Jago & Litefoot Forever (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 2 June 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Jago & Litefoot Forever (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
First Released: May 2018
Running Time: 3 hours

 

Big Finish's surprisingly long-running series Jago & Litefoot comes to an end, following the death of one of the leads Trevor Baxter, and the finale is quite heartwarming and rewarding for longtime fans. Newcomers won't be totally lost and can find some fun in this, but as a finale, it is most certainly geared towards longtime listeners.  

Henry Gordon Jago's good friend George Litefoot is missing, and it is up to Jago to find his lost friend, all while battling his own memory loss.  It is a story that celebrates the duo, and all of their friends both regulars of the show and recurring characters. Christopher Benjamin anchors the story with a fantastic performance, and his co-star Trevor Baxter is able to appear via archival recordings. 

In many ways, the story not only serves as an end to the series, but it is clearly built as a tribute to Baxter, who unfortunately passed before they could record together again. It is an excellent finale, saying goodbye to the likable pair and their friends in a lovely tale that is both fun and poignant and ends their Victorian Adventures on a high note. 

Also included in this set is The Jago and Litefoot Revival, which is a "Short Trips" story performed by Benjamin and Baxter, and tells of an adventure the pair had with two separate Doctors, the Tenth and Eleventh.  This is a fun lark as well, if for no reason other than to get a bit more of Baxter in the role before his passing.  

This series brought two actors who hadn't seen each other since they walked off that set of The Talons of Weng-Chiang in 1977, and brought them back together...and fans of their adventures will no doubt enjoy their final adventure together.   A great way to say goodbye to Baxter and the whole series. Fans of Jago & Litefoot rejoice, Jago & Litefoot Forever is a great farewell.



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Released 30 Jun 2018
Jago & Litefoot Forever



The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2 (Credit: Big Finish)Writer: Guy AdamsDan StarkeyJustin Richards
Director: Ken BentleyNicholas Briggs
Featuring: Tom BakerLouise JamesonGabriel Woolf
Released on:  May 2018
[Big Finish Release]

Running Time: 240 minutes

THE SHADOW OF LONDON by Justin Richards

"Good grief - it looks as if we are too late..."

 

The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship's library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.

But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians... whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.

Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild... and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.

Whilst listening to The Shadow of London, with the Doctor and Lela wandering around the uncannily quiet streets of London, I was reminded on The Android Invasion. In fact, that very story is fleetingly referenced by the Doctor himself, so it wasn’t just me that noticed the parallels.

This episode has plenty of twists and turns, so I don’t want to reveal too much. I will though say that the monster in this is fantastic. A slobbering, growling, roaring beast that is absolutely perfect for this era of the show. The thought of it stalking you through the empty streets of London is rather unsettling. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on absolute top form. Darren Boyd makes for a deliciously duplicitous villain (or is he?). The story, by Justin Reynolds, could have easily been crafted by the great Terrance Dicks.

The Shadow of London is a great opener to this second part of Tom Baker's Series Seven with Big Finish.

.


THE BAD PENNY by Dan Starkey

 

"Goodbye Edwin...Goodbye!!!"

 

In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite... which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.

When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.

Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.

You can check in... but you can never leave.

As with the previous story, The Bad Penny would not only fit perfectly into season fifteen of the classic show, but it also has a rather repulsive and brilliantly imagined monster - a time feasting parasite, which has created a tear in time that stretches across two hundred years. 

Dan Starkey (who needs no introduction), is on writing duties (and acting duties), and weaves a wonderfully taut story, that could so easily have folded in on itself under the complications of the paradoxes that it creates. The mental image that he conjures of the aforementioned creature is fantastic, all teeth and tentacles, it is something that the budget of the time could never have imagined, but thanks to some fantastic writing, in my mind's eye, it was terrifying.

The cast are all top notch, with the late Keith Barron being the standout as Lord Tulip, a delicious caricature of a working-class man who has been pushed over the edge by desperation.

The Bad Penny is a finely crafted time travel story, with a few lovely twists.

 


KILL THE DOCTOR! by Guy Adams

 

Umm...."Kill the Doctor!"

 

The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the data-stream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.

But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.

Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s data-stream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?

Kill The Doctor follows the familiar pattern of being the first two parts of a four-part story. So when the Doctor and Leela land on Drummond and find that the fashion of choice is Egyptian chic, it doesn’t come as any surprise, as we know that Sutekh himself will be soon making an appearance.

