The First Doctor Adventures - Volume 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 16 February 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The First Doctor Adventures - Volume 3 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Marc Platt, Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley


David Bradley (The Doctor), Claudia Grant (Susan), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright), Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (The Woman), Ajjaz Awad (Princess Elissa of Tyre), Jo Ben Ayed (King Pygmalion of Tyre), Orion Ben (Aiyaruc / Hanna), Youssef Kerkour (Bitias), Raad Rawi (Tubal / Maygo / King Hiarbas of Tunis), Mina Anwar (Horl), Susie Emmett (Katta), Belinda Lang (Nocta)

Big Finish's enjoyable series of adventures following the original TARDIS team as played by the cast of An Adventure in Time and Space continues for a third boxset, one which also sees a major guest appearance of Carole Ann Ford, the original Susan Foreman, whose younger self is played by Claudia Grant in these sets.  And Ford is the major draw of this set in more ways than one, as it is the story involving her that is vastly more entertaining then the first story featured here. 

The first story in this one is The Phoenicians, which is a pure historical that plays on legends and myths, and explores their true origins.  As classic pure historical stories go, this story features no sci-fi element beyond our heroes travelling to the past via the TARDIS.  I am not a huge fan of many of these historcials, which pretty much fell out of style for the series not long after the Second Doctor took over.  They only made one last attempt at a return in the early 80s, when the Fifth Doctor had a brief mystery to solve in the 1920s, with no alien threat whatsoever. But despite my own feelings that the historicals tend not to be terribly interesting, it doesn't mean I don't think they can't work.  In fact I secretly hope they can return to the show someday.  Not all the time, but I think it would be great to see a story where the adventure our heroes get embroiled in has nothing to do with aliens or monsters, but just the scariness of our own past.  They nearly did it in this most recent season, though there was an alien presence, it was incidental to the more historical turmoil our heroes got caught up in.  Someday, maybe once, Earth's ugly past can be enough for a Doctor Who threat again. 

That all said, this story is about as middle of the road and bland as so many historicals of the past had been. I just couldn't get into it, no matter how charming and likable I find the new versions of the original TARDIS crew. 

Luckily, the other story in the set, Tick-Tock World, is top notch entertainment.  With the TARDIS caught up in a planet that messes with time ships, which leaves the gang stranded in a place where time moves in mysterious ways, and ghosts of the past and future can appear and screw with them.  This is where Ford comes into play, as a mysterious figure that they all see. I doubt I am spoiling it for anyone as to who Ford turns out to be.  If you don't know that from the word go then I don't know how you ended up listening to a story based entirely on the show as it was in 1963. I just found this to be a really engaging story, and it felt like the kind of story that could have fit in really well with Big Finish's ongoing Time War tales, yet with that 60s flair that they capture so well with this cast. 

David Bradley is really a top notch replacement for William Hartnell.  He doesn't sound anything like him really, but the way he pauses and hems and haws, and stutters through his lines, it is truly like he captured the essence of the First Doctor.  Hartnell did most of it due to aging, ailing health, a giant year round workload with little to no rehearsal time...but that is part of what I find charming about the First Doctor.  Bradley captures it so well, but does it in his own way.  I definitely prefer this way of creating new 60s style Who to someone just doing an impression. 

I find this set to be somewhat harder to recommend, at least at full price. The first story is by no means awful, but it isn't really worth much either. The second story is tremendous though, which is what makes up for the whole set.  I'd say it was worth it just for that, but maybe at a sale price. If Big Finish set has 4 stories and only one is kind of a clunker, I usually can justify the price.  But with only 2 stories, the cost is essentially $10 a story, and I don't think The Phoenicians is worth $10.  Is Tick-Tock World? Absolutely.  And that's from a guy who was never much of a fan of Susan or Carole An Ford's performance in the 60s shows.  If you've enjoyed these First Doctor set so far?  It is a safer bet for you, for newcomers, I think start with the earlier sets and see if you want to spend the extra money on half of a good boxset. 

