REVIEW – THE MIDDLE

I really like this one, it feels like a Doctor Who story should feel (if that is a thing) has a definite beginning, middle and end with very natural feeling cliffhangers (the ending of part one is a particular treat) it is also one of those stories that has inspired one of my semi regular musical interludes – so sit back relax and enjoy Birthday by The Sugarcubes.

That was rather pleasant wasnt it, if a little melancholy – but thats what birthdays are, a celebration but a reminder of our mortality and birthdays play a very important part in The Middle as the story is set on and around Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) and her fast approaching 35th birthday and Flip Jackson (Lisa Greenwood) attempting to arrange a “Wren Party” to celebrate much to the dismay of Mrs Clarke & The Doctor (Colin Baker).

Landing on the colony of Formicia Flip is desperate to find an all night party or at the very least a pampering session for Mrs Clarke. It seems like an ideal place, but something doesn’t feel quite right – posters claim “The End is the Beginning” and The Doctor is eyed with suspicion by the oddly very young population…

Already in the pre credits sequence we have witnessed a member of the population facing “The End” – its what happens when you reach 70, and the Doctor is ever so slightly older than that, but also Mrs Clarke is fast approaching her 35th birthday and that leads to “the Middle”.

Doctor Who does this sort of story very well – cautionary tales, cracked mirrors held up to our world, stories like The Sunmakers, Vengeance on Varos, The Macra Terror etc, stories where society has gone up a blind alley and has plainly got it wrong. On Formicia the young get to be young, the middle aged get to do all the work and the elderly face “The End” on their 70th birthday – but being Doctor Who it is not as simple as that and as our heroes find out maybe the end really is the beginning.

The main cast are joined by comedy stalwart Mark Heap as “The Middleman”, basically a middleman, a mid level manager who seems to be in complete control of the colony, played in a typically passive/aggressive Mark Heap style, we also have Sheila Reid making her return to the Colin Baker era as Janaiya.

Colin Baker is pure class in this story relishing every twist and turn that the plot brings – no Doctor does moral outrage quite like Old SIxie and he is on top form confronting the injustices he uncovers on his crusade to see things put right. Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood are a fabulous and unlikely pairing as Mrs Clarke & Flip, separated by 60 years in time and an almost infinite chasm in social status they have just clicked with Mrs Clarke showing almost maternal concern for Flip when they are separated – fabulous character development and I hope they have many more adventures together.
The Sixth Doctor releases are always surprising and always rather special and following on from The Behemoth (review HERE) was always going to be difficult but The Middle hits it straight out of the park and on towards The End and fully deserves its 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

It’s L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke’s birthday – and Flip is determined to make it an anniversary to remember.

The futuristic colony of Formicia, where the pampered populace pass their days in endless leisure, seems the perfect place for a ‘Wren Party’. But all is not as it seems. Looking down from the Middle, the skyscraping tower that ascends as far as the colony ceiling, Formicia’s overseers can see that the Doctor doesn’t fit in – and it’s not just his coat that makes him conspicuous…

“The End is the Beginning,” say the propaganda-like posters all over Formicia. Because to be part of this perfect society comes at a price. And the Doctor’s already in arrears.

Written By: Chris Chapman
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip Jackson), Miranda Raison (Mrs Constance Clarke), Mark Heap (The Middleman), Sheila Reid (Janaiya), Wayne Forester (Roman), Hollie Sullivan (Olivia York), Chloe Rickenbach (Chloe).

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 INGENIOUS GENTLEMAN ADRIC OF ALZARIUS

Imagine if you will that this story is two things and they both concern Adric, or to give him his title in this story “The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius”.

The first thing this story is is a prism, a prism through which Adric views his companions the newly regenerated Fifth Doctor, Tegan Jovanka and Nyssa of Traken. It is also a pair of rose tinted glasses that gives us insight into how Adric viewed his time with the Fourth Doctor and Romana, and it is a third thing, it is rather wonderful and makes a fitting companion piece to the rather wonderful A Full Life (available HERE and review HERE).

So whats it all about? Well thats the thing, on the surface it is about Adric having an adventure with a Knight Errant who being all teeth and curls and booming of voice seems rather familiar – but it is a lot more than that, this is a look inside Adric’s mind and his perception of the new team compared to the loss he feels for the old Doctor and Romana – and the new Doctor does not fare favourably, in fact Adric paints him as an evil Enchanter who along with his assistant Nyssa have kidnapped the Princess Tegan – and Adric along with the very familiar Knight Sir Keeyoht of la Koura decide he must be stopped. Along the way their quest brings them in to contact with Windmills which may or may not be giants and inspire a young girl to take up the mantle of Knight Errant.

Its a dreamy experience with one foot in reality and one foot in fantasy and it is as real as you want it to be as this story like all the best stories is open to interpretation, I see it as a rite of passage, of a young man growing up somewhat and accepting his place in the new order of things and reflecting on his experiences to become a better person.

Matthew Waterhouse is utterly superb, he really is. Big Finish have given Adric a new lease of life and Matthew along with the writers is using it to really go all out to add layers of depth and meaning to a character that could sometimes come across as a selfish brat on TV when really he was a traumatised troubled youth who had problems making connections with people and who was grieving for the loss of his brother, of Romana and of the Fourth Doctor.

Real congratulations to all involved not only Mr Waterhouse, to Julian Richards as writer, Lisa Bowerman as Director and Rob Harvey’s exceptional score – this really is something special 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #35 is a Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan story.

