REVIEW – THE ETERNAL BATTLE

How do you reconcile the different phases of the Tom Baker era. For me it goes something like this – dour, fun, cold (Hinchcliffe, Williams, JNT) but there really is more to it than that. Tom was laugh out loud funny in the Hinchcliffe era and could be (albeit very rarely) deadly serious in the Williams era. But what of his final hurrah with JNT/Bidmead. Sleek, cold, logical but at least while he was with Romana II still with a sense of fun – mad old Uncle Tom was not going down without a fight and this months Fourth Doctor release seems to have that end of term feeling, a last hurrah, a lap of honour before the inevitable meeting with The Watcher and that awful moment at the Pharos Project when my childhood ended.

Such was the impact of Tom’s regeneration, my life was never quite the same again – but onwards, upwards and backwards to a time when fun was more on the agenda and The Doctor (Tom Baker) has decided to take Romana (Lalla Ward) to the Lake District to visit of all things a Pencil Museum. Joyful, just joyful – this is the carefree Tom of early season 18 just wanting to get away from it all. If only life were that simple….

 The Doctor (being the Doctor) has got it wrong and has landed in the middle of a war zone. A war in which The Sontarans have been fighting an enemy for so long that they cannot remember, an enemy that does not stay dead, an enemy that comes back to life and The Sontarans may not be able to contain it. Despite the jovial atmosphere that Tom Baker creates this is very much a season 18 story, it may not have been achievable on screen in 1980 but this is very much set in the era of entropy and the radiophonic workshop because this story is grim, doom laden and has a bleakness about it that screams 1980 – and when a story makes you empathise with the Sontarans you really have gone down the rabbit hole and perhaps ended up in a pencil museum…

 The story follows a couple of different threads and it is completely logical (in a Bidmead sort of way) in involving bubbles of time and some-such techno-babble dressed up to sound like “hard science” (I still call it magic) but in the context of the story it works very well – it also serves The Sontarans very well giving scope to develop them beyond their TV characterisation & Dan Starkey gives a wonderful performance as ALL of them giving each distinct characteristics which differentiate them as characters and not just a generic clone race – they have been fighting a war a very very long time so it is logical that they would develop, and their greatest characteristic is honour.

 A relatively short story but big on concept and big on adding layers to an old enemy. Just a shame that they didn’t actually get to the pencil museum! 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

The TARDIS has landed in a war zone. The Doctor, Romana and K9 find themselves traipsing through an inhospitable battlefield. Strange lights flicker in the sky, and stranger creatures lurk in the darkness.

When rescued from an attack by a Sontaran tank, the time-travellers discover they’re facing a far more dangerous foe than the battle-hungry clones. This terrifying fight has been going on longer than anyone can remember… and shows no signs of stopping.

With the TARDIS missing and their luck running thin, the Doctor and his friends’ only hope of survival is to uncover the truth about what is happening on this planet. If they can discover the secret of the eternal battle they might just survive… but it might just mean the end of them all.

Written By: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9), Dan Starkey (Field Major Lenk/Sergeant Major Stom), Jane Slavin (Captain Nina Albiston/Sycon Computer), John Banks (Brennan/Trooper Varn)

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

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REVIEW – THE CONTINGENCY CLUB

 Doctor Who just seems to “fit” in to Victorian London – not the real Victorian London of Dickens or anything as grim as that, but the mythological steampunk retro Victorian London of comic books and pulp wiring. The London of fog and cabbies calling their fares “guvnor” in mock cockney accent and of those most secretive of institutions – the “Gentlemen’s Club” a haven for the upper class man to sit around, read the paper, drink brandy and sleep, and this months main range release concentrates on the most exclusive of exclusive clubs – “The Contingency Club” and as a lot of stories have been lately, its an odd one and its also a breath of fresh air whilst retaining the feel of Season 19.

 The Contingency Club has quickly established itself as THE club to be a member of, other notable institutions are losing members to it hand over fist, and its policy of exclusivity and selectively turning down membership on seeming whims make membership even more attractive for the great and the good of the day. Into this world of calm and order, of discretion and tradition falls (literally) the TARDIS and the season 19 team of The Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) after the TARDIS loses power and falls out of the vortex – and oddly, very oddly as Tegan & Nyssa have the audacity to be WOMEN – they are welcomed to the club by valet Edward (Olly McCauley) who treats them as if they are old members, doesn’t comment on their attire or the fact that two of the party are WOMEN – in fact nobody seems to notice anything strange at all about our heroes – but our heroes start to notice very very odd things about the club itself. The valet is called Edward, not odd in itself, but ALL the valets in the club are called Edward and they are all the same person duplicated en masse – now if this were the far future then that wouldn’t be so much an oddity, but this is Victorian London…. Also the other members do not notice that Nyssa and Tegan are WOMEN (how dare they) even when they are told the responses seem vague almost like they are programmed to see only what they are allowed to see and what fits in with the world of the Contingency Club. All very strange indeed and it gets stranger by the moment as we discover more about the club owner Mr Peabody (Philip Jackson) and his mysterious benefactor The Red Queen (Lorelei King) and the real reason for the existence of the club. Throw in to the mix Clive Merrison as George Augustus society writer who has been denied membership of the club & is desperate to become a member and Alison Thea-Skot as Marjorie Stonegood, daughter of a club member who designed the London Underground but has not left the club and you have a first class pulp-Victorian steampunk Gothic mystery, with a personal stereo thrown in for good measure.

 Yes indeed pulp -Victoriana is a great setting for Doctor Who and The Contingency Club plays with the conventions of the genre very well – the villain from the future who can only use contemporary technology, the untouchable nature of the clubs due to who the members were, the obsequious butlers who are polite even when they are being awful, the gentlemen members themselves and of course The Doctor in his fifth incarnation, not the obvious clubbable gentleman – but a wry observer of the absurdity of it all – he even finds time to quote Groucho Marx and maybe for that alone this story deserves praise, as this really captures the essence of Five in one sentence. But its not just quips and quotes, its the feel of the whole thing and the futility of what the villain of the piece is trying to achieve, a little gem – 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

London, 1864 – where any gentleman befitting the title ‘gentleman’ belongs to a gentlemen’s club: The Reform, The Athenaeum, The Carlton, The Garrick… and, of course, The Contingency. Newly established in St James’, The Contingency has quickly become the most exclusive enclave in town. A refuge for men of politics, men of science, men of letters. A place to escape. A place to think. A place to be free.

The first rule of the Contingency is to behave like a gentleman. The second is to pay no heed to its oddly identical servants. Or to the horror in its cellars. Or to the existence of the secret gallery on its upper floor… Rules that the Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan are all about to break.

Written By: Phil Mulryne
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Clive Merrison (George Augustus), Philip Jackson (Mr Peabody), Lorelei King (The Red Queen), Tim Bentinck (Wakefield/ Cabby/ Stonegood), Alison Thea-Skot (Marjorie Stonegood/ Computer), Olly McCauley (Edward/ The Knave). 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 WORLD BEYOND THE TREES

This is a very odd story, made even odder if you are not familiar with the Short Trip story “Damascus” (review HERE).

Set in the mid 1970′s this involves Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) at a bit of a loose end at The Doctor’s house in Baker Street, she is stranded there with Dark Eyes herself Molly O’Sullivan placing this story sometime during the Dark Eyes Saga.

 As I said a real oddball story, but told in an engaging fashion by Liv Chenka herself Nicola Walker. We are really lucky to have an actor of her calibre play a companion at Big Finish – her delivery of the story is world weary, spiky, tired, and at some points where she recalls her relationship with her late Father almost wistful.

 But what about the story? It is quite surreal, The Doctor only features in a dream sequence that Liv has that tells her things that she needs to know including “knock four times” – that got my attention, I had images of a certain Mr Cribbins in full Grim Reaper mode but no, it was just a clever play on expectations, the four knocks are just that – four knocks.

The story is very dreamlike – Liv is the only one in London awake as everyone else is rendered insensible by a “listlessness field” and as Liv investigates the cause she meets up with the only other person in London still alive and is taken to the mysterious Project Damascus.

 The title of the story is very poetic, and the story has a very ambling freewheeling fairy tale lyricism to it – in fact in ambiance it reminds me of the TV episode In The Forest of the Night, though the actual story is completely different, there is something of the fantastical and the other worldly – like Doctor Who is only really pretending to be a science fiction show and is really a fantastic fairy tale about magical worlds, sleeping princesses, wise old Wizards and secret doors in Worlds Beyond The Trees….

 Does it feel like Doctor Who? Well that begs the question “what does Doctor Who feel like?” – to me it does, to others it may be just a bit too left field, but me being me – I LOVE left field and could see this as an animated episode in the style of Coraline, a Doctor Who story – undoubtedly, a strange fairy tale? definitely? a 9/10? most deservedly.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #25 is Liv Chenka story with the Eighth Doctor.

MedTech Chenka is alone. No Doctor. No TARDIS. No Molly O’Sullivan. But the strange environment she’s stranded in is about to get even stranger, with Liv the only one who can help out. There’s a message here, for her, and for someone very far away…

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

Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Nicola Walker (Narrator)

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REVIEW – PATHFINDER LEGENDS 3.1 – CURSE OF THE CRIMSON THRONE: EDGE OF ANARCHY

This is a bit of a departure for me – its the first time I have listened to a Pathfinder Legends release and therefore it is the first time that I have reviewed one. And coming in at season three I was a little bit apprehensive about what I had missed before – would I understand the plot and the character? And what exactly IS Pathfinder Legends? Well after a bit of research I can tell you that Pathfinder Legends is based on the role playing game of the same name and is set in a fantasy world of magic and monsters much like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones and it is right up my street. You see during the 1980’s I was a keen role player, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Rune Quest – all my sort of thing – and listening to this first release in series three gave me a warm nostalgic glow as I was transported back to long Saturdays , oddly shaped dice, painted lead figures and adventure!

Curse of the Crimson Throne: Edge of Anarchy does not hide its RPG roots, in fact it glories in them, it almost feels like you are listening to some players completely in character playing out a campaign – the structure is pure RPG, the story is pure RPG and boy does it feel like the beginning of an epic with lots of plot threads to tantalise the listener.

The story involves our heroes Valeros (Stewart Alexander), Ezren (Trevor Littledale), Harsk (Ian Brooker) & Merisiel (Kerry Skinner) waiting in a tavern in the city of Korvosa for Merisiel’s friend Kyra to show up, and just like Godot, she singularly fails to do so. This leads to a series of events that lets them in to a conspiracy regarding a murdered King, a machiavellian Queen, a city in ruin and riot and an awful miscarriage of justice in which our heroes may be culpable.

As I said, pure fantasy stuff, pure RPG but also edge of seat adventure – you may see the twists and turns coming a mile off, and they really do feel like chapters in an RPG campaign or “Fetch quests” but they are played out with such conviction that the band of heroes who I only joined in series three already feel like old friends – and it is this familiarity and genuine likability of the characters that drives the plot – I felt like shouting at them that they were being manipulated from the very beginning as they searched for a lost set of Harrow cards, were asked to return a lost brooch to the grieving Queen and the were charged by the Queen to hunt down her husbands alleged assassin – there is something going on and it does not bode well and only the nest five instalments will reveal the full answer.