Doctor Who - Big Finish - Short Trips - The Last Day At WorkBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 12 February 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Last Day At Work (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Alfie Shaw, Script Editor Alfie Shaw
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Harry Draper, Directed By: Alfie Shaw


Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)

Constable Bernard Whittam is in for a special evening. Finally retiring from a lifetime in the police force, he’s celebrating with friends, family and the woman he loves. It’s all perfect. Apart from the noise in his head, the wheezing, groaning noise that has haunted his entire life. That and the unusual gatecrashers.

It’s going to be a night to remember…


The Last Day At Work is a very poignant, title for one of the best Short Trips I have listened to yet. The story features the Doctor and Jamie, and is set in 1968. 


Apart from the synopsis above, I'll let you discover how the story unfolds as you listen to it, there is a simple joy in this second Doctor tale that should never be ruined, or the story will lack the emotional punch that it aims squarely at your jaw. I did guess as to the direction that new(ish) writer Harry Draper was taking the listener....however I didn't fully realise exactly how deep into the shows rich mythology he would  delve, so much so to create a new mythology all of his own.


Nicholas Briggs is on narration duties, and makes for a mighty fine second Doctor....although I did think that his version of Jamie was some way off of the mark. However this is a minor quibble, as the Short Trip range is always more about story telling as opposed to full cast audio plays.


I really can't recommend The Last Day At Work enough, and with it being part of the Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity the story is FREE, and can be downloaded from Big Finish HERE.



Bernice Summerfield: The Story So Far (Volumes 1 and 2)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 February 2019 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

Bernice Summerfield - Story So Far.

Written by James Goss, Jacqueline Rayner, Simon Guerrier, Eddie Robson, David Llewellyn and Una McCormack
Produced by James Goss
Directed by Scott Handcock
Big Finish Productions, 2018
Stars: Lisa Bowerman, Miles Richardson,
David Warner, Michael Jayston,
Emily Laing, Stephen Fewell, Ayesha Antoine

Bernice Surprise Summerfield – archaeologist, adventurer, friend, cat lady! It was at the end of the 20th century that her audio adventures began, which makes her – as far as records tell us – the holder of the following accolades: the longest-running science fiction audio drama series; the longest-running audio drama series; the longest-running audio drama series starring a woman. What makes her so remarkable? Does she deserve all the praise that is heaped upon her?

Miles Richardson (as Irving Braxiatel), in the introduction to the Behind the Scenes discs

Even if you’re not necessarily a devoted follower of archaeologist and plucky adventurer Bernice Summerfield over the past 20 to 25 years, there’s a strong chance you’re nevertheless aware of her character – whether that be through Big Finish (via her own long-running audio series) or through the Virgin New Adventures novels (one of the few media in the “dark times” of the 1990s that continued Doctor Who as a property in the absence of a TV series).

Bernice (aka Benny) was a proto-River Song, an independent, hyper-intelligent and charming archaeologist who had a wicked sense of humour and fun and an arsenal of clever wisecracks (Benny predated Song by about 16 years). Created by veteran Doctor Who scribe Paul Cornell and modelled on actress Emma Thompson (one of Cornell’s crushes), the role of Benny has taken on a life of her own – not only thanks to a long line of dedicated writers and producers but the talent of Lisa Bowerman (whose relevance to Doctor Who before she played Benny was her role in the final classic serial Survival – as Cheetah Person Karra – in 1989).

Indeed, it is The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield audio series (which in 1998 began with adaptations of various New Adventures novels starring Bowerman and featuring actors associated with Doctor Who) that made it possible for Big Finish to ultimately capture the rights to make Doctor Who proper for audio. Despite that coup, BF never abandoned Benny – it instead provided a springboard for the character to have fresh adventures outside of the New Adventures adaptations – and the latest of those endeavours is Bernice Summerfield: The Story So Far, which celebrates 20 years of the character on audio.

