I finished listening to this a few days ago, it’s a big story and needed a lot of thinking over before putting fingers to keyboard.
Usually I start my reviews with a bit of a preamble (or incoherent ramble!) about how I am feeling, what memories the story stirs up, the music I am listening to. If you are a long-time reader you will know what I mean, if not Hello and thanks for reading. Anyway, and I don’t know why, but this story reminded me of Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. Maybe it’s the ebb and flow of the story, that it’s broken up into distinct but linked chapters in the same way that Tubular Bells is broken up into movements, or maybe it’s the way both have a haunting melody as their constant. Actually that’s probably it, whilst Tubular Bells has, well, Tubular Bells as its theme, the Worlds of Doctor Who has a haunting rendition of Ding Dong Bell played on a music box. It’s really chilling. Yes children’s nursery rhymes as a horror staple are a bit passé these days, but when done as well as this it can be indulged.
So the story – it really does encompass the whole worlds of Big Finish Doctor Who, an epic spanning the centuries told in four parts, each starting different friends of the Doctor.
Part One is called Mind Games written by Justin Richards and features my favourite characters Jago and Litefoot. I just can’t get enough of their bi-annual box sets of breathtaking bonhomie. Ok, no more alliteration I promise. To the uninitiated Henry Gordon Jago & Professor George Litefoot appeared in The Talons of Weng-Chiang with Tom Baker, were revived by Big Finish for Companion Chronicle – The Mahogany Murderers and then for a series of box sets, series 8 is due in October 2014. So, Jago has booked an act in his theatre, the act is Mr Rees a hypnotist who uses a music box playing a haunting version of Ding Dong Bell, but those who take part in his act are committing terrible crimes and then thinking they dreamed it.
Jago and Litefoot are on fine form (when aren’t they?) and get the story going, Rees is the worst sort of villain, not using his powers for any gain or power, but because he can. A great start to the story and a great introduction to Jago and Litefoot’s adventures too.
Part Two is called ‘The Reesinger Process’, again by Justin Richards. We have moved on from the 1890′s to the 1960′s and the story is continued by the Counter Measures team, Group Captain Gilmore, Rachel Jensen, Alison Williams as seen in Remembrance of the Daleks along with their boss Sir Toby Kinsella. Several high ranking civil servants and Military personnel have been inexplicably committing random murders, the Counter Measures team’s investigation leads them to the Reesinger Institute, a place where anti interrogation techniques are taught. The institute is run by brother and sister James and Stephanie Wilton and on her desk, Stephanie has a certain music box… Full of Cold War era paranoia it feels like it could have been a show made by ITC in the 1960′s and the team are on fine form. I really do like Sir Toby, even though I shouldn’t. Again the story ends with a hook for the next part.
Part Three is The Screaming Skull by Jonathan Morris.
An older Captain Mike Yates seeks the help of Captain Ruth Mathieson (Daphne Ashbrook) and Charlie Sato (Yee Jee Tso) to enter The Vault, an archive of dangerous alien artefacts gathered by UNIT over the years. A team of soldiers have been sent in but the Vault has gone dark. Yates, Mathieson and Sato have an hour to solve the problem in the Vault and get out before it is destroyed. Wow, this one drips with atmosphere, it’s the most overtly “horror” of all the stories, having not heard any of the previous “Vault” stories I didn’t know what to expect, but my expectations were exceeded. A tense heart in mouth, edge of seat story full of twists and turns, I will definitely be seeking out the other Vault Stories.
Which brings us on to Part Four, Second Sight by Nick Wallace and Justin Richards.
Not a lot I can say about this without spoiling, but suffice to say, things are bad. The Doctor has been called in, Romana has sent Leela to help and the true extent if Rees’s plans are revealed. It’s all rather epic really and a crescendo to the four movements of this symphony. To take the Tubular Bells analogy a bit further, there is a quiet moment after the main story has finished and then…..well, that would be telling (it’s not the sailors horn pipe though!)
A real epic spanning not only the centuries but the whole range of Big Finish’s Doctor Who worlds. A great pilot for each of the series if you have not heard them (I will certainly be investigating the Vault) not perfect, but very good indeed. I found the ending a little bit of a cheat, a variation on a theme that has become very over used in New Who on TV, but used in a slightly different way here.
Worth the entry fee? I would say so. Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in because I give it 9/10.
