REVIEW – A FULL LIFE

Its not often I insist on anything really, but after listening to a full life I insisted that Mrs W listened to it. And she did. And she was inspired to write her own review (more of which later on). Because I had to listen to this one twice, and on second listening the impact was even greater. I was even tempted to write a one word review, just one word “Exceptional” because that is what A Full Life is – truly an exceptional piece of writing, directing, acting and sound design – I would go as far to say that it is one of THE very best releases from Big Finish. But why? you may ask, please read on….

 Adric – I was 10 when Earthshock was broadcast, I cried when Adric died. My little 10 year old self had no idea of the received fan wisdom that Adric was not a companion that you should like so I cried for a long time at a pointless death. But what if Adric got to live a full life, what would he do, who would he become, what would be his legacy and what would be the price, because everything has a price.

 Set during season 18 Adric tells the tale of the time he, The Doctor and Romana were trying to leave E-Space and came across the planet Veridis – a planet where a scientist has learned to bring the dead back to life, where his grief for his lost granddaughter compelled him to discover how to break the circle of life – and then everyone wanted their loved ones back – so no one died and the population grew and grew until rioting broke out – there is always a price.

 Told as an audio diary with rewinding, stopping and self editing Matthew Waterhouse is stunning, truly stunning in this production as he reminisces about his time with The Doctor and Romana, remembering things maybe not quite as they happened but with a sense of nostalgia for a past that has long gone – its a very natural performance and utterly believable – the listener is completely drawn in to Adric’s story – you could have heard the proverbial “pin” drop in our house as Mrs W & I listened to it.

 And then tears, my tears – in 1982 I cried when Adric died – in 2016 I cried when Adric lived and I really will never look at the character in the same way again.

 So thats me – this is what Mrs W thought:

 “A character much derided, Adric. An annoying, obnoxious teen, we said; but when Earthshock took him away, his loss was truly felt and maybe he wasn’t such an irritant after all.  The opportunity for growing up and out of social awkwardness would never be realised. What could Adric have become? What kind of man would experience have given us?

 The beautiful and heartbreaking ‘A Full Life’ addresses this. Circumstances, (no spoilers), allow Adric to bypass his Earthshock fate and lead the life un-lived. It offers us the chance to see Adric develop, through initial grief and loneliness, into a wise, brave and splendid adult, deserving of happiness, companionship and what is revealed to be ‘a full life’. 

 Matthew Waterhouse has truly never been better. His voice had developed a richness and maturity which adds, so brilliantly, to the tone if this excellent piece. He suggests the attitudes of the Doctor and Romana so well and brings each character, no matter how minor, to life. Hats off to him. He has developed into such a fine actor, as fine as the adult Adric became. 

 Joe Lidster – a script of pure excellence. Rarely have I been so moved. Your words and vision for the Adric that could have been, were truly beautiful.

 Big Finish at its glorious best. Thank you, thank you.

 A Full Life is a masterpiece pure and simple, no scores for this one just my insistence that you go and spend £2.99 of your hard earned money on this gem right away.

Written by Ed & Hayley Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Adric’s life is full of death. His parents died when he was a child. His brother died a few months ago. Now, travelling with the Doctor and Romana, everywhere he visits, people die. But now they have arrived on Veridis. And on Veridis, the dead come back…

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

Written By: Joseph Lidster
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)

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REVIEW – DOOM COALITION 3

If only the TV series was THIS good will be a recurring theme of this review. Because this set is better than anything broadcast on TV under the name of Doctor Who since at least new years day 2010 – Big Finish really have captured the sense of epic, of tragic, of moving and of characterful that has been sadly lacking since Messers RTD & Tennant left the building.

 So the third box set in the Doom Coalition saga and this series just gets better and better. I think there must be some sort of equation that proves that the more time Doctor number 8 spends with River Song then the better the adventure – because in this series of stories Doctor number 8 finally gets to meet River Song. But wait wasn’t the Library the first time that the Doctor met River? Well yes it was and a very big SPOILERS to everyone as the way that 8 and River meet is so simple and so effective that it allows them to adventure together keeping the future intact.

 As always I get ahead of myself – whereas the previous two Doom Coalition releases have dealt with the character of “the Eleven” – this delves a little deeper into the coalition itself and the various miscreants that make it up – chief amongst these is The Clocksmith (Nicholas Woodeson) a deranged time-lord artist who created “The Doomsday Clock” and with the mention of that artefact so the plot begin. Imagine there was a clock that predicted the end of everything, that predicted the actual time, date and coordinates of literally the end of the universe – well that is what the Clocksmith has created – and Doom Coalition 3 follows the repercussions of that creation backwards and forwards through earths history and to a dark and desperate future. But to begin with things start off a little more small scale, in fact very small scale on Earth, England 1998……

 3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney

 There I am building up an epic to end all epics and then to begin with we get this. And it is magnificent. Truly magnificent. Because it really isn’t the sort of story you think it is going to be. At all. The Doctor, Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) & Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) arrive in England in 1998, thing is The Doctor was trying to get to Gallifrey & the TARDIS has been drawn off course by an anomaly. As Liv & The Doctor investigate the new mobile telephone mast, mysterious phone calls & creepy “Supervill” corporation running the mobile network, Helen decides that 1998 is not too far in time from 1963 and seeks out any surviving members of her family in London. Its a story about loss, about family and about regret, its beautifully acted and written and the tone is perfect – it sets you up to expect a Pertwee style season opener and instead presents us with an RTD era tear jerker. Magnificent.

 3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton

 Tracking the mysterious “Eighth Piece of the clock to the past and the future of Earth, The Doctor goes to Tudor England leaving Liv in Prague a century earlier & Helen in contemporary Italy. And then there is River Song (Alex Kingston) complete with Nun outfit, “psychic wimple” and sassy comments. On TV this would be your standard “timey-wimey” episode – but Big Finish are better than that, all the timezones fit together perfectly with cause and effect being just that – what happens in Prague has an effect on the future. The Doctor meets Thomas Cromwell (John Shrapnell) and is imprisoned in the Tower of London in his search for the missing piece of the clock where Liv and River confront the deranged Clocksmith. Helen has a very interesting meeting at a Rome museum in 2016 with the almost complete clock and its fanatical Professor….

And we are back to cause and effect as the cliffhanger is a perfect example of how history is inevitable. Edge of your seat stuff, the plot thickens and the tension builds….

 3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton

 Is this episode a cheat? No, I don’t think so. Yes it shows us things that have happened previously that we were not privy to, but that is definitely not cheating, simply put its another intricate piece in this fascinating puzzle box of a story. Teaming Helen up with River is a great move letting Helen experience History as they trace the history of the Doomsday clock and the cult that protect its secrets – we also have the Doctor teamed up with the alien queen Risolva (Janie Dee) leader of the puzzle box style clockwork robots that have been hunting down him and his companions since last episode. And then there is Octavian (Tim McMullan) the Monk from the Tudor era about to play his part in proceedings. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming into place – the endgame is approaching and not everyone will be the same after this episode….

 3.4. The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney

 In the words of River Song “Spoilers” because there isn’t really a lot I can say about this one without spoiling the plot completely, so I will tread carefully. It features Gallifrey, the end of the universe, and a further addition (or two) to the Doom Coalition. And its epic, stupendously so – think The Stolen Earth meets The Avengers Assemble and you get the idea – the gangs all here and the universe is going to hell and there really is nothing that The Doctor can do about it. John Dorney has played with our expiations not once but twice in this set and all I can say is this WILL leave you gasping for breath and shouting “NOOOO” at the ending and counting the hours until March 2017.

 If only the TV show were THIS good – because this is feature film blockbuster good, but not only that it has a human side, people get hurt and listening to them get hurt is painful to the listener – because Messers Dorney & Litton have made even the smallest characters important and imbued them with enough character to make the listener care. And then there is Paul McGann & Alex Kingston – total chemistry, they sizzle and zing and riff off each other like they were made to be together. This set has everything, drama, heartbreak, an aeon spanning conspiracy & a universe that really is in peril. Betrayal, loss, bravery and, well “spoilers” if I were to say any more. A stunning box set, utterly stunning – Doctor Who as it should be, ticking all the boxes and THEN leaving the audience wanting more. And I couldn’t really ask for any more than that. As my review clock counts down to its final score, I can do it no greater honour than awarding it 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney

Earth. The late 20th century. Across the world, the mobile phone is gaining popularity as more and more people decide to join the digital age. But for the residents of a sleepy English town sitting in the shade of a new transmission mast, that ubiquity has a troubling cost.

When the TARDIS veers off-course, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in the middle of a mystery. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. And sometimes the future does as well.

3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton

15th Century Prague: in the castle dungeons, a prisoner raves about the end of the world. Outside, Liv Chenka seeks out the workshop of a strange Clockmaker to see what he is creating.

England, 1538: Lord Thomas Cromwell finds his duties interrupted by otherworldly forces – clockwork soldiers, an unusual nun, and a mysterious scholar calling himself ‘the Doctor’. Perhaps the truth can be extracted in the torture chamber of London’s Bloody Tower?

Rome, 2016: Helen Sinclair has an appointment with an enigmatic Professor, whose greatest work is almost complete. Only the Eighth Piece is missing…

3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton

While River Song takes Helen on an archaeological expedition like no other, the Doctor finds himself enlisted by an alien Queen to save her people.

Trapped and alone, Liv stares death in the face as she meets the enemy who’s been dogging the TARDIS travellers’ footsteps throughout Earth’s history.

The Doomsday Chronometer has been protected for five centuries: secret cults and societies jealously guarding its mystery. But what is their real purpose? The Doctor is about to discover the truth…

3.4. The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney

The date has been set.

The trap has been sprung.

A life has been taken and a maniac is on the loose.

With the TARDIS crew separated and in terrible trouble, will today be the day the bad guys win?

