REVIEW – THE HESITATION DEVIATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #24 is a Seventh Doctor and Benny story.

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

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

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Lisa Bowerman (Narrator)

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REVIEW – COLD FUSION

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

Written By: Lance Parkin
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

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

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – ORIGINAL SIN

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Things will never be the same again.

Based on the 1995 New Adventures novel by Andy Lane.

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

Cast

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

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE SONTARANS

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: John Dorney

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – QUICKSILVER

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

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

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

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

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

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

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

It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:

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

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

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

And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!

Written By: Matt Fitton

Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

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

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor Alan Barnes

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs 

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REVIEW – ABSOLUTE POWER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Written By Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

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

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

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

Written By: Jamie Anderson

Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Paul Reynolds(Lyam Yce), Jenny Bede (Florrie/Medical Doctor), Arian Nik (Ammar Elkady), Neil Edmond (Professor Aryan Wyke/Mine Worker), Gary Martin (Kohrbal), Esther Hall(Pheenan). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor Alan Barnes

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – DARK SHADOWS: HAUNTING MEMORIES

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

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

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

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

 Hell Wind by Marcy Robin

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

 Communion by Adam Usden

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

 The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker

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

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

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

 A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham

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

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

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

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

Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…

Hell Wind by Marcy Robin

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

Communion by Adam Usden

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

The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker

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

A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham

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

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

Directed By: Darren Gross

Cast

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

 

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REVIEW – THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE

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

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

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

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

 Another strong entry in to the Short Trips canon, a story that will stay with the listener long after the end credits have rolled and a story that demands multiple listens to appreciate the subtlety of the story telling – a pioneering 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

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

Release #23 is an Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard story.

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

Producer Michael Stevens

Script Editor Jacqueline Rayner

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Ian Atkins

Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

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

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

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

 2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

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

 2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

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

 2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton

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

 2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney

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

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

 Written by Ed Watkinson

 Synopsis

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

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

2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

Steed gets toyed with, Emma has an admirer.

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

2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

Steed catches a bite, Emma is a little cowed.

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

2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton

Steed charms a princess, Emma buys a hat

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

2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney

Steed hits a boundary, Emma shall go to the ball

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

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

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – UNIT: SILENCED

“You should kill us all on sight” – that was the instruction from The Silence spliced in to the Moon Landing footage by the 11th Doctor way way back in 1969. And it looks like humanity have been obliging and slowly over the last four and a bit decades The Silence have been bumped off by humanity, and humanity don’t even remember doing it.

For anyone coming in to the story late, this is the third new series UNIT box set by Big Finish, and it is a little bit different – more cerebral with less emphasis on action (even though it is action packed) and as per the title it features New Who villains – The SIlence.

 Now then The Silence have a singular ability – you can see them when you are looking at them, but once you turn away you forget you have ever seen them, making it very difficult to combat them – an enemy which you cannot even remember seeing or interacting with, a villain fighting back agains a subliminal message that has been slowly killing them off, you can almost sympathise with them. Almost as their plan for revenge is convoluted and despicable.

 The Britain in this UNIT is frighteningly familiar – a populist right wing buffoon enthuses the masses with rhetoric on immigration and making Britain “great” again is riding high in the polls despite being inept, an embattled Prime Minister tries to hold her Government together against growing calls for a no confidence vote. And in the background are The Silence, plotting, scheming, manipulating and planning their revenge…..

 As I said earlier this box set is a departure from the style of the previous two UNIT stories, the contemporary political setting gives this a sense of reality – we can all guess who right wing buffoon and pretender to the office of Prime Minister Kenneth LeBlanc (Nicholas Day) is based on – and the whole sense of the country sleepwalking into disaster is played out in an almost documentary style – this feels more like the Season 7 UNIT of the Pertwee era, all cloak and dagger and a little sinister rather than the UNIT of the new series and gives the new team more depth and the characters more time to breathe. The slower pace really benefits the character of Sam Bishop (Warren Brown) who is given a much more prevalent role in the proceedings.

 As is the tradition, the set is one story split in to four parts:

  1. House of Silents

 With Colonel Shindi (Ramon Tikaram) back on active duty and given the job of surveillance of one Miss Faversham (Joanna Wake) a blind, elderley philanthropist who is happy to give the disposessed and the desperate a home – the thing is people visit her home but don’t come out, Colonel Shindi has seen this, but then he cant remember how many have gone in or come out. A tense and at times frustrating (not in a plotting but in a character way) opening – I was literally shouting at the cast to look out for Silents – but they didn’t hear me, and then they didn’t remember. Ingrid Oliver is excellent as Osgood – the scene where she explores the attic in Miss Faversham’s house and encounters her lodgers is as tense as it gets. A very good start to a very different UNIT box set.

 2. Square One

 How do you combat an enemy that you cannot remember? How do you cope when a member of your team suddenly and without warning defects to help a right wing demagogue? How do you put together the holes in the narrative to make sense of what is going on? This is the dilemma facing Kate (Jemma Redgrave), Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and Sam (Warren Brown) when Josh Carter’s (James Joyce) politics take a turn to the right and all the threads of the investigation that nobody remembers are reinvestigated.

Square One is an apt title as for the characters this is the first time that they have encountered and investigated the Silence and their plan – and what a very clever plan it is, in fact to quote Blackadder you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel – their plan is. No, I have forgotten…….

 3. Silent Majority

 The Prime Minister has resigned, Kenneth LeBlanc is riding high in the polls and is on the verge of winning an unprecedented majority in Parliament. But why is this buffoon so popular, surely if a malevolent alien force was manipulating the electorate they would remember about it? The Silence plan is incredibly complex and has been a very very long game and their aim is to try to manipulate events to create a phenomenon seen by as many people as the Moon Landings. In the age of social media and viral videos the Silence have upped their game and are using every trick in their devious playbook to achieve their aims – we were told by The Doctor to kill them on sight, how far will they go to counteract that message? A tense political thriller all leading up to the count at the constituency that LeBlanc is standing in, all the pieces are in place and a soon forgotten victory is about to be achieved.

 4. In Memory Alone

 This is an odd episode, very odd – it somehow doesn’t feel part of the main story, and to begin with it feels disjointed and an afterthought. As if Big Finish would let that happen. This is a coda to the Silence plan – their final revenge for the quiet war that the Doctor has inflicted on them through humanity. They plan to leave humanity powerless and divided and unable to ever harm them again.

 A brave move for Big Finish to go away from the tried and tested UNIT formula and go for a completely different take on things. The oddly disjointed feel of the set and paranoid tone works because of the enemy and the methods that they use – when you cant even trust your own memories how can you trust yourself, your friends & your colleagues? Disjointed I think is an apt word for this set – part alien revenge, part political thriller, part cautionary tale about populism and part sequel and clearing up of a mess left by The Doctor UNIT – Silenced dares to be different, to stand out from convention and to try something a little different – and while its sometimes frustrating it is always rewarding and the build ups pay off, the victory really does feel earned by the characters as they have all in their different ways suffered during the series of events. Silence will fall and UNIT – Silenced is awarded a none too quiet 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Decades after their defeat by the Eleventh Doctor, the Silence prepare to rise against humanity….

1. House of Silents

 There is no record of the presence of an alien species known as ‘The Silents’ on Earth. UNIT has never engaged hostiles capable of editing themselves from observers’ memories.

 There is no evidence that such an opponent, if real, is regrouping and beginning a new plan of infiltration and manipulation.