I was hooked immediately, completely drawn in to the world of Pathfinder Legends – it may not be the best story ever, it may be predictable, but the ride you are taken on will transport you away from your normal everyday life to a world of magic, heroes and monsters and you will not want to leave. Pathfinder Legends feels like meeting old friends again for new adventures and I cannot wait for the next instalment. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

In the shadow of the ailing king of the city of Korvosa, a new ruler gathers power, sending shockwaves through a populace already plagued by unrest and pushing the city to the brink of disaster.

In the face of anarchy, Ezren, Valeros, Harsk and Merisiel are searching for Merisiel’s friend, Kyra, but soon find themselves called upon to serve Korvosa. Strange magic and mysterious prophesies set them on the trail of a common foe – a path that draws them into a struggle to save the city from ruin.

Amid the intrigues of kings and generals, heroes and thieves, it’s up to the heroes to decide whether the rule of a new monarch will usher in a new age of glory or a reign of chaos.

Written By: David Bryher, from a story by Nicolas Logue
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Stewart Alexander (Valeros), Trevor Littledale (Ezren), Ian Brooker (Harsk), Kerry Skinner (Merisiel), Louise Faulkner (Zellara/Trinia Sabor), John Green (Gaedren Lamm), Richard Katz (Guard Captain), Imogen Church (Sabina Merrin), Kate Brown (Queen Illeosa), Sean Connolly (Vencarlo Orisini)

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

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REVIEW – GRACELESS IV

I don’t even know where to begin, for once my (admittedly)  flowery and verbose style is at a loss because how do you begin to review a Graceless box set? Really how? Because Graceless is a rare and beautiful thing that defies categorisation and is completely unlike anything else you may have heard. In a word, Graceless is unique.

OK, thats a starting point I suppose –  Simon Guerrier has created something “unique” so I will take that and freewheel on with my usual flowery verbiage until I come to an end? Are we all sitting comfortably? then I will continue…

 Graceless follows the story of two sisters Abby (Ciara Janson) & Zara (Laura Doddington) and how you view them depends on your view of the magic vs science debate – are they hyper evolved created beings with powers derived from the physical universe or are they two witches with magical powers who happen to live in a Science Fiction universe? Being an old romantic I go for the latter, it fits in better with my universal view that not everything needs to be quantified and explained and sometimes a bit of magical power is good. SO Abby and Zara, created by a being called “The Grace” to aid in the search for the Key to Time (see here) and then when it cast them out into the universe to fend for themselves, beings of almost infinite power with hardly any moral compass, who can do anything, literally anything – its almost like giving a cat a machine gun because Abby & Zara are still really children in their understanding – they try to do what is right and good – but what they deem as right and good may not be the morality that you and I have – their concept of right and wrong has been moulded by their experiences and they are learning all the time, learning what they can do, what they wont do and what their powers can do.

 As I said earlier I can only describe this series as unique, the episodes as a whole do not have a defined structure, some are like streams of consciousness, a drifting in and out of half heard and half remembered conversations, whimsical, dream-like, fairy tale like – Abby and Zara are like a couple of cosmic Babes in the Wood doing what they can to make a difference. And they do make a difference, not always in the way they had intended but they do, they try, they have a universal view, they genuinely do see the threads that bind the universe together, and they are not scared to pluck at the ball of twine and everything unravelling is just another possibility.

 Graceless is something that has to be experienced, not read about but just imagine words and music were paint and canvass and Simon Guerrier has painted an audio experience that is many things to many people – well its not really like that at all (even though it sort of is) because no amount of rambling can prepare you for this.

 Now in its fourth series, and taking place a long long time after series three Abby and Zara are old, retied, have lost their powers are know by the names Amy & Joy and are played by Annie Firbank & Sian Phillips – but even in retirement there is always one more mission for them, they will always be Graceless….

 4.1 The Bomb

 Joy/Zara (Sian Phillips) is approached by the mysterious and rather charming stranger Pool (Adam Newington) to come out of retirement to help him deactivate a bomb which is going to devastate the planet that they live on, one last chance to make a difference, one last shot at glory, one last roll of the dice to do the right thing. A very different take on Graceless, Annie Firbank & Sian Phillips capture the essence of Abby & Zara perfectly, elderly, but with a twinkle undoubtedly the same ladies that we have known over the last three series, time has not dampened their curiosity or their spirit of adventure even if it means their death. Which it might…..

 4.2 The Room

 Getting involved, trying to do the right thing – but shifting the balance just a small amount can result in catastrophic consequences. This is an exercise in how to stop a war. Kidnap the generals of the opposing armies and give them a common enemy? Or just go for a pieman breakfast at Marcella’s cafe and hope it all blows over, or just do nothing, or give said Marcella (Victoria Alcock) her wish of ending hunger, or ending war or get the Generals Cormorant (Nichola McAuliffe) & Slink (Carol Starks) to be captured by the neutral denizens of the orbiting moon and work as slaves. Or all of this, or none.

 4.3 The Ward

 If you are an immortal being of infinite power and want to do some good why not work in a hospital? Why not put your powers to good use saving lives, why not work in the frontline and get your hands dirty. And this is what Abby & Zara do – but as always there is a deeper and darker reason for their time spent at Space Dock Hospital – their relationships with Gutierrez (Carolyn Pickles) & Chaff (Dan Starkey) are the seeds in a very long game that whilst may benefit the greater good will leave pain and agony in its wake and on the flip-side a much much greater good – but was it a price worth paying?

 4.4 The Dance

 Nothing to see here. Its over, the end, the final song has been sung and a choice has been made. Move along, nothing to see….

 If Graceless were a TV show it would be on BBC 4 not BBC1 – it really is an acquired taste and a challenging listen in almost equal measures childlike, intense, surreal, cruel & joyful – its a fairy tale, its a tale of cosmic angst, its a tale of good intentions and bad decisions but most of all it is the story of Abby & Zara and their struggle to find their place in the Universe. And it is magnificent.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in January 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Featuring four new episodes from Simon Guerrier:

4.1 The Bomb

There’s a legend told in a town by the sea, about two wicked sisters who died to save the world. Now the world faces another catastrophe and there’s no one to turn to for help. Which is bad news for Joy and Amy, and their grandchildren…

4.2 The Room

Buried under steel and iron and concrete, and protected by high security, there’s a secret room. From here, General Onora Cormorant directs the Gloit forces as they wage war across the whole planet. But stopping the war will take much more than just getting into that room…

4.3 The Ward

For more than a decade, Space Dock has had an exemplary health and safety record, not least because of the wicked sisters working in its hospital, bringing the dead back to life. But what are they really doing there, and what’s it got to do with one poor nurse’s love life?

4.4 The Dance

In the flood and the fire,
In the heart of the sun,
We were lost, we were dying,
We have only begun,
And the rest of the song,
Remains to be sung,
So we’ll dance through the night,
And the dawn never comes,
Just the two of us.

NOTE: Graceless contains some adult material and is not suitable for younger listeners.

Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Ciara Janson (Abby), Laura Doddington (Zara), Annie Firbank (Amy), Siân Phillips (Joy), Adam Newington (Pool), Hugh Ross (Dodyk), Victoria Alcock (Marcella), Jennie Goossens (Judge Engin), Annie Jackson (Kronchev), Nichola McAuliffe (Comorant), Carol Starks (Slink), Petra Markham (Annie), Carolyn Pickles (Gutierrez), Dan Starkey (Chaff), Richenda Carey (Triangle), David Sterne (Oblong), Duncan Wisbey (Graves). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD ONE: BEFORE THE FALL

What really did go on at Torchwood One before the battle of Canary Wharf? Was Yvonne Hartman a good boss, did Ianto Jones make excellent coffee before his time in Cardiff and how did the staff put up with the peppy, corporate atmosphere of dress down Fridays  buzz words, brainstorming & blue sky thinking? Because “Before the Fall” Torchwood was incredibly corporate – all fake smiles everybody “going for it”, giving “110%” and the one I love to hate “thinking outside the box” – you would be forgiven for thinking that Torchwood One was an investment company or law firm or some-such rather than a top secret morally dubious organisation charged with protecting Queen and Country. And then Rachel Allan (Sophie Winkleman) arrives and we see the whole organisation from her perspective and with new eyes – because Torchwood One – Before The Fall really is the story of Rachel Allan. It is also a very very difficult set to review as events in the first story link in to the final two stories and I want every single listener to experience this set spoiler free, so lets talk about Rachel Allan.

 Rachel Allan is not as I thought an Irish chef, she is the newest recruit to Torchwood One. Sophie Winkleman plays her as a slightly bemused, bothered and bewildered Yorkshire girl who cannot believe her luck in being recruited by Torchwood and getting to work with the legendary Yvonne Hartman (Tracy-Ann Oberman) – Rachel makes mistakes, wears cardigans and is not all polished and corporate like the rest of the set up and wonders why Yvonne recruited her at all  - put it this way, if she was at Hogwarts she would probably be a Hufflepuff :-) But this is just the beginning of Rachel’s story this set  is played out over three stories:

 New Girl by Joseph Lidster

 This is where we meet Rachel and she gets to know the Torchwood team and is assigned to the weapons testing department under the supervision of 1970’s throwback Thomas (Tim Bentinck) – but Rachel learns very quickly how to fit in in Torchwood and makes herself indispensable to the department and to the organisation – and then she discovers a conspiracy, discovers she has been retconned, completely freaks out and nearly causes an interplanetary incident. And then things get worse. Any more would be spoiling but this opening story sets the scene and tone of Torchwood One, think Ally McBeal with aliens – all office politics, relationships and all watched over by the unimaginably brilliant Tracy-Ann Oberman as Yvonne Hartman. Yvonne is fantastic, cold hearted, single minded, ruthless but she remembers her staffs birthdays, has everyone call each other by their first name and knows all about everything that they get up to. She is aided by Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) as her PA, not quite yet the Ianto we know, a little bit too slick and not yet suffered the heartache of Lisa’s fate, still a work in progress. So all happy, all jolly, all staff nights out and salsa classes and expenses. But not for long.

 Through The Ruins by Jenny T Colgan

 Its all change at Torchwood One and the team are sent on a team bonding day. Can you think of anything worse??? Well you have never been on one like this – all the usual things introducing yourselves and telling a “wacky fact” and then games which involve building things then a war game. With real weapons. Ianto Jones is not having a good day at all. Meanwhile Yvonne Hartman has problems of her own adjusting to her new situation. As I said earlier very difficult to talk about without the obligatory “spoilers” but the excruciating nature of team building days is captured perfectly and what can I say about Tracy-Ann Oberman, she plays Yvonne under pressure perfectly, unflappable, cool, clam, collected, knowing who her friends are and always staying one step ahead.

 Uprising by Matt Fitton

 As I said earlier this really is the story of Rachel Allan (not of Bake fame, sorry couldn’t resist it one last time) and in this story Sophie Winkleman shows us the depth of character that she has given Rachel – in one particular scene where she bares her soul to Ianto gave me chills. As Rachel says she IS Torchwood and this story ends with her always having a place at Torchwood One – but I get ahead of myself – the atmosphere at Canary Wharf has changed somewhat from the “Ally McBeal” vibe I got in episode one, the corporate veneer has slipped and Torchwood has moved on to an alert setting, an invasion is imminent – our alien guests are not happy about their hotel arrangements, no mini bar, charges for extra toast, no tea making facilities this will not do, and Yvonne Hartman agrees, she even supplies a kettle :-) A high stakes end to the set with Torchwood coming together to do what they do best. Win.