An epic adventure uniting the Doctor’s friends across time and space, featuring Jago & Litefoot, Counter-Measures, the Vault and Gallifrey!
1: Mind Games by Justin Richards
In Victorian England, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot investigate worrying events on the streets of London – which seem to be linked to the New Regency Theatre’s resident act, the mesmerist Mr Rees…
2: The Reesinger Process by Justin Richards
London, 1964, and the repercussions of Jago and Litefoot’s adventure are dealt with by Sir Toby Kinsella and his crack team of specialists at Counter-Measures. What is the Reesinger Process – and who is behind it?
3: The Screaming Skull by Jonathan Morris
Disgraced soldiers Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato are called back into action by Captain Mike Yates, when the UNIT Vault is mysteriously locked down by a deadly force. Together they must infiltrate the Vault and get those trapped out alive. But what enemy are they facing?
4: Second Sight by Nick Wallace and Justin Richards
The actions of Mr Rees have alerted the Time Lords of Gallifrey, and Romana has assigned her best warrior. Independently, the Sixth Doctor has arrived on Earth. A power from the dawn of the Universe is about to be unleashed once more…
Colin Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Lalla Ward (Romana), Daphne Ashbrook (Ruth Matheson), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams), Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella), Pamela Salem (Rachel Jenson), Yee Jee Tso (Charlie Sato), Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), Jamie Glover (Mr Rees), Sinead Keenan (Stephanie Wilton), Rory Keenan (James Wilton)
Written By: Justin Richards, Jonathan Morris, Nick Wallace
Directed By: Ken Bentley and Lisa Bowerman
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: Matt Fitton
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Ten years is a very long time, in fact, it’s a really long time. Thinking back to how things were ten years ago, no smartphones, no tablets, music still mainly CD, Tony Blair was Prime Minister. A lot has changed in the intervening decade. We have been through a recession, had the first coalition government and the way people watch television has changed beyond all recognition due to PVR’s and online viewing. Big changes, little changes but all now part of daily life.
Ten years ago, Doctor Who was back in production, Eccleston and Piper in the lead roles and Russell T Davies at the helm, did they ever dream that their daring and brave reboot would now be a staple of Saturday night viewing and would last so long? Ten years later we are four new Doctor’s down the line and the show is as popular as ever. Why am I obsessing about ten years, the decade from 2004 to 2014? Despite all these changes, Big Finish have been a constant, and in 2004 they introduced a character called Thomas Hector Schofield. His story has been ten years in the making and in the latest story from Big Finish – Signs and Wonders it comes to an end.
I know, I know, “spoilers” but I feel they are justified, like Rose Tyler saying “this is the story of how I died”. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s really worth the effort, the pay-off is wonderful.
So, Signs and Wonders. Not for the faint hearted, it has ten years worth of continuity and what you get out of it depends on how much you have invested in the “Hex arc”.
Potted history (spoiler-phobes may wish to skip) Thomas Hector Schofield played by Philip Olivier was a nurse working in St. Garts Hospital London, he meets Ace and the Doctor during a Cyberman Incursion and joins the TARDIS, through many adventures Hex is the compassionate corner of the Ace, Doctor, Hex triangle, he meets his hero Florence Nightingale and just wants to help people. Turns out Hex and the Doctor are being manipulated, Hex is actually Waylan’s shield, a weapon created by Elder God Waylan in his battle against Fenric. Hex is killed but on a trip to Liverpool where Ace makes the Doctor apologise to Hex’s Nan for putting him in danger, they meet Thomas Hector Thomas, a local villain who is the image of Hex – also played by Philip Olivier – it turns out he IS Hex with his memories stripped out, he joins the TARDIS and Ace vows to get his memories back. Which brings us once again to Liverpool…
Hector wants to go home, but in Liverpool is a man, a charlatan to many, a messiah to others called Rufus Stone prophesying the end of the world. Everyone is having bad dreams foreseeing their death – Rufus Stone is telling everyone that the North of England is the chosen land, miracles happen at his command, signs and wonders to awe his followers but are they being duped, and is he?
It’s very apocalyptic, think RTD’s The Second Coming, real Old Testament end of the world stuff and it really is my sort of Who – I like the contemporary setting, the familiarity of the location, the real characters, grounding it in reality makes the threat all the more real to me. Jessica Martin is great as Vicar Janet Green and Amy Pemberton makes a welcome return as Sally Morgan who has been living with Hex’s Nan Hilda until Hilda died and now wants to rejoin her army unit.
