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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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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)

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – 217: THE MEMORY BANK & OTHER STORIES

I may have regaled you with this tale of my youth in a previous review, but what the heck – I will tell it again. When I was about 10 years old they showed the “Late Night Horror Double Bill” on BBC2 – an old 1930’s/40’s or 50’s to begin with followed by a more modern 70’s offering – I was terrified to distraction by Theatre of Blood and still to this day cannot watch the film – I had to sleep with the light on and the door open for months. But as always I digress – the reason I refer back to my wasted youth is that I really used to enjoy the “Portmanteau” style films like Dr Terrors House of Horrors or From Beyond the Grave – a bit of a something for everyone mixed bag of short stories – and thats what we have in this months Main Range release from Big Finish – yes its one of the semi regular four short stories releases – this one called “The Memory Bank & Other Stories” four short stories thematically linked the theme being memory. But what is memory, is it reliable, can it be overwritten and are we made with certain “race memories” that shape us as people – all these questions are posed as The Fifth Doctor & Turlough attempt (unsuccessfully) to go on an art retreat……

The Memory Bank by Chris Chapman

The Doctor & Turlough arrive on a world where if you are forgotten than you cease to exist, where being remembered actually sustains the person that you are and as Turlough is given the job of being the archivist for the memory bank – the Doctor with his new friend (and barely remembered) Max (Suzann McLean) discover the horror of the situation, of what happens to people that are totally forgotten and the gap that they leave in the world. Short, snappy and to the point, this story sets the scene for the release it has intelligence, wit and warmth and a disturbing monster (who to be fair pronounces DOKK-TORRR fantastically)

The Last Fairy Tale by Paul Magrs

We all have childhood memories of Fairy Tales, wicked witches, evil dwarves, beautiful Princesses (you are probably all picturing your favourite Disney film right now) – but memories of Fairy Tales are part of what makes us and our culture, we are so used to the place that certain types of character has in a tale that we automatically think we know who is good and who is evil – but isn’t life more complex than that? The Doctor & Turlough arrive in the village of Vadhoc the denizens are expecting the appearance of the mythical “Storyteller” – surely it must be the Doctor? Surely we all know how these stories pan out? How wrong can we be? Because the tale about tho be told will change your perception forever. A great little tale that really does mess with the listener’s preconceptions and is laugh out loud funny in places with all the best lines given to the old wanderer Grayling Frimlish (Duncan Wisbey), but I must also praise Peter Davison & Mark Stricken for their comic timing – its funny, its intelligent & its challenging and may not end with a “Happily Ever After”

Repeat Offender by Eddie Robson

The shortest story on this release sees the Doctor & Turlough in Reykjavik in the future – overpopulated as refugees from warmer climates flee from global warming – the Doctor finds himself accused of a crime and the Police Officer that turns up Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir (Mandi Symonds) is not only arresting officer but also Judge and Jury (like an Icelandic Judge Dredd but slightly more reasonable). A mind bending time twisting tale involving edited memories and a brilliantly named villain the “Bratanian Shroud” this one will keep you on the edge of your seats.

The Becoming by Ian Potter

And so to the last tale, a tale of race memory, of evolution and of destiny. Reminiscent in many ways of the TV story Full Circle this concerns the various evolutionary states of a very alien species – the story has a dreamlike quality as the heroine named only “Waywalker” (Kae Alexander) tries to obtain a special fruit to take to a cave so that she can  “become” her destiny. A very surreal story to end the set, quite unlike any of the other stories in tone and very experimental and brave – it may not be to everyones taste and does need repeat listening but its a little gem.

Four bite sized morsels of Who and a pick’n’mix of styles and tones – each has something to offer depending on the mood of the listener and I do like the “portmanteau” style of story telling – the arc may be a little obscure but it is there for those who want to find it – for others just sit back, relax and enjoy a memorable four stories 7/10.

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 new adventures featuring the Fifth Doctor and Turlough!

The Memory Bank by Chris Chapman

The Doctor and Turlough arrive on a planet where to be forgotten is to cease to exist. But the Forgotten leave a gap in the world – and that’s where the monsters are hiding.

The Last Fairy Tale by Paul Magrs

Deep in the heart of old Europe, the village of Vadhoc awaits the coming of a mythical teller of magical tales – but not all such stories end happily, the TARDIS travellers discover.

Repeat Offender by Eddie Robson

The Doctor has tracked the deadly Bratanian Shroud to 22nd century Reykjavík – where he’s about to become the victim of a serial criminal. Again.