 An intriguing story that begins in a certain way and does not go anywhere near the path you expect it to tread, the major players are superb, but also the supporting characters of Dean (Gerard McCarthy), Soren (Robert Daws), Guleraana (Nisha Nayar) & Kieran (Damian Lynch) are so well written and played that they set like real people, I can just imagine them all having lives outside the story and to me that is the mark of excellent characterisation and a cast who really care about the material they are working with.

 Torchwood One – Before the Fall was the story of Rachel Allan, the tale is told and in true corporate fashion it ends with an inventory and a price, and I audit this corporate entity at 8/10 efficiency.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

London, 2005. Yvonne Hartman is the undisputed head of Torchwood One. Above the government, beyond the police, she has excellent people skills; enjoys regular tea with the Queen; and effortlessly defends the British Empire from alien threats.

Yvonne Hartman is excellent at her job, and inspires devotion in everyone who works with her – until, one day, she makes a terrible mistake. We all make mistakes. But only at Torchwood can a single mistake plunge your world into interstellar war.

Yvonne Hartman’s facing the fight of her life. One she’s going to win.

New Girl by Joseph Lidster

“They’ve been coming to us for years. And we’ve been kept in the dark. My name’s Rachel Allan. And I’m Torchwood”

It’s Rachel Allan’s first day at Torchwood. Torchwood only takes the brightest and the best – and Rachel’s wondering if Yvonne Hartman’s made a terrible mistake in picking her.

Plunged into a world of alien invasions and office politics, Rachel’s desperate to fit in. For one thing, she really wants this job. And, for another, she knows what happens at Torchwood if you fail.

Through The Ruins by Jenny T Colgan

“Ianto, please. It’s all… it’s all gone wrong. I don’t know what to think any more.”

Away Days at Torchwood aren’t what you’d expect. Yes, there’s the forced camaraderie, the team-building exercises, and the chance for long-held rivalries to boil over. But Torchwood Away Days also have the potential to get very lethal very quickly.

Yvonne Hartman’s extremely worried by this year’s Away Day. But she’s got other things on her mind – something’s very wrong with Torchwood.

Uprising by Matt Fitton

“Torchwood. It’s taken the best part of a month, but I’ve finally got things running how they should be. How they should have been all along. ”

Torchwood has experienced some radical changes, but things are finally settling down. Everyone has pulled together and is trying to put the past behind them. Well, except for Yvonne Hartman – she’s out to win the future.

There’s one problem. Someone seems to have started an interstellar war. Someone who knows Torchwood from the inside out.

Written By: Joseph Lidster, Jenny T Colgan, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Gerard McCarthy (Dean), Sophie Winkleman (Rachel Allan), Robert Daws (Soren), Tim Bentinck (Thomas), Nisha Nayar (Guleraana), Lorelei King (Pippa), Damian Lynch (Kieran), Simon Hickson (Ziggy), Rachid Sabitri (Mehdi), Helen Goldwyn (Receptionist), Philip Childs (Dave). Other Humans, Aliens and Torchwood Agents played by members of the cast.

Produced by James Goss

Script edited by Scott Handcock

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE BEAST OF KRAVENOS

Where do I start with this one? It has all the makings of a bit of a classic. Lets look at the evidence – It has one of my favourite classic era Doctor/Companion combinations in Tom & Lalla, it features those investigators of all things infernal Professor George Litefoot & Henry Gordon Jago AND (and it is a very big AND) if features a victim of an horrific murder who may or may not (lets face it its “may not”) be a Great Grandfather of mine in Theodore Watkinson. Mr Watkinson only appears as a corpse but my imagination was well and truly fired when I heard the name – spitting out of breakfast tea & choking on toast nearly ensued as Mrs W laughed out loud at my nefariously nobbled namesake :-)

 And so after that trip down my fictional family tree, I finally come on to the actual story of The Beast Of Kravenos – and not only does it have the makings of a bit of a classic – it actually is a bit of a classic. The Doctor (tom Baker) has been detecting some strange energy readings at Jago (Christopher Benjamin) New Regency Theatre and has loaned K9 (John Leeson) as an act so that he can stay there in deep cover and trace the source of the energy spikes. On top of this a mysterious thief known only as “The Knave” is committing a series of utterly impossible robberies from locked rooms AND (and yes it is another big AND) a medical man called Dr Theodore Watkinson has been found murdered by an unknown and particularly vicious beast – all in a days work for those investigators of infernal incidents Jago & Litefoot, but add the Doctor, Romana & K9 into the mix and you have the makings of a classic caper. Because thats what this is – a great big jolly caper, a runaround with all protagonists acting at crossed purposes whilst all investigating the same thing with often unintentionally hilarious consequences. The dialogue sparkles with the dry wit of Romana 2 (Lalla Ward) & George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) & the more silly comedy of The Doctor & Jago, even Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith) is in on the caper and his scenes with Tom Baker are laugh out loud funny. In fact the whole cast feels like they all contribute to making this one of the very best Fourth Doctor adventures.

 What about the Knave, the villain of the piece? His (or her) identity remains a secret for most of the story, but it wont take a genius to work out who they are and how all the happenings are inked together – in fact it is this tight plotting mixed with the beautiful interplay of the characters that really makes this something special – it doesn’t feel like a Jago & Litefoot adventure with the Doctor as guest of a Doctor Who adventure with JAgo & Litefoot as guests, both ranges contribute to make this story work building on their particular strengths – heck even K9 gets a comedy turn as an act at the new Regency :-)

 And while this story is very funny, it is a “Season 18” story so isn’t as silly as the “Season 17” season of last year – Tom hasn’t hit the morose characterisation that dominated the latter part of his last year and retains a lot of the joy of his Williams era persona (albeit with a burgundy outfit) thanks mainly to messers Jago & Litefoot, the actors all seem to love working together and the sense of fun, camaraderie & mischief that these elder statesmen of the Whoniverse bring to the table. Again the bar has been set very very high with this release, sometimes things just work and The Beast of Kravenos is one of those times – I have no hesitation in awarding a this classic Kravenos caper a congratulatory 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in January 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

A stunning new star act is wowing the audiences of the New Regency Theatre. The modern mechanical marvel of canny canine charisma – the automated dog that can answer any question – the incomparable – the unbeatable – K9!

The Doctor and Romana have returned to Victorian London and been reunited with their old friends Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago. However this is not merely a social visit. A terrifying crime spree is sweeping the capital, and the burglaries of ‘The Knave’ defy all logic.

Something impossibly dangerous is taking place amid the fog. Only the time travellers and their friends can stop it… but can they be sure they’re all on the same side?

Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9), Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick), Ed Stoppard (Sir Nicholas Asquin)

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

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REVIEW – THE STAR MEN

And so we begin another year of main range releases, what will 2017 bring us? and can it match the very high standard of 2016? To quote Tom Baker “who knows?” Well, Big Finish probably do but for now the future is a secret known only to Mr Briggs and co…..

January 2017 sees the release of the first in a new trilogy of adventures for the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and his season 19 crew Tegan (Janet Fielding) Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and the first of these stories is “The Star Men” and it continues the trend began in last September’s “A Full Life” (review here) of doing something rather wonderful with Adric – it gives Adric time to breathe as it were and have character development that he just didn’t get on TV – yes he is still petulant, yes he is still arrogant but his character is given layers that were either totally absent or just pushed aside in a very crowded TARDIS. and who better to write this new better characterised Adric than the man who wrote his debut story – Andrew Smith.

 Now I have made it sound that this is a very Adric-centric story, and to a degree you would be right but as well as all the characterisation there is a plot. A lot of plot that shoots off in all sorts of unexpected directions and what begins as a disaster movie spins off to a resume mission to an inter-universal invasion to a base under siege and there is even a doomed romance in there too. Kitchen sink, whole kit and caboodle but the plot never seems overloaded and muddled it develops rather nicely and organically, the actions of the characters drive the plot forwards and the events naturally follow omg from each other, so I had better talk about the plot in more detail…

 The Doctor is trying to teach Adric to fly the TARDIS and not having much success in the simulation the is running, he decides to take his crew to visit the astronomy of Gallius Ultima to help Adric with his study of astronomy, unfortunately The Doctor has arrived at the wrong time period and soon a returning explorer class spaceship is on a collision course with the base – but this is only the beginning the ship has been sent back to destroy the base it came from by the mysterious “Star Men” beings of energy from another Universe who have crossed to ours to exploit the energy given out by the creation of stars in Nebula and using this power to slowly enslave our Universe. This is Adric’s story, and his blossoming romance with Autumn Ace (Sophie Wu) has Matthew Waterhouse taking Adric in directions we have not seen previously in the main range (those who have heard A Full Life will know Adric longed to be loved & accepted) but it is these little touches that make Adric a joy to listen to. As for the rest of the guest cast Sue Holderness (of “Marlene” fame) plays base commander and mother of Autumn, Kala Tace in a role that is a complete departure from her comedic alter ego, she is tough as nails and a good person to have on your side in a crisis, I can just imagine her playing the role of Kala on TV in the 1980’s completely against type and knocking it out of the park.

 The story is very “season 19” but season 19 viewed from a 2017 perspective, it is faithful to its era but relies a lot more on character and has more heart than the sometimes sterile Davison era had on TV. A breakneck pace, so much goes on in each episode that you may have to pause and reflect before moving on to the next instalment – there is rather a lot to digest and the tone and direction of the story moves so very quickly but never to the stories disadvantage. In fact it makes the little oasis’ of calm we get as Adric & Autumn get to know each other even more special, because in a story where time is against the protagonists small moments of charm are even more important. A very good start to the main range releases for 2017 that may need multiple listens to fully appreciate 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in January 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Astronomical navigation is a tricky business. To help Adric with his studies, the Doctor sets course for Gallius Ultima – a planet on the edge of the Milky Way, housing one of the most impressive observatories ever constructed.

But the TARDIS arrives to find Gallius U in a state of emergency, tracking the return of the Explorer-class ship Johannes Kepler from its mission into the heart of the mysterious Large Magellanic Cloud. A mission that met with disaster…

To find out what overtook the crew of the Johannes Kepler, the Doctor and his companions must journey into the heart of the Cloud… and beyond, into the darkness of another reality altogether. The universe of the Star Men.

Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sue Holderness (Kala Tace), Sophie Wu (Autumn Tace), Peter Guinness (Rovus), Damian Lynch (Fell/Lom), Kris Dyer (Nomar/Vedrin / Surgical Robot/ Pilot), Barnaby Edwards (Computer). 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 AVENGERS: THE LOST EPISODES (VOLUME 7)

And so it ends. This is the very last box set of “Lost Episodes” as every single one of the missing episodes of Season One of The Avengers have been lovingly recreated by Big Finish, and bring the run an episode was actually found and returned!

