Night of the StormcrowBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 November 2017 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
Night of the Stormcrow (Credit: Big Finish / Alex Mallinson)
Night of the Stormcrow Big Finish
First Released: Tuesday 31st December 2013!

One of the benefits of a Big Finish main range subscription, is, of course, the short trips subscriber bonuses. Special one off short trips, only available to those whose subscriptions include particular releases. Back in the day, however, these were a somewhat grander affair with bonus full-cast dramas offered to those who took a six or twelve story subscription. These were often somewhat…gimmicky, with titles such as Return to the Web Planet, Trial of the Valeyard and The Four Doctors. When in 2012, after many long years Tom Baker finally joined the Big Finish family, no gimmick was required and the next subscriber special released was simply an extra adventure for the Fourth Doctor, Night of the Stormcrow. Fortunately, it would take only a year before this story was available for general sale and that really is something of a blessing as Night, turned out to be one of the best releases featuring the Fourth Doctor thus far…

The Fourth Doctor Adventures certainly have proven to be one of the more controversial ranges put out by Big Finish. Easily their most nostalgia-heavy range, I must confess to being one of their detractors. Like many people, Tom is one of my favourite Doctors and so when the range was announced I was ecstatic, only to be left bitterly disappointed. It’s a feeling that has gradually lessened as the series has matured but Series 1, however, is still in my mind one of the weakest BF runs. Wrath of the Iceni is superb but the rest of the series was incredibly fan pleasing, often at the expense of good stories, something the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era never was. More distressing was the lack of anything ‘spooky’, given the strong links between gothic horror and the era when these stories were supposed to be set.

Night of the Stormcrow changes this and provides a wonderful hour of evocative and genuinely creepy ‘cosmic’ horror that feels nostalgic to nothing, other than the cultural memory of ‘hiding behind the sofa’. Scripted by easily one of the greatest gifts to Doctor Who fandom, Marc Platt, the story is a wonderfully dark base under-siege scenario. The plot concerns the personnel of an observatory under attack from the mysterious ‘Stormcrow’ and the ‘No-Things’ that follow in its wake. When the Doctor and Leela arrive, the group soon becomes trapped as Stormcrow devours all around it…

I’ll praise Marc Platt to the end of the world and it’s very rare that I dislike any of his work. His incredible imagination is really on display here, giving us enough information about Stormcrow to make it genuinely frightening and disturbing but keeping it mysterious enough so that we aren’t comforted by any of the answers. The script is full of a number of genuinely shocking reveals, keeping the listener on the edge of the seat as a character reacts to a situation without actually revealing what it is he or she is reacting too. When the reveal is made, it’s shocking and creepy- helped by a wonderful soundscape from Jamie Robertson. In the behind the scenes feature Nick Briggs reveals that he actually had to get Platt to make the script a little more obvious. It’s a shame as I for one would love to hear what a more mysterious and opaque version of this story would have sounded like!

Night, gives Tom the chance to play the darker, more alien Fourth Doctor and here it works beautifully, ramping up the tension and assisting in delivering some spine-tingling moments. Louise Jameson really gets to shine as Leela in this story, at one point becoming convinced that she has lost the Doctor and reflecting on her situation since she left the Sevateem. The guest cast is superb, the entire piece oozing immense paranoia, with no character at all trustworthy.  To get a guest cast this good was integral to the piece working as a whole and is doubtless one of the reasons for its success. Ann Bell provides an entertaining turn as the obsessive Professor Gesima Cazalat, at points appearing endeared to the Doctor and at others seeming undeniably sinister. Peggy Brooks, Trevor Gale and Erica MacMillan all excel in their roles and it’s easily one of the strongest guest casts that Tom and Louise have worked with this far.

Night of the Stormcrow feels like what the fourth doctor adventures should be and fortunately more ‘gothic horror’ based releases have found themselves filtering into the range since with The Crooked Man, White Ghosts and The Haunting of Malkin Place all providing good examples



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Dec 2013
Night of the Stormcrow (Doctor Who)
$11.28



Doctor Who - The Thief Who Stole TimeBookmark and Share

Friday, 6 October 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Thief Who Stole Time (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox (Eamonn Orensky),
 Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain),
Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson),
Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin(Frithra), John Banks (The Sleek).

