissing in a wonderful dig at how domestic the show has become in it's latest incarnation.

Great Ideas: Immediately this feels like a descendent of Blink with the fifth Doctor's involvement discussed in the first scene before he has even arrived. Moffat's timey wimeyness (still brings me out in hives) is all pervading before the story has even begun. I'm not a religious man but I always figure that Michelangelo had some kind of divine intervention when he painted the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was a paradoxical leak from the future from the mouth a bloke called Joel. Italian artists are disappearing from history, vanishing from he established time stream, the glories of their art lost. A Weeping Angel is a creature that is quantum locked into position while it is being observed, just in case you're one of those strange people that has never seen Blink before. The Weeping Angel fell to Earth in pre-history. It wasn't planned, it was trapped in the sediment that eventually became marble in a quarry. It must have been in absolute torment for a millennia. It would have gone insane and would be looking for the richest meal of artron energy ever to get its strength back. Angels trapped in Venetian mirrors, beguiled by their own reflection - a glorious image.

Audio Landscape: The Angel attacks are very well executed, with some dramatic musical stings to point out when the creature is attacking. Crowd scene, chipping at stone, constructing a scaffolding, footsteps, flames crackling,

Isn't it Odd: A classic series adventure with a new series length is an odd beast, but it works very well for this adventure. Unless you were really daft then surely you would realise that you were standing in 1511? The co-incidence of Joel landing in the workshop of an artist he admires so much stretches credulity. It would be like the Angels sending me back in time and winding up in Terrance Dicks' office in the BBC in 1972. The Angels where the very definition of the law of diminishing returns, every time they appeared I feel they lost a little more of their original impact. The trouble with retuning to successful one-off monster is that you have to innovate them and the Angels were perfectly conceived in the first place. Eventually you wind up with something as crass and obvious as the Statue of Liberty marching across the City gnashing her teeth. The two stories I feel have utilised them the best since Blink are Touched By An Angel, an extremely strong BBC novel by Jonathan Morris and this audio. In both cases the author is working overtime to make the creatures work in a new format. Come Time of the Doctor and Hell Bent the Angels are featuring in stories as cameos. It's a pretty inexcusable waste of a great monster. Joel and Gabby are nicely played but don't standout like the best of the new series characters - they interact well with the Doctor but I certainly wouldn't be putting them up for companion material.

Standout Scene: Michelangelo literally tears down the scaffolding in the climax...after a 70 foot fall the Angels climb out of the wreckage and keep on coming.

Result: 'The most humane psychopaths in the universe...' The big question on everybody's lips is how do you tell a story about a purely visual monster in an audio format. Apparently by thinking about the nature of these creatures very carefully and constructing a clever story around them. With some clever description, jumpy sound effects and creepy music you can conjure up the essence of The Weeping Angels without ever having to see them. It's quite the challenge and not the sort that Big Finish - that I feel has been playing it safe in many ways lately- is keen to take. It's nice to see some balls. Then this is the work of Barnaby Edwards and he's by and large my favourite Big Finish director. If I was going to hand a difficult task like this to anybody, Edwards would be my choice. He injects a zest into the most lifeless of scripts (not that this is lifeless by any means) and assembles the most impressive of guest casts. He seems to have all the best actors in his little black book. Michelangelo carving out a statue of an Angel is an impressively bold image and a one line pitch that probably sold David Richardson on the idea of an Angel story. Peter Davison seems very home in what is essentially a new series adventure and the whole cast is clearly getting a thrill out of telling an Angel story. There's a zippy pace to the piece that reveals just how arduous some of those main range adventures can be. Perhaps there is an argument for two or three episode adventures for 5, 6, 7 and 8. Phil Mulryne is a new voice to Big Finish but if this script is anything to go by this wont be the last we hear of him. I was genuinely pleased that my first Big Finish review in a while was something this effortlessly enjoyable to listen to. Fallen Angels isn't the most standout of adventures but it does what it does extremely well indeed: 8/10


Jacob Licklider said...

Huh I was beginning to think you were done with reviews. The Classic Doctors/New Monsters set is one I've had my eye on for a while and while I probably won't get it for a while (there's this stuff called money that gets in the way) good to see at least one of the stories works

James R Curry said...

I'm glad you're back to reviewing BF. Good or bad, your opinions by and large mirror my own, but you usually have some interesting insights that I may or may not have considered.

Looking forward to you getting caught up!

Urlance Woolsbane said...

"Perhaps there is an argument for two or three episode adventures for 5, 6, 7 and 8."

I thought they tried that, back in '07/'08.

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