But what a venture, recreating an entire season with hardly any reference material, making TV scripts work on audio, and most importantly of all recasting John Steed and getting it completely right. I am talking bullseye, on target and owning the role level of right – Julian Wadham take a bow because you have done the almost impossible you have made the role of Steed your very own, you didn’t take the easy path of “doing a Macnee” and hoping for the best, you took the character and you made it work for you – and now when I listen to these sets I see Steed with your face.

 But The Avengers wouldn’t be The Avengers without a sidekick for Steed, or as with the early episodes Steed was a sidekick for Dr David Keel, played on TV by Ian Hendry and brought to life on audio by Anthony Howell – Keel the medical man who’s life is thrown into despair when his wife is murdered in episode one assists Steed to “Avenge” against the criminal underworld, and this dual top billing saw episodes which both men would take the lead, indeed Steed didn’t appear in a few at all which is inconceivable to those of us who came to The Avengers through the Mrs Peel era – but Hendry was the star of the show in Year One.

 And so we come to the episodes, three in this final set, one Steed only, one Keel only and a final pairing up for a final hurrah:

 Dragonsfield, written by Ian Potter, from a script by Terence Feely

 Steed is sent to an experimental facility developing space suits to supply the American space mission. A murder has taken place and espionage is suspected – but who is the spy and why would they want to sell out to the Russians? A lovely start to the final set, Wadham is firing on all cylinders as Steed all suave, urbane charm on the one hand and hard edged agent on the other as he tries to untangle a web of office politics and office romances to get to the bottom of the mystery. A Steed only (or Keel lite if you like) episode that shows its roots in a television script but is effortlessly transferred to a very visual audio.

 The Far Distant Dead, written by Tom Mallaburn from a script by John Lucarotti

 Flipping the emphasis to Dr Keel in this second story (the “Steed Lite” if you like) Anthony Howell gives an earnest performance as Dr Keel, a genuinely good man and humanitarian who just wants to help heal the world. On holiday in Mexico Keel teams up with Dr Alvarez (Karina Fernandez) to provide medical aid to the victims of a cyclone – but he finds another disaster because food aid given to the victims is not all it seems and is killing those who cook with it. Keel uncovers a conspiracy spanning the Atlantic and discovers just how much suffering the greed of one man can cause. Different in tone to the first episode – Keel is a man on a mission, he sees injustice and fights it, he also cares, sometimes too much. Keel has a real depth of character and Howell really brings out his striving to do the right thing and help everyone as his way of “Avenging” his wife murder. Really cracking stuff.

 The Deadly Air, written by John Dorney from a script by Lester Powell

 And here it is, the very last “Lost” episode – Keel and Steed together for the last time investigating the sabotage of an experimental vaccine facility. Its a tense final episode rich with all the trapping that made the early episodes of The Avengers so memorable – Steed’s charm, Keel’s steadfastness and a serious threat, a threat so serious that Steed makes a grand farewell speech when he believes he has been infected by a killer manufactured infection. Being the last episode this is alluded to in the final scene, which is reminiscent of the Steed/Peel “tag” scenes of the later episodes – its an acknowledgement of all good things coming to an end but a reaffirmation that The Avengers are “needed”.

 And thats it. Big Finish have done a wonderful job of recreating these genuinely lost classics and breathing life into the long lost and sometimes overlooked Year One of The Avengers. Thanks to the hard work put in by all involved Avenger fans have a complete run of the whole series created with authenticity, enthusiasm & dare I say it with love.

A lovely set to end the series Mr Steed & Doctor Keel take a bow, your work is done 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in January 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until February 28th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Steed and Dr Keel return to action in these final three recreations of classic lost episodes.

Dragonsfield, written by Ian Potter, from a script by Terence Feely

A man has been murdered in an experimental laboratory, and Steed is sent to investigate. Someone is working for the other side – and Steed will need to untangle a messy web of inter-personal relationships if he’s to stand any chance of identifying who.

The Far Distant Dead, written by Tom Mallaburn from a script by John Lucarotti

En route from Chile back to England, Dr Keel stops off to help the victims of a cyclone. Except not every fatality he encounters was caused by the disaster. It appears he’s stumbled onto an international conspiracy of the most sinister kind… and the perpetrators will be found many miles away…

The Deadly Air, written by John Dorney from a script by Lester Powell

When an experimental vaccine is destroyed Steed calls in Keel to join him on the scene as a medical expert. But it isn’t long before the saboteur becomes a murderer. As the situation escalates, can the Avengers identify their foe before they become his victims?

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

Written By: Adapted by Ian Potter, Tom Mallaburn, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Anthony Howell (Dr Keel), Julian Wadham (John Steed), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Carol Wilson), Cate Debenham-Taylor (Lisa Strauss), Harriet Kershaw (Susan Summers / Secretary), Ramon Tikaram (Saunders), Richard Dixon (Redington / One-Fifteen), Christopher Taylor (Boris / Landlord), James Joyce (Jack Alford / Peters), Robert Fitch (Technician / Dr Philip Karswood), Karina Fernandez (Dr Ampara Alvarez Sandoval / Maria Alvarez), David Shaw-Parker (Hercule Zeebrugge / Luis Garcia), Andy Secombe (Inspector Gauvreau / Godoy / Jose Alvarez), Alex Blake (Rayner / Caron / Sergeant Delon), Tom Alexander (Mateos / Mario), Dan Starkey (One-Ten), Bettrys Jones (Barbara Anthony / Receptionist), Richard Atlee (Heneager / Herbert Truscott), Ewan Bailey (Dr Hugh Chalk / Armstrong), Glen McReady (Dr Owen Craxton / Professor Kilbride)

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REVIEW – THE DIARY OF RIVER SONG VOLUME 2

Two words to begin this review. Can you guess what they are? What other words are appropriate  to welcome back her of the magnificent hair apart from “Hello Sweetie”:

Right, I got that out of my system, thanks for bearing with me, but River Song – well she is rather special to me, from her debut in the Library through to Twelve taking her to the towers of Darillium I have found her a fascinating, intriguing and engaging character (with magnificent hair) – a tragic heroine for the ages, an impossible woman doomed by her love of but blessed by her love from The Doctor – basically I can never have too many River Song stories and when this set was announced I was suitably intrigued – River with not one but TWO Doctor’s – how would Professor Song get on with Old Sixie (Colin Baker) and Seven (Sylvester McCoy) and how would the very fragile and very very complicated web of her life be maintained? Well dear reader, read on.

This box set is a little bit complicated – it deals with a lot of high concept Sci-Fi elements lots of what the Moffat era has deemed “timey-wimey” while still maintaining  enough heart and soul to make me well up on several occasions and there is a very very funny in joke that I was hoping would get a mention in the fourth story “The Eye of the Storm” – because thats what this set is really its a storm, on a cosmic and a personal scale, certainties are ripped apart by a maelstrom of coincidence, the larger picture then effects ordinary everyday people as the stage is set for a storm to end all storms. One River, Two Doctors – who could possible want more??? And it all begins with a spaceship…

2.1 The Unknown by Guy Adams

On the spaceship Saturnius River Song and the rest of the crew including Maddie Bower (Anna Maxwell Martin), Ellen Byrne (Gemma Saunders) & Robert Murphy (Justin Avoth) are investigating a phenomena that has appeared in Earth’s Solar System and they are stuck, cannot go backwards or forwards just stuck in its thrall – lucky there is a stowaway on board in the shape of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). What a way to start it complex, its intriguing and it is very very dreamlike with characters misremembering the most simple things about themselves as the effects of the phenomena accelerate. River and Seven, how does it work, how are they together? Well to quote Miss Song “spoilers” but they definitely have a spark, not as strong or romantic as with 10,11 or 12 more of a respect. The story has the feeling of a sci-fi disaster movie with added paradoxes and is a rip roaring beginning to the set.

2.2 Five Twenty-Nine by John Dorney

Now this is rather special. Very special indeed. After the fast paced beginning the pace is rolled back to what can only be called “sedate” and yet there is a sense of urgency, something in the air, something about to happen, something awful, something heartbreaking and something final and it is going to happen at Five Twenty-Nine.

River arrives alone on an island investigating this phenomenon and is taken in by Emmett Burrows (Robert Pugh), his wife Lisa Burrows (Ann Bell) and their synthetic daughter Rachel (played by real life daughter of Alex Kingston – Salome Heartel) – this is the future, but the only real sci-fi element is Rachel – Emmett & Lisa live a simple life as sheep farmers on an island where they get on with living. And then reports come in of the world losing communication with the USA as a wave of nothingness travels from time zone to time zone on the earth arriving in each at Five Twenty-Nine. This is heartbreaking, its beautiful and it is a wonderful story about the love of an ordinary couple. I was reminded of the writing of Raymond Briggs, ordinary people, awful circumstances and no apparent way out. The highlight of the set.

2.3 World Enough and Time by James Goss

Having met Seven in the opening story it is now time for River to bump in to the force of nature that is Old SIxie. But Old Sixie here is masquerading as Managing Director of Golden Futures and  has a growing number of unanswered emails to cope with, and the he spots a beautiful lady with magnificent hair in his typing pool and his hearts so full of bombast and verbosity melt. Yes indeed Old Sixie is smitten with River & she is VERY keen on him. Old Sixie and River really sizzle together as they investigate the goings on at Golden Futures. Very much a “buddy-movie” style story as Old Sixie and River investigate and discover a conspiracy linked in not only to the first two episodes but to the actual end of the world. And the root of it all in money, greed, profit and an audacious plan to use the Doctor’s potential future as a source of energy AND then there is project Elysium but any more would be #Spoilers so thats all you are getting!

2.4 The Eye of the Storm by Matt Fitton

I do like a good joke and I am so glad what went on in my mind was paid off in the last scene before the credits. Anyhow, no more on that for the moment on to the final instalment. A Storm is coming, the worst storm in Earth’s history, the great storm of 1703 – thing is this storm may herald the end of the world. So far we have had River & 7, River solo & River & Old Sixie – in this finale we have River, 7 & Old Sixie all at once at a temporal nexus point – all apparently working for the same ends from different perspectives and getting their wires crossed. And the eye of the storm are a young couple called Isaac George (Paul Keating) & Sarah Dean (Jessie Buckley) and their love for one another may (or may not) cause history to be fractured forever. It is a very very complicated script, but it is humanised by some exceptional characterisation (and a very funny in joke) River shows herself as more astute than either of the Doctor’s in knowing the only way out of the situation and the price that must be paid for the correct outcome.

A melancholy ending with a smitten Old SIxie, an intrigued Seven, and a loose end from Five Twenty-Nine tied up very nicely indeed.

I didn’t think I could be any more of a fan of River than I already was – but this set adds so much to her character, her romance with Old Sixie, her trying to outsmart Seven, her humanity in trying to do the right thing for the Burrows family even though she knows it is futile – her poetry, her understanding of the power of a love so strong that it transcends time and space. And also the magnificent hair, never forget the magnificent hair :-) I know this was released in 2016, but this box set is my first review of 2017 & has already set the bar exceptionally high and is one heck of a ride. So as I award this 10/10 I will leave the final words to the lady herself as you anticipate listening to the series:

 

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released digitally only in December 2016. It will be released in January 2017 on CD through Big Finish and then exclusively available to buy from the BF website until March 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Time travelling archaeologist and adventurer River Song returns – and this time she will be stepping into the past life of the Doctor, encountering two of his incarnations at once!