 Kate Stewart and her team are in no mortal danger. How can they be, when they don’t even know the enemy exists?

 2. Square One

 It’s business as usual at UNIT, and thankfully, Kate Stewart has no immediate threats to concern her. Or so she believes.

 But when Sam Bishop returns from leave, he notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Soon he and Osgood are on the trail of an elusive enemy.

Meanwhile, Kenneth LeBlanc and his controversial political movement gather momentum, and one UNIT team member isn’t quite themselves…

3. Silent Majority

Kenneth LeBlanc looks set to lead his party to national victory, overturning political opinion and taking the polls by storm. UNIT can only stand and watch as a silent revolution takes place.

 But who are LeBlanc’s real backers? And what use to them is the triumph of a leader who seems to be nothing more than a liability?

The Silents are about to make the headlines.

4. In Memory Alone

When Sam Bishop and Osgood visit an orbiting space station for a routine mission, they have no idea that they are part of an alien scheme, years in the planning.

 As the global situation spins out of control, Kate seeks help from an unlikely source.

The Silents are not done with humanity yet – and they will have their revenge.

Written By: Matt Fitton, John Dorney

Directed By: Ken BentleyCast

Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Petronella Osgood), Warren Brown(Lieutenant Sam Bishop), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Ramon Tikaram(Colonel Shindi), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Joanna Wake (Miss Faversham), Nicholas Day (Kenneth LeBlanc/Heston), Tom Alexander (Cecil/Derek), Aaron Neil(Homeless Man/News Reporter/David), Nimmy March (Baroness Vance/Telokni), John Banks (Mission Control/Captain/Soldier) and Nicholas Briggs as The Silence. Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editors Matt Fitton and John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – SURVIVORS SERIES 5

This is the story of Carol Baker. Nothing more, nothing less, its the story of one woman. Yes there are other characters and no she’s not in all of the story but her shadow is long over the proceedings – Carol Baker is the catalyst, the reason that everything that happens in these four dark and harrowing tales that make up Survivors Series 5. Survivors has long been established as a groundbreaking drama – a terrifying vision of a world with no laws, where the law of the jungle has taken over and where civilisation has fallen. A stark, bleak world with no hope, a world of fear and suspicion, but, and it is a big but – there is a glimmer of hope – people like Greg Preston (Ian McCulloch) & Jenny (Lucy Fleming) are in the early stages of building a federation – a trading network between the new communities that have sprung up since 99% of the worlds population died from the plague. A new society is springing up from the ruins of our civilisation – surely nothing can stop the inevitable rise of the true spirit of humanity?

 This is where we find ourselves in series 5 – a fledgling society, hanging by a thread – a brave new world there for the taking and then we visit the community of Maythorne and everything starts to come apart because Maythorne is where we meet Carol Baker. Theres that name again so lets find out a little more about her. Before the “death” Carol was an army medic and now she is the default Doctor at the Maythorne community – Carol is a believable and “real” character and is beautifully written and those words are brought to life by Neve McIntosh – giving Carol traits that are abhorrent and frightening and also a vulnerability and a pathetic desperation – this woman has nowhere to turn, no one she can turn to and has a fate which is pretty much sealed from the first part of this story – but the journey she takes and the journey of those who’s lives she touches are drawn in blood and sweat and suffering, in fear and anger and even in love. This is a box set that will stay with the listener for a very very long time.

 5.1 The Second Coming by Andrew Smith

 Maythorne is where it all begins and where we meet Carol Baker for the first time, she and Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) are out foraging and are captured by bandits led by Healy (Sean Biggerstaff) This is the beginning of a chain of events that will bring devastation to the new society being forged – because people were not the only Survivors, the plague has survived as well, a new strain of the plague, more virulent than last time and with no antibiotics to combat it – Maythorne is just the beginning. As opening episodes go this sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the set. Its slow paced and deliberate and builds up the character of Carol as the layers of secrecy are peeled away and her awful secret that will bring so much suffering are revealed and then, when she seems almost pitiable when the listener wants to reach out and help her, her true nature, or to be more accurate the true nature of her desperation are revealed. Shocking and moving with awful repercussions Survivors has been to some dark places, but this is one of the darkest.

 5.2 New Blood by Christopher Hatherall

 Greg & Jenny visit the neighbouring community to their home at Whitecross – the community of Springton is having a good natured border dispute with Whitecross over hunting rights and Greg is going to speak to the Council. The people of Springton led by Silas Broome (Richard Hope) have embraced paganism – Stone circles, animal sacrifice – like something from the Wicker Man. The old gods protect their community – but when a certain Carol Baker arrives death follows her and the old gods seems to have abandoned Springton. What follows is a grim and desperate race against time Greg and Jenny are in genuine danger, Jenny’s fear is real, Greg is out of his depth. Barbarism masquerading as religion from people who have lost and are losing again to the new “death” that is spreading like wildfire. Bleak, genuinely downbeat but a drama unlike any other.

 5.3 Angel of Death by Simon Clark

 Abby Grant is making her way from community to community to warn people of the new “death” – meanwhile Greg and Jenny hear of a community that has an electricity generator so go to set up a dialogue and meets Pearl (Donna Berlin) who is trying to get the generator working. Meanwhile Jenny hears a story of an “Angel of Death” that has been moving from community to community infecting people with the new plague – and she has visited this community, and it is not long before the plague is raging. Survivors has never been so desperate – every life lost is another nail in the coffin of the human race – the fledgling society is crumbling before our eyes and this is down to one woman, a woman we know as Carol Baker, a woman known and spoken of in fear as the Angel of Death….

 5.4 Come the Horsemen by Andrew Smith

 And so it ends. It has to, society has to survive. It deserves to. What doesn’t kill makes us stronger but at what price? As Abby Grant and Evelyn Piper (Zoe Tapper) continue the search for Abby’s son Peter, Greg and Jenny are faced with an almost impossible choice as our story leads us full circle back to Maythorne. Retribution is coming for the Angel of Death, retribution in the form of horsemen with murderous intent. A difficult listen, a very difficult listen and completely morally ambiguous, do we hate Carol, do we pity her, do we agree with the horsemen? It is up to the listener – but whatever you think the ending will stay with you a long time after the closing credits.

 All the best box sets work on many levels and this is one of the best – its a morality tale, its a broken mirror to the world we live in, its a character study, its a battle of humanity against the virus but more than anything this is the story of Carol Baker. A tale of despair, a tale of hope and a tale of the spirit of humanity both good and bad – and its another classic 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

It begins with just a few people falling ill. Another flu virus that spreads around the globe. And then the reports begin that people are dying…

When most of the world’s population is wiped out, a handful of survivors are left to pick up the pieces.

Cities become graveyards. Technology becomes largely obsolete. Mankind must start again. But viruses are survivors too…

5.1 The Second Coming by Andrew Smith

Millions died when the plague swept the globe. Such a thing couldn’t possibly happen again – or could it?

When Abby Grant and Evelyn Piper both arrive at Carol Baker’s Maythorne community, a chain of events is set in motion that could unleash a new wave of death across the country.

5.2 New Blood by Christopher Hatherall

Danger surrounds Whitecross when a simple border dispute exposes deadly tensions between those who live side by side.

Greg Preston and Jenny Richards soon find themselves fighting for their lives, as people in the grip of a terrible new fear turn to the old ways to protect themselves…

5.3 Angel of Death by Simon Clark

Emerging from a quarantined Whitecross, Greg and Jenny discover that the danger they glimpsed at Springton is far from over.