The Story So Far comprises two volumes, each with three diverse tales set across different spans of Bernice’s life and career – from her youth to her role as a curator in the infamous Braxiatel collection to her strong relationship with David Warner’s “Unbound” universe Doctor.The standalone tales are also written by BF producers and contributors who have been instrumental in advancing Benny’s adventures over the past two decades – Jacqueline Rayner, Simon Guerrier, Eddie Robson, David Llewellyn, Una McCormack, current series producer and script editor James Goss and director Scott Handcock. Subsequently, in the behind the scenes extras on each volume, Goss interviews each of the contributors, alongside Bowerman, as they reflect on the directions they sought to take the character and the range while they were in charge. Cornell also discusses the character’s amazing trajectory – which he attests to being quite proud of, in spite of having minimal involvement in the range.

The highlight of Volume 1 is Goss’s peculiarly titled opener Ever After Happy which takes listeners right back to Benny’s origins as a rebellious cadet-cum-emotional guru on a military academy asteroid. Up and comer Emily Laing puts on a fantastic performance as the brash, overconfident and angst-ridden young Benny, virtually stealing the limelight from Bowerman. It’s more than likely this won’t be Ms Laing’s sole work for Big Finish – not only does she make a great Benny but she is ballsy Doctor Who companion material in her own right.  Whether BF chooses to cast Laing in another role across its output down the track or even contemplate a boxset celebrating Benny’s early adventures as an archaeologist, she is a talent they should be utilising now before she ends up with a British TV contract or a Hollywood career!

Rayner’s The Grel Invasion of Earth is the most satirical entry in these six celebratory stories. Not only does her script feature the long overdue return of comical Ood-like villains the Grel (who Cornell invented for the first Benny-centric New Adventure Oh No It Isn’t …) but the story is an unashamed parody of the classic Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth in terms of its structure, give or take some liberties.In fact, as it was Rayner who originally adapted some of the New Adventures novels for the Benny range, it’s clear that her brief was to adapt a traditional Doctor Who tale in a similar manner. The Grel Invasion of Earth is very much a playful and fun homage to those early Benny adaptations, as well as the original Doctor Who/Dalek serial it cheekily apes. Fact: Any Whovians who are offended by this imitation really ought to have a bex and a good lie down!

Bowerman is ably supported by Stephen Fewell, reprising his role as the hapless Jason Kane, Benny’s ex-husband. Fewell has some great comedic moments as Jason, as well as a few touching ones. His dialogue about Benny in one scene is vividly poetic and romantic until it is undercut by his own misunderstanding of the original question that prompted it!

Guerrier’s Braxiatel in Love takes the listener forward in time to Benny’s work as a curator at the Braxiatel Collection post-the Fifth Axis/Dalek invasion. What’s particularly interesting about this tale is that it seems to be narrated by the antagonist, the seemingly unassuming Veronica Bland (Gabrielle Glaister) who has inveigled herself into the Collection community and (much to Bernice’s astonishment and suspicion) become engaged to Irving Braxiatel (Miles Richardson).

Glaister gives a stand-out performance as Veronica and coupled with Guerrier’s characterisation, you cannot help but be charmed by her seductive, silky voice and feel some empathy for her character (although, as it transpires in the tale, these are all attributes of her magnetism). The manner in which the protagonists break out of her thrall is quite ironic, to say the least.

Volume 2 of The Story So Far is more specifically referential of Doctor Who, the “parent” concept that spawned Bernice, than Volume 1, which was deliberately vague, subtle and quite unsubtle in equal measure (eg in Ever After Happy, you presume the Daleks are the vaguely referenced “enemy” that attacks the military academy; it’s already been noted that The Grel Invasion of Earth is a none too subtle parody of The Dalek Invasion of Earth; and in Braxiatel in Love, references are made by Benny to Braxiatel’s brother without specifically referring to him as “the Doctor”). This is no doubt deliberate to keep Volume 1 true to the era in which it is purportedly set (even though the Bernice range actually more comfortably embraced its Doctor Who heritage pre-the Fifth Axis invasion) but Volume 2 exhibits no such limitations.