From the space exploration vessel Saturnius – which is heading to a destination that never gets any closer – to a doomed planet Earth and beyond, River’s journey will bring her closer to a new foe… and an encounter with both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.

2.1 The Unknown by Guy Adams

A planetary anomaly. A scientific impossibility. A mystery to be solved.

Of course, River Song expects to be consulted. She expects her valuable knowledge and experience will help the crew of the Saturnius unlock the strange phenomenon that has appeared in Earth’s solar system.

But what River doesn’t expect is a stowaway. An infuriating little man, calling himself the Doctor.

2.2 Five Twenty-Nine by John Dorney

River has made a terrible discovery.

Billions of lives hang in the balance. But if she can save just a few, then it might just help her solve the conundrum of Earth’s destruction.

But how can she win when survival becomes a race against time itself? A race against Five Twenty-Nine?

2.3 World Enough and Time by James Goss

When it comes to bringing down corrupt and exploitative regimes, there is no-one quite like River.

Until she arrives at Golden Futures and discovers that someone else has already taken on her job. Someone with almost as much style and panache as herself.

The Doctor is about to get the shock of his lives.

2.4 The Eye of the Storm by Matt Fitton

The Great Storm of 1703 approaches. The fate of planet Earth hangs in the balance.

The only person who can save it is the Doctor. Or River Song. Or quite possibly another Doctor. Or maybe this whole situation is their fault in the first place.

Two Doctors. One River. An infinite number of ways to destroy the world. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Written By: Guy Adams, John Dorney, James Goss, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Alex Kingston (River Song), Colin Baker (The Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Anna Maxwell Martin (Maddie Bower), Gemma Saunders (Ellen Byrne), Justin Avoth (Robert Murphy), Salome Haertel (Rachel), Jessie Buckley (Sarah Dean / Speravore Queen), Ann Bell (Lisa Burrows), Robert Pugh (Emmett Burrows), Dan Starkey (Computer / Announcer), Aaron Neil (Steven Godbold / Computer), Sara Powell (The PA), Sam Alexander (Todd the Pod), Barnaby Edwards (Autocorrect), Paul Keating (Isaac George), Robert Hands (Daniel Defoe / Barkeep), Alan Cox (Robert Harley / Speravore / Warder). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson

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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – THE NEW COUNTER MEASURES SERIES 01

And they are back! After the “pilot” episode earlier this year “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” (review HERE)  the Counter Measures team are back together for a series of off beat espionage adventures, but this time in glorious 16mm film with  a funky rather than a jazzy soundtrack, because we have arrived in the 1970’s.

 For those of you that have not heard “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” this review contains significant spoilers so I suggest listening to it first? You can buy it HERE – all caught up? Marvellous. So Sir Toby Kinsella ISN’T dead, in fact he is thriving with his team back together from their apparent deaths in the original Counter Measures – they have a new base in the Post Office Tower, but apart from the change of decade, the change of setting and the change of incidental music it is pretty much business as usual for the Counter Measures team.

 The emphasis in this box set is slightly different from the previous 1960’s based Counter Measures, there is no over arching plot, the episodes are stand alone and this works both for and against the set as we shall see. The series is split in to four stories:

 1.Nothing to See Here by Guy Adams

 Group Captain Gilmore (Simon Williams) goes undercover with a gang of bank robbers who seem to have perfected the power of invisibility, but the device that is being used is far more clever than an invisibility cloak and far more dangerous to the user. The device makes those around not notice that you are there until you interact, it also makes the user forget who they are and lose their sense of self. A tense beginning to the set and an examination of what it means to be the person that you are. Can a decent man like Ian be influenced by a machine to forget who he is to the extent that he does awful things? And if so what of those with weaker wills and weaker senses of self – could this technology be exploited for more than just robberies and be used on the population? Luckily we have Sir Toby (Hugh Ross) Rachel (Pamela Salem) & Alison (Karen Gledhill) on our side.

 2. Troubled Waters by Ian Potter

 This is my favourite episode of the set, its creepy, its claustrophobic, it plays on paranoia of confined spaces and thematically it follows on from the first episode as the sense of self of our heroes is attacked. The team are sent to investigate a crashed Nuclear submarine that recently went off grid. The crew are missing, the whole sub is deserted apart from one lone survivor from an experiment into psychic soldiers. What follows is the team being manipulated to act against their nature – Sir Toby taken back to when he was at public school, Ian as a gunner in the RAF, Rachel being dominated by an over bearing mother, Alison given the chance to be a mother – using these phobias and desires to manipulate the team in to giving up the nuclear secrets of the Submarine, Its tense and its a difficult listen and it really does make use of the stand alone nature of the stories to tell the best story it possibly can in the time it is given. Bravo.

 3. The Phoenix Strain by Christopher Hatherall

 This is a bit of an oddball story, almost tongue in cheek – it an homage in part to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and to all those 1970’s films about animals going crazy like “Night of the Lepus” and “Piraña”. London is being plagued by attacks from killer birds and the grieving fiancee of a former pupil of Rachel’s could hold the answer. But what is the answer? Surely the powers that be would not be developing biological warfare to use against their own population? Sir Toby crosses swords with Lord Henry Balfour (David Rintoul) in his quest to expose the truth and stop the killer birds. As I said, an odd story, quite camp and tongue in cheek and tonally very different from the first two of the set – more brutal and graphically violent, yet sillier in an odd sort of way.

 4 A Gamble With Time by John Dorney

 Now THAT Mr Dorney is a cheeky title! A Gamble With Time was the original title of the Doctor Who story that eventually became City of Death. This story does not feature Mona Lisa’s Jagaroth or John Cleese – it features a very clever (actually not so clever) confidence trick played out against the backdrop of Monte Carlo glamour and casinos. Gus Kalworowsky (Tam Williams) has alien tech to sell, he has alien tech that allows him to travel in time and he proves his point to Lady Suzanne Clare (Carolyn Seymour) by apparently travelling in time and taking her casino to the cleaners on the blackjack tables. Lady Clare is an international arms dealer and a nasty piece of work who is au fait with alien tech and wants the time travel device. What follows is a 1970’s style take on Hustle as con follows con and a new enemy in Lady Clare is set up for future sets.

 A mixed bag of stories, from tense claustrophobia, to camp to con tricks – this is a New series in a new decade playing with possibilities and finishing on a hook that I hope will be followed up in Series 2. A funky and flared trouser take on the “Spy-Fi” genre and a very promising start 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

1. Nothing to See Here by Guy Adams

A series of violent bank robberies are baffling the Swiss police. It’s time for New Counter-Measures to step into the breach. But as the crime spree escalates and one of the team gets closely involved, are they going in too deep? Can you go undercover even from yourself?

2. Troubled Waters by Ian Potter

When a lost submarine is found, the New Counter-Measures team are sent into the depths to investigate. But why? What unusual scheme was being hatched on board? Who has very special designs on Allison? And what’s happened to the crew?

3. The Phoenix Strain by Christopher Hatherall

After tourists are attacked by the birds circling Parliament Square, Sir Toby Kinsella suspects London is about to turn into an Alfred Hitchcock movie. With feathered foes everywhere, the race is on to find out what’s happening… and whether this biblical plague can even be stopped at all.

A Gamble With Time by John Dorney

In the glamorous casinos of Monte Carlo, a nefarious scheme is being hatched. Fortunately, the New Counter-Measures team are on hand to prevent a disaster. But are they betting with the right hand? When they’re playing against Lady Suzanne Clare, all bets are off.

Written By: Guy Adams, Ian Potter, Christopher Hatherall, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen), Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams), Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella), Carolyn Seymour (Lady Suzanne Clare), Tam Williams (Gus Kalwarowksy / Dave and Martin), Joanna Bending (Croupier / Tessa Collins), George Asprey (Balthasar Schrek), Robin Weaver (Edwige Ponzi), Gunnar Cauthery (Franz), Christian Edwards (Alex), Vincent Carmichael (Machado), David Rintoul (Lord Henry Balfour), Claire Calbraith (Starling), Andrew Wincott (Professor Abrams)

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

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REVIEW – THE HESITATION DEVIATION

What is it with The Doctor & Christmas? as far back as 1965 he was getting it wrong all Z-Cars & Keystone Cops style and in more modern times he has fought off invasions and even succumbed to a regeneration on Xmas day. Yes indeed Xmas is not a good time to be The Doctor, which is a shame as he seems to love it.

 In this month’s festive Short Trips release we see the Doctor in his Seventh Incarnation throw off his melancholy machiavellian personality and seemingly go back to his season 24 joie de vivre as he takes Bernice Summerfield to a planet that does Christmas properly. A planet where all talk of it is banned until the festival approaches and then the denizens go all out – snowmen, present, mulled wine, mince pies, carols the whole kit and caboodle – so surely THIS time, on a Christmas planet things cant go wrong. Can they?

 Oh yes they can, and as narrator Lisa Bowerman narrates the plot from the point of view of Bernice we see that Bernice has an awful decision to make. To save the Doctor she must forget The Doctor forever, she must retain no memory of him at all because on the Christmas planet a terrible trap has been set, and to know of the Doctor is to want to destroy The Doctor….

 What begins as a bit of bright and breezy Christmas whimsy descends very quickly into The Doctor and Bernice running for their lives and from a force that has been hunting the Doctor from one end of time to the other, a force that has become patient, a force that has hidden in the population of the Christmas planet just waiting for him to arrive.

 Lisa Bowerman captures the breathless, breakneck speed of the situation that Bernice and The Doctor find themselves in, she also provides the framing narration where Bernice discusses her situation with a robo therapist and as the plot develops the two threads become nicely interwoven and provide a very satisfying pay off.

 Like pretty much every Doctor Who Christmas special this is lightweight throwaway stuff, not groundbreaking or a classic – but Lisa Bowerman instills a sense of fun and urgency to the 35 minutes of the stories length and it is always a treat to have a Bernice centred story.

 As Christmassy as a mince pie and a glass of port as this is I hope that The Doctor does get a perfect Xmas one day! 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #24 is a Seventh Doctor and Benny story.

The Doctor brings Bernice Summerfield to a planet where they get Christmas just right. But this year, something’s gone very wrong. An ancient force has been hunting the Doctor for a long time, and finally it has found him. As it closes in on the Time Lord, Bernice must make a truly terrible decision. One that she’ll immediately forget.