A truly epic story tying up threads woven over ten years and like all the best TV shows that are losing a beloved and long term character, the actual plot ends about ten minutes before the episode does. What a lovely ending Hex is given – up there with Jo Grant, Sarah Jane and Rose Tyler, worth the price of the CD for this scene alone, and then we have the Doctor and Ace musing on their own mortality, because all the Doctor got in his dream was Puccini…
So there you have it, Hex’s story done and dusted, a story ten years in the making with laughs and many many tears along the way. Is the story perfect? No, but it’s quite close. Maybe a bit too long, maybe just a little confusing in the resolution but well worth the entry fee a wonderful epic emotional roller coaster ride and a fitting ending for one of the most human and long term companions.
I sign off on Signs and Wonders at an epic 9/10.
The end of the world is nigh. That’s what everybody is seeing in their nightmares. That’s why they are congregating in Liverpool for the party to end all parties, hosted by Rufus Stone, a celebrity turned doomsday prophet. He claims he’s the only one who can save them when the day of judgement comes. Because he’s on the side of the angels.
The Doctor, Ace and Hector arrive to find the city in the grip of apocalypse fever. There are lights in the sky, earthquakes and power cuts. The Doctor is determined to investigate, while Ace is more concerned about finding a way of restoring Hector’s lost memories.
Meanwhile, in the river Mersey, hideous, slug-like creatures are stirring…
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Jessica Martin (Reverend Janet Green), Warren Brown (Rufus Stone/To’Koth), Jemma Churchill (Praska), Rory Keenan (Captain Gormley)
I like the theatre, so does Mrs Wings. We are never happier than when we make one of our periodic visits to Stratford Upon Avon to see an RSC production.
The power of words is an incredible thing – “I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth” makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end the before the law passage from Kafka’s The Trial is just powerful, moving and thought provoking. Of course, Shakespeare is the master, sure, some of the plots don’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional, the comedy is broad – but the words, oh the words just thinking of them conjures up images of despair, laughter, Kings, queens, fools, lovers, comedy and tragedy.
Tragedy brings me nicely on to the latest in the main range from Big Finish – Mask of Tragedy.
Ancient Greece is the setting, cradle of civilisation, home of democracy and theatre and it is here that the Seventh Doctor brings Ace and Hector for a holiday. The Doctor meets up with playwright Aristophanes played by Samuel West whilst Ace spends time with the invading Spartan army and Hector becomes possessed by an alien mask and becomes the earthly embodiment of Dionysys.The framing device is very interesting. Ace takes the part of the chorus and she says that The Doctor and Hector play the Hero and the Villain, but it’s up to the audience to decide who plays who!
Something isn’t right in Ancient Greece! The dead are coming back to life and the city leader Cleon is being terrorised by a Fury – a giant flying beetle with knives for wings.
Sounds good, and I am sure there is a good story in there, it’s just something isn’t quite right with the tone. Is it a comedy or is it a tragedy? Is it a tragedy with funny bits or a comedy with sad bits? And that’s the problem, it seems to be a story looking for a tone. Or maybe I am missing the point and the whole thing is a metaphor for how Ace and The Doctor’s attitude to life and death is completely at odds with Hector’s. Hector seems to sum it up at the end where he says to the Doctor “all you seem to have done is invented light entertainment” and that’s what it feels like, more season Twenty Four than Season Twenty Five or Twenty Six, perfect for the light-hearted early McCoy era, but not this version of sEVEN. There are some excellent performances, especially Philip Olivier as Hector, a real fish out of water, a novice at time travel given too much freedom to get it wrong – but, this is a rare occasion that a story didn’t quite gel for me.
Overall, it’s all Greek to me 5/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Athens, 421 BC. An ancient civilisation of philosophers and poets and the birthplace of theatre. The Doctor has decided to show Ace and Hector how it all began, with help from the great comedian Aristophanes.
But life in Athens is no laughing matter. There’s the ever-present threat of invasion from the Spartan horde. The plague that turns people into the walking dead. The slavery. The tyrannical rule of the paranoid, malicious Cleon and his network of informers. And the giant flying beetle with knives for wings that stalks the city streets at night.
