REVIEW – TIME IN OFFICE

This is a bit of an odd one, and do you know I really cannot decide if it is odd good or odd bad or just plain odd, its a puzzler.

First of all the tone – the Davison era wasnt really known for its comedic tone, but this is a very funny story, or to be more accurate set of stories, this actually feels like a mini series rather than a complete story all written by the same writer set in the same place and telling of a time in the Doctor’s life rather than an adventure in the Doctor’s life.

So Time in Office sees the Fifth Doctor the up the reigns of office and finally become Lord President of Gallifrey and it is a light hearted look at what those times were, almost being told by an unreliable narrator – because this set of tales does not paint the Time Lords in a very positive light, they are presented as a bunch of conniving incompetent power hungry xenophobic back stabbers who are slaves to pomp and tradition. A race of all powerful beings stagnant and insular – but to the mix Eddie Robson adds the Fifth Doctor at his most wry and Tegan Jovanka at her most acerbic, lights the blue touch-paper and retires.

Never was there a more unwilling President than The Doctor – and the feckless Fifth seems to view his appointment with wry amusement siding with student revolutionaries against the establishment, sulking when he has to go on diplomatic missions and generally shaking things up a bit in the dusty dry old corridors of the Panopticon. He of course isn’t alone, he is accompanied by Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) who to avoid deportation as an undesirable alien is made Earth’s ambassador to Gallifrey – and boy does she enjoy it. Also making a welcome return is the wonderful Louise Jameson as Leela who we have not heard paired up with the Fifth Doctor before and it is a joy to hear.

When this release was announced I was expecting a tense political thriller, fort of The West Wing on Gallifrey, what we got is more Yes Minister with big collars and endless relics “of Rassilon” – sort of four stories about one story about a time when The Doctor was in charge but didn’t really enjoy it, where he had all of time and space at his command but the biggest enemy was inertia and protocol rather than Daleks and Cybermen.

A very different take on a Doctor Who story, an experiment that while not producing quite the results I was expecting I am glad the experiment was attempted if for nothing else for the fact that the “thimble of Rassilon” is now part of Who Lore and for that alone it deserves a 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in September 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The Doctor’s adventures in time and space are over. The Time Lords have recalled him to Gallifrey – but what he faces on his home planet is worse than any trial. Following the disappearance of President Borusa, the High Council condemned him to the highest office – and he can’t evade his responsibilities a nanosecond longer…

So all hail the Lord High President! All hail President Doctor!

Rassilon save him. This time, there’s really no escape.

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sheri-An Davis (Castellan Lowri), Julie Teal (Chancellor Vorena), Michael Hobbs(Arcantis), Tim Scragg (Crex), Tim Sutton (Scandrius), Jenny Lee (Kasnegar). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE NIGHT WITCHES

Long time readers may remember that I lament the loss of the “pure historical” – and while I enjoy the pseudo historical and celebrity historical nothing really matches the drama of the pure historical from the first couple of Hartnell seasons. Even the sole Troughton entry into the historical sub-genre “The Highlanders” was more an amalgam of historical novels and folklore of the time rather than a true historical. This months release, the first in the fourth series of The Early Adventures redresses the balance somewhat and gives us a true Hartnell style “ordeal historical” and also educated me. so bring on “The Night Witches”….

 Featuring the season four TARDIS team of The Second Doctor (voiced superbly by Frazer Hines), Jamie (Frazer Hines), Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (the late Michael Craze being replaced by Elliot Chapman) sees the TARDIS heading for The Winter Palace at St Petersburg. Well, they get the right country but unfortunately the right time, our heroes find themselves just north of Stalingrad in 1942, not a great place to be – World War 2 is in full swing and the Germans are advancing. Rescuing a young Russian pilot Lilya Grankin (Kristina Buikaite) when her plane crashes the team are taken to the base of the fabled Night Witches, a crack team of female pilots who carry out silent night raids on the german lines and are very soon taken as German spies by the leader of the Night Witches Nadia Vasney (Wanda Opalinska) – and to top this all off Polly gets the shock of her life when the best pilot in The Night Witches Tatania Kregki (Anjella Mackintosh) is her double – Tatania can even mimic Polly’s voice as before the war she worked on stage as a mimic.

 So far all the ingredients are there for a classic historical – and unlike the more “larking about having fun” style stories that the Troughton era this goes back to the gritty ordeal style historical of the Hartnell era – the team are split up, forced to go through terrible experiences and are used as pawns in the war that the Night Witches are fighting against the Germans, in war even the good guys lose their morals in the pursuit of victory for a greater good.

 The story plays out as you would expect and the fact that Polly has a double is used as a plot point that really reminded me of The Enemy of the World, but the fact that the double is Polly who is separated from The Doctor for the majority of the story leave Anneke Wills as the star of the show and allows her to give us much more of the Polly that remained hidden in the few TV episodes that survive – Polly is brave and resourceful and plucky and really does have grace under pressure and an instinct to survive and do the right thing.

I also need to mention the rest of the regulars who really do knock it out of the park and the production, though set in the vast snowy wastes of Russia does feel claustrophobic and somehow “studio bound” close your eyes and you can probably see the fake snow and painted backdrops and filmed inserts – it is that authentic.

 A cracking start to a new series and a fab reboot of one of my favourite genres – a well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in September 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

When the TARDIS materialises north of Stalingrad in 1942, the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly are captured by the Night Witches, an all-female unit of flyers tasked with disrupting the German forces nearing Moscow.

They suspect that the travellers are spies – part of the Germans’ Operation Barbarossa. Despite their pleas they are locked up while it is decided what to do with them.

Polly, however, is receiving strange looks from the pilots and clearly unnerving them. When the TARDIS crew discover why this is, it becomes clear that they’re about to get far more involved in the war than they could possibly have imagined.

Written By: Roland Moore
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), Anjella Mackintosh(Tatiana Kregki), Wanda Opalinska (Nadia Vasney), Kristina Buikaite (Lilya Grankin).

Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE THIEF WHO STOLE TIME

When we left Romana (Lalla Ward) last month she was abandoned on the surface of the planet Funderell, abandoned by her erstwhile classmate Sartia (Joannah Tinsey) and left to die. It was the shock at the end of a rather uneventful first part of a season finale, but enough of a shock to make me want to hear more and find out how Romana fared – being one of my favourite companions it was upsetting to see her haughty, confidence picked apart from the bottom up by Sartia, to see what we as viewers see as charming quirks seen as negative spoiled brat arrogance and superiority is quite jarring – and the relationship between Romana and Sartia really does remain the high point of the story, in fact the story depends on it.

As I said last month this feels very “Bidmead” – all high concept sci-fi of the sort that I find incredibly dull. Sorry, but I just do I am much more of a Graham Williams man. However there is a very interesting story in this denouement and Tom Baker plays against the tone of the story to supply most of the laughs as he investigates the great book of Funderell and its relationship to the time-lords and any strange artefacts that may have been left behind. And there is a very strong story here its just swamped by whole stodginess of the production, it just seems a bit too worthy and po faced.

However not wanting to end on a downer, because no one likes a party pooper and this IS a season finale after all and I really don’t like it when I don’t enjoy one of Big Finish’s releases what this story is is an excellent vehicle for Lalla Ward, she shines, she excels – hearing her self doubt and witnessing her brought low and to the point of despair is new territory  for her, and in giving her her own arch enemy in Sartia then SURELY this can be seen as a back door pilot for a series of Romana in E-Space adventures? Because you really cant have enough of Romana the Second.

As a season finale the story comes together at the end with a satisfying pay off, there is even a very funny literary joke (you will groan) but overall the four parts seem a bit lacking focus and meandering 6/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in September 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

A god has died. A crime has been committed. And an even greater threat lies beneath the surface.

On the ocean world of Funderell, Romana has been reunited with her old friend from Gallifrey, Sartia, and the Doctor is investigating the history and religion of this strange world. But events have quickly spiralled out of control.

Why is this planet of such interest to the Time Lords? What lurks in the depths?

The life of more than one world is at stake. But time is running out.

Note: This adventure continues from Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Skin of the Sleek

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox (Eamonn Orensky), Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain), Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson), Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin(Frithra), John Banks (The Sleek)

Other roles played by the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE SILURIAN CANDIDATE

If I were to say that Warriors of the Deep was not the most popular story in the world then there would not be too many of you who disagreed with me. So WHAT ON EARTH was the pitch meeting like when Matthew J Elliott (for he is the writer of this release) sat in with Mr Briggs et al and said “guys, I have a plan for a sequel to Warriors of the Deep. Not only that I may just have the very best title for a Doctor Who story EVER. AND it is going to be a bit of a classic”. Gauntlet well and truly thrown down. But it is and it has and it is in that order.

 And that most fantastic title is “The Silurian Candidate” which says pretty much all you need to say about the tone of this episode, but for those of you who don’t get the reference it is a tense political thriller set in a futuristic Cold War setting where a third party is trying to provoke world war three for their own ends. Add to that The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) at his devious best, Ace (Sophie Aldred) being stroppy and Mel (Bonnie Langford) knocking every scene out of the park and becoming the companion she was never allowed to be on TV and you really do have a modern classic.

 As a sequel to the much loathed Warriors of the Deep it made me want to dig out the old dust covered DVD and give it a rewatch, the writing of the Seventh Doctor is just perfect – he is in his dark brooding and manipulative phase here and McCoy seems to relish the material he has been given to work with, but this really is Bonnie Langford’s finest four episodes. Separated from The Doctor and Ace for the majority of the story we get to see the sort of woman she really is as she exhibits grace under pressure, plucky resourcefulness and a strong moral code that will not be corrupted.

 So the story has a modern cold war, set in 2085 one year after the events of Warriors of the Deep the world is split in to two power blocs, one led by the boorish Australian Chairman Falco (Nicholas Asbury) and one by the cool and collected Director Shen (Mai Newberry). The world is on the brink of war and the leaders have a summit to plan peace treaty, however some of the original inhabitants of the earth have different ideas, they want their world back from the upstart apes who inhabit it and have a plan to bring about armageddon to achieve it. In to this world of paranoia comes the Doctor who has some unfinished business to attend to, and the humans may not like the solutions he has developed to the ongoing situation with the humans and SIlurians – this dark seventh Doctor always sees the bigger picture, always has a plan and always plays to win.