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

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Lisa Bowerman (Narrator)

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REVIEW – COLD FUSION

Why don’t I remember this one so well? I read the novel in the 1990′s and have vague recollections of Five meeting Roz Forrester at a railway station, but apart from that zero, zilch, nothing. Which in a way is good as I came to this release fresh with no expectations of what it would be like. And what is it like? well, thats really really difficult to say – its complex, its involved, it harks to the ancient past of Gallifrey, it has lots and lots of Virgin era continuity regarding Time Lords being born from looms and yet it is still completely and utterly a Fifth Doctor story. It sounds like a Fifth Doctor story, the incidental music is definitely Fifth Doctory – but this is a Fifth Doctor story run through the blender of Virgin’s take on Doctor Who – a brave and bold take on the Universe of Doctor Who, a story so good that one Doctor just isn’t enough, this one has two Doctor’s AND it has The Doctor’s Wife (or maybe not). Those of you expecting a 1990’s appearance from River Song are going to be disappointed – the “wife” in question here is someone for more complex and far more significant than even her of the magnificent hair……

 But where to start? There is rather a lot to this story as I have said, but a very rewarding one, we have the Fifth Doctor, The Seventh Doctor, Companions Chris Cwej (Travis Oliver) Roz Forrester (Yasmin Bannerman), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Tegan (Janet Fielding) we also have a large supporting cast lead by the mysterious Time Lord “Patience” (Christine Kavanagh). The story has an air of desperation and a race against time the sort of “muddling through” we got in the Fifth Doctor’s era on TV – BUT it also features the Virgin version of the Seventh Doctor so plays out as a machiavellian conspiracy with every move planned meticulously, but when you are plotting against your own past can things really be so straightforward? But what of the plots and the machinations? On a frozen planet the Fifth Doctor fresh from his regeneration arrives with Adric, Nyssa and Tegan and is soon caught up in events involving the sightings of “ghosts” – as he and Adric investigate, Nyssa & Tegan book in to a hotel where a n obviously fake Australian calling himself “Bruce Jovanka” arouses Tegan’s curiosity. At the same time The Seventh Doctor is investigating dangerous energy experiments conducted by the Earth Empire and the scene is set for the two most unlike incarnations of The Doctor to meet, breathless enthusiasm, decency and honour are about to collide with cold scheming. And then there is “Patience”.

 Patience – its not often I get cold shivers with Doctor Who any more, but the scenes of mental contact between Five and Patience did just that. “Patience” (in quotes as it isn’t her real name in the same way as “The Doctor” isn’t our heroes real name) through her fragmented memories gives us a vision of her past on ancient Gallifrey, she is from the old time, she was born of the gene looms, had 13 children and her husband? Oh now that is complicated, but it may have been “The Other” who was possibly a past incarnation of The Doctor. But there is most definitely a connection, the Fifth Doctor displays an emotion and an intimacy with “Patience” that is completely absent in his interaction with other characters, Tegan is embarrassed when he sees Five place his hand on “Patience” thigh – mild stuff for those of us used to his intimacy with River, but groundbreaking in the 1990’s. And through Five & “Patience” interaction we gain vital information about the ancient times on Gallifrey and learn how “Patience” arrived on the Ice Planet. I have chills even thinking about it and long time fans will do too because these glimpses of ancient times give us a huge amount of backstory for The Doctor, not enough to ruin the mystery, but enough to leave us wanting more. A lot more.

 As for the rest of the story companions of Five & Seven meet up and go through various ordeals involving the Earth Empire and the Order of Adjudicators the ruling “Scientifica” and a bunch of terorrists (or freedom fighters) who want to end their rule. And then there are the Ferutu – a species from an alternative Universe where Magic is real. In this Universe they are the Lords of Time and do not agree with non intervention, they help weaker races and use their almost infinite power to maintain an harmonious universe – surely that cannot be a bad thing? A universe where Daleks and Vampires are confined to the fringes, where peace, harmony, wisdom and compassion are the way of life? But at what price? AND THEN there is the meeting of Five and Seven – two more different incarnation of the same Time Lord you could not envisage, each with if not contempt, then a healthy disdain for each other and their methods. AND THEN it is all linked in to Day of The Doctor and that really is the feather in the cap :-)

 Saying I enjoyed this is a bit of an understatement, saying I welled up with tears is not. Because I did. After witnessing “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” on TV last night and being completely left cold and disengaged, Cold Fusion was the tonic I needed, a classic for the ages, without a doubt the best of all the multi Doctor stories and a strong contender for Doctor Who release of the year. The Ferutu tells Five that this is not the last time he will meet Patience, as I recall the novels didn’t follow this up – can I ask Big Finish to take this dangling plot thread and make it magnificent? Because this release was wonderful and very much “My” Who from “My” era made real by Big Finish. Magnificent, truly magnificent.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

Please note: Doctor Who – Cold Fusion cannot be shipped on CD until the first week in January, due to a delay in manufacturing. However, in order to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy this epic release alongside Doctor Who – Original Sin, we have decided to go ahead with the download release today as planned.

A newly regenerated Fifth Doctor arrives on an occupied ice planet – where the Seventh Doctor is investigating dangerous energy experiments conducted by the Earth Empire. But events spin out of control when a refugee from the distant past arrives – Patience, the Doctor’s Wife!

Written By: Lance Parkin
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester), Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej), Christine Kavanagh (Patience), Jeremy Hitchen (Medford/Quint/Quant/Ziyou Wanle/Ferutu), Sharon Maughan (Whitfield), Peter Caulfield (Adam/Falconstock/Sam/Concierge/Robot Voices)

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – ORIGINAL SIN

And we are back in the 1990′s.Not the barren decade that some would have you believe, but a melting pot of creativity, thinking the unthinkable, writing the unfilmable and paving the way for the 2005 Doctor Who renaissance. Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, we return once again to the worlds of the Virgin New Adventures, and what a wonderful world it was. Contrary to our old friend “received fan opinion” these were heady times – Who was being written by those who genuinely cared, but more than this these were writers with genuine vision – Paul Cornell, RTD, David A McIntee, Jim Mortimore, Andy Lane – all pioneers who saw no Who on TV as an opportunity and not an ending. In Love and War Paul Cornell gifted us Professor Bernice Summerfield – bust just like the TV show this book series evolved and new companions were needed to give the range a new direction – it fell to series stalwart Andy lane to introduce two new companions Chris Cwej & Roz Forrester in the novel Original Sin – and now twenty one years later Big Finish have brought the story to life.

So what is Original Sin, and why is it so important? On the surface this is a hard boiled sci-fi adventure, quite typical of the epic scale future history style of the time. It has The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) at his mysterious manipulative best truly he is Times Champion here, casually striding through the story with a confidence bordering on arrogance – he is truly charmed. It has Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) making wise cracks and in complete synchronicity with The Doctor – for them both the events of Human Nature (the novel) have only just happened so their bond has deepened due to the traumatic events that they both suffered. It also introduces Chris & Roz. Chronologically that is, we first experienced them in the May 2015 adaptation of Damaged Goods (review here) in the forms of Yasmin Bannerman (Roz) & Travis Oliver (Chris) – but here we meet them at the beginning – Roz is an experienced cynical Adjudicator (think Judge as in Dredd) and Chris is her Squire and is a lot less jaded. They are sworn to uphold the law in Spaceport 5 Over-city (the UK to you and me) their world view and their whole way of life is about to be shaken up when their ordered life as part of the machinery of the expanding Earth Empire is in a head on collision with the world of the Doctor, because the Earth is defending in to chaos, and where there is chaos there is always the Oncoming Storm, there is always The Doctor.

So, the Murder rate is rising on Earth, the adjudicator secular dismisses it as all the murders have been solved – but to Chris Cwej something just does not add up, and this is the tip of a very rotten iceberg at the heart of the Earth Empire – why are the powers that be so keen to cover this up – what does the deranged Professor Pryce (Jot Davies) know about the dangerous icaron particles that the Doctor has detected? why is the process of “body beppling” (literally transforming your body into something else for fashions sake – when we first meet Chris he looks like a Teddy Bear!) so popular and is it linked to the spate of murders? and at the heart of it all is a villain from the far and distant past, someone who has been waiting a very very long time for the Doctor to arrive, and he really isn’t the man he once was?

Its a big story and a lot happens – there is a palpable sense of the epic and of a threat and of society unravelling. And then there is the villain of the piece – he is all knowing, he is everywhere – and in this version of the story he is frustratingly unnamed, but being Who fans I am sure you can work out who he is meant to be. For all its future history, Mega Cities, lies and revelation, for all the changes that Chris & Roz go through in the two hours of the story – the ending somehow feels earned – the characters have suffered for the plot, Chris and Roz have proved their worth and earned their place aboard the TARDIS. However my favourite scene occurs at the beginning of episode two, its a short chilling scene where The Doctor & Professor Pryce discuss the morality of killing and when it can be justified – it made my blood run cold, especially when the conversation is revisited later in the story. Even after the events of Human Nature – Seven was in a dark place at this point in his life – his personal morality was something that could be reimagined to fit a particular set of circumstances – he was an ambiguous character, and never ever more dangerous, ancient or terrible. THIS was MY Doctor – and I mourned his loss when the TV movie came around and a golden era of creativity ended. Big Finish have made a dream come true in adapting the 1990’s stories for a wider audience – and while Original Sin isn’t my favourite of the New Adventures in still deserves 9/10 for being brave enough to exist in the first place. Now then Big Finish, hows about Lungbarrow…..

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

A warning from a dying alien leads the Doctor and Bernice to Earth. However Earth in this time period is not a good place to be.

The murder rate is rising, but the killers seem to be acting without motive. The TARDIS crew’s investigations lead them to a military training planet, a prison inside a star, and a terrifying old foe.

And all the time they are being pursued – by two dogged Adjudicators who’ve stumbled onto a terrifying conspiracy. Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester.

Things will never be the same again.

Based on the 1995 New Adventures novel by Andy Lane.

Written By: Andy Lane, adapted by John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester), Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej), Andrew French (Beltempest), Philip Voss (Robot/ Under-Sergeant), Amrita Acharia (Rashid/ Computer/ Shythe Shahid), Robbie Stevens (Dantalion/ Homeless/ Securitybot), Jot Davies (Powerless/ Pryce/ Hater/ Evan Claple).  Other parts played by members of the cast.

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE SONTARANS

I really hope I don’t come over all “Mary Whitehouse” in this review, because that is not who I am at all. Violence has its place in stories, it really does – I never understood her problem with the Hinchcliffe era (but then again she inadvertently created the Williams era so bonus points there). What am I doing! I am almost giving backhanded compliments to one of the most destructive forces in the history of TV. But I have a point to make.

You see The Sontarans is two things – thing one – it is a very Hartnell era quest/chase/race against time story in which our heroes team up with some other character to overcome an enemy – think The Daleks and you wont be too far off for the overall structure. Thing two – it is very violent. Not cartoon violent, but violent in an upsetting way, not to give too much away but at the end of part three and beginning of part four there are some torture scenes that are out of character for the Hartnell era and cross the line as to the type of thing that the character of the Doctor would find acceptable and also the audience would find acceptable. Its a bit too much. Apart from those scenes this is a rip roaring boys own adventure and goes something like this….

 On a flower covered moon between two gas giants The First Doctor, Steven (Peter Purves) & Sara (Jean Marsh) hope for some much needed rest and recuperation from their battles with The Daleks. No such luck as The Doctor is about to encounter one of his greatest enemies for the first time – this is the first meeting between The Doctor & the Sontarans. Sara Kingdom already knows about the Sontarans, in fact the period they have arrived in is ancient history for her – and as The Doctor & his friends team up with the Space Security Service team sent to disable the Sontaran space canon and protect the space lanes Sara finds herself in a position normally inhabited by the Doctor and cannot let any future history slip out.