What Athens needs is a hero. And who better to be a hero in ancient Greece than a man called Hector?
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hector), Samuel West (Aristophanes), Alisdair Simpson (Cleon), Russell Bentley (Tyrgius/Slave Trader/Boy), Tim Treloar (Telephus, Cisyphus/Old Man), Emily Tucker (Adonia/Lysistrata)
Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Marco Polo. That got you interested didn’t it? Two words, but conjuring up a whole load of images, emotions, memories, hopes and dreams.
Marco Polo, as we all know, is the earliest of the fabled “missing episodes”. I first read the Target novelisation back in the late 1980′s and was drawn in to its world. I remember after reading it I hoped that it’s VHS release would follow soon. This fledgling fan had no idea that a lot of early Who was missing from the archives. Which brings my on to Big Finish.
Earlier this year the “Companion Chronicles” series came to an end, but from their ashes rises a new range – “The Early Adventures” – different from The Companion Chronicles in their structure, yet similar enough to be a spiritual successor.These are the stories of the black and white era Doctors told by his companions and the first of these is Domain of the Voord, set sometime after Keys of Marinus but before Dalek Invasion of Earth.
So why, dear reader, was I waxing lyrical about Marco Polo earlier on in this review? Was it a ploy to get you to read on, would I be so manipulative? To find out, read on (see what I did there?!)
The story is in many ways typical early Hartnell, but also not. It is narrated and acted by William Russell who played Ian Chesterton and Carole Ann Ford who played Susan along with a supporting cast playing the other roles. Unlike the Companion Chronicles, this is a four part story, it is part acted, part narrated in the third and first person. The style does take a bit of getting used to and is quite distracting, but you do eventually get a feel for the story.
So the plot, as I said, quite typical Hartnell with the TARDIS arrives in a situation, the crew are separated from the TARDIS and accused of being spies. So far, so Hartnell.
They have arrived on the planet Hydra and typically for the Hartnell era, it’s a planet named after one of its features – it’s pretty much all water. The Hydrans have been invaded by the Voord, the most typical “man in a rubber suit” monster you can get, last seen in The Keys of Marinus, only this time they are a real threat – they have won. The Hydrans are a rag tag bunch of survivors on a flotilla of ships trying to fight back, then the Voord attack, the Doctor and Barbara are missing presumed dead, the TARDIS is lost, Ian and Susan have to deal with the loss of their loved ones whilst becoming part of the resistance against the Voord.
So far, so Hartnell – in fact it’s so atypically of the era that the Doctor and Barbara don’t even appear in episodes two and three. Listening to this I imagined it in black and white with model shots of ships and sci fi cities.
So why Marco Polo? Well, thank you for your patience. It reminds me very much of Marco Polo because of its epic scale and the time the story is set over. Ian and Susan are two months at sea with the Hydrans and it feels like a physical and emotional ordeal. There is a very, very interesting scene where Susan talks to a Voord prisoner, a chilling piece that I would have liked to have heard more of, almost a Clarice and Hannibal Lecter moment, you could cut the tension with a knife as Nebrin the captured Voord commander sizes up and tries to manipulate Susan – a very powerful scene. Lots are made of the Voord in this story, and a very silly one off monster are given a whole mythology which I hope is delved into again. How they recruit people to their cause is quite macabre, an almost David Cronenburg level of body horror is present.
A bit of an epic then? Yes in many ways, but it feels like it should have been shot on small sets in lime grove, and probably wouldn’t have been as epic on screen as it was on audio…
A bit like when Marco Polo was found and it wasn’t as good as the novel Winking face
Only joking……..or am I…..?
A great start to a new series, I look forward to hearing more 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara land on the planet Hydra, where Admiral Jonas Kaan leads a vast flotilla of ships trying to elude the vicious race that has invaded and occupied their world. But his ships are being picked off one by one, vessels and crews dragged underwater by an unseen foe.
The time travellers find themselves pitched into battle against the Voord, the ruthless enemy they last encountered on the planet Marinus. As they take the fight to the very heart of the territory now controlled by the Voord the stakes get higher. First they lose the TARDIS… then they lose that which they hold most dear. And that’s only the start of their troubles.
In the capital, Predora City, they will learn the truth of what it means to be a Voord. And that truth is horrifying.