The story’s driving force is Rene.net, - a powerful wireless network that will let Sutekh to convince the population of Drummond to turn on the Doctor. The actual concept of Drummond itself, is quite a modern one, with the population having to rely heavily on handheld phones that are powered by Rene.net. The whole population wandering the streets with their heads down, staring at their phone screen is, of course, a worryingly familiar image.

Sutekh makes his appearance through Rania - The Girl In The Fireplce's Sophia Myles - who plays the tortured soul very well.

The Doctor and Leela are split up quite early in the story. Leela is paired with Kendra, a girl who lives hand to mouth, the Doctor is sidetracked, having to find a new scanner for the TARDIS.

Sadly though Kill The Doctor is more filler than thriller, a taste of what Sutekh can do before the main event that follows. 

 


 

THE AGE OF SUTEKH by Guy Adams

 

"Of course I have a plan.....it involves a screwdriver.....and a LOT of running."

 

The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.

As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.

Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.

A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.

And here we have it. A proper, classic villain taking centre stage in a rematch with the fourth Doctor. Gabriel Woolf is back as the ancient Osiran. who is at first weak, but still very dangerous. Thanks to Rene.net he quickly changes Drummond into the image of Osiris, also transforming the local security team into Osiran Server Robots, who are, of course, disguised as mummies.

The story quickly ratchets up the tension from the opening two episodes, with the Doctor being helped by PC Joyce, who is a wonderfully written character that provides a lot of much needed comic relief, John Dorney is obviously relishing this gift of a role.

The writer, Guy Adams has, with these last two episodes, crafted a fine followup to a much loved, classic story.

 


To sum up - Series Seven, Volume Two of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, carries on the excellent run of stories from the first volume and is well worth your time and money.

 





The Lure of the Nomad (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Lure of the Nomad (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), George Sear (Mathew Sharpe), Matthew Holness (Eric Drazen), Susie Riddell (Esther Brak), Ruth Sillers (Willoway), Jonathan Christie (Captain Schumer), Anna Barry (Juniper Hartigan), Dan March (Varian). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer John Ainsworth
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

The latest adventure for the Sixth Doctor in Big Finish's Monthly Range is a mildly enjoyable tale. Colin Baker, as always, delivers as the Doctor...but the story around him is average at best.  That is not to say there are not good ideas, but the best idea of the bunch is undercut by the presentation...but  will dive deeper into that in a moment. 

First, the story.  The Sixth Doctor has been adventuring lately with a fellow named Mathew Sharpe.  The two have been traveling for a bit, but the Doctor thinks it may be time for their adventures to come to a close. Before he takes Mathew home though, they answer a distress signal.  They end up on a big ship in space being renovated into some kind of resort, but the creatures in tentacle robot suits that are renovating it begin killing people. The question is why? 

It's all standard Who stuff, and it isn't really told in any new interesting way.  That isn't to say it can't be entertaining, but it certainly keeps it from being terribly memorable.  The best element of the story, for me, was also a bit of a letdown.  So...SPOILERS AHEAD:

The problem with the big reveal is that it is totally undercut by the fact that we had never heard of this Mathew character before now.  So the big reveal that he is actually an evil alien that was trying to trap the Doctor loses some impact in that we don't know Mathew.  We haven't spent time with him, so the reveal that he is secretly evil isn't too shocking.  As the story progressed I figured he was going to either die or be a villain.  If they had actually lead up to this story with Mathew, it may have had more impact.  But I don't care that the Doctor loses a friend here, because I never met him before this story. I am told they adventured together, but I never experienced it. 

So this is a hit and miss story for me. It doesn't do anything too new or creative, and the most intriguing element...a companion that is secretly evil all along, lacks the impact it may have had if they had actually had a series of adventures leading up to this moment.  Instead it feels like a climax to a story I missed out on. 





Project: Twilight (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Project: Twilight (Credit: Big Finish / Clayton Hickman) Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
First Released: August 2001
Running Time: 2 hours

There was a point in the early 2000s when the shadowy group known as the Forge were emerging as Big Finish’s big, original, villain. It’s a concept that will be fundamentally familiar to viewers of Doctor Who after its return to television – a sort of dark version of UNIT; utterly ruthless in its methods and devoted not to defending the human race against alien threats, but to exploiting such technologies to empower the British Empire.

But it’s the contrast to Torchwood that stands out when listening to these now. While Torchwood One gave us the natural businesslike extension of the concept of an organization for which busting interdimensional threats and exploring crashed spaceships were literally just another day at the office, and Torchwood Three gave us the sighing, grumbling, sloppiness of a team largely seeing it as ‘just a job,’ the Forge is full of howling fanatics and True Believers. Their main ‘hunter’ Nimrod is so given to pretentious monologuing about the nature of Absolute Power and Destiny that he’s frequently just short of ‘catharsis of spurious morality’ territory. He desperately needs the Doctor to puncture his pomposity with a bit of silly banter.

That doesn’t happen in Project: Twilight, however, which sits squarely in the uber dark and gritty corner of 80s Who and has zero tolerance for any whimsy or even wit. From the moment the Sixth Doctor finds the gruesomely disembowelled corpses of cats and dogs in an alley, the tone is pretty much set for the rest of the story.

Attempting to say something new about vampires, and explore moral relativity, Project: Twilight doesn’t really succeed in either regard. The coven of vampires lead by Reggie and Amelia are just so thoroughly and totally unpleasant – doubling as both creatures of the night and mob bosses – that their attempts to present themselves as victims of circumstance doesn’t really convince. Yes, the Forge may have infected them against their will, but their behaviour since is much more Near Dark than Interview with a Vampire (let alone the glittery remorse of Twilight). The Doctor’s agreeing to help with their experiments to reverse their condition is a little hard to accept, even as he tuts and sighs at their brutal methods. Even odder is quite how long it takes him to cop on that he’s working with vampires even after a couple of episodes working  on the genetic code and blood (never mind people trying to kill them with crossbow bolts through the heart, trouble crossing running water and the rest). Weirder still, Evelyn asks him to check his white, male Gallifyrean privilege and confront his racism against vampires when… y’know...  they kill and eat people. ‘You only dislike them because they kill and eat people’ is a deeply troubling high horse to choose to mount.

And that’s before the not so shocking twist Amelia isn’t interested in a cure for anything but their weaknesses so that she can breed a new race of super-vampires with which to conquer and enslave the human race.

Only Cassie, the single mother newly employed at Reggie’s casino the Dusk, comes across sympathetically. And by the final scenes of Nimrod promising the Doctor a future rematch, it sounds like not just a threat to the Time Lord, but to the viewer as well.Across all their ranges, there must now be the best part of five hundred Big Finish audios so they can’t all be brilliant. But that also just underlines that there’s no need for newer listeners dipping into the Big Finish back catalogue to listen to this.

 



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Released 30 Aug 2001
Project: Twilight (Doctor Who)



Torchwood: Believe (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 8 May 2018 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Torchwood; Believe (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Guy Adams
Director: Scott Handcock
Featuring:John Barrowman, Gareth David-Lloyd, Eve Myles, Naoko Mori, Burn Gorman, Arthur Darvill
Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
Running Time: 3 hours

Released by Big Finish Productions - April 2018
Order from Amazon UK

"We're responsible for everything we do, Val. Every book you've written for money that tells people what to think, every DVD you've produced for money that tells people what to change about their lives. Every speech, every assembly, every word - you don't get to do that and shrug away the responsibility."

Upon learning of Big Finish’s successful acquisition of the Torchwood licence back in 2015, fans the world over – this reviewer included – immediately began drafting their personal wish-lists for the franchise’s impending audio continuation. What happened next after Miracle Day? Could Owen and / or Tosh return to the fold despite their demises in 2008’s “Exit Wounds”? Was it time to learn the fabled secrets of Torchwood Two? And no, seriously, when were we moving on from Miracle Day so as to get that failed US soft reboot’s sour taste out of our palettes?

Perhaps the most pressing point on the agenda, however, was just how swiftly the studio could reunite Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Toshiko Sato and Owen Harper for any lost missions beyond those we witnessed on-screen in Seasons One and Two. Well, we’ve waited three years – the Owen-less 10th anniversary celebration The Torchwood Archive notwithstanding – to discover the answer, but it comes in the form of perhaps the range’s most satisfying boxset to date, Torchwood: Believe.

Isolating his latest scripts from both the sinister activities of the Committee in Big Finish’s monthly releases and Cardiff’s present apocalyptic state in Aliens Among Us proves a genuine masterstroke on Guy Adams’ part. Rather than forcing newcomers enticed by the return of all five Torchwood Three members to hit pause and purchase past releases in order to decipher what’s occurring here, the regular range contributor delivers a totally standalone affair, albeit one which still packs no shortage of emotional punches thanks to further exploring many thematic and character strands first established in the original show.

Part of what makes this approach so successful from the outset is how comfortably familiar Believe’s opening moments will seem to those fans who’ve followed the show in all its forms since Day One (episodic pun fully intended). At first, we’re presented with a run-of-the-mill debrief led by Owen into the ongoing exploits of the Church of the Outsiders, a seemingly innocuous religious cult whose efforts to hasten humanity’s ascent to meet – and interbreeding with – alien species include stealing classified UNIT data, dabbling in illegal cyber augmentation as well as setting up their own TV channel, community centres and full-fledged indoctrinatory academy.

It’s a quintessential sequence that feels ripped straight out of the TV show, with each cast member helping to remind us of the lead ensemble’s witty rapport: Owen (Gorman) righteously assured of his every move’s necessity, Toshiko (Mori)’s reserved tendency to serve as the voice of reason, Ianto (David-Lloyd)’s still-growing confidence within the team dynamic, Gwen (Myles)’s often gung-ho attitude tempered by the personal grounding that she brings to the agency and Jack (Barrowman) as enigmatic as he is charismatic. So far so Torchwood, then? Clearly, we’re in for three hours’ worth of Avengers: Infinity War-style crossover banter, right?

Not exactly. As Adams and producer James Goss accurately highlighted in the midst of Believe’s pre-release marketing campaign, the show – in its on-screen incarnation – would often split up the team to achieve different goals within the context of the wider mission, thereby allowing time to explore how each character’s individual passions and flaws affected their outlook on increasingly hostile situations. Indeed, the same rings true here as Ianto pairs himself with one of the Church’s devoted disciples to further investigate their goals, Tosh pursues the sect’s resident accountant Frank Layton (brought to life with self-titled and loathsomely complacent aplomb by ex-Doctor Who companion Arthur Darvill) and Gwen meets Church leader Val’s introverted daughter Andromeda, all while Owen oversees operations from the Hub and Jack heads off to pastures unknown.

Yet to simply describe Believe as but a scattershot collection of plot threads which eventually converge would severely undermine the scale of Adams’ achievement, not least in challenging each member of the team with dilemmas the likes of which they’ve arguably never faced before. The Church’s interstellar ambitions resonate in extremely different ways for each of our protagonists, with Jack for instance earnestly admitting his yearning to travel the stars as he once did with the Doctor, Ianto – as with The Last Beacon in April – once again forced to consider whether his ties with Torchwood Three threaten to rob him of any soul, hope or life meaning, and most notably the show’s beloved unrequited romance between Owen and Tosh taking the most disturbing detour imaginable.

For make no mistake, the scribe who showed us Suzie’s darkest inhibitions in Moving Target and took Gwen on a high-octane car chase with her local counsellor in More Than This has no qualms about taking further bold risks this time around either. Much as Gorman and Mori looked overjoyed to reunite their wayward almost-lovers when posting about their recording experiences on Twitter, the pair – both as actors and characters – are put through the dramatic ringer and then some here, Tosh’s efforts to extract any key intel possible from Layton about his supposedly selfless church-turned-charity soon developing into Children of Earth-level territory which could uproot her budding romantic tension with Mr. Harper forever. Think of a fall from grace on the scale of a Greek tragedy and you'll only just scratch the surface what's in store, as one of the pair colossally oversteps their reach to devastating effect.

Thank goodness, then, that both stars knock the ball out of the metaphorical park with captivating, psychologically intricate and often downright heartbreaking performances. We’ll avoid spoilers here for the sake of preserving your listening experience, save for that the Tosh-Layton storyline builds to an extremely unsettling crescendo, to a place where this reviewer isn’t entirely sure even the TV show would’ve dared to tread on BBC One / Two / Three. Heck, Big Finish themselves rarely tend to stray into territory as macabre as this, barring some of their early Doctor Who Main Release excursions like Colditz or the Doctor Who: Unbound range, but when the results are so painstakingly powerful and haunting as this, one almost wishes that they’d take the leap of faith more often.