 What follows is a pretty standard “quest” story for the most part – our heroes are separated from the TARDIS and need it back, peril, bravery & betrayal – helping the indigenous population – you get the picture but it is elevated beyond this by the performances of the cast – especially Peter Purves in THOSE scenes which I alluded to earlier, this is definitely Doctor Who and not Game of Thrones, so as out of place as the torture scenes are Peter Purves sells them utterly as both Steven and The Doctor. His performance as Hartnell is stunning, never better and completely convincing I SAW Hartnell during this story, not just someone else reading his part – and boy is The Doctor wily in this one, using the Sontarans fixation with war and honour against them, his verbal sparring with the Sontaran commander (Dan Starkey) is sublime and pure First Doctor. The rest of the guest cast give it their all too – Jemma Churchill as Captain Papas providing grace under pressure and the stoic Corporal Gage (John Banks) keeping calm and carrying on as if he has a different mission to the others.

 But I cannot get those torture scenes out of my head – they bother me, and that is probably a good thing, as violence should never be normalised, and I should be taken out of my comfort zone once in a while – the purpose of art is to challenge and this did challenge me – a difficult but a rewarding listen and “Peter Purves – he gives good Hartnell!” (if I see that on t-shirt I know where it has come from ) a challenging 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

The TARDIS arrives on a moon-sized asteroid orbiting two gas giants. With an amazing view, it’s a chance for the Doctor, Steven and Sara to unwind after their recent adventures.

But they quickly find themselves in the midst of battle – on one side: a familiar group of space-suited soldiers – members of the Space Security Service. On the other: strange, squat aliens in body armour.

Surviving the initial hostilities, the Doctor and his friends discover that the SSS squad is on a terrifying mission. With many lives at stake, they have to venture deep inside the asteroid in search of a hideous weapon. But who can they trust in the battle against these Sontarans?

Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Peter Purves (Steven/The Doctor/Narrator), Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom), Dan Starkey (Corporal Ellis/Slite/Shrok/Stack/Commander), Jemma Churchill (Captain Papas), John Banks (Corporal Gage), Rosanna Miles (Tinder/Human Soldier)

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: John Dorney

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – QUICKSILVER

Parting is such sweet sorrow as a wordsmith much greater than I could ever dream of being once wrote – and this story begins with an ending. Of sorts. Ladies and gentlemen we are at the finale of the 2016 Main Range releases, we have arrived at release 220 “Quicksilver” and to quote Bobby Ball “its a little belter”. So where to begin? well at the beginning of course and I said earlier Quicksilver begins with an ending, or at least an attempt at an ending….

 Long time Big Finish listeners will remember that at the end of the last release “Absolute Power” (review HERE) Mrs Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) decided that she had had enough of her travels with Old Sixie and wanted to go home, back to World War 2, back to Bletchley Park and back to her husband Henry – but when The Doctor drops her back off at her London home one autumn morning Mrs Clarke is in for a rather upsetting surprise, because Mrs Clarks discovers to her horror that her husband Henry is lost in action, presumed dead. This first episode is a wonderful character piece between Mrs Clarke & Old Sixie – what is not said is as heartfelt and as poignant as the words that pass between them – Mrs Clarke’s stiff upper lip begins to wobble and Miranda Raison opens up another level to this most multi faceted of companions -and that dear readers is only the beginning because Matt Fitton has thrown the kitchen sink at this one, want to know more? Of course you do.

 The tragic news for Mrs Clarke is only the beginning, only one of a series of events that will lead to an alien war being wrought in Vienna of 1948, a startling discovery and the return of a much missed companion – yes on top of everything else this release heralds the return of one Phillipa Jackson, or simply Flip to her friends (Lisa Greenwood) last seen floating towards the earth a few years ago, but not very pleased to have been transported on her wedding day to 1948 Vienna. There is a classic scene where Mrs Clarke and Flip meet, neither knows of the others history with The Doctor – and suddenly realisation dawns on both of them, you can visualise the looks on their faces – and what a pairing these two make, separated in time by 70 years or so and in class by a yawning chasm – but they are a kindred spirt – the Doctor really does pick his companions well.

 And what of the rest of the plot? its very difficult without spoiling as there are a fair few surprises as characters motivations are made apparent and the threat of the aliens chasing lost alien warlord Kinvar (Joel Fry) is played out – and what of the Quicksilver of the title? Well its a plot device that sets up the whole chain of events and is also used very cleverly in the resolution. Old Sixie shows his moral crusading side by giving grandstanding speeches about Communism & McCarthyism whilst all along being the cleverest person by far in the proceedings, one step ahead at least of the tangled web that the Quicksilver device has created, and Mrs Clarke? what can I say about Miranda Raison that I have not already said? she continues to imbue Mrs Clarke with layer upon layer, adding vulnerability and compassion to the already heady mix of character traits and the tease of further adventures to come with Old Sixie and Flip is real “punch the air” territory.

 Quicksilver is another fantastic release and gets the mix of character drama, cold war thriller and alien war blockbuster just right, its a something for everyone story, but mostly, underneath it all, when you strip back the alien devices, Russians, warlords, aliens and post war Vienna tailors shops – this is a story of Mrs Clarke realising that her place is with Old Sixie – and long may she be there 10/10.

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.

It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:

DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU LT-CMDR H CLARKE LOST IN ACTION. CLASSIFIED OPERATIONS.

Those classified operations concerned a top-secret military project code-named ‘Quicksilver’. A project based in Vienna. A project with alien connections.

But bombed-out Vienna is not what it was before the war – with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. It’s not the time nor the place for a happy reunion. As Constance Clarke is about to discover…

And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!

Written By: Matt Fitton

Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Lisa Greenwood(Flip Jackson), Matthew Cottle (Henry Clarke), Joel Fry (Kinvar/Rogers), Oliver Cotton (Major Callahan), Kate Kennedy (Ana), Robbie Stevens (Boyarov/Vilal General).  Other parts portrayed 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 – ABSOLUTE POWER

You sort of know where you are with Colin Baker releases – dependable, classy and following a certain formula. As Meat Loaf once sang “two out of three aint bad” as yes this release is dependable, yes it most definitely is classy but formula? Nah – throw that one out of the window. This is the most un-Colin like Colin story in a very long time. In fact it feels more like RTD meets the Hinchcliffe era with Old SIxie’s charm and verbosity thrown in for good measure.

 Yes indeed, this one is breath of fresh air – after last months slightly disappointing Dalek story this is much more like it – but what is “it” I hear you ask, well dear reader “it” in this case is the first of December 2016’s Old Sixie & Mrs Clarke releases, hold on to your hats for the rollercoaster ride that is “Absolute Power”

 Set on the Planet Teymah, the Doctor and Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) are mistaken for inspectors and granted all access to Lyam Yce (Paul Reynolds) archaeological dig. Ice wants to find out why the ancient civilisation of Teymah became extinct and his dig has discovered a huge sphere which cannot be opened, there are also some ancient inscriptions that the TARDIS cannot translate does it sound familiar so far? This story screams ancient evil, it screams of bases well and truly under siege and a huge body count, it screams blockbuster – and do you know it delivers on all counts – think “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” and you will be on the right track to the fell of this story. The stakes are really high, the universe is in danger. Come on, a whole planet made extinct by an ancient enemy and that enemy using all its guile and cunning to resurrect itself – we are on to a winner.

 There is a palpable sense of time running out throughout the story – Mrs Clarke and the Doctor are separated at the beginning of the story & Mrs Clarke really does shine bright in this one – she is a code breaker from Bletchley Park and she uses the skills developed there to break codes, translate inscriptions and keep everyones spirits up with her Blitz spirit. Miranda Raison is just wonderful, she is up there with the great companions and just suits Old SIxie – she takes no nonsense and insists that their relationship is formal, insisting on being referred to as Mrs Clarke – she keeps Old Sixie on his toes, she questions hime and whilst not his intellectual equal is intelligent and capable and a million miles away from the screaming ankle twisting companions of the TV series.

 And Colin Baker – oh Colin, he is magnificent here, but when isn’t he? Given lots of meaty moral outrage, lots of clever dialogue and wordplay – he seems in his element, his energy and enthusiasm for the script is apparent – he seems reenergised by Mrs Clarke’s companionship and changed by her, the bombast is still there but it is tempered with a respect that we have only ever really seen for Evelyn Smith previously.

 And so the story unfolds – there are betrayals, revelations, it also very cleverly does not play out how the listener might expect and despite everything there is something of hope after all the destruction wrought on Teymah and all the lives needlessly lost in the pursuit of Absolute Power for one man. A strong entry in to the main range, and a very different take on a Sixth Doctor story – its amazing that after all these years Old Sixie is still being given new things to do and new facets of his character are being drawn out. An absolutely powerful 9/10.

 Written By Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.

Two thousand years ago, all civilisation on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig.

While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce’s diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they’ll learn that ancient Teymah’s secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands…

Written By: Jamie Anderson

Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Paul Reynolds(Lyam Yce), Jenny Bede (Florrie/Medical Doctor), Arian Nik (Ammar Elkady), Neil Edmond (Professor Aryan Wyke/Mine Worker), Gary Martin (Kohrbal), Esther Hall(Pheenan). 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 – DARK SHADOWS: HAUNTING MEMORIES

In this 50th anniversary year of Dark Shadows we have been treated to a 50th anniversary special and tow short story anthologies, the second of these is “Haunting Memories” and it is what I will be talking about shortly.

 If you are not aware of Dark Shadows, it was a daily soap opera shown in the USA from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s – it always had a gothic sort of “Rebecca” feel to it, very downbeat and gloomy as we were introduced to the Collins family and their crumbling stately home Collinwood – and then it steps up a gear when Barnabas Collins the Vampire is introduced – from that point stories slip back and forth in time, even in to parallel universes and it truly becomes “cult”.

 Big Finish have picked up the reigns of this long abandoned but fondly remembered piece of Americana and have produced a top quality range with more to come in 2017, but thats the future – lets go back to Haunting Memories….

 Four short stories very much in the style of the Doctor Who “Short Trips” range where an actor from the TV series narrates a short interlude of a story an almost insignificant incident that has ramifications for the characters involved – and here we are lucky that Big FInish have chosen four of the most interesting characters in the Dark Shadows universe – Josette, Trask, Angelique & Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard and four pivotal moments in their lives, we begin with Josette.

 Hell Wind by Marcy Robin

 A hurricane is in the process of devastating the island where the young Josette Du Res lives – sometimes a natural phenomenon can bring much more misery and despair than a supernatural one – and the effects of this particular storm will blight Josette’s life and change it forever. Its a claustrophobic beginning to the set and is set a long time before the main events of Dark Shadows so might not seem relevant to a casual listener, but to the seasoned veteran who knows Josette’s history this is a pivotal moment.

 Communion by Adam Usden

 I always liked the Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacey), well, liked isn’t really the right word – I found his character fascinating. here he plays Reverend Elias Trask, father to Gregory Trask as he dispenses his own unique brand of self righteous “goodness” throughout the American Civil War. Here Trask rescues a prostitute from her place of work and is pursued by her owner, his son Gregory is shot in the chest and they are forced to hide out in a church – as Trask prays to his God for aid and redemption, something altogether different answers his prayers. Another pivotal moment for a Dark Shadows character – this is the moment that the Dark Lord enters the history of the Trask family, there is a feeling of inevitability from Trask’s prayer at the beginning to the repeated prayer at the end – fatalistic and inevitable, a fall from grace of the highest order, a triumph of arrogance and hypocrisy personified, my highlight of the set.

