Jago & Litefoot - Volume 11Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 May 2017 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Stars: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot),  Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), James Joyce (Henry Gordon Jago Jr), Rowena Cooper (Jean Bazemore), Andy McKeane (Maurice Ravel), Jonathan Forbes (Bram Stoker), Edward de Souza (Sir Henry Irving), Robbie Stevens (Mr Manners/Stanley Harker), Maggie Ollerenshaw (Dame Wilhelmina Gusset), Rachel Atkins (Madame Sosotris/Bishop), Colin Baker (The Doctor)
Written by Nigel Fairs, Matthew Sweet, Simon Barnard, Paul Morris and Justin Richards
Directed by Lisa Bowerman
Produced by David Richardson
Big Finish Productions, 2016

“Good Lord! Look at us, Professor – reflected in that puddle! We look positively ghastly – the both of us!”

“You’re right, Henry …”

Henry Gordon Jago and Prof George Litefoot

It’s amazing to think that 40 years ago last March, Doctor Who fans were introduced to the unlikely combination of Victorian showman Henry Gordon Jago and East London police pathologist Professor George Litefoot in the Tom Baker serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Although the two characters never formally returned in the TV series, they were so fondly remembered by fans that their popularity took on a life of its own. Indeed, it’s difficult to recall any other characters in the life of the classic and modern TV series that could have conceivably had spin-off adventures in the broader Whoniverse. Jago and Litefoot’s creator Robert Holmes created similar unconventional and roguish pairings in many of his Doctor Who serials (and even a few Blake’s 7 episodes), eg Spandrell and Engin in The Deadly Assassin, Garron and Unstoffe in The Ribos Operation, Glitz and Dibber in The Trial of a Time Lord – but none seem to have had the appeal of Jago and Litefoot.

Yet amazingly, since 2009, Big Finish has given the characters a whole new lease of life and a devoted fanbase, some of whom probably weren’t even alive at the time of the original broadcast of The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Jago & Litefoot started as a seemingly one-off and obscure Companion Chronicle called The Mahogany Murderers and within the space of eight years has spawned 13 boxsets plus a special release pairing the duo with Sontaran butler Strax (the Sontarans being another Holmes creation).

This review focuses on Volume 11. Whereas much of BF’s recent output has sought to integrate and celebrate the mythology of Doctor Who’s classic and modern incarnations, Volume 11 of Jago and Litefoot’s adventures has delved further back into Doctor Who’s past and pitted the two amateur detectives against the Doctor’