Spoilers…

Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Alex Kingston (River Song), Jeremy Clyde (George), Ian Puleston-Davies(Angus Selwyn), Richard Hope (Phillip Cook/Kal), Anna Acton (Kate Drury), John Shrapnel (Thomas Cromwell), Kasia Koleczek (Apolena), Glen McCready(Solvers/Abbot), Emma D’Inverno (Rosalia), Tim McMullan (Octavian), Janie Dee(Risolva), Robert Bathurst (Padrac), John Heffernan (The Imposter) and Nicholas Woodeson (The Clocksmith). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

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REVIEW – THE CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT LIMITED EDITION VINYL

Some stories are talked about in a sort of reverent hushed awe, Talons, Web of Fear, Inferno, The Curse of Fenric from the classic series, Blink, Human Nature & Dalek from the new series. Dalek – I wonder what happened to the writer of that one???? I jest of course as Rob Shearman is the writer of this months very very special release from the Big Finish archive (and yes I know he wrote this before Dalek :-) ) So back to classics, on TV we had a sum total of one full story and a regeneration for Doctor number 8 – his era was firmly in the audio realm at Big Finish (as confirmed by his Regeneration speech) and he had a fair few classics (and probably will have a fair few more) but The Chimes Of Midnight is one of “those” stories, talked about in the same hushed reverent tones as The Daemons & City of Death, yes indeed ladies and gentlemen we have one of those rare beasts, we have a classic.

 Voted the most popular Big Finish main range release this was always going to be the first release to get a very special edition – Vinyl no less, a four L.P (remember them) release with the story re-cut into a six parter one part each taking up one side of 33 rpm disc and the final disc being the special features. At £79.00 its not cheap, but it is strictly limited to 500 copies so will almost become an instant collectors item and it is rather beautiful – the artwork really conveys the atmosphere of the story, and if you are one of those people who view listening as a tactile experience there is the smell of the vinyl, the feel of the cover and the slight hiss and crackle as the L.P spins on your turntable that you just don’t get with a CD or a download – there is something almost reverent in the act of playing an L.P – but what of the story and why is it a much heralded classic? If you have not heard it then where have you been since February 2002 (WHERE have 14 years gone???) but I will try to capture a little of the flavour of it.

 The Doctor (Paul McGann) and Charley Pollard (India Fisher) materialise in an Edwardian house on Christmas Eve, all the trappings of an upper middle class or lower upper class household are present, the Butler, the Cook, the Scullery Maid, the Chauffeur, the Ladies Maid – all very Upstairs Downton (see what I did there :-) ) but the Doctor and Charley have seemingly jumped a crack in time as they are not quite “there” yet, they cannot interact with their surroundings, pulled crackers reverse, broken jam jars repair – and the household staff cannot interact with them yet either – only Charley & Edith the scullery maid (Louise Rolfe) seem to have an affinity through the void, and then Edith is murdered and the Doctor & Charley “arrive” cast as amateur sleuths, and then everything goes to hell as a murder will be committed on the hour every hour up until the Chimes of Midnight and the arrival of Christmas Day. First of all this is a scathing social comment on the attitudes of the early 20th century of the class system and how those servants with a little bit of pull feel that they can lord it over the servants lower down the order – Edith is constantly told by Mrs Baddeley the cook (Sue Wallace) & Mr Shaughnessy the Butler (Lennox Greaves) that she is nothing and no-one that she is stupid and dull, secondly this story is not at all what it seems – on the surface a by the numbers Agatha Christie style murder mystery Rob Shearman utterly subverts the genre of both the murder mystery, the Doctor Who story and lays the foundations for the more character based, emotional Doctor Who we have enjoyed since 2005 – because at its heart this story is about a single act of perceived kindness and strip away all the sci-fi or fantasy trappings and we are back to the British class system and the changing attitudes of the era and the consequences of the attitudes of a strict pecking order…..

 If you have the money and own a record player then its a no brainer, just go out and buy it. If not then the download of the original release is available for a mere £2.99 here. Its a classic pure and simple – to misquote Mrs Baddeley “Christmas really wouldn’t be Christmas without the Chimes of Midnight” 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring…

But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight.

Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don’t stay dead. Time is running out.

And time itself might well be the killer…

Please Note: This item will be sent by courier delivery

Written By: Robert Shearman
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor); India Fisher (Charley Pollard); Louise Rolfe (Edith);Lennox Greaves (Mr Shaughnessy); Sue Wallace (Mrs Baddeley); Robert Curbishley (Frederick); Juliet Warner (Mary)

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REVIEW – THE EARLY ADVENTURES 3.1 THE AGE OF ENDURANCE

Authenticity, thats what its all about in The Early Adventures and this months first story of the third season is no exception, in fact its a text book example of how to write, direct, produce and score a Season 1 period Hartnell story. Unlike some attempts at recapturing the Hartnell era in other media Big Finish have really captured the soul of 1963/1964 in The Age of Endurance. Unfortunately the wonderful Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) is no longer with is so in a move possible inspired by last years casting of  Elliott Chapman as Ben Jackson, this story introduces Jemma Powell taking on the role of Barbara Wright. Jemma has already played Barbara on TV in Mark Gatiss’ wonderful “An Adventure in Space and Time” so was a natural choice to try to fill Jacqueline Hill’s unfillable shoes and she is superb in the role. Barbara really was the heart of the first two seasons of Doctor Who, and contributed more than any other character to the mellowing of the Doctor. But what of the story? Well, read on.

 As I said at the beginning of my review it is very very authentic. It begins like any other season one story, the TARDIS materialises and the crew have literally no idea where they are and set out to examine their surroundings. Its slow paced, deliberate and just a little bit “stagey” – you can imagine it being filmed in a tiny studio at Lime Grove under too hot lights with not enough time for rehearsal. There is only just enough time for the crew to discover a dead body when the spaceship they have landed on is boarded by soldiers and our heroes are plunged into the middle of a war between the soldiers and the shape-shifters known only as “The Shift” and their leader Arran (Tom Bell) – things become even more desperate when Barbara is taken prisoner by The Shift and a chase through space ensues to rescue her.

 The whole story is one gigantic game of cat and mouse throughout the vastness of space and just like early Doctor Who there is a moral ambiguity to all the characters because both sets of protagonists are very well drawn, the seemingly evil Shift are much much more than the standard rubber suit villains and have some redeeming features and conversely the “heroes” under their leader Myla (Rachel Atkins) are not a whiter than white set of square jawed do-gooders.

 The TARDIS crew are on top form with William Russell giving us the heroic Ian that we expect, but also a spot on Hartnell complete with hmm, harrumphs and line flubs. Carole Ann Ford as Susan is just like she was on TV, and it strikes me as how different her actual voice is as narrator to her “Susan voice” and Jemma Powell really does capture the spirt of Barbara Wright without resorting to an impersonation of Jacqueline Hill, in fact we don’t quite hear enough of her as Barbara is captured early on in part two and is not in the story again until part four – however this happened regularly on the TV show as cast had their holidays, so again Big Finish spot on with the authenticity.

 So overall a strong start to the third season of Early Adventures, slow paced, ponderous and almost plodding – the story is a chase but with all the infinity of space to chase through it lacks a little urgency but what it does lack in pace it more than makes up in period feel and season one charm. An Enduring pastiche of the Hartnell Age 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

The TARDIS materialises on board a still and eerie spaceship. When a squad of soldiers land, they realise they’ve found themselves in the middle of a war zone. With one of their crew trapped by the enemy, the Doctor and his friends find themselves locked in a desperate race for survival. Vast warships manoeuvre around each other as both sides try to out-think their opponents, flying into ever more dangerous areas of space.

The stakes could not be higher. But as ever in war, the lines between good and evil are hard to define. Will anyone survive to claim the moral high ground?

Written By: Nick Wallace
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Carole Ann Ford (Susan/Narrator), William Russell (Ian/The Doctor), Jemma Powell (Barbara), Rachel Atkins (Myla), John Voce (Toban), Gethin Anthony(Olivan), Andy Secombe (Benya), Tom Bell (Arran/Shift). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: John Dorney

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – 216: MAKER OF DEMONS

The Doctor is a good guy, on the side of the angels, always doing things for the greater good with the best of intentions. But isn’t there a phrase about the road to hell being paved by good intentions? (answer YES THERE IS) and this phrase is very very apt when applied to this months main range release.

 The Seventh Doctor in this trilogy isn’t quite the master manipulator he becomes in seasons 25, 26 & beyond, but neither is he the clown from Season 24 – he is a work in progress still trying to work out who he is and still believing in a universal good as is evidenced by the pre credits where he an Mel aid human colonists from their Colony ship The Duke of Milan find a new colony world, make peace with the indigenous population “The Mogera” and discover a new source of energy, a mineral hubristically named “Doctorium”. The day is won, peace is attained an all happy ever after before the credits even roll. Of course, its not that simple….

 Precisely 100 years later The Doctor, now travelling with Ace and Mel decides to go back to the colony of Prosper to see how it getting on, he expects a paradise, but the paradise has been lost if indeed it ever really existed – the humans are at war with the Mogera, the Mogera have mutated from meek mole like creatures into frenzied armoured battle trolls. And this hell on Prosper is all the fault of the good intentions of The Doctor.

 We don’t get often see the repercussions of The Doctor’s interference in the affairs of planets, and this story is a real wake up call to him, a picture he does not often see because in all the stories where he saves the day what really does happen after he has ridden of into the sunset. Are there hundreds of planets all over the universe where the good intentions have gone to hell in a handcart  ? makes you wonder…

 I like a Doctor Who story that makes me think and this really does make you re-evaluate past triumphs. But there is more to this story than the mistakes of the past, oh yes indeed there is, to begin with this is a very very smart story and very cleverly written. 396 words in and only now I mention Shakespeare and I may as well throw in Shakespearian as well because it is; not overtly, not written in iambic pentameter or anything, but this story is heavily inspired by The Tempest. Just look at the names of the characters Miranda, Caliban, Alonso, Gonzalo & the planet is named Prosper – its not a direct reimagining or retelling, but it really has the ambiance of the Tempest – and each character has a line of Shakespearian dialogue thrown in as well, its a joy to listen to and to pick up the references. If you are not that much of a Shakespeare aficionado then the references are so subtle that they will not spoil your enjoyment of the piece.

 The story allows both companions time to breathe and develop at their own pace as Ace & Mel are split up for 80% of the story – Mel being partnered with The Doctor and the crew of the Duke of Milan trying to resolve the war situation, Ace is partnered with Mogera warrior Taipa (Ewan Goddard) who really does go on a journey of character development from generic snarling beast to, well, you will just have to listen to the story to find out. And as for the Seventh Doctor, this can really be seen as another building block in his development from clown to manipulator, its subtle and its slow, but the changes are there especially in the last part of episode 3 and all of episode 4, his experience on Prosper seems to harden him and make him more remote.