Sir Keeyoht of la Koura, and his loyal squire Adric, are on a quest. A great and noble quest to stop that most vile of Enchanters, the Doctor, from claiming the greatest treasure in the land. Along the way they intend to battle giants (or possibly windmills), inspire adventurers, rescue a princess and ultimately come face to face with that most terrifying of all monsters, the Dragon.

Except Adric knows there are no such thing as Dragons…

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

Written By: Julian Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE TIME WAR SERIES 01

To call this box set “highly anticipated” would be rather an understatement.
The Time War has underpinned Doctor Who since its return in 2005 – it has been the driving force behind the series and was the focal point of the 50th anniversary celebrations and even gave us a secret incarnation of The Doctor in the much missed John Hurt – but above all this the Time War gave a sense of closure to the Eighth Doctor in his crash landing on Karn, and in that short 8 minute special we found out that Doctor number Eight had been helping those caught up in the Time War and that Time-lords were now almost as despised as The Daleks. But what did Doctor Number Eight actually do in the Time War, what was his part in the proceedings and how was he changed so much that on Karn he decided to choose his next incarnation as “Warrior” – the answers, or at least the beginning of the answers lie in this set.
To begin with, its not as epic as you expect it to be – yes it is galaxy and aeon spanning with battles galore, but despite all this it feels quite an intimate character driven affair, and at its centre there is a rather tragic love story, the story of Rupa (Nimmy March) and Quarren (David Ganley) a newly married couple on their honeymoon on the starship Theseus, or are they competition winners on the Cruise ship Theseus or are they refugees from the Time War escaping on the wreck of the Theseus? Answer they are all three and probably many more because the time war is not a war fought throughout time it is a war that constantly rewrites time again and again and again and even The Doctor and his companion Sheena, or is it Emma? or is it Louise? or was he travelling alone? are affected.
Its a bold thing to delve so deep in to the Time War and writers John Dorney and Matt Fitton have found an angle to explore it that I had not expected. If you are expecting a “boys own” adventure full of World War 2 cliches and derring do then you are in the wrong place, however if you are open minded enough to try something just a little bit different then this may be just the set for you:
  1. The Starship of Theseus by John Dorney
But it all starts with a holiday and a broom cupboard. The Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companion Sheena (Olivia Vinall) land in the broom cupboard of luxury star-liner the Theseus and decide that they deserve a holiday, they befriend Rupa and Quarren and are set for an evening of good conversation and good food when a mystery presents itself – passengers are going missing so the Doctor decided to investigate. And this is where things get complicated – listening as I do on my drive to work I thought I had missed a section or had not been concentrating because the Doctor was suddenly accompanied by his companion Emma and the ship was now a ship of refugees fleeing the Time War. And then his companion is called Louise and then. Well that would be telling. What an opening, just enough time travel shenanigans  to keep you interested but not all out Moffat level of confusing to put the listener off, in fact the listener is more in the know than the characters, we know they are suffering the effects of the Time War and are looking in on events from outside the bubble. Cleverly written and a fantastic opening chapter that paves the way for the journey that is to follow.
2. Echoes of War by Matt Fitton
Having crash-landed on a jungle world the Doctor finds himself leader of a group of refugees including Rupa, Quarren and Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) that he swears to protect from the ravages of the Time War that are tearing the planet apart, echoes of future or past wars, hyper evolution, the forest perpetually dying and flourishing and one other survivor of the war a damaged Dalek, thing is the Dalek doesn’t know who or what it is and has the ability and equipment to guide our heroes to safety, if only it doesn’t start to remember its past , its prime directive or the name “Doctor”. You can cut the tension with a knife in this episode and Nick Briggs comes in for a mention in dispatches as “Dal” the damaged Dalek imbuing it with a sense of pity and pathos that Daleks don’t usually get to display. Like the 2005 story Dalek you almost (note “almost”) feel sorry for the fate that befalls Dal. This story is an ordeal to be appreciated rather than enjoyed.
3. The Conscript by Matt Fitton
Is there room for comedy in the Time War? Maybe not but definitely there is a place for gallows humour of the sort that we got in Full Metal Jacket and The Long and the Short and the Tall. The Doctor has been conscripted to the Time Lord army, very much against his wishes but his compliance is there to ensure Bliss, Rupa and Quarren are well treated whilst being detained for debriefing by Cardinal Ollistra (Jaqueline Pearce) – the Doctor delights in his insubordination and will not be broken by the regime he finds himself in, he inspires individuality, insubordination and a small mutiny. But during a war is there a place for his whimsy and flippancy? In a regime where clean boots matter is there a place for The Doctor and his view on the universe? and will it all end badly? Throughout the flippancy you can sense a creeping dread, that there is a time and a place for silliness and this is not it, that The Doctor with all the best of intentions will lead the platoon to ruin – you will just have to listen to fins out if he does…
4. One Life by John Dorney
And so the threads come together, a happening in part one leads to a revelation in part four and even in the most terrible of times love can still beat war. And the Doctor can gain a new friend, or is it a friend he has always had?
A great collection of stories that form a very cohesive story – the Time War is not the be all and end all but the canvas on which this very character heave collection is painted. Witnessing the Eighth Doctor in the thick of the Time War made me revisit every episode of Doctor Who since 2005 and pose the question how could I ever have believed that he was the one that ended it all. Because he wouldn’t and he couldn’t because that’s not the man he was – even in the very worst of times Eight was always The Doctor. A very well deserved and are fought 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

The Eighth Doctor battles for survival in the Time War:

1. The Starship of Theseus by John Dorney

The Doctor and his companion, Sheena, land the TARDIS on the glamorous luxury space-liner Theseus just as it’s about to leave the Jupiter space-port. An opportunity for a holiday presents itself – and it’s one they’re very glad to take.