The Becoming by Ian Potter

A young woman climbs a perilous mountain in search of her destiny. The Doctor and Turlough save her from the monsters on her trail – but what awaits them in the Cavern of Becoming is stranger, even, than the ravening Hungerers outside.

Written By: Chris Chapman, Paul Magrs, Eddie Robson, Ian Potter
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Suzann McLean(Max/Autumn Voice), Ian Brooker (Archivist/Computer/Elder), Mandi Symonds(Alitha/Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir) Duncan Wisbey (Grayling Frimlish/Shiri/Zounds),Kae Alexander (Waywalker)

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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – THE WAR DOCTOR VOLUME 3: AGENTS OF CHAOS

There have been a few game changers in the history of Doctor Who, mostly to do with the Time Lords if I am honest – the first regeneration, the introduction of the Time Lords in The War Games, the insight into their society in The Deadly Assassin all changed the nature of the show – but the Time War trumped all that, a mythical war that was the backdrop for Doctor Who since 2005, and then another game changer – the introduction of a secret Doctor who fought in the war played by none other than John Hurt – YOWZERS.

 I know that you are all more than familiar with this but I like to give context to my reviews and this being the third box set of adventures for the War Doctor tries to do something a little different from the first two – very “Boys Own” on one level with stories of treason, daring escapes, plucky resistance fighters and super weapons this is a lot more scaled down, a lot more personal. Its still epic and has a universal and trans temporal level of peril but at the heart of it is the sense of loss and devastation that a war can imprint on a person and what lengths those affected people will go to to try to put things right, or more accurately, what they see as right.

 This set also addresses the throwaway line from “The Sontaran Stratagem” about the Sontarans not being allowed to join the Time War – because this set features everybody’d favourite comedy Sontaran actor Dan Starkey, playing someone Sontaran General Fesk who, to be fair, sounds just like Strax, but without the comedy!

 From the streets of cold war Berlin to the battle fields of the planet Rovidia the War Doctor volume three takes us to places and situations not touched on in the Time War previously, and it all begins in Berlin…..

 3.1 The Shadow Vortex by David Llewellyn

 The new series of Doctor Who, especially the Moffat era has given us the concept of fixed points in time, and times where the future is in flux – one such flux point is the year 1961 on the planet earth. Earth is shielded from the Time War by a quantum shield, but this has been broken by Dalek agent Lara Zannis (Neve McIntosh) and the War Doctor is sent after her to retrieve the “Shadow Vortex” and preserve earth’s non intervention in the Time War – unfortunately both the War Doctor and Lara Zannis are captured by the East German secret Police and what follows is a sort of cold war espionage thriller as the Doctor and Stasi agent Kruger (Timothy Speyer) team up to prevent Zannis activating the Shadow Vortex and allowing the Daleks through the Quantum Shield. A fat paced beginning to the box set that deals with the themes of loss and the damage caused to once decent people by being involved in an horrific war, because like all the other stories in this set, behind the bravado, the thrills & the explosions are people who will never be the same due to their War experiences…..

 3.2 The Eternity Cage by Andrew Smith

 Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) has been kidnapped by the Sontarans and is being held on the planet Rovidia – the price for her release is simple, the Sontarans want to form an alliance with the Time Lords and enter in to the Time War. Unfortunately they have also kidnapped the Dalek Time Strategist and have made the same offer to The Daleks.

And so we reach the explanation as to WHY the Sontarans were not allowed to join the Time War – its basically because they are not equipped for a war on a temporal front. However the Sontarans are not taking this as a reason and have their very own Time Weapons and this story tells the tale of how they acquired them and the terrible cost that using weapons that you should not have. John Hurt is incredible in this story, giving the Sontarans chance after chance to back down and back out of their position of wanting to join the war before doing what he has to do rather than what he wants to do. The Eternity Cage itself is an horrific device – it should preserve life but is being used to deal death. This story sees the introduction of Josh Bolt as Rovidian freedom fighter Kalan – a pseudo companion who names the Doctor “Grey-Beard”, he has instant chemistry with John Hurt and they are a delight to hear together, somewhat like the Fourth Doctor & Leela – Kalan is intelligent but not educated and his knowledge of Rovidia is invaluable. We also have Dan Starkey as General Fesk – all brimming with overconfidence, arrogance and swagger as he is in complete control of the situation, his plan has layers and is a trap for both Time Lords & Daleks. With crosses, double crosses, treason and tragedy this for me is the strongest episode in the set

 3.3 Eye of Harmony by Ken Bentley

 After the cliffhanger from the previous episode the traitors plan is put in to action – its a universe changing strategy for a very small personal reason and could change the nature of the Time Lords forever.