Such narrative ambition on Adams’ part doesn’t end there – it pervades Believe on a conceptual level as well. Ever since juggling verbose duck companions with religious satire in The Holy Terror, Big Finish have shown their complete willingness to interrogate faith, its cathartic and chaos-inducing consequences for its followers / opponents, as well as whether anyone has the right to brazenly dispel theistic beliefs. Believe takes this contemplation to another level altogether, as Jack’s met with the profound existential dilemma of knowing that the Church’s desire to have humanity mingle with aliens will eventually come to pass, while Owen considers whether he’s fuelling the mission out of mere ego or indignation at religious groups’ naivety surrounding the afterlife, and Ianto undergoes an epiphany surrounding that aforementioned intervention by Torchwood into the beliefs of others without any consideration for the victims left behind come the mission’s denouement. Rhian Blundell's superb work as Ianto's endearingly sincere and passionate guide Erin helps immeasurably in the latter regard, with her and David-Lloyd's characters striking up a quaint college romance of sorts that won't fail to take even the biggest Jones-Harkness shippers off guard.

Two questions might justifiably have occurred to readers of this review by now: why didn’t Torchwood Season Two’s final episodes make mention of these character moments if they’re so pivotal, and where does the inevitable alien antagonist factor into processes? Let’s tackle those in linear order – unlike Believe’s refreshingly non-linear structure, with Episode 1 in particular zipping cleverly between Owen’s initial debrief and each teammate’s consequent mission. Considering that Adams’ exemplary three-part tale situates itself explicitly between the events of “A Day in the Death” and “Fragments”, that it’s so intent on progressing arguably unresolved threads from the show such as the extents of Tosh’s loyalty, Ianto’s increasingly challenged worldview and Jack’s tendency to withhold the truth even from his comrades might stretch the credibility of its status as a ‘canonical’ in-between-quel for some.

Nevertheless, just as some of Big Finish’s finest Who productions took slight liberties with continuity in the name of ambitious storytelling, so too does Believe admirably follow that route so as to truly test our perceptions of these evolving characters in fascinating, often remarkably unsettling ways. That also brings us onto its aforementioned extraterrestrial presence – again, staying clear of spoilers, Torchwood’s finest hours frequently arose from dealing with the worst of humanity rather than alien foes, which affords Adams the creative licence here to pit the team against fallible but equally rational members of their species whose sympathetic motivations only further the personal stakes for both factions.

So in spite of bringing together the Famous Five as well as temporarily restoring classic elements from the show such as the fully-operational Hub and – of course – the SUV, Torchwood: Believe fast cements itself as anything but your average all-guns-blazing detective drama. There’s no denying that its audacious character arcs, unspeakably heartrending performances from Gorman and Mori, and realistic shades of moral greyness will result in a challenging listening experience for long-term fans, but those elements also set the boxset apart as an awards-worthy tour de force in truly provocative science-fiction. Between the masterful Beacon and the game-changing Believe, 2018 could be the year where everything changes for Big Finish’s Torchwood range; if that’s the case, then one thing’s for sure – Guy Adams and his entire lead cast are ready.






Jago & Litefoot & Strax (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
 Jago & Litefoot & Strax (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
First Released: November 2015
Running Time: 2 hours
 

It is kind of amazing what Big Finish can do. They can somehow base a series around two characters that appeared in one story in 1977, make it a success, and then for a bit of a fun event, have them crossover with a recurring character from the new series. And it can still be fairly accessible for newcomers.  These adventures don't really require a ton of backstory for you to find them enjoyable.

I am aware of Jago & Litefoot from their lone appearance in the 70s, and while I've not really had too much chance to dive into their Big Finish run, I have enjoyed nearly all of their appearances in regular Doctor Who adventures. This adventure, in which they team up with New Series recurring Sontaran Strax.  It's a smart use the newly acquired Big Finish license, which gives them use of New Series characters.  Why not take your classic series spin-off featuring a couple of guys solving paranormal and alien mysteries in Late Victorian England, and team them up with at least one member of the New series team that does the same? 

In this Two-Part story, titled "The Haunting," Strax ends up assisting Jago & Litefoot on a supposedly haunted house mystery...though the entire time he thinks they are just Vastra and Jenny undercover. Strax is dumb. Which is fun!  The entire two-part mystery is good fun.  Jago & Litefoot have a good rapport, and Strax is usually a pretty funny comic relief to the Paternoster Gang, so the story has a good comedy line-up. Oddly, that comedy team is investigating murders in a haunted house.  That is the fun of it. 

I rather enjoyed this story.  It is light, funny, with just enough drama mixed in to balance it all out. As someone who was only mildly familiar with the Jago & Litefoot series before I began this, I can say it is definitely accessible to newcomers, and if anything it just makes you want to listen to more from this series. 



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Released 31 Jan 2016
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Jago & Litefoot & Strax 1 - The Haunting