But when a disturbance catches their attention, they realise sinister events are taking place on board. Passengers are vanishing on every trip. And unless they’re careful they may be next.

Can the Doctor and Emma solve the mystery? Or is there something else they should be worrying about?

2. Echoes of War by Matt Fitton

Colliding with the full force of the Time War, the Doctor crash-lands on a jungle world with a ragtag band of refugees.

To stay alive, they must cross a landscape where time itself is corrupted. A forest which cycles through growth and decay, where sounds of battle are never far away, and where strange creatures lurk all around.

Luckily, the Doctor has friends: not only plucky scientist Bliss, but another, much more unlikely ally. Its name is ‘Dal’…

3. The Conscript by Matt Fitton

Cardinal Ollistra has a new tactic to persuade the Doctor to join his people’s fight. With his friends locked away, he has been conscripted alongside fellow Gallifreyans to train for the front lines of battle.

Commandant Harlan has a reputation – his camp’s regime is harsh. He believes the Time Lords must adapt to win this war, but the Doctor is not easily intimidated.

Can there be any place for dissent when the Time War looms so close?

4. One Life by John Dorney

As the full force of the Time War crashes down around the Doctor and his friends, a desperate battle for survival ensues.

But not everyone is playing the same game. Ollistra is after a weapon that could end the war in a stroke and she’ll sacrifice anyone or anything to take it back to Gallifrey. Even the Doctor.

Surrounded by Daleks, and on a tortured planet, only one man can save the day. But he doesn’t want to fight.

A special run of prequels to Doctor Who: The War Doctor.

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

Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Olivia Vinall (Sheena), Nimmy March (Rupa Maguire), David Ganly (Quarren Maguire), Sean Murray (Captain Darvor), Hywel Morgan (Koloth / Jefferson), Laurence Kennedy (Purser Lunney / Aymor / Chancellor), Rakhee Thakrar (Bliss), Karina Fernandez (Captain Tamasan), Jacqueline Pearce (Ollistra), Nick Brimble (Commander Harlan), Katy Sobey (Veeda), Okezie Morro (Norvid), and Nicholas Briggs (Dal / Dalek Commander / Dalek Drone / Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: ALIENS AMONG US VOLUME 02

Those of you who have not heard volume one may wish to catch up – its available to buy HERE and my review is HERE, because this is a continuing story a real season five and what self respecting fan of a genre series would come to it five episodes in??? Also there will be some mild spoilers in this review for those of you who have not caught up with part one.
So Cardiff has basically been invaded, already taken over by aliens led by Ro-Jedda (Rachel Atkins) who has become the City Mayor, tensions are running high in Cardiff, racial hate crimes are spiralling out of control and the whole city has an air of impending doom as if the end of days is only a few moments away the population are on edge, the aliens are among us and it is only going to get worse.
And then there is Torchwood, the new revamped Torchwood rebuilt by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and featuring new recruits Mr Colchester (Paul Clayton) and the alien Orr (Sam Beart) and ably assisted by Rhys Williams (Kai Owen), Sgt Andy Davidson (Tom Price) and the slimy and enigmatic Tyler Steele (Jonny Green)
But things are not quite right in Torchwood either, cracks are appearing and there is something just not quite right with Gwen Cooper. At a time that the team need to be more united than ever, at a time of impending crisis they seem to be falling apart.
Sounds grim? well it is, but in a good way if you know what I mean and the action really has stepped up a gear from the first box set, it seems more focussed, more character driven, more personal and more dangerous, this set comprises four stories:
5.5 Love Rat by Christopher Cooper
When Jack Harkness is killed by a frenzied man he picks up we know something is wrong.
When Jack Harkness tries to get intimate with everyone he meets this seems normal, but when Orr picks up all sorts of conflicting emotions from hime there is definitely something wrong..
What a very “Torchwood” story to open the set with, the sort of story that really wouldn’t have been out of place in the early part of Season One on TV involving a sentient alien STD trying to take over the world (the mind boggles) – What is amazing is that what could be played as a camp farce is played completely straight and that Torchwood are powerless to combat the threat on their own and have to go cap in hand to Ro-Jedda for a solution. The story weaves itself into and around the existing narrative of a city on the edge and plays on the desperation a disparate Torchwood beautifully – this new Cardiff is a world where Torchwood are not all powerful protectors…..
5.6 A Kill to a View by Mac Rogers
Bilis Manger (Murray Melvin) the creepy clock shop owner from Torchwood series One is back, this time as caretaker for the new apartment block that Mr Colchester and his husband Colin (Ramon Tikaram) have moved in to to keep Colin safe from racist attacks, a place of safety, a haven from the nightmare Cardiff has become. They couldn’t have picked a worse place, because Bilis has been nurturing the baser instincts of some of his tenants to become hunters and social climbers and the Colchester’s have the flat that Sandra (Diveen Henry) and Andrea (Ellie Haydon) are looking for and they intend to take it by force. A tense story reflecting the obsession we have of social climbing of being better than our neighbours, of having dinner parties where the participants are circling each other like sharks just waiting for the social faux-pas that will never be forgotten. This attitude is distilled into the psychotic Sandra & Andrea  meaning Colin Colchester may never feel safe again.
Murray Melvin has not lost any of the oily obsequiousness that characterises him – he has a plan and he is using the resident to carry it out. A real classic of a story.
5.7 Zero Hour by Janine H Jones 
There has been an exponential increase in couriers, they are all over the place in a way that they just weren’t a few years ago. One of these couriers is Hassan (Sacha Dhawan) a rather handsome young man who catches the eye of Tyler Steele. Hassan works for “Deliverables” an app based courier firm, delivers on the same route to the same places every single day sometimes more than once a day – Tyler finds this strange and contact Gwen Cooper and Torchwood to investigate and uncovers a monstrous conspiracy of virtual slave workers and the horror of the compulsory benefits package upgrade.
Torchwood is at its best when it takes the ordinary and makes it sinister and this is just what Janine H Jones does in this story – all those people, all those parcels all that repetitive movement all for a greater and far more sinister purpose than we could ever imagine.
5.8 The Empty Hand by Tim Foley
Sgt Andy Davidson is one of the good guys, the nice face of community policing, he would have been more at home as the village Bobby in the 1950’s than a city cop in the 21st century. So it is a massive shock when Andy wakes up in an interview room accused of shooting an innocent refugee in cold blood. And there is video footage to prove it. Thing is Andy really doesn’t remember doing it, and his left hand really hurts….
And just when Torchwood are trying to put a lid on this and investigate the video leaks it goes viral and there are protests on the streets. Andy is holed up in his home surrounded by press and protesters, but its ok because Rhys Williams is with him complete with crisps, dips and a six pack of beer, and Rhys also fancies sending out for a Chinese takeaway :-)
Tom Price as Andy and Kai Owen as Rhys make a fantastic double act, bringing some much needed light relief to a very bleak, very believable story – it really is Rhys’ humanity that shines through, a no nonsense bloke who just knows his mate Andy is not capable of doing what he did. Until the takeaway arrives….
A grim ending to a grim set with the truth seemingly sacrificed on the alter of the greater good and a cliffhanger that made me go cold.
Vastly improved from volume one, Aliens Among US has found its feet, the new team are working well together and the individual stories let each character have their moment in the spotlight – the overarching story of the alien run Cardiff and the Gwen situation are also given time to develop at their own pace and don’t feel tacked on to the actual episodes of the story. And then there is THAT cliffhanger that ends the set leaving me chomping at the bit for Vol 3. A well deserved 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

