REVIEW – THE COMPANION CHRONICLES: THE FIRST DOCTOR VOLUME 2

This is a fairly downbeat set – I will admit that from the beginning. Four stories all dealing with the worst of humanity and alien-kind, of the cruelty that we can impose on each other for wearing a different coloured uniform or speaking a different language – fear bred by ignorance, superstition and design from those with a vested interest and the effects that it has on those caught up in the mania and the violence that inevitably follows. A horrible mirror held up to the times that we live in now, a set of cautionary tales, a wakeup call that we are better than this, yes we ARE better than this. And then there is the final act of the final story and a beautiful use of some of the most beautiful words ever strung together and do you know – the ordeal of the first three and a half stories seem almost wth it, the dark places seem worth visiting, the ending seems earned the lesson given and hopefully learned.

 Its bleak isn’t it? A bit too downbeat. I do these stories an injustice because in each and every one of these stories there is a very special ingredient – the perfect antidote to all the awful things happening and that ingredient is hope – from revolutionary France to the planet Shade to Lewes to Renaissance England and beyond far in to the future there is always hope.

 Four stories make up this set and they are:

 1 Fields of Terror by John Pritchard

 Landing in revolutionary France at the height of the Reign of Terror, The Doctor, Vicki and Steven are caught up in the middle of an awful situation. Revolutionary soldiers are killing all whether they be revolutionaries or royalists, the bloodshed and human suffering is appalling, and then trapped in an inn with these butchers something begins to terrorise them a strange hooded figure that scratches and beats at the windows, a figure who is immune to bullets and soon the terrorisers become the terrified. So we have a base under siege story set about two years before they became fashionable – Maureen O’Brien gives a great performance as the petrified Vicki and several of the other characters whilst Robert Hands sneers and bullies his way through as the leader of the French Soldiers “Lagrange” in a story light on laughs but heavy on seat edge drama.

 2. Across the Darkened City by David Bartlett

 Steven Taylor has lost. he has been captured by The Daleks and is on the Planet Shade, separated from The Doctor and Vicki – things look desperate. And then he forms an alliance, an alliance born from mutual need, an alliance no one would have thought possible – Steven forms an alliance with a very special Dalek, a genetic variant who thinks differently from other Daleks – an injured Dalek who needs Steven’s help to get it to a transmit through a city in perpetual darkness – a city teeming with the Chaons, unspeakable monsters who have even forces the Daleks to retreat. Desperate times, desperate measures – but can a Dalek, even a very special Dalek be trusted or is a Dalek always a Dalek? Edge of seat stuff, knowing that death can be at any turn (forget that you know Steven survived this and it is even better) – we see a side to a Dalek we have not seen before, this one seems more “human” and in fact this story can be seen as a prequel to a Dalek epic…..

Peter Purves really delivers the goods as a desperate Steven, and a “punch the air” moment when he gives his wonderful Hartnell impersonation is a lovely reward for the listener. In a word “intense”

 3. The Bonfires of the Vanities by Una McCormack

 I always found the news stories of the Lewes Bonfire parades and effigy burnings rather distasteful – something of the unthinking mob mentality and making a bogey man and scapegoat rather than actually taking the time to find out about that person. In this story the First Doctor, Ben & Polly arrive in Lewes in the late 1950’s and the Bonfire revelries seem to be a lot more out of hand than they usually are. Again the intensity is there, at the Doctor is ill, near death, his regeneration being held back by sheer force of will meaning that it is left to Ben and Polly and librarian Mary to tackle the immediate problem of the gangs of “Bonfire Boys” and the alien Guys that have come to life. A story of hate breeding hate and this being perpetuated by tradition and a cautionary tale for the uncertain era we live in.

 4. The Plague of Dreams by Guy Adams

 And then there is this. Possibly the best Companion Chronicle I have ever had the honour to listen to, beautifully written, beautifully framed and set, perfectly pitched by Anneke Wills & Elliot Chapman this is a story unlike any other told in the vast pantheon of Doctor Who, and proof positive that the “infinitely variable format” is as alive and well today as it was back in the 1960’s – this adds layers of mystery and clarity the first Doctor’s regeneration and his part in the great scheme of things that leads to….. Well, I will let you find that out. Utterly compelling, magical and wonderful.

 So there is always light, there is always hope – even in the darkest places, there has to be and this set proves that there is, but sometimes it really does need to be looked for. Beginning with the cruelty of revolutionary murder and ending with a bow – as varied a tapestry as the first Doctor era ever was condensed into four stories – a well deserved 9/10.

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.

Four new stories from the First Doctor’s era…

1. Fields of Terror by John Pritchard

The TARDIS has brought the Doctor back to Revolutionary France, a place that’s always fascinated him. But this time he, along with Steven and Vicki, are drawn into a devastated land, caught between the soldiers who are burning all before them and a monstrous shape that follows in their wake.

2. Across the Darkened City by David Bartlett

On the planet Shade, The Chaons, an invading race of strange, amorphous creatures that ravenously absorb energy, have reduced the city there to a desolate ruin. Separated from the Doctor and Vicki, Steven has to join forces with an unexpected ally to find his way back to the TARDIS. Ahead, lies a nightmare journey through the dark – a test of endurance and trust.

3. The Bonfires of the Vanities by Una McCormack

When the Doctor, Polly, and Ben arrive in Lewes in the late 1950s, they’re just in time to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night. But there’s no fun on the streets tonight – the town is in the grip of fear. There are imps on the loose in Lewes, the Bonfire Boys are on the march, and nobody is safe from the fire.

4. The Plague of Dreams by Guy Adams

“Pray welcome, one and all, to this, a fantasy in two acts, presented, most humbly, for your pleasure. We bring you drama and magic, angels and demons, a tale of mysterious plague… of nightmares made flesh… of a war fought both in this world and those immeasurably distant. A war, in fact, fought through the mists of time itself. It will make you gasp! It will make you weep! It may even make some of you wake-up…”

Written By: John Pritchard, David Bartlett, Una McCormack, Guy Adams
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman, Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Anneke Wills (Polly), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson / The Player), Robert Hands (Lagrange), Helen Goldwyn (The Chaons) and Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks

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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – SHADOW PLANET/WORLD APART

Question – what has been my most anticipated TV show return of the last 20 years or so?

Minus several million if you said Doctor Who, it was ticking along quite nicely under the benevolent leadership of Big Finish until those upstarts in Cardiff decided to bring it back to TV where I am told it has done rather well….

No, my most anticipated, genuinely COULD NOT WAIT returning TV show was Twin Peaks – and it could have been a retread of past glories, but it isn’t, it is something altogether darker and altogether more beautiful and horrifying. Anyhow the reason I bring up Twin Peaks is related to this months release “Shadow Planet/World Apart”, well the first part of it anyhow – you see in Twin Peaks Deputy Hawk says this to Agent Cooper “My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature reside. There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge. The shadow self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self.”  And this was the first thing that came in to my head when I read the synopsis for Shadow Planet a story of the hidden part of you that is always with you, albeit in a Sci-Fi setting rather than in a red curtained room with dancing dwarves and screaming dopplegangers…..

 Shadow Planet by AK Benedict

 The planet Unity is a very special place, a psychic planet, a place of peace and healing, a place where you can come face to face with your shadow self (without the need for a backwards talking dwarf or a one armed man) and work through any issues you may have in the safety and seclusion of the Unity corporation compound. Idyllic and therapeutic we are led to believe. As you may have guessed that is about as true as a certain Mrs May being leader of a “Strong and Stable” government. It is wonderful to hear Philip Olivier as Hex again especially in two roles as our Hex and the shadow Hex – yes the shadow selves – amalgamations of the negativity in the person, Ace’s comes across as mean spirited and arrogant and then there is the shadow self of the Doctor….

A great guest cast consisting of a very arch Belinda Lang as Unity Corporation head Mrs Wheeler and her assistant Professor Grove (Nikolas Grace) keep the story moving along and the revelations about the true nature of Unity coming thick and fast. But underneath it all this is a story about the repressed rebelling and trying to exist when they really shouldn’t exist at all.

 World Apart by Scott Handcock

 The words “written by Scott Handcock” give me as much pleasure the the words “directed by David Lynch” – both are visionaries and constantly push the boundaries of the medium in which they work, both give their lead characters a really hard time and boy do Ace and Hex go through the wringer in this one.

Carrying directly on from Shadow Planet, linked by a cliffhanger of a planet appearing in the Vortex Ace and Hex are soon marooned as The Doctor realises that he really shouldn’t be on the planet at all and leaves. Hex and Ace are left to fend for themselves on the planet Nirvana, an anomaly in space and time, a planet where there are piles of dead bodies from the previous marooned travellers, where food is scarce, where they are being hunted and where there really is no hope of rescue. Remember the “Doctor lite” episodes on TV where the absence of the Doctor made you realise how much he is needed – well this is almost the opposite as his actions have led to the situation that Ace & Hex find themselves in. Sylvester McCoy always was the most amoral and alien of all the Doctor’s but here his aloofness and detachment for the situation – his almost universal view of things and his companions place in the great scheme of things is cold and analytical and we are reminded that though he may look like us he is very very alien.

 Two very different stories both dealing with identity and how we define ourselves by our experiences and our friendships with Handcock again supplying a very different take on what a Doctor Who story can be as a contrast to the more traditional Shadow Planet – neither story contain red rooms, coffee, dwarves or giants – but I wont hold that against them and award this release a none too shadowy 8/10.

 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.

Shadow Planet by AK Benedict

Troubled? Anxious? Tormented by self-doubt? Come to Unity, the psychic planet! From our therapy centre beside Unity’s idyllic shores, the Unity Corporation can help you overcome all your problems. How? By using a patented combination of technology and Jungian psychology, we can bring you face to face with your shadow self. The hidden you. The dark you. The you that no-one knows…

Rest assured: the process is perfectly safe. Nothing can possibly go wrong. And that’s guaranteed!

World Apart by Scott Handcock

If you’re reading this, it’s too late.

There’s no way off this planet.

You will never escape Nirvana.

Written By: AK Benedict, Scott Handcock
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy(The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Belinda Lang (Mrs Wheeler), Sarah Thom (Sandy/Captain Karren), Nickolas Grace (Professor Grove), Ben Mansfield (Loglan/Shadow Loglan). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

 

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REVIEW – SUBTERRANEA

Now dear readers, I know what you are all thinking – “Ed, you haven’t provided us with a musical interlude for a while, isn’t it about time for another?” And do you know I think you are right, not since last November or so have I delved into the old musical interlude – but for this months Fourth Doctor release I think a musical interlude sets the tone, so sit back, relax and enjoy Underground by Tom Waits

There you go, that was fun want it? and it ties in very nicely with Subterranea – a story of a world going on underground, a story of mole people and sort of Cybermen-like monsters called Silex all driving around in giant mining machines called drill towns – and it is rather fun. Again it may look like a Season 18 story, it may have the theme tune from season 18 and Tom may be in burgundy but this story is pure season 17 in its ethos. The supporting cast of Maxwell Wilberforce Bell (Matthew Cottle), his wife Lucretia Bell (Abigail McKern) and Mr Jelicho Wigg (Robbie Stevens) are pure panto and chew the scenery almost as well as their mining vehicles chew the earth that they travel through.
Tom and Lalla seem to be having a ball with the script and you can just see them on screen with “Underworld” level of production values mugging to the camera for all they are worth and playing the script for laughs, because believe me this is a script in which all the players get to “give a turn”and it is all the bette for it. Maxwell bell COULD have been played completely straight, but as a slightly camp Captain who insists on wearing his hat all the time he is a memorable addition to the story rather than a forgettable bit part, and his wife Lucretia may not have written the book on arch but she has certainly bottled the ink.