Romana has been cruelly abandoned by her old Time Lady friend, and the Doctor is left, to not only clear up a mess with the furious locals of the planet Funderell that concerns the 'accidental' killing of their God, but also to try to deduce what the Time Lords have done to the fascinating planet....Oh yes, and the TARDIS has been lost, absorbed by the ever moving liquid skin of the planet's surface......things are looking grim.....

 

The Thief Who Stole Time is essentially parts three and four of the previous story, The Skin of the Sleek - and starts, in true classic Doctor Who style, by quickly and efficiently resolving the cliffhanger from the previous episode. As with the the first two parts of this story, not only is the story telling first rate but the world building is fantastic and quite dazzling.

 

I felt that the only (very slight) let down is that new Time Lady Sartia (Joannah Tinceydescends into a moustachioed twirling villain far too quickly, readily explaining her dastardly plans to anyone who will listen - but this is quite fun in a way, and harks back to the time of simpler writing. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of this story as a classically staged four parter.

 

The standout performance for me was Tom Baker himself, who seems to be reaching new levels with the character through Big Finish, and is just an absolute joy to listen to for anyone who enjoyed his era, particularly the later years. I actually laughed out loud at a number of his one liners - yes they are expertly written by Marc Platt, but Tom absolutely owns every word by the manner in which he delivers them. Lalla Ward is also excellent of course and delivers some real gravitas to the scenes between her and Sartia, when she struggling to understand why someone who she thought of as a friend, should actually despise and resent her.

 

The Skin of Sleek and The Thief Who Stole Time are essential listening to any fan of the Baker era. Not to be missed.

 

Both stories are available now from Big Finish as a digital download or an audio CD. 






Short Trips Series 7 - Episode 8 - The British InvasionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The British Invasion (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins, Script Editor Ian Atkins,
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Ian Potter, Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Wendy Padbury (Narrator)

The TARDIS lands on the London  South Bank in 1951, where the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe marvel at a huge futuristic looking metal dome. They have arrived at the Festival of Britain, which was a country wide event that looked forward to a prosperous nation after the darkness of the 2nd World War. Next to the dome is a futuristic looking satellite dish perched upon an old shot tower, something which the second Doctor simply can't resist a peek at.

 

The British Invasion is a finely crafted entry into the Short Trips series that perfectly encapsulates the TroughtonTroughton era. The story is written by regular Big Finish contributor Ian Potter,and narrated by Zoe herself - Wendy Padbury, whose impersonations of the 2nd Doctor and Jamie really are top notch.

 

The story centres around the Festival of Britain, which was a showcase for a healthy future for the UK, however one of the items on show, a system that lets you bounce a signal off of the moon and back isn't working quite as it should be, something that our intrepid trio are determined to put right. Included in the narrative are references to the sonic screwdriver, and a rather belligerent TARDIS, that seems to be putting obstacles in the way of the Doctor in order to thwart his good intentioned efforts. There is also the surprise appearance of a classic Doctor Who foe that expands somewhat on their original television appearance.

 

The British Invasion is a true gem of a story and should be experienced by all of the Troughton fans out there.The story is available to download from Big Finish.

 

 






The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 6 - Episode 8 - The Skin of the SleekBookmark and Share

Sunday, 3 September 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Skin Of The Sleek (Credit: Big Finish)
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox (Eamonn Orensky),
Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain),
Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson),
Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin (Frithra), John Banks (The Sleek),
Producer David RichardsonScript
Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and
Nicholas Briggs

There's a new Time Lord on the block….

 

The planet Funderell is a strange place. The whole surface is an ocean that you can walk on….but stand still and you will sink. Underneath the surface a myriad of giant electric eels flicker in the darkness. The eels are known locally as Sleeks.

 

The other indigenous life on Funderell are the Wavewalkers, a group of hunters who live in floating villages. They roam the surface using giant balloons to help keep the surface tension beneath their feet as light as possible. A ship has recently crashed on the surface of Funderell, the occupants of which have an uneasy alliance with the Wavewalkers, studying them from a distance.

 

The Doctor and Romana arrive, and the TARDIS sinks below the surface, leaving them are stranded. We soon discover that one of the survivors of the crashed ship is Sartia, a very old friend of Romana’s….but all is of course not quite what it seems….

 

I have to admit, the opening to The Skin of the Sleek did not grip me. It is essentially around twelve minutes of exposition about the Wavewalkers, a lot of which is done in a West Country accent to show that the natives of Funderell aren’t the brightest, or the most advanced. This annoyed me a tad as I am a very proud Bristolian with a slight West Country twang myself. I consider myself to be quite bright, and have a good grasp of technology…. but this seems to be the ‘go to’ accent when trying to depict a village of simpletons. Don’t worry Big Finish – I’ll get over it!

 

However, once the exposition is over, the story quickly becomes quite a gripping one. The planet itself reminded me a lot of those videos of people walking on the surface of a large vat of custard. It’s true – if you don’t believe me look it up – custard has the same viscosity of the surface of the planet Funderell. You can walk on custard, but if you stand still you will sink – I wonder if this was the initial inspiration for Mark Platt’s story?

 

Funderell is quite brilliantly realised, with slow moving, rolling waves that never break, and surface currents that can snatch you away. There is real evidence that a lot of thought was put into it’s creation. The Wavewalkers are also a great  concept for a people. They are fiercely loyal to their God, and are in possession of a strange book that seems to tell the future, including the arrival of the Doctor. It is all very intriguing.

 

Alongside Tom Baker and Lalla Ward, we have Joannah Tincey as Sartia, who is a fantastic new character that enables us a glimpse of Romana's (or ‘Mana’ as Sartia calls her) history. The end revelation is no surprise, (the cliffhanger is very well executed) but I do hope Sartia is a character that will crop up again in the Big Finish range. Of course this being part one of two, I have no real idea as to her fate as yet – but I hope that she survives.

 

Other cast members of note are Alan Cox and Kieran Hodgson who play the other two crew members of the crashed ship, there is also Alex Wyndham, Jamie Newall and Jane Slavin who play various Wavewalkers…..we also have John Banks as the voice of the sleek.

 

There is something mysterious happening on the planet Funderell……and so far everything points to the Time Lords of old being involved - bring on the next installment!

 

The Skin of the Sleek is available from Big Finish now as a digital download or an audio CD.






Shadow Planet / World Apart (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Shadow Planet / World Apart (Credit: Big Finish)
 Shadow Planet by AK Benedict

World Apart by Scott Handcock

Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast:Sylvester McCoy(The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Belinda Lang (Mrs Wheeler), Sarah Thom (Sandy/Captain Karren), Nickolas Grace(Professor Grove), Ben Mansfield (Loglan/Shadow Loglan)

Big Finish Productions - Released June 2017 

 

The final instalment of this unlinked trilogy of double bill releases sees the welcome return to Big Finish’s Doctor Who range of long-running audio companion Staff Nurse Thomas Hector Schofield otherwise known as Hex, played once again byPhilip Olivier. After a decade of regular appearances alongside Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, Hex was finally written out of the range in 2014’s Signs and Wonders. He returns alongside his two regular co-stars for two very enjoyable stories set during the early days of his travels before he started to become wise to the Seventh Doctor’s manipulative persona and the beginning of the story arc featuring the black and white TARDISes.

Shadow Planet by AK Benedict finds Ace and Hex ignore the Doctor’s warning about visiting a seemingly innocent planet called Unity which they soon discover has recently been opened to visitors by a group of colonists who have developed psychic technology to separate shadows into separate personas. The Unity corporation is headed by Mrs Wheeler, played a great sinister edge by Belinda Lang. The supporting cast also includes the always excellent Nickolas Grace as Professor Grove and a well-judged performance from Sarah Thom as Mrs Wheeler’s long suffering PA Sandy who is also a central character to the plot as the revelations as to how the planet Unity was colonised are revealed. Aldred and Olivier also get to have fun by playing twisted shadow versions of themselves. Overall a very enjoyable opening two-parter which, in a similar fashion to Alien Heart / Dalek Soul, ends on a neat cliff-hanger which segues directly into the second story.

World Apart by Scott Handcock continues directly from the end of the previous story with the TARDIS encountering a mysterious planet in the middle of the vortex. After landing and discovering that there is no else alive on the planet there is a nice two-hander scene between the Doctor and Ace which culminates in a shock for the Doctor when he learns that they are on a planet called Nirvana. It becomes apparent that they need to leave immediately, but having allowed Hex to go off on his own Ace refuses to leave him behind. Unfortunately, they are then too late getting back to the TARDIS which takes off with only the Doctor on board. Finding themselves stranded on this inhospitable planet provides some great two-handed scenes between Aldred and Olivier which shows just why they worked so well as a companion team and indicates that even now there is still potential to tell more stories featuring this pairing.

Both stories featured in this release are very enjoyable with the second being one of the best of the six two-part stories that have featured over this trilogy, largely due its only featuring the three main characters throughout aside from a brief cameo in one scene. It is a credit to both authors that these stories fit so seamlessly into the existing canon of previous audio adventures, given that neither has previously written for this particular TARDIS team.

The Seventh Doctor and Ace are back alongside Melanie Bush for the next trilogy of releases which resumes the main range’s traditional four-part story format beginning with The High Price of Parking.

 

Shadow Planet / World Apart  is available now from Big Finish and on general release from July 31st 2017






Vortex Ice / Cortex Fire (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 10 July 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Vortex Ice / Cortex Fire (Credit: Big Finish)
Vortex Ice by Jonathan Morris

Cortex Fire by Ian Potter

Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip), Shobu Kapoor (Sai Chopra), Orlando Seale (Dylan Argent), Monty D’Inverno (Jannik Woolf), Rebecca Todd(Khoralla), Simon Kane (Halus), Eve Webster (Bav/ Cortex/ Enforcer) 
Katherine Senior (Holly Whitfield) 
Youssef Kerkour (Dakeem/Ambulance Pilot)

Big Finish Productions - Release May 2017

 

Following on from the previous release of two very enjoyable adventures for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, Big Finish's experiment with their release format continues with another double-bill of two part stories, this time featuring the Sixth Doctor and Flip. These are set prior to Flip's initial departure in 2014's Scavenger (from which she returned for last year's Quicksilver and will be heard again later this year alongside Constance Clarke).

Vortex Ice by Big Finish veteran writer Jonathan Morris is an enjoyable tale which may cause a little confusion for listeners during the first episode due to a certain amount of "timey-wimey"ness as the story unfolds. However once the story moves into its second episode, the truth of what's really going becomes more apparent and the listener is rewarded for their patience. Colin Baker and Lisa Greenwood are joined by a competent supporting cast of whom the standout is Shobu Kapoor still probably best remembered for having portayed Gita Kapoor in EastEnders (and Dimensions in Time) who convincingly portrays the leader of an underground expedition. Overall this is an enjoyable tale although it possibly could have done with a slightly happier resolution. 

Unlike the previous (and following) release Cortex Fire  by Ian Potter does not follow on directly from the first story but instead stands completely alone. It finds the Doctor and Flip having arrived on the futuristic and slightly dystopian city of Festin to witness an astronomical spectacle. However as they discover the truth behind the Cortex network which controls the city it becomes apparent that the entire population are in danger. This story also features a tight ensemble cast who are well directed by Ken Bentley including Eve Webster who voices several roles including the sinister Cortex. Fortunately, this is a more straightforward narrative and perhaps all the more enjoyable for being so.

Both stories also benefit from excellent music by Joe Kraemer, with Vortex Ice having a traditional 1980s feel and Cortex Fire featuring a nice homage to the film score of The Empire Strikes Back.

Overall this release features another enjoyable double-bill which shows that the range’s format deserves to be stretched occasionally. It also bodes very well for the next run of adventures featuring the Sixth Doctor, Flip and Constance beginning in October with The Behemoth. The double-bill trilogy concludes with the welcome reunion of the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex in Shadow Planet / World Apart .

 

Vortex Ice / Cortex Fire is available now from amazon.co.uk