On one hand, the middle tale of Volume 2 – The Empress of Drahva – references the ruthless female Drahvins first encountered in the Hartnell tale Galaxy Four, thereby utilising one of Doctor Who’s lesser iconic villains as early “seasons” of the Benny range did in 2002-04 (when it used the Ice Warriors, the Rutans, the Draconians and the Sea Devils as antagonists). The Doctor’s murky dark side counterpart the Valeyard (Michael Jayston) in Eddie Robson’s Every Dark Thought (glimpsed on the boxset cover, so it’s only a mild spoiler on this writer’s behalf!) could also technically count as one of these “one-off” antagonists. Nevertheless, he seems a strange choice for an adversary in what is also a peculiar choice of tale for a boxset that is celebrating two decades of Bernice’s exploits.

While Bernice’s character is most commonly associated with the Seventh Doctor, she has met other incarnations of the Time Lord in the audios and books (eg the Eighth Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor, and more recently the “Unbound” Doctor in Volumes 3 and 4 of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield). Therefore, Robson’s intention is to clearly show how Benny will shape up against an incarnation that lacks the Doctor’s moral fibre.

Benny confidently holds her own against this version and there are instances when even this personification is not immune from the Doctor’s proclivity for “mansplaining” and arrogantly dismissing the advice and counsel of his/her companions. However, stylistically the whole tale would probably be more fitting and interesting if it were part of The Diary of River Song saga than a Benny adventure. There would have been considerably more gravitas pitting the Doctor’s archaeologist wife against his darker alter ego. (Perhaps it’s still not too late for BF to consider such a pairing in the future but I digress …)

The Empress of Drahva, by comparison, is more traditional fare from David Llewellyn, as well as being a comedy adventure. Benny and her erstwhile assistant Ruth (Ayesha Antoine) crash-land on the torus-shaped world of Drahva, whose inhabitants are still to become the spacefaring conquerors the First Doctor encountered. By a quirk of fate, the black-skinned Ruth is mistaken for and worshipped by the blonde-haired, pale-skinned Drahvins as the reincarnation of an ancient empress.

The story has many parallels with another Hartnell era tale The Aztecs (eg false deities, human offerings and sacrifices, an engagement, efforts to break into a tomb to steal a space vessel), although the similarities do not make this tale the wholesale parody that The Grel Invasion of Earth definitely is. By contrast with The Aztecs, it’s a fun romp, with the luckless, naive Ruth thinking she’s hit the jackpot with chocolate for breakfast, foot massages, gold-layered four-poster beds and a suitor that to her smells of “sexy almonds” and whose name Bernice equates with a character from Lord of the Rings!

Indeed, Antoine almost literally upstages Bowerman in the humour and sarcasm stakes. It’s enough to make this novice eagerly seek out Professor Summerfield’s adventures earlier this decade when Ruth was a staple cast member!

The final instalment of the second volume – and of both celebratory volumes – is the bleak Angel of History which completely eschews much of the tongue in cheek atmosphere of Benny’s adventures. Given Volume 2 of The Story So Far preceded Season 11 of Doctor Who by a matter of weeks (it was released in September 2018), this serial could be described as perhaps this set’s answer to the recent TV episode Rosa. Una McCormack’s script enables Lisa Bowerman to stretch her acting range as Bernice literally steps into the shoes of another archaeologist, Annis, who is persecuted for her indigenous/ethnic heritage and for her theories about her people’s true history.

While there are some superficial parallels from McCormack’s serial that could be drawn with Rosa (eg the treatment at first of Annis’s people is akin to the discrimination of the African-Americans of the US deep south or European Jews prior to the Second World War), the tale becomes more sinister as it moves from prejudice to abhorrence to genocide. The old South African apartheid regime is also evoked as various authoritarian policemen are portrayed with intimidating Afrikaner-style accents and brutally break up and assault peaceful demonstrators.