The weak link in the story is in fact the monster o the month – as a steam powered derivative of the Cybermen the Silex are meant to be a terrifying threat but come across as a distraction – I wanted to hear more of Maxwell Wilberforce Bell and his drill town not a rampaging converted monster (maybe its just me, but think of it like The Stones of Blood, wouldn’t you have fathered Tom & Amelia Rumford waxing lyrical rather that the actual plot? well its like that)

But overall its a fun romp, not earth shattering (no pun intended) but a fun little runaround with some peril, some thrills, some spills, some explosions and some very funny lines.
The story fails as a season 18 pastiche, but rewind a year to the glory years of Graham Williams and this would fit rather nicely alongside The Creature From the Pit and is all ht better for it. A steam powered, slightly silly 7/10.

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 TARDIS is going underground. When the Doctor and Romana find themselves buried beneath the surface of an alien world, they’re soon swallowed up by a giant burrowing machine. This is where the inhabitants of this planet live – in huge, constantly moving, Drill-towns, chewing up the fuel and resources of the planet in order to survive.

But something else lurks in the earth. Something that feeds on the Drill-towns. Something that is relentless and will not stop.

The Silex are hunting.

Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Matthew Cottle (Mr Maxwell Wilberforce Bell), Abigail McKern (Mrs Lucretia Bell), Robbie Stevens (Mr Jelicho Wigg/ Mr Wilfer Wagstaff), Jane Slavin (Miss Arabella Wagstaff/ Mrs Betsy Wagstaff), John Banks (Silex/ Mr Stoker). 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 LIVES OF CAPTAIN JACK

Ok, so Doctor Who post 2005 – whats the first thing that comes in to your head? Well obviously David Tennant, thats a given and Bille Piper too – they are the poster boy and girl for the glory days of the RTD era, but coming not too close behind and definitely not a Pointless answer (Jimmy Vee would be a pointless answer) is one Captain Jack Harkness played by the irreplaceable John Barrowman. From his debut in The Empty Child, Captain Jack has firmly cemented himself as a fan favourite, so popular that he even got his own spin off series in Torchwood (but thats another story) this story, or more accurately set of four stories are about Captain Jack post Parting of the Ways, pre Empty Ccild and post Children of Earth. Confused? then please read on.

If this were Trial of a Timelord I would describe these four stories as four “epistopic interfaces of the spectrum” but its not so I won’t :-) – what we have here are four stories about Captain Jack when he is at his most vulnerable, friendless, alone almost crushed and how he copes with the situations he finds himself in from a devastated Earth following the events of Parting of the Ways we follow Jack on a personal journey seeking acceptance above all else and trying to be the bet man he can, we even go back to his origins as a time agent and discover many things about his past – but I am getting ahead of myself. We begin not at the beginning of Jack’s life but the beginning of his time after the events on the Gamestation….

1. The Year After I Died by Guy Adams

A very good place to start. Jack is seeking solitude but a young journalist Silo Crook (Shvorne Marks) is determined to tell his story and elevate him to the position of hero. Jack wants nothing to do with this. But as the story progresses we see Jack as the good person we know he can be as the very worst in humanity prey on the weak and forlorn personified by Sarah Douglas in a scenery chewing performance as the very Theresa May like Vortis Trear. This is a story of the rich doing whatever they like to survive, of the desperation of the survivors of the Dalek attack and of Captain Jack coming to know himself a little bit better.

2. Wednesdays For Beginners by James Goss

You cant beat a bit of Jackie Tyler can you? Camille Coduri take a bow, its like you have never been away and boy have we missed you. Playing almost like a Companion Chronicle this two hander sees Jackie just a little bit enamoured of the handsome new American resident of the Powell Estate, and when they meet its, if not exactly “moider” then its actually the end of the world. Jackie & Jack are a double act made in heaven, a comic pairing that just writes itself no matter what the peril Jackie seems to think the resolution is a nice cup of tea or a bit of a knees up. The laughs keep coming as Jack tells Jackie the name of the threat (sorry, too spoilery) and the only music for the knees up is pan pipe east end classics. Sounds camp and cheesy? Well the execution is but the threat is actually huge but it is Jackie’s response to it that grounds this story in reality and in pure RTD pastiche.

3. One Enchanted Evening by James Goss

On his final lap of honour The Tenth Doctor introduces Captain jack to one Alonso Frame (Russell Tovey) – a hot date being set up we all thought? But there is a lot more to it than this because the station that they are on is about to be invaded by the evil Mother Nothing (an unrecognisable and decidedly menacing Katy Manning) and forms a basis for a will they/wont they? escapade involving some excellent action set pieces. It feels like a bit of a blockbuster with Russell Tovey stealing the show coming across as a cross between his character in Being Human and Michael Baker from Count Arthur Strong. High on humour, high on peril and escapade this is the heart and soul of the set.

4. Month 25 by Guy Adams

Ever wanted to know Captain Jack Harkness’s real name? Intrigued? You will be. This goes back to the beginning, before The Empty Child when Jack was a time agent and lost two years of his life. And Thats all I am saying about that. Suitably intriguing isn’t it and well worth a listen.

So there you have it Jack sans Torchwood. Its very RTD era which is to be expected and there are some wonderful pieces of character in the quieter moments, the ending of One Enchanted Evening will bring a tear to the eye of even the most cynical of fanboys. It felt frothy and perhaps a little bit shallow in places – a bit like the man himself, but it is a beautifully polished box set that adds to what we already know about the man known as Captain Jack Harkness and leaves the audience wanting to know a bit more. I salute this set at 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

1. The Year After I Died by Guy Adams

Set in the year 200,101, on an Earth ravaged by the Daleks, Jack struggles to save humanity from its oldest enemy.

2. Wednesdays For Beginners by James Goss

Jack and Jackie Tyler must unite to rescue the Powell Estate from a force whose name Jackie can never say.

3. One Enchanted Evening by James Goss

Captain Jack and Alonso Frame have only just met. But why did the Doctor want them to be together?

4. Month 25 by Guy Adams

He’s the young star of the Time Agency, and his whole life is about to fall apart. But that’s not going to stop him winning.

Written By: James Goss, Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Russell Tovey (Midshipman Alonso Frame), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Sarah Douglas (Vortia Trear), Shvorne Marks (Silo Crook), Scott Haran (Malfi Pryn), Aaron Neil (Gorky Sax), Katy Manning (Mother Nothing), Ellie Heydon (Ginny), Jonny Green (Station Computer), Hannah Barker (Female Passenger), Conor Pelan (Male Passenger), Ellie Welch (Bay Guard), Kristy Philipps (Colby), Joe Wiltshire Smith (Pods), Sakuntala Ramanee (Maglin Shank), Kieran Bew (Krim Pollensa), Alexander Vlahos (The Stranger), Chris Allen (The Council), Christel Dee (The Council), James Goss (The Council)

Producer James Goss

Script Editor Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – torchwood_cascade_cdrip.tor

Oddball or experimental or brave or edgy or creative or just plain different are just some of the adjectives that could be used to describe torchwood_cascade_cdrip.tor. And they would all be right, because this is a very very different release in the Torchwood canon playing with expectations, playing with the audio medium and pushing it just as far as it can be pushed without quite irreparably damaging it. Part story of unrequited love from two lonely people, part urban techno thriller, part cautionary tale on the consequences of acquiring media from non standard (read illegal) sources this is as different a story as Big Finish have released in any of their ranges – and coming from the pen of the creative genius behind the sublime Dorian Gray series Scott Handcock – could we really expect anything mundane and straightforward? Of course we couldn’t.

So what is it actually about? Well, that would be telling, but the about is not really as important as the “how” – and it is the structure and the storytelling method of this release that makes it truly striking and unique, this is pieced together found footage of a corrupted media file illegally downloaded, it skips, it jumps about from perspective to perspective, it is non linear, it is a difficult listen but it is a rewarding listen to those who give it their full attention – and after two listens I got two distinctly different interpretations of what I had actually listened to and experienced – its that sort of story, the more engaged the listener is the more rewarding the story is.

Naoko Mori takes top billing in this story as Toshiko Sato, invited to London by an old colleague from Torchwood One called Stephen (Robbie Jarvis) who has been investigating the disappearances of people of the same age at the same time in different parts of the world – what is the link and why are they being hunted and why does Stephen think he is newt on the list and why did he ask Toshiko to help? these questions and many more will be posed and as with all good fiction the answers are there but are open to interpretation.

Scott Handcock brings in some of his trademark macabre, claustrophobic style of story telling that he is rightly praised for in Dorian Gray – the story is horror dressed up as a techno thriller and an ethical conundrum  on the evils of illegal downloading and has that dreamlike ambiguousness that makes the listener doubt what they have just heard and give it a second third and fourth listen to get the most out of the story.

Naoko Mori slips back in to the character of Tosh effortlessly, a conflicted character at once brilliant but wracked with social awkwardness and self doubt and this is an exceptional “Show don’t tell” performance, it really is a privilege to have Toshiko back in Torchwood again.

There is no way that this release could be called “easy listening” its probably as far away from easy listening as you can get, what it is in almost equal measure is disturbing, upsetting, challenging, intelligent and quite quite brilliant. Hats off to Scott Handcock, Naoko Mori and all at Big Finish for pushing the boundaries on what a Torchwood tale can be. 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 August 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

WARNING: The unauthorised reproduction or distribution of this 
copyrighted work is illegal.Your downloads are monitored. 
Internet piracy is a crime and is punishable by up to 5 years in 
prison, a fine of £250,000 or death.

Come on, we’ve all done it. We’ve all downloaded a cheeky little something we shouldn’t have. After all, what’s the harm, eh? You never get caught. No-one knows. No-one knocks at your door and tells you you’re about to die.

Turns out, there’s something hiding in the internet. It knows what you’ve done. And it’s going to stop you.

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

Written By: Scott Handcock
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), Robbie Jarvis (Stephen), Ashley Kumar (Max), Rachel Handshaw (Nikki)

Producer James Goss
Script Editor David Llewellyn

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – FALLING

Change is the essence of life, we never stay the same, we move on, fast friends become ghosts of memories, new friends are made and can any of us truly say we are the person we were 20 years ago?

Polly Jackson (Anneke Wills) that one time companion of The Doctor is going trough a change – she is moving house with all the apprehension and uncertainty that brings and as she sifts through her old forgotten belongings on the morning of the move she uncovers a keepsake from her time with The Doctor, she finds a green feather and this unlocks a plethora of hitherto forgotten memories about the time just before the antarctic and Cybermen and regeneration – she remembers a time when she met an Angel.

The ending of this story is described by Polly as an interlude – and that is exactly what it is, not a great adventure but a small amount of time that foreshadows a great change to come – in a way this is The First Doctor’s Watcher or her will knock your times moment because the Angel foretells the Doctor’s regeneration…..

Anneke Wills brings a world weariness to Polly, a woman uncertain about where her new phase in life will take her perfectly mirroring the events that happened to the Doctor on that unnamed planet. The Angel obviously isn’t an Angel in the religious sense, but is a being almost as old as the universe itself, a being who can see beyond the dimensions that bind us calling the young Polly by her married surname years before she married Ben, but it is the effect that this encounter has on the Doctor that defines the encounter, her seems to visibly age and become more frail as the Angel describes his fate and the inevitability of what must happen to him.