William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Daisy Ashford (Amyra), Andrew Dickens (Jonas Kaan/Tarlak), Andrew Bone (Pan Vexel/Nebrin)
Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Following on from the success of their Afternoon with Andrew Cartmel event in May, Nick and Simon are back with another exciting event later this month!
Golden ages are very hard to define. They’re very personal and sometimes objects of contention. And knowing what a passionate lot us Doctor Who fans are, it is very difficult to define a “golden age”, but as a rule of thumb it’s usually the one that was on when you were a child. It doesn’t just encompass the television era, but also your life stage – extraneous things like family, friends, job, music, nights out all form part of the zeitgeist of a golden age.
Take me for example, I have three golden ages of Doctor Who – in reverse order they are 3. The Russell T Davies era, just what the Doctor ordered, it coincided with being totally in love, becoming a parent, having a wonderful circle of friends, moving house, changing career and becoming politically active. 2. Season 25 and 26 – I was an A Level student and finally felt Doctor Who was being made for me and for my generation – it was deep, gutsy and morally ambiguous. Which brings me on to 1. The Tom Baker era, or as I like to call it: “my childhood”. One of my earliest ever memories of anything is the cliffhanger for episode two of Robot – over the next few years the original mad man with a box became my friend – I lived for Doctor Who, even running away from a friend’s birthday party to watch episode two of City of Death. My childhood ended on 21 March 1981 when Tom regenerated and the world seemed a colder and less friendly place. But what memories – and none more vivid than the ones I have of Pyramids of a Mars, Talons of Weng-Chiang and Robots of Death. My little nine year old self had no idea of producers, but those half remembered childhood viewings were all from the era of Philip Hinchcliffe, and this dear reader brings my nicely on to Philip Hinchcliffe Presents.
This box set gives us two new stories for the Fourth Doctor and Leela. Both written by Philip Hinchcliffe and adapted for audio by Marc Platt.
The first of these is “The Ghosts of Gralstead” a six part story – of all the alien planets and strange civilisations the Doctor has visited, none are more alien and dangerous than Victorian London. This is where the Doctor and Leela find themselves, drawn into a world of freak shows, faith healers, body snatchers and the Scrivener family, a family with a secret. This story beautifully captures the essence of season 14, Tom is a more alien, more grumpy and much less flippant character than the wise cracking loon he was to become later on and is not one to suffer fools at all. He has a commanding presence that dominates every scene he is in, while Louise Jameson delights as always. She is just the most talented actress and a joy to listen to, every syllable she utters seems considered for maximum impact.
The story is really horrific, just the sort of thing Messers Hinchcliffe and Holmes delighted in serving up in their hey day, lots of death, destruction and a very black humour. Carolyn Seymour gives a chilling performance as Mordrega, the villain of the piece manipulating the weak willed Professor Scrivener, using his vanity and ambition against him, happily submitting to being a sort of “elephant woman” to achieve her aims. It’s all good stuff with twists and turns in every episode although it is maybe an episode too long with episode five seeming like padding. A strong story and completely evocative of the era 9/10.
The second story in the set is “The Devil’s Armada”, a four part story. Again this is set in England’s past, this time in the Elizabethan era. An England of paranoia about witches and goblins and spaniards and Catholics. The Doctor and Leela find themselves caught up in this intrigue getting accused of witch craft, spying and heresy and I would have been happy had thus been a pure historical about witch trials and the Spanish Armada, but it includes a monster called Vituperon. He looks like the Devil, can only be seen by those “gifted” and has a plan to take over the earth. It’s a shame as I found the inclusion of a monster the weak link in this story. There was enough content in the drama of the Elizabethan era, the intrigues and plotting of court and the sea battles, adding a monster seemed a bit obligatory. That’s not to say its a bad story, anything but! It zips along from crisis to crisis as events overtake our heroes. Tom gives a rousing speech to the privy council at one point which made me laugh and cheer in almost equal measure. If this was in a season it would be the inoffensive story that nobody dislikes but never really rated as a classic. 7/10.
So a great box set, really evocative of the era it represents, not a pastiche but a genuine continuation of a golden age written by one if the architects of that age 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Philip Hinchcliffe, acclaimed producer of Doctor Who (1975-77) returns to tell new stories for the Fourth Doctor and Leela.
“The starting point was there were a few basic ideas that were kicking around for another series, had we made it,” says Philip. “I thought this project would be fun to be involved with, and I’ve tried to and tell stories that are in the same spirit as the ones Robert Holmes and I were telling.”