 The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker

 No one but Lara Parker can play Angelique Bouchard, and really no one can write for Angelique like Lara Parker can. She knows Angelique, she has symbiosis with the character – she has played her for so long and written novels about her and truly inhabits Angelique, so who else to write the Angelique story & play Angelique but Lara Parker.

When Angelique hears ghosts on the beach crying for their loved ones lost at sea she feels sympathy with them, when they promise to restore Barnabas Collins love for her in return for her restoring their lost loves lives it is a bargain too good to resist.

Its a “be careful what you wish for” story that is quite continuity heavy, we need to know who Barnabas is, who Nicolas Blair is and why Angelique is a ghost – a story that again will reward long time listeners but may leave the uninitiated slightly lost.

 A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham

 When Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard returns to Collinsport she sees a man she recognises, the old love of her life Victor, but he has not changed, he has not aged in all the years that have passed since they were young lovers. What follows is a downward spiral of confession, revelations and almost a catharsis and an acceptance of what has been. We get a harrowing insight into the life of Elizabeth before she was a Collins and the life that she could have had with Victor had circumstances been different. This story really embodies the bleak melancholy that embodied the early episodes of Dark Shadows, I listened in black and white if you know what I mean – the whole episode has a noir feel and a feeling of regret that should not really have resurfaced.

 Four very different tales with a very definite linking theme – Haunting Memories is a very apt title for the set because memories are very powerful things and can consume you – a backward looking set focussed on nostalgia, and nostalgia does not always leave a warm glow, sometimes it leaves a gaping hole. 8/10.

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.

Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…

Hell Wind by Marcy Robin

A young Josette Du Pres is terrified for her life as a deadly hurricane smashes into the island of Martinique. She rushes for shelter but she’s not the only one fighting to survive…

Communion by Adam Usden

1861 and War rages across America. The preacher Elias Trask and his young son Gregory, are hiding from men who wish to kill them. But something else is already in their hiding place…

The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker

The warlock Nicholas Blair has transformed the witch Angelique into a vampire to serve him. Her love for Barnabas Collins, though, will never die…

A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is returning to her home town of Collinsport. But on the train, she is stunned to see the young man who was once the love of her life. Could he also have returned to the town that once tore them apart?

Written By: Marcy Robin, Adam Usden, Lara Parker, Kay Stonham

Directed By: Darren Gross

Cast

Kathryn Leigh Scott, Jerry Lacy, Lara Parker & Marie Wallace

 

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REVIEW – THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE

As the old poem goes “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.He wasn’t there again today,I wish, I wish he’d go away…” It conjures images of a creepy supernatural story, probably reinforced by memories of Sapphire and Steel – but this story is altogether a different kettle of fish, completely different – almost cruel in its construction but with a glimmer of good from all the heartache and circular chasing of tails – because this is the story of Charlotte Pollard (India Fisher) companion to the eighth Doctor and self styled Edwardian Adventuress and her quest to meet her hero Pieter Monmarche, Victorian explorer, pioneer and inspiration to generations. Charley is a devotee of his diaries and read them cover to cover time and again when she was a child, so she KNOWS where he will be at a particular point in time and The Doctor very obligingly takes al downwards to her to meet him – but like Godot, he doesn’t turn up. Neither does he show when he was meant to be lecturing in Khartoum, or in New York or well, anywhere – in fact he has gone completely missing from time and space and his disappearance has caused a fundamental change in the future history of the Earth causing the Time Lords to get involved.

 So where is Monmarche? will Charley ever meet her idol? The trail to find him seems to be a wild goose chase, they meet people who have met him, or claim to have met him – a lecturer trading off Monmarche’s legacy, his secretary who is making a living selling Monmarche memorabilia but never the genuine article. The whole story in fact is a gigantic puzzle box – remember the film The Usual Suspects? its that level of intrigue to find a missing link that hold the story together, and then when they find that link and work it out and finally find Monmarche……

 A giant puzzle, a spiral to an inevitability that we almost know from the beginning and don’t want to admit to ourselves, a sadness of a hero with feet of clay based on foundations of smoke – and a future saved by belief in the same.

 India Fisher is an engaging narrator – from the “jolly hockey sticks” portrayal at the beginning to the sad and dawning realisation at the end this is her journey down the spiral in pursuit of an impossible ideal.

 Another strong entry in to the Short Trips canon, a story that will stay with the listener long after the end credits have rolled and a story that demands multiple listens to appreciate the subtlety of the story telling – a pioneering 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 #23 is an Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard story.

Charley Pollard’s innocent request to meet a historical hero seems the easiest thing for a friend with a time and space machine to make happen. But as Charley and the Doctor seek out the Victorian explorer, they uncover a sinister scheme to unravel Earth’s future by affecting its past. But where in its history was the deed done? And is it already too late to put right?

Producer Michael Stevens

Script Editor Jacqueline Rayner

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Ian Atkins

Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

 India Fisher (Narrator)
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REVIEW – THE AVENGERS: STEED & MRS PEEL VOL 2

In an England that never really existed is a retirement home, and in that retirement home is a man – an old debonair man with a twinkle in his eye and a carnation in his lapel – this is where John Steed spends his twilight years with other characters from a slightly off kilter world – Roger Moore’s Bond, the Graham Williams era Tom Baker & the Adam West Batman, they while away their days reminiscing about times that were far too outlandish to have really happened, and as the stories get more and more outlandish Steed reaches for his the telephone, dials a number and waits, eventually the call is answered, an elderly lady with a cut glass voice and a hint of irony says “hello Steed”, Steed replies “Mrs Peel, were needed” – later Mrs Peel visits the retirement home, no longer in a cat suit, but elegantly elderly and she and Steed regale the other inhabitants of this not quite real retirement home in the never was real England to four tales of when they left the TV for the comic strip medium……

 Or at least thats how I see it – I love the word that The Avengers exists in, or to put it more accurately I love the world that seasons 4, 5 & 6 of tThe Avengers exist in – a slightly skewed technicolour version of ours where villains are madcap, where the heroes are debonair, dashing and delightful and where the plots are completely bonkers – and its this sense of the zany and surreal slightly out of focus technicolour wonderland that Big Finish have captured so splendidly – the Steed and Peel in this box set ARE the Steed & Peel of the TV series (even if they are played by different actors) they are the characters we know and love – dry humour, wry smiles, fashion, food, fast cars, insane villains and a sense of the groovy – its all there and it is spread very nicely over four stories:

 2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

 Completely “Avengers” from beginning to end – impossible robberies, creepy children, a creepier toymaker and an admirer for Mrs Peel – bankers from the “were needed” to the tag scene at the end, it falls from the audio into the listeners ears and transports you back to the zany era in which it was set. Poulet and Wadham as Peel & Steed have oodles of chemistry and attack each scene with tongue, if not firmly in cheek then most definitely heading in that direction. Wonderful stuff.

 2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

 I love the character names in The Avengers, this has a Professor Verbatim and a Mr Partridge – lovely. It is also the tale of a mad Professor who was spurned and laughed at on a chat show and is getting revenge by making animals go all aggressive with his “antagoniser” and wreaking his revenge on those who laughed at him. In any other series this would be a step too far, in The Avengers this is par for the course – thrill as Mrs Peel is nearly fed to Pirañas – wow as our heroes climb trees to escape a herd of rampaging cows – its one of those stories that really feels at home in Avenger-land – outlandish, over the top and fabulous.

 2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton

 Steed is a famous hat wearer – it was only a matter of time before someone tried to see him off with a killer hat wasn’t it? Throw in to this a Princess from the fictional country of Varania on a Royal visit, a spurned lover and a henchman with the wonderful name “Tom Bowler” and you have a kooky crazy Avengers classic.

 2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney

 Remember the TV episode “The Superlative Seven” ? well this is a similar sort of romp – Steed and Peel go to a marvellous party where you don’t know the host, but he knows you – and are almost immediately involved in a plot to kill them by the not so “Secret Six” a team of Super Villains – outnumbered six to two Steed and Peel have to survive a rather unpleasant weekend in the country – and with the lure of a rather well stocked wine cellar they really do need to survive, because it really would be bad form to let all that vintage go to waste :-)

 As Avengers stories go these are just fab and the “feel” is just right – close your eyes and you can see Steed & Peel, you know what the villains look like and can imagine the best  (and worst) character actors of the time playing them and chewing the scenery until there is nothing left – this is The Avengers that everyone remembers all condensed on to four shiny CD’s or a fibre delivered download – but regardless of the format the debonair, wry, bonkers, sophisticated adventure of Steed & Peel are timeless. And in that England that never really existed, in the retirement home for the off kilter, tea is being cleared away, Mrs Peel kisses Steed on the forehead as he dozes off and whispers 9/10 Steed, and I hope we can tell some more stories to you and your friends very soon.

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

This title was released in November 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until December 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.

Recreations of the comic strip adventures of Steed and Mrs Peel which appeared in Diana magazine in 1966 and 1967:

2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

Steed gets toyed with, Emma has an admirer.

A series of impossible robberies have plagued London. Called in to investigate, Steed and Peel find themselves up against some very deadly children. Or do they?

2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

Steed catches a bite, Emma is a little cowed.

Several noted scientists have died in unusual circumstances, and Steed and Peel find themselves up against a deadly weapon. But who is behind it? Does an old TV broadcast hold the answer?

2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton

Steed charms a princess, Emma buys a hat

When Princess Helga of Varania comes to England, all the nation is charmed. Well, nearly all. A dastardly assassination plot is being prepared and only Steed and Peel can stop it. Who wants to be a milliner?

2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney

Steed hits a boundary, Emma shall go to the ball

When an invitation to a fancy dress party leads to murder, Steed and Peel face the fight of their lives. The world’s six deadliest criminals want them dead – and will stop at nothing to make sure of it!

Written By: Paul Morris, Simon Barnard, Matt Fitton, Robert Khan, Tom Salinsky, John Dorney

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Julian Wadham (John Steed), Olivia Poulet (Emma Peel), Lizzie Roper (Black Heart/Miss Fellowes), Michael Keane (Jorgo), Kiruna Stamell (Girlie), Andrew Wincott (Tiny Tony/Lord Beauville), John Banks (Teddy/Taxi driver), Richard Earl (Dr Verbatim/Fairground Worker), Michael Lumsden (Gruber/Klein/Window Cleaner/Agent), Paul Kemp (Partridge/Porter), Eve Webster (Nurse/Elaine Veer/Matron/Parrot), Maggie Service (Princess Helga/Assistant), Paul Chahidi (Mad Hatter/Driver/Policeman), John Voce (Tom Bowler), Terry Molloy (Inspector Corduroy), Ozzie Yue (Chang-Tu), George Asprey (Nick the Knifeman/Karloff), Jonathan Tafler (Ice-cold Alex/Lord Tweezle), Anita Booth (Ma the Mink/Olga)

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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