Meanwhile, as isolated communities find themselves exposed to a disease they know nothing about, Abby joins a desperate race to save lives.

5.4 Come the Horsemen by Andrew Smith

In times of crisis, rumour and fear run rife across the decimated landscape of Britain. Evelyn and Abby experience the lethal effects of this panic first hand.

At such times the worst of humanity is exposed. Can Greg and Jenny find the best in those around them? Or is there no way to avoid the coming of the horsemen?

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

Written By: Andrew Smith, Christopher Hatherall and Simon Clark
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant), Ian McCulloch (Greg Preston), Lucy Fleming(Jenny), Fiona Sheehan (Hannah), Zoe Tapper (Evelyn Piper), Neve McIntosh(Carol Baker), Sean Biggerstaff (Healy), Barnaby Edwards (John Woodley/Old Scavenger/Stuart), Andy Secombe (Ben Turner), Fintan McKeown (Patrick Regan), Richard Hope (Silas Broome), Alex Clatworthy (Summer Broome/Elsie), Donna Berlin (Pearl Ironsmith), Ekow Quartey (Dylan), Elizabeth Payne (Beatrice/Margo), Roger May (Lenny Bryson)

Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – TORCHWOOD: OUTBREAK

Remember when Torchwood was event TV, remember when pretty much everyone you knew was into it, remember that summer of 2009 when Children of Earth was the only thing that seemed to be talked about in your workplace? Great times eh? One of those times when the “not we” finally appreciated what we had been going on about for all of those years – it didn’t last long, but for one glorious week the geeks had inherited the Earth.

 This months special release “Torchwood: Outbreak” does much the same – and I lay my claim on the phrase “event audio” because that is what this release is – its an event, its a blockbuster disaster/conspiracy movie condensed into audio format, it takes the characters we know and love Jack (John Barrowman), Gwen (Eve Myles), Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) & Rhys (Kai Owen) and it puts them through hell – literally hell on earth, completely through the wringer both physically and emotionally like they never have been before. The Outbreak is real, the danger is real the threat of armageddon has never been more close – and it all happens in Cardiff.

 I often hark back to Jon Pertwee’s “Yeti on the Loo in Tooting Bec” anecdote, and this has never been more true than with Outbreak – it takes place in a real, recognisable Cardiff, when Gwen tells Rhys on her phone that she is on Bute Street, I can picture it, when families speak of going to the betting shop or out for milk it adds a punch of reality – this is what real people do – but what is this armageddon that has befallen Cardiff? what is the Outbreak of the story title? It all begins with one man, one lone escapee from a medical trial loose on the streets of Cardiff. One man, patient zero to pretty much bring the City to its knees.

 The story is very “event”, very true to life with rolling news, interviews and fast cutting between the main players – remember how the epic Doctor Who finales were under Russel T Davies and you get the idea – Torchwood is RTD’s baby and the style of story telling is very much an homage to the great man. And so one man brings disaster to Cardiff, and he asks for Torchwood so PC Andy (Tom Price) involves Captain Jack Harkness – but Jack has seen this virus before and soon we are contending with a 60 year old conspiracy involving the mysterious Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) as well as Jack fighting the infection. As always the humanity and grounding of the story is brought to us via the relationship between Gwen & Rhys. Rhys is on his way back to Cardiff after being abroad driving & is caught outside the “ring of steel” that the army have erected to quarantine Cardiff, but he isn’t going to let a little thing like a quarantine get between him and being reunited with his wife. Whilst all the epic end of the world viral outbreak things are going on the story hits all the emotional points by making this all about the different lead characters relationships.

 The villain of the piece is one Frances Godalming (Marilyn Le Conte) an icy cold corporate mouthpiece for the medical research company responsible for the “good thinking” virus as we find out it is called, and sees the outbreak as an opportunity to further her career.

 Had this box set been a TV series it would no doubt have been “event TV”, but do you know, it is so good I will settle for event audio & pity the poor people who don’t get to listen to it. A non stop, knock down, drag out epic of a story – I can only hope we get more event audio very soon. From the disturbing beginning to Rhys’ determination to get in to Cardiff, to Gwen rallying the citizens like a welsh Boudicca, to the quieter moments with Jack & Ianto, this is full of classic punch the air moments and I will never look at parts of Cardiff in the same way again. An infectious 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

“First they know you, then you love, then you kill…”

Incubation – Prodromal – Invasion

A medical trial’s gone terribly wrong, and one of the test subjects is loose on the streets of Cardiff. Within hours a virus is raging out of control and the bodies start piling up.

The Government scrambles to control the outbreak, but isn’t too keen on anyone finding out the dark history of the virus. Captain Jack Harkness has encountered the infection before and knows that something alien is hiding inside it.

With the city sealed off and murderous mobs rampaging through the streets, Torchwood has to save something even more important than the human race.

Written By: Guy Adams, Emma Reeves & AK Benedict
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (PC Andy Davidson), Marilyn Le Conte (Frances Godalming), Simon Ludders (Luke Palmer), Samuel Barnett (Norton Folgate), Melanie Stevens (Dr. Larsen), Sara Lloyd (Emilia Martin), Steffan Rhodri (Minister), Ruth Lloyd (Paramedic), Matthew Gravelle (Doctor), Rhys Ap Trefor (Road Block Captain), Keiron Self (Bernie), Samuel Harris (Young Man)

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

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REVIEW – THE RAVELLI CONSPIRACY

Ooh this is good, really good. Remember when the lost stories from the 1960’s started coming out on CD (anyone remember CD :-) ) with a bit of narration from a cast member for the action bits? Well that is what “The Ravelli Conspiracy” is like. Its so authentic that it could quite easily be a lost story from late Season 2 or early season 3 – think The Romans. The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters and you will not be too far from the feel. Its an historical, it has no “sci-fi” traits part from the main cast and the TARDIS and it features the Doctor, Steven & Vicki having a whale of a time in early 16th century Italy.

 Oh yes indeed – The Early Adventures have really hit the ground running this year, we have had space opera, shadow play and now a celebrity historical and this celebrity figure is none other than Nicolo Machiavelli. Now there is an interesting historical figure the very name Machiavelli conjures up ideas of a mad schemer, a tyrannical despot, master puppeteer pulling the strings of destiny of someone having plans. But when we meet him Machiavelli (Mark Frost) is a broken man, a man under house arrest at his own farm, a man who lives only at the good will of Pope Leo X (Robert Hands) and his brother the Captain General of Florence Guiliano de Medici (Jamie Ballard) and this is where our heroes enter the story.

 Lets step back a bit and look at the Hartnell era – this story really is rather typical but do you know, its familiarity makes it even more charming. The Doctor wants to take Vicki & Steven to the Olympics in the far future – they talk about “futuristic” sports in a very 1960’s sort of way and then due to an error arrive in Florence 1514. Then they get separated – Vicki & Steven arrested by Medici guards whilst the Doctor stays in the farmhouse to converse with Machiavelli – the TARDIS is also taken to the Pope by the Medici guards so they are all separated from their means of escape and get into all sorts of scrapes before being reunited with the TARDIS. I was a little bit critical of Order of the Daleks earlier this week for being too familiar – I wouldn’t have The Ravelli Conspiracy any other way, it works just as you expect it to work – leads separated, different plot strands to get to the same place, Vicki being wooed by Pope Leo has echoes of Nero lusting after Barbara, but with a bit of a modern twist, the Doctor making his own way to Florence and ingratiating himself with the Pope by pretending to be a cloth merchant, Steven captured and caught up in a plot to assassinate the Pope and all the Medici – and at the centre of it is the mysterious Ravelli family, a family who revolted against the Medici and are now hell bent on taking down the Pope and his administration, a family in hiding but with a lot of influence. But who is playing who? who is the real leader of the conspiracy? All this and much more is revealed throughout the four joyous episodes.

 Its such a shame that the pure historical has been dropped and is very unfashionable – there is so much scope to play about with keeping history on track with no “timey-wimey” histrionics, The Ravelli Conspiracy proves that you can be both traditional and fresh at the same time, and do you know, knowing how the story would play out did not spoil it one little bit, it was like dusting off a DVD of an old favourite like The Myth Makers…. (only joking)

 All the actors are on top form, Peter Purves gives an incredible Hartnell whilst Maureen O’Brien slips comfortable between the young Vicki & her own voice as narrator, the guest cast give a heightened performance that is reminiscent of 1960’s TV – cod Shakespearean with one foot in camp, wonderful stuff. I offer my confession that I have utterly loved this story & award it an historical 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

When the TARDIS lands in a house in Florence, Italy in 1514, it isn’t long before the guards of Guiliano de Medici arrest Steven and Vicki. To rescue them, the Doctor has to employ the help of the house’s owner – one Niccolo Machiavelli. But can he be completely trusted?

Guiliano confesses to his brother Pope Leo X that he has angered the wealthy family of Ravelli and believes the newcomers may be part of an assassination plot. But when the Doctor arrives an already tricky situation starts to spiral out of control.

As the city rings with plot and counter-plot, betrayal and lies abound. The Doctor and his friends must use all their ingenuity if they’re not to be swept away by history.

This conspiracy is about to get complicated…

Written By: Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor/The Doctor/Narrator), Mark Frost (Niccolo Machiavelli), Jamie Ballard (Guiliano de Medici), Robert Hands (Pope Leo X), Olivia Poulet (Carla), Joe Bor (Guard Captain). 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 – ORDER OF THE DALEKS

After 53 years is there really anything else that you can do with The Daleks? Earth Invasion – Check, Genesis story – Check, Searching for Human Factor – Check, going inside a Dalek – Check. Its pretty much all been done and as a story this months main range Order of the Daleks doesn’t really tread any new ground – Daleks have invaded a Medieval colony and are using properties of said colony to control and trying to expand their influence. What is stunning and new about this story is the design of the Daleks (pitch to Big Finish – Daleks commandeer a fashion house and try to take over the world through haute couture “Design of the Daleks”……. ok maybe not :-) )

But the design in this story is extraordinary – just take a good look at the cover art – these are Stained Glass Daleks made from bits and pieces that the order of monks who have had the misfortune to attempt to help them after their crash have supplied. The monks have also supplied “nutrient” – their own blood to nourish the Dalek mutants and animal stomachs for them to hibernate in. So far so gruesome – and it is, in a very season 22 sort of way – it is almost a Revelation of the Daleks style black comedy. But lets rewind a bit as I have been a bit carried away by Stained Glass Daleks…

 The setting is the planet Strellin where Census taker Pendle (John Savident of Fred Elliott fame) and his assistant Asta (Olivia Hallinan) are taking numbers on this Grade Three planet when they encounter Old Sixie & Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) who really have no business being there as no off worlders are allowed – teaming up and visiting the local monastery after the Doctor receives a psychic summons and then its all Daleks invading, mind controlled monks and a plot to use the Monks special black flower to enable the Daleks to transfer their consciousness into anyone in the Universe.

 Its a pretty standard story, heavy on the fruity acting, heavy on the melodrama and a healthy amount of being captured and escaping and a lot of creepy “body horror” with extra gore – all in all a bread & butter Doctor Who story and there really is nothing wrong with that.

 The acting treads a very fine line between farce and horror with John Savident & Colin Baker making an excellent pairing switching effortlessly between scenery chewing and deathly serious – some of the best scenes are when Old SIxie confronts the Abbot (Nick Briggs) and tries to, well you will just have to listen to find out….

The star of the show for me though is Miranda Raison as Mrs Clarke – fast becoming one of my favourite companions in any medium, she is getting a real character journey and the layers of prissy middle class woman are slowly being peeled away as we get to know her more.

 Its one of those stories, almost the type of story that we take for granted, traditional and very much a “Dalek” story and follows the conventions of that type. A solid 7/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send…

Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke (AWOL) have only just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren’t the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilised world in the galaxy!

Written By: Mike Tucker
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), John Savident(Pendle), Olivia Hallinan (Asta), Robbie Stevens (Boswyck/Raspak), Sam Fletcher(Rosco/Gabber), Joseph Kloska (Habrild), and Nicholas Briggs (Tanapal and The Daleks). Other parts portrayed by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – THE CONFESSIONS OF DORIAN GRAY SERIES 5

I do like a musical interlude – and an occasion as momentous as the end of the story of Dorian Gray deserves one. But with typical extravagance I have blessed this collection with two musical interludes -  oh you lucky lucky people :-)

 So Dorian Gray, literary hedonist, creation of Oscar Wilde. Everyone knows he had a portrait in the attic (cue QI Klaxons) which kept him young, pure and beautiful – that ensured that his life of excess didn’t touch him that he Dorian Gray was immortal whilst the portrait became more and more diseased and monstrous as it took the effects of a life of unfettered hedonism. Dorian was immortal. But can immortality end is it possible that Dorian has reached the end of the line or will he get his happy ever after? time for song I think

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK0OSh4Whr4

 As 80’s pop/rock sensation Wendy James says in the song “Every Beginning is the start of an end” and this box set really is the end but the end begins at the beginning and ends, well it ends with an Ever After and in-between we get to explore some of the more permanent and moving relationships in Dorian’s long long life – the whole set has a feeling of melancholy and of impending doom and of relationships ending like leaves falling from an autumn tree long into winter when they had no right to actually be there and blowing away to oblivion and of the tree weeping at the loss of a friend that it has held on to for far too long…

 There is a lyrical beauty that Dorian Gray inspires, listening to the four episodes feels intrusive on the intimate innermost thoughts of the protagonists and their relationships with Dorian we see Dorian as Oscar Wilde, James Anderson & Dorothy Parker saw hime because these are THEIR confessions about Dorian rather than Dorian’s confessions and this set takes the listener on an hazy journey from 19th century Paris to the dawning of McCarthyism to 2016.

 Hazy because I think that the story tellers may be unreliable narrators – there always was an otherworldly slightly off centre feeling listening to Confessions, but in this set the feeling is amplified and no more than in the opening story “One Must Not Look At Mirrors” by Guy Adams which has the first meeting of Oscar Wilde (Steffan Rhodri) with Dorian Gray and Wilde becoming obsessed with deranged painter Richard Dadd (Ben Crystal) who may or may not be the inspiration for a series of gruesome murders -  a surreal whodunnit (or maybe not) was anything actually done at all, is is Wilde misremembering or having fever dreams on his deathbed – its up to the listener to decide.

 Following on is Angel of War by Roy Gill, narrated in a confessional style by James Anderson (Daniel Brocklebank) as he tells of his experience of meeting the impossible charming rogue Dorian Gary in the trenches of World War 1 and how he fell in love with Dorian and how on a mission to no mans land to retrieve a sacred bell Dorian came back from the dead and how history can be rewritten so that the tragic becomes the heroic.

 From world war 1 we go to post world war 2 Hollywood USA – the spectre of McCarthyism hangs over The Valley of Nightmares by David Llewelyn as Dorothy Parker (Sarah Douglas) recounts a tale of a party she and Dorian attended where a child star down on his luck accuses producer Walter Van Kirk (Mac McDonald) of being involved in ritual murder – and much like the David Lynch classic film Blue Velvet, scratch the surface of “respectable” America and its rotten to the core.

 And then the end the “Ever After” by Scott Handcock – a poignant and moving on the one hand but a tirade of rage on the other hand. A tale of the end. Because at the end of the day don’t we all want to be surrounded by our families and friends in familiar happy surroundings? Don’t we want to reflect on who we are and what we have done and take stock of the path that has led us to where we are today – but if you have lived as long and as morally dubious life as Dorian what will that bring? Dorian’s soul is laid bare at the end of everything. No more no less.

 A difficult listen, awkward velvet drenched, absinthe stained smelling of too many late nights and too many chances taken and too many friends and lovers betrayed. If this were music it would be a combination of The Velvet Underground, The Smiths and Cradle of Filth – but who needs easy listening, who wants cosy when being made to feel uncomfortable has never been so enjoyable – if David Lynch, David Cronenberg, The Marquis de Sade & Oscar Wilde had collectively managed to conceive a child it would be Scott Handcock – because Mr Handcock has created something of pain & beauty in equal parts and at the end of everything has produced perhaps his greatest work – a surreal nightmarish trip into world of perception where characters are all trapped in their personal hell of their own making and try to make their short time on this world count for something, anything. They all know the truth but all in their own ways fight against the inevitable, Oscar against his impending death, James against being irrelevant and Dorothy against getting old – all mirrors held up to Dorian Gray.

 I cant finish this review without mentioning the man himself – Alexander Vlahos who as Dorian makes arrogance an art form. The brash you braggart of Wilde’s original novel is given layer after layer of character moulded by his experiences to become world weary – the wine has no taste the women and men have no appeal, the drugs don’t work – been there, done that got the gold medal all he has now is existence.

 In a year of outstanding releases from Big Finish this is one of the very best and a strong contender for my release of the year. Parting is such sweet sorrow and I promised two musical interludes so will leave the last words to The Smiths.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxLFav1Z9EY

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s classic story of hedonism and corruption, The Confessions of Dorian Gray imagines a world where Dorian Gray was real, and his friendship with Oscar Wilde once spawned the notorious novel.

Starring Alexander Vlahos as Dorian Gray, this fifth and final series comprises four hour-long episodes, reuniting Dorian with a host of familiar friends from throughout his extended lifetime.

1. One Must Not Look At Mirrors by Guy Adams

London, 1888. When Oscar Wilde befriends a young man by the name of Dorian Gray, he finds himself immersed in a world devoid of morals. But as a celebrated killer stalks the streets, and he struggles to come to terms with inhuman actions, can he find any humanity in Dorian…?

2. Angel of War by Roy Gill

France, 1915. In the trenches of the Great War, Lieutenant Dorian Gray reports to Captain James Anderson, shortly before a routine mission into No Man’s Land. His comrades rely on their faith to get them through – but is there any truth behind the story of the legendary Angel of Mons…?

3. The Valley of Nightmares by David Llewellyn

Los Angeles, 1948. Reunited in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, Dorian Gray and Dorothy Parker quickly find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that takes them behind-the-scenes of the region’s booming movie industry. But how much of it is an act…?

4. Ever After by Scott Handcock

London, 2016. The end.

PLUS! The collection also includes a bonus disc of behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew.

Note: The Confessions of Dorian Gray contains adult material and is not suitable for younger listeners.

Written By: Guy Adams, Roy Gill, David Llewellyn, Scott Handcock
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Guy Adams (German Officer), Samuel Barnett(Stuart Knight), David Blackwell (Simon Darlow), Daniel Brocklebank (James Anderson), Tracey Childs (The Governess) Steven Cree (Fraser Collins), Ben Crystal (Richard Dadd), Sarah Douglas (Dorothy Parker), Stephanie Ellyne (Mary Harris), Ben Flohr (Tommy Coogan), Bernard Holley (The Portrait), Lizzie Hopley(Emma Elizabeth Smith), Jo Joyner (Constance Wilde), Mac McDonald (Walter van Kirk), Lewis Reeves (Walter Sickert), Steffan Rhodri (Oscar Wilde), John Schwab(Jim Harris) with Hugh Skinner. Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

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REVIEW – THE THIRD DOCTOR VOLUME 2

 The third Doctor era is a bit of a quandary for me, I both equally like and dislike the Third Doctor in almost equal measure. Let me explain. I always saw the Doctor as a rebellious anti-establishment figure, I had grown up with the Tom Baker era so was used to the anarchic Williams era Tom as my template for what the Doctor should be like and the cozy establishment man of the Third Doctor just didn’t do it for me, fact my young self thought of him in the same way as one Sue Perryman and I had my least favourite Doctor in the “Pompous Tory”.

The folly of youth. Revisiting the Third Doctor era with new mature eyes I saw him as every bit as rebellious as his fourth incarnation – more so if anything – he was subversive, trying to bring down the establishment from the inside, talking the language that the establishment understood whilst all along retaining his anti globalisation, anti bureaucracy pro- environmental hippy credentials. He was a man of action, a man of gadgets but also a deeply spiritual man and his quest for knowledge for its own sake was his downfall.

The Pertwee era was also where the Doctor Who Formula seemed to hit its stride – big set pieces, alien invasions, The Master, UNIT, The Brig and also the wonderful Jo Grant.

 42 years on and time has been cruel, we have lost Jon Pertwee but his Doctor lives on through Big Finish. Last year they made the very brave choice of recasting Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor – a thankless task as if he “did a Pertwee” he would inflame fan wrath for impersonating, but if he played it as himself he would not capture the essence of the era. Tim Treloar did neither and he did both -whilst not actually impersonating Pertwee he captured his essence, the warmth of his personality and his performance and brought his own spin on what the third Doctor was – and now (after a rather long intro) he is back with Volume 2

 As I said earlier there are certain formula to the Pertwee era, the stories are a certain “type” of story – alien invasion, aliens were always here, mad scientist, Doctor sent on a mission, colonists against oppressors and this box set follows the type of story that would have been seen on screen in late 1973 – we get a “colonists against oppressors” story & a “aliens were always here” story – with sufficient modern twists to make them anything but nostalgic retreads of a bygone age.

 The box set is split in to two four part stories:

 2.1 The Transcendence of Ephros by Guy Adams

 The Third Doctor was a very moral Doctor, and very vocal in his morality and on the Planet Ephros he gets to exercise full moral outrage. It starts off very traditionally – The Doctor (Tim Treloar) is taking Jo Grant (Katy Manning) to visit the planet Ephros, but like  Metebelis 3 its not as he remembers it – it is now a cold dark place beset with earthquakes and soon they lose the TARDIS when the ground cracks open. What follows for the first three episodes is a pretty standard “colonists vs corporates” plot – the colonists led by Mother Finsey (Richenda Carey) are a religious group who are going to willingly sacrifice themselves when the planet explodes the next day. The Galactic Corporation are going to harvest the energy of the explosion and their leader Karswell (Bernard Holley) is looking forward to his bonus. But what if everything is not how it seems, what if all we are seeing is based on a lie and who is the “wise man” that Mother Finsey had as a mentor? Gripping stuff (if a little by the numbers) but undoubtedly a Pertwee era story, shot in 4:3 and with jungle sets built in a tiny BBC Studio – like many stories of its time it asks ethical questions and lets the listener form their own conclusions – I didn’t feel preached to as could sometimes happen in the TV stories of the era – a strong opener with a fourth episode that you wont see coming…..

 2.2 The Hidden Realm by David Llewellyn

 A very good friend of mine made a very good point about Doctor Who a few years ago, and on the whole I agree – he said “Doctor Who is best when it is set in a small village” I suppose its that sense of the familiar being subverted – of picture postcard England being dangerous (the old “Yeti on the Loo” factor) and this second story is the “Aliens were here all along” story. This one has bags of atmosphere – it has that “washed out location film” feeling if you know what I mean even though it is an audio – but I get ahead of myself. In the town of Bramfield people are going missing, in fact they have been going missing for a good long time and when Jo Grant’s cousin Stephanie (Clare Buckfield) reports her husband Peter (Robert Whitelock) missing The Doctor & Jo head over to investigate. The odd thing is that the Police have been investigating and found out that £100,000 has been wired to his account from a criminal escaping justice in Argentina……

With scary magpies (don’t say the rhyme whatever you do…) and a town where no one can be trusted Jo and her new friend DS Joseph (Alex Lanipekun) must work together as even the Doctor is vulnerable to attack. A great little homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers given a Doctor Who and and English folk-lore twist.

 A cosy little nostalgia trip that will tick all the right boxes for aficionados of the Pertwee era, it feels like it has fallen of the screen in 1973 & landed on a CD in 2016 and will give you a warm glow inside – Doctor Who as it was done in a bygone era and very well done at that 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

2.1 The Transcendence of Ephros by Guy Adams

The Doctor and Jo arrive on the dying planet Ephros, where Galactux Power Inc is exploiting the world’s remaining resources. But something is stirring beneath the surface…

2.2 The Hidden Realm by David Llewellyn

The Doctor and Jo journey to Bramfield New Town when the husband of Jo’s cousin vanishes mysteriously. As magpies circle overheard, the Doctor discovers a terrifying alien plot…

Written By: Guy Adams, David Llewellyn
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Simon Bubb (Temper/Follower 1), Richenda Carey (Mother Finsey), Bernard Holley (Karswell), Nigel Peever(Quail/Deputy), Karen Henson (Bartram/Follower 2), Clare Buckfield (Stephanie Andrews), Robert Whitelock (Peter Andrews), Sandra Voe (Miss Barnett), Richard Earl (DCI Finch), Alex Lanipekun (DS Joseph), George Asprey (Overseer Zim )

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – JAGO & LITEFOOT SERIES 12

What a long six months since Series 11 and all the shenanigans (love that word) that the Master brought to the world of Jago & Litefoot. We were promised that things would never be the same again and unfortunately this was born out by the influence that The Master had in series 11. The following review contains major spoilers for series 11 so if you have not bought it and listened to it already you had better do that now by clicking here  – and I will see you all in four hours or so….

 All caught up? Marvellous – then I will continue.

 Poor Ellie Higson (Lisa Bowerman) the chirpy cockney barmaid who (to quote Encore of the Scorchies “may not make the titles but is vital to the plot”) because in this series Ellie really is vital to the plot, in fact she is the “big bad” – because the Master has tampered with her DNA and reactivated the Vampire gene inside her and now she is on a rampage across Victorian London – CORKS!

 After the grand epic of having the Master as the villain, this is a much more touching, human and emotional set, in fact listening to it from the beginning I really do believe that Jago (Christopher Benjamin) & Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) really do know in their heart of hearts that Ellie is the Vampire that they are looking for but they really don’t want to admit it to themselves. The threats are also more intimate and small scale (apart from the threatened Vampire revolution) in fact they are a lot more fairy tale like in their threat and a lot more disturbing and nightmarish – from the threat of being trapped in a painting forever to the distressing “Flickermen” who do and don’t exist in our world and make their victims the same and also the Vampires and their relentless hunting of the dissenting Vampire families who want to coexist peacefully with humans. But this set is really about Ellie and her relationship with Henry & George and ends not with the traditional cliffhanger to series 13, but a more contemplative scene about, well, I’ll let you hear for yourselves.

 It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs does it – and compared to some of the previous sets it isn’t – but there are some absolute classic J & L comedy moments especially in the third story where Jago ends up as a school caretaker. I kid you not. But this series really puts the Gothic into the Victoriana to use a musical comparison this is the one where it went “emo” (is that still a thing?)

 This set also has a stellar supporting cast with Ronan Vibert as Mr Ravener, Ronald Pickup as The Old One and Forbes Masson as Kindred to name a few and they all rise to the challenge of the writing being just arch enough to add a level of unreality but not tipping it over into farce.

 As is the tradition with Jago & Litefoot the set is split in to four stories:

 12.1: Picture This by Justin Richards

 A picture is stolen from the mysterious “Scarlet Gallery” and the curator is murdered by a Vampire. But why has this particular picture been stolen? what is the reason? and what is the secret of the gallery? This is a story (as is most of the box set) where the listener knows more than our heroes – the picture that was stolen is the picture that The Master instructed Ellie to steal and Ellie is the thief and the killer. Like all of the stories in this set the opener has an autumnal feeling, a sort of end of term melancholy. I can just imagine the faded glory of the late Victorian era permeating the colours of the gallery, the faded flaking canvasses that are left behind from the victims of the mysterious gallery and a feeling that the fate that befalls the victims is almost better than the world that they live in and the awful truths that our heroes will soon be confronted with…

 12.2: The Flickermen by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

 Henry Gordon Jago is nothing if not a traditionalist and when his takings are down at the New Regency Theatre due to a new fangled contraption called the “cinema” he decides to take matters in to his own hands and confront the purveyor of the pernicious pass time (couldn’t resist the old alliteration there) but on visiting the fairground Jago & Litefoot get more than they bargained for – they encounter the terrifying Flickermen – but even worse than that they are captured on film looking like buffoons and are about to star in a film called “Two Frightened Gentlemen”.

There is a lot of humour in this story, but also a sense of regret and a lost childhood as Ellie recalls a tale of the Flickermen taking away a childhood friend of hers and another friend being blamed. Tonally very similar to the first story as this is also a story of loss and of a wasted life, but also of progress and the effect it has on Henry as he struggles to accept that the times they are a changing in the world of entertainment.

 12.3: School of Blood by Paul Morris

 Our heroes realise that Ellie is behaving rather oddly and think that they should keep an eye on her. They also get a tip off that the Vampire that they are looking for is hiding out at a local school for girls – Litefoot accidentally takes up the role of a science teacher at the school while Henry takes on the role of school caretaker & part time Hockey referee!

In many ways the most lighthearted episode with an horrific last minute or so that will make your blood run cold. This is a tale of a good Vampire hiding out and attempting to survive without taking a human life and of the Old One (Ronald Pickup) sending his faithful to wipe out the heathen who does not conform to the traditional vampire ways. Its a race against time which leads to a breathtaking finale.

 12.4: Warm Blood by Justin Richards

 With Ellie now under outright suspicion from Jago & Litefoot she leads them to a house which she claims is the hideout of the old one so that they can defeat him. Is Ellie playing a dangerous double game? Can she come back from the darkness? Our heroes are finally confronted with the painting stolen in episode one and have to confront their past deeds but do they have to pay the price for a crime committed out of kindness and a secret kept out of love and friendship? The chickens really come home to roost, the seeds planted way way back in season one episode one “The Bloodless Soldier” (Series 1 available here) now bear fruit and I really don’t think things can ever be the same again. Chirpy cockney Ellie Higson has embraced the darkness and the light is a long long way away….

 Lisa Bowerman as Ellie is a star, this is her box set and her story and she owns it completely – the often comic relief character becomes a fully fledged tragic heroine and not an arch “i vill drink your blloooood” style Vampire a complete and believable decent into the maelstrom of evil for believable reasons (egged on by The Master’s manipulation) and what becomes clear through this set is how much love Jago, Litefoot and Quick have for her – they have confronted terrible evils through the last 12 series or so but never one so close to home and never one they have almost been wilfully blind to because of love and friendship. Will things ever be the same again. Only season 13 will tell.

Not a set for those new to the worlds of Jago & Litefoot but a fantastic rewarding set of stories for the long time listener. A downbeat series but a story that could only be told in this way – without a doubt 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Four more cases for the Infernal Investigators:

12.1: Picture This by Justin Richards

An art gallery is robbed, and the curator killed. That might not seem of interest to Jago and Litefoot. But this is the fabled Scarlet Gallery – where the paintings are said to be haunted. And the curator has been drained of blood, as if killed by a vampire.

Bizarrely, the only painting that has been stolen is in itself quite unremarkable compared with the others in the gallery. But even so, Jago and Litefoot soon find themselves caught up in events that could end in their deaths – or worse…

12.2: The Flickermen by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

Jago is rather scathing of the new art of cinematography. Even so, he accompanies Litefoot to see a demonstration at a fairground. But this is no ordinary film. Can creatures live inside the film – or even escape from it?

Ellie recalls childhood stories about the ‘Flickermen’, and elsewhere people start to flicker in and out of existence. By the end of their adventure, Jago and Litefoot will themselves be film stars. But what they see when the film of them is shown will give them both pause for thought…

12.3: School of Blood by Paul Morris

Acting on a tip off about the possible source of the vampiric murders that are now plaguing London, Jago and Litefoot investigate a girls’ school. Due to a misunderstanding, Litefoot finds himself offered a job at the school, while Jago keeps watch on Ellie who they both think is behaving oddly.

But before long, they both discover that all is not as it should be at the school. Can Jago and Litefoot track down the vampire before it claims more innocent victims?

12.4: Warm Blood by Justin Richards

Ellie tells Jago and Litefoot that she has been in contact with a group of vampires and can lead the investigators to them. But can they trust her? With more victims turning up, Jago, Litefoot and Ellie make their way to a house that is supposed to be haunted, and which could be the vampires’ base of operations.

But what they find there will surprise and horrify Jago and Litefoot. Can they survive their encounter with the vampires when the Old One has decided that they must die?

Written By: Justin Richards, Paul Morris, Simon Barnard
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick), Ronald Pickup (The Old One), Forbes Masson (Kindred), Ronan Vibert (Mr Ravener),Robbie Stevens (Melchester), David John (Sir James Royston/Pete Stepney), Nigel Whitmey (Robert W Paul/Hardwick), David John (Sir James Royston), Jacqueline King (Old Ma Hambley/Miss Broodie), Charlie Hayes (Nellie/Lucilla Fredericks), Niky Wardley (Hannah Bennet).  Other roles played by the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor Justin Richards

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – THE TORCHWOOD ARCHIVE

We do like a good old anniversary us Who fans don’t we? And I think 10 years of Torchwood is a good a reason as any to celebrate and to release the obligatory anniversary story. Torchwood – back in the heady days of 2006 when Doctor Who dominated the TV schedules, where perennially popular character Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) got to lead his own team of alien fighting experts AND it was based in my home country of Wales – it put Cardiff on the map and has made said capital city of Wales the venue for many a mini break for my family with the obligatory picture taken each time at the “Torchwood Tower”. Torchwood didn’t exactly hit the ground running. I lie. It did, the first episode was superb and introduced us to Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) her fiancé Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) and the rest of the team Owen (Burn Gorman) Toshiko (Naoko Mori) Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) and Suzie Costello (Indira Varma) – yes there were a few dodgy episodes in season 1 but with the likes of Countrycide & Random Shoes it was a winner. Season 2 built on the success with Season 3 “Children of Earth” being a week long TV event in 2009 that everyone seemed to be watching. Then the rather poor “Miracle Day” and Torchwood as a TV show was over.

 And then in September 2015 Big Finish started to release a monthly range of stories. All character based with a major player in Torchwood taking the lead in each and the quality was spot on – with 12 stories released so far at least six are classics with the last release “Made You Look” being a strong contender for this reviewers Big Finish release of the year 2016. This two series of six stories each had a loose linking theme of a conspiracy involving a group of mysterious aliens known as “The Committee” or “The Committee of Erebus” and this brings me rather nicely back to the “Torchwood Archive” as this is very much about the Committee.

 There is an asteroid in the middle of a war zone, it has a visitor – one Jeremiah Henderson (Richie Campbell) who has come to learn about Torchwood and its links to The Committee and the mysterious Object One.

Set far into the future – Torchwood is almost forgotten, or a proscribed organisation much like we think of the Knights Templar now, but the Archive contains its secrets and the secrets of those who worked for it. And it is very cleverly done. The interface of the archive is based on P.C Andy (Tom Price) and he answers Jeremiah’s questions and replays flashbacks from Torchwood’s past – all our old friends make appearances and contribute to the overall story of Torchwood & The Committee – we also meet some never seen before members of Torchwood like Alex Hopkins (Julian Lewis Jones) former leader of Torchwood Cardiff and the tale of his fatal meeting with a fortune teller and his tragic fate – all the plots intertwine backwards and forwards – from Queen Victoria (Rowena Cooper) to Yvonne Hartman (Tracy-Ann Oberman) to Jeremiah himself and how he gets involved in the plot and the shocking events that follow.

Anniversary stories can fall in to the trap of being a “gang show” all the principal character turn up, act their part, say catchphrases that they are know for and drink in the adulation. This does something a little bit different – it involves everyone that has been part of Torchwood over the last 10 years on TV & Audio – carries on an ongoing plot, pretty much wraps up that plot AND is a nail biting thriller that wrong foots the listener several times during the over two hour running time. It really is the story of Object One or The Bad Penny as Torchwood nickname it and how it has plagued Torchwood since its inception and the reason why it is so important, what it is and who The Committee actually are.

This story will reward the long term Torchwood fan, and by fan I  don’t just mean those who have dipped in to the TV series – you really have to have followed the Big Finish series (and if you haven’t then WHY???)  and is not for the casual listener. This story is a reward, a pay off to the fans – a superbly acted, plotted and directed gift that will stand up to a lot of repeated listening as there are a lot of hidden gems in there that may not get noticed on first listen (Big up the mention of Torchwood Wrexham again – yay North Wales) and really does leave the door open for a lot more adventures for team Cardiff because the 10th anniversary is the end of Torchwood chapter one and the beginning of  whole new world (not the Aladdin one :-) ) a celebratory 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

A special feature-length story celebrating 10 years of Torchwood!

The Torchwood Archive

“Welcome, visitor. The Torchwood Archive provides a complete history of our Institute from its distant beginnings to the present day. When we founded our great enterprise in the year of our Lord 1879, we decreed that there should be a record of this achievement, stored at the very furthest limits of the British Empire. By visiting you are spreading that legacy, perhaps out through the skies. For now, I shall bid you a good day and welcome you to the Torchwood Archive. Do, please look around.”

The Torchwood Archive is a forgotten asteroid in the centre of a great war. Jeremiah is its first visitor in many centuries. He’s come to learn something very important. And the ghosts of Torchwood are waiting for him.

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), Indira Varma (Suzie Costello), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (Andy Davidson), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Richie Campbell (Jeremiah Bash Henderson), Rowena Cooper (Queen Victoria), Julian Lewis Jones (Alex Hopkins), Samuel Barnett(Norton Folgate), David Warner (The Committee), Emma Reeves (Miss Trent),Krystian Godlewski (Maxim Ivanov), Guy Adams (Archie), Geoffrey Breton(Bartender), Lisa Bowerman (Miss Mitford), Laura Doddington (Delilah), Aaron Neil(Mandrake), Kerry Gooderson (Little Girl), Ryan Sampson (Ivan Putin), Damian Lynch (Kieran Frost), Paul Clayton (Mr Colchester)

Produced by James Goss

Script Editor Steve Tribe

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – RULEBOOK

All the ‘i’s” dotted and all the “t’s” crossed, do everything by the rules follow them blindly and to the letter. Rules are not there to be questioned or interpreted, they are there to be followed – this way we have order any other way leads to anarchy. Doctor Who has been many things over the years, and one of the things it has done very very well is satire, more often than not satirising bureaucracy and this months Short Trips release follows in the footsteps of The Sunmakers, The Deadly Assassin & Paradise Towers in being a satire on a rather silly unthinking form of bureaucracy and also reiterating the thought that if you can change only one mind you can change a society.

 New writer Tony Jones paints a world of pen pushers and civil servants where the fact that the rulebook states that someone is legally dead means they are dead even if they are standing in front of you and arguing that they are not! And it is in to this world of red tape gone mad that the Fifth Doctor and Peri have fallen. After saving the Ellani people of planet Beadledom 3 from the invasion of the Valtor our heroes are keen to leave. Unfortunately the TARDIS has been requisitioned and placed in a museum because the Doctor & Peri are technically dead – the technicality being that they used a transmit which is only meant to be for freight goods, that their original bodies were disintegrated & what are now walking & talking are nothing but copies…..

 Nicola Bryant does a fine job of narrating going from exasperation to disbelief at the insane world of rules and regulations that is being described, a world where a rescue mission of soldiers sent to combat the invasion of the Valtor (which has been defeated by The Doctor) is more concerned about who to invoice for their wasted journey than the fact that there had been an invasion & that it was beaten. This as I said earlier puts me very much in mind of the Robert Holmes style tirades against petty bureaucracy and also in real life a conversation my wife told me about just the other day when almost a whole meeting was taken up deciding what “up to five” actually meant…..

 To a new Doctor Who writer there can be no greater accolade than to be compared to Robert Holmes, but this story really is a Holmesian pastiche with all the wry hallmarks of his frustration at the small minded ho have an over inflated sense of self importance. In accordance with rule 345/3 subsection a paragraph c I award this 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

Release #22 is a Fifth Doctor and Peri Brown story.

The Ellani of Beadledom 3 lived their lives in regulated harmony until they were invaded by the Valtor. Of course the Doctor and his new companion Peri were delighted to help out, but they didn’t know their biggest challenge wouldn’t be the Valtor army, but the Rulebook…

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

Written By: Tony Jones
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Nicola Bryant (Narrator)

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REVIEW – THE EARLY ADVENTURES 3.2: THE FIFTH TRAVELLER

Indulge me if you will as I start my review with a song (don’t worry, its a really good song) so sit back, relax and enjoy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ofNev8GtVw&feature=youtu.be

There you go, that was rather good wasn’t it? first single for Marillion with new singer Steve Hogarth after original singer Fish left the band and very very relevant to the review of this months Early Adventures release – “The Fifth Traveller”, because to quote Marillion it deals with a “banquo at the banquet & a cuckoo in the nest” this is the story of when The first Doctor, Ian, Barbara & Vicki traveled with Jospa (James Joyce) an orphan from the Earth’s future – the team encountered him when he picked The Doctor’s pocket and they took him away from the toxic slums into Time and Space. We all remember good old Jospa don’t we? how he and Vicki fought like brother and sister? How he had adventures in Rome & on Vortis? Surely we all remember Jospa because our heroes most definitely do……

 Yes its one of THOSE stories, where the viewer immediately knows more than the characters, where the established order has been subverted and something is not quite right – those of you familiar with the Torchwood episode “Adam” or the Buffy episode “Superstar” will know what I mean – there is a character that the regulars treat like he has always been there but the audience is wrong footed by this change in dynamic and is constantly trying to figure it out.

 The story plays out on the Jungle world of the Arunde, but is is really about Jospa and his place in the TARDIS team – James Joyce plays him perfectly as a  bright, breezy and  an innocent – a foil to Vicki almost the brother she never had and when on a trip to the planet Vavidic Joppa discovers an organic control device that will allow the Doctor to control the TARDIS and allow him to get Ian & Barbara home they could not be happier.

 The Fifth Traveller is one of “those” sorts of stories – it is also a very very good Hartnell era story down to the incidental music, the way the characters talk to each, the setting and the world that writer Philip Lawrence has created. The world building is superb a whole culture of ape like Arunde who communicate through telepathy and almost have a hive mind – the listener knows the structure of their society, their place in the world created for this audio and how they perceive the wider universe outside their sphere of experience thinking that the TARDIS team are from “another jungle”.

 The actors are on top form with William Russell doing double duty as both the First Doctor & Ian Chesterton, Maureen O’Brien being Vicki and narrating & Jemma Powell capturing the essence of the late and much missed Jacqueline Hill as Barbara.

Russell & Powell really do capture the joy of Ian & Barbara wanting to get home, & the possibility Jospa has given them of achieving this – Ian promises to take him to a football match and longs for a drink at the Cricketers Arms – its these little touches that really do make Ian & Barbara two of the most believable, likeable and well rounded characters in the shows history & Big Finish really have served them well with this script.

 With jungle sets painted in shades of monochrome, period sound design & period style acting and lines  and a believable recreation of the season 2 TARDIS teams motivations this really is an excellent release for pure nostalgia junkies – but it also has a beating heart of danger that is very very modern because to come back to Marillion there is a Banquo at the Banquet & a Cuckoo in the nest – and because this story really is about the Uninvited Guest and gets a very well deserved 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Vicki and Jospa land the TARDIS on the homeworld of the Arunde. Emerging into the jungle that covers the planet and encountering the strange wildlife dwelling within, the travellers are unaware that the true rulers live high above them in the trees.

The ape-like members of the tribe are in trouble. The last Matriar’s nest has been lost to the surface, and the people are hungry… Maybe these strangers may be responsible. And some believe they may be salvation.

The TARDIS crew are about to find themselves in the middle of somebody else’s battle. But there’s more at stake than even they can know.

Written By: Philip Lawrence
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

William Russell (Ian/The Doctor), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki/Narrator) Jemma Powell(Barbara/Fula), James Joyce (Jospa), Kate Byers (Sharna), Elliot Cowan (Gark) and Orlando James (Krube)

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: John Dorney

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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