5.5 Love Rat by Christopher Cooper

Captain Jack Harkness is dead, and that’s the simplest thing that’s happened to him in the last few days. Even the manner of his death is surprisingly complex, especially when it turns out that he hasn’t come back alone.

While Torchwood try and cope with a new mayor and a terrorist cell, they also have to deal with what, at first, looks to be a plague, and then turns out to be something far, far worse.

5.6 A Kill to a View by Mac Rogers

Ritz Towers is a luxury tower block so exclusive not even aliens can get a place there. Mr Colchester has somehow secured a flat at the Ritz. With the streets increasingly troubled, his husband feels safe there. The problem is that Ritz Towers is anything but safe.

For a start, the building has more tenants than it has flats. Then there are the endless dinner parties. The whole new definition of upwardly mobile. And finally, there is the very mysterious caretaker.

5.7 Zero Hour by Janine H Jones

Welcome to Deliverables. Thanks to us, Cardiff is enjoying an economic miracle. We have created thousands of jobs. We have wiped out homelessness.

More importantly, there are so many benefits to you. Deliverables will deliver your post, your packages, your meals. We are Deliverables, and we never stop.

Deliverables – we always know where to find you. Deliverables – put your life in our hands.

5.8 The Empty Hand by Tim Foley

An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff. It causes an upsurge in terrorist attacks.

An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by a policeman. It’s a catalyst for protests in the streets.

An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by Sergeant Andy Davidson. It’s the end of Torchwood as we know it.

Written By: Christopher Cooper, Mac Rogers, Janine H Jones, Tim Foley
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Alexandria Riley (Ng), Paul Clayton(Mr Colchester), Sam Béart (Orr), Jonny Green (Tyler Steele), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (Sgt. Andy Davidson), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Murray Melvin (Bilis Manger), Rachel Atkins (Ro-Jedda), Ramon Tikaram (Colin Colchester-Price), Ewan Bailey (Duncan), Kerry Joy Stewart (Maddy), Diveen Henry (Sandra), Ellie Heydon (Andrea), Marilyn Le Conte (Patricia), Luke Rhodri (Rowan), Charlotte O’Leary (Poppy), Sacha Dhawan (Hasan), Sarah Annis (P.C. Nicki Owen), Rick Yale (Lorry Driver), Laura Dalgleish (Newsreader), Kristy Phillips(Stacey), Aly Cruickshank (Student), Richard Elfyn (Takeaway Man), Sanee Raval(Xander)

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

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

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REVIEW – THE OUTLIERS

Well now, nobody did a base under siege story quite like they did in the Troughton era did they?

Oh yes, there were bases under siege before and there have been many a base under many a siege afterwards – but no era has been defined by one the of story than the era of Doctor number two, and this months Early Adventure takes the idea, runs with it and makes it work on an altogether grander scale than had ever been attempted in the 1960’s

 Simon Guerrier (for he is the writer of the piece) has all the ingredients in place – firstly the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben & Jamie are all present and correct. Secondly he has the “base” which in this case is an asteroid which has been mined out. Thirdly you have a mining operation with a fanatical Project leader in Dr Richard Tipple (Alistair Petrie) and fourthly you have the threat. Heat in an oven on gas mark something or other for a some-such amount of time and stand back and watch (or listen) to the results….

 People are vanishing in the mining project and the scale of the disappearances are being covered up by the authorities and when the Doctor and co arrive they are immediately suspected of being responsible for the disappearances, so far so Troughton but what really makes this different is the scale of the thing because the “base” in question is a gigantic asteroid the size of a small planet with a population that are housed inside whilst mining takes place, and though the cast of this play are relatively small you really feel as a listener that every person on the asteroid is in imminent danger of disappearing beneath the murky waters of the interior of the asteroid, because in the rising water is a presence – a presence that has foreseen a catastrophe created by the mining community and it will do anything it can to stop the future that looks almost certain.