 A sprawling epic, a cautionary tale, a picture of greed and selfishness and the legacy of Machiavelli and an homage to Shakespeare all on two shiny CD’s – to quote the bard “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” – and this is a bit more of a late summer nights nightmare than a Midsummer Nights dream, but is a tale that needed to be told 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Decades ago, the mysterious time-travelling Doctor and his cheerful companion Mel became the toast of the planet Prosper, when they brokered a peace between the native Mogera and humans from the colony ship The Duke of Milan.

But when the TARDIS at last returns to Prosper, the Doctor, Mel and their associate Ace find only a warzone. The burrowing Mogera have become brutal monsters, dominated by their terrifying leader Caliban – and it’s all the Doctor’s fault!

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace),Andrew Hall (Alonso/Gonzalo), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Miranda), Rachel Atkins (Juno),Ewan Goddard (Talpa), Aaron Neil (Stephano/Klossi/Trink/Setebos). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

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THE POWER OF THE DALEKS ANIMATED!

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REVIEW – PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE PRESENTS: VOLUME 2 – THE GENESIS CHAMBER

When an an era is so beloved any release associated with it comes with certain expectations. Hinchcliffe conjures images of dour gothic horror, of Hammer pastiches and of a morose restrained Tom Baker. This release is none of those things. Its an odd release and very difficult to review – the name Hinchcliffe carries a lot of weight and I want to do this release justice as a story in its own right. Unlike the era in which Philip Hinchcliffe was producer, this is a story that was actually written by the man himself rather than something that had his overall input and vision all over it. This is a very different proposition with not a 1930’s horror themed cliche in sight (or earshot) in fact it could be seen not as a revisit of the Hinchcliffe era but a story that could have been written by him but produced in the Graham Williams era.

 Now I am a HUUUGE Graham Williams era fan, its my joint favourite era of the “classic” series along with Cartmel and this story has many of the tropes of his era – an overtly funny Tom Baker, an epic plot that probably looked better on paper than it could ever have done on screen, in fact listening to this release I kept wondering just HOW ON EARTH could this have been realised in 1977 on a BBC budget? Want to know more? Then read on…

 It has a very interesting beginning  – the Doctor is having a nightmare, he wakes and is visibly disturbed by what he has dreamt – the dream involved him being a creature with 13 heads (obviously referring to his 13 incarnation) and Tom plays this in a haunted distant way that we don’t often see in his portrayal. The main plot is very typical mid 1970’s style Sci-Fi involving colonies that have degreased into factions (think Face of Evil) where one faction have embraced technology to the extent that they cannot function without their city wide system “Inscape” and the others have rejected technology and gadgetry altogether and set up a commune outside the city. Obviously the leaders of each faction are at loggerheads and Never the twain shall meet, but when the President of the City’s children steal a car and go out to the commune everything is about to change. There is romance, danger, death, disaster, long hidden secrets and a charming manipulative villain…

 So far, so familiar. And that I think is the problem, the story is very very familiar, it is almost a greatest hits of the late Hinchcliffe, early Williams eras and is incredibly by the numbers. I hate being negative so lets look at the positives – Tom Baker sparkles as Doctor number 4, his default setting seems to be the Williams era version of his Doctor, all charm, madcap grins, random lunacy boggling eyes, Louise Jameson adds yet further levels of character to Leela, we see in her blossoming romance with Dack (Elliot Chapman) how she is her own person and will make her own choices in life. The villain of the piece Volor (Gyuri Sarossy) is again a very interesting character – on the one side an oily supercilious toady – on the other a dangerous game player with his own agenda and morality. There is a lot to like in the performances and in the characterisation and also the sound design, but the plot seems far too stretched out over six episodes, maybe a there of four parter would have tightened the plot up. As Groucho Marx once said “give the people what they want” and Who fans of a certain type are always clamouring for more Hinchcliffe era Who – Big Finish have been very brave here giving the people what they want, but not maybe what they might expect. A very 1977 story that could never have been made in 1977 written by a producer who never wrote a story for the TV series and executed in the style of story from the first year of his replacement – definitely not what I was expecting – a simple familiar story that outstays its welcome by an episode or three, but is full of charming performances and lovely little character moments. Not nearly as gothic a Genesis as its Dalek themed namesake 6/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Philip Hinchcliffe, acclaimed producer of Doctor Who (1975-77) returns to tell new stories for the Fourth Doctor and Leela.

The TARDIS has landed on a human colony world. In the city, where the inhabitants rely on advanced technology to create their children, a marriage is due to take place. But not everyone supports it, and a crash might just prevent it for good.

In the commune outside live the savages, shunned and detested by the city folk. But they have recently been visited by a man, charismatic and handsome, who may yet be their saviour – or their doom.

Two different sides, ready for conflict. But neither realises that a third force threatens their very existence…

Written By: Philip Hinchcliffe, adapted by Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Jon Culshaw (DeRosa Janz),Hannah Genesius (Ana Janze), Jemma Churchill (Farla Janz/Inscape), Dan Li(Grillo Clavik), Vernon Dobtcheff (Jorenzo Zorn), Arthur Hughes (Shown), Gyuri Sarossy (Volor), Elliot Chapman (Dack/Loyyo)

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

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REVIEW – DAMASCUS

Viewed from inside the UNIT family the third Doctor is a charming avuncular patrician with a healthy dose of disdain for bureaucracy. Viewed from the outside though, especially if you happen to be one of the bureaucrats he has such disdain for how would you view him? Would he seem so avuncular, would he appear so charming, would you like his patrician attitude – these are questions that this months Short Trips story “Damascus” both asks and answers.

 This as quite a different take on a standard UNIT era story as it is all seen from the point of view from one not in the UNIT bubble, and a very important someone that is too, none other than the Prime Minister of the UK who here is only referred to as “Jeremy”. The PM has received reports of a spaceship hovering above Norfolk, UNIT are playing politics laming government budget cuts on their inaction and the Doctor seems completely disinterested so Jeremy decides to go to UNIT HQ to confront the Doctor face to face.

 The characterisation of the third Doctor is very interesting – Jeremy is told by Jo Grant that the Doctor is in a bad mood, and the Doctor is downright rude to him. Rude in a way that has only been hinted at in the TV series, abrasive, dismissive and callous. If you recall the way he speaks to the Brigadier when he is displeased, or the way he chastises Jo in The Daemons when she takes his side against the Brigadier, well its like that but a lot more aggressive. Then again, we are only seeing Jeremy’s point of view and he may be an unreliable narrator with an axe to grind….

 Tim Treloar narrates the story, you may recall that he plays Doctor number three in the Third Doctor box set and again he captures the essence of Pertwee without doing an impersonation of him. The whole story has the feeling of a 1970’s political thriller, of a power play and of trying to establish the pecking order in a line of command. And when you are up against the Prime Minister it may be better to hold your tongue and respect your place in the order of things especially if you are an alien that could be perceived as a threat…..

 A very interesting take on how the Third Doctor is perceived and how he really is given a long leash by the Brigadier – I feel we may be hearing a lot more of “Damascus” in further Third Doctor stories – 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.

As the decade in English history which attracts the greatest quantity of alien invasions per annum, the 1970s are not the easiest time in which to steer the great British ship of state. The Prime Minister, nonetheless, is doing the very best job he can. Still, at least he has UNIT to rely on – their eccentric, bouffant-haired scientific adviser in particular. Or does he?

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

Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Tim Treloar (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD VOLUME 03: THE UNBOUND UNIVERSE

This set is many things. Its a wry, ironic look at some of the more silly aspects of Doctor Who, its an exploration of the aftermath of an awful Universe spanning time smashing war (sound familiar?) Its a silly superficial romp on the surface but with an incredible amount of depth that will reward the discerning listener as they spot the clever lines, references and pastiches of the Doctor Who we know and love but that have necessarily been skewed off kilter to take into account that we are in a whole new Universe.

 Oh yes, I forgot to mention that, this is no ordinary Bernice Box Set, yes she travels with the Doctor – but, its not “her” Doctor, actually its not any Doctor from our Universe, the Doctor of this set is played by David Warner – THE DAVID WARNER, from the parallel unbound universe where he is the Third Doctor to catch up, take a listen to this & this and come back in about three hours, there will be a test…

 OK, sit at your desks and turn your papers over, you have one hour. No really of course, but now that you are all caught up – David Warner eh? Fantastic casting and a fantastic take on the Doctor – curmudgeonly, sardonic, sarcastic but something of the grand wizard about him a sort of Colin meets Hartnell meets Capaldi but not really – Mr Warner is very much his own Doctor. But how does he interact with the force of nature that is Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield?

 Ah Bernice – I am eternally grateful to Paul Cornell for creating her, she is just magnificent, charming, sarcastic, witty, intelligent, drinks like a fish and has better one liners than Roger Moore as Bond – she even holds the (bit of shameless self promotion here) “The Edward Watkinson Chair of Archaeology” at St. Oscars University. Yup, Benny is up there, top of the pile as my all time favourite companion of the Doctor in any format and to those who say the word “canon” I say “PAH!” Benny is as canon as Sarah-Jane, Jo Grant and Donna Noble. So there :-)

As to her interaction with this alternative Doctor – she is her usual wisecracking self, not at all fazed by the virtual stranger that materialises in her lecture hall and sweeps her away for an adventure in another time and another space – problem is, the Universe that the Warner Doctor comes from is about to end. Literally. It has all but run out of time, the star really are going out and the Doctor as de-facto King of the Universe (a purely honorary title apparently) calls on Benny to help him prolong the inevitable:

 1 The Library In The Body by James Goss

 When the Universe is coming to an end the only thing that seems to have any value is knowledge. There is one vast Library left in the Universe and it is drawing in the great and the good – the Sisters of Saint Beedlix led by their Mother Superior (Rowena Cooper) in search of the lost hymns, The Sage of Sardner (Guy Adams) and the Doctor & Benny. It also attracts the unwanted attention of the Kareem – a rag tag band of space luddites who believe that all knowledge is evil and that the Library must be destroyed. Add to this the traditional “body being discovered by The Doctor and him being caught discovering the body and being accused of the murder” and you have a pretty standard traditional Who tale. In fact you don’t – what this set does very very well is take the trappings of a typical Who story and turn it on its head – it may not be for everyone but this is a set of stories for listeners who like their stories with a lot of layers and levels of complexity that are there if you want to delve deeper. It also has singing nuns so what isn’t there to like????