The Ghosts of Gralstead (Six episodes)
The Doctor and Leela return to Victorian London, in the year 1860.
At St Clarence’s Hospital, respected surgeon Sir Edward Scrivener requires the bodies of the dead… At Doctor McDivett’s Exhibition of Living Wonders and Curiosities, miracles are afoot… And in Gralstead House, the ghost will walk again. Mordrega has come to Earth…
The Devil’s Armada (Four episodes)
The TARDIS lands in Sissenden Village in the sixteenth century. Catholic priests are hunted, so-called witches are drowned in the ducking stool, and in the shadows the Vituperon are watching… and waiting…
(Note that untypically for a Big Finish release, the extras disc is separately available as a Supplementary Download in a purchaser’s account, in order to reduce memory issues with opening the downloaded zip file)
The Ghosts of Gralstead
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela) Carolyn Seymour (Mordrega), Gethin Anthony (Sir Edward Scrivener), Martin Hutson (Professor Cedric Scrivener), Emerald O’Hanrahan (Clementine Scrivener), Alan Cox (Dr Gideon McDivett), Ivanno Jeremiah (Abasi), Andy Secombe (Jonas Bulmer), Sean Carlsen (Ned Davey), Mandi Symonds (Mrs Targate), Andrew French (Obingo)
The Devil’s Armada
Jamie Newall (William Redcliffe), Nigel Carrington (Sir Robert Harney), Alix Dunmore (Anne Harney), Joe Jameson (Nicholas Harney), Beth Chalmers (Mistress Pincham/Lady Jane Mountville), Philip Bretherton (Vituperon), Ben Porter (Father D’Arcy), Tim Bentinck (Ned Bones/Lord Burghley)
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: John Dorney
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Some things are special. Some things have that “something” that makes them stand out from the crowd. Sometimes the thing that is special is a person. They have a unique quality, a warmth, a world view, a turn of phrase, a certain way of speaking that makes them a one off or a national treasure. Without a shadow of a doubt Tom Baker is one of these people.
His warm fruity tone is known worldwide and his delightful take on the world is a joy to behold. But how can Tom be 80? It only feels like yesterday I was watching him fight a Krynoid or larking about with a wig on in Stones of Blood, or being delighfully witty and oh so in love in City of Death, yet time catches up with everyone, and the great man himself turned 80 last January. In celebration of this milestone, Big Finish stalwart, all round nice guy and sometime Dalek Nick Briggs spent a couple of hours having a chat with Tom – the result is Tom Baker at 80.
Now, this could have been a cynical money spinner, Tom just trotting out the old anecdotes about building sites, Shirley Williams, bus queues and grave stones – but it isn’t, not at all, not one little bit. What we get is two hours of delightfully honest conversation, not really an interview, more like two friends discussing life the universe and everything. There is a real warmth to Nick Briggs interviewing technique and Tom is on fabulous self depricating form dealing with such diverse topics as life, death, religion, the acting profession, his work and being the grand old age of 80 – but not necessarily in that order!
Tom really has mellowed over the years, yet his beautifully rich booming voice is still the same. When he dryly states that “…I am known for my saintlyness on Rye high street”, or that on his deathbed he would like “…a glass of wine and a pork pie”, you know you are in the hands of a true one off, not forced faux eccentricity, just the real measure of one of the gaints of British TV.
This release truly is a gem, a delightful, almost magical way to spend two hours. I paused it about 8 minutes before the end and left it for two days before I listened as I truly didn’t want it to end, yet it had to. To be honest, I felt quite melancholy when the end music played, not because it ended on a downbeat note, but because it had ended at all. I could have listend to Messers Baker and Briggs for hours more on end – in the words of Eleanor Bron in City of Death – “exquisite, simply exquisite”, in my words – marvellous! 80 out of 80 – here’s to 10 years time when Big Finish release a Tom Baker at 90.
Written by Ed Watkinson
In January 2014, Tom Baker celebrated his 80th birthday.
On March 19th, Tom sat down with Nicholas Briggs to look back over his 80 amazing years – his youth, his early acting career, his great success with Doctor Who and beyond… and his return to his most famous role with Big Finish.
This candid and intimate interview forms two fascinating hours of engaging entertainment in the unique company of Mr Baker.