 The “Silurians” are presented again not as monsters or aggressors but as people with different points of view to us, as a genuine race rather than a generic mono-culture and the politics of their ruling triad are fascinating to listen to.

 Tense political thriller sums this story up, but does no justice to the layers of story telling, the character development and the scope and scale of its ambition. It has the best name for a Doctor Who story ever and is on course to end up top of the pile for this years main range releases. A classic that needs to be heard. 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in September 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The year is 2085, and planet Earth remains on the edge of a nuclear precipice. At any moment, either of two vast rival power blocs, to the West and the East, might unleash a torrent of missiles, bringing about the terrible certainty of Mutual Assured Destruction.

But there is another way – or so Professor Ruth Drexler believes. Hence her secret mission deep in Eastern bloc territory, to uncover a hidden city, never before glimpsed by human eyes: the Parliament of the Silurians, the lizard people who ruled the Earth before humankind.

There, she’ll encounter a time-travelling Doctor, who knows the Silurians well. A Doctor on a secret mission of his own.

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Fiona Sheehan (Ruth Drexler/ Avvox), Nicholas Asbury (Chairman Bart Falco), Nicholas Briggs (Chordok), Caitlin Thorburn (Karlas), Ignatius Anthony (Gorrister), Louise Mai Newberry (Director Shen).

Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE BRITISH INVASION

If I were to pick two words to describe the Troughton era those words would be “charm” and “Whimsy” and this months Short Trips release “The British Invasion” has both charm and whimsy in abundance, its as if writer Ian Potter has distilled the essence of the era into one short story, which to a great degree he has. In fact for three quarters of the story this is nothing more than a charming interlude where The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe lark about at the science exhibition at the Festival of Britain. Sorry, I should have mentioned this story is set in post war London – a London recovering from the horrors of World War 2 and, as the Doctor puts it the country is channeling their energies into into looking outwards.

 But in all this positivity and looking forward Jamie sees a sinister side, where the Doctor sees a pioneering spirit and a new scientific dawn Jamie sees nothing but propaganda wrapped in the Union Flag where the Highlanders and their clans are consigned to the dustbin of history. And herein lies the cleverness of the story and how it acts as a metaphor for the whole of the Troughton era, pull away the charm, the whimsy and the general larking about and the stories themselves were pretty dark with an edge to them sometimes softened by focussing on the camaraderie between the three leads, and this story does just that, there are just enough smoke and mirrors to make us take our eye off the ball and not notice the little clues that something altogether darker may be going on.

 Wendy Padbury narrates the story and gives life to the regulars and the lady scientist they meet and try to help fix her radio transmitting device.

 I do like a story that makes you think it is one type of story and ends up being a completely different take on a Who story when it ends, and the clever thing is you done even see it coming.

 A very satisfying little story and on repeated listens a lot darker than its original whimsical approach, a little gem 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.

Release #32 is a Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe story.

A huge metal dome sits by the side of the river Thames, within it is a device that might change the entire future of humanity. The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie embark on a small act of kindness but the TARDIS seems oddly unwilling to help. It’s as if it knows the truth. There is something waiting here, something adaptable and cunning, gathering its strength to conquer the stars.

Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Ian Potter
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Wendy Padbury (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE PRISONER VOLUME 02

How to start? I was going to start with one of my semi regular musical interludes but that won’t work any more (thats not to say there WON’T be a musical interlude) But no, the song I had selected is totally inappropriate for the opening salvo of this second volume of reinterpretations of The Prisoner so I had to have a rethink and I will start by tipping my metaphorical hat and raising my real glass to Mr Nicholas Briggs – a true auteur, a visionary who has taken a much loved and much discussed enigma of a source and made it more compelling, more confusing, grander in scale, bigger in ambition whilst remaining utterly respectful to the 1967 original.
And this box set is just that and very very much more. Last year we had volume 1 (review HERE) which introduced us to the world of The Prisoner, let us know how the world of The Village works, added a few Briggsisms (for that is what they are) to make it new and fresh and different and darker and then Volume 2 is released and the rug is pulled completely out from under the listener’s feet as Mr Briggs attempts the seemingly impossible and adapts the episode “Many Happy Returns” to open the set. For those of you unfamiliar this episode sees Number 6 escaping from the Village and getting back to London but the first twenty five minutes or so have pretty much no dialogue at all.
Any how, I get ahead of myself – this is a very different beast to the first more “out there”, more Free For All than Arrival or in Twin Peaks talk more Season three than Season one and two. Nick Briggs is a man with a story to tell, a definite take on McGoohan’s masterpiece and he tells it over four linked stories:
2.1 I Met a Man Today (adapted from Many Happy Returns)
So as I said earlier Mr Briggs begins this set with an adaptation of Many Happy Returns. Beginning with Number Six (Mark Elstob) already having escaped from the Village and back in London hanging around outside his old flat he meets with its new owner Kate Butterworth (Lucy Briggs-Owen) and despite himself begins to trust her and tell her of his time in The Village. Kate is a beautiful character played to perfection by Lucy Briggs-Owen, she is just so real, so relatable, so believable and so genuinely a good person – but in the world of The Prisoner is everything as it seems? Six even visits his old colleagues and is subjected to an interrogation – has he defected? is he a plant? is is all going to end in tears? There is a feeling of fatalistic inevitability about this episode all the way to its utterly crushing last minute or so. Not an obvious choice to open a set but done so well and with so much passion that with hindsight I couldn’t wish for a better opener.
2.2 Project Six (adapted from A, B and C)
VERY loosely adapted from A, B and C. Six believes that he can no longer trust any food or water supplied by the Village and goes on a self enforced hunger strike viewed with glee by the new Number 2 Played by ***REMOVED FOR SPOILERS*** who takes a detached joy in witnessing Six drive himself insane through hunger. This episode is one of those very strange and nightmarish episodes that The Prisoner does very well, the listener really cannot tell what is real and what is an illusion as Six relives incidents that happened to him last series and is given a chance for a final escape from The Village….
If you enjoyed Fall Out from the original series then this will be right up your street – this is a surreal kaleidoscopic nightmare of an episode with a shock ending that I really did not anticipate. This is a brave bold and different take on a TV episode and is as much as anything a mission statement for Briggs take on The Prisoner.
2.3 Hammer into Anvil (adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
A slightly more traditional retelling of a TV episode where Number Six takes a dislike to a particularly nasty and vicious Number 2 (John Heffernan) and proceeds to dismantle him piece by piece. It follows the general plot of the TV episode but the emphasis are different – Six uses Number 26 (Helen Goldwyn) one of Number 2’s trusted aides against him, by making 2 think they are conspiring and that Six has been sent to the Village to assess 2.
A portrait in paranoia in which the world the inhabitants of the Village occupy are used against the Village chairperson. After the mind-bending events of Project Six here we see a strong confident Number 6 using the apparatus of his oppressors to destroy the system from within.
2.4 Living in Harmony (not adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
Difficult difficult episode to even discuss without ruing the myriad surprises, twists and indeed turns that Mr Briggs has written for us. Unfamiliar surroundings, an old friend, a daring plan and a choice pretty much sum it up but that is all you are getting from me. And then it ends, with a statement from Number 6 reaffirming his status as the outsider, the man with the secret never to be told who is learning very quickly how to beat the system from within – or is that just something those in charge want him to think?
There is just so much to praise about this set, the acting, the sound design, the writing, the direction all ooze class, care and attention to detail, the Village is safe in the hands of Big Finish and Nick Briggs and long may number Six remain there.
A definite contender for Big Finish release of the year and an unreserved 10/10.
Oh and before I forget a musical interlude https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ1tBzH1Cek
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Based on the classic ITV series.

‘I’m not a number. I’m a free man!’

January 16th, 1967…

A secret agent resigns, then wakes up to find himself imprisoned in ‘The Village’ – a bizarre community with a cheery veneer, but an underbelly of mystery and threat. All occupants of The Village have numbers instead of names, with our secret agent forced to accept the mantle of Number Six.

The authorities running this Village are intent on discovering why Number Six resigned – but it’s a secret he steadfastly refuses to divulge. As the drama unfolds, the authorities, in the guise of the sinister Number Two, try ever more ingenious and aggressive means to bend Number Six to their will. All the while, Number Six is intent on two aims: to escape and to find out ‘Who is Number One?’.

2.1 I Met a Man Today (adapted from Many Happy Returns)

Exhausted after a daring escape from the Village, Six returns to London to find a woman living in his home. Despite being fearful that this could be yet another trick by those who run the Village, he dares to take the risk and starts to get to know her… Meanwhile, those running British Intelligence have their own agenda.

2.2 Project Six (adapted from A, B and C)

Six is now certain he can’t trust anyone. Any food or water in the Village could be laced with chemicals to alter his mental state. Going ‘nil by mouth’ in an attempt to prevent potential drugging, he finds himself dazed and confused by hunger and dehydration. And a prisoner in a secret laboratory makes some unnerving claims. Claims that lead to the identity of Number One.

2.3 Hammer into Anvil (adapted from the TV episode of the same title)

For the new Number Two ‘the gloves are off’. His mission is to break Six, saying he must be either hammer or anvil. But Six has a plan to exploit a weakness in the system.

2.4 Living in Harmony (not adapted from the TV episode of the same title)

Six finds himself in entirely unfamiliar circumstances. He is also confronted with the seemingly impossible return of Number Nine. But worst of all, he is faced with a deadly choice. Just how much is his freedom really worth?

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Mark Elstob (Number Six), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Kate Butterworth), Susan Earnshaw(Brenda), Jim Barclay (Control), Barnaby Edwards (Danvers / Shopkeeper), John Heffernan (Thorpe), Sarah Mowat (Janet), Sara Powell (Number 9 / Number 90), Andrew Ryan (Number 52), Nicholas Briggs (Number 99), Jez Fielder (Number 48), Deirdre Mullins (Number 2), Helen Goldwyn (Barmaid / Village Voice / Village Clone / Number 26 / Lunar Controller / Moon Clone / Observation Controller), Michael Cochrane (Number 2).