 2 Planet X by Guy Adams

 Planet X is a “B” movie sci-fi staple – in this case it isn’t (again) Planet X is called Planet X because it is so dull that they couldn’t be bothered to think of a name for it. Benny is reluctantly taken there by The Doctor – and yes it is dull. But there is a sinister edged to the dullness – the dull mediocrity is enforced lethally by the Government headed by Prime Minister 470 (Julie Graham) – those who show any spark or promise are conveniently “disappeared” as they represent a threat to the social order of utter blandness. Tyranny comes in many forms and the Doctor being the Doctor decides that enough is enough. Warner is on top of his game in this episode, his verbal sparring with the Prime Minister is a joy to hear. In a funny way this is reminiscent of the TV story “The Happiness Patrol” but painted in shades of grey and beige rather than glitz and gaudiness and an interesting take on the “Doctor destabilises a whole regime” style of story.

 3  The Very Dark Thing by Una McCormack

 In Doctor Who, when a planet seems idyllic it usually isn’t. In this story the planet in question is Tramatz, and it seems, well, idyllic so obviously isn’t. Not at all. In any way. The Doctor has been on Tramatz for a while enjoying the singing rivers, the emerald forests, the Unicorns and the tranquility. There is a space fleet orbiting Tramatz sending messages and threats to the population – Fleet Admiral Effenish (Deirdre Mullins) pleads with the population to respond or she will be forced to take lethal action against Tramatz. But why? Why does she need to do this, why cant the population hear her, and why CAN Benny hear her and WHAT is the “very dark thing” that everyone can see but no one wants to admit is there?

This is a classic, a grade A cast iron classic. Not to everyones tastes, there may be some who dismiss it and miss the point but this story is all about imagination. Because sometimes to quote Love & Monsters “we forget because we must” – in fact this has a very “Love and Monsters” feel about it a multi layered story told from different angles and viewed in completely different ways once it has been experienced. What begins as a trip to fantasy land ends with a sense of regret and melancholy that is justified. Highlight of the box set.

 4 The Emporium At The End by Emma Reeves

 At the end of the Universe, everyone goes to the shops – to the emporium at the end of the Universe where large amounts of cash or the sale of some of your memories will buy you a lottery ticket and a chance to escape to another Universe. Presiding over the shop is “The Manager” played by “Sam Kisgart” actor extraordinaire with a CV stretching back to the 1960’s – its well worth listening to the extra features for an exclusive interview with this most elusive of thespians. Of course the Manager is a pretty rubbish pseudonym for this universe’s version of The Master and the Emporium is the latest in a convoluted series of schemes to keep himself alive at the expense of his shoppers. New writer to Big Finish Emma Reeves really knows her Who, fans will delight in her use of dialogue from the series within the confines of the story. Its a totally off the wall plot as has been the case with much of the box set, but again beneath the surface has a familiarity that long time fans will see. It also has the return of the singing nuns and Bernice getting drunk with the Mother Superior so what isn’t there to like?????

 Wry, ironic and silly – and why not – some of the very best Doctor Who stories are the silly ones, and this set has silliness in spades. But very very cleverly, the silliness and the avant grade take on Doctor Who masks a seriousness and a trauma that all the characters in this “Unbound” universe have been through, an awful total war that has pretty much ended their reality – so with hindsight the silliness is pure dark gallows humour.

We are blessed to have David Warner as the Doctor, the old curmudgeon works a treat with the effervescent, witty Professor Summerfield and I hope that this is not the last we have heard of “Sam Kisgart” as a beautifully arch Master.

This really is a Bernice Summerfield set though and the first lady of Big Finish Lisa Bowerman continues (after nearly 20 years in the role) to astound as THE greatest companion that the Doctor has ever had the privilege of travelling with – and giving her a new Doctor and a new Universe to play with is a just reward for the longest running Big Finish character, and long may she be Unbound. A sideways take on Doctor Who, a full on new direction for Bernice – 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date.

The wrong Doctor, the wrong universe, a whole heap of trouble – Bernice Summerfield is having a really bad day.

3.1 The Library In The Body by James Goss

In a dying reality knowledge is the only thing left of value – and the Kareem have come to destroy it. Can Bernice, the Doctor save the last library?

3.2 Planet X by Guy Adams

Bernice and the Doctor land on a planet so dull no one ever bothered naming it. Finally something interesting is about to happen here.

3.3 The Very Dark Thing by Una McCormack

Tramatz is an idyllic world – the rivers hum to themselves, unicorns prance through the emerald forests, and, at the very corner of your eye, is a horrible secret.

3.4 The Emporium At The End by Emma Reeves

The Last Song has been sung, and the final days of the universe have begun. Everyone flees to the gateway – to find that The Emporium At The End is having a closing down sale.

Written By: Guy Adams, James Goss, Una McCormack, Emma Reeves
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), David Warner (The Doctor), Zeb Soanes (The Librarian), Guy Adams (The Sage of Sardner), Tom Webster (Acolyte Farnsworth), Rowena Cooper (Mother Superior), Alex Jordan (Mandeville/Kareem Chief/Acolyte), Sophie Wu (Millie), Julie Graham (Prime Minister 470), Damian Lynch (Ego), Kerry Gooderson (Megatz), Deirdre Mullins (Fleet Admiral Effenish),George Blagden (Colonel Neave), Richard Earl (Gallario), Aaron Neil (Aramatz),Laura Doddington (Idratz), Lizzie Hopley (Sister Christie), Shvorne Marls (Ampz),Gus Brown (Forz), Scott Handcock (Elevator) and Sam Kisgart as the Master. Other parts portrayed by the cast.

Producer and Script Editor James Goss

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE SACRIFICE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Strong tea and a currant slice. Bet you weren’t expecting my review to start like that. But it had to, because this is the first thing I think of when I think of Sherlock Holmes. There are certain trigger memories and Sherlock Holmes is one of them. Whereas I was and am primarily a Doctor Who fan, this was a very solitary fandom for me as a child and teenager, none of my family or friends seemed to be that bothered with it and it was merely tolerated as an eccentricity I would grow out of. In Sherlock Holmes though I had an ally – a wonderful now sadly departed ally – my Taid (welsh for Grandfather). Good old William Edward Williams was a staunch fan of the exploits of Mr Holmes, he introduced me to his adventures through the repeats of the Basil Rathbone films on a Friday evening, and this became my highlight of the week after finishing school on a Friday  off to see Taid, strong tea & a currant slice provided and we would lose ourselves for an hour or so in the murky world of 1940’s wartime England as Holmes and Watson saw off Nazi spies. As I grew a bit older I graduated to Jeremy Brett and the sublime ITV series, again watched with Taid, tea & a slice. Ah memories.

 This nostalgia trip leads me nicely on to the latest release from Big Finish – The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes and right out of my comfort zone. To begin with this is not set in the foggy gas-lit victorian streets of Brett or the war time of Rathbone, no dear reader, this is an altogether stranger and more dangerous setting. This story is set in a cold, grey wet November in 1921, and Holmes is an old man past his prime, almost a relic from a more genteel age, the four stories also happen in quick succession over the space of twelve hours or so. Gone is the slow, ponderous pace that I have been so used to replaced by a manic sense of urgency and a situation that very very soon gets out of control and has our heroes on the back foot.

 Normally I would break this down in to a review of all four stories as separate entities, but they really are just all chapters in an epic so here we go:

The Society – a group of terrorists whom Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Briggs) accuses of the murder of his brother Mycroft through his eulogy at Mycroft’s funeral. Holmes as always is correct, but this day is going to be one of the most trying days of his long and distinguished career for The Society have a plan to bring London and the British Empire to its knees, they will commit an terrorist atrocity every half an hour until the British Government decides to parlay with them and meet their demands. Time really is of the essence in this story and this really does not play well with Holmes’ method, he is used to meticulously taking in the evidence, but here he is almost blundering about like a headless chicken as the horrifying events of the day almost overtake him. At his side as always is the dependable Dr John Watson (Richard Earl) who’s marital strife with his third wife Eleanor (Elizabeth Rider) is being used as a tool by The Society to further their ends.

Ladies and gentlemen – we are in never experienced before territory for a Sherlock Holmes set – a fast paced, action packed blockbuster very much in the mould of TV series 24 – the stakes begin high and throughout the four episodes are raised again and again to almost a stratospheric threat level. And then there is Agamemnon (Alan Cox) the main “villain” of the piece, head of The Society and a face from Holmes & Watson’s past – utterly deranged, a complete split personality who genuinely believes that he and his insane plan to assert the agenda of The Society is the correct thing to do – murder, terorrism, viral warfare and a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the Government of the British Empire – it really is end of days epic stuff with a fair few tearjerking moments in episode four, I wont spoil anything but you will know them when you hear but just to say one just involves the word “loved”….

Would Taid approve though? It is a million miles away from the sedate pace of Rathbone & Brett – but I think the late great William Edward would heartily approve of Messers Briggs & Earls’ take on the great man & the redoubtable Dr – and for me they pass the “visual listening” test I put my Big Finish listens through, because as I hear Holmes speak I see Mr Briggs speaking the words in costume as Holmes and can think of no other playing the part at the moment – Briggs & Earl have passed the test, they enter into the realm of all time great Holmes & Watson actors, they occupy the parts so much that the words Sherlock Holmes makes me think of them almost as much as strong tea & a current slice :-)

 A high octane roller coaster ride of an adventure that really does leave the listener gasping for breath at the events that take place on that fateful November day in 1921. Holmes & Watson may be old but they are by no means past it and bring their skills to a new age with a new determination. I raise my mug of tea to them & gladly share my currant slice at 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2016. It will be exclusively available to purchase from the BF website until 30th September 2016, and on general sale after this date.

After the Judgement… Sacrifice must be made

On a cold, wet, unforgiving day in the November of 1921, London is under attack.

