Class Series One - Episode 7 - The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill DidBookmark and Share

Saturday, 26 November 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
class
Starring: Katherine Kelly, Sophie Hopkins, Greg Austin,Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparah, Jordan Renzo,
Pooky Quesel and Chike Okonkwo.

Writer: Patrick Ness
Director: Wayne Yip
Producer: Derek Ritchie
 Executive Producers: Brian Minchin,
Patrick Ness, and Steven Moffat
 
Released Online (BBC Three)  - 26th November 2016.

This review contains spoilers.This review contains spoilers.

 

Thankfully, this week we get a much more grown up episode, with the students only book ending the episode. We all saw in last weeks episode, Quill come into the classroom and save the hapless Charlie, seemingly for the very last time. This episode covers the time of the detention from Quill's perspective. So what did the character do while the kids were removed from space and time? Quite a fair bit actually.

Episode 7 essentially starts with Quill striding down the school corridor, away from the detention that she had so kindly arranged for the rest of the Scooby gang (well Class does want to be Buffy!). She meets up with the mysterious headmistress who summons up Ballon, a hulk of a man with strange scarring on his face and a bad case of heterochromia (it's a thing - look it up!). The head promises that she can remove Charlie's hold over Quill, and that Ballon will be the man who can perform the surgery. The bad news is that the procedure might kill her. Quill agrees and the trio are teleported inside what is essentially a tiny TARDIS, which whisks them away to find the tools that Ballon needs for the job. 

The first stop is a calm and leafy world, that is the mythical heaven of the Arn,  the small, telepathic creature that has been planted into Quill's brain that enables Charlie to control her. The first ingredient that they need is essence of Arn, which Ballon quickly acquires.The next stop is Ballon's mythical hell. A place of stone and petrified figures. They quickly get the third ingredient, which is (rather awkwardly) a blood sample from Ballon's God. The next stop is the Quill's mythical afterlife, where they need the first Quill's head. Once they have all three ingredients, it's back to Coal Hill academy where Ballon performs the extraction with his finger (the man is a shapeshifter). Is the procedure a success, well yes we know it is as this was the reveal that closed the last episode, but my word is the procedure gory!

Episode 7 is a marked improvement on last weeks, which I felt relied on the young cast just a little too much and exposed some of their 'lesser' acting abilities. The cast here (apart from the first and last few minutes) are all adult, which I felt upped the ante quite a bit. I love Katherine Kelly's Ms Quill. A character that is crying out for more screen time, and here she gets it by the bucket load. We get to know a lot more about her race, and the harsh realities of her life. For instanve, who knew that childbirth kills a Quill, who is then devoured by her recently born young. No wonder the character is so hard..... Another thing tha we discover about her is that combat makes her rather frisky (much to Ballon's ACTUAL pleasure). Quill's hatred of Charlie and the power that he holds over her is raging, the cold hard evidence of this is that she would rather die trying to remove the Arn from her brain, rather than continue her subservient existence.

We get a bit more of an insight into Pooky Quesel's (what a name, my next cat will be a Pooky) head teacher. She and the Governors (still unseen) obviously have connections and a vested interest in Quill. Ultimately, though, while she is helping Quill, she is also being rather devious (now there's a surprise), especially by setting up Ballon and Quill to a (brilliantly choreographed) fight to the death in the final act.

Ballon is probably the weakest character in this story. Although Chike Okonkwo (previously seen in Banshee) plays a very good part, it is his character, a member of a warrior like chameleon race, that you really want to know more about.

The mythology of each world the trio visit is a nice touch, with the Quill afterlife being the most impressive. Unfortunately, this section ultimately contains the weakest element of the episode, and that is the Quill queen. She looks exactly like a man in a rubber suit. A very poorly made rubber suit at that. The depiction of the Quill queen is so poor that it took me out of the story. Thank goodness Quill herself is in a much more convincing form. The other major flaw in this episode is the depiction of Quill squeezing herself out of Charlie's cabinet. It just looks ridiculous, and should really have been thought through better.

Despite these gripes, I enjoyed The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did a lot more than the last two episodes. It was nice to have a couple of mentions of UNIT and quite an in depth discussion on how Zygons are coping living among us, which re-enforces which universe these stories are set in.

The bad news though is that the Shadow Kin are back for the finale, a race that I was hoping the series was done with.





Ninth Doctor Issue 3 - Doctormania (Conclusion)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 26 November 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE NINTH DOCTOR #3 - Cover B (Credit: Titan)
"Doctormania - Part 3 of 3"

WRITER - Cavan Scott
ARTIST - Adriana Melo
COLORIST - Matheus Lopes

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

Published 29 June 2016 - Titan Comics

On the planet Clix, Rose Tyler has gone from kidnapper to game changer in the blink of an eye, having exposed a ploy to use the Doctor's likeness by one of a rogue Slitheen group.

However now both Rose and her former captor Slist are made to run for their lives in a jungle with predatory Jinglatheen in keen pursuit.  And as a conspiracy truly begins to manifest itself, the Doctor will need his trademark ingenuity and wits to quash it before a brutal civil war fully takes form.


 

My concerns from previous reviews as to how this monthly series' art will hold up are now beginning to recede, as the visual side of things stands up quite well here. Various emotions are conveyed authentically and vividly, be they for the protagonists that Who fans have come to know so well, or for the humanoid and non-humanoid guest characters. Some of the more frightening elements, such as the effect of acid rain are not as relentless as they might be. This is likely paying respect to the original TV show/ source material. It is also clear at this point how much Adriana Melo enjoys using the broad canvass of situations that this particular fictional universe can offer her.

Cavan Scott's work in keeping the reader gripped in both the story and the fates of the characters is as effective as ever. Rose is once again portrayed as likable and caring, which fits her Series One character to a tee. Many human companions of the Doctor would harbour a grudge for being kidnapped by an alien who has some malignant intentions in their wider schemes, but when the Slitheen in question becomes a victim, Rose is steadfast in fighting the corner for a former foe.

Jack gets some decent moments at times, and it is notable that he is still a bit shallow and brusque as he yet to go through the humility process of his endless 'resurrection' status. The Doctor does however seem to be rather more comfortable with him at this point, and this is part of Scott's intended use of this comic to bridge the gap between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, so the camaraderie viewers suddenly saw amongst that trio will now be that bit more organic.

Some nice wider continuity or canon links feature at times without being too ostentatious. I especially enjoyed the mention by the Doctor of the Shadow Proclamation, in a way that highlighted that whilst a do-gooder, he was never one for being part of the establishment.

 

Whilst the key storyline is on a rather epic scale with the unity of a system hanging in the balance, and the threat of acid rain is a grim one, there is still a welcome amount of humour or self-awareness. And I feel this is quite appropriate for a story featuring the Slitheen. I enjoyed the reversal of how these ruthless clawed creatures manage to fit into their victims' skins. The rather macabre concept instead now has a fun counter side to it, as the Doctor and Jack impersonate natives so as to go incognito. And later on, there is a comical moment as the Doctor tries to tame a beast in the manner of a cowboy on his horse.

It is also a plus point to have some use of the TARDIS in this story which is  other than just having it as a gateway from one story to the next. The main villain gets their comeuppance thanks to the Doctor's confidence in manoeuvring his ship's location and time setting .The final closing panel of this issue also highlights how the Doctor can sometimes meet people out of order (such as when Tennant's Doctor did with Queen Elizabeth).

 

In a nutshell then, this is a quite satisfying closer. Perhaps the two issues would have been enough for the storyline to have pace and twists in abundance, but it is great to catch up with one of the best TARDIS teams, and now know there will be more perils for them to negotiate on a regular basis.

And what a nice hook into the next ensuing story, with Mickey Smith ringing the console room telephone (and also distracting the Doctor from a worrying mystery). However this is a Mickey that is clearly somewhat more mature and battle-hardened than the clownish figure that assisted the Ninth Doctor on a semi-regular basis. Will all their be a happy reunion then, or is such an occasion best avoided? Issue Four will certainly offer a number of answers..


 

EXTRAS:

Readers are granted a (very welcome) 'behind the scenes' insight into how Scott, Melo and Lopes work together to plan the layout and look of a given portion of the issue. This not only highlights the dedication and thorough preparation that go into these comic books, but is sure to inspire new talent to take up the mantle of contributing to the comic book market and/or the Doctor Who phenomenon one day in the future.

A clutch of four different front covers also feature; being particularly diverting and vivacious for this edition.





Order of the Daleks (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 24 November 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Order of the Daleks (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Mike Tucker
Directed by Jamie Anderson


Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) John Savident (Pendle), Olivia Hallinan (Asta), Robbie Stevens (Boswyck/Raspak), Sam Fletcher (Rosco/Gabber), Joseph Kloska (Habrild), and Nicholas Briggs (Tanapal and The Daleks).

Big Finish Productions – Released November 2016

This month sees the welcome return of the Sixth Doctor alongside his latest audio companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke, played with a perfectly clipped RP by Miranda Raison. This is actually Mrs Clarke’s fifth audio appearance to date but in a timey-wimey fashion this reviewer will be revisiting her first trilogy of adventures from last year at a later date.

This story sees the Doctor and Wren Clarke arrive on the idyllic backwater planet Strellin which has protected status but from which a signal is emerging which suggests that outside technology has infiltrated this primitive society. This has attracted the attention of the Galactic Census, who have sent assessors to investigate. The elder of the two assessors, Pendle is played by John Savident, who is still best remembered as Coronation Street’s Fred Elliot. Even without his regional accent there are still a few familiar mannerisms which add to the enjoyment of Pendle’s continual insistence in his own superior knowledge which rubs everyone up the wrong way. His trainee Asta is voiced by Olivia Hallinan whose many TV credits include Lark Rise to Candleford and the Torchwood episode Out of Time.

The four protagonists soon find themselves facing the monastic order of the Black Petal headed by the sinister Abbot Tanapal played by Nicholas Briggs alongside Robbie Stevens in the dual roles of Raspack and Boswyck, the latter of which becomes part of the team of protagonists. The title of this story means that it is of course not a surprise when Briggs gets to play his more well-known role as the voice of the Daleks. Despite having apparently beautiful new cases made of lead and stained glass (as illustrated on what has been one of the most eye-catching covers this year by Simon Holub), the Daleks have a sinister plan at work and have the monastic order very much under their control despite having to resort to primitive weaponry.

Mike Tucker, whose previous writing credits include Big Finish’s first ever Dalek story The Genocide Machine, has provided a clever script which shows the Daleks at their devious best. As acknowledged in the behind-the-scenes interviews, the setting for this story owes a debt of inspiration to Vincent Ward’s original vision for Alien³ of a wooden planet inhabited by monks. Highlights include Constance’s unphased reaction when she meets a Dalek for the first time. Her “keep calm and carry on” attitude of pragmatism in the face of danger makes her a worthy new companion. Based on Constance’s adventures so far she is looking set to become the best Big Finish audio companion since the days of the much-missed Evelyn Smythe.

Overall, this is another extremely enjoyable addition to the Sixth Doctor’s long life of audio adventures which Colin Baker is clearly still enjoying. It also shows that there is still plenty of mileage to be gained on audio for the Doctor’s oldest enemies. With two more adventures for the Sixth Doctor and Mrs Clarke to follow in December, it looks like Christmas is about to come early.

 

 

Order of the Daleks is available now from Big Finish and is on general release from 31st December 2016.





The Early Adventures: The Ravelli Conspiracy (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Ravelli Conspiracy (Credit: Big Finish / Tom Webster)
                                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).
Big Finish Productions - Released November 2016 

This month’s offering in this mini-season of First Doctor stories sees Ian and Barbara give way to Steven Taylor, once again reprised by Peter Purves who also vocalises William Hartnell’s Doctor and provides most of the story's narration. He is joined for this historical adventure by Maureen O’Brien, who once again brings the youthful Vicki to life as if she were only on television last year rather than fifty years ago.

A failed attempt by the Doctor to take his companions to the 2784 Olympics results in them instead finding themselves in early 16th century Florence, where the TARDIS just so happens to land in the cellar of a house belonging to none other than Niccolo Machiavelli, a man whose infamous reputation in print, largely exceeds his actual achievements.Mark Frost gives an enjoyable performance as Machiavelli who is by turns charming and devious as he attempts to regain favour in the eyes of the influential Medici family who are represented in this story by Guiliano de Medici, ruler of Florence and his brother, the newly elected Pope Leo X.

The two brothers make an enjoyable double-act of contrasting characters. Jamie Ballard is ruthlessly cutthroat as Guiliano whilst Robert Hands gets to enjoy being a clever pontiff who forms an interesting friendship with Vicki. This allusion to Leo X’s historical reputation as “the gay Pope” is only hinted at, but this is one of several moments that make this story feel that it is not quite as contemporary to the TV series of 1965 as some of the other Early Adventures releases. There are some fun scenes with the Guard Captain played by Joe Bor, although his estuary accent seems a little out of place compared to the other RP speaking characters who are more typical of the TV series.

There are definite shades of Dennis Spooner in this story although thankfully it does not at any point descend to the level of farce experienced in The Romans. It is welcome to see that Big Finish have encouraged new writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky to produce a story of a not often visited area of history.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable historical tale with a strong cast which occasionally feels a little more post-modern than the 1965 series it is attempting to emulate. However, it is nonetheless a welcome addition to this range.

 

The Ravelli Conspiracy is available now from Big Finish and is on general release from December 31st 2016.





Class Series One - Episode 6 - DetainedBookmark and Share

Saturday, 19 November 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Class - Ep6 - Detained - Matteusz (JORDAN RENZO), Tanya (VIVIAN OPARAH), Charlie (GREG AUSTIN), April (SOPHIE HOPKINS) (Credit: BBC/Simon Ridgeway)
Starring: Katherine Kelly, Sophie Hopkins, Greg Austin,
Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparah, Jordan Renzo with Ferdy Roberts

Writer: Patrick Ness
Director: Wayne Yip
Producer: Derek Ritchie 
 
Executive Producers: Brian Minchin,
Patrick Ness, and Steven Moffat  
Released Online (BBC Three)  - 19th November 2016

This review contains spoilers.

Its another conundrum to unravel for our gang of do-gooders, having been abandoned to unsupervised detention by Miss Quill. This is no normal punishment, however, as they have been cast outside space and time itself, thanks to the rift.  Remaining trapped in one room, they all feel mounting alarm. The view outside the door and windows is a blank void.

At first they wonder if a mysterious segment of an asteroid could be the means to their escape. It turns out the rocky entity forces their deepest, most heartfelt feeling to the surface, as one by one they clutch it in their palms.

Truth and honesty unchecked can be damaging, and so it proves as the ties of friendship are strained to their very limit. Relationships come under heavy, unexpected scrutiny, for respectively Charlie and Matteusz, and April and Ram. Tanya also is taken on a difficult emotional path in terms of her insecurities over being the youngest of the group.

It eventually becomes clear that someone must take a stance, even if the ultimate sacrifice is the only pathway. Otherwise, this group of five could be reduced to just the one lone survivor..

**

The premise of a bottle episode has been done many times before in television. In Buffy, one particular episode involved the main characters forgetting who they were, but once they regained their memories, their relations were drastically altered. This story somewhat echoes that plotline, and does similar work in germinating the seeds laid out in prior stories. Enough craftsmanship by the writing, acting and production teams is involved, however, to make this tale feel like it is both relevant to today, and to be heartfelt in the emotional journeys presented.

One noticeable difference between Detained, and all preceding Season One efforts, is that effectively the core narrative is told in real time. Charlie describes the ordeal they go through as lasting "forty-five minutes". But in that time, a lot of things a considerable sea-change has occurred in the relations they have with each other.

This proves that sometimes sound, fury, and visual effects are not always needed for making a drama show work. Believable and fleshed-out characters will always be vital for any discerning viewer. It is also a neat conceit that the enemy in this story was the ruthless survivor of a group of five, and at one point it appears the same outcome will play out with our lead characters. The series may have had some moments of tonal confusion - particularly in Nightvisiting - but it is very good at bringing across themes, and parallels between different characters and/or groups.

Mystery is often one of the best methods to make a work of fiction gripping. Patrick Ness certainly gets the balance right between exposition and speculation, as the quintet are able to piece together enough to clarify how and why events are unfolding. We never get the full details of why this is all happening. The enigmatic prisoner's original appearance, where he came from, and just what motivation and method applied to the many murders he committed; all this remains open to our imagination.

It turns out that the Prince of Rhodia is anything but an angel, despite his mild manners and awkwardness that on the surface. His willingness to kill all civilisation on Earth, and that only his romance with Matteusz holds him back, is rather alarming. One wonders if Quill is actually the most immoral one after all. Of course Charlie's Polish boyfriend is able to reassure him repeatedly, and this helps the group overcome their predicament. Some damage is done to their relationship in the short term with the 'confessions', but perhaps it will bode well in the long run.  

We also witness Ram's deep feelings for April, but how he senses she does not quite return those feelings on the same level. She has perhaps every reason to be cautious about a man in her life getting close to her and being trustworthy, given the way she and her mother suffered (and continued to suffer) through Hew's actions years ago. Indeed, some exposition over the horrific incident to befall her family features when April clutches the meteor.

I know I was not alone in finding the competitive footballer's match-up with the thoughtful violist something that came out of left field. Certainly their moment of physical intimacy in Episode Four was one of the lowlights of the show, and further made ludicrous by the juxtaposition with the Shadow Kin. There never was proper discussion of how Ram was able to move on from losing Rachel, who died in such a manner that she could not even be allowed a proper burial.

Fortunately this episode manages to make the romance feel engaging, and the performances of both Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed continue to feel authentic. I appreciated how April and Ram have different attitudes to the past, present and future, and how that defines their chances of staying together. They also are responding rather differently to not being - in biological terms - fully human anymore. The viewer really is made to care that their union needs considerable work from both parties.

All of the regular main cast continue to impress. Certainly with Ness' best script thus far there is little room for anyone to have a bad day's work. But perhaps the most notable performance comes from Jordan Renzo as Matteusz. I had been slightly indifferent about the character, and indeed he had barely featured in the early episodes. Here though he has enough screen time to fully establish himself as likeable and engaging. Although for much of the plot it may appear Charlie is the least angry, it actually transpires that it is his lover who has more control in the pressure-cooker situation. Renzo shows a good range and seems to thrive on the stage like confines of the one room here, so hopefully the dynamism can be followed through in other stories as well.

A lot of good drama thrives on not taking itself stone cold seriously, and having undercurrents of humour, or even absurdity. This episode shows poise in achieving this delicate contrast. One highlight involves April moving the situation along by announcing she is going to pick up the prisoner/meteor, but undercuts it by asking if anyone will "stop" her, accompanied by a comical look on her face.

Another fine moment of levity: Charlie's limitations in coming across as an actual human teenager- through being transplanted into 21st century Earth by the Twelfth Doctor - are exposed when he does not realise that 'Narnia' is a fictional realm, and quickly guesses it is somewhere in Canada. There is also of course the subtext that they have been transported to another dimension, and time has progressed back on Earth in notably different pace to their own in the void.

A few minor issues hold Detained back from being a true masterpiece. The voice for the alien prisoner is serviceable in and of itself, but is just a touch too similar to how the Shadow Kin sounded. The decision to have the classroom lights flicker and the group cower under desks makes sense within the context of the storyline, but is one of the few moments that fails to really resonate as imaginative or notable.

Also, perhaps an opportunity was missed to have some more screen time for Quill when any given person who held the stone could be made to imagine her presence, relating to the influence she has had. Katherine Kelly is really impressing me, and reminds me of Michelle Gomez in being a villainess that can inspire some sympathy. 

Some profanity - but by no means the strongest kind - features in dialogue for both April and Ram. However, it manages to still feel within context. Tanya at one point utters "airbag" as an insult, which cast my mind back to Sophie Aldred's brave attempts with Ace's more emotional dialogue, in the Seventh Doctor era.

But overall this instalment sees the series raise the bar, and iron out some flaws in earlier episodes. It boasts some skilful and dynamic direction from Wayne Yip, that lives up to the sterling work of the other directors involved in Class. Enough groundwork has been done for the final pair of stories to make this particular school term end strongly. Certainly that cliffhanger with Quill 'unshackled' will make me rush to my BBC I-Player connection in double-quick time.

The episode's confidence and effectiveness is such that it deserves to be a companion piece to the 2008 classic Midnight, and thus help justify once again the amazing scope that there is in the extended Doctor Who universe. 





The Invasion Of TimeBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 16 November 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who and The Invasion Of Time (no narrator announced) (Credit: BBC Audio)Terrance Dicks, Narrator: John Leeson
 
 Available from BBC Audio (Download/ Four CDs)

 Published: 1st September 2016

Run Time: 247 Minutes

Season Fifteen of Doctor Who was arguably the most directionless of the Seventies. After the wonderful three prior seasons under producer Philip Hinchcliffe, Doctor Who suddenly had a very different person at the helm, as Graham Williams took over. However the new showrunner perhaps was less able to make the most of the limited resources afforded the Saturday teatime show, and also commanded somewhat less authority over the sometimes domineering leading man. It was evident to many viewers how the show was struggling through a period of transition, and the average quality of both script and production dipped quite dramatically. It does need to be acknowledged, however that budget cuts were enforced by higher management, and furthermore in the case of this story industrial strikes took their toll. 

 

The last two years had featured very strong climactic stories, which made the often regarded 'burden' of six episodes into an opportunity to really explore an exciting storyline and afford one-off characters stronger examination. The Invasion of Time unfortunately stopped the run of triumphs, although it still had quite a few merits to prevent it from being anywhere close to a disaster. The foundations for a satisfying season finale were never quite right from Day One, and even the same budget as Season Fourteen would not have prevented some of the decisions made by the production team. Experienced writer David Weir was unable to offer a script that could be made to work on screen; although perhaps if made with Hollywood resources it would have proven a success. Some Who stories failed for being too ambitious, with many of those being in the experimental Sixties era. But surely the concept of killer cats that could walk upright and talk should have been vetoed from the off(?). Deciding to keep the basic setting of the Doctor's home world, script editor Anthony Read, along with Williams, came up with Invasion. It was a work of some desperate measures, and to be frank it did show through a significant portion of the story's duration.

 

The (audio) book format takes away some of the considerable ropiness of the onscreen production. On the other hand, it also excises the excellence of Borusa and Kelner - performed respectively by John Arnatt, and Milton Johns, (who also made a fine villain in the re-discovered The Enemy Of The World). The ever-strong Louise Jameson made the most of the emotional tribulations that faced Leela, as she appears to be cast aside by her best friend. Even Andred and Rodan, while hardly the stuff of legend, did make for likeable one-time characters, and as portrayed on-screen gave some colour to the rather obtuse and stuffy society of Gallifrey's Capitol.

All the same, there is no getting away from the laughable visuals/costumes used for the Vardans, and the inadequate allocation of money for the Sontaran invasion squad. The casting and/or performances for both the Vardan leader, and Commander Stor left something to be desired as well. And most dedicated classic Who fans will be aware of the use of a disused hospital for the final episode run-around sections, within the endless depths of the Doctor's TARDIS, with even some verbal 'acknowledgement' by the characters of the repeated use of the limited sets.

 

Apart from exploring Gallifrey in notable depth and seeing Leela leave the show, Invasion was one of a number of stories where the Fourth Doctor went 'evil'. Other examples involved possession, being impersonated, or replicated in android form. This story however did the most with the trope, by allowing Tom Baker to come across as chillingly ruthless and corrupt. And yet there was also that hint at times he was still the same do-gooder, as viewers had long come to expect. Once episode three of the story is underway, an element of tension subsides as the Doctor's true intention is clarified. But then with each passing episode the plot become shakier as the rushed writing process shows through.

Nonetheless, this brave choice to start a season closer with such a shocking premise should still be given some credit. Thus, taken on its own terms as an intriguing story, with a hook as to the Doctor's loyalties and overall game plan, and also a chance to see how Gallifrey has fared since the conspiracy that took place in The Deadly Assassin, the novelisation had some distinct in-build advantages. Terrance Dicks, so comfortable at this point as an author, was always going to produce something pleasantly readable. 

This new audio production is yet another feather in BBC Audio's cap, and the decision to once again employ John Leeson was a sound one. This loyal supporter of the show - both during his time in the cast, and many years after interacting with fandom - reprises his K9 voice effortlessly, and seamlessly incorporates any extra lines he is afforded in this version. One of the most minor characters sounds a little too much like K9, but that is forgivable, as Leeson's overall range is strong, and he breathes life even into the more one-dimensional figures of the original scripts. 

The much-praised Episode Four cliffhanger makes for the most dramatic chapter ending, and sees Leeson's heartfelt read-through of the prose at its absolute peak. This moment is coupled with a nicely done accompaniment of orchestral music - somewhat similar, but certainly not identical to the great work of Dudley Simpson. Even if the front cover gives away the main enemy's identity, for someone completely new to the story and/or Doctor Who in general, the decision made by Williams and Read to use a big twist to bolster the 'four-plus-two' episode structure twist still holds up almost forty years later. Of course, back in 1978 the chances of spoilers were next to none, with a little bit of discretion. 

In terms of what original material Dicks' adaption brings to readers who want more than just a solid translation of the teleplay, in all honesty this effort has limited 'bonuses'. Most regrettably, there is no build on the Leela/Andred relationship in this version of the story. Compared to the likes of Jo Grant, Vicki, or even Peri, this romantic exit - especially for a companion as iconic as Leela - really felt artificial. In fact there is less indication of their bond than the TV version, which had some moments of hand-holding/ eye-contact for Jameson and Christopher Tranchell to try to signpost to viewers. Also, perhaps Dicks missed opportunities for the Doctor to justify risking a full-scale Vardan invasion, and also the price paid in a number of Time Lord and Gallifreyan deaths. This loss of life, so normally abhorred by the Doctor is likely the by-product of a necessarily rushed script at the time, which still needed its quota of action-adventure and suspense.

There are at least some welcome explanations of how the Doctor was able to use the status of President, despite continuing on his travels, via a solid recap of the previous (and superior) Gallifrey story, and also a little bit of clarity over which of Rassilon's artefacts remained intact, for those who make the effort to scrutinise such details. 

In sum then, this is a nice little addition to the BBC Audio library, mainly thanks to John Leeson's committed involvement. The original book was efficient in getting the rather elongated six-parter told in expeditious fashion, and the running time here - spread over 4 CDs - feels comparatively lighter. As a tale in its own right it can be followed with little difficulty, although it certainly resonates more if the listener is somewhat clued up on Time Lord basics, and also familiar with Leela's development (which evoked George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion).Whilst probably not the first choice for a fan unfamiliar with the Tom Baker era - and in particular this maiden season of the Williams era - this audiobook still holds its own, and offers a good few hours of easy listening.








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