Class - Original Television Soundtrack (including Bonus CD)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 May 2019 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Class - Original Television Soundtrack (Credit: Silva Screen)
Available Now on Streaming, FLAC/MP3, CD and Vinyl.

Class will be remembered by most sci fi fans and BBC viewers as a short-lived 8 episode romp that was fleetingly available on BBC3 online before having late night showings on BBC1. Despite positive reviews, the show was undone by lacklustre viewing figures and an unwillingness by the higher ups at the BBC to provide another chance.

 

This album comes two years after the final transmission of Class on mainstream TV and is a veritable goldmine of musical atmosphere.

 


Main CD

 

I can happily report that not only does this CD meet expectations, it also goes on to exceed them. From the rousing opening of The Shadow Kin, to the hauntingly chilling cliffhanger of Governors Revealed, the forty-plus collection of music forms a very compelling and re-playable primary CD in the set.

Along the way comes the 'weird but wonderful' Strands From The Rift, the crowd pleasing Here She Comes in a Ruddy Great Bus, and the especially exciting (and unsettling) Asteroid track - which would hold its head high in an X Files or Outer Limits soundtrack collection.

Furthermore, the final brace of audio wonderment for the season conclusion (and sadly the series proper) cover all the necessary emotions, thoughts, and attachments to the core characters one can hope for. The CD culminates in Fight till your Last Breath and Souls Released with the auditory skill of Blair Mowat living up to such notable titles. 

 

**

Many other tracks are worth the listener's time. These include:

Rhodia; with the use of the first modern 'Doctor's Theme' from the parent show that Murray Gold used to such striking effect.

Time Has Looked At Your Faces; containing good multiple instruments and vocals 'as instruments' in a manner reminiscent of Enya.

Chasing The Dragon; here be rock vibes that evoke many a teenager's choice of allegiance when it comes to musical taste.

Dragon Attack has a sense of real adventure and character growth, as Charlie, April, Ram and Tanya all come under threat.

April's Past; adding further emotive pull to a character of much good writing and acting (such that she is my personal favourite of the teenage gang.

Heavy Petal; a chilling and foreboding concoction, ma­de further memorable still by the pounding drum backbeat as it comes to its conclusion.

To Share A Heart; this fits the bizarre but brilliant premise of the show's mid-season two- parter.

(And Finally) Charlie's Angry, Charlie's Winning; a multilayered effort from Mowat that helped with Detained being so intense and compelling. 

 

The only drawback is the lack of opening credits music, especially as the closing riffs of Track 43 are there to round off the album. But any such disappointment is somewhat negated by the [Song For] The Lost , which would not be out of place at a mediaeval monarch's court, and easily is one of the top 3 tracks.


Bonus CD

 

These tunes are not to be dismissed as mere 'best of the rest' but can be enjoyed repeatedly on their own, or even as part of a specific playlist to get the best possible reminder of given episodes.  The darkness and creepiness factor is ratcheted up to a great degree in many of these tracks, so for those that enjoyed Class for its horror aspects there is much to enjoy here.

At the same time a welcome change of pace comes in the form of several songs:

Nightvisitors – Tanya's Dad is a full-on song (as compared to the other CD's subtler vocals) that uses guitar and a male solo to intriguingly tell the 'point of view' of the alien visitors to various class mates in the show's third episode.

Black Is the Colour works as a good song in its own right, which also perfectly fit the overall feel of Class. It concerns fraught emotions, and unlike the track immediately analysed has a number of different singers to help give extra gravitas to the show's poignant endgame.

Previews of Episodes 3,4,5,6,7 and 8 form the tail end of this bonus disc and convincingly remind us how they added punch to viewers' initial desire to see further episodes.

 


To recap then, this release provides a solid couple of hours of arrestingly emotive and memorable music, and reminds the listener that Class (while surviving on through Big Finish) should have been allowed a couple more 'terms' at school at the very least.





Torchwood - Night of the Fendahl (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 6 May 2019 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Night of the Fendahl (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Tim Foley
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Featuring: Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Guy Adams (Ged), Bradley Freeguard (Phil), Gavin Swift (Derek), Gerald Tyler (Marco)

Released by Big Finish Productions - March 2019
Order from Amazon UK​​

“We have lived for one thing and one thing alone – we are cattle, mere morsels for our masters…”

A startling confession before we begin: this reviewer’s recent first experience with “Image of the Fendahl” didn’t exactly go according to plan. The intriguing supernatural mythology’s conveyance through rushed exposition dumps, the potent gothic imagery early on giving way to noticeably budget-constrained CGI, the minimal role afforded to the TARDIS team (albeit to far lesser impact than say “Blink”) – so many elements of this supposed 1970s Doctor Who classic seemed within touching distance of greatness yet, for yours truly at least, somehow missed the mark. So with Big Finish’s Torchwood Main Range kicking off once more with a spiritual successor, Night of the Fendahl, came a considerable sense of trepidation, not least since writer Tim Foley had already made clear his intent to tackle female-exploiting horror flicks and thus #MeToo issues alongside the titular classic foes.

That said, as with many of the stronger Main Range entries to date, Foley instantly recognises the value of a focused, intimate narrative which astutely balances its homages to both Torchwood and its mother show with the former’s grislier tone and resultantly morally complex characters. Far from aping Who’s necessarily more family-friendly take on the Fendahleen community for “Image” fans hoping for more of the same, the long-running range contributor offers up a no-holds-barred take on Gwen’s (seemingly unwitting) descent into the underworld of Fetch Priory. Whether we’re privy to lecherous director Marco’s unashamed ogling of Gwen as she turns her hand at acting in a quasi-pornographic slasher, discovering the grim secrets which make crew members like Gavin Swift’s Derek tick, or envisioning certain haunting demises as they’re depicted graphically before our ears, few could accuse “Night” of shying from its franchises’ most disturbing recesses.

Such unsettling thematic explorations as these naturally serve the additional purpose of feeding into the piece’s irrefutable investigation into the entertainment industry’s gender politics, an issue which has, of course, come into the limelight in the last couple of years (after tragically lingering in the shadows for far longer than that). Indeed, it’s little wonder that Eve Myles – who departed Big Finish’s ongoing post-Miracle Day Big Finish to pursue other projects – returned to tackle meaty material of this ilk, with her character subjected to an all-manner of emotional horrors that render subsequent proceedings all the more empowering as a result. Myles should, if anything, consider adding “Night” to her next audition portfolio (not that she likely needs one at this point!), since the manner in which she’ll effortlessly flit from chillingly willing sexual victim to a possessed force of nature to a more familiar Gwen – albeit in a still harrowing context – produces a show-stopping performance which stands alongside any of her superb work in Broadchurch, Victoria or the like of late.

The only downside to Foley’s exploration of said weighty subject matter with Myles, though, is that he might’ve bitten off more than the Fendahleen can chew here. Where the much-lauded “Adrift” sacrificed Torchwood’s traditional monster-of-the-week entirely to directly confront the issue of missing children to heartbreaking effect, “Night” only has the opportunity to follow suit for #MeToo issues to a certain extent, its hands inevitably tied between this and gradually building up the fear factor of its titular supernatural entity’s return. Thankfully, the two narrative strands do eventually intertwine satisfyingly come the hour’s denouement, leaving those listeners considering a career in screen entertainment with a justifiably definitive – if slightly pressed-for-time – note on the fate which could befall them repeating past generations’ representational mistakes. Yet whether this nostalgia vs. societal discussion balancing act will hinder any of the next three Who villain-featuring Main Range entries, particularly when May’s outing features such a purposely laughable foil for Suzie Costello as Slitheen refugee Margaret Blaine, remain to be seen.

Even so, the level of effort invested into ensuring “Night” does justice to its talking point and classic Who hook remains unmistakable across the board, especially in those tertiary elements which we all so often overlook such as its supporting cast players and sound design. Approaching a play of this ilk must’ve seemed an intimidating prospect to say the least for Swift, Gerald Tyler, Gerald Tyler and even regular Torchwood scribe Guy Adams, all of whom portray unsavoury individuals brought face-to-face with their corrupt vices, but each player shows an admirably staunch commitment to ensuring that the tale’s deeply flawed human antagonists stay with us just as long as its visceral set-pieces. The latter elements wouldn’t be possible either, of course, without the behind-the-scenes team’s integrating subtle shrieks of wind enveloping Fetch Priory, blood-soaked death blows and a menagerie of other aural effects to immerse us in proceedings – a challenge which they meet with such remarkable success that future audio dramatists would do well to take note.

For all this reviewer’s reservations before hitting Play, then, and despite Foley overreaching himself in the cramped space of a single hour, here lies another thoroughly impressive audio Torchwood entry sizzling with gothic scares, topical themes at their most disturbing and psychologically nuanced characters who’ll frequently leave you utterly terrified. Whether you’re craving more time in the Fendahl’s sinister (now CGI constraints-free) presence, a Gwen-centric episode which takes her character in a bold new trajectory, or proof that we’re in for another thrilling year of standalone adventures, “Night of the Fendahl” excels itself in all of those respects; consider the resurrection gauntlet well and truly thrown down for the next eleven Main Range storylines.

NEXT TIME ON TORCHWOOD – Battling one of the Doctor’s bygone adversaries would usually seem enough of an ordeal in and of itself; doing so while sparring wits with none other than Jo Jones in an increasingly confined underground space, however, is another matter entirely. Who better to juggle both challenges in The Green Life than the always calm and compassionate Time Agent known to us as Captain Jack Harkness, then? Who indeed – not even the God Among Us knows for certain whether either of these cantankerous rebel spirits will escape Llanfairfach alive and / or with their respective sanities intact!






Doctor Who - Short Trips 9.4: Year of the Drex OlympicsBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 May 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Year of the Drex Olympics (Credit: Big Finish)

Narrator: Fraser Hines,  Cover Artist Mark Plastow 

Director: Lisa Bowerman 

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh & Nicholas Briggs

Music: Richard Fox, Producer: Alfie Shaw

Script Editoe: Alfie Shaw, Sound Design: Richard Fox

Written by: Paul Ebbs 

All the Doctor wanted to do on Venus was learn their aikido. But as ever, his plans have gone awry. The TARDIS has been stolen to be a prize in the Venusian Olympics. The Doctor is furious, not only at the theft but also that it is the third place prize! Now Jamie and Victoria must compete to get the TARDIS back, and soon find themselves winning every event.

The TARDIS crew normally win, but this time it might cost them everything…

Year of the Drex Olympics is the sort of fluffy second Doctor story that sits perfectly in that era. There is a lot of banter between the three companions (here Jamie and Victoria), with the Doctor (as voiced by Fraser Hines) getting into a few comical scrapes.

The story is that unbeknown to the Doctor, the TARDIS has been volunteered as a prize in the Venusian Olympics. The only way that the Doctor and his companions can get it back is to compete, and when they do - some very odd genetic changes start to affect them.

Listening to this audio, I think Fraser Hines must be my favourite narrator. He can still capture Jamie perfectly, and even has a fair stab at Victoria - but it is his impersonation of the second Doctor that is the real winner. Very impressive indeed.

This story is penned by Paul Ebbs, who handles proceedings perfectly, capturing all of the characters in their prime, and introducing us to a very strange new race.

Year of the Drex Olympics is available HERE from Big Finish.

 





The Comic Strip Adaptations: Vol 1Bookmark and Share

Monday, 29 April 2019 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 01 (Credit: Big Finish)
Adapted By: Alan Barnes
Director: Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

First Released: SMarch 2019

Big Finish’s year of anniversary celebrations has many surprises in store, not least of which was the reveal of a special release for Doctors 4-8. For myself, the most anticipated of these releases was the Fourth Doctors ‘Comic Strip Adaptations’ which had been teased on and off for some time now. The two stories chosen, The Iron Legion and The Star Beast are both from early in the DWM strip and were written by British comics legends Pat Mills and John Wagner. As such, they introduced some of their trademark ‘zaniness’, into the strips which whilst still traditionally ‘doctor who-ish’ had a unique whimsical flare and ambitious scope that set them apart from the admittedly cheap looking Season 17 (which was on air when Doctor Who Weekly debuted). So what of these adaptations then? Coming from such a visual medium, are they able to capture the spirit of their trend-setting originals?

The Iron Legion is the first story in the set and I think it’s fair for me to confess that alongside End of the Line, Voyager, Oblivion and Children of the Revolution it’s my favourite DWM strip. Admittedly then, I was quite nervous about how this would translate to the audio medium. The strip itself is arguably one of the most visual in DWM’s entire run and the scale is beyond vast. Alan Barnes adapts both these stories and given his history with both DWM and British comics, in general, is well placed to do so. With The Iron Legion, in particular, he keeps the main structure and set pieces of the original strip, whilst adding several new but not intrusive elements (which I wont spoil here). The result is this adaptation feels very much like a retelling of the comic original, but introduces enough to make it interesting enough to anyone who is familiar with that story. Toby Longworth and Brian Protheroe excel in their roles as Vesuvias and Ironicus respectively, the latter in particular capturing the character exactly as I imagined he sounded when I fist read the strip.

Of course, any adaptations of the Fourth Doctors DWM strip would have to include a version of The Star Beast which introduced Beep the Meep to the world of Doctor Who. Again Alan Barnes script sticks close to the original story but differs enough to keep it interesting. One particularly pleasing element kept from the strip version is the quirky natures of the humour given to the Doctor, with dialogue being taken directly from the strip itself. Tom Baker in particular, seems to enjoy this quirky and more off-the-wall version of his character (which is saying something) and he gives two intoxicating performances across the set. Rhianne Starbuck is equally wonderful as Sharon and the pair have great chemistry throughout this story. Of course, the real ‘star’ of Star Beast is of course Beep the Meep, played wonderfully by Bethan Dixon Bate. It’s a wonderfully funny and genuinely creepy performance, one that does great justice to such a well-established character.

The Comic Strip Adapations has proven to be a great success and they deserve all the recognition they can get, as the task of adapting two popular and incredibly visual stories for the audio medium must have been incredibly vast. One thing that really comes through with these two audio dramas is just how fun they are. Everybody, from Alan Barnes to Tom Baker to the sound designers, seems to be having incredible fun bringing these two wild and wacky stories to life. They may not be to everyone’s taste, given just how off the wall they are! But I for one look forward to a possible Comic Strip Adaptations Two and of course the four series of Beep the Meep box sets that must surely be around the corner…






The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released April 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous 3 continues the Eighth Doctor storyline, seeing the Doctor and friends Liv and Helen trying to escape from the Ravenous, ancient monsters that love to eat Time Lords life energy.  Thinking back, it has been a long time since a Eighth Doctor lead boxset from Big Finish has let me down, and I am happy to say the rend continues!  Paul McGann has gotten some of the best stories from Big Finish since 2007 when he took Lucie Miller on board.  And that shouldn't even knock the good ol' Charley days of yesteryear, but 2007 is when I feel his Doctor truly took off...and he we are over a decade later and they are still knocking out really high quality boxsets with this Doctor. 

 

As always, I try to keep back the details of the stories as best I can, but Spoiler-phobic may wish to avoid may review...needless to say, I recommend it, those who want more details, carry on:

 

Our adventure begins with Deeptime Frontier, as the gang ending up on a Time Lord space station that is mining the Time Vortex...but the rift it has opened seems to be the very cause of the ancient Ravenous being unleashed upon the universe, and while the station seemingly only has one dead ravenous aboard, the Doctor knows more are on the trail.  I've felt that a lot of these boxsets have been staring slow, but I think this one comes out swinging.  As much as I have enjoyed the previous sets in the Ravenous series, it must be said that the actual Ravenous haven't played a large role so far.  They were only briefly mentioned at the end of the first set, and despite making their actual debut in the final story of Ravenous 2, they really played no role in the three stories that preceded.  They were good stories and fun to listen to, but they could've gone out in any set.  This set actually begins with the Ravenous heavily involved in the plot, and even as they take a backseat for an episode or two, at least the TARDIS team is technically still on the run from them.  

Episode two of the set (Companion Piece) has Liv and Helen captured by the Nine (a previous incarnation of the Eleven), and since he regenerated from the Eight back in Doom Coalition 3, he has been collecting all of the Doctor's companions and putting them in cells in chronological order.  Liv & Helen end up in a cell with a woman who keeps getting moved back in forth in her order, Charlotte Pollard.  Yay Charley!  I always liked Charley and the Eighth Doctor together.  While it is a shame there is no reunion between the Doctor and his old friend from his earliest Big Finish days, it was still nice to hear from her again.  The story also features River Song, who is being used by the Nine to help find all the old companions, though being River things are never so simple.  This was a fun episode, fun getting to hear so many companions make brief cameo, but just well executed fun beyond that.  

In L.E.G.E.N.D., The Doctor is reunited with Liv and Helen, having caught up with them at the end of the previous adventure, and with the Eleven in tow, they end up in an adventure in 19th Century Germany, where they meet the Brothers Grimm and have to fight off a super computer and some plasm that can create anything created by an alien researcher who is in over her head...the story may have little to do with the ongoing plot of the Ravenous, but I thought it was a fun story, and at least technically they are still on the run from the beasts. Likely not to be the most memorable story of the set, but still an entertaining hour. 

The set is closed out with The Odds Against, in which the TARDIS lands on a planet, they stumble upon a dead body, the authorities show up, and it seems like a regular day at the office...only the authorities don't believe they had anything to do with the death.  A nice change.  But it turns out the Abbot of the Brotherhood of Ix that seems so helpful may have something more sinister up his sleeve.  Of course, that is because he is more sinister. Meanwhile the Eleven has lost the voice in his head of his Ninth incarnation, apparently, he was eaten up by the Ravenous, or so he thinks.  It turns out that his particular regeneration condition makes him immune to the Ravenous wanting to eat him, and the Abbot is, in fact, The Nine (Ix, get it?).  Overall, a solid conclusion, and a nice cliffhanger, to this volume in the series.

The particular fact of the Eleven's immunity to the Ravenous trying to eat him will clearly play a major role in the fourth boxset, and if this series is to follow the suit of the previous Eighth Doctor boxset series, the fourth is likely to be the finale to this storyline.  If my reviews haven't made it clear, this set has been great, and it is so far the best set in the Ravenous line. 

 

 






Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #6 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 17 April 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #6 (Credit: Titan)

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

31 Pages

Published by Titan Comic 10 April 2019

What I enjoyed about Issue 6 of the “Thirteenth Doctor” line from Titan Comics, is that it felt like it was going in one direction, but in the last few moments opened up to make this story bigger in an interesting way. Issue 5 had introduced us to a new setting, introduced a new guest character, and in the end the new monster of the week. It seemed like it was set up for a story in this setting.

Then this issue seemed to wrap it up. Sort of felt like a Doctor Who ending, monster defeated - onwards to the next adventure. But then our gang lands in another spot in history that the companions all know from the same podcast they learned about of the last era...and the same monsters are here...then some Time Agents show up.

When it was wrapping everything up, I initially thought "well this seems to be just a humdrum two-parter" and thought reviewing it might be hard, but that extra set up at the end gave me hope.  Our heroes are on a brand new adventure, one with more intriguing threads to follow than some monsters in the dark in a quiet wartorn village centuries ago.  Now there are the monsters, but also Time Agents, and a mysterious podcast which seems to be exploring the strange world s the TARDIS is now landing them in.

I thought the last issue was fine, but it had mostly been story set up, so it didn’t particularly grab me. This issue pushed it in a new direction, one that left me interested to see where it all leads.