Drawn from retirement to combat the menace, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are forced, without warning, to confront old enemies and new threats – and an evil which has been waiting for decades to exact its revenge…

Part 1: The Prophet in the Rain

It begins with the sound of rain upon the windowpane, with a woman who claims to speak to the dead, with an enemy stepping out into the storm and with the unfolding of a savage and merciless scheme to bring London to its knees. Only our elderly detective, Mr Sherlock Holmes, seems to sense upon the wind the scent of approaching disaster…

Part 2: The Body in the Garret

The attack upon the city is escalating. The death toll is rising. And the agents of the Society are everywhere, even in the unlikeliest of places. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson – outflanked by events and outfoxed by their opponents – are forced to confront the limitations of their abilities in this strange new era as, all around them, the fire continues to spread.

Part 3: The Beast in the Darkness

With Dr Watson held captive by the enemy, a badly wounded Holmes races against the clock to confront the mastermind behind the brutal tragedies of the day. But will the Council of Priam help or hinder him in his attempt to stem the rising tide of madness?

Part 4: The Shadow in the Water

At last all of the players are brought together for a final confrontation. The warrior. The psychic. The detective. The doctor. And something else – something which has, for decades, been waiting in the darkness and biding its time, waiting for Sherlock Holmes’ last stand…

Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Richard Earl (Dr John Watson), Tracey Childs(Mrs Edgar Curbishley), Jeremy Clyde (Lord Felix Happerton/Rackham), Jamie Hinde (Colonel Giles Stoddart), Joe Jameson (Alistair Baxter/Midshipman Boyle),Alan Cox (Agamemnon), Frances Marshall (Mrs Jemima Blake), Jamie Newall(William Tallow/Sir James Burton), Elizabeth Rider (Mrs Eleanor Watson),Christopher Naylor (Alfie Carnehan/Captain Richard Avary), Natalie Burt (Miss Vivienne Scott). Other parts portrayed by the cast

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

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REVIEW – FIESTA OF THE DAMNED

With Mel back on board the TARDIS the new trilogy of adventures for her, Seven, Ace continues in Fiesta of the Damned. Whereas last months was a slick clever postmodern take on a heist movie, this release is a very traditional Doctor Who story in its construction, which is no bad thing as we have not had one for a while. Its an opportunity to step back and enjoy the bread and butter of why we all love Doctor Who so much and why it has lasted so very long – this is a “pseudo historical” very much along the lines of The Time Meddler or The Masque of Mandragora where the TARDIS team arrive in an earth historical setting but encounter an alien menace – and the setting they find themselves in is very interesting.

 Fiesta of the Damned is set in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War and involves the TARDIS team wanting a taste of the real Spain, but instead falling in with the remnants of a Republican army who are on the run from Franco’s Fascist Nationalist army. The troops are led by the charismatic Juan Romero (Enzo Sqillino Jnr) who before the war was a Farmer and just wants to go back to being a farmer – but as a man of conviction he is doing what he feels is the right thing. There is also a plucky english journalist reporting on the war George Newman (Christopher Hatherall). Arriving in the middle of a nationalist bombing raid the Republicans, George & team TARDIS head to the nearby town of Farissa for shelter. So far, so traditional in its construction, the story even satisfies the original remit of the show by being educational – I found myself learning some interesting facts about the origins of the civil war and of the terrible aftermath which left tens of thousands of Republicans executed and General Franco as dictator of Spain for 36 years.

 As I said earlier though, this is a pseudo historical and does have an alien threat, an alien seeding device which transforms anything it comes into contact with into, well, a sort of hotchpotch alien creature made up of all the species that it has assimilated over the years – if you think of the Tula spaceship and how it “repaired” people in The Empty Child you wont be far wrong – the seeding becomes a zombie like infection but transmitted via touch rather than bite and as the Doctor, Ace & George try to stop it at its source, Mel is teamed up with Juan as the town of Farissa falls under siege to the infected humans.

 The story is very much a throwback to sixties & seventies Who, but the characterisation is really something special. Big Finish have done wonders in the past giving Bonnie Langford’s Mel a more rounded, likeable and believable character and this is added to in this story as we see a blossoming but ultimately doomed romance with Juan, their conversations about the nature of war and going back to the life you had after it is all over are moving and full of pathos. Mel has a wistful & mature quality to her that was missing on TV and scenes like she has in this story only confirm what a missed opportunity her TV appearances were.

So a story of no surprises but a story of immense character and a story that has fired my passion for history & made me want to find out more about the Spanish Civil War. It may be an old school Fiesta but it has definitely passed its MOT – 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date.

In search of “a taste of the real Spain”, the TARDIS transports the Doctor, Ace and rejoined crewmember Mel not to sizzling Fuerteventura, or the golden sands of the Costa Brava – but to 1938, amid the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.

Having fallen in with a rag-tag column of Republican soldiers, the time and space travellers seek shelter from Franco’s bombers in the walled town of Farissa – only to discover themselves besieged by dead men returned to life…

Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Enzo Squillino Jnr (Juan Romero), Christopher Hatherall (George Newman), Owen Aaronovitch (Antonio Ferrando/Control Unit), Tom Alexander (Luis/Phillipe). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

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REVIEW – CASUALTIES OF TIME

If you cast your minds back to the finale of Doctor Who series 5 (the Matt Smith one not the Troughton one) and the episode The Big Bang there is a rather elongated pre-credits sequence which ends up with little Amy Pond opening the Pandora to find older Amy Pond inside said plot device, on which the older Pond says something like “hold on kid, this is where it gets complicated”, well dear readers that phrase is an apt description of the finale of the fifth series of Fourth Doctor stories from Big Finish – Casualties of Time.

This is not a story for the feint hearted or uninitiated on to the audio world of Doctor number 4 and Romana (or Ramona if you like to deliberately annoy her like Cuthbert does) – this story goes all the way back to The Key to Time in its roots taking in the Cuthbert stories from audio series 2 for seasoning and simmering with a pinch of foreshadowing that has been haunting this latest season Oh and its also the second part of the season finale started last month with The Pursuit of History (which you can buy HERE and the review is HERE)

 So what can I say about Casualties of Time? Well, its complicated and involves Cuthbert (David Warner) and the Conglomerate that he controls – it also features a villain who was revealed at the end of The Pursuit of History and who I will NOT be revealing the identity of here – but he is played by David Troughton. However as much as this is an epic about time travel and long hatched plots of revenge when you peel back the layers this really is a story about redemption and knowing the part you play in the greater good – its almost A Christmas Carol like – and not only for one character, because what we think we know is only half of the story and perspective is everything. It also features the Parrot I was so enamoured of in the last episode.

 A story of paradoxes and plots and redemption with an Adams-esque take on the more preposterous aspects of Sci-Fi and a charm that is all Nick Briggs all wrapped up in a nice Season 17 level of silliness (again space Parrot = certified brilliance) and a rather satisfying if confusing end to the season that really doesn’t pan out as you expect it to. Not a casualty of a story more of a heartwarming reaffirmation that there is good in everyone 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in August 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date

The TARDIS crew have unknowingly become embroiled in a web of deceit. A trap has been laid across time and they have no possible means of escape. Destiny has ensnared them.

The Doctor is finally getting the chance to see the Conglomerate’s work at first hand. Romana is working to save the alien Laan once and for all. K9 is returning to Ancient Britain in search of an unusual power source.

The Doctor, Romana and K9.

Today one of them will die.

Note: This adventure continues from Doctor Who: The Pursuit of History

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9/The Oortag),David Warner (Cuthbert), Toby Hadoke (Mr Dorrick), David Troughton (The Black Guardian/Edge), Jez Fielder (Drudger/Ecidien Cerebus Bird/The White Guadian/Salonu Prime), Jane Slavin (The Laan/Conglom-net Computer/Salonu).

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TORCHWOOD – MADE YOU LOOK

We have had shocks, scares, adrenaline fuelled chases and emotional meltdowns. We have had Cardiff buddy movies, Victorian romps and Russian mysteries. But we have not had anything remotely like this. Ever. Ladies and gentlemen I have gone down the rabbit hole, left Kansas and found Narnia at the back of my wardrobe – I have been listening to the last in the current series of Torchwood – “Made You Look” and this really is a whole new world (not in the Aladdin sense) for Torchwood.

 I could use words like creepy or atmospheric or unnerving – these just do not do it justice. Yes it is all of these things in fact the whole play has a nightmarish creeping dread to it and a downbeat lo-fi feeling. Yes, creeping dread, that horrible feeling that you get when you think something awful is about to happen – it permeates the being of Made You Look like nothing I have listened to so far this year, or in a very very long time – the last time I was this disturbed by an audio was possibly Dark Shadows – “The House by the Sea” or “Beyond the Grave”. This for me is the audio equivalent of Eraserhead or Jacobs Ladder, two films that have always stayed with me as particularly nightmarish, not due to gore or scares but due to the feelings they engendered.

 So what is this lo-fi nightmare all about? It stars Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, Marilyn Le Conte as Mrs Rhodes, Ross Ford as James and Matthew Gravelle as The Darkness. A very small cast and a small scale happening. Gwen is investigating the seaside town of Talmouth, a town that has literally died. No one has gone in or out for days, no communication at all – everyone (well pretty much everyone) has vanished. After a disturbing pre-credits we join Gwen in Talmouth an deserted out of season seaside town, empty, dead, forgotten and we begin to unravel the visceral primal horror that has occurred there. There is a voice, a silky, smooth, urbane persuasive voice, it needs you to turn around and if you see him three times then you die, horribly, really horribly. And thats it really, thats all I can say without ruining the story. It goes to some really dark places – the sequence on the beach is particularly haunting in a Silent Hill sort of way – it gets under the skin and stays with the listener in the imagery it creates, this really is not a release for the feint hearted.

 As always when I listen to an audio I listen to it visually – this release for me was filmed in the style of the early 1970’s Amicus films, quite washed out looking and lots of fast cuts – and whist mentioning the 1970’s the sound design is a pure horror nostalgia trip, the theme that follows the story is haunting and downbeat and suits the atmosphere of the story completely.

 There have been some fantastic releases from Big Finish so far this year, and no disrespect to them but “Made You Look” raises the game to a whole new level. With this release Big Finish have a strong contender for release of the year. So, no scores, no pithy comments, just go out and buy yourselves a copy. Oh, and watch out for a voice asking you to turn around……

Made You Look ;-)

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

“It stalks you. It whispers. It wants you to turn around. It wants you to look. But if you do… If you see it…”

Talmouth is a lonely seaside town. No-one has heard from it for days. No-one who goes in comes out. Something has happened to Talmouth. Has it been taken over by aliens? Or is it something far, far worse?