Other parts played by members of the cast.

Writer/director Nicholas Briggs
Script Editor Jamie Anderson
Producer Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

© ITV Studios Global Entertainment

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REVIEW – THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES VOLUME 3

I will start at the end and work backwards. Maybe. But just to begin by saying that these stories are VERY Pertwee – they drip nostalgia for about 1973 and could easily slot in to season ten just after Planet of the Daleks. Yes indeed dear readers this is just like a trip down memory lane to a long distant Saturday teatime with fish-fingers chips and beans for tea Doctor Who on the telly and the Generation game to follow – pure authenticity.
And talking of authenticity lets muse a bit on Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor. Not exactly an impersonation of Pertwee, not exactly a sound like but Treloar utterly captures the essence of who the Third Doctor was – the vocal inflections are completely authentic and his interaction with Katy Manning as Jo Grant is exactly as it should be and exactly as it was on the Television. Tim Treloar completely embodies the essence of Jon Pertwee and allows suspension of disbelief in the same way as Peter Purves does fro Hartnell and Frazer Hines does as Troughton.
But what of the stories? well therein lies the million dollar question and depends what a fan of the era that you are as the two stories are incredibly traditional adventure yarns and utterly authentic. If you were expecting a twenty first century take on the early 1970’s you have come to the wrong place, on the other hand if you are a fan of the Pertwee era then you will be overjoyed. Played out over four episodes each the two stories have a distinct ambiance of 1973 about them, one earthbound, one set on an alien planet so lets take a closer look:
The Conquest of Far, by Nicholas Briggs
Now of the great things that the Pertwee era did was to build a future history of the Earth Empire, Earth alliance interplanetary wars etc – it showed us humanity breaking out into the stars for better or for worse and showed us that greed and power survived alongside the all conquering spirit of humanity of pioneering of goodness and camaraderie and building a better future survive as well. Set on the Planet Far The Doctor wants to attend the opening of a hyper gateway – a stunning achievement of humanity that will drastically reduce the time taken to travel vast distances. Unfortunately he lands in the wrong time period, Far has been completely subjugated by The Daleks. What follows is a real rip roaring “boys own” adventure with captures, escapes, traitors, heroism, self sacrifice and an utterly bonkers plan by the Daleks to turn all of the Earth Alliance forces in to Robomen. The whole thing has a very 1930’s RKO feeling, very Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers old school sci-fi where the bad guys wear black hats. Almost. There is a particular character who does the wrong things for the right reasons and it is difficult not to appreciate the shades of grey that the character brings (no spoilers) to a very traditional story. Nick Briggs knows his Doctor Who and knows his Daleks and this story is a love letter to the era of Who he grew up watching.
Storm of the Horofax, by Andrew Smith
And this story brings us right back down to Earth, well almost, it actually begins on the sea but being a Who fan I am allowed a certain pedantry :-) But we begin on a Royal Navy ship that has found a capsule, and in that capsule is Arianda (Robin Weaver) and alien historian studying the history of the earth who foretells of the coming of Jo Grant and that they will be great friends – she does not foresee the arrival of The Doctor and then her capsule begins leaking particles of time disruption and THEN things start to go very wrong as certain soldiers are taken out of time having never existed. Is Arianda as innocent as she makes out or does she have a plan? Well of course she is the villain of the pieces and what a deliciously subtle performance – Robin Weaver could quite easily have slipped into default arch camp panto villain but is a lot more subtle and her plan is an interesting one – she is the Provost of the Horofax – not a race but a collection of like minded joined together to forma an all conquering army, she is a time sensitive and forces a time when humanity will defeat the Horofax so has decided a pre-emptive genocidal first strike. Feeling partly like a cold war thriller and partly like a morality play Andrew Smith has captured the essence of the earthbound Pertwee era stories, even Captain Yates gets a namecheck. Massive plaudits to Katy Manning her performance as Jo, especially in this story is exceptional and her compassion is heartbreaking.
Two very traditional stories with just the slightest hint of modern sensibilities, but Third Doctor era to their foundations and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A season 10-tastic 8/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The Conquest of Far, by Nicholas Briggs

Earth Alliance, the future… Fleet commanders receive their orders from the President of Earth. Operation Far is ‘go’. As soon as the planets are suitably aligned, the attack will go ahead.

The Doctor and Jo arrive on the planet Far. The Doctor wants to attend the grand opening of one of the human race’s greatest achievements. A huge Hyper Gateway built to make travel around Earth’s great empire more convenient, bringing relief to many starving outer colonies.

But they land in the wrong time period, long after the Gateway has been in service, and the Daleks have conquered Far! It’s the middle of a war and a deadly game is underway. When everyone has an agenda, betrayal can happen at any time, from any side. The endgame is approaching and maybe this time no one will survive.

Storm of the Horofax, by Andrew Smith

During a North Sea military exercise, the crew of the destroyer HMS Nemesis detect what they suspect is a submarine following them. But it’s actually a futuristic ship with an alien occupant, Arianda.

The Doctor and UNIT are called in, but things are already running out of control. The damaged craft is leaking particles and contaminating the Nemesis with time disruption.

But that’s not the biggest problem. For Arianda is being followed by the warships of the Horofax, who have picked precisely this moment to invade. Soon the destruction of humanity’s future will begin.

Written By: Nicholas Briggs, Andrew Smith
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), George Watkins (Delralis), John Banks (Jickster), Amy Newton (Elaquon), Robin Weaver (Arianda), Iain Batchelor (Adam Rigg), Robert Hands (Major Hardy / Crewman), Richard Derrington (Commander Burton), Ian Cunningham (Sinko / Ronson / Lieutenant), Jake Dudman (UNIT Radio Operator) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery

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REVIEW – THE SKIN OF THE SLEEK

And so we reach the beginning of the end of another series of Fourth Doctor adventures and as is the tradition it is a two part story beginning with this months “The Skin of the Sleek” and finishing off next month with “The Thief Who Stole Time” – so reviewing this in isolation may be quite difficult but I will try to asses it on its own merits, though it may be better to take this and next months as a coherent whole.

This season I have been a bit of an old moaning Michael about this series though being nominally set in Season 18 feeling a lot more like Season 17 – not so this story, it feels pure Bidmead – a more morose, detached Fourth Doctor, a more independent intelligent Romana who is not so much the comic foil for the silly old Doctor, more an adventuress in her own right, and do you know this works particularly well in this story as we discover a lot more about Romana’s past….

Yes dear reader this story delves into Roman’s time at the academy as we meet one of her contemporaries Sartia (Joannah Tincey) – but school reunion this is not as the adventure takes place on the planet Funderell, a planet where the whole surface is a type of ocean, if you move the surface tension will keep you afloat, if you stay still then you sink which is a problem for the TARDIS which sinks without trace into the murky depths.

This is a very slow paced story, very in keeping with Full Circle of Warriors Gate and a complete wrench from the stories that have preceded because over the course of the two episodes not a lot seems to happen – there are some beautiful poetic words from the indigenous population and a moral dilemma when Romana and Sartia kill a sacred animal in self defence, and there is also a mystery as to why the Time Lords have become involved in the planet and why the sacred book of the indigenous people is written in Gallifreyan. And then there is the cliffhanger, which I really didn’t see coming, and it is crushing and it is cruel and it is terrible, I can honestly say it brought a lump to my throat and made me angry (I don’t often get angry) because how dare a certain character be treated like that by another character.

In summing up a slow measured beginning to an ending with some very very interesting moments (especially the ending of part two) but maybe this will work better when the whole story has been told as I found that the story lacked pace and focus. Hesitant to give a score but a cautious 6/10 which may go up on hearing the ending.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

On the planet Funderell you can walk on the ocean. The surface holds you when you move, but if you stand still, you sink. Lights shift in the fathoms and great shapes move beneath your feet – schools of giant electric eels known as Sleeks.

There is no solid land and the only locals are the Wavewalkers, hunters who live in floating villages. But recently some strangers have arrived, pursuing their own distinct agenda.

When the Doctor and Romana lose the TARDIS to the deep, they need help. Which makes finding a fellow Time Lord on the planet very useful. The fact that Time Lord is Sartia, an old friend of Romana’s, is even better!

But this is a planet of secrets. Be careful when you explore its depths. You may just drown.

Note: The adventure continues in Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Thief Who Stole Time

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox(Eamonn Orensky), Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain), Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson), Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin(Frithra). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE BLOOD FURNACE

Only in Doctor Who could you get a story that begins with the gritty Scouse social realism of if not The Boys from the Blackstuff then definitely Brookside and ends with a battle involving intergalactic wizards using blood control and piloting flying ships. Endless possibilities, infinitely variable format check and check :-)

This is an interestingly schizophrenic story careering from New Adventures style grit to panto style OTT cackling villains, sometimes in the same scene – Julie Graham as Carolyn is obviously having a whale of a time, not just chewing the scenery but cooking in a pre-heated oven for several hours. But what is this story about?

Arriving in a Liverpool Shipyard in 1991 The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) discover a dead body and are soon caught up in the investigation, the shipyard is owned by Stuart Dale (Todd Heppenstall) an ex University boyfriend of Mel who has developed a process to create an almost magical metal called Dark Alloy, he has rescued the shipyard from almost bankruptcy and kept local men in jobs – capitalism and social responsibility about 10 years before it was fashionable – but when something appears too good to be true it usually is but is Stuart in on the game or is he just an innocent bystander or is he willingly blind? All these questions and many more will be answered over the four episodes of the story.
But just how does the story go from murder in a Merseyside shipyard to alien mages, blood sacrifices and flying ships? By stealth is the answer because I for one could not see the join, the story flowed from one emphasis to the other and it was impossible to see the joins, it just seemed a natural progression from one to the other that is how well the narrative fits, like blood sacrificing alien mages were a natural part of 1990’s Liverpool (which they weren’t) – it also swings very well from dark to camp without it feeling jarring or forced, its just one of those stories you just have to go with.

McCoy, Aldred and Langford make an engaging TARDIS team with Bonnie particularly coming in for praise – she has completely thrown off the shackles of her TV persona and made Mel a real person with real motivations and not just a computer programmer from Pease Pottage and not much else. As I said before Julie Graham steals every scene she is in giving a performance worthy of the great Sir Brian of Blessed – but even all the camp over the topness of her performance does not feel out of place with the rest of the story – to misquote Sir Brian from Blackadder “this story has been as twere a mighty stew” and thats exactly what it is – lots of disparate styles and stories thrown together, they shouldn’t really work but somehow through the gravy of the writing and continuity and sound design seem to gel together rather nicely and give us a rip roaring adventure yarn as well as an introspective Seventh Doctor outing. Lovely stuff 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Ace and Mel to a recently reopened shipyard in Merseyside. It’s 1991, the hardest of times – but now they’re shipbuilding once again, thanks to the yard’s new owners, the Dark Alloy Corporation. A miracle of job creation – but is it too good to be true?

While the Doctor and Ace go in search of an alien assassin at loose in the yard, Stuart Dale, discoverer of the near-magical Dark Alloy material, has an extraordinary proposition to make to his old college friend, Mel.

But who is the Corporation’s mysterious client? Who does she really represent? And what’s the secret of the Blood Furnace? Seeking answers, the Doctor and friends are about to find themselves in very deep water…

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Julie Graham (Carolyn), Jade Anouka (Danuta), Todd Heppenstall (Stuart Dale), Clare Calbraith (Orla), Louis Tamone (Vinny), Ignatius Anthony (Lee).

Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: ALIENS AMONG US VOLUME 1

It is very very difficult to review this without giving away absolutely ENORMOUS spoilers, so forgive me please if my usual rambling flowery style becomes a deeper shade of vague rambling flowery style….

There is something wrong, something not quite right, it was on the tip of my mind all the way through episode one and two, a niggle which others may have picked up on. Let me put it this way, you know when you watched The Day of The Doctor and even though David Tennant was in it as 10, it didn’t feel quite like 10. Or when Rod Jane and Roger became Rod Jane and Freddy and the world felt slightly off kilter. Well its like that. Sort of. But not really.

What it is like though is good old fashioned and by that I mean series one and two Torchwood, all Cardiff based filled with sex, sleaze, tea, chips and adventure – and though the premise may be going back to the days the team have changed – joining the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) & Cardiffs very own Gwen Cooper are Mr Colchester (Paul Clayton), wannabe Torchwood operative Tyler Steele (Jonny Green) and alien whim-monger Orr (Sam Beart) because the late 2010’s are where everything changes (again) and the new Torchwood have to be ready.

The premise is interesting and a parallel with the wired post truth world that we have been inhabiting since everything went wrong in 2016, you see Aliens have already invaded and have been integrating into Cardiff for a long time, and they are bringing wealth with them so even though there is a recession and the indigenous Cardiffians are suffering hard times, property prices are rising as the alien Sorvix buy up all the luxury apartments and their leader the brood Mother Ro-Jedda (Rachel Atkins) uses her wealth to exert her influence over her own people and the Mayor of Cardiff – this is the set up for the first box set of Torchwood Series 5, and the set is split in to four stories:

5.1 Changes Everything by James Goss

A play on the title of the very first episode of Torchwood – this episode introduces is to investigative journalist Tyler Steele (Jonny Green) making a new life for himself in Cardiff and investigating the Red Door terrorist movement and attacks on immigrants – is it post Brexit hate crime or is it being instigated by a third power for another reason? A great introduction to the cocky Tyler Steele and the paranoid landscape of 2017 Cardiff. Tyler is dead cert for Torchwood, cocky, arrogant but with a brain to get the job done and a complete counterpoint to the other new Torchwood recruit, the curmudgeonly Volvo driving Mr Colchester (Paul Clayton), surely the LEAST likely Torchwood operative all expense reports and balancing the books, but you know he works and he may just well be my new favourite character in the series.

5.2 Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy by James Goss

I always liked the “Cardiff Buddy Movie” format of the Torchwood series, you know where one of our heroes and A.N Other have a jolly adventure round Cardiff, well this is pretty similar, but the two having an adventure are Gwen and Mr Colchester, and Mr Colchester is a million miles out of his comfort zone as this particular adventure involves a hen night for Madrigal (Sophie Colquhoun) daughter of Sorvix Brood Mother Ro-Jedda. And hilarity ensues. And so does death an mayhem, but mainly hilarity. And as our heroes and Madrigal drive around Cardiff avoiding death squads and picking up copious amounts of Vodka along the way we learn a lot more about not only Mr Colchester but also the alien Sorvix and their plans, not through info dumps but through alcohol fuelled conversations and high jinx. And it was at the end of this episode that the penny dropped for me and the reasons for feeling a little off centre were apparent. And THAT is all I have to say about that.

5.3 Orr by Juno Dawson

So far in the proceedings Jack Harkness has taken a bit of a backseat but he is front and centre in this episode and it is a very different episode, very slow, very introspective as Jack and the team meet Orr (Sam Beart) a creature genetically engineered to appear as the perfect sexual partner of their beholder (well it is Torchwood :-) ) however Orr is in trouble BIG trouble, she is wearing a control collar which is rigged to blow in 24 hours and which will take Cardiff with it, so it is a race against time for Jack to try go get a the device defused or to get Orr far enough away from civilisation so that when she blows she causes minimum damage. There is much great dialogue between Jack and Orr and a touching moment where Orr strives to become Ianto for Jack – and for a character that could have been really limited in scope this episode gives Sam Beart a real chance to shine and make Orr more than the sum of her parts.

5.4 Superiority Complex by AK Benedict

What do you do to ingratiate yourselves into a city where most of the population are just about surviving? when you are guests from an alien world and want to fit in? Easy, you build yourselves a sever star intelligent hotel and ban all humans from entering unless they are staff. At least thats what Ro-Jedda and the Sorvix have done. but something is very very wrong in the paradise they have built in Cardiff Bay – Sorvix guests are being brutally murdered and as tensions rise the protests from the Cardiffians outside the fenced off hotels threaten to turn in to a blood bath as the manager of the hotel enjoys nothing more than killing humans for sport. Time for Torchwood to get involved. As the first box set ends this story had to provide a mid season cliffhanger (which it does) and be a season finale (which it sort of does) This is a new Torchwood team just getting to understand how each other works and this episode is about them flexing their particular skill sets to stop the body count getting out of control.

A paranoid beginning to a new series, Everything Changes all over again and in this cray paranoid and downright dangerous world we live in A man in a great coat, a Volvo Driver, an ex journalist, a genetic anomaly and a lady in a very nice weather jacket are all that stand between us and the world falling over the precipice into chaos. Its not pretty, its not perfect and at times it is very silly (internal lift anyone!), but it is all Torchwood – welcome back, you have been missed. 7.5/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Big Finish picks up the events after Miracle Day with Torchwood: Aliens Among Us…

Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper have restarted Torchwood. But it’s in a very different Cardiff. Something terrible’s happened to the city. With every day getting darker, will Torchwood need to adopt a whole new approach?

5.1 Changes Everything by James Goss

Tyler Steele has washed up in Cardiff looking for a fresh start. A disgraced journalist, he’s looking into the Red Doors movement – are they really behind the terrorist attacks on immigrants? Who is stirring up the racism and hatred in the city, and what does outsourcing contractor 3Sol have to do with it? Tyler finds out that Torchwood – a secret organisation that everyone thought long gone – is back in business. Tyler realises that this is the second chance he’s been looking for, and he’ll do anything to be a part of it.

5.2 Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy by James Goss

Has Cardiff really been invaded by aliens? Tyler thinks he’s found a lead – the daughter of the mysterious Ro-Jedda is getting married and has booked a private party. If Torchwood can infiltrate it, there’s a chance they’ll end up closer to the truth. Free bar, canapes, and the chance to find out what’s really going on. What could possibly go wrong? Soon Torchwood are on the run for their lives, and learning more than they ever wanted to about alien life.

5.3 Orr by Juno Dawson

Vincent Parry is the most successful property developer in Cardiff. A while ago he made an agreement with the mysterious Ro-Jedda, and it is an arrangement he has come to bitterly regret. Something has to be done – but it’s going to cost him everything he loves. With time running out for Cardiff, Torchwood encounter an alien who knows them only too well.

5.4 Superiority Complex by AK Benedict

Poverty and homelessness are on the rise in Cardiff. The streets are full of the desperate and the dispossessed. So, of course, it’s the right time to open a 7-star luxury, all-inclusive hotel. And, naturally, the hotel is for aliens only. As the humans stand outside the gates and look hungrily in, there’s one thing that makes them smile. Someone is murdering the guests.

Written By: James Goss, Juno Dawson, AK Benedict
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (Sgt Andy Davidson), Paul Clayton (Mr Colchester), Alexandria Riley (Ng), Jonny Green (Tyler Steele), and Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper)

Stephen Critchlow (The Mayor), Rachel Atkins (Ro-Jedda), Ruth Lloyd (Vorsun), Sophie Colquhoun (Madrigal), Rhian Marston-Jones (Quenel), Lu Corfield (Brongwyn), Rhys Whomsley (Osian), Sharon Morgan (Mary Cooper), David Sibley (Vincent Parry), Sam Béart (Catrin Parry), Anthony Boyle (Hotel Manager), Sam Jones (Toobert Jailert), Wilf Scolding (Personal Trainer)

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

Produced by James Goss
Script edited by Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: THE DYING ROOM

And here I am, after what feels like an eternity (although it was only four weeks) back in my newly refurbished kitchen – as long time readers will know this is my reviewing position of choice. So firmly ensconced in my comfort zone I embarked on a listen and a review of a most uncomfortable and unexpected episode of Torchwood.

Big Finish have really taken the premise of Torchwood and expanded it beyond Cardiff Bay in the twenty first century looking back on the institutes involvement in all aspects of the twentieth century, but this goes into a very very dark place, this episode takes us back to occupied France during World War 2, it takes us to The Dying Room of the title and to the blackest day for Monsieur LeDuc (Simon Russell Beale) as he is interrogated by SS Officer Grau (Mark Elstob) regarding his brief association with suspected resistance operative Madame Berber (Emma Cuniffe) and her association with Torchwood.

For the most part the story plays out as a two hander as Grau uses more and more extreme techniques to extract the information he needs from LeDuc – it is also told in flashback as the events that led up to LeDuc being imprisoned in The Dying Room being teased out a piece at a time – we learn that Paris is ravaged by a plague that is turning German soldiers into rampaging monsters – its almost like the inner ugliness of what they stand for is becoming real, that the horror that is Fascism is showing its true face. As more of the story is teased out we find out a lot more about both interrogator and victim and just how far each of them will go to protect their version of the truth.

This is an intense listen and pulls no punches, the Nazi’s are portrayed for what they are – no camp silly comedy goose-stepping with outrageous accents – they are cruel, single minded fanatics who see anyone who does not fit their world view as sub normal and expendable, where might is right and subjugation to the rule of the Fuhrer is all. And we are blessed in having Mark Elstob and Simon Russell Beale playing Grau and LeDuc – two actors at the top of their game that make the interrogation utterly convincing, Simon Russell Beale paints LeDuc as a picture of despair, a man who cannot comprehend why he is in this situation, a man who does not have the answers that Grau demands whereas Elstob as Grau is determined, a zealot, a man who will get his answers, any answers and who will win at any cost – the dance they partake in starts slow with the two participants encircling each other and like any good Paso Doble reaches a crescendo of drama and crisis and as the music stops and the dust clears we end up in a place we did not expect when the orchestra struck up.

A triumph of intensity and a masterclass in selling the drama, of drawing the listener in and making them hang on every single word that will stand up to several repeated listens to appreciate the subtleties of the script, the nuances of the direction and the truth of the acting. Another classic 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

“In this room everyone learns the truth. And neither of us will be quite the same when we leave.”

Paris, 1940s. The German-occupied city is in a state of turmoil – a plague ravages the streets, turning people into deformed monsters.

The city’s finest hotel is under siege. SS interrogator Grau has come here to find out the truth. Grau has one night to cure the plague and to unmask the mysterious Madame Berber and who she’s really working for. Herr Grau knows all about Project Hermod. And now he’s going to find out all about Torchwood.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

Written By: Lizzie Hopley
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Simon Russell Beale (M LeDuc), Mark Elstob (Herr Grau), Emma Cunniffe (Madame Berber), Aly Cruickshank (Gabriel), David Sibley (The Manager)

Producer James Goss

Script Editor David Llewellyn

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – CLASSIC DOCTORS, NEW MONSTERS VOLUME 2

There are those who see Doctor Who as two distinct entities with only a shared title in common – Classic Who & Nu Who and never the twain shall meet. There are others (myself included) who see Doctor Who as one long evolving TV show (albeit with a gap of 16 years in which it evolved into a range of Books and audios) and see only Doctor Who so to me “Classic Doctors – New Monsters” is a no brainer – use the best monsters from most 2005 era with Doctor’s from the so called “classic” era, its not as if it has not been done in the TV series, remember all those monster comebacks in the 1980’s – Omega, Silurians, Sea Devils, Sontarans all reintroduced for the glitzy 80’s Who produced by JNT, and then there is last years rather successful “Classic Doctors – New Monsters Volume 1” (review HERE) in which Doctors 5,6,7 and 8 squared off against Weeping Angels, Judoon, Sycorax and “Nu Who” Sontarans – a second set was merely a formality and this set is on the surface more of the same, but it also ties together the “Classic” and “Nu” eras through the first and last stories which feature The Fourth Doctor, the Eighth Doctor and a common thread in the Vashta Nerada (last seen, or more precisely NOT seen in 2008’s Library two parter). Anyhow, without further procrastination, lets take a look at the stories:
Night of the Vashta Nerada by John Dorney
When writing Tom Baker as the Doctor the default position seems to be to write the boggle eyed loon version from season 17, it is very rare that we get the morose, introverted Hinchcliffe era Tom, but that is precisely what we get here, and this version of Number 4 really suits the proceedings as they are rather grim.
The action takes place on the planet of Funworld, a planet sized theme park where the entire population has disappeared, owner Georgia Donnelly (Lorelei King) has hired Amanda Steele (Pam Ferris) and her team to find out what exactly has happened – add The Doctor to the mix and a very claustrophobic atmosphere and to that add the Vast Nerada and you have a tense base under siege story in which not everyone will be saved.
Now the Vashta Nerada the pirañas of the air are the weak link here – they are by their very nature a predictable monster with not a lot of scope for development – they exist to eat and pick people off one by one by attaching to their shadows and that is about it – but as catalysts for the action they are as good as any monster spurring the protagonists with a sense of urgency. Tom does moral outrage in this one very well, he is almost cold and dispassionate and very alien for want of a better word and really sells the drama. The story can be a little predictable but the sense of danger is electric throughout.
Empire of the Racnoss by Scott Handcock
The Fifth Doctor was always the most “human” of all the Doctors – and this story reinforces his compassion and vulnerability as he struggles to do the right thing against overwhelming odds in a situation where there is no good outcome for anyone.
This story sees the reintroduction of The Racnoss last seen in the 2006 Christmas Special “The Runaway Bride” and here Doctor five is dragged into the middle of a war that they are having against The Timelords – and there is also the matter of a marital dispute between The Empress (Adjoa Andoh) and Emperor (Nigel Planer) of the Racnoss and the fall out of a bitter custody battle for their brood. This is an intense story, and very fast paced and at the heart lies an insoluble moral dilemma.
The Carrionite Curse by Simon Guerrier
And then there is The Carrionite Curse – possibly THE best Sixth Doctor story in any format. Old SIxie was made to face off against these pseudo -Witches, he is the most verbose of all the Doctors and their use of words as building blocks of power is perfect for Colin’s fruity delivery of all sorts of overly complex and plainly simplistic dialogue. But its not just a story of clever wordplay – Simon Guerrier gets to the heart of who exactly Old Sixie is, a man terrified of becoming the Valeyard, a man scared of the price of his own failure hiding behind the facade of a braggart and a clown. There are so many good things about this story from the pre-credits, to Old Sixie’s moral outrage at Witch Trials in the 1980’s, to the mentions of one George Litefoot (hankies at the ready all) to his friendship with fellow outcast Goth Student Katy Bell (Maya Sondhi) who in her black velvet mourning suit is a counterpoint to Old Sixie’s coat of many colours. Its no small claim that this is the best of all Sixth Doctor stories, but in my mind this story is worth of that accolade. An out and out classic.
Day of the Vashta Nerada by Matt Fitton
And so we come almost up to date as Doctor Number Eight (Paul McGann) enters the Time War and joins up with Cardinal Ollistra (Jaqueline Pearce) of Doom Coalition and War Doctor fame to prevent an outbreak of Vashta Nerada on an experimental station. But these are no ordinary Vashta Nerada – these are genetically modified weaponised Vashta Nerada and are being purchased by Ollistra as weapons in the Time War. You can pretty much guess that all does not end well. Taking its cue from modern day Who and Big Finish’s take on Gallifrey this is a high octane action movie of an audio where at stake is the fate of Gallifrey and the direction of the Time War – this episode serves almost as a pilot for the forthcoming Time War series and finishes on a mission statement for Who the Doctor is tinged with sadness as to who he will become.
Four different stories with different emphasis with the jewel being The Carrionite Curse which is relatively small scale compared to the others but no less impactful for it – these stories really showcase what sort of person each Doctor really is and how they are, though all very different the same person with the same moral core. An era spanning 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

A brand new boxset of four adventures, featuring monsters from the new series of Doctor Who!

Night of the Vashta Nerada by John Dorney

Funworld was set to be the happiest planet in the galaxy. A planet of joy, of euphoria, of laughter and delight. Except construction was marred by reports of a predator and then, a few days before opening, all communication ceased.

Owner Georgia Donnelly is desperate to open the resort and has hired Amanda Steele’s crew to find out what happened on the planet. They’re the best. But even they might not be up to the task.

Joined by the Doctor and being picked off one by one, they slowly start to realise that something terrifying lurks in the shadows.

Empire of the Racnoss by Scott Handcock

When a distress call rips the TARDIS from the Vortex, dragging it back through time, it arrives in the midst of a conflict between Gallifrey and an ancient foe.

The Doctor, as ever, wants to help, but in returning a wounded combatant home, he becomes further and further entangled in a web of deceit and recrimination. A web spun by an eight-legged Empress and her minions…

The Empire of the Racnoss is at war, and wherever he stands, the Doctor is on the wrong side.

The Carrionite Curse by Simon Guerrier

Katy Bell returns to her Midlands home to find strange goings-on at the buskers fair. A witch trial in the 1980s. A bonfire ready to be lit…

Luckily, a colourful visitor is already investigating, and the local vicar, Katy’s dad, is versed in tales of the macabre. Terrifying forces are on the loose, and the town hall holds a secret. There is black magic in the Black Country, and the Doctor has the name of his enemy on the tip of his tongue…

Something wicked this way comes.

Day of the Vashta Nerada by Matt Fitton

As the Time War rages, Cardinal Ollistra of Gallifrey seeks to create ever more dangerous weapons to deploy against the enemy.

When the Doctor stumbles across Synthesis Station, he discovers that the Time Lords have sponsored a project to weaponise already-lethal creatures. But in doing so, Eva Morrison and her team have unwittingly used a colony of Vashta Nerada with a very unfortunate history of humanoid contact.

The Doctor finds himself leading a desperate race for survival, in which the shadows may be the least of their worries…

Written By: John Dorney, Scott Handcock, Simon Guerrier, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Peter Davison (The Doctor), Colin Baker (The Doctor), Paul McGann (The Doctor), Adjoa Andoh (Racnoss Empress), Nigel Planer(Old Racnoss Emperor/ Herrax), Andrew French (Racnoss Consort), Lisa Kay(Alayna), Pam Ferris (Amanda Steele), Lorelei King (Georgia Donnelly), Emma Lowndes (Phelan), Matt Devitt (Bennetto), Maya Sondhi (Katy Bell), Andrée Bernard (Mary Sissinghurst), Adèle Anderson (Eileen Nelthorpe), Michael Fenton-Stevens (Rev Douglas Bell), Jacqueline Pearce (Ollistra), Jan Ravens (Dr Eva Morrison), Himesh Patel (Biotech Dendry), Tim Wallers (Commander Roxita/ Security Chief Raldon). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – DARK SHADOWS: LOVE LIVES ON

When I think of Dark Shadows, I don’t think of Horror in the conventional sense, its more than that – yes it has Vampires and Witches and Werewolves and a creepy house and secrets and blood and gore and it does have a touch of the Hammer about the production but to me these aspects are just window dressing, to me Dark Shadows is a gothic romance in the style of Rebecca or Jane Eyre more about lost potential and lost souls and wasted lives than ghosts and ghouls, so it was with great joy that I received my copy of the latest anthology of short stories “Love Lives On” and was promised four tales of horror romance and intrigue and do you know dear reader that is just what I got.
Dark Shadows is many things, it is the empty school at night, it is the loner nursing his last of too many glasses of bourbon in a smoke filled bar at closing time, it is the romance that never was or never should have been but it is a romance, not always a good romance but a romance nonetheless. I am not talking Mills & Boon or Barbara Cartland but more in the classic sense of the word and these four stories take that brief and run with it:
Tuesdays and Thursdays by Cody Schell
Matthew Waterhouse (of Adric fame) has really become part of the fixtures and fittings of Dark Shadows, he really has found his niche and here he tells a rather charming tale of Professor Stokes and his coincidental meetings on consecutive Tuesdays with medium Janet Findlay they set at first at loggerheads with Stokes increasingly frustrated with the meetings, but in the world of Dark Shadows nothing happens unless there is a reason behind it. A charming beginning as we witness the gruff Professor Stokes slowly become enamoured of the mysterious Madam Findlay, its a joy to listen to and although not a rip roaring rom-com has more of a late summer than an autumnal feel that is more in the tradition of Dark Shadows.
The Velvet Room by Antonio Rastelli
From charm to terror. This story is the complete opposite of its predecessor and feels claustrophobic and intense. It is a tale of Gerard Stiles and Hallie Stokes who have been offered their hearts desires at a club called The Velvet Room – all they need to do is visit three times and tell the story of their lives and it will be theirs. This has the feel of one of those stories you used to get in the portmanteau films Amicus releases in the early 1970’s very From Beyond The Grave if you get my drift – the denizens of the club are suitably macabre and tick all the Horror boxes and narrator James Storm gives an anguished and desperate performance as Gerard Stiles.
Behind Closed Doors by Paul Phipps
The most appalling horror of all is not that of Vampires or Witches it is that that exists in the real world, that of mans inhumanity to man, and transported to the world of Darks Shadows this can bring a whole new dimension of terror to the already horrific subject of domestic abuse. Marie Wallace gives a tour de force performance as Jessica Griffin, on the cusp of happiness with husband to be WIllie Loomis but haunted by the memory of her abusive and controlling late husband. This being Dark Shadows death doesn’t really mean a lot and after a hard day tending her bar Jessica receives a visit from the man who tried to control her life and who she thought she was free from, her late husband. Its a tense half an hour as we relive the pretty awful life Jessica lived before her first husband died, it one of those stories where even though it is uncomfortable to listen to, it is a story that needs to be heard and to be appreciated.
The Suitcase by Alan Flanagan
And so the anthology draws to a close with a tale of Cyrus and Sabrina Longworth, owners of the Collinsport Inn and a mysterious guest that arrives claiming to be a travelling cosmetics seller, but her suitcase seems to be something other than a suitcase and something rather deadly. The story is a cautionary tale following the “be careful what you with for” school of story telling as Sabrina’s innermost desires seem to be granted, but is there a price? surely there is a price? Continuing the theme of love, relationships, loss and longing that has permeated the set we end on a touch of melancholy – but it wouldn’t be Dark Shadows without a bit of melancholy would it?
Its fair to say that this is my favourite of the Dark Shadows anthologies released so far, I like the thematic continuity between the stories even though the content are miles apart – the autumnal ambiance that is usually present in Dark Shadows has given way to a late summer feeling a feeling of darkness approaching but also of looking backwards towards the light that may one day return, sentimental old softy that I am I award this 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
 

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until August 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…
Tuesdays and Thursdays by Cody Schell
Professor Timothy Eliot Stokes lives a quiet, ordered life. But that order is about to be shattered as he finds himself encountering psychic medium Janet Findley over and over and over again…
The Velvet Room by Antonio Rastelli
Gerard Stiles has returned from the dead and, together with Hallie Stokes, is travelling the world attempting to defeat all manner of supernatural forces. But on a night in New Orleans they are about to receive an invitation to gain their hearts’ desires…
Behind Closed Doors by Paul Phipps
Jessica Griffin buried her past a long time ago. But in Collinsport, secrets don’t stay buried for long. On the longest night of her life, Jessica will discover the cruel truth behind the lie that is “’til death do us part…”
The Suitcase by Alan Flanagan
Sabrina and Cyrus Longworth seem to have everything they could wish for – happily married, running the Collinsport Inn, and about to start a family. But when a mysterious woman checks in they’ll discover that not all guests should be welcomed, and not all wishes should come true…
Written By: Cody Schell, Antoni Rastelli, Paul Phipps, Alan Flanagan
Directed By: Darren Gross, Joseph Lidster, Jim Pierson

Cast

Matthew Waterhouse, James Storm, Marie Wallace, Lisa Richards
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REVIEW – FLASHPOINT

So there I was on Thursday night about to write my review of Flashpoint when Kitchen disaster took place, or more accurately Kitchen clearance took place, no table, no chair, no place to write my review in my usual Kitchen haven – the Men from Magnet are imminent and nothing will ever be the same again.

In a strange turn of events I sit hear on Sunday 16 July and the world of Doctor Who has just had the single biggest change in its 54 year history – Jodie Whittaker has been announced as Doctor Who number 13, and the show will never be the same again – a brave and bold move, a strong female role model, a hero to a whole new generation, wonderful times to be a fan and I cannot wait to join her on her adventures.

Jodie Whittaker may be the first female Doctor, but the series has had its fair share of strong female role models and Big Finish has had its hand in creating one of the very best – stand up Sheridan Smith as the magnificent and irreplaceable Lucie Miller, the lass from Blackpool and companion to the eighth Doctor over four magnificent series and now she is back to read this months Short Trips release “Flashpoint” and Lucie gets to shine as this release is what in TV terms would be called a “Doctor Lite” story, that is The Doctor is not in it for the majority of the story and this time it is up to Lucie to be the hero, but can she? Can she be The Doctor? Can she protect a little boy from cruel heartless gangsters who want him dead – when it comes down to it how far will she go to do the right thing?

Tense and dramatic and squeezing a lot in to its 35 minute running time – Lucie Miller can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with Jo Grant, Sarah Jane, Romana, Rose Tyler, Donna Noble & Bill Potts as all time great companions – she is out of her depth, she is frightened, she is disorientated but she still keeps her sense of right and wrong, she puts the life of a complete stranger before her own safety, sh basically does what the Doctor would do, difference being he is 900 year old Time-lord who can regenerate, she is an ordinary girl from Blackpool to whom death means death.

16 July 2017 will always be remembered for the day Doctor Who became female, but Flashpoint celebrates the proud history of strong female characters that came before 13 and Lucie Miller is one of the strongest and one of the best and Flashpoint showcases her perfectly 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.

Release #31 is an Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller story.

Cerberin: the famous storm world. Seen from space, it’s a spectacle of light and colour that draws tourists in their thousands.

Escaping an attack by gangster assassins, and separated from the Doctor, Lucie Miller finds herself stranded on the surface. The killers are in pursuit, she has a child to protect, and lightning is striking all around.

Then a shape approaches through the storm, moving with heavy footsteps…

Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editors Ian Atkins & Nicholas Briggs
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Sheridan Smith (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE MOVELLAN GRAVE

I have decided to rename series six of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Well not quite the series but the season it is ostensibly set in. It may have the theme music of season 18 but thematically it feels a lot more like a progression of season 17, so from now on (in my mind at least) this is set in Season 17.5. Glad I got that off my chest :-)

So Season 17.5 continues with The Movellan Grave, and more a-typical a Doctor Who story you could not wish for. It just feels EXACTLY like Who used to feel back in the 1970’s. Doctor and Romana discover something is not quite right, go and investigate, ingratiate themselves with the people involved, discover what is going on and have an adventure. This story follows that pattern almost to the letter, but do you know it does it with total panache and style that it feels fresh and new and exciting. It actually has a “New Who” feel about it as it is pacy whilst retaining the charm of season 17.5. It also does what 1970’s Who did very well and “borrows” or plunders or pays homage to sci-fi of the big screen, in this case Terminator 2, there is a scene in episode two that…. – but I get ahead of myself.

Yes Terminator 2, albeit Terminator 2 on a BBC budget (even on audio) and as I have not mentioned it already (although the title may give it away) it features the most Disco aliens ever to feature in Doctor Who – The Movellan’s.

You see a Movellan power pack has been found in an archaeological dig and this draws The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) to the scene where they meet archaeologists Carrie Pierce (Camilla Power) and Robin Lyon (John Banks) who are very sceptical when The Doctor and Romana explain the power packs extra terrestrial origins, but soon there is a buried Movellan spaceship uncovered, and a Movellan secret weapon in the war against the Daleks, a mutant, augmented Movellan called Chenek (Chris Jarman) – an unstoppable force created to be the ultimate warrior and coming back to episode two he does a mean T-1000 chasing down Tom et al in a land-rover which brings back memories of the on foot chase after the motorbike n Terminator 2.

Its very exciting stuff but not all adventure, explosions and chases, underneath the window dressing this is a morality tale about the ethics of war and of methods used to develop weapons of mass destruction. And it also has spangly disco robots as well.
This was a story I was expecting to be a bit of a filler, the calm before the end of season two parter but it is nothing of the sort, it is a breath of fresh air and a complete redrawing of the rules on telling a more traditional Who story without breaking what makes stories of the era so special. Judgement day on this release gives a favourable verdict of 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until August 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

When an archaeological dig in 1980s England finds a Movellan power pack buried amongst Iron Age artefacts, the Doctor and Romana have no choice but to investigate. And what they discover worries them very much indeed.

A Movellan ship is buried under the ground. Soon the robotic enemies of the Daleks are making their way to the surface, but they are not the biggest threat humanity faces.

Because on board this ship is the greatest weapon the Movellans have ever devised. A weapon that could stop the Daleks forever… and anything else that gets in their way.

Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Camilla Power (Carrie Pierce), Polly Walker (Commander Narina), Chris Jarman (Chenek), John Banks (Robin Lyon), Jane Slavin (Mary). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – THE HIGH PRICE OF PARKING

Now don’t all run away when I say the next line. Promise you wont? You all trust me don’t you? – OK here I go “Season 24”……..

Tumbleweed. People walking away, disdain from my fellow Whovians – that is the legacy of said season 24, it doesn’t get much love, and it is easy to see why – garish stories with really broad (to say the least) turns from the largely light entertainment guest cast, a Doctor who hadn’t really found his feet and in Bonnie Langford the least popular companion since Adric – so why would Big Finish do an homage to it? Well maybe it wasnt intentional, but this months main range release “The High Price of Parking” feels just that – or more accurately feels like season 24 with 30 years of hindsight. If you want to know more and haven’t yet quit at the mere mention of said season, please read on….

OK  - So I have mentioned Season 24 more than is really healthy to do, but more specifically this one reminds me of Paradise Towers. It reminds me of Paradise Towers a lot, which is no bad thing as Paradise Towers is a bit of an overlooked gem (my resignation from Who fandom is in the post :-) ) no really, it is – the basic story is sound, “some” of the execution is good, the ideas are excellent on paper, it was just hampered by the production values of the time. And Richard Briers. But close your eyes and The High Price of Parking is all there, shot on video in Television Centre, overly lit, hopelessly over ambitious and not really coming off that well. But on audio it is in a grimy, run down, poorly lit, litter strewn planet sized car park – and that is the joy of audio because the pictures are in your head. I know its a cliche, but its true.

The High Price of Parking has The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) on their way to the Dashrah, a planet of exceptional beauty – but to get there they have to park the TARDIS on the planetoid known as Parking, which is basically a planet sized park and ride, complete with overly officious parking Wardens, this being Doctor Who though it is in no way as simple as a trip to a universal beauty spot – they get arrested by the wardens, led by the deliciously oily Kempton (Hywel Morgan) and the far more reasonable Cowley (Gabrielle Glaister of Blackadder “Bob” fame) and are accused of being “Free Parkers” – not that that means what you might think, that they have tried to avoid paying their parking fee, no the Free Parkers are a tribe who want Parking to be an independent planet. Yes tribes, a planet sized car park has indigenous tribes descended from those who just couldn’t find their vehicles and have gone native through the generations and have built their own cultures based on the rituals of Parking – think Kangs or the tribe of the free or the Sevateem and you wont be too far from the truth. And then there is Seraphim (Kate Duchene) a robotic voice that has set herself up as a God operating from Parkings oldest and lowest levels with a plan for universal domination. Stir well and cook on gas mark 1987 and we have a bit of a classic brewing. Seriously.

This story distills the elements of several of the tropes that make up a Doctor Who story and make something altogether better than the sum of their parts – it can sometimes feel like a bit of a greatest hits compilation, but one as carefully selected as this by a writer that really knows his Who and structured so well, trading the fine line between drama, camp and panto – with actors able to give a “turn” and chew the scenery because the tone of the story allows it and the leads on top form, McCoy being the Doctor he really wanted to be in 1987, Langford playing Mel as she should always been played and Aldred giving her best bolshy shouty Ace with attitude. Not a lot more to say but go out and buy this one, close your eyes (not if you are driving listening to it) and alternate your thoughts about how it WOULD have looked in 1987 and how it SHOULD have looked, definitely a story that hasn’t out stayed its allocated parking time – 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until August 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The planet Dashrah is a world of exceptional beauty. Historical ruins; colourful skies; swirling sunsets…

Unsurprisingly, it’s a major tourist trap. So if you want to visit Dashrah, first you’ll have to visit Parking, the artificial planetoid that Galactic Heritage built next door. Parking, as its name implies, is a spaceship park. A huge spaceship park. A huge, enormous spaceship park.

When the TARDIS materialises in Parking’s Northern Hemisphere, the Doctor, Ace and Mel envisage a quick teleport trip to the surface of Dashrah. But they’ve reckoned without the superzealous Wardens, and their robotic servitors… the sect of the Free Parkers, who wage war against the Wardens… the spontaneously combusting spaceships… and the terrifying secret that lies at the lowest of Parking’s lower levels.

Written By: John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Gabrielle Glaister (Cowley), Hywel Morgan (Kempton/ Tribesman), Kate Duchene (Regina/ Seraphim), Leighton Pugh (Fulton), Jack Monaghan (Dunne/ Selfdrive), James Joyce (Robowardens).

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – THE OFFICE OF NEVER WAS

We’ve all seen them but perhaps not noticed them, large glass and chrome monoliths, or drab grey concrete buildings lacking joy and empathy, bland corporate logos above the shining glass doors, staff packed in like battery hens as they try to “push the envelope” or provide “boots on the ground” – I am talking about office buildings – faceless corporate almost entity’s in themselves and an unavoidable part of our landscape. Pressure cooker culture with impossible ideals to meet, homes of one upmanship and targets and “dress down Friday  and staff nights out that no one really wants to go on. It was pretty inevitable that Torchwood would investigate one of these, and in this months release this is just what Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) does. He doesn’t particularly want to, it is Friday night after all and he does have The Apprentice to watch, but investigate he does and for Ianto Jones this is a Friday night like no other, this is a Friday night where just once he should have gone home and watched The Apprentice, because the Office building that he is investigating seems to have been waiting for him….

There is something inherently creepy about deserted buildings, and even more creepy about deserted buildings that still seem to have a function – this one looks and feels like an office, but there is no one around, and Ianto is locked in. You can feel the tension and the building paranoia as Ianto explores his prison and discovers that perhaps this is a prison built specifically for him – but why? Why has he been lured here, and WHO is the girl that he meets (Bethan Rose Young) who claims to be in charge of security but cannot remember her name – can he trust her? Will he ever get to see this weeks (or any other weeks for that matter) episode of The Apprentice?

This story goes right to the heart of what Torchwood are and what they do, it deals with the consequences of those actions almost like no other story before it and lays Ianto’s soul bare – Ianto always was the softer side of Torchwood, this explores how he deals with the contradictions in his job and how those contradictions can devastate the lives of those who Torchwood sometimes only think of as all in a days work.

The special features for this story describe it as inspired by The Avengers episode “The Joker” and I can definitely see that – claustrophobic, dangerous and unpredictable and trending upwards (to use the vernacular of the Office) 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

There’s an empty office block in Cardiff. That’s nothing special – plenty of businesses go under, clear out, cease to exist. All that’s left behind is an empty building. But there’s one office block that refuses to be forgotten about.

There have been stories about that building – strange lights, funny goings on, faces pressed up against the glass. Enough to get the locals worried. Enough to ask Torchwood to get involved.

It’s Friday night. Ianto Jones has better things to do with his time than look round a haunted building. But he goes anyway, and it turns out that The Office has been waiting for him.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Bethan Rose Young (Girl), David Shields(Oliver)

Producer James Goss

Script Editor Steve Tribe

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – HOW TO WIN PLANETS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

“memo: to the board of the Darkon Corporation

re; recent events regarding “The Monk” and his suitability as our strategic invasion planner

 Its not gone very well has it? foiled at every turn by that mysterious traveller in time and space known only as “The Doctor” this lecture he is about to give is his final chance to show us just what he is made of and that he is definitely and undoubtedly THE man for the job of ensuring our galactic domination and we were right to pick him and not that mad woman dressed like a Nanny for the job….

 Memo ends.”

 Ah Rufus Hound, what a performance – he now IS the Monk having squared off on audio against Doctors 2,3,4 and 8 but in this particular Short Trip Mr Hound takes centre stage (Literally) as he delivers his presentation to the Darkon Corporation. The whole story is set as a corporate lecture full of awful business speak, peppy and banal and just flipping marvellous as the Monk regales us with tales of his failures at the hands of the Fourth Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane – marvel as his plans to own all property on earth fall over, revel in his plan to change the outcome of the Russian Revolution becoming an away day on a beach and prepare to be amazed as his turn as a professional foreteller of all things leads to a surprising win on Strictly Come Dancing. Sounds crazy, well it is and it is all the better for it because basically, deep down, I think the Monk isn’t really that bad a guy – no one who is that bad at being bad can really be that dedicated can they. Of all the Doctor Who “villains” he was almost the most loveable in his Peter Butterworth incarnation, not evil, just a bit mischievous and constantly out of his depth, and Rufus Hound channels  this beautifully – he almost seems to see being evil as a game he is playing and is almost pleased when he fails – a bit like the baddies in “The Web of Caves” (not seen it? what sort of fan are you? check it out HERE).

 Thirty five minutes is almost too short for a story of this quality, it feels just like the “Doctor-Lite” stories we used to get on TV back in the day, a completely different approach and a chance to do something very different with the structure of the Short Trip – and by jingo is it a success (unlike The Monk’s plans) If I were appraising I would say something along the lines of “full of blue sky thinking, with out of box aspirations and all boxes ticked” and I would award a big bonus and 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.

Release #30 is a Fourth Doctor, Harry and Sarah story.

9AM: Registration

10AM: Our Opening Guest Speaker discusses Strategic Invasion Plans, including things to look out for, Time Lords to avoid, and tips on crushing the lesser races

11AM: Biscuits and Coffee

12PM: Continuing on from his opening talk, our Guest Speaker discusses bringing the universe to its knees

1PM: Lunch

A dynamic talk with slides. The Meddling Monk has lectured widely for several centuries, and his wisdom is contained in the following bestsellers: The 7 Habits of Truly Terrible People, Who Moved My Sun?, Feel the Fear and Detonate It AnywayThe One Million Year Manager and Ice Men Are From Mars, Karate Is From Venus.

Producer Ian Atkins

Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Rufus Hound (Narrator)

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – PATHFINDER LEGENDS – CURSE OF THE CRIMSON THRONE – CROWN OF FANGS

So here we are, six months and approximately twelve hours of drama later and the end is upon us. We have followed our heroes from the court of Korvosa through desert to haunted fortresses in their quest – and now, the final chapter beckons and we are back to where we all began its the final showdown between heroes  Ezren (Trevor Littledale), Harsk (Ian Brooker), Merisiel (Kerry Skinner) and Valeros (Stewart Alexander) and the evil Queen Ileosa of Korvosa (Kate Brown).  The Queen has grown in power, her body now harbours the soul of an undead Dragon making her virtually indestructible – luckily Valeros wields the magic sword which is the only thing capable of defeating her – surely it cant be that easy though?

A suitably pumped up epic finale to the season with the kitchen sink thrown in – Pathfinders couldn’t do subtle if it tried and literally everything from the series is thrown in – there is treachery, battles, deception, magic, double dealing and several punch the air moments – and characters from the last six instalments all turn up to help make sure that good wins out. Which it does, its that sort of story, we know the good guys are going to win, but it is just so much fun going along for the ride.

This is very much what I expected the finale to be and I was not disappointed. Pathfinders isn’t the range to seek out for deep meaningful life changing stories, if you want that check out Dorian Gray or Graceless – but what Pathfinders is is good old fashioned swashbuckling good versus evil blockbuster action – and as that it does not disappoint. The story is almost told in flashback as Valeros states in the pre credits that the Queen has won, we know she wont have done, but the journey to get to that point is exhilarating and fun and does not take the path that the listener might expect.
With thrills and spills aplenty this is a fitting ending to a very entertaining series, it wont change your life, it won’t make anyones story of the year but it WILL entertain, and after all that is the purpose of listening. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Korvosa withers in the grip of a mad monarch! Beaten down by riots, disease, and the ironclad enforcers of a cruel despot, the people shudder in their homes and pray for saviors. The time has come to rise up against the crazed Queen Ileosa Arabasti and put an end to her vicious rule.

Yet within the walls of Castle Korvosa waits an army of soldiers, bodyguards, and diabolical monstrosities – to say nothing of the seemingly invincible queen herself. Can Valeros, Merisiel, Ezren and Harsk put an end to the tyrant’s reign? Or will an ancient evil claim Korvosa once and for all?

Written By: David Bryher, based on a story by Tito Leati
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Stewart Alexander (Valeros), Trevor Littledale (Ezren), Ian Brooker (Harsk), Kerry Skinner (Merisiel), Evie Dawnay (Kyra), Sean Connolly (Vencarlo Orsini), Imogen Church (Sabina Merrin), Kate Brown (Queen Illeosa), Wraith Johnson (Neolandus), Ken Bradshaw (Sermignatto)

Producer John Ainsworth
Script Editor John Ainsworth
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – SURVIVORS SERIES 6

Things move on, people rebuild, the world starts again. This is where we find ourselves at the beginning of Survivors Series 6. It sees the world two years on from the pandemic that killed 99% of the population – links are being formed between communities, a fledgling society is incubating – tenuous links are being formed with the Norwegian Federation, Norway even has a rudimentary postal system and some industry, but everything is very very tenuous and could all come falling down. And in Britain things are pretty much like they are now (apart from a decimated population) but the British attitude seems to have survived the pandemic and a lot of communities want to remain isolated. Yes indeed the plague may have destroyed the world as we know it but the UKIP gene seems to have survived intact and as Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) finds out some communities are not as welcoming and outward looking as the world needs them to be to thrive.

 This set takes a slightly different approach to the other sets, rather than one big story told over four chapters these are four separate stories about different characters, but they share a thematic and tonal link – the theme of isolation versus engagement runs through the stories like the words in a particularly bleak stick of rock bought just out of season and as always there are four stories:

 6.1 Beating the Bounds by Ian Potter

 Continuing her search for her son Abby Grant comes across an isolated community where feudalism has become the normal way of life. Its a big community with over 200 people, they have a Countess in charge (Sheila Reid) who is a focal point for the community – but this community has long been hidden away from the world and was not at all affected by the pandemic – and Abby Grant may be a carrier. A tense opener and a microcosm of the problems facing the world, fear of contact with outsiders may be a way to keep yourselves safe, but for how long? How long can a small community with diminishing resources and a small gene pool survive? How long can a community that relies on an elderly matriarchal figurehead to unite the people survive? what happens when she dies? This is a tense opener – the community is on borrowed time but only Abby can see it the residents are just too close to their lives to see any different. Bleak and cautionary.

 6.2 The Trapping Pit by Christopher Hatherall

 As Jenny (Lucy Fleming) and Ruth (Helen Goldwyn) pay a trade visit to Evelyn Piper’s Foundation – they are attacked by bandits, two young scared starving survivors Craig (George Watkins) and Spike (Hannah Genesius) – and soon the tables are turned, Spike has fled and Craig has fallen down a trapping pit and is impaled on a tree root and it is up to Ruth to save his life. And she is determined not to let him slip away. Relentlessly grim with some incredible performances especially from Helen Goldwyn as Ruth and George Watkins as Craig as Ruth tries with rudimentary equipment to keep Craig alive until help arrives, Craig tells Ruth stories about his childhood as he loses more and more blood an his body goes in to shock from the pain this is the most human episode of Survivors and is the ethos of the series personified in one episode.

 6.3 Revenge of Heaven by Simon Clark

 Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) has made it to Norway and is in discussions with the Norwegian Federation to form trade links with like minded communities in the UK and there are rumours of a cure for the plague discovered by a Russian scientist Professor Raskova (Tracy Wiles), but she has been kidnapped and is about to be shipped to Poland – so it is up to Greg and his new friend the mysterious Katherine Tanner (Julie Graham – who was also Abby Grant in the 2009 remake!) to undertake a life or death race against time to rescue the professor. The most action based episode of Survivors I have heard, almost a blockbuster in its production and tone – this has a similar theme of selfish isolation versus the good of all but on a much larger scale – the future of the human race is at stake and Greg Preston is on the case.

 6.4 Lockup by Andrew Smith

 Abby Grant discovers the community of Peacetown and is surprised to find out that it is based at an old Prison, converted to house a community and keep it safe. Peacetown claims to be self sufficient and will not trade with neighbouring communities, but comes down hard on those that break their rules, and one of the people who has allegedly broken the rules is one Greg Preston…

Presided over by the tyrannical Brendon Glover (James Wilby) an ex Prison warden who has his own ideas about crime and punishment. A brutal end to a pretty brutal set. Abby Grant has never been better with her disdain for Glover and all he stands for and Greg plays the hero with authority but not with arrogance, a born leader who us reluctant to be cast in that role but a role circumstances have forced him to take on.

 A very different take on Survivors, much more stand alone but much more desperate for it, having the main players split up and having to try to be, if not heroes, then the best that they can possibly be in awful circumstances is refreshing to hear, there is hope for the future, there s a way forward but it will be slow and it will be hard and the most difficult thing is convincing others to look outwards and embrace a brave new world and not inwards to self destruction. A million miles away from easy listening but a well deserved 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in June 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until July 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The world has ended. ‘The Death’ pandemic crossed continents, sparing only a fraction of the global population.

The survivors are now trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild society – to create a new future.

But with no cities, no laws, no technology, everyone must start over. And the worst of human nature has survived along with the best…

Four new battles for survival, from the world of Terry Nation’s cult-classic series.

6.1 Beating the Bounds by Ian Potter

Abby Grant’s search for her son has taken her all across Britain and back. Following every possible lead, she finds herself on long-abandoned roads to forgotten villages.

But now, two years after the first Death, such communities still wish to protect themselves. And they do not take kindly to strangers.

6.2 The Trapping Pit by Christopher Hatherall

On a routine trading mission from Whitecross to Evelyn Piper’s Foundation, Jenny Richards and community doctor Ruth Anderson are ambushed by desperate scavengers.

When the tables turn, an escape attempt becomes a struggle for survival. With a young man’s life hanging in the balance, Ruth’s skills are put to the ultimate test.

6.3 Revenge of Heaven by Simon Clark

Greg Preston has forged links with survivors in Norway to start rebuilding society. He’s ready to return home to his family… until an unexpected visitor drags him into a race across the Scandinavian snows.

Hope for the future lies with a kidnapped scientist, and some will go to any lengths to control that hope.

6.4 Lockup by Andrew Smith

As her journey continues, Abby encounters a secure and well-ordered community, based inside a prison complex, calling itself ‘Peacetown’.

But the settlement is not as idyllic as its name suggests, and the lockup harbours secrets. Among them, a prisoner. Someone Abby knows of old… A man called Greg Preston.

Written By: Christopher Hatherall, Simon Clark, Ian Potter, Andrew Smith
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant), Ian McCulloch (Greg Preston), Lucy Fleming (Jenny), Helen Goldwyn (Ruth), Zoë Tapper (Evelyn Piper), James Wilby (Brendon Glover / Duffin), Emily Joyce (Sasha Flint), Gunnar Cauthery (Alan Kelly/ Sam Fulcher), Leighton Pugh (Dan Lacey / Ulryk), Julie Graham (Katherine Tanner), Tracy Wiles (Professor Valentina Raskova), Alex Blake (Pierre/ Hague), Ellie Burrow (Postwoman / Gail Fulcher), Andrew Wincott (Sick Man/ Mangham), George Watkins (Craig), Hannah Genesius (Spike), Christopher Hatherall (Titch), Sheila Reid (The Countess).

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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