Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor Tales (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 20 September 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Tenth Doctor Tales (Credit: BBC Audio)
Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Tales: 10th Doctor Audio
Original Audio CD – Unabridged
Read By David Tennat, Catherine Tate and Michelle Ryan

This compilation released by BBC Audio August 2016
Buy from Amazon UK
Pest Control (Parts One and Two) - By Peter Anghelides - Read by David Tennant.

On the planet of Recension, a bitter war is being raged between humans and the Aquabi. When Dr McCoy (The Tenth Doctor) and Captain Kirk (Donna Noble) arrive, they not only face the wrath of each side, but also a monstrous plan that mutates soldiers into giant insects, and a huge metal robot exterminator.

Pest control has the advantage of (in my opinion) the greatest Doctor and companion team that the series has provided us since it's return in 2005. Peter Anghelides writes for them perfectly, and David Tennant turns in a surprisingly good Donna. The story conjures up some fantastic imagery, especially the transformation of the soldiers into the giant insects (which is always accompanied by wonderfully horrendous sound effects), and the giant metal robot, whose sole job is to eradicate the insectoids by stamping on them. The story does plod a little in the middle, and Tennant's voicing of Surgeon Lenova sounds as if it is unintentionally comedic, but on the whole this is an exciting audio with some lovely Star Trek in jokes.

 

The Forever Trap - (Parts One and Two) - By Dan Abnett - Read by Catherine Tate.

The Doctor and Donna are duped into being flatmates in a huge luxury apartment complex called The Edifice. They soon discover that not all of their neighbours are particularly friendly, in fact some are just out and out murderous...

As anyone who has seen The Catherine Tate show will know, Tate is by nature a master of creating different voices, and here she gives them all character (my favourite being the overtly camp lift attendant). The Doctor and Donna's chemistry is present in the writing, but the comparison to Paradise Towers (not one of my favourites) was too much, meaning the story didn't quite work for me.

 

The Nemomite Invasion - (Parts One and Two) - By David Roden - Read by Catherine Tate.

A frantic chase through the time vortex, a splash landing and a flooded TARDIS herald the Doctor and Donna's arrival in World War 2. They are tracking an alien parasite that is intent on taking over all human life on Earth.

This story starts at breakneck speed, with the Doctor and Donna crashing into the English Channel in the middle of U Boat battle. The threat here is an alien slug-like creature, that attaches itself to the host, and spreads it's young through the water supply. The story is full of very tense and creepy moments, with the Doctor having to make some very hard decisions. Again Tate excels at voicing the different characters (there are a lot of them), and keeps the listener's attention throughout.

 

The Rising Night - (Parts One and Two) - By Scott Handcock - Read by Michelle Ryan

The Doctor finds himself in 18th century Yorkshire, with no idea how he arrived. Women are being kidnapped, and men murdered - the Doctor of course is the prime suspect. Something is feasting on the blood of the villagers, meaning the Doctor must prove his innocence and catch a monster. His only ally being a young woman called Charity.

I found the Rising Night quite hard to get into, the story took a lot of time to get going, and I am not sure that Michelle Ryan's vocal talents helped. However things finally get wrapped up nicely, and in the end the Doctor finds himself with a new travelling companion.

 

The Day Of The Troll (Parts One and Two) - By Simon Messingham - Read by David Tennant.

In the future, England has become a barren, arid wasteland. The Doctor discovers a team of scientists who are trying to help the environment, unfortunately for them all, an ancient evil is hunting them down one by one.

The Day of The Troll has the tenth Doctor in his element, leading a group of terrified scientists in a what is initially a base under siege scenario. The second half suffers a bit from bringing the characters out in the open a little, but the monster is terrific, and with the help of some subtle sound effects, Tennant really gives it air of terror. The story reminded me a lot of John Pertwee's era, in that not only did the Doctor have to face off against an alien threat, but also the establishment. With the Doctor here traveling alone, Tennant really excels in his characterisation of him.

 

The Last Voyage (Parts One and Two) - By Dan Abnett - Read by David Tennant.

The Doctor joins the flight of a revolutionary transposition cruiser, where he finds that almost all of the passengers and crew have mysteriously disappeared, and an alien threat starts to manifest itself.

Dan Abnett here writes out an out science fiction, with the craft in the story bending space and time to reach it's final destination. The realisation of the dimension hopping aliens is fantastic, with the terrifying way that they seep into our reality. There is though unfortunately an issue with one of the characters, Sugar, whom Tennant voices in a REALLY annoying American accent that I just couldn't take seriously. Still the story is tied up nicely, in a way that makes perfect sense.

 

Dead Air (Parts One and Two) - By James Goss - Read by David Tennant.

On a pirate radio boat in 1966, the Doctor and the crew are faced by a hostile alien that not only feeds on pure sound, but is also the perfect mimic. Who can he trust?

The alien threat onboard the Pirate Radio ship Bravo is outstanding, The Hush is a malevolent presence that the Doctor has been tracking that feeds on sound. However as the story progresses, it mutates into something far more threatening. The use of sound in Dead Air is brilliant. Where ever the alien has been, there are pockets of silence. Imagine walking into a room talking, and suddenly you can't hear anything, not even the words that are coming from your own mouth. Goss has created a monster that would be welcome in show on television. Capaldi would have a field day.

 

On the whole The Tenth Doctor Tales is a worthy listen, if a tad long. I felt that because of the running time (each complete story is around the two hour mark) some of the stories outstayed their welcome somewhat. Tennant and Tate are excellent narrators, Tennant using his own accent when not in character, and Tate of course excelling at handling the different characters voices and personalities. I did feel though that Ryan's delivery fell somewhat flat.

 

The stand out story for me was Dead Air. The Hush is a truly unsettling monster that works perfectly in audio. James Goss has created an instant classic. Tennant's Doctor is made to be properly vulnerable in Hush, in a similar way that he was in television's. Dead Air is a truly disturbing listen. On the other side, the weak point for me was The Rising Night. The story was too slow, and could easily have been cut to one hour.

 

BBC Audio here prove that they can indeed make interesting, entertaining and engaging audios, that rival Big Finish.

 





Illegal Alien (AudioBook)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 19 September 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Illegal Alien (Credit: BBC Audio)

Written By: Mike Tucker + Robert Perry
Read By: Sophie Aldred
Voices Of The Cybermen: Nicholas Briggs


Publisher: BBC Audio
Released: 28th July 2016

Duration: 543 Minutes 

American private detective Cody McBride witnesses the arrival of the sphere, and is certain it opened, allowing some alien being to depart its confines. But the British military will only credit McBride's account of events as a German weapon, that has 'accidently failed' to work. It is November 1940 and Britain is enduring the Blitz, with the Second World War dominating human affairs. As the Luftwaffe wreak devastation on London, other dangers are not far away. A brutal murderer, branded as 'The Limehouse Lurker', is at large around the streets of the capital that have sustained attack. And a mysterious silver sphere has fallen from the sky. Its contents could bring massive change to the fortunes of the two sides in the War.

However, soon he encounters two bizarrely dressed people that call themselves 'the Doctor' and 'Ace', and they very much give credit to his account. And many more odd events are about to happen now McBride is involved with people who can seemingly navigate the fourth dimension of space and time...

 

Once again, as with other books featuring earlier Doctors, BBC Audio has released another such title to bring to full life a story that was popular enough with fans and general readers to merit a re-release in recent times.  When this story first hit shelves in late 1997, it perhaps came across as rather 'traditional' and 'safe', given how many original novels of the decade aimed to break new ground. But in its defence, it was originally conceived as a properly made TV story featuring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. Of course, the infamous cancellation of the classic series put paid to any realisation of the story onscreen. And if anything the story would have been very ambitious for TV, and here benefits from expansion to a full novel.

The narrative fundamentally is a simple one, but does have a notable number of subplots and allows for certain characters' back stories to be sketched out in detail. For the most part, the listener is left in no doubt over the virtues or vices of the supporting characters.

On one side we have clearly brave and good-intentioned people such as McBride and Chief Inspector Patrick Mullen. 

And on the other end of the spectrum, are a number of deplorable Nazis and/or their conspirators, with notable antagonists being Captain Hartmann, Colonel Schott, and the creepy Mr Wall.

But, then there is one key character that is more shades of grey, and who is a real intellectual match for the Doctor. He almost evokes some sympathy, but his methods are still deplorable, and he clearly leans towards the amoral and indifferent stance, despite all the suffering and devastation going on around him. Despite this story being nigh on 20 years old, I will leave it to the individual listener to go on the path of seeing which character I am describing.

 

Mike Tucker and Robert Perry not only know how to pace their story well, but how to achieve effective inter-relations between the personalities that populate the novel. There is plenty of fine material for either the 'one-to-one' or 'group' dynamic, with it being most effective when featuring the leading lights, that are the Seventh Doctor, and his still very exuberant teenage protégé Ace. The authors are well-versed in the McCoy section of Classic Doctor Who, and there is never a moment when the complex character that is the Seventh Doctor feels any less than authentic. And, in terms of this being not just a dramatic story, but a thriller as well, there is sufficient depiction of war and monstrosity in equal measure.  Cyber body horror is done very well here, and the full lethal potential of the Cybermats is also explored in commendable fashion. Some aspects of Cyber-Lore, that were new to this book at the time, have since gone on to feature in New Who stories such as The Pandorica Opens and Nightmare In Silver.

 

Sophie Aldred is as impressive here as in any audio book or full cast drama I have heard her in previously. In the audio release Dark ConvoyI had a small reservation with her being forced to convey a group of characters that were all male. But with time to use the prose and character development here, she grasps fully the opportunities afforded to her to show her vocal range. And yet again, her own defining voice/performance of Ace works just as well, as when first unveiled in 1987 

The actual vocals for the Cybermen are handled by Nicholas Briggs - who has clearly become the definitive voice of the metal conquerors at this point - and work well, both in tying with modern TV stories, but also a vintage 1960s TV escapade. This bit of continuity work is given just a passing bit of exposure in the wholly satisfying epilogue to the novel.

There are some fine bursts of incidental music, which never linger too long, but do add successfully to the overall impact of this audiobook. They are particularly strong when a chapter ends or one of the four 'episodes' reaches a climax, (with Tucker and Perry being determined to retain the original TV serial structure in this book version). The 'shooting' signature noise designed to evoke the Blitz is quite effective in its unsettling intent, and helps remind listeners this is not just an entertaining work of fiction but something with roots in our own world history and reality.

Ultimately, Illegal Alien is best described as a rattling good yarn. It is worthy of unequivocal recommendation for anyone who feels the Seventh Doctor and Ace TV stories deserved more entries, than what eventually transpired in actuality. 





Maker of Demons (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Maker Of Demons (Credit: Big Finish)

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)


Big Finish Productions – Released September 2016

 

 

We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”

The Tempest Act IV Scene I, William Shakespeare

 

This is a rather curious story which opens with the conclusion of a story set during the Doctor and Mel’s pre-Dragonfire adventures as they are thanked for brokering peace between the crew of the Duke of Milan and the inhabitants of the planet Prosper known as the Mogera. Fast forward a hundred years and the Doctor, Ace and Mel arrive to find something has gone badly wrong on Prosper which is still very much at the centre of a conflict of between the ‘Milanese’, descendants of the original Duke of Milan crew and the Mogera, the supposedly peace-loving inhabitants. The Doctor is horrified to discover that the conflict is a direct result of his own earlier interference and that he is the eponymous Maker of Demons.

Only a singularly unobservant individual would fail to notice that this story draws a large amount of reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, particularly with liberal use of character names such as Alonso and Miranda and even numerous quotes and paraphrases. This reviewer’s favourite coming towards the conclusion of the play when the Doctor advises the villain of the piece “your revels now are ended.” Writer Matthew J Elliott doesn’t get huge points for originality but spotting these references added to this reviewer’s enjoyment. One minus point near the beginning of the play came with a distinctly overwritten gag about Frank Sinatra. It seems rather brave of both the writer and Big Finish to include an interview in the extras in which Elliott admits that the story underwent a fairly drastic rewrite. However, the finished product proves to be a worthwhile listen albeit one not exactly packed with surprises.

The reunited dream team of Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Bonnie Langford prove once more that they have great potential for further development. It is perhaps slightly unfortunate that Ace is on her own for a large section of this story even though it does provide her with some enjoyable scenes with Talpa, who rather like Caliban in The Tempest, is a beast with an occasional intelligent side, well portrayed by Ewan Goddard. Being on her own with the Doctor also provides Mel with an opportunity to show off her companion credentials however hopefully future adventures will have Ace and Mel working together.

 

The concluding act of this reunion trilogy is not quite the stuff that dreams are made of but nonetheless it is an enjoyable adventure. With no details yet announced regarding next year’s audio adventures for the Seventh Doctor we can only hope that these will see the continuing adventures of Ace and Mel and follow up on the loose ends from A Life of Crime. In the meantime, next month sees the welcome return of the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in the now traditional annual anthology release The Memory Bank and Other Stories.





The Macra Terror (AudioBook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 11 September 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: The Macra Terror
Written by Ian Stuart Black,
Read by Anneke Wills,

First published by Target Books in 1987,
Released by BBC Audio - 4 August 2016.
Running time: 3 hours,  5 mins

In the 24th Century, a human colony enjoy a truly enviable lifestyle in their domain, which in many ways resembles a holiday camp from yester-century. Conformity and contentment go hand in hand, as everyone serves the interests of a society that runs like clockwork and never shows anything other than a positive demeanour.

But one of their own, a bearded and fidgety man called Medok suddenly insinuates that foul creatures are taking over control. No-one wants to believe his rather alarmist claims though, at least that is until a crew of four strangers arrive out of the blue...

 

This story has grown steadily in my affections over the years as a fan of Doctor Who, and also someone interested in social science and philosophy in general. I first encountered it when it came out at the same time as The Evil Of The Daleks on dual audio cassette in 1992. 

As a child back then I would devoutly replay these releases on my portable Sony 'Walkman' when travelling somewhere new, yet I would only fully engage with David Whitaker's epic.

Macra was just a curiosity. Not even a solitary episode existed, and having the Sixth Doctor / Colin Baker as the narrator somehow felt more opaque than the definitive (especially back then) Fourth Doctor/ Tom Baker.

But over time I have realised how the Season Four finale does suffer slightly from its seven episodes, and multiple locations, even if it remains great escapism. Macra is however concise, ascends in its suspense and feeling of high stakes, and makes the most of its overall premise.

 

As of today, only The Power Of The Daleks stands head and shoulders higher over this tale, as the marquee story of a season of Doctor Who, that said 'goodbye' to one talented actor in the lead, and 'hello' to an arguably more skilful thespian. Of course now we have the news that the debut Troughton story will make a comeback of sorts in the coming months, in the form of an exciting and newly envisioned animation.

For a great story to exist in the first place, it invariably needs a very strong and confident writer. Ian Stuart Black is one of the perhaps more under-rated scribes in Who lore and should be thanked for giving the show a vital shot in the arm when it began to falter in the latter half of Season Three. Today, we only have The War Machines (essentially intact), whilst Black's other two efforts - The Savages, and this story - are lost almost entirely. All three do however deserve to be remembered fondly.

I do think Macra is the cleverest and boldest of Black's three televisual serials. The novelization here accomplishes admirably efficient world building whilst maintaining the pace of the 'snappy' four parter structure.

 

The story has much to make the readership ponder themes and philosophy. One of the more overt is the need to be sceptical and questioning over what a person is told, and how they should invariably conform. If there is not enough of this independent thought, then the individual is in danger of losing their array of senses, and to be effectively brainwashed. Each chapter has something to say about the subliminal techniques used by the story's antagonists to wield power, and this manipulation is effective primarily due to the victim' sense of being euphoric and having the perfect life.

By making Ben Jackson the most susceptible of the TARDIS crew, when normally he is the most argumentative and dominant in nature, the original TV story managed to take viewers at the time on a journey where they questioned if what they thought they knew about the show's heroes was perhaps more superficial than first thought.

There is also a very strong amount of in-depth exploration on the nature of what is acceptable in society, and what is 'eccentric' or 'insane'. The various references to insanity and to hospitalisation/medication that controls said malady are as relevant to today's social confines, where the idea of normal is so strongly prioritised, they were in the 'swinging' Sixties, when this story was conceived (and had its regrettably one-off UK transmission).

The fate of one of the key guest characters of the story is also altered. Whereas in the transmitted story this person seemed to meet an abrupt end, in this version the author was allowed to present an alternative fate, as he held the full reins as the writer of the novelization. Consequently this key player in proceedings is allowed a fully formed arc and a sense of vindication.

 

And as an audio book, this stands up rather well too. Anneke Wills does a very respectable job in showing her range of skills, as the sole member of a one person cast. Many guest actors in the original show were strong, not least Peter Jeffrey (as the 'Pilot'), who later went on to have an even better role as the more villainous Count Grendel in the Tom Baker Era. But Wills uses the rich text of the book to narrate events and characters vividly, and switches personas for the various members of the colony distinctly and with full attention to detail.

The only niggling issue I have is that whilst her Second Doctor portrayal has much of the core mercurial spirit of Patrick Troughton, the actual voice - in terms of pitch - is more akin to William Hartnell. But I must admit, this is one area that is rather easy to criticise, much like Maureen O'Brien could only gamely attempt to portray her Doctor in The Space Museum, released earlier this year. Sometimes the sheer star quality of the main man in this sci-fi/fantasy phenomenon can be a double edged sword...

 

Sound effects and musical cues are well up to the usual standard for these BBC Audio releases. Such is the strength of the core text, and the dedicated, whole-hearted presence of Anneke Wills, these supporting elements act as a nice bit of icing on the cake, rather than something to break up a potential monologue. Whether you are clued-up on classic Who like myself, or someone who has only glimpsed the Macra in the Tenth Doctor belter Gridlock, this is one late summer release that lives up to the legacy of the sadly missing 1966 TV production.





The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4 - 'The Endless Song' (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 11 September 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4: The Endless Song  (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonara Carlini, Elena Casagrande
Colorists: Claudia SG Iannicello, Arianna Florean
​Cover: Alex Ronald
​Released: April 27th 2016, Titan Comics

In a year almost completely devoid of new doses of televised Doctor Who, there’s more pressure than ever on the likes of Big Finish and Titan Comics to deliver quality plotlines set in the same narrative continuity as the TV series, albeit via other mediums of storytelling. Thankfully though, the latter publisher already seems to have plenty of great ideas as to how to fill the void until December 25th, as evidenced by the superb first five instalments of their ongoing Tenth Doctor comic strip’s second year in action, all of which have been compiled to form the aptly-named The Tenth Doctor: Volume 4.

Sub-titled The Endless Song after the first of its three contributory tales, this compilation of graphic adventures takes David Tennant’s incarnation of Who’s eponymous Time Lord – along with Gabby Gonzalez, better known as his first Titan-exclusive companion – from alien worlds fuelled by enchanting melodies back to the ages of Neanderthals and beyond. By and large, we’re presented with a fairly standalone set of narratives which can virtually be read in isolation of anything that’s come before or that Titan delivers in the coming months, yet which nevertheless keep us fully aware of how the explosive Anubis plot arc teased in Year One’s finale continues to develop behind the scenes.

Read on below for our takes on each of the three independent trips through time and space – “The Singer Not the Song”, “Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook” and “Medicine Man” – as well as our overall verdict on Volume 4 at review’s end…

“The Singer Not the Song” (Issues 1-2):

Our first stop is the musical planet of Wupatki, a cosmic setting developed magnificently over the course of this compelling two-parter by Nick Abadzis as we discover the intricate inter-species dynamics formed between a band of human colonists, the seemingly benevolent Bovodrines – whose “photosynthetic processes” apparently form “the lungs of this world” – and most importantly the nigh-invisible Shan’tee, the latter of whom can only be perceived once their melodies are consumed through one’s ears.

That Abadzis even manages to find time amidst all of this world-building to offer up an equally engaging narrative is an achievement of itself, but rest assured that the Doctor and Gabby’s efforts to cure the plague infecting the Shan’tee before Wupatki falls, as a planned vacation turns into a race against time for the TARDIS crew, are just as much of a selling point as the tale’s setting. What’s more, the scribe even finds time to dwell on wholly topical themes like colonialism, perception and the power of undistorted music, all while paralleling the threat of the planet’s song ending with the Tenth Doctor’s own arc nearing its end and throwing in a melodic final set-piece akin to that of The Lazarus Experiment for good measure.

Occasionally, however, the – necessary – emphasis on action over nuanced character development here means that secondary players like the youngster who introduces Gabby to a range of toxic remixes dispatched from Earth to his colony and Allegra, a scientist whose disease allows her to see the Shan’tee without any technological aid, don’t receive quite as much attention as would have been the case in a less crowded, time-sensitive storyline. With that being said, there’s no doubting that as a season premiere, “Singer” more than fulfils its role of getting proceedings off the ground with aplomb, thereby guaranteeing that its readership won’t possibly resist the temptation of picking up future issues.

“Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook” (Issue 3):

Unlike those fans who picked up Issues 1 and 2 when they first launched earlier this year, of course, Volume 4 doesn’t force its consumers to wait weeks for the next chapter in the Tenth Doctor’s escapades, instead launching us straight into the one-off tale “Cindy, Cleo and the Magic Sketchbook”. It’s here that resident artists Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean’s dazzling panels come into their own, as the team finds itself graced with a far more understated narrative than its predecessor, one packed with – gloriously executed – visual opportunities such as a masterfully drawn opening sequence focusing on the sketches Gabby sends to her old pal Cindy on a regular basis; an inherently fantastical antagonist whose visage can’t help but stun the eyes and above all a final page reveal virtually no one will see coming.

The last of those three elements does admittedly confirm “Sketchbook” to be more of a stepping stone instalment, in that – despite investigating the emotional and psychological aftermath of Year One’s finale, “Sins of the Father”, on those constructs who didn’t join the Doctor and Gabby aboard the TARDIS before the credits – the true threat of the maleficent Mister Ebonite upon Cindy, her time-travelling colleague as well as the cosmos at large is only gradually teased here, as is the larger role of the beloved modern Who companion who makes a shock return towards the plot’s end. Whereas Abadzis ensured “Singer” could be consumed in isolation – barring a brief teaser of what was to come when the Doctor and Anubis next crossed paths – he clearly wants to set up “Medicine Man” in this instance, but in fairness, there’s plenty to be said for intrigue and that quality absolutely manifests itself in abundance, giving this one just as much of a page-turning appeal as Volume 4’s two other fully-fledged storylines.

Better yet, “Sketchbook” arguably ranks as one of the Tenth Doctor strip’s finest character pieces to date, with readers afforded a far greater insight into Cindy’s psyche as a TARDIS reject of sorts forced to live the slow, linear life as the rest of the human race rather than joining Gabby on worlds like Wupatki as she might once have hoped, along with further exploration of the psychological toll that Cleo’s displacement from her home in “Sins” has oh-so-clearly had on her in recent weeks. As discussed in our “Singer” commentary above, too often these strips are forced to prioritize their set-pieces over their character arcs, yet combined with the captivating intrigue powering its bridging storyline, “Sketchbook” makes one hell of an argument for why the alternative approach doesn’t hurt once in a while.

“Medicine Man” (Issues 4-5):

Last but under no circumstances least comes a prehistoric age-set outing, “Medicine Man”, which serves as more of a standalone affair than its immediate predecessor despite its final pages revealing that Abadzis likes to play a far longer game than readers could have anticipated. Tasking the Doctor and Gabby with determining the truth behind the disappearances of entire clans from their Neanderthal villages alongside one such caveman whose paintings – vividly rendered by Arianna and Azzurra Florean – allude to the nature of the extra-terrestrial hunters responsible, this two-part epic boasts impressive scale thanks to its air-bound battles, not to mention a genuine sense of heart thanks to Gabby and the aforementioned Munmeth’s discussions with regards to the inevitable evolution of sapiens into homo sapiens.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the final chapter of Volume 4 would feel like a re-tread of previous cavemen-featuring Who romps like An Unearthly Child or the more recent DWM 50th anniversary comic “Hunters of the Burning Stone”, yet quite to the contrary, Abadzis goes out of his way to introduce surprisingly inventive creative flourishes along the way, delving into Munmeth’s inability to comprehend much of the Doctor and Gabby’s modern vocabulary as well as the struggle of the Time Lord’s latest companion to, in a similar vein to The Fires of Pompeii, understand why the TARDIS crew will eventually have to leave a species doomed to be lost to the history books behind for the sake of time’s preservation. These aren’t necessarily story beats we’ve never seen before in the history of Who, but even so, the tale’s scribe and art team alike make an admirable effort to ensure they’re implemented in such a nuanced manner that most readers will barely recognise any resemblance to serials gone by.

Unlike many of the previous Tenth Doctor volumes released by Titan Comics over the past 12 months, The Endless Song wraps up – perhaps aptly given its suggestion of the potential of this strip to endure “endlessly” until such a time when the events of The Waters of Mars must eventually kick-start the Doctor’s final days – on an entirely open note, leaving us desperate to discover how the events commenced in “Medicine Man” will resolve themselves given the seemingly intergalactic nature of the conflict to come. All the same, though, even if Issues 4 and 5 represent but a fraction of a longer-running storyline still to be fully told, what’s here will more than whet the audience’s appetites until Volume 5 lands in stores.

The Verdict:

It’s always a joy to come across a release which doesn’t sport much in the way of shortcomings, or at least nearly enough points of contention to warrant giving it a miss, and The Tenth Doctor Volume 4: The Endless Song absolutely falls into that bracket, presenting fans of Who with compelling futuristic voyages, fascinating historical drama, accomplished writing from Abadzis and above all utterly stunning aesthetic elements courtesy of the two contributory art teams to make it an absolutely essential purchase.

Three months may still stand between the fandom and its consumption of the long-awaited 2016 Christmas Special, but until then, judging by the stellar first five instalments of the Tenth Doctor’s sophomore run of Titan journeys through space and time, perhaps the most beloved modern incarnation of the eternal Time Lord remains in extremely safe hands.





The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 3: The Unbound Universe (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 September 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Bernice Summerfield: Volume Three - The Unbound Universe (Credit: Big Finish)Written by James Goss, Guy Adams, Una McCormack, Emma Reeves
Directed by Scott Handcock

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

Big Finish Productions – Released August 2016 

The concept of teaming up Big Finish’s longest serving lead character Bernice Summerfield withDavid Warner’s alternative Third Doctor (first introduced the 2003 Unbound story Sympathy for the Devil and last heard in the 2008 sequel Masters of War) sounds like the sort of idea that the Big Finish execs might have come up with out of desperation to think of something “new” to do with Benny. However, with the news that Warner’s Doctor would be coming out of retirement alongside the infamous ‘Sam Kisgart’* reprising his rather unique take on The Master, this box set has become one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year, even with the ongoing excitement of Big Finish’s new series tie-ins. This reviewer is therefore pleased to say that for the most part, this box set does not disappoint. Teaming upLisa Bowerman’s universe-weary Bernice with David Warner's Doctor and a different universe where she’s completely cut off from everything familiar proves to be just the innovation this range needed and definitely an improvement over the previous two volumes of “New Adventures”.

 

The box set opens with Bernice being totally unsurprised by the TARDIS’ appearance and commenting that the Doctor’s frequent reappearances in her life are like a “lazy Suzy” before realising that she’s facing an unfamiliar Doctor who has used her as part of a failed attempt to escape from his own dying universe. There is an instant chemistry between the two leads with Warner's Doctor showing a twinkle in his grumpiness that occasionally reminds of CapaldiJames Goss’ opening story The Library In The Body takes a concept from the early 1970s and puts a wholly unique twist on it, although the constantly singing nuns are a bit irritating. There are however nice turns from Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes as the Librarian and Rowena Cooper as the Mother Superior.

Planet X by Guy Adams sees the Doctor and Bernice arrive on a planet supposedly so boring that no one could be bothered to name it properly. What they instead discover is a totalitarian society ruled over by none other than Julie Graham in wonderfully sinister form as Prime Minister 470. As the Doctor takes it upon himself to bring the Prime Minister’s regime to an end, Bernice is teamed up with ‘Millie’, an ordinary citizen who learns to experience genuine emotions for the first time, very believably played by Sophie Wu.

Una McCormack’s The Very Dark Thing picks up the story sometime later with the Doctor apparently sat by a river doing nothing on the idyllic world of Tramatz which is apparently being terrorised by unicorns. At the heart of this story is the revelation that the unbound universe is suffering from the aftermath of a cataclysmic event not entirely dissimilar to the Time War, except this time there are no Daleks involved.

This box set concludes with Emma ReevesThe Emporium At The End, in which Bernice and the Doctor find themselves apparently facing the very end of existence as everyone attempts to escape with the apparent help of a sinister individual known only as “the manager”. Rather frustratingly, the Doctor never quite manages to fully recognise his old enemy and as Bernice has never encountered the Master before she is unable to provide enlightenment. However, it is to be hoped that we’ve not heard the last of Sam Kisgart’s memorable incarnation. Bernice shares some great scenes with the manager and the Mother Superior returning from the first story in this set.

This is a very enjoyable box set with excellent music composed by Jamie Robertson. Particular kudos should also go to Blair Mowat for his unique arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune which genuinely sounds as if it might have been composed in an alternative version of the 1970s. Lisa Bowerman and David Warner make a fun team and it is rather pleasing that the door has been left open for them to have more adventures in the unbound universe before Bernice returns home. Yet another reason to look forward with eager anticipation to Big Finish’s output for 2017.

 

*The behind the scenes disc includes a lengthy discussion on Kisgart's career, for listeners who haven't tired of the joke by this stage an extended version of the interview with Kisgart was featured in a recent Big Finish podcast. 








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