Gwen Cooper’s come to Talmouth to find out. What’s happened has to be seen to be believed. But by the time you’ve seen it, you’re already dead.

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

Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Matthew Gravelle (Darkness), Marilyn Le Conte (Mrs Rhodes), Ross Ford (James)

Produced by James Goss
Script edited by Steve Tribe

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REVIEW – THE BLAME GAME

So, Rufus Hound eh? Comedian, actor, Whovian and all round affable chap. Rufus Hound reading a Short Trip. Rufus Hound reading a short trip and obviously having a ball – because his sheer joy at being involved in the project is obvious from the life that he brings in to the story. But why Mr Hound, usually these stories are read by a companion from the time? Well dear reader, for those of you who are spoiler averse then read no further and go and listen to The Black Hole available here and review here.  Have you all gone, done that and are up to date? Then I will continue.

 As well as narrating Rufus plays The Meddling Monk in this Short Trip reprising his role from The Black Hole and this story sees him arrive early in the Pertwee era, sometime after The Silurians and make the Doctor an offer her cannot refuse – he offers to take him off earth to travel with him. Unfortunately the Time Lords are not so easily outwitted and soon The Doctor, Monk & Liz Shaw are stranded on a Dolphin (them of the eyebrow communication) spaceship. To make it worse the ship is on a collision course.

 What writer Ian Atkins has achieved in this story is an examination of what it is for a Time Lord to be stranded – the Monk describes it to Liz in terms I had not considered previously, and what a terrible thing that has been done to the Doctor stranding him on Earth, but also what a terrible thing that The Doctor did to the Monk stranding him in the TV story The Dalek’s Masterplan, because if stranding the Monk did one thing, it gave him a lot of time to think of a suitable bit of payback.

 An excellent character study of both the Doctor & the Monk written in shades of grey with Liz Shaw as the moral compass that both desperately need. I blame the blame game for my decision to award 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.

To escape his Earth exile, the Doctor is prepared to make any bargain, come to any arrangement, or to do any deal with any devil – even if in this case the Devil wears a monk’s robes. But when past misdeeds start catching up with both the Doctor and the Monk, who can Liz Shaw trust when time is running out and death is rapidly approaching?

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

Written By: Ian Atkins
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Rufus Hound (Narrator)

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REVIEW – CLASSIC DOCTORS, NEW MONSTERS VOLUME 01

The punctuation is a bit wrong in the title “Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume 01” is the title but it should be punctuated differently in my opinion, but I will come back to this a bit later on.

 This is the first really overt mixture of “old Who”and “new Who” that Big finish have done – and why not (to quote Barry Norman) – when The Doctor meets The Weeping Angels, The Sycorax and the Judoon in the TV series when he is in his Tenth (or Eleventh depending on how you class John Hurt) incarnation he is aware of them and has definitely had encounters with them previously – and this box set tells part of that story. We have Five with the Weeping Angels, Six with the Judoon, Seven with the Sycorax and Eight with the new series incarnation of the Sontarans, complete with “Sontar -HAH!” chants, but even though the stories feature new monsters, the stories really do retain a classic era feeling, the Davison era story feels Davison, the Colin story really only could be a Colin story, the writers are respectful to the Doctor’s they are writing for whilst obviously relishing the new toys they have been given to play with. They fit into their respective eras like they have always been there – well time CAN be rewritten you know :-)

 So four very different stories all showcasing the strengths of their respective era’s and we begin with Doctor number Five…..

 1.1 Fallen Angels by Phil Mulryne

 I will now commit sacrilege. I was never that fussed on “Blink”. There, I have said it. I just didn’t see the fuss was all about. Moving statues, all that “timey-wimey” nonsense and not much of The Doctor – really not my cup of Earl Grey. So I wasn’t really looking forward to this one that much. How wrong can a man be??? Very wrong as it turns out as this one is a definite copper bottomed classic. Up there with THE classics of the classic era, this story can hold its head up high. Peter Davison is fast becoming my Doctor of choice in the Big Finish range – I never really got him on TV, but this years run of main range stories have really showcased his talents and Fallen Angels carries on this welcome trend. Now then. Weeping Angels, a VERY visual monster. Well….. yes. How could they work on audio?? They shouldn’t but they really do, this is a roller coaster ride. From the pre-credits sequence to the workshop of Michelangelo (Matthew Kelly) to the Sistine Chapel, to the catacombs beneath the Vatican, the pace never really lets up. The plot involves a secret priesthood named “The Cult of the three Angels” worshipping the Weeping Angels and using Michelangelo to “rescue” them from blocks of marble that they have become encased in. It also has a rather clever “timey-wimey” plot involving honeymooning couple Joel (Sacha Dhawan) & Gabby (Diane Morgan) being zapped back in time to 1500’s Italy. It also has a very clever in joke for fans of Blink towards the end that had me laughing out loud. A fantastic opening story.

 1.2 Judoon in Chains  by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

 Judoon, monosyllabic, authoritarian, literal creatures. Not a poetic bone in their body or so you would think. Old Sixie has always been the most verbose and poetic of the Doctor’s, so who better to feature in a tale of Courtroom grandstanding, victorian carnival’s and a very special Judoon who has found his sensitive side? The Judoon in question is Captain Kybo (Nicholas Briggs) and we meet him on trial in Victorian England for desertion from his regiment with his advocate none other than The Sixth Doctor, and he has a story to tell…..

Told as a Dickensian nightmare and with a slight feeling of David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” we see victorian values at their most abhorrent as Kybo is taken in by Circus owner Jonathan Jaggers Esq (Trevor Cooper) and used as an attraction in a freak show. Kybo really is the most interesting Judoon, his translator is broken yet he learns english, he writes poetry, he sees things in shades of grey rather than black and white and is an incredibly sympathetic character brought to life beautifully by Nick Briggs. The story also sees a conspiracy and cover up by a greedy corporation and a new beginning for a platoon of enlightened Judoon.

 1.3 Harvest of the Sycorax by James Goss

 Where the first two stories are set in the past, this one is in the far far future. And it is a very bleak future. The populace are controlled by designer viruses and designer mood enhancing chemicals. We meet the hero of the story Zanzibar Hashtag (Nisha Nayar) on a space station that has been invaded by The Sycorax, there is a vault on the station and The Sycorax will seemingly stop at nothing to get it open. Into this chaos arrives the chaotic Seventh Doctor, and then things really start to get interesting. The Sycorax are using blood control to make the denizens of the station do their will, but this time they have managed to procure some Time-Lord blood and are able to control The Doctor. This is the most light hearted story of the group, in fact i cannot really place where in Seven’s time line  this occurs, he is not as manipulative as his later person abut not as comedic as his season 24 persona. It also has a very very funny lead Sycorax played by Giles Watling who reminds me very much of Tim the Enchanter in Monty Python’s Holy Grail film, he gives hysterical speeches in a clipped high pitched voice, he also informs is that Sycorax “rock” quite often. A bit of an oddball of a story, but there really is nothing wrong with that.

 1.4 The Sontaran Ordeal by Andrew Smith

 And this brings us almost up to date. Many many years after his TV Movie appearance, Eight is involved in the early stages of the Time War, railing against the Time Lords and what they have become he arrives on the planet Drakkis – a planet devastated when the Time War entered real time and scarred it backwards and forwards in time forever.

Add to this mix an exiled Sontaran called Jask (Dan Starkey of “Hello Girl” fame), a Paladin named Sarana Teel (Jossette Simon) and a story that goes right to the heart of the Sontaran concept of honour and what it means to Jask. These are very much New Series Sontarans, complete with chants and the inflections of speech that their TV counterparts have, in fact General Stenk is played by Christopher Ryan (of “Mike the Cool Person” fame) who played a similar role on TV. At its heart this really is a story about honour and duty and doing the right thing for the right reasons whatever the consequences. It also goes some way with its denouement to explain why Eight became sick of the time war and what it was doing to him, how he couldn’t help people because of the perception of Time Lords, and why he needed to die and become the War Doctor. A story of hope and also a story of despair.

 At the beginning of this review, a very long time ago, I commented on punctuation – “Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume 01” may be grammatically correct and also the name of the box set, I prefer this “Classic – Doctors! New Monsters!” because that REALLY does what it says on the tin. Its a classic (especially the first two stories) it features Doctors and New Monsters AND it enhances the characteristics of these monsters adding new layers to the mythos of the creatures whilst remaining completely rooted in each Doctor’s era. A Blinking, Stomping, Rocking, “HAH” – Ing classic set 10/10.

Written By Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date.

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

1.1 Fallen Angels by Phil Mulryne

2015: When sightseers Joel and Gabby Finch encounter a strange man in Edwardian cricketing garb in the Sistine Chapel, their honeymoon suddenly takes a terrifying turn.

1511: Michelangelo is commissioned to create some very special sculptures by a mysterious sect. But as he carves, angels seem to emerge fully-formed from the rock. Almost as if they are alive…

From Michelangelo’s workshop to the catacombs of Rome, the Fifth Doctor must keep his wits about him and his eyes wide open as he confronts the Weeping Angels.

1.2 Judoon in Chains  by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

The Sixth Doctor is no stranger to courtroom drama, but faces a very different challenge when he prepares to defend a most unusual Judoon.

After an environmental clearance mission goes wrong, Captain Kybo of the Nineteenth Judoon Interplantary Force is stranded in Victorian England, bound in chains, an exhibit in a circus show. But he has allies: Eliza Jenkins – known to audiences as ‘Thomasina Thumb’ – and the larger-than-life ‘clown’ in the colourful coat.

Uncovering a trail of injustice and corruption, the Doctor and Kybo soon find themselves on trial for their lives…

1.3 Harvest of the Sycorax by James Goss

In the far future, humanity has a remedy for everything. Whatever the problem, Pharma Corps has the answer and a designer disease tailored to every human’s blood-type. Zanzibar Hashtag has no need to be sad, scared, stressed, or depressed ever again.

That is, until vicious aliens arrive on her space station intent on opening its Vault. What will it mean for the human race if the Sycorax take control of what’s inside?