Hurt & Bolt are simply exceptional in this story, a true classic Doctor/Companion pairing and with the threat level ramped up to 11 anchor the story in believability and add an extra dimension and reality to the threat. Not a lot more I can say about this episode as there are too many spoilers – but the payoff is magnificent and really is quite moving and small scale, because wars, no matter how massive and epic they are really do have an affect on the participants, their loved ones and on innocent bystanders.

 A very good box set with a slightly different emphasis that the previous two sets. John Hurt again shines, he effortlessly inhabits the universe weary battle scarred Doctor but Josh Bolt as Kalan for me is the star of the box set – a genuinely good person who’s world and life are ruined by the Time War, spouting more wisdom through his short experiences of life than any Time Lords possess. Universe and Time spanningly epic, but also very close to home and in the end about people and relationships – a very well deserved 8/10.

Writen 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

The Time War between Daleks and Time Lords rages across the history of the cosmos. Nowhere is safe. Worlds are ravaged by battles beyond their understanding, but certain other races hunger to fight in the ultimate conflict.

When Earth comes under threat, the War Doctor is drawn into Ollistra’s schemes once again. But the wily Time Lord Cardinal has not foreseen every move. The Dalek Time Strategist has its own game-pieces in play, and when volatile forces with their own agenda join the fray, no-one can predict how the war might turn…

3.1 The Shadow Vortex by David Llewellyn

Cardinal Ollistra exploits the War Doctor’s affection for Earth to send him to East Berlin, 1961, on the trail of a Dalek agent. Lara Zannis has breached the planet’s quantum shield on a very special mission for the Dalek Time Strategist.

Caught between MI6 and the KGB, the War Doctor must first escape the Stasi before he can hope to stop Lara. Cold War scientists are about to make a breakthrough – the Daleks want control of the ‘Shadow Vortex’, and Agent Zannis can provide it.

3.2 The Eternity Cage by Andrew Smith

Sontarans are the ultimate warriors – so they believe – and the Time War the ultimate conflict. Denied that glory by Skaro and Gallifrey alike, General Fesk of the Eighth Sontaran Battle Fleet employs a dangerous strategy to draw both sides to the planet Rovidia and prove his forces worthy…

Meanwhile, the War Doctor leads a rescue mission, aided by Rovidian street-urchin Kalan. Neither Daleks nor Time Lords expect the Sontarans to be so fearsome a foe, until they uncover the secret of the Eternity Cage.

3.3 Eye of Harmony by Ken Bentley

In the aftermath of events on Rovidia, the Dalek Time Strategist is presented with a unique opportunity to strike a lethal blow to the heart of Gallifrey. A devastating power is set to be unleashed, and with agents in place ready to do the bidding of the Dalek Time Strategist, the future of the Time War could turn in an instant.

Trapped inside a critically-damaged Battle-TARDIS, hopelessly adrift in the Time Vortex, the War Doctor and his allies have a final desperate fight on their hands…

Written By: David Llewellyn, Andrew Smith, Ken Bentley
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

John Hurt (The War Doctor), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Neve McIntosh(Lara), Honeysuckle Weeks (Heleyna), Timothy Speyer (Kruger), Helen Goldwyn(Professor Crane), Gunnar Cauthery (Kavarin), Matthew Cottle (Leith), Dan Starkey(General Fesk/Sontarans), Josh Bolt (Kalan), Barnaby Edwards (Vassarian),Andrew French (Muren) and Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Time Strategist/Daleks)

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

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – A FULL LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

 So thats me – this is what Mrs W thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed & Hayley Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

Written By: Joseph Lidster
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)

BUY YOUR COPY HERE

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REVIEW – DOOM COALITION 3

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

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

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

 3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney

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

 3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton

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

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

 3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton

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

 3.4. The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney

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

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

3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton

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

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

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

3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton

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

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

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

3.4. The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney

The date has been set.

The trap has been sprung.

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

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

Spoilers…

Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

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REVIEW – THE CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT LIMITED EDITION VINYL

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

And time itself might well be the killer…

Please Note: This item will be sent by courier delivery

Written By: Robert Shearman
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

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

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REVIEW – THE EARLY ADVENTURES 3.1 THE AGE OF ENDURANCE

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

Written By: Nick Wallace
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: John Dorney

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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REVIEW – 216: MAKER OF DEMONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

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

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THE POWER OF THE DALEKS ANIMATED!

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ed Watkinson

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cast

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

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

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