A rather poetic lesson in balance and symmetry given  life and context by Polly’s apprehension at something as everyday as moving home told beautifully and lyrically by Anneke Wills  as she draws you in to Polly’s world and makes the listener hang on her every word. A rather poetic 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 #29 is a First Doctor, Ben and Polly story.

Long, long ago, Mrs Polly Jackson travelled in the TARDIS with her friends, the Doctor and Ben. Together, they saw many remarkable things – some magical, some terrifying, some filled with awe and wonder. Only one incident, however, was truly inexplicable, a single encounter which failed at the time wholly to make sense. At least, that is, until today…

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

Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Anneke Wills (Narrator)

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – PATHFINDER LEGENDS – CURSE OF THE CRIMSON THRONE – 3.5 SKELETONS OF SCARWALL

Oh now this one is rather good, I may go so far as to say that it is the jewel in the crown of this particular series of Pathfinder Legends. I don’t know what it is but this one sort of “flows” wheras the other entries in to the series so far have really betrayed their roots and felt like a series of set pieces, this one feels like an organic developing story where the outcome has not been pre-decided, there is a sense of real as opposed to staged danger and the characters really are allowed to breathe and develop.

So whats happening in The Skeletons of Scarwall? Well our heroes Harsk (Ian Brooker), Valeros (Stewart Alexander), Ezren (Trevor Littledale) and Merisiel (Kerry Skinner) are continuing their quest to find a weapon capable of defeating the evil Queen Illeosa and have been directed to Scarwall Fortress, home of Undead Lord Kazavon and his horde – this dread fortress is said to hold a magical sword that may just have the power to defeat the Queen. So far so generic RPG? Well you would be right in thinking that, it sounds just like an RPG romp that folks like me used to play in the 1980’s – but it is the presentation that makes this stand head and shoulders above its peers. The danger seems real, the characters feel truly out of their depth and then things step up a gear when possibly my favourite character in Pathfinder Legends Laori Vaus (Ashleigh Loeb) shows up.

Laori is a complex multi layered dangerous and rather sad character. A Forlorn Elf, that is an Elf brought up by humans and spent her life watching them die of old age as she lived – she became obsessed with pain and death and fell in with the worshippers of the “Midnight Lord” – Zon Kuthon, God of evil, suffering and pain. Laori delights in the suffering of others and of herself and has a disturbing sing song innocence to her voice, she and her companion Siel (Fanos Xenofos) are also on their way to Scarwall to take out the “heathen” who have defected from their fealty to Zon Kuthon. Can an alliance between Laori and our heroes work for mutual benefit? The answer is to be found by listening and it really is one shock revelation after another. The story really feels it is building to a climax and that the victory over Queen Illeosa (if it happens) will be earned by adventures like this one where no one is quite the same again, characters act out of character and the rules are constantly changed.

Ending on a cliffhanger which will lead us into next months finale, this episode feels like the dark before the dawn – tonally very different from what has come before and all the better for it. 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Condemned by a history of horrors, an army of the living dead stands between Korvosa and its only hope for salvation. Within the grim fastness of haunted Scarwall, the lifeless legions of the ancient warlord Kazavon guard the same accursed halls they’ve stalked for more than 700 years.

Crossing a forsaken land to reach the infamous citadel’s dreaded gates, Ezren, Merisiel, Harsk and Valeros must explore the foul castle’s haunted halls, and confront otherworldly terrors to purge the taint of Kazavon’s final days before having any hope of finally breaking the Curse of the Crimson Throne.

Written By: David Bryher, based on a story by Greg A Vaughan
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Stewart Alexander (Valeros), Trevor Littledale (Ezren), Ian Brooker (Harsk), Kerry Skinner (Merisiel), Ashleigh Loeb (Laori Vaus), Fanos Xenofós (Shadowcount Sial), Harry Myers (Mithrodar/ Uri), Helen Goldwyn (Ravenka), Wraith Johnson (Kleestad/ Ildervok)

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

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REVIEW – UNIT: ASSEMBLED

Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. That wonderful warm glow you get whilst remembering “better times” that were probably no better or worse than now, but have become the stuff of legends because of the time that they happened, the person you were then and the people that were around you at the time. Ah the stuff of legends. The UNIT “family” are undoubtedly the stuff of legends holding sway over one of the most fondly remembered eras of “Classic” Doctor Who – The Third Doctor, The Brigadier, Jo Grant, Captain Yates & Sergeant Benton defending the world (or at least the home counties) from weekly invasions from Autons, Axons, Daleks, Chronovores and Giant Maggots. Just those words conjure up images of simpler, happier times, of Saturday evenings sound the TV with the family, of the three day week and power cuts and strikes….

But times change and so does UNIT, no longer the make do and mend outfit from the 1970’s (or was it the 1980’s….) UNIT are now an ultra modern, ultra efficient force headed by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) ally assisted by scientist Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) – but sometimes, just sometimes it is time to call the old guard out of retirement and this box set UNIT: Assembled is just one of those times.

Time has not been kind to the original UNIT family, we have lost Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney, but this box set honours their memory in style and hearing Sergeant Benton (John Levene), Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) and Jo Jones (Grant) (Katy Manning) team up with the new boys and girls of UNIT should warm the cockles of even the most cynical “New Who” critic as UNIT old and new team up to battle a new threat from a particularly vicious and single minded bunch of Earth Reptile (Silurians in old money) with call backs a-plenty to their glory days in the 1970’s (or was it 1980’s :-) ) the old guard fit right in with NU-UNIT and their story is told over four separate but connected episodes:

4.1 Call to Arms by Matt Fitton

“A roister-doister of a barnstormer of a beginning” is how I would describe this one, though it begins with an ending as Mr John Benton is retiring from the pub game, this is his last night as Landlord of his pub, he and his wife Marjorie are about to give it all up for a world cruise, friends have gathered, beer has flowed and tensions rise as old wounds are opened and THEN – Kate and OSgood turn up and the whole thing loses its rosy glow and becomes a tense base (or Pub) under siege that not everyone is going to get out alive from.  Featuring militant Silurians in the form of Jastrok (Richard Hope) and Kalana (Neve McIntosh) rousing the more right wing factions of their species against us uppity apes – UNIT old and new make their stand in Benton’s Pub. There is a genuine warmth to the performances from UNIT regulars John Levene & Richard Franklin as their characters go back to what they did best in the 1970’s (Or 1980’s – sorry its getting boring now :-) ) make do and mend against an overwhelming force, but this time they have Kate and Osgood to help out. A fabulous beginning, completely visual and has the tension ramped all the way up to eleven – its great to see the old gang back together, well not quite as Jo is absent, but the next story makes up for that.

4.2 Tidal Wave by Guy Adams

What is there not to love about Katy Manning and her character Jo Jones? She is just fab, utterly fab and when Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) meets up with her Jo is dong what she has dedicated the most of her life to, she is protesting against animal testing and use of chemicals by a faceless corporation – but Kate has a mission for her….
Jo and Osgood are a pairing made in heaven, Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) is a Jo Jones fangirl asking her all sorts of questions about her time with UNIT and the Doctor and their adventures almost like a fan at a convention, so it is fortunate for Osgood that she and Jo are charged by Kate to check out an environmentally friendly tidal power generator codenamed “Project Charybdis” and are bound for the sea bed – can you see where this is going yet….
Yes indeed we are about to meet up with our old friends The Sea Devils and find out that the Earth Reptiles are not a mono culture monster but a genuine species with different views and values as we humans have. Unfortunately with Jastrok on the march, he wants the Sea Devils biological weapons, hybrid monsters which he is going to unleash on the humans, but Jo sees that there is a peaceful solution to be had. Katy Manning shines in this one and is wonderful as Jo trying to be like The Doctor and achieve peace between the species. A steady episode that forward the plot and gives Jo a lot of character development.

4.3 Retrieval by Guy Adams

With Jo, Yates and Benton back at UNIT HQ in the Tower of London it falls to Kate and Osgood to follow up on leads to control the impending doom that the Silurians have unleashed, and they are lead to a Silurian nest in the Mediterranean, unfortunately they are not alone and the fanatical Silurian Tryska has other ideas for apes that do not know their place. After two almost euphoric episodes in which UNIT old and new team up, this is a different beast altogether. Darker and more dangerous with Kate And Osgood being pushed to their limits by the sadistic Tryska and her fear inducing device. A tense thriller that plays with the listeners expectations as Tryska torments our heroes. Slower paced but no less of a scale than episodes one and two – a slow burner.

4.4 United by Matt Fitton

And finally the gangs all here – London has fallen to Jastrok and his hordes, the UK is cut off by air and sea by prehistoric monsters (no not UKIP :-) ) and UNIT are told the terms of surrender by Jastrok. The Silurians have won, the human race will be slaves or have their minds destroyed be fear. We have lost. Until UNIT say NO – united they stand, maybe for the last time. An epic end to an epic box set – high on adventure, high on action, high on scientific impossibility, as Alan Partridge might say “lovely stuff”.

That was immense fun, it felt in parts like UNIT’s greatest hits but as a nostalgia piece it ticked all the right boxes and had some genuine “punch the air” moments – fast paced like an action movie with very few small character moments, but when they do come the light and shade they add to the proceedings are all the more pronounced. Katy Manning is as superb as ever and totally adorable as Jo, Yates’ keeps his head and John Levene as Benton gets all the best comedy lines – just as it should be while the new guys are duly reverent to those that have seen it all before, the old guard don’t feel like token nostalgia, they feel like the victory would have been impossible without them. A lovely box set and a well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Kate Stewart and her UNIT team investigate and confront alien attacks on the planet Earth. Something is stirring, an old foe to those in UNIT with a long memory. And fortunately, to face an old foe… There are old friends.

4.1 Call to Arms by Matt Fitton

Mike Yates braves a stormy night in the Lakes to help celebrate a milestone for John Benton. An evening of fond reminiscences of old glories and friends awaits. But a long-buried past is about to catch up with them.

Meanwhile, on the rain-lashed moors, what begins as a routine mission for modern-day UNIT quickly becomes a fight for survival.

4.2 Tidal Wave by Guy Adams

When an experimental tidal power generator needs its eco-friendly credentials checked, Kate Stewart calls in an expert.

Soon, Jo Jones is bound for ‘Project Charybdis’ in the South Atlantic, along with an awestruck Osgood.

But out at sea, a treacherous plan is set in motion to awake an ancient race. Beneath the seabed an army is sleeping – an army of Sea Devils!

4.3 Retrieval by Guy Adams

As the Earth’s primeval rulers reclaim their birthright, UNIT must stand against them. Kate Stewart and Osgood venture into a Mediterranean stronghold to retrieve a means to fight back.

But a Silurian warrior is on their trail. Once she has the humans’ scent, Commander Tryska will never give up the hunt.

4.4 United by Matt Fitton

The Silurians hold Great Britain under siege. Grand Marshal Jastrok rules the seas and the skies with reptile forces. On the ground, Commander Kalana crushes all ape resistance.

With Kate Stewart trapped, defence of the realm falls to UNIT’s old guard. Jo Jones, Mike Yates and John Benton are ready to do their duty and stand united.

Deploying May 2017

Written By: Matt Fitton, Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), James Joyce (Josh Carter), Warren Brown (Lt. Sam Bishop), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), John Levene (John Benton), Katy Manning (Jo Jones), Richard Hope (Jastrok), Neve McIntosh (Kalana), Nicholas Briggs (Sea Devils), Nicholas Asbury (Burmaster), Annette Holland (Anne), Alex Tregear (Laura Sale).

Other parts played by the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE HAUNTING OF MALKIN PLACE

Question: what looks like 1980 but feels like 1975?
Answer: The Haunting of Malkin Place.
Put simply – the cover tells us this is a 1980 story – Burgundy coat for Tom, star field round his face, Romana the second by his side, but absolutely EVERYTHING else screams HINCHCLIFFE. The setting, the sound design, the plotting. There isn’t a Bidmeadian innovation apparent, not charged vacuum emboitmments, no creeping entropy, no chronic hysteresis, just a darned good spooky yarn.

We catch up with the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) relaxing at the Doctor’s house on Baker Street and an ensuing discussion regarding the novel The Turn of the Screw coupled with a noise in the attic which the Doctor has been warned NOT to investigate at any cost leads them to try and track down the author M R James and discuss his character motivation in The Turn of the Screw. “Another celebrity historical” was my first thought, but The Haunting of Malkin Place is nothing of the sort, The Doctor and Romana don’t get to meet M R James at all but are drawn in to a real life haunting.

Set in 1922 with Britain still in shock from the human tragedy that was World War One Maurice (Gunnar Cauthery) and his sister Beatrice (Fiona Sheehan) have inherited Malkin Place from their recently departed father and are suffering hauntings – children cry doors slam, crockery breaks and on top of all of this Maurice is riddled with survivors guilt from his time in the trenches of France in the war. The Doctor and Romana meet with Spiritualist Talbot (Simon Jones) and his young ward Tom (Rikki Lawton) who has been called in by Beatrice to try to exorcise the ghosts of Malkin Place and decide that that is a much more interesting prospect than meeting M R James and decide to accompany them.

What follows is text book ghost story – seances, unexplained noises, people disappearing, flying objects and a secret that is revealed to be the key to the goings on in Malkin Place.
Lalla Ward as Romana is deliciously offhand and haughty at the mere prospect of the though of ghosts being real whilst Simon Jones as Talbot is genuine in his calling as a spiritualist, but it is the scenes between The Doctor and Maurice that really steal the show adding an emotional depth and maturity to the story, giving the setting the respect and gravitas it deserves whilst simultaneously adding to and resolving the plot. If this story is about anything then it is about letting go and grief and being allowed to grieve – a deep story dressed up as a ghost story with all the actors taking their roles seriously and nobody (not even Tom) “giving a turn” (although having said that the fourth Doctor with a moustache would be a sight to behold :-) )

It is fitting in many ways that the main resolution of the story reflects the story itself – something not quite of its time but something rather special, an excellent addition to the Fourth Doctor range and a well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

Whilst on the way to visit the birthplace of MR James, a chance encounter with a spiritualist on a train sends the Doctor and Romana on the trail of a ghost. It’s the most convincing case of haunting he’s ever heard of, he tells them. And so, on their arrival, does it appear to be.

Things go bump in the night at Malkin Place. The voice of a crying child. Birds bursting into flight. Strange movements in a seance.

The Doctor is determined there must be a rational explanation. But is science always the answer to everything?

Written By: Phil Mulryne
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Simon Jones (Talbot), Denise Black (Mrs Mountford), Gunnar Cauthery(Maurice), Fiona Sheehan (Beatrice), Rikki Lawton (Tom), Phil Mulryne (Jack).

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

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REVIEW – VORTEX ICE/CORTEX FIRE

OK, so you have the “double bills” trilogy, one double bill featuring Doctor’s Five, Six and Seven respectively. You begin the trilogy with a Fifth Doctor pairing an old fashioned very trad story and a more experimental story. How then do you approach Old Sixie? How do you do something new and exciting and take him into new frontiers with this new format? Big Finish have not taken the easy route and here they have gone very “cinematic” if that is the correct word, two relatively short stories with huge imagination, huge ambition and huge scope, by that I mean these are stories have impact on the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood).

Everything oozes class and polish, the sound design is perfect, the sense of urgency and the impact that the characters have on the events is has an importance brought to the fore that is sometimes lacking and unlike last months releases these two stories do not have an obvious link but share certain thematic similarities regarding fatalism and time. Yes our old friend time. Regular readers of my ramblings will know I am not a fan at all of the “timey-wimey” style of storytelling, if there is one thing I don’t like it is a “cheat” ending. The first of these stories “Vortex Ice” is a time travel based story, but not an obvious one and not an obvious story to blow me away. But it did….

Vortex Ice by Jonathan Morris

What starts and ends in a cave in Mexico? Short answer is Vortex Ice does. The route it takes to get there however is a very very long one involving lots of death, explosions, A cybernetic octopus and a rather fatalistic and real approach to the hazards of time travel. If I say too much I will spoil the story but suffice to say that Vortex Ice requires multiple listens to appreciate the complexities of the story telling – not in the “look how clever I am “ style the TV series sometimes has but a to notice how all the pieces of this aural jigsaw fit together so perfectly. The nearest big screen comparison I can think of is the film “Memento” ( if you have not seen it it is well worth a few hours of your time) as it has the same puzzle mentality with layers being peeled away as the listener (in the case of Vortex Ice) gets drawn deeper in to the proceedings. It is (On first listen) a very confusing story, things seem to happen for no apparent reason (they don’t there is a reason) and when you get to that critical mass of information point and penny drops as to what you have just been listening to you will feel rewarded. The star of this story is undoubtedly Lisa Greenwood as Flip Jackson who has really come in to her own as Old Sixie’s companion and the only little hint I will give you is “follow Flip”. This is a wonderful way to spend an hour of your time, the story falls fully formed and does not need to be longer than two parts it just works as it is. It needs active listening and demands a lot from the listener but is an immensely rewarding listen.

Cortex Fire by Ian Potter

Thematically if not literally following Vortex Ice is the second of the double bill – Cortex Fire. On the surface a far more traditional Doctor Who story. Under the surface it is nothing of the sort. Arriving on the planet Festin the Doctor has brought Flip to see the Opera and a cosmic light show that will put the Aurora Borealis to shame but are soon caught up in a race to save every man woman and child on Festin from a collective “Urge” to die facilitated by the all powerful computer The Cortex. Fatalism again counterpointed by the enthusiasm and urge to live that the Doctor and Flip bring to the party. So dressed up as a traditional Who story we are shown a Blade Runner-esque world (complete with corresponding Vangelis-like soundtrack) in which the populace are living in fear of terrorists known as “nihilists” who are being blamed for the wave of spontaneous combustion. But the truth is far more terrible and the culture of the planet has a lot to answer for….
It ought to be a very depressing listen but it really isn’t and this is down to the way that the story is presented – a society who’s culture and heritage leads the population to unconsciously want to die is a huge concept and is handled very well in the short running time of the story – and then there is the way that The Doctor (inevitably) saves the day and the sacrifice that he makes – the final scene between Old Sixie and Flip as they discuss how long he has really been away is genuinely moving.

An excellent double bill that will have something for everyone and a lot more if you want to delve a bit deeper under the skin of the story. I like a story that makes me think and these two have given me ample food for thought and a lot of enjoyment. I think these are stories I will be revisiting again in the near future and I think I will hear something fresh and new on my relisten. Fatalism, Frost & Fire all add up to a well deserved 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Vortex Ice by Jonathan Morris

In search of ‘exotic particles’, the Doctor and Flip arrive 700 feet underground, in a mine in Northern Mexico – only to run into a scientific expedition. Among their number, an exobiologist. They’re all on the hunt for alien life! Deep underground, the team finally uncovers a cave of vast crystals – like ice, despite the heat. And inside the crystal: something frozen. Something trapped in time. If only it were something simple, like a monster. But it’s far, far worse than that.

Cortex Fire by Ian Potter

The Doctor brings Flip to the futuristic city of Festin, the best vantage point to witness a unique astronomical light show. In a city governed by the all-powerful network known as the Cortex, they’re soon identified as outsiders – nihilists, perhaps, responsible for a wave of terror that’s been sweeping the city… But the truth is different. The people of Festin are burning up. Spontaneously combusting. And no-one knows why.

Written By: Jonathan Morris, Ian Potter
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip), Shobu Kapoor (Sai Chopra), Orlando Seale (Dylan Argent), Monty D’Inverno (Jannik Woolf), Rebecca Todd (Khoralla), Simon Dylan-Kane (Halus), Eve Webster (Bav/ Cortex/ Enforcer). 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 NINTH DOCTOR CHRONICLES

How do you tell do you tell a Ninth Doctor story without the man that brought the Ninth Doctor to life? There are two possible answers to this question. the firs is “you don’t” the second is you get Nick Briggs to narrate the part, because Mr Briggs gives good Eccleston. Not an impersonation as such but a capturing of the essence of the character all his sadness his flashes of joy at the smallest things because this was a Doctor looking for a reason to carry on, for a meaning to make everything matter again – and he found it in one Rose Tyler.

2005 were heady times, Doctor Who was back, the same show we had always loved but a little bit more emotionally mature, with better characterisation and with the man himself Christopher Eccleston. It cannot be understated how much of a factor in the success of “Nu-Who” Eccleston was – he took the character of the Doctor, stripped away all the extraneous nonsense – the scarves, the question marks, the celery etc and played The Doctor, and what a tour de force performance. For thirteen short weeks he was the man, and this box set revisits those days of Nine and Rose and Jackie and Adam and celebrity historicals and Mickey and (well you get the drift).

So no Mr Eccleston reprising the role (boo!) but a “Fantastic” Mr Briggs capturing his very soul in the performance he gives (yay) and these four stories really do capture the spirit of 2005. Not conventional full cast pieces, more in the style of Companion Chronicles where Nick Briggs narrates with one other guest actor playing the part of a principal character in the proceedings each of them touch on a specific theme from the all too brief Ninth Doctor era, loss and regret for the Time War, Celebrity Historical, the Rose/Doctor relationship and contemporary earth on the Powell estate, so lets begin with the first story:

1. The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott

A reoccurring theme for the Ninth Doctor era was his quest for inner peace after the atrocities of the Time War and where better to begin his quest than Galen, the renowned “planet of peace”. This is a story set prior to the events of Rose with a battle scarred Doctor becoming involved in a peace initiative between two warring races, but unfortunately death is the Doctor’s constant companion and the delegates to the conference begin to be picked off, murdered horribly – Can the Doctor ever escape the horrors of the Time War and the weapons that were forged in that terrible conflict. We see a Doctor desperate to be good again, he even has a one off companion in the guise of journalist Adriana Jardsel (Claire Wyatt) who sees him for the man he is. Its a bleak beginning, or perhaps it is an ending and the gateway to a new future for Number Nine.

2. The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack

And now we are in the Eccleston era proper with an celebrity historical – the celebrity in this case is Emily Bronte (Laura Riseborough) who has viewed the “window on the moor” of the title since she was a child and helps those that pass through to find other windows. Set on two worlds on the other side of portals opened by a mad usurper – The Doctor and Rose become embroiled in a civil war set in a world of glass prisons  - the armies are using the windows as a short cut between different parts of the reality but could the story of a usurped leader and his fiancee be the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s Withering Heights? Rose has heard the song but not read the book – The Doctor is appalled :-)
Very “2005” in its sensibilities, the story is fast paced and has an emotional heart and has the “love conquers all” vibe that the new series was proud to wear as a badge of honour.

3. The Other Side by Scott Handcock

Adam is Davros! screamed the chatrooms and forums of 2005 (also Norman Lovett was playing Davros – he wasnt and he didn’t) But Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley of Todd Grimshaw fame) was a second companion for a very short time of the Ninth Doctor and this story takes place right after “Dalek”. The Doctor is trying to get Adam home but ends up in an abandoned cinema. In Birmingham. A cinema that is host to a phenomenon that is slowly eating the cinema – a temporal tsunami is happening and with the Doctor trapped in late Victorian times and Rose Tyler trapped in the 1920’s it is up to Adam Mitchell to prove his worth as part of team TARDIS 2005! Fast paced, urgent and having all the things that the Eccleston era is remembered for – the bond between Nine and Rose, time war guilt, a contemporary setting – this story hits the ground running and doesn’t give up. There is a truly “cold shivers” moment when Nine & Rose finally meet up again in the 1920’s after a temporal phone call and Bruno Langley shows us what Adam might have been capable of if he had been allowed more screen time. Highlight of the set? I think so.

4. Retail Therapy by James Goss

How can you have a Ninth Doctor set without the unmissable Jackie Tyler. Short answer is “you can’t” even better when the wonderful Camille Coduri reprises her role in a tale of a pyramid scheme that is literally draining the life away from the residents of the Powell estate and other similar housing projects. You see Jackie Tyler has made a success of herself, she is one of the top seller of “Glubby Glubs” the latest craze (and a steal at only £19.99) pick one up and stroke it and all your troubles sort of fade away, they give you good nights sleep and are even making Jackie look younger. The Doctor isn’t impressed, he thinks Jackie has inadvertently launched an alien invasion from her living room, but Jackie is only interested in her profit and buying a villa in Spain….
Peel away the almost camp exterior and this is quite a nasty little thriller, a parable of capitalism draining the life from consumers, who then want to buy more which then drains them some more and so on and so on. You have to LOVE Camille Coduri who slips back in to the role of Jackie as if it was still 2005.

A lovely box set that makes me feel all nostalgic (cant believe the noughties arena nostalgia) and lovingly recreates and expands on the beginnings of the rebirth of a TV legend. Cant praise Nick Briggs enough both for his narrations and his extraordinary Eccleston and I really hope we get some more either in box sets like this or as Short Trips.
Not perfect, some of the stories are rather long, but a great listen and whilst not quite a Nine, a very good 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Four new stories from the Ninth Doctor’s era, performed by Nicholas Briggs. Featuring Bruno Langley as Adam Mitchell and Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler.

1. The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott

Galen is a place where people come to heal. The renowned ‘planet of peace’ seems the ideal venue for talks between two warring races. But when death disrupts the diplomacy, Cosmic Nine news reporter Adriana Jarsdel uncovers a different story. Luckily, someone is there to help. A battle-weary veteran from another war. The Doctor has come to Galen – but is he looking for peace, or something else entirely?

2. The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack

Emily and her sisters once told each other fables of warring kingdoms: wicked princes, noble dukes, and their battling armies. Now she wanders the moors of her childhood alone, remembering those tales. The TARDIS arrives amid a strange civil war, with prisons made of glass and cities stalked by terrifying beasts. As windows open between worlds, stories and storyteller meet, and Rose comes face to face with Emily Brontë.

3. The Other Side by Scott Handcock

Rose has invited a new friend on board the TARDIS, against the Doctor’s better judgement. But when the Time Lord tries to take his unwelcome guest home, a temporal tsunami cuts the journey short. The travellers find the source of the disturbance inside an abandoned cinema. Will Adam Mitchell help or hinder when the Doctor and Rose discover what is lurking on the other side of the screen?

4. Retail Therapy by James Goss

Jackie Tyler is a success. Every home should have a Glubby Glub, and Jackie is star saleswoman on the Powell Estate. At last, she’s found her calling and it’s only a matter of time before she can give Rose the life she deserves. But the Doctor isn’t impressed. Jackie Tyler isn’t just filling peoples’ houses with useless clutter. He believes she’s launching an alien invasion…

Written By: Cavan Scott, Una McCormack, Scott Handcock and James Goss
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Nicholas Briggs (Narrator),  Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell), Claire Wyatt (Adriana Jarsdel), Laura Riseborough (Emily Brontë). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producers: David Richardson & Scott Handcock
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – DARK SHADOWS: DREAMS OF LONG AGO

Dark Shadows has, as I have stated on several occasions an Autumnal feel about it. something of the loss of innocence, the world becoming just that little colder and darker. Something that makes you want to get to the safety of your own home and to be with your loved ones and hold them just that little bit closer and the title of the latest Dark Shadows anthology “Dreams of Long Ago” does nothing to dispel that feeling, it enhances it and creates an anticipation of lost loves, missed opportunities and lives wasted. And if that is what you are expecting then you will not be disappointed.

This release is a slow burner, very character based and very intimate as we get insights into the lives of four protagonists – Sabrina Jennings, Quentin Collins, Barnabas Collins and Sebastian Shaw. All the stories are stand alone, they take place in different places at different times but the ambiance of each individual story knit together very well making this feel like a cohesive set of tales that really do belong together.

The Reflected Man by Alan Ronald

Sabrina Jennings has lost everything, she works as a waitress in New York and exists from day to day mourning the loss of her husband Chris. And then she catches a reflection in a train windows and sees something in her mirror. But is this all just wishful thinking or is it the closure she has been denied? This being Dark Shadow it really could be either. Lisa Richards paints a picture in words of a cold grey New York and a desperate woman in Sabrina Jennings – the story really is a study in grief and much more powerful for being a personal account and not a full cast drama. A strong beginning.

Old Acquaintance by Matthew Waterhouse

Yes it is THAT Matthew Waterhouse (of Adric fame if you don’t already know) who has penned this one, a Quentin Collins story set on a cold New Years Eve in Collinsport where the Collins family decide to go for a quiet drink at the Blue Whale. Surely that isn’t much to ask? In the world of Dark Shadows it seems it is as Quentin is haunted by the memories of a New Years Eve he spent in Wales during World War 1, where he was introduced to the myth of the Mari Lwyd (the “Grey Mare”), because legends and traditions don’t get forgotten, they get lost until they are needed again, and on the cusp of 1972 The Mari Lwyd has come back for Quentin…..
Almost a story within a story as just as the Mari Lwyd appears in Collinsport we are transported back in Quentin’s memory to Wales. As a child in school I learned of the myth of Mari Lwyd so its lovely to have Welsh myths and legends mined for Dark Shadows and done to such creepy effect by the writing of Matthew Waterhouse and the performance of David Selby.

Devil’s Rock by Kate Webster

Possibly, no actually, the most straightforward tale in the set, this has a definite beginning middle and end and tells of Barnabas Collins and his servant Willie Loomis on a voyage to Jaipur to meet up with Dr Julia Hoffman – but things don’t always go to plan and Willie’s streak of decency in wanting to bury a corpse they come across on the Devil’s Rock leads to disaster. Andrew Collins reads this story about a fishing village with a secret. The story is quite predictable but is very pacy. Perhaps a little too straightforward and lacking the depth of the other stories in the collection this still has a melancholic feeling, it feels like this is the end of Willie Loomis devotion to Barnabas and that the actual story is just a backdrop for this.

Cobwebs by Aaron Lamont

This is a very very different story, even by Dark Shadows standards – its almost like listening to a waking nightmare. Sebastian Shaw is an inmate at Windcliff Sanitarium. But he is alone, no Doctors, no Nurses just his own room and a Spider spinning away in the corner. Is he awake or is he asleep, is he dreaming of this hell or is it really happening to him? And is there a way out? There is nothing more frightening than having your grasp on reality challenged, and that is what Sebastian is suffering in Windcliff – but he really isn’t sure what form that his reality takes, so maybe he just better listen to the Spider on his wall who will make everything alright. What harm can it do? An ambiguous, challenging and tough listen and a very good piece of acting and sound design end this set on a gruesome high.

A mood piece if ever there was one, Dreams of Long Ago gets under the skin (especially Cobwebs) and paints pictures of longing and loss and myth and murder. Another great Dark Shadows release and a well deserved 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…

The Reflected Man by Alan Ronald

Sabrina Jennings is broken. Her husband is dead and her life means nothing. Alone in the city of New York she believes that her life can’t get any worse. But she is about to discover that there’s always something darker… hiding in the darkness…

Old Acquaintance by Matthew Waterhouse

New Years Eve, 1971 and Quentin Collins is celebrating in the Blue Whale. But something is coming for him… Something he first met in a Welsh village in 1914. Will the people of Collinsport survive to see 1972?

Devil’s Rock by Kate Webster

Barnabas Collins and Willie Loomis are beginning a journey. A journey that they hope will lead them to their old friend, Julia Hoffman. But, on this night, they are about to discover that Collinsport isn’t the only town in Maine to have a dark, terrible secret.

Cobwebs by Aaron Lamont

Something is very wrong at Windcliff Sanitarium. Sebastian Shaw wakes from a nightmare, alone. There are no doctors… no nurses… just a tiny little spider weaving its web on his wall. And outside, in the hospital corridors, the Burned Man is calling for him again.

Written By: Matthew Waterhouse, Kate Webster, Alan Ronald, Aaron Lamont
Directed By: David Darlington, Jim Pierson

Cast

Lisa Richards, David Selby, Andrew Collins, Christopher Pennock and Brendan O’Rourke

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: CORPSE DAY

In life there are some things that you enjoy and some things that you appreciate. Corpse Day falls in to the latter category – as a work of dramatic fiction it is well written, has believable characters in an apalling situation and it has some sort of redemption, some gleam, a small glimmer that life is better than “this”. As a story Corpse Day takes the listener to the darkest, most depraved, most dangerous place Torchwood has ever been – it takes us to a house in Cardiff. An ordinary every day house inhabited by a man who is anything but ordinary and every day. Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) and PC Andy Davidson (Tom Price) are about to enter the world of Glynn Lewis and no one will ever be the same again. Not Owen, not Andy, not the listener and not Glynn’s “Family”. No One.

 Intriguing isnt it, and a strange title in “Corpse Day” too, I could quite work out what the story was going to be about and the synopsis gave very little away so I will try to maintain the veil of secrecy whilst giving you a little flavour of the proceedings. Corpse Day is a day in which a regular Police Officer gets to liaise with Torchwood on cold cases and the case Andy has in mind is one of young girls going missing. Andy is enthusiastic really up for working with Torchwood, Owen is bored, cynical and ready to quit from the outset and blame everything on the Rift. And then they get a lead and this lead is the seemingly odd shopping habits of one Glynn Lewis, and this seemingly innocuous fact will change them forever.

 When Mrs W and I watch The Walking Dead together we always say the Zombies cant help being Zombies, its what they do – its the human cruelty that we find difficult to stomach – and it is fair to say that Corpse Day falls in to that category. With all the horrors that the rift brings to Cardiff, the most awful thing that Torchwood have faced has been in Cardiff all his life. There is nothing more frightening than human beings – because as fantastical as Torchwood is, the events in this story could almost conceivable happen – and they probably have and THAT is the most awful thing, that a human being could do to others what Glynn visits upon his “family”. And that is all I am going to say about that.

 As I said at the beginning there are some things you enjoy and some things you appreciate – in Corpse Day that has never been truer. James Goss gets the dynamic between Owen & Andy perfect and over the course of the drama they have their souls laid bare making terrible decisions that no one should ever have to make and what began as a jaunty “Cardiff Buddy Movie” ends in something altogether more than the sum of its parts. The seeds planted in act one are not the crop harvested in the final act, they are so far away from the seeds as to be another species altogether. It is a tightly written, claustrophobic piece that is totally unpredictable, the subject matter is difficult and challenging and the amount of character development we see from the leads is startling. I didn’t “enjoy” it – Corpse Day isn’t a piece to be enjoyed, but as a challenging drama then boy did I appreciate it. 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Glynn Lewis is just putting up a spice rack when there’s a knock at the door. A knock that will bring a brutal end to his perfect family.

PC Andy is very excited. It’s Corpse Day – the day when the local constabulary get help on dead cases from Torchwood. This year, he’s volunteered to act as liaison, and he knows he’s going to have a brilliant time.

For Dr Owen Harper, today’s just like any other. There’ll be bloodshed, screaming and murder. At the end of it all, he doesn’t care. After all, life’s just for the living, and he’s long dead.

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

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Tom Price (Andy Davidson), Hannah Maddox (Angela), Alex Tregear (Jan), Nigel Betts (Glynn), Oliver Mason (Sonny), Rhian Blundell (Marta), Aly Cruickshank (Desk Sergeant), Charlotte O’Leary (Waitress)

Producer James Goss

Script Editor Steve Tribe

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – PATHFINDER LEGENDS – CURSE OF THE CRIMSON THRONE – 3.4 A HISTORY OF ASHES

And so the story continues as our heroes Valeros (Stewart Alexander), Ezren (Trevor Littledale), Harsk (Ian Brooker) and Merisiel (Kerry Skinner) vow to overthrow the evil Queen of Korvosa – and she really is a bad lot is old Queen Illeosa, not only engineering the murder of her husband, but instigating a plague in the city and then declaring a quarantine all the while building up her support, declaring martial law and putting her fanatical followers the Grey Maidens in charge of the army. A thoroughly reprehensible human being.

 But as our heroes found out in last months episode “Escape From Old Korvosa” the Queen isn’t quite the woman she was and is using artefacts from a long dead Dragon to make her invincible and in this months instalment “A History of Ashes” out heroes venture out into the Cinderlands to seek a tribe who can help them in their quest to defat Illeosa before it is too late.

 Last months story seemed claustrophobic and meandering, it lacked the pace of the first two instalments and really dragged in places, this months is different – freed from the city based setting this is a race against time with not only the respect of the Cinderlands tribesmen to earn, but a pack of assassins sent by the tyrant Queen to avoid and as such the story zips along from encounter to encounter. As with previous instalments I can just imagine tensely playing out the encounters in my long past table-top role playing days, rolling dice and hoping for a good outcome, hatching plots to stealthily take out assassins and coming up with an insane plan to ingratiate myself with the tribesmen of the Cinderlands. But NO plan I could come up with is as insane as the one hatched in the story. It involves a giant Wyrm, getting eaten by it and fighting a way out. That is crazy, utterly mad – but in the context of the story it works and it works well.

 The whole episode has a cohesive narrative and everything that happens furthers the plot and there is a great ending where clues are given as to how the Queen can be defeated and the location of the mythical weapons needed to do this.

 Pure old fashioned “boys own” adventure from beginning to end with  liberal doses of peril and bravado mixed with some quiet mysticism and plot exposition – its not Shakespeare, but does it need to be? This is a highly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours in a world of pure adventure and is played with by the whole cast that it is difficult not to fall in to the world of Pathfinders and get lost for a while. An adventure on a grand scale deserves a rather grand score – it may not be a Queen, but it is definitely a Duchess and deserves 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

The path to save Korvosa leads Ezren, Valeros, Harsk and Merisiel far beyond the ravaged city’s walls. In the burning plains of the Cinderlands the tenacious tribes of the Shoanti barbarians protect an ancient secret that might be the only way to save the Jewel of Varisia from ruin, but Korvosa has been their enemy too long for the proud natives to give up their knowledge freely. Only by learning the ways of the Shoanti and facing their sacred trials can the Queen’s champions hope to save Korvosa.

Written By: David Bryher, based on a story by Michael Kortes
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Stewart Alexander (Valeros), Trevor Littledale (Ezren), Ian Brooker (Harsk), Kerry Skinner (Merisiel), Louise Faulkner (Trinia Sabor / Zellara), Amy Newton (Cinnabar), Marcus Churchill (Scout), John Green (Trader / Gren), Steven Elder (Krojun), Toby Longworth (Thousand Bones)

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

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REVIEW – THE OMEGA FACTOR SERIES TWO

Forgive my seeming ramble, but it will make sense. Probably. As followers of my twitter feed will know (or be bored to tears with) I moved house recently, and for one whole week had no TV. No terrestrial, no Sky, no cable, no Freeview. Zilch. The only thing we had was a Blu ray player and a large collection of DVD’s. Now a very good friend of mine purchased a DVD for me which he insisted I watch called “The Living and the Dead” so over the course of that first week in Colwyn Bay (for that is where I am :-) ) Mrs W & I watched the series and loved it, and it ended on a cliffhanger and there was going to be a second series, but there isn’t now. A wasted opportunity. And this got me thinking about The Omega Factor because even though they are a century or so apart in time thematically they have a lot in common, even down to being cut short after one season. Thing is The Omega Factor was completely off my radar, I had LOVED series one (review HERE) but hadn’t thought that much about it – but watching The Living and the Dead had whetted my appetite for more.

The Omega Factor is often described as a template for The X-Files, but it is a lot more than this, it has a sort of sadness and despair that the films of the late 1970’s had – its not perpetually bleak but it feels born out of a world that was once all fun and games but has suddenly become dangerous – the hangover from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s is in full force and the world is a lot more dangerous for it. But that was the late 1970’s when the TV series aired – Big Finish did something rather daring with their continuation, instead of going for a period piece they set it now and as foil to Dr Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson) they cast John Dorney as Adam Dean, son of Tom Crane (the late James Hazeldine) – the first series from Big Finish was a resounding success, even being shortlisted for a BBC audio drama award, but could the second series keep up the momentum. The short answer is yes, the long answer is carry on reading my rambles…..

It is very difficult to do The Omega Factor justice by mere words and reflection on what I have listened to, this is a series more than any other that has to be experienced, all the episodes are intensely personal and the listener almost feels like an intruder eavesdropping on private conversations or being privy to information that they really shouldn’t know – scripts are one thing, but bringing those scripts to life is another, so we as listeners are privileged to have an astounding leading duo in Louise Jameson and John Dorney, they make everything so real, they are utterly believable characters not genre tropes, both flaws, both imperfect, but with a bond that in some ways is stronger than family.

So The Omega Factor Series 2 – we return to Department 7 for four more tales of the paranormal, the strange and the downright disturbing, but this time there is a linking theme, an arc going all the way back to the original series.

2.1 Somnum Sempiternum by Phil Mulryne

Horror is an easy table to give a release – The Omega Factor is not horror, more “Creeping Dread” and nowhere more so than this opening story. Anne & Adam are called in by their boss Doyle (Alan Cox) to investigate a series of impossible suicides of high up members of the establishment including a prominent MP. This is a cruel world, cold and uncaring, a world where a young girl can be tortured, mind controlled and used as a weapon for a cause, a world where the life of someone that can be used is cheap to certain individuals who have a lot to gain. Its all about character, thats what sells this so completely, Anne & Adam are just so believable and fallible – and this is where i disagree with the X-Files comparison, that show just didn’t have character like this. And what a bleak way to start a series, but what an intriguing way to suck the listener into the world of Department 7.
2.2 The Changeling by Roy Gill

You think part one left us in a dark place? No, that was just the beginning, just testing the water. Part two is altogether more sinister and more dangerous. We start with Adam being locked up in the maximum security Tollmire Prison where his cellmate is one Alasdair Reiver (Alan Francis) serving life without parole for the premeditated murder of his teenage best friend Nicholas Link, he doesn’t deny it, but he has his reasons for doing it, reasons that will put Adam in mortal danger. Tense, thrilling and nail biting – like a downward spiral of despair as Anne uncovers the truth behind the death of Nicholas Link and the forces that are behind it and the reason Reiver committed murder all those years ago, sometimes the past is best left well alone…..
2.3 Let the Angel Tell Thee by Louise Jameson

You can tell a Louise Jameson script, even though the subject matter is horrific the construction is poetic and lyrical and has a sort of macabre beauty. Anne has taken on another psychic prodigy in Edward Milton MP (Gunnar Cauthery), he has similar abilities to Adam. Anne also finds time for a brief romance with his Uncle, Anthony Archer (Hugh Fraser) – but is he all he seems, and is Adam’s apparently deteriorating mental health a symptom of a greater conspiracy? This episode sees the return of Morag (Natasha Gerson) who appears to Adam in fever dreams or nightmares or psychic projections warning him of danger of “1984 or 1985 or 1986 or 1987” the Morag scenes are worthy of my favourite director David Lynch, powerful, surreal imagery emblazoned across the mind of the listener – it is the most visual of episodes, and the most upsetting but also the most beautiful.

2.4 Awakening by Matt Fitton

The conspiracy will stop at nothing to get it sway, even injuring Adam’s estranged partner and daughter in an accident & taking them to an exclusive private clinic – and taking Morag there at the same time in to the bargain. This really does expose the conspiracy as petty and vindictive, wanting power for powers sake and willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get it. An action packed finale to an excellent box set.

And pause for breath – its that sort of set – the stakes keep getting raised higher and higher as our heroes are washed further in to the spiral of despair and on top of that there is a hook for a possible third series.
Big Finish have hit the proverbial home run with this set, it has everything and stayed with me – in fact I still cant stop thinking about it. Fantastic scripting, superb sound design and two incredible leads in Louise Jameson and John Dorney make it a resounding success and a 10/10 from me. (now if someone at Big Finish could get on to the BBC about a continuation of The Living & the Dead…..)

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Over thirty years have passed since Tom Crane left Department 7, a top secret organisation that investigates the paranormal.

Anne Reynolds now runs the operation, and for three decades their enigmatic nemesis Omega has been silent.

But that peace is about to be shattered. When Crane’s son Adam is drawn into Department 7, the past quickly catches up with Anne and her team…

2.1 Somnum Sempiternum by Phil Mulryne

When a series of impossible suicides affect the establishment, Doyle calls in Department 7 to investigate. From the scene of a grisly death, Adam and Anne discover a trail that eventually leads to someone they’ve met before, once again running dangerous psychic experiments.

Dr Jane Wyatt is back, with an even more lethal agenda. But someone else is pulling her strings…

2.2 The Changeling by Roy Gill

Adam takes on a risky assignment, going undercover inside Tollmire Prison as a murderer’s cellmate. But when the lights go out in these corridors, something else lurks in the darkness. Something that kills.

As Anne tries to unlock decades-old secrets, she discovers that some who believe in the folklore of faeries and changelings will take their faith to terrible extremes.

2.3 Let the Angel Tell Thee by Louise Jameson

Life has rarely been so kind to Anne Reynolds. Her work has gained new impetus as she investigates a psychic prodigy. And she has gained an admirer in the shape of a charming and debonair London official. But Adam is plagued, first by wasps, and then by warnings of disaster from a familiar voice.

Who is the ghost that’s really haunting both their lives?

2.4 Awakening by Matt Fitton

An intricate scheme, forty years in the planning, is reaching completion. When a devastating event affects the staff of Department 7, the final pieces fall into place.

Can Anne convince Doyle that the threat from Omega is real? Where is Morag? And can anyone reach Adam in time to save him from the powers that defeated his father?

Written By: Phil Mulryne, Roy Gill, Louise Jameson, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Louise Jameson (Dr Anne Reynolds), John Dorney (Adam Dean), Natasha Gerson (Morag), Camilla Power (Dr Jane Wyatt), Alex Tregear (Kate), Alan Cox (James Doyle), Richenda Carey (Sarah Maitland), Gunnar Cauthery (Edward Milton), Hugh Fraser (Anthony Archer), Alan Francis (Alasdair Reiver), Ben Fox (Graham Stocker). Other roles performed by the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – JAGO & LITEFOOT SERIES 13

Can it really be 40 years? I mean really and truly? Well yes as a matter of fact it appears it can. Just over 40 years ago the Fourth Doctor and Leela arrived in Victorian London for one of their greatest adventures, met up with a Giant Rat, a Homicidal Homunculus and a time displaced terror from the future and also made some lifetime friend in Professor George Litefoot & Mr Henry Gordon Jago – who would have thought that those six episode of TV gold would spawn 13 series plus many specials of audio gold? Yes indeed this is the bi-annual bean-feast of bluff & bravado, the six monthly slice of silliness & spectacle – this is Jago & Litefoot Series 13.

I must admit I was a little bit worried at the ending of series 12 – there was no traditional tag scene or cliffhanger leading us on to the next box set, nothing – I thought it might be twelve and out for our investigators of all things infernal. How wrong I was, and really how could series 13 be trailered anyhow, it is a very different series, still full of the usual theatricality and charm this entry into the J & L canon harks back to their earliest encounter whilst being completely different to anything that has appeared before. Now being Whovians you all probably know The Talons of Weng Chiang back to front (and if not – why not???) but I suggest that you give it another airing before listening to this set as one name hangs heavy over the proceedings, and that name is Magnus Greel…..
That got your interest didn’t it? and so it should if not for The Doctor & Leela and Magnus Greel Jago & Litefoot would probably not have encountered each other at all. Imagine that.

The set comprises of four interlinked stories:

13.1: The Stuff of Nightmares by Paul Morris

It all begins with very real and very vivid dreams Jago, Litefoot & Ellie are all suffering. Litefoot consults his old Psychiatrist friend Dr Hilary Standish (Carolyn Pickles) for assistance whilst Jago employs one Harry Hypno (Tony Turner) to try to get to the bottom of the waking nightmare worlds they seem to fins themselves in. And then there is Agent Cara (Abi Hayes) a Time Agent sent back to apprehend one Magnus Greel, she is utterly cold, ruthless & single minded and her trail leads her inevitably to Jago & Litefoot.
This opener drops the listener right into the thick of it – beginning with Litefoot’s nightmare of being dead on a slab whilst Jago performs his autopsy – the listener is caught completely off guard, this feels a lot more dangerous and bleak than Jago & Litefoot has been before. Add to that the cold nature of Agent Cara and you have one of the most  intriguing but also most visceral episodes that the series has produced – 13 series in and it is still fresh.

13.2: Chapel of Night by Jonathan Barnes

Carrying directly on from the previous episode our heroes find themselves back home in London – good old smog filled Victorian London, and it is. Unfortunately it is not their smog filled Victorian London, but something slightly different. We are in new territory for J & L, they are in a parallel universe. A universe in which they never met. Litefoot works it out pretty quickly – Ellie doesn’t know them, Inspector Quick only has a professional relationship with Litefoot & does not know Jago at all, but infernal investigator they are whichever universe they are in and they soon become embroiled in a mystery regarding the “Chapel of the Night” and its owner Mrs Bartholomew (Teresa Banham) – why is she taking in suicidal men, what is she doing with them and why? It seem perhaps Jago & Litefoot are not the only visitors to this Universe.
Parallel universes are a sci-fi staple and usually involve a big difference like The Roman Empire not having fallen or Charles I winning the English Civil War, but this is far more subtle – the failure of a certain Time Lord to turn up changed the lives of the Jago & Litefoot of this universe as we shall see in the next story….

13.3: How The Other Half Lives by Matthew Sweet

Victorian times were awful if you think about it – disease, poverty, squalor, drugs, filth, cruel working conditions, debtors prisons. So what are two gentlemen from a parallel universe with no means of support to do in these hard times? Well they survive as best they can, renting a room in a squalid tenement block. But what of the Jago & Litefoot of this universe – well this is the episode where we meet them and see the sort of people they would be had the events of Talons not really impacted on them. Litefoot is more remote than the man we know, more dry and bookish and tinged with a sort of melancholy. Jago is, well, Jago – no longer a theatre owner (He lost his job at the Palace) but a married man, married to Xiu Xiu (Lucy Sheen) and scraping a living by scouring the sewers of London for lost items of value to sell – but Jago has a plan to put himself back on top, ever the showman Jago & wife have a plan to hunt, shoot, kill and stuff the giant rat that still roams the sewers – and a chance meeting with one Professor George Litefoot (from our universe) steps their plans up a gear. So did you all rewatch Talons? Matthew Sweet obviously has and has lovingly picked apart the story & reconstructed the outcome had there been no Doctor to save the day and to bring Jago & Litefoot together – but someone had to defeat Greel, and destroy Mr Sin didn’t they? IF Jago & Litefoot didn’t exist then someone had to step up to the plate and become them – make way for Aubrey & Betterman, Investigators of all things infernal.

13.4: Too Much Reality by Justin Richards

Aubrey (Jamie Newall) & Dr Betterman (David Warner) two characters who have appeared previously in Jago & Litefoot and in this Universe it was they (without the help of the Doctor) who defeated Greel and have since investigated infernal incidents and in this final story Jago & Jago & Litefoot & Litefoot & Aubrey & Betterman have a Demon to investigate, corpses that fade in and out of reality and a final encounter with a recent enemy. AND our Jago and Litefoot still have to try to get home. A lot to wrap up  and a lot going on but wrapped up beautifully and completely logically and for me a “punch the air” moment – there was a cliffhanger to the next series…..

Another wonderful collection filled with nostalgia, adventure and a new way of looking at our leading men and the men they almost were. I also need to thank David Richardson who is bowing out as producer of the range after 13 blockbuster series, I have made no secret that Jago & Litefoot is my favourite Big Finish series and this is in no small part down to David’s production skills. It was lovely to hear Trevor Baxter & Christopher Benjamin get to play slightly different versions of themselves and their skill in bringing these subtle differences to life was a joy to hear. What will the future hold? The new producer has huge shoes to fill – but has been gifted with a legacy of quality stories, class acting and exceptional sound design as a starting point, and I cannot wait for the new dawn that is series 14. A sideways trip that does not pause for breath and a Talon’s tribute-tastic 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Someone from the future has arrived in Victorian London on the trail of a renegade… but that trail leads them to Henry Gordon Jago and Professor LItefoot.

So begins an adventure that will propel the Infernal Investigators into unknown territory, and an encounter with two people they should avoid at all costs.

Themselves.

Four more cases for the Infernal Investigators:

13.1: The Stuff of Nightmares by Paul Morris

Litefoot and Jago are both suffering from strange waking nightmares. They resort to hypnotherapy to try to diagnose the problem. But meanwhile a Time Agent is looking for them – as a way of tracking down the notorious criminal Magnus Greel. Before they know what is happening, our heroes find themselves trapped in a dystopian future where nothing makes sense any more…

13.2: Chapel of Night by Jonathan Barnes

Trapped in a parallel world, Jago and Litefoot are enlisted to help Inspector Quick investigate the mysterious Chapel of Night run by Mrs Bartholomew. Needless to say, there is more to the chapel – and Mrs Bartholomew – than there initially seems. Soon our heroes are caught up in another horrifying and dangerous adventure. But more to the point, can they ever get back to their own world again?

13.3: How The Other Half Lives by Matthew Sweet

Perhaps inevitably, Jago and Litefoot meet their counterparts in the world where they now find themselves.  The Litefoot in this world still owns Greel’s time cabinet, while Jago is also married to Xiu Xiu, a bar maid.  But Greel’s cabinet is not the only thing to survive from his time in this world – there is also a giant rat on the loose in the sewers beneath London…

13.4: Too Much Reality by Justin Richards

Jago and Litefoot meet their equivalent infernal investigators in this world – Aubrey and Betterman. Together they investigate sightings of a strange ‘demon’ and bodies that mysteriously fade away… Before long they discover a crashed spaceship, and find out the truth behind Mrs Bartholomew and the Chapel of Night.  But even with this mystery solved, will they be able to get home again?

Written By: Paul Morris, Jonathan Barnes, Matthew Sweet, Justin Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick), Abi Hayes (Agent Cara), Carolyn Pickles (Dr Hilary Standish), Tony Turner (Harry Hypno/ Sergeant Delaney/ Dr Logan), Teresa Banham(Mrs Bartholomew/ Angelica), Oliver Lansley (Jack Ridpath), Jeff Rawle (Toby Brokesmith), Lucy Sheen (Xiu Xiu), Phoebe Thomas (Hannah Price), Oliver Jackson (Dicky Twist), David Warner (Dr Luke Betterman), Jamie Newall (Aubrey). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor Justin Richards

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – SPARE PARTS (LIMITED EDITION VINYL)

There has never been a Doctor Who story quite like this, not before, not since. And it is very easy to see why it is a firm fan favourite and by extension a candidate for a very special Vinyl release – this story is unique. It could quite easily have been a derivative of “Genesis of the Daleks” and I am sure it would have been very exciting – but Spare Parts is  different and over the course of the six episodes (recut from four episode of the original release) the listener experiences the death throes of a doomed civilisation and the birth of something terrible – not through the eyes of the great and the good but through the eyes of an ordinary family – The Hartleys’.

Spare Parts takes us to Mondas at the point of the evolutionary dead end that would eventually give us the Cybermen becomes a necessity, the planet is dying, the population are weak and ill, and to survive the “Committee” with the aid of chief surgeon Doctorman Allan (Sally Knyvette) has devised the only logical way to ensure the survival of the people of Mondas, they are to become Cybermen….
This is no grand evil plan for universal domination, this is desperation pure and simple and that is the tragedy of Spare Parts, the road that has led the Mondasians’ to this cul-de-sac is the ONLY logical way to survive.

This story is about as bleak and as grim as a Doctor Who story can possible get – The Doctor (Peter Davison) & Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) arrive on Mondas, it is like a bleak version of the 1950’s a sort of Orwellian dystopia – if you have ever seen the Terry Gilliam film “Brazil” you will get the idea – TV announcements are all done in the frightfully posh received pronunciation and there is a rather fake blitz spirit of everyone pulling together while really the world falls apart, food is rationed, power is low, a curfew is in force and the Police who enforce it are “augmented” halfway points between human & Cyberman. We go back to the original premise of the Cybermen – Spare Parts surgery gone mad. Replacing limbs & organs is the norm on Mondas, the people who do it are not evil, they just want to survive, which brings me to the Hartley family – as ordinary a family as you could imagine Dad (Paul Copley), Frank (Jim Hartley) and Yvonne (Kathryn Guck) all making the best of things as the world crumbles around them. Poor Yvonne – it is her character more than any that represents the tragedy of the Cybermen, no spoilers but you will know the scene – genuinely moving, utterly abhorrent and tinged with tragedy – all of Mondas and its troubles personified in a frightened young girl. Chilling.

In a world populated by those who have no choice but to replace their bodies with steel, chrome and plastic the Cybermen seem inevitable – The Doctor cannot stop it, the Cybermen are part of established history, but can he get a small victory, can he change them at all?

The whole production has a feeling of claustrophobia and fighting against the inevitable. Never before has Doctor Who had such a sense of futility. As for the Cybermen themselves Nick Briggs absolutely nails the Mondasian voices giving distinct character to the different Cybermen, especially Commander Zheng (remember Cybermen had names in their Mondasian form) and his portrayal of ****DELETED FOR SPOILERS**** would bring a tear to the eye of even the most stiff upper lipped fan. We also have Derren Nesbitt as Black Market Organ trader Thomas Dodd – as slippery and morally ambiguous as they come still trying to make a fast profit as the world crumbles around him.

If you have the asking price then I urge you to buy this classic, it really is a thing of beauty. If you don’t then the standard version is just £2.99 – and it is a story that ALL Doctor Who fans have to hear. If this were a TV story it would be up there with Talons of Weng Chiang, City of Death & Blink in fan polls. It is a very human story about people voluntarily surrendering their humanity, it stayed with me on its original release and it is haunting me now on listening to the reissue. Mondas must survive. At all costs. A distorted reflection of our own world and a magnificent 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

STRICTLY LIMITED TO 500 COPIES – THIS RELEASE IS EXCLUSIVE TO THE BIG FINISH WEBSITE

The story of the genesis of the Cybermen. One of our listeners’ favourite releases. Dark, moving and terrifying…

On a dark frozen planet where no planet should be, in a doomed city with a sky of stone, the last denizens of Earth’s long-lost twin will pay any price to survive, even if the laser scalpels cost them their love and hate and humanity.

And in the mat-infested streets, around tea-time, the Doctor and Nyssa unearth a black market in second-hand body parts and run the gauntlet of augmented police and their augmented horses.

And just between the tramstop and the picturehouse, their worst suspicions are confirmed: the Cybermen have only just begun, and the Doctor will be, just as he always has been, their saviour…

Please Note: This item will be sent by courier delivery

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Gary Russell

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Sally Knyvette (Doctorman Allan), Pamela Binns (Sisterman Constant), Derren Nesbitt (Thomas Dodd), Paul Copley (Dad), Kathryn Guck (Yvonne Hartley), Jim Hartley (Frank Hartley), Ann Jenkins (Mrs Ginsberg), Nicholas Briggs (Zheng/ Cyber Voices/ Radio Announcer/ Citizen/ Nurse), Alistair Lock (Minister/ TV Commentator), Gary Russell (Philpott/ Nurse)
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REVIEW – DETHRAS

After 42 years of being a fan of Doctor Who I can still be caught unawares by a story, and this months Fourth Doctor story  ”Dethras” is proof positive of that. On the surface of it Dethras is not a very Season 18 story – in fact it sounds completely bonkers – a World War 2 submarine, a crew who suddenly fall unconscious and wake up with only three crew members remaining and (wait for it) a Chimpanzee has mysteriously appeared on board. If you are getting a Season 17 vibe from this description then you are not alone. But the execution is pure season 18.

Whereas this situation could have been dealt with with flippancy and one liners we see the mighty Tom Baker here in full no nonsense mode, taking the material seriously, treating it like a serious situation rather than lampooning it and surprisingly it works. It works very well. And I am at a loss at what else to say about the rest of the story as anything else would be absolutely a huge spoiler and ruin the enjoyment that this little gem brings because this is a story that rewards those who know very little about it. So what can I talk about????

The atmosphere, thats what I will go on – it is pure Season 18 – morose, doom laden with a very quick tempered Fourth Doctor who is a complete contrast to how he was in last months release – the concepts are also very science fiction rather than science fantasy as has been the norm with the Fourth Doctor releases, the listener really is drawn in to Bidmead’s vision of Doctor Who in this release. This is a high concept story dealing with evolution and ethics, has a very small cast and a very satisfying conclusion, and I haven’t even touched on who or what Dethras is – because I really can’t.

What isn’t there to love about a story involving a chimpanzee in a submarine? This may be one of the shortest reviews I have ever written, but that is in no way a reflection on the stories quality – Dethras makes you sit up and take notice and challenges, it requires active listening rather than passive enjoyment and stands out as a very mature story, no monkeying around here, Dethras has a well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

In the control room of a World War 2 submarine something strange has started to happen. As the ship runs out of control, its crew begin to fall unconscious…

Finding the submarine in the last place they’d have expected, the Doctor and Romana are confronted by a mystery. Once fully populated, there are now only three men on board. And there’s now also a chimpanzee.

What has happened to the rest of the crew? What are the strange noises they can hear outside the hull?

And most importantly, who, or what, is Dethras?

Written By: Adrian Poynton
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Alistair Petrie (John), Shelia Ruskin (Flague), Josh Bolt (Philip), Brian Vernel (Robert), John Banks (Franklin), Jane Slavin (Xankari/ Teacher).

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

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: THE DOLLHOUSE

Question: Can I write this review without mentioning 1970’s camp cop show Charlie’s Angels? Answer: seeing as I just have the answer is a great big NO :-)
Because The Dollhouse wears its influences not only on its sleeve, but has printed t-shirts and matching mug & coaster sets – this is Torchwood Los Angeles in the 1970’s, this is Torchwood going Disco and its a brave move too as no cast members that we know appear, this is Torchwood in the last outpost of the British Empire (in L.A of all places) fighting the future in platform heels and Farrah flicks.

So back to the influences – we are introduced Charlie’s Angels style to our heroes Marlow Sweet (Lalla Pyne), Charley Du Bujeau (Kelly-Anne Lyons) and Gabi Martinez (Ajjaz Awad) and their disembodied voice of a boss Mr Beamish (Guy Adams) and we get a very disco iteration of the opening titles – so far, so camp, close your eyes and you really can visualise this as a prime time TV show in the 1970’s with bad stunt doubles, worse editing and a groovy soundtrack – and that would be the easy route, Dollhouse doesn’t take the easy route, and having been lulled in to a false sense of what the world we are about to enter is like it suddenly changes and becomes more real, darker, dangerous and sleazy.

Young aspiring actresses are going missing and there trail leads the ladies of Torchwood to one Don Donohue (Stuart Milligan) theatrical agent and all round flesh crawlingly creepy slime-ball, as Marlow Sweet gods undercover as an office temp, Gabi & then Charley use all their feminine wiles to find out if he is the link and to find out exactly what “The Dollhouse” is.

Camp would have been the easy way, but this pulls no punches and is a much more realistic depiction of L.A in the 1970’s, the racism, the sexism, the male dominated corruption is all laid out – women are (literally) seen as a commodity by Donohue and his allies – the world these characters inhabit is glitzy on the surface but delve a little beneath and it is cold, cruel, charmless and dangerous.

The story moves along at quite a pace, has some great voice acting and incidental music and leaves the door open for further escapades for Torchwood L.A, because these ladies are needed to protect L.A not only from alien threats but from the worst of humanity that see alien threats as an opportunity.

The Dollhouse is a hard edged, hard boiled tale dressed up in spangly disco gear – if Big Finish were pitching a new series then this is a more than worthy pilot – an angelic 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

1970s Los Angeles – the city of angels and broken dreams. Three remarkable women keep the West Coast safe from alien attacks – they are Torchwood Los Angeles.

So many young girls come to this city hoping for something better. For some, luck is just around the corner. For others that golden ticket never arrives and they just fade away.

But it’s not that simple. Everyone has a value to someone, and Torchwood are about to discover Hollywood’s darkest secret.

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

Written By: Juno Dawson
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Laila Pyne (Marlow Sweet), Kelly-Anne Lyons (Charley Du Bujeau), Ajjaz Awad (Gabi Martinez), Stuart Milligan (Don Donohue), Eve Webster (Valerie Fox), David Menkin (Brad), Guy Adams (Mr Beamish).  Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer James Goss

Script Editor Steve Tribe

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – ALIEN HEART/DALEK SOUL

This is release number 224 in the main range. Let that sink in. a whole 224 stories released since 1999 – more than the entire run of the “classic” series plus all of the New series up to The Doctor The Widow and the Wardrobe. What took the TV series 48 years Big Finish have achieved in 18, surely cause for a celebration? Well if not a celebration then maybe a shake up, a change of direction, a reinvention, a re-emphasising? Anyone? Well like it or not thats what Big Finish have done at least for three releases & we will have to see how successful these releases are – Big Finish have decide to go for a “double bill”, two stories per release rather than one, linked but different and what better monster to put in this mini reboot but the Daleks?.

So two stories with complementary titles (rather like series 9 of the TV series remember The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived etc) we start of with Alien Heart/Dalek Soul and they are about as tonally different as it is possible to get, but strangely they really do compliment each other. Whereas Alien Heart is pure pulp sci-fi in the 1960’s mould – it really could pass muster as a Hartnell story, Dalek Soul is as grim and as bleak as it is possible for a Doctor Who story to get.

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole

The Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) discover that ten planets have been utterly obliterated and are concerned that the planet Traxana is next in line for the same treatment, what follows is a boys own adventure featuring giant green space spiders, human colonists on a base, thrills and spills aplenty and a bit of a sucker-punch ending (well it was for me) Halving the episode count makes the plot go faster, every line seems to matter and we lose the capture/escape/run up and down corridors padding that can sometimes (but not always) take the urgency out of proceedings, because things on Traxana are urgent and the threat level is ramped up and up as the pieces start to fall in to place as to what is really going on. This is a plot based old school story and should really appeal to the more “trad” Who fans.

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams

Now this is different, but you will be happy to hear different in a good way because the Daleks have won, they are occupying the planet Mojox and developing a virus to wipe out the “rebels” (read freedom fighters), but they are not developing this virus alone, they have an ally in their Chief Virologist – one Nyssa of Traken and they also have a chief quisling and propagandist a really nasty piece of work called “The Doctor”. Nyssa experiments on live test subjects and has a lot of blood on her hands, encouraged to work hard by The Doctor to aid their Dalek allies in wiping out the indigenous population. Is it a nightmare, is it a parallel universe, are they playing along? To quote the Prisoner “That Would be telling”, but this release pulls no punches and is genuinely nasty in its portrayal of a totalitarian regime. Special praise to Sarah Sutton as Nyssa as she plays a different type of Nyssa, or maybe someone Nyssa could have been in different circumstances. Cold, cruel and disturbing and played just right – superbly crafted, paced and acted.

Big Finish experimented like this before with the three parts and one part stories that emerged around 90-ish in the range, so time will tell if these double bills work or not. I found that the even though there was a tonal difference there was enough for these stories to work as a double bill – not quite a four parter but two different but linked parts of a fractured whole. A Brave move that might just work. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa stumble across a trail of ten destroyed worlds, all of them obliterated by means of some utterly monstrous but utterly unknown device. The planet Traxana would seem to be next in line to suffer the same fate. But when the TARDIS lands on an outpost on Traxana’s moon, Nyssa is carried away by a tide of giant green arachnoids, leaving the Doctor behind…

And the coming menace is closer than he thinks.

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams

On the Dalek-occupied world of Mojox, a group of rebels is engaged in a futile fightback against the invaders – but at last they’ve found an ally, in the form of the mysterious Doctor. Elsewhere, however, the Daleks’ Chief Virologist is seeking to perfect a biological weapon to wipe out the Mojoxalli, once and for all.

Her name… is Nyssa.

Written By: Stephen Cole, Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Eve Webster (Sonderal), Geoffrey Newland (Elthar), Alex Tregear (Theebe), Vineeta Rishi (Falex), and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

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

Dalek Imagery from This Planet Earth.

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