And when the Seventh Doctor arrives on the scene, can he convince Zanzibar to care about her life long enough to help him?

1.4 The Sontaran Ordeal by Andrew Smith

An instant of the Time War brings centuries of conflict to the planet Drakkis, and the Eighth Doctor is there to witness the terrible results.

A Sontaran fleet, desperate to join the epic conflict, follows in its wake to take advantage of the fallout. But when Commander Jask is beamed down to the ravaged surface, there is more to his arrival than first appears.

Soon, an unlikely champion joins forces with the Time Lord to fight for the future of her world, and together they must face the Sontaran Ordeal…

Written By: Phil Mulryne, Simon Barnard, Paul Morris, James Goss, Andrew Smith
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Fallen Angels 

Peter Davison (The Doctor) Sacha Dhawan (Joel Finch), Diane Morgan (Gabby Finch), Matthew Kelly (Michelangelo), Joe Jameson (Piero), Dan Starkey (Priest). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Judoon in Chains

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicholas Briggs (Captain Kybo), Kiruna Stamell (Eliza Jenkins), Trevor Cooper (Jonathan Jaggers Esq), Tony Millan (Justice Burrows/Jonty), Sabina Franklyn (Herculania) Nicholas Pegg (Business Owner). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Harvest of the Sycorax

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Nisha Nayar (Zanzibar), Jonathan Firth (Cadwallader), Rebecca Callard (Shadrak), Giles Watling (The Sycorax Chief)

The Sontaran Ordeal

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Josette Simon (Sarana Teel), Dan Starkey (Jask),Christopher Ryan (General Stenk/Flitch), Sean Connolly (Tag Menkin/Ensign Stipe).

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

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REVIEW – THE AVENGERS: THE LOST EPISODES VOLUME 6

I am sure it has been said before, but I will say it again – some stories just fit in a particular era. And whereas the Emma Peel & Tara King episodes could not have been made at any other time than the late 1960’s, the Doctor Keel episodes seem steeped in the ambiance of the early 1960’s or the long 1950’s that ended with The Beatles. All shot haircuts, smart suits, received pronunciation. Where you knew a villain was a villain because of his accent (working class, slimy or foreign) and where the heroes spoke properly and were thoroughly decent chaps. It really is a crying shame that only 2 and a bit episodes of the first series of The Avengers exists – but those that do showcase a completely different beast to what most people think of as The Avengers – studio bound, stagey, split in to “acts” almost like theatre for TV. And this level of authenticity for the era simply oozes from this latest Big Finish box set. From the dapper Steed (Julian Wadham) to the practical Keel (Anthony Howell) and all the supporting characters – they are what they are and they are most definitely of the era.

 In this penultimate box set of Lost Episodes there are three stories, one is a rare thing, an adaptation of an existing episode “The Frighteners” and this is where the set begins:

 6.1 The Frighteners by Berkeley Mather, adapted by Rae Leaver

 Steed and Keel become involved in an intimidation ring – a gang of “Frighteners” led by the rather nasty Deacon (Michael Lumsden) – they have been employed to scare off  upper class twit, confidence trickster and all round cad Jeremy De-Willoughby from rich young debutante Marilyn Weller (Eve Webster), you see her father Sir Thomas Weller (Hugh Ross) isn’t too fond of Jeremy (with good reason) so has gone to some rather extreme methods to get rid of him….

A story very of its time, with the class structure being completely upheld (and satirised) – its ok if someone is a cad and a layabout, but working class origins – good lord no!!! And is a very faithful adaptation of the TV original – it feels claustrophobic, studio bound, violent and seedy – a very noir beginning to the set.

 6.2 Death on the Slipway by Ian Potter, from a storyline by James Mitchell

 If you were asked to come up with a cold war thriller set in a shipyard I don’t think you would be far off what we have here. Intrigue, blackmail, stiff upper lips, dodgy “foreign types” and Steed having his suit ruined by oil. Again feeling just like early 1960’s TV – Steed investigates the murder of one of his colleagues under cover at a shipyard that is developing a special Submarine – but one of the staff there is being blackmailed into helping an enemy agent.

Very “of its time” very “Cold War”, you can tell who the villain is because he has an eastern european accent. This aside the hold he has over his victim for blackmail is rather tragic and he manipulates a man who is genuinely decent but has made an awful mistake. Very “Keel Lite” leaving Julian Wadham as Steed to carry the episode which he does with swagger, vigour and charm – he simply IS Steed – oh and Steed’s mysterious boss One-Ten makes an appearance played by the fabulous Dan Starkey of “hello girl” fame, love his and Steed’s interplay. Very good indeed.

 6.3 Tunnel of Fear by John Dorney, from a storyline by Terrence Feeley

 The Avengers was always off the wall, and for an early epode this is pretty left field. A Ghost Train at a Southend seaside is the venue for the latest attempt to smuggle information over the Iron Curtain – and while Dr Keel teams up with ex con Harry Black (Pete Collis) Steed makes himself at home as boss of the belly dancing attraction, and seems very taken with the dancers and the role he has taken on. This is very “Avengers-ish” if that is a word. Espionage and villains hiding in the world of vaudeville and surrealism – its not the full Peel or King, but it certainly has one foot in the wry and odd with fortune tellers, dancers, fairground rides and hypnotism all playing their parts.

 So another triumph of a set, acted in the style of the era, produced and directed in the style & with a soundtrack that fits right in with the era – I am so glad that these episodes are being recreated, but a double edged sword is that there is just one more set to go and the whole run has been recreated. For now though I will savour the fine vintage that is Volume 6 and in honour of Steed’s boss One-Ten I award it Nine-Ten.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

6.1 The Frighteners by Berkeley Mather, adapted by Rae Leaver

If you need someone scared off, you speak to the Deacon.

Steed and Keel are on the trail of an intimidation expert whose services have recently been acquired by a wealthy businessman. But as they head deeper and deeper into this seedy world, who do they really have to stop. And who do they have to save?

6.2 Death on the Slipway by Ian Potter, from a storyline by James Mitchell

When a fellow agent is killed, Steed is sent undercover at a government dockyard to find the killer. Can he sort the truth from the lies and track down the enemy infiltrator hunting for top secret plans before it’s all too late?

6.3 Tunnel of Fear by John Dorney, from a storyline by Terrence Feeley

Southend. A perfect spot for a family holiday – or for a traitor to hide.

Somewhere in the town lurks a spy ring that is smuggling out classified information. When his old mole is attacked, and with innocent lives at risk, Steed takes Keel to the seaside for a far from sunny time.

Written By: Adapted by John Dorney, Rae Leaver, Ian Potter
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Anthony Howell (Dr Keel), Julian Wadham (John Steed), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Carol Wilson), Hugh Ross (Sir Thomas Weller), Eve Webster (Marilyn Weller), Michael Lumsden (The Deacon), Laurence Spellman (Moxon), Chris Pavlo (Nature Boy),Ferdy Roberts (Kolchek), Jon Culshaw (Sir William Bonner), Niky Wardley (Liz Wells), Barnaby Edwards (Sam Pearson), Dan Starkey (One-Ten), Pete Collis(Harry Black), Charlotte Strevens (Mrs Black), Amy Embank (Claire), Tony Turner(Wickram), Charles Davies (Maxie Lardner)

Other roles played by the cast

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REVIEW – A LIFE OF CRIME

It started with a funeral. It ended with an economy class seat and in-between was a bit of a classic would be the short form of this review. Long time readers will know that I don’t do short, I tend to ramble on and on and on with flights of fancy – so I won’t disappoint here.

 But it does start with a funeral (you can hear part 1 for free here) – its the funeral of one “Lefty Lonnegan”, half human half cyborg crime boss, retired to the “costa del crime” planet of Ricosta, Lonnegan is also the erstwhile partner of one Sabalom Glitz who is also the erstwhile business partner of one Melanie Jane Bush. Yes, this is the story where Mel (Bonnie Langford) comes back. I know she has never really been away as she has been a star with Big Finish since almost the beginning – and they have made her a much more rounded and likeable character than she was on TV. But this is the story set after her final appearance in Dragonfire and where we find out about the intervening time with Glitz. But its not just about Mel, oh no, its a lot more complicated than that – this is a story of two halves, what starts as a long con turns into an invasion story. It also has a non linear story structure with Mel’s thread and The Ace/Doctor threads happening at different times and then dovetailing quite nicely at the end of part two.

 So the plot – there really is not a lot I can say without giving away spoilers, there are criminals, a bank job, a rather vile species of alien banker called the Speravores who delight in absorbing the potential futures of their victims. Unlike the TV series the non linear narrative works to the stories benefit and fit together perfectly, logically and as a listener I felt rewarded and enlightened rather than frustrated and cheated.

 But this is Mel’s story really – and there is a knockout scene between her and The Doctor where they discuss how each other have changed in the intervening time, Mel expresses her disappointment at the machiavellian path that Seven has taken whilst the Doctor is appalled at how Glitz has apparently been a bad influence on Mel. But sometimes in a friendship you have to dig beneath the surface to fins out real motivations as the Doctor & Mel both find out. And as this is Mel’s story, I have to give praise to Bonnie Langford as Mel, a more worldly wise, wily and less perky Mel, a more mature Mel. She has changed, we all change, but she has changed whereas Ace is very much the same calling Mel “Doughnut” much to Mel’s annoyance.

 This is a fab story, one that really does keep you on your toes as the tone changes so very quickly – it also sets up a potential new villain for the upcoming trilogy and a mystery as to why they have caught up with Mel at all…

 What begins great caper of a story reintroducing and updating a classic companion and giving her some very believable character development ends as an exercise in cause and effect and a ride in economy class – but this story is most definitely business class 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Come to Ricosta! Tropical climate, untouched beaches, fabulous cuisine… and no extradition treaties. The perfect retirement planet for a certain type of ‘business person’ – such as Ms Melanie Bush, formerly the co-owner of the Iceworld emporium, now on the run from her former criminal associate’s criminal associates…

Some other former associates of Ms Bush are abroad in this space Costa del Crime, however. Not long ago, the time and space traveller known as the Doctor arrived here, alongside his sometimes-criminal associate, the reformed juvenile offender Ace. But now the Doctor’s gone missing – and Melanie Bush is about to learn that on the planet Ricosta, the wages of sin… are death.

Written By: Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace),Ginny Holder (Gloria/Secretary), Des McAleer (Lefty Lonnigan), Stephen Hagan(Nathan Later), Harry Myers (Atomon/Sperovore Banker/Steward), John Banks(Mayor/Sperovore Auditor/Sperovore Financer). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

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REVIEW – THE PURSUIT OF HISTORY

When I was listening to last months release – The Trouble With Drax there was a throwaway line that intrigued me, and then I completely forgot about it. I was reminded of it straight away with this release. Memo to self, pay attention and remember what you are paying attention to because it may well be important. In this case it seems to have been an important plot point involving a Parrot. And The Pursuit of History begins (well not quite but the first TARDIS scene) begins with Romana and K9 in pursuit of said overlooked Parrot. Its a Parrot that the Doctor seems to want to ignore, and it seems to be reciting phrases from The Doctor (albeit in the style of Terry Jones as a Pepper-pot in Monty Python) so at this point I am both intrigued and amused.

 Ladies and gentlemen we are in season finale mode – the little hints and tidbits for the more discerning (or more attentive) listener are all coming together and an old enemy is making a reappearance. The old enemy in this case is Cuthbert (David Warner) head of the Conglomerate, last seen in an alliance of sorts with the Daleks and Cuthbert has a plan to increase the Conglomerates profits involving robbing a train in 1850’s Yorkshire and selling the proceeds of the robbery to the finance minister of Earth’s Oceanic zone 200 years later – so far so Scaroth. But there is something else bubbling in the background a plan that Cuthbert’s machiavellian capitalism may only be a small part of.

 Right from the off you get the feeling that you are listening to something rather epic, the tone whilst still very much of Season 17 is more City of Death than Horns of Nimon and you really do get the feeling of an age old plan coming to fruition and that the Doctor and Romana are completely out of their depth only seeing part of the bigger picture.

 David Warner never ceases to amaze in any parts he plays for Big Finish – he is another of those actors who bring out the best in Tom Baker – their verbal sparring just sparkles and Lalla Ward is at her haughty best when confronting Mr Dorrick (Toby Hadoke) again and explaining that she is the same Romana he has encountered before.

 Nick Briggs has crafted an excellent opening story for the finale, it really does feel like “all bets are off” for the final story because the stakes keep getting higher and higher and then there is the cliffhanger to episode two. Not saying any more apart from the fact that I was driving at the time of listening, actually heading in to Conwy, waiting in a queue of traffic and I got a very odd look from a Dog walker as I was sitting there shouting “NOOOO”. Its one of those sort of cliffhanger.

 So, Parrots, train robberies, economic chicanery and a threat level ramped up to 11 – can’t be bad for an opening gambit and a well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

On a brisk winter’s morning in 1850s Yorkshire, Cuthbert, head of the intergalactic business known as ‘The Conglomerate’ prepares to hijack a very special train.

In the far future, his assistant, Mr Dorrick is awoken by howling alarms. There is a problem with the Quantum Gateway.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor, Romana and K9 detect strange distortions in the Vortex, an energy stream coming from a strange creature called a Laan.

The threads of a plan centuries in the making are coming together. But who is behind this plan? And can anyone possibly escape when history is against them?

Note: The adventure continues in Doctor Who: Casualties of Time

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9),  David Warner(Cuthbert), Toby Hadoke (Mr Dorrick), David Troughton (Mr Edge), John Dorney(David Goddard/Oceanic Airforce Commander), Lisa Bowerman (Conglom-Net Computer/Oceanic Airforce Pilot) Jez Fielder (Neville Sanders/Drudger/Ecidien Cerebus Bird/Albert Chatterton/The White Guardian/Salonu Prime), Jane Slavin (The Laan/Salonu). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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REVIEW – THE NEW COUNTER MEASURES: WHO KILLED TOBY KINSELLA?

There is a film, its one of my all time favourite called “Lost Highway” directed by David Lynch. The first line is “Dick Laurent is dead” and then it goes to some very very strange places. This months very special Counter Measures release could possibly start with the line “Sir Toby Kinsella is dead” – its not a spoiler, the story is called “Who Killed Toby Kinsella”, so we know he is dead. But not quite at the beginning he isn’t – he is assassinated by a mystery gunman about 20 minutes in to episode one, and this in turn starts off a chain of events that lead to the “New Counter Measures” which will be with us in December. But lets look at this story, in fact lets look at Counter Measures.

 Counter Measures are a spin off from the Doctor Who TV story “Remembrance of the Daleks” featuring Captain Gilmore (Simon Williams), Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem) & Allison Williams (Karen Gledhill) all reprising their roles. Its a very 1960’s ITC style of adventure – it feels like a TV film series of the era – added to the mix for the audio spin off was the character of Sir Toby Kinsella (Hugh Ross) – the man in charge of Counter Measures, a civil servant, a slimy, amoral, but strangely very likeable character – he led Counter Measures through four box sets set around the early 1960’s and made some very questionable decisions for the greater good and the security of the world.

 This special release takes place at Christmas 1973 – Counter Measures have long since been disbanded – Ian, Rachel & Allison are all in hiding under assumed names, all presumed dead – this i the Britain of power cuts, economic uncertainty and the three day week and a Prince form the Middle East Hassan Al-Nadyr (Raad Rawi) is in the UK on a trade mission but Toby Kinsella thinks his life is in danger and is killed when trying to protect him at the Opera. The death of Toby Kinsella brings the Counter Measures team out of hiding to track down the killer of their old boss and uncover a conspiracy stretching back to Toby’s time in University….

 This story has a very 1970’s feeling, the theme tune has been updated and the news of strained relations with the Middle East and an oil crises ground this in the early 1970’s – it has the feeling of a Sunday night drama that should be on at 21:00 on the BBC rather than an ITC film series – more “Tinker Tailor” than “Man In A Suitcase”  - this feels like a real world only slightly removed from our own where the characters have real concerns and the past is a very very dangerous place that is now reaping revenge.

The Counter Measures team fit perfectly into this conspiracy thriller – but they are on the outside looking in and themselves rogue elements rather than at the centre of things.

 Although he is dead, Sir Toby’s spectre haunts the proceedings – every move made is haunted by his memory and the events that unfold come from seeds that he planted in his University days.

 As a conspiracy thriller this is top notch, layers within layers within layers of plot are presented to the listener and there are many “lightbulb moments” as well as heart pounding action sequences.

But its not just a conspiracy thriller, its a pilot for “The New Counter Measures” and it certainly sets the scene and whets the appetite for more adventures of the reunited team plus a few new additions. Marching forward with confidence into the 1970’s – Toby Kinsella is dead, but the New Counter Measures live on. 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

A special feature-length release, forging a new era for Counter-Measures!

It’s Christmas 1973. Nearly ten years have elapsed since the Counter-Measures group vanished. Only one of the remaining members is officially alive. But that is about to change.

When Sir Toby is killed by an enigmatic assailant, his friends fly in from around the globe to attend the funeral where they discover that the truth of their colleague’s murder lies hidden in his past.

A dangerous killer is out for revenge. A terrible assassination is planned. When ghosts walk the street, there’s only one team you need.

1. Who Killed Toby Kinsella? by John Dorney

2. The Dead Don’t Rise by Ken Bentley

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

Cast

Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), Pamela Salem (Rachel Jenson), Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams), Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella), Raad Rawi (Prince Hassan Al-Nadyr), Justin Avoth (Mikhail), Belinda Stewart-Wilson (Overton), Ian Lindsay (Routledge), Jot Davies (Avery), Alan Cox (Fanshawe). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney

Story by Ken Bentley

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: BROKEN

With the bar set so high by last months release “Moving Target” this one had to be something rather special. And it is. And it is as different from “Moving Target” as it is possible to be. This is a study in grief. Not teenage angst or self indulgence but pure unadulterated human grief. And the man suffering is none other than Ianto Jones (Gareth David Lloyd).

 This story is set within the first televised series of Torchwood from the time of “Cyberwoman” to “They Keep Killing Suzie” and follows Ianto as he pours his heart out to barmaid Mandy Albiston (Melanie Walters).

 Ianto is broken – truly broken and lost and alone. His girlfriend Lisa is dead, he has no friends, he is estranged from his family and he loathes his boss Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) because he is the one that killed Lisa. His only friend in the world is Mandy, Mandy understands, Mandy is there for him when no one else is with a piece of sage advice, or a pint, she is Ianto’s only friend, she is the one person Ianto turns to.

 Ianto paints a picture of a cold uncaring Jack Harkness – someone who just keeps on keeping on with no time for the emotional problems of his staff – mission after mission after mission, horrific encounters, death does not seem to have an effect on Jack – but Ianto on the other hand is emotionally destroyed – and he only has Mandy to turn to and Mandy is always there with a friendly word and a pint….

 A very very different take on a Torchwood tale. We have become used to the frantic pace of the “Cardiff Buddy Movie” format, this is an altogether more pensive release, slow and brooding which suits the downbeat confessional nature of the story and this story lets Ianto bear his soul. And just when you think things really cannot get any bleaker, redemption may just arrive in a bitter sweet phone call.

Another excellent release and a completely different take on the Torchwood format, and whilst the story and the content are a difficult listen, the release is very rewarding and adds another building block to the Jack/Ianto relationship that ran through the series – the denouement really does seem earned by all the players, the reward may not be what they were looking for but it is most definitely what they need.

 What we have here is an emotional car crash of a story, a study in what can happen if we let grief consume us and see our friends as enemies, and a warning that redemption may not always be at the bottom of a pint glass. Broken but with a cure maybe in the distance 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date.

Whenever Ianto Jones has a tough day at work, he has somewhere he can hide. And, for Ianto Jones, it’s always a tough day at work.

His girlfriend is dead, his colleagues don’t trust him, and his boss… his boss is something else. With no friends in the world, and his life in danger every day, is it any wonder that at night, Ianto Jones goes to the pub?

Ianto’s local becomes somewhere where he feels safe. Safe from his demons, safe from his life, safe from Torchwood. Until one evening, Captain Jack Harkness walks into a bar….

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

Written By: Joseph Lidster
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones),Melanie Walters (Mandy Aibiston), Eiry Thomas (Glenda), Ross Ford (The Saviour)

Produced by James Goss

Script edited by Steve Tribe

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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