All copies of the CD version purchased before 3rd September 2014 will be signed by Tom.
Tom Baker, Nicholas Briggs (Interviewer)
COMEDIAN FRANK SKINNER CHATS EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT HIS DOCTOR WHO ROLE – IN DWM 478!
FRANK SKINNER – Mummy on the Orient Express guest star, and life-long Doctor Who fan – speaks about his role in the new series, playing Perkins.
“I don’t know how I’ll feel when they say, ‘And that’s a wrap for Mr Skinner,’” Franks admits. “I’m sure I’ll go through a mix of emotions. When footballers are in cup finals, the managers always say, ‘Savour every moment,’ and that’s what I’m doing. Every moment is ‘wowee’!”
ALSO INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
- Extensive previews of Episodes 5 to 8 of the new series – Time Heist, The Caretaker, Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express. DWM talks exclusively to writers STEVEN MOFFAT, STEPHEN THOMPSON, GARETH ROBERTS, PETER HARNESS and JAMIE MATHIESON.
- Doctor Who showrunner STEVEN MOFFAT answers readers’ questions in his exclusive column.
- DWM talks to BILLY HANSHAW, the man who inspired the brand new title sequence for this year’s series of Doctor Who.
- DWM investigates the nature of ‘spoilers’ and asks if they really spoil anything?
- Into the Dalek writer PHIL FORD talks about getting to know a Dalek from the inside out!
- In-depth reviews the Twelfth Doctor’s first four adventures: Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood and Listen.
- As audio company Big Finish celebrates its 15th anniversary with an epic audio adventure, The Worlds of Doctor Who, DWM talks to its stars including COLIN BAKER, LOUISE JAMESON, LALLA WARD, CHRISTOPHER BENJAMIN, TREVOR BAXTER and JAMIE GLOVER.
- The Doctor and Clara’s comic strip adventures continue in The Eye of Torment written by Scott Gray, illustrated by Martin Geraghty.
- The Time Team comment on the 2008 Tenth Doctor adventure Turn Left.
- Jacqueline Rayner finds unexpected inspiration for her Relative Dimensions column at the breakfast table…
- A look back at August’s Doctor Who World Tour which saw PETER CAPALDI and JENNA COLEMAN travel round the globe to promote the new series.
- The Watcher eloquently explains why Doctor Who belongs in the Autumn in Wotcha!
- The DWM crossword, prize-winning competitions and much more!
Doctor Who Magazine 478 is on sale from Thursday 18 September 2014, priced £4.99.
Thanks to Tom Spilsbury
Listen will be shown this Saturday at 7.30pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.
Sequels, I can understand their popularity with creators and consumers – the public like it so let’s give them more of the same. The flip side if this of course is that the very people that loved the original tend to criticise the sequel for not being as funny or as innovative or just plain as good as the original. It’s a quandary for writers. Sometimes, very very rarely, sequels are better than the originals – Godfather Part 2, The Empire Strikes Back – but most of the time they are franchise killers like Ghostbusters 2 or a sequel too far like, (shudder), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
I ramble and digress as always, but I finally come to my point. This months main range release from Big Finish – Revenge of the Swarm is a sequel to The Invisible Enemy.
Not the most awe inspiring starting point, even the most generous fan would rate Invisible Enemy as average, whilst received opinion is that it is a bit of a dud. But does the sequel breathe new life into the original story or will it be languishing at the bottom of Big Finish popularity polls just as it’s TV progenitor does in TV polls?
The story sees my favourite classic Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, make his first appearance in a Big Finish story since last December’s Afterlife, following on from that story he is accompanied by Ace and Hector played by Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier. Things start off pretty normally, Ace and the Doctor venturing out into the Titan base they have landed in, Hector, left behind in the TARDIS attempting to work some controls on the console, when a crackle go light discharges into him and “contact has been made”. It seems that the residue of the Nucleus of the Swarm has been dormant in the TARDIS console since the time of the Fourth Doctor waiting…..
It seems like the Nucleus has been playing a very long game, and like the new series on TV this story involves time travel. But unlike the TV series, everything is locked into place and what will be most definitely will be. Nucleus of the swarm wants to ensure its own creation which in turn will lead to its universal domination.
The plot is pure “B-Movie” but done so well and plotted so tightly that this can be taken as a compliment. In fact it could translate quite easily to the big screen as a summer blockbuster. Jonathan Morris has again delivered the goods when it comes to Big Finish – I have said it before and I will say it again, let him write for the TV series, he really is quite superb.