Interestingly, while the fascistic nature of the governing regime is strongly implied, McCormack never reveals what it is about Annis and her people that makes them stand out from their world’s other inhabitants and justifies discrimination and persecution. Is it their appearance (eg skin colour)? Is it because they were the original, indigenous inhabitants? Is it because they outnumber the descendants of the original colonists? It’s never really explained even after the Doctor (David Warner) steps in to break Bernice out of an induced dream-like state.

Nevertheless, The Angel of History is a powerful tale about a courageous woman – not unlike Rosa Parkes – who stays true to herself and her convictions and defies a despotic regime that would prefer that she is meek and silent. Annis is a more introverted character than Bernice, but Bowerman’s performance is exceptional, as she dials back much of Benny’s outspokenness and expresses the vulnerability of Annis’s character.

The Story So Far is a fitting double set to celebrate Bernice Summerfield’s journey at Big Finish. While some of the stories are a strange fit for a celebratory set (Every Dark Thought, The Angel of History), they nevertheless demonstrate the versatility and imagination of the Benny range which – much like Doctor Who itself – has endured for as long as it has because the various writers, producers and directors have been prepared to take risks, be daring and (much like Benny herself) have fun.

The set is particularly a good primer for fans who are interested in learning more about Bernice but don’t necessarily know where in her range to start. There are enough “breadcrumbs”, so to speak, for casual listeners to have a taste of the fun to be had – especially at a time in Doctor Who’s life when the most recent TV series has been accused by some fans of being too “politically correct” and “preachy”, too character-focused at the expense of drama, and “devoid” of credible monsters and antagonists.  If you’re one of those fans, then Bernice is a welcome reprieve from those more “earnest” aspects of the program’s escapism – and as long as BF continues, long may Bernice continue to be a long-standing fixture!

Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor - Series 8 Volume 1 - The Syndicate Master Plan Volume 1Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 7 February 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Fourth Doctor - The Syndicate Masterplan: Volume 1 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Andrew Smith, Phil Mulryne, Simon Barnard,
Paul Morris, Guy Adams. Directed By: Nicholas Briggs


Tom Baker (The Doctor), Jane Slavin (Ann Kelso), John Leeson (K9), Frank Skinner (DCI Scott Neilson), Glynis Barber (Kathy Blake), Ewan Bailey (Hugo Blake), Nicholas Khan (Jimmy Lynch), Leon Williams (Tony Reynolds), Fenella Woolgar (Vanessa Seaborne), Jeremy Clyde (Lord Braye), Lizzie Roper (Trencher), Andrew Ryan (Titus Wayland), Finty Williams (Ada Lovelace), Andrew Havill (Colonel Wildman), Eve Webster (Hettie / Lady Cleverley), Barnaby Edwards (Mr Hobhouse), Glen McCready (Edvard Scheutz / Lord Byron / Harry), John Shrapnel (Nigel Colloon), Anna Acton (Brox), Blake Ritson (Elmore), Roger May(Mac Foley), Tracy Wiles (Drones).
Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

The Sinestran Kill by Andrew Smith


"Oh...I're THAT Doctor..."


When the Doctor decides to trace an anomalous energy signature on twentieth century Earth, he stumbles into an assassination attempt.

Gangland thugs are trying to murder a seemingly innocent shopkeeper, and it’s only the intervention of the Doctor and Ann Kelso – a WPC who happens to be on the scene – that prevents a tragedy. 

But why do the gangsters want the shopkeeper dead? And what does this have to do with alien technology?

The first stages of a grand conspiracy are about to be revealed. And finding the answers will take Ann Kelso on a journey like no other.


This new box set could almost be described as Series 15A. We find the Doctor travelling alone after leaving Leela on Galifrey. K9 Mark II isn't (quite) unpacked yet, and we are introduced to a brand new companion, WPC Ann Kelso, played by Jane Slavin. An actress  who is no stranger to Big Finish.

This first story is set in 1970's London, and written by Andrew Smith. After penning the classic episode Full Circle, Smith joined the police, and it is here that this knowledge is utilised well, as the Met feature heavily in what is essentially a plot about an interstellar, shapeshifting hit mob trying to kill a witness who has taken refuge on Earth. The action ends up as a wonderfully staged siege in New Scotland Yard.

Amongst the guest cast are Frank Skinner (DCI Scott Nelson), who is wary of the Doctor as in a previous role, the character had links with UNIT, and Glynis Barber who plays a classic East End gangsters moll.

The Sinestran Kill is a very strong opener, which ably introduces Ann Kelso as a new companion. The Alien threat is believable, and seemingly quite unstoppable. The mash up between classic East End villains and a professional alien hit squad is genius.

Andrew Smith has crafted a rather brilliant story, that positively romps along. Jane Slavin is great as the new companion, but the stand out performance for me was Frank Skinner as the world-weary DCI, who is surprised by nothing that might have the Doctor involved.


Planet of the Drashigs by Phil Mulryne


"Welcome's to Drashig World."


When the TARDIS lands on an alien planet, the Doctor’s intentions to show Ann Kelso an advanced future society are thrown into disarray.  Because they have arrived on DrashigWorld - a park where every known species of the terrifying predators has been gathered together to entertain and thrill the public. The familiar wetland Drashigs, the albino burrowing Drashigs of the desert, and deadliest of all, the tiny Emerald Drashigs of the rain forests.

And it’s not the best day to have arrived. The park has been shut down due to a visitor fatality. A Galactic Attractions inspector is on site meaning everyone is extremely tense and under pressure.

It’s exactly the right circumstances in which someone might make a mistake. And on Drashigworld, mistakes are deadly.


Ah! The Drashigs! Those memorable chompers from 1973's Carnival of Monsters - who would have thought they would ever get a whole story dedicated to them? 

Having just assembled the new K9, The Doctor and Liz land on a strange, marshy world. They soon find a Drashig on their tails and manage to escape via teleport to safety, only to find that they are in a theme park full of Drashigs, and the natives are getting VERY restless.

Planet of the Drashigs does fall in on itself a little by trying to be a bit too clever with its own theme. It is obviously a take on Michael Crichton's  Jurassic Park (the Doctor even stumbles across a pile of goat bones). Different breeds of Drashigs are in various enclosures for the amusement of the paying public. Oh - and of course there is the Emerald Drashig (read Tyrannosaurus Rex) which is extra fierce and intelligent. When these escape and run riot across the compound all hell really does breaks loose. 

The story should be so by the numbers, but it really is quite enjoyable. I loved it that the new K9 needs an overnight charge before proper use (his batteries kept failing because he only had a partial charge). There are some great set pieces, especially the Aliens homage where our heroes are trapped in a ventilation tunnels, being hunted down by ferocious Emerald Drashigs, all the while with K9 acting as a motion sensor in the dark.

The story is written by Phil Mulryne, who is obviously having a whale of the time with the source material. Vocal talent includes Fenella Woolgar (Call the Midwife), Jeremy Clyde and Lizzie Roper.


The Enchantress of Numbers by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris


"We’ll just have to make-do with my unerring sense of direction!"


The TARDIS lands in the grounds of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, in 1850. Mistaken for a medic and his maid, the Doctor and Ann are brought to meet Ada Lovelace - the mother of computing and daughter of Lord Byron - who has recently fallen ill. 

But the travellers are not here by chance. Something odd is happening on Earth, and they’ve determined that this place is the centre of it. 

Strange figures are walking the land. Strange figures wearing bird-like masks. What do they want with Ada? And how will it change the future of humanity?


I felt that The Enchantress of Numbers was the weakest story of this volume. It tries very hard, but I just didn’t find the story that involving. The whole idea of Bryon’s ghost, tied in with Block Transfer Computation, Ada Lovelace and mysterious figures shrouded in fog should really have been a perfect recipe for a Who story from this era. It just didn’t grab me, and felt rather run of the mill. I also felt that because of Lovelace’s larger than life characterisation (played with gusto by Finty Williams), it left Slavin’s Ann Kelso somewhat out in the cold.


The False Guardian by Guy Adams


"Maybe I left the HADS on!?"


Ann Kelso doesn’t like mysteries. Keen to investigate the trail of the Sinestrans, she sets the TARDIS on a new course... but flies into danger.

Arriving on a desolate world that the Doctor finds somehow familiar, the TARDIS crew discover that something is wrong with time. The inhabitants of an unusual complex are experimenting at the command of their enigmatic director... somebody who has quite a strong grudge against the Doctor.

Facing an old foe who was presumed dead, the travellers are soon trapped in a diabolical scheme. But is it just the tip of the iceberg?


Varga plants, HADS, Mavic Chen, Zephon, Kemble - The False Guardian is heavily steeped in Doctor Who history, and may at first seem like quite a daunting listen - but don’t worry - it isn’t. Guy Adams has crafted a fine story, dropping a few red herrings along the way that might just lead the listener to believe the story is heading one way, before it takes a sudden left turn in another direction. The cliff hanger at the end of part one of this story is brilliant, and so simply wrapped up at the start of part two…..and then there is the cliff hanger at the end of part two….

The False Guardian is of course essentially a means to set up parts three and four (which are coming in the next box set folks!), but is still an enjoyable ride, with a very rich guest cast, and brilliant sound design. Voice actors include John Shrapnel and Anna Acton.

I will never tire of Tom Baker in this role, and here we delve into a rather interesting, and so far unexplored time in the show’s history, that opens up new possibilities for this Big Finish range. I’m rather looking forward to volume two!

Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor - Series 8 Volume 1 - The Syndicate Master Plan Volume 1 is available from Big Finish HERE.

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #4 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 February 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: Thirteenth Doctor #4 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

28 Pages

Published by Titan Comic 6 February 2019

The first storyline in the Titan Thirteenth Doctor comic line comes to a conclusion, bringing some closure to the story that began as far back as the "Road to the Thirteenth Doctor" mini-series.  As conclusions go, it is fairly straightforward and simple. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who may have yet to read it, so I will just say that it is a decent, if somewhat anti-climactic end, but should satisfy any fans who have been following the story thus far.  Spoilers from here on out!

Picking up where we left off, the Doctor and the gang fall down the tube and land in some kind of sewer or something, and find Perkins' time travel cohort. She explains that she trapped Perkins in the time vortex hoping to spare him the pain of their predicament.  They then release the prisoners of the hoarder, and the Doctor calls in some Time Agents and they go after the hoarder. He isn't down to give up so easily and attempts to escape using Perkins' Vortex Manipulator...and just as he did end up trapped in the vortex.  

As endings go, it is okay, but it felt like this story finally began to get somewhere interesting with the previous issue, and that is immediately solved here.  I can now evaluate the story on the whole, and I feel like it may have taken a tad too long to finally find an interesting path, and once it did, it closed up shop before really exploring that path.  

Still, it is a decent Doctor Who adventure and maybe reading it one go would be more entertaining than in briefer monthly instalments.  Overall I would say it seems the Titan Thirteenth line is in good hands. 

Escape Hunt - When Worlds Collide - Doctor Who - The Live Escape GameBookmark and Share

Friday, 18 January 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )

…Or six go on an adventure in Space and Time.


I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Bristol unveiling of the new BBC and Escape Hunt collaboration, When Worlds Collide. An escape game with a Doctor Who twist, where you and a group of friends are locked in a room, and must help the Doctor by solving a series of puzzles that will stop the Cybermen breaking through a tear in space and time, and into this reality. The arrival of this new, very immersive game is extremely welcome in a year where there is no more new Who on television, and no exhibition in Cardiff.


I gathered five colleagues who were also fellow Doctor Who fans (Rhona, Nikki, Sarah, Stacy and Jack) and headed to Escape Hunt, at Cabot Circus in Bristol, to battle the Cybermen, and help the Doctor.


The game area can only be accessed by a lift, that added to the mystery, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff, and ushered to a cosy waiting area, where the last lot of intrepid adventurers were having a group photo taken. All of them were grinning from ear to ear, and waving sonic screwdrivers triumphantly.


Axel was our host for the evening, he told us that everyone who had played that day had successfully escaped the game (no pressure at all then)! We were politely asked to wait for a few minutes while the team went about ‘resetting’ the room, then after locking away our mobile phones, and enjoying some welcome snacks and drinks, we are told by Axel that our time had come.


We were guided to an imposing looking door, where we gathered around and listened to Axel explain to us the rules of the game, he also reassured us that he would be watching remotely at all times, and would happily offer up hints and tips should we need them. He then gave an embarrassed and apologetic look as his mobile phone started to ring, pulling it out of his pocket, he glanced at the caller ID and, with an excited glint in his eye,  showed us who was calling...…and THIS is exactly when our adventure started.


Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )I'm not going to give any spoilers, I think that would be a disservice to all of those who have have worked so hard to create the wonderful atmosphere of the game. If you have taken part in an escape room before, you will be familiar with the format. You are essentially ushered into a room full of clues, puzzles and red herrings, where you need to work together as a team to progress. The types of puzzles we had to solve covered all bases, from lateral-thinking through problem solving and a bit of physical agility. We rushed around manically, while a countdown on a large screen relentlessly ticked down from sixty minutes towards zero. 


But of course this escape room had a big theme Some of the puzzles had a Doctor Who feel, plus there were some  rather familiar looking props strewn around the room, some of which were an integral part of events. The game itself progressed through two rooms, each one strewn with Doctor Who easter eggs, some of the puzzles were really quite fiendish, some quite straight forward. If we were found to be really struggling, completely off track, or generally being thick, Axel's encouraging voice would come over the intercom and offer us a bit of gentle guidance, not exactly telling us how to solve a puzzle, but offering a hint such as "Hey guys, have you thought to look over there?” Then there were the times he’d chip in with the odd sarcastic quip like “I really don’t think waiving that sonic screwdriver at that plant will help”.


Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )The last few minutes of the game were quite intense. I honestly thought that we were going to be the first losing team of the day, but fuelled on by clouds of dry ice, great audio effects, and some restless Cybermen, we scraped through by the skin of our teeth, and escaped through a set of very special doors with just two minutes to spare.


After our escape Axel took us back through the game, offering a commentary on where he thought we did well, congratulating us on our team dynamic, and praising how at one point we all split up to try to crack a puzzle independently, in order to save time.


Back in the lobby, we all posed for our celebratory photo, eagerly brandishing a thirteenth Doctor sonic screwdriver. We left on a wave of adrenaline, with a certificate declaring that we had completed the game in twenty-eight minutes, not fifty-eight (don't worry Axel - we won't tell)!


Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )The gameplay itself is a very immersive and enjoyable experience, where you do really feel like characters in a Doctor-lite episode.  The lower age range for players is ten years old, and while there is nothing age inappropriate about the game for children around that age, I’m not sure what your average ten year old would get out of the experience. We had a team of six adults, who all agreed that we would have really struggled  without Axel’s gentle guidance. I would  say you need at least a team of four to get the full benefit, but with pricing ranging from £30 -  £33 per head, and no discount for children, that isn’t necessarily a cheap hour. But - we fans generally have very deep pockets and are faced with year with very little new Doctor Who. Plus it’s the nearest any of us will get to being a true companion.


Doctor Who Escape Hunt is open in Bristol now, bookings can be made HERE. The game will be coming to Escape Hunt venues in Leeds, Oxford, Manchester, Reading and Birmingham soon.