 In many ways this is a very traditional Troughton “Monster” story but it has so much depth (an that just isn’t the rising water either) because as with all the best stories there are shades of grey, there is right and wrong on both sides and both sides of the conflict can be said to be “monsters” in one way or another. Depending on your point of view. Traditionalist will love the fact that on the surface it seems to slavishly stick to a tried and tested formula and tread very little new ground whereas newer fans will like the moral dilemmas and the character development that we witness during the four episodes and the vagaries that the story offered regarding  the future history of Ben, Polly and Jamie once they leave the Doctor – it seems that the future is very much up for grabs, and long term fans will enjoy the cheeky reference to Ben and Polly being chased by a Cyberman on a beach (is Radio Time Canon now?????)

 A lovely story with something for everyone and not as traditional as it first may seem. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

The TARDIS takes the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie to a flooded underground town on an alien world. The streets are empty. The houses are bare. Not a trace of life.

The miners working here are vanishing. And it isn’t long before the time-travellers are suspected of being responsible for the disappearances. But even the authorities haven’t fully realised the scale of the problem.

There’s something else on this world. Something dragging people away. And it won’t stop until it’s taken them all.

Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), Alistair Petrie (Richard Tipple), Debbie Chazen (Dr Goro), Matilda Ziegler (Chatura Sharma)

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 BEHEMOTH

Well, sometimes things just work. A load of disparate ideas and situations come together and a sort of alchemy takes place. The Behemoth is one of those rare things. It contains the following elements:

 1 Bath in 1786

2 Old SIxie, Mrs Clarke and Flip

3 Two real historical characters Captain Van Der Meer and the mysterious “Lady Clara”

4 Society Balls and social injustice

5 a script that may or may not have been influenced by Del Boy Trotter….

 AND it is utterly marvellous.

 Oh, you want more? Ok then so Old Sixie (Colin Baker) Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) & Flip (Lisa Greenwood) are holidaying in 18th Century Bath, taking in the baths and the pump room and playing at being part of the polis society of the time.

When the Doctor rescues the dog of Mrs Middlemint (Georgina Moon) our TARDIS crew find themselves in the debt of her brother the renowned industrialist Sir Geoffrey Balsam (Glynn Sweet) and are the toast of society as they are invited to attend a gala ball in which the mysterious “Lady Clara” will make an appearance. And for the first episode this story is very much a society comedy of manners in the style of Jane Austen, but just when you think you have got the handle of what type of story it is Marc Platt pulls a stroke of genius and changes the tone of the story completely – as Old SIxie romances Mrs Middlemint, the veneer of Regency respectability is torn apart as Mrs Clarke befriends the Reverend Naylor (Wayne Forester) a committed abolitionist and opens all our eyes to the fact that the wealth of so called polite society is built on the back of the slave trade.

 Never has a story gone from one extreme to the other but seemed so natural, because slavery seemed to be as natural part of high society as periwigs and society balls, and it is the casual acceptance by all but Captain Van Der Meer (Giles New) and the Reverend Naylor that is shocking to Flip and Mrs Clarke. The slaves are viewed as sub-human, as property to be bargained with, as nothing more than drones to keep the wheels of industry and commerce turning, and their nobility as personified by Mrs Middlemint’s slave girl Sarah (Diveen Henry) and her husband Gorembe (Ben Arogundade) is a privilege to hear.

 The main cast are firing on all cylinders from Colin Baker taking a rare romantic interest to Miranda Raison as Mrs Clarke utterly outraged at the treatment of slaves, her speech regarding fighting fascism in all its forms is true punch the air stuff, and there is Lisa Greenwood as Flip who has her own sub-plot avoiding the amorous and unwanted attentions of upper class twit of the decade Titus Craven (Liam McKenna) – all parts played with utter conviction, an historical in the true sense of the word, our heroes are impotent observers in a past where injustices have and are happening.

 Colin Baker has always been the star of Big Finish productions Doctor Who Main Range, and stories like this are proof positive that he deserves that position. A compelling drama from beginning to end and ever so slightly educational as well – I wonder if Del Boy Trotter looked up “Lady Clara” when he was writing his screenplay for Rodney’s community film? Probably not but that  does not stop me from awarding a rip roaring 10/10 for a genuine classic story.

Written By Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Bath, 1756 – and a very dashing gentleman known only as the Doctor is newly arrived in town, accompanied by his lady friends Mrs Clarke and Mrs Ramon. He’s created a stir among the gentlefolk of Georgian high society – and a stir in the heart of merry widow Mrs Theodosia Middlemint, rumour has it.

They are not the only strangers from abroad causing tongues to wag, however. The mysterious Lady Clara, come from Amsterdam in the company of the noble Captain Van Der Meer, has the whole of Bath agog. Who is she, really? What is she, really?

But there’s something terrible beneath the veneer of Georgian gentility. As awful a horror as the Doctor has ever exposed, hidden inside Balsam’s Brassworks. Something that needs to be brought to light, for the sake of all humanity.

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip Jackson), Miranda Raison (Mrs Constance Clarke), Glynn Sweet (Sir Geoffrey Balsam), Georgina Moon (Mrs Middlemint), Liam McKenna (Titus Craven), Wayne Forester (Rev Mr Philip Naylor), Giles New (Captain Douwemout Van Der Meer), Diveen Henry (Sarah), Ben Arogundade (Gorembe). 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 – ALL HANDS ON DECK

Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin as The Seventh Doctor once said in The Happiness Patrol. And its true they are, no truer than this story because when the laughter stops the tragedy begins and we are taken back to Susan Foreman’s blackest day and to what just might be her Grandfathers blackest day.

Carole Ann Ford returns to narrate and to play the part of Susan in a story loaded with significance for the whole of her relationship with The Doctor, because in the Earth Susan lives in, where they have suffered two Dalek Invasions and are only just starting to build a working society and then the Time War intervenes. Not that it seems that the Time War is intervening but it is.

Susan Foreman, neither are the real names of the character we know but she has grown used to them and she is always on call when Earth authorities need a helping hand with a disaster or some alien tech. But lately Susan has been suffering from a sort of hay-fever feeling, a pressure that just wont go away and what with Dalek tech starting itself up for no good reason, asteroids on a collision course with the Earth and a plague of bio-mechanoid spiders she has a lot to cope with at the moment.

There is a lot of nostalgia in this story, Susan lives in a flat in the converted remains of Coal Hill School, in the courtyard there is a tree planted to commemorate Ian and Barbara and then there is an unexpected visit from her Grandfather, now in his Eighth incarnation and Susan’s world will never ever be the same again.

This is one of those stories that absolutely pulls the rug out from under you, it goes from hi-jinx with custard floods and hi-octane thrills with Spider cyborgs to a small scale conversation between a Time-Lord and his Granddaughter and a momentous decision to be made because this is the day that the Time War invades Susan’s life and the choices she makes on this day will shape not only hers but also The Doctor’s future direction.

It turns on a sixpence, and a great moment of stillness hits you and we are back at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth with over 50 years of hindsight, and the story told today is no less heartbreaking but is another paving stone on the road to Karn and everything burning in the aftermath.

Beautifully performed and written and directed with every ounce of emotion and sorrow wrenched from the source material this is a story of a right of passage and a choice and it is rather wonderful 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #34 is an Eighth Doctor and Susan story.

Everyone Susan Campbell cared about has gone. Most of them died in the second Dalek invasion, and her grandfather never visits. She’s living in what used to be Coal Hill School, helping Earth rebuild again.

Then, one night, she’s called away to help with an emergency. A piece of appropriated Dalek technology is malfunctioning, and everyone’s afraid of what it might do…

This is just the first in a sequence of predicaments facing Susan – and the connection between them will shape the rest of her life.

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

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Carole Ann Ford (Narrator)

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REVIEW – A HEART ON BOTH SIDES

It is coming. Or it has already happened. Or it is happening now everywhere and every-when The Time War has haunted Doctor Who since it came back in 2005, and soon – very soon we get to experience it first hand with a new series of adventures starring Paul McGann as Doctor number Eight, but to whet our appetite there is this and the next Short Trips release, sort of Time War preludes or Time War cutaways, or even more so stark depictions of how the Time War has affected everyone The Doctor knows, has known and will know. And this particular cutaway features Nyssa of Traken.

Nyssa was always the most compassionate of the Doctor’s former companions and in this story she travels from world to world with her companion one “Doctor Foster” remaining steadfastly neutral in the horrors of the Time War, offering medical aid to those in need regardless of their allegiances. A very very Nyssa thing to do, until one day she lands on the planet very very close to Gallifrey, a fuel rich world which the Time-lords have tried to appropriate into their empire to which the indigenous population are very against, and then an atrocity perhaps perpetuated by a Time Lord takes place and suspicion falls on Nyssa and her companion. In times of war even the great and the good sometimes turn to the most abhorrent of methods in the pursuit of the mythical greater good….

Sarah Sutton draws the listener in to what is a very dialogue heavy piece – her voice aching with compassion for those innocents that the Time War has destroyed and only wanting to do the right thing in a universe where the ethics of right and wrong have become fluid at best. The role of the Doctor in the story is kept hidden from Nyssa but not from the listener, he is in fact hidden in very very plain sight – but it is the effect that the Time War has had on the once noble and non interventionist Time Lords that is explored here, and the extremes that they will go to to gain even the most minuscule of advantages. And in contrast we have Nyssa who is resolutely an humanitarian and The Doctor who’s resolve and determination to do the right thing are being sorely tested and we see the beginnings of a path that will lead to Karn and his resurrection as a Warrior.

A tense cutaway, a short prelude, an excerpt from a greater and much more calamitous happening but a window into the seed of good that still exists somewhere in all the tragedy. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #33 is an Eighth Doctor and Nyssa story.

After her medical work on Terminus, Nyssa is now the controller of a hospital ship, the Traken. As the universe burns in the crossfire of the Time War, she and her assistant travel to a planet close to Gallifrey where they are needed more than ever. A long time ago, Nyssa knew a Time Lord and understood his people. But it seems they can change…

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

Written By: Rob Nisbet
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Sarah Sutton (Narrator)

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REVIEW – BERNICE SUMMERFIELD: TRUE STORIES

Big Finish, with these Bernice Summerfield releases you are spoiling us!

 Well they are. Not one but two releases featuring the universes premier archaeologist and alcohol consumer  within a month, I never get tired of listening to the adventures of Bernice Summerfield, and this release is a delight to listen to.

 Completely different from the full cast audio drama set of Ms Summerfield’s latest adventures with Unbound Doctor David Warner, but set in the same “Unbound” universe this set of tales has Bernice having her own misadventures whilst The Doctor is off being President of the Universe and trying to work out a way of preventing its total collapse.

The stories told by Bernice herself Lisa Bowerman under duress, as Benny is in a spot of bother, she is up in court and to her neck in bother and to calibrate the jury she has to tell six stories, three true and three false, a rather clever framing device for six stories of bizarre happenings, archaeology, drinking, dating, invasions and a rather fetching blue-rinse hair do. Its that sort of set of stories.

 In my experience there are two types of science fiction fans, those who take the Arthur C Clarke route and those (like me) who take the Douglas Adams route, and I think it is safe to say that the C Clarke faction will find this set not entirely to their taste, but the Adams crowd will lap it up because it is supremely silly and has a sense of scale and wonder on the one hand and a wonderful obsession with the mundanity of existence and the ordinariness and frustration of existence on the other none mores than the fifth story in the set Stockholm From Home in which Bernice finds herself trapped in an old peoples home, subjected to the indignity of having a hairdo having missed Bingo night, is constantly spam messaged by an alien from a dating app and has to contend with a rather sub parr invasion plan. You get the idea.

 The stories are given life, shape and colour by Lisa Bowerman, no one else could be Bernice, she just inhabits the part her synchronicity with the character is such that you can just see Benny’s withering looks and raised eyebrows through her narration, the best companion that The Doctor ever had and we are so fortunate to have her continuing adventures.

 A joy from beginning to end, a madcap mix of misadventure and mirth as Mr H.G Jago may say and a very true to form 9/10 from me.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in September 2017. It is exclusively available to buy from the BF website.

This audiobook reading comes directly from Big Finish’s hardback and e-Book release Bernice Summerfield: True Stories which is also available.

Bernice Summerfield: True Stories features six stories about everyone’s favourite archaeologist, with unusual digs, daring missions and more, all set in the Unbound Universe of the recent audios. The writers are Jon Blum & Rupert Booth, Xanna Eve Chown, Tim Gambrell, Matthew Griffiths, Kate Orman & Q, and Victoria Simpson.

Archaeologist, adventurer, mother, and occasional goddess, Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield has seen and done more things in this universe than you can possibly imagine. But none of that matters right now. Because, Benny isn’t in this universe any more. Right now, she’s stuck in an alternate universe (through no fault of her own) and this universe has definitely seen better days. In fact, it’s rumoured to be dying. Luckily, the President of the Universe is an old friend, and he’s lent her a spaceship so she can carry on doing what she does best: righting wrongs, making mistakes, saving lives, drinking… These stories won’t tell you how – or if – she makes it home. But they will tell you about some of her adventures in this unbound universe. Some of them are even true…”

Hue and Cry by Kate Orman and Q

Never The Way by Jonathan Blum and Rupert Booth

Fast Contact by Matthew Griffiths

Futureproof by Victoria CW Simpson

Stockholm From Home by Tim Gambrell

Bliss by Xanna Eve Chown

Produced by David Richardson

Written By: Jon Blum & Rupert Booth, Xanna Eve Chown, Tim Gambrell, Matthew Griffiths, Kate Orman & Q, and Victoria Simpson

Cast

Read by Lisa Bowerman

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REVIEW – THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD VOL 4: RULER OF THE UNIVERSE

Indulge me if you will, before I review this at times exhilarating  at times downbeat, at times frustrating and at times utterly wonderful box set while I start with a musical interlude dedicated to the one and only, the greatest companion The Doctor has ever had, this song never fails to make me smile and raise a glass or three of Shiraz to Benny:
Good isn’t it? And so, now I have that out of my system on to the box set, and what a set – as I said it has it all, highs, lows, excitement, dullness (mid numbing dullness I will have you know – I mean you cant expect The Doctor NOT to be bored as ruler of the Universe can you?)  Yes you read that right The Doctor is the ruler of the Universe, but its the wrong Doctor and the wrong Universe – this is the “Unbound” Doctor played with grumpy petulant disdain by David Warner and this Doctor doubts he is up to the job of saving the whole universe, but maybe he can create a safe zone to protect some of it, this is a Doctor crushed by the weight of his responsibility and bored with the inanity of politics, a Doctor who wishes he was somewhere ANYWHERE else, but doesn’t have the option to quit – and by his side is the wonderful effervescent, intelligent sarcastic expert drinker Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) – an unstoppable force for doing the right thing with a wry smile, who is being brought down by this Doctor who isn’t really the Doctor doing something that the Doctor really shouldn’t do.
Sounds a grim really doesn’t it. And it is a bit grim really but you cant really have a situation where the Universe is contracting and the stars are going out without it being grim. We are not talking grim on a Scandi-Drama scale but this really is new territory for Bernice, she is usually so up, so wry, so downright sarcastic and drunk and witty and clever and here she just seems a bit, well, downtrodden – this new take on her personality is wonderfully played by Lisa Bowerman who just so IS Bernice, she has to be the hero while the Doctor is wallowing in the enormity of the task he has to undertake. And then of course there is Sam Kisgart (see what they did there) as The Master added to the mix, just what you need as the Universe ends. But the story begins with a clock, a special Clock called the Apocalypse Clock, a clock that may be able to avert the destruction of everything:
  1. The City And The Clock by Guy Adams
Bernice is back to doing what she does best – a bit of archaeology to try and unearth the mythical Apocalypse Clock as the time the Universe she is in runs down. Its great to hear Bernice again, so enthusiastic about doing what she does well, and then her and her team run in to some rather nasty ghosts, and then there is the matter of keeping The Doctor and his publicity machine under control. This story really sets up the dynamic for the rest of the set – Bernice as the go getter and doer and The Doctor as a morose curmudgeon hating every second of his existence as President of the Universe, an existence where everything is controlled by soundbites and buzz words and the Doctor is in danger of forgetting what being the Doctor actually is….
2) Asking For A Friend by James Goss
There have been a few stories that are actually about what it is to be The Doctor and examine the person him (or her) self. We have had stories about the absence of the Doctor (Human Nature), stories about longing for The Doctor (Love and Monsters) and stories about breaking The Doctor (Heaven Sent) but not many about what makes them who they are. Then we have this. Its unlike any other Doctor Who story before and it is such a simple idea that I cannot believe its not been done before, this is the story where The Doctor goes into therapy and lays his soul bare to therapist Guilana (Annette Badland) – but The Doctor being the Doctor nothing is really as it seems, his fundamental lack of understanding of the situation that he is in sees tragic personal consequences. Beautifully written, sensitively performed – Badland and Warner both underplay perfectly and give the material the respect and gravity that it deserves. A classic.
3) Truant by Guy Adams
Bored of his time as President, working on equations to make the use of the Apocalypse Clock viable the Doctor takes off on an impromptu adventure to relieve the tedium leaving Bernice sent off after him to retrieve him like a naughty truant schoolboy – but The Doctor is trying to stop an invasion but it turns out he is several generations too late. A bit of a morality play mixed in with some Pythonesque absurdity (you will know it when you hear it, just listen out for the ward “Liberals”) – because when do invaders stop being invaders? should the grandchildren be made to pay for the warlike nature of their grandparents and what if the person entitled to rule does not want to rule? all these questions and many more will be addressed as will the question of what happens to the ruler of the Universe when he runs away from the responsibility of his job? that ones easy and is answered in the final part…..
4) The True Saviour Of The Universe by James Goss
When the Doctor gets deposed as ruler of the Universe, there is only one man who can take his place – The Master (Sam Kisgart), all smarm and sneer and as arch as they get, The Master will be the one to save the Universe, The Master will be the one to start the Apocalypse clock and the Master will be triumphant. Anyone see any flaws in that plan? A roller coaster of an ending where everyone seems to get what they deserve and a rather lovely coda leading on to hopefully more adventures for Mr Warner & Ms Bowerman.
Loved that – a different sort of story arc for Bernice and a long dark night of the soul for The Doctor – a real journey of discovery and character development with silliness and bleakness in almost equal measure, a downbeat Bernice a dour Doctor and a dangerous Master, a Universe in peril – what else could you want? 10/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Bernice Summerfield is still trapped in a dying universe with the wrong Doctor. Things have taken a turn for the worse – the Doctor has become President Of The Universe and, it turns out, he’s a controversial choice for the job. While Bernice works to unearth the mythical Apocalypse Clock, the Doctor’s immersed in the murky world of politics and the dark forces that are working against him. As battlefleets fight and terrible deals are done, the peoples of the universe wonder if they’ve made a terrible decision. Is the Doctor up to ruling the universe? Watching from the sidelines, the Master is quick to reassure everyone that he has no ambitions in that direction. And, meanwhile, the stars are going out…

1) The City And The Clock by Guy Adams

Bernice is on an archaeological dig for the mythical Apocalypse Clock. Can it really be the key to saving the universe? The ghosts of the planet have other ideas.

2) Asking For A Friend by James Goss

Vast wars are raging across the stars, planets are dying, and the Doctor is sat on a psychiatrist’s couch. What’s it like to be the Doctor’s therapist?

3) Truant by Guy Adams

The President of the Universe has run away. Bernice has to hunt him down, but he’s too busy having fun. Evil warlords! Impossible escapes! Sinister plans! The Doctor’s on an adventure.

4) The True Saviour Of The Universe by James Goss

Bernice finds that time has run out for the Doctor and the universe. Is this really the end of everything? Help is on hand from an unlikely quarter.

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

Cast

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), David Warner (The Doctor), Sam Kisgart (The Master), Samantha Beárt (Chamu), Ben Arogundade (Joto), Stephen Critchlow (Leonard), Ben Crystal (Hood), Guy Adams (Host), Annette Badland(Guilana), Wilf Scolding (Radio / Mogron), Catrin Stewart (Killian), Jonathan Bailey (Lakis), Rhys Jennings (Slaygar), Oliver Mason (Sordo), Rowena Cooper(Mother Superior), and Hattie Hayridge (Ebbis / Morlick)

Producer and Script Editor James Goss
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – TIME IN OFFICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

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

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

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REVIEW – THE NIGHT WITCHES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Roland Moore
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

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

Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – THE THIEF WHO STOLE TIME

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Other roles played by the cast.

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

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REVIEW – THE SILURIAN CANDIDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – THE BRITISH INVASION

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Ian Potter
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Wendy Padbury (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE PRISONER VOLUME 02

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

Synopsis

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

Based on the classic ITV series.

‘I’m not a number. I’m a free man!’

January 16th, 1967…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

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

Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

© ITV Studios Global Entertainment

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REVIEW – THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES VOLUME 3

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

Synopsis

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

The Conquest of Far, by Nicholas Briggs

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

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

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

Storm of the Horofax, by Andrew Smith

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

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

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

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

Cast

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

Producer David Richardson

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

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REVIEW – THE SKIN OF THE SLEEK

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

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

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REVIEW – THE BLOOD FURNACE

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: ALIENS AMONG US VOLUME 1

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

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

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

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

5.1 Changes Everything by James Goss

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

5.2 Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy by James Goss

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

5.3 Orr by Juno Dawson

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

5.4 Superiority Complex by AK Benedict

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

5.1 Changes Everything by James Goss

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

5.2 Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy by James Goss

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

5.3 Orr by Juno Dawson

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

5.4 Superiority Complex by AK Benedict

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

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

Cast

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

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

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

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

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