I make no secret of my love of the Seventh Doctor and McCoy really is on form here as devious and manipulative as he has ever been, but tinged with a compassion and vulnerability often missing.
Do I like it? Yes I do! Is it perfect? No, but it is very very good indeed AND it has made me want to watch The Invisible Enemy again – no mean feat there. In the end, it is what it is, a rip roaring space romp and as this it succeeds, it even has John Leeson back as the Nucleus of the Swarm and you don’t get much better than that!
Overall, contact has been made at 8/10
Written by Ed Watkinson
The Doctor thought he had defeated the microscopic Nucleus of the Swarm in his fourth incarnation. He was wrong. It survived within the TARDIS, and now it has brought it back to Titan Base, back to the point of its own creation. It has a plan that spans centuries, a plan which will result in the Nucleus becoming more powerful – and larger – than ever before.
To defeat it, the Doctor, Ace and Hex must confront the Nucleus within its new domain – the computer-world of the Hypernet, the information network crucial to the survival of the human empire. But if the Doctor is to save the day, he has to risk everything and everyone he holds dear…
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hector Thomas), John Leeson (The Nucleus of the Swarm/Computer), Mandi Symonds (Shafira), Maggie Service (Root/Receptionist), John Heffernan (Vonchef), Phyllida Nash (Professor Oksana Kilbracken), Siobhan Redmond (Talin), John Dorney (Lugerman), Paul Panting (Security Guard Brabbeko)
Zygon’s are perennially popular with Doctor Who fans, it’s a mystery to me why they took nearly 40 years to make a return to TV Doctor Who – a great design, a very well received story and an interesting race.
The last story in the latest series of audio adventures for the Fourth Doctor and Leela sees the Zygons making a comeback and getting a sequel they didn’t get on TV.
The action takes place on the planet Garros, a humid jungle planet where a bunch of arrogant soldiers led by Knight Commander Greg Saraton (played with sneering glee by Michael Maloney) are on a big game hunt, or, in reality, indiscriminately slaughtering the indigenous population for “sport” – but there is something in the jungle, something big and deadly and something that really shouldn’t be there at all…….
Again Big Finish have really cracked it with the atmosphere, the sound design is pure “season 15″, and whilst Who has often “borrowed” from classic Hammer, the first episode of this story reminded me very much of the 1972 Amicus Film “The Beast Must Die” – a lot of characters, the audience knows one if them is a monster in disguise, so do a couple of the protagonists, and it’s almost a race against time to uncover the Zygon.
The tone changes in episode two, it almost, and I stress almost becomes a traditional invasion story but has a strong sense of morality and a positive message that no one is beyond redemption as long as they have an open mind.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are as excellent as ever as are the guest cast, especially Gillian Kearney as Mina Challis – a character with genuine depth. The story finishes with a wonderful soliloquy by Tom Baker which rounds the season off quite nicely and leaves us wanting more.
After last months cerebral tour de force that was “The Abandoned”, this release is a lot more grounded and traditional. The Doctor and Leela arrive in the middle of a situation, get involved and help to resolve it. Traditional with a beginning, a middle and an end, tightly plotted and well acted and as good as this is, it may be just a little predictable – not that this is a bad thing but I tried to second guess it and got it completely wrong expecting plot twists and tangents that were not there, proof that sometimes over thinking and over complicating are not necessary when the story zips along like this one does.
Overall, I suggest that this is well worth hunting down 7.5/10
Written by Ed Watkinson
On the jungle planet Garros, Earth Forces Knight Commander-in-Chief Greg Saraton and his team are hunting gigantic beasts, for sport. When the Doctor and Leela arrive, they are caught up in a web of intrigue where there is no clear friend or foe.
What is Saraton’s vital connection with Earth’s Solar System’s Defence Shield? Why are the giant reptilian birds of Garros attacking? What terrible secret lurks deep within the trees?
Before the truth can be revealed, a heavy price will be extracted and loyalties will be tested to the limit.
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Michael Maloney (Gregor Saraton), Gillian Kearney (Mina Challis), James George (Knight Commander Elunas), Steven Alexander (Knight Commander Ollerie), Nicholas Briggs (Baragor/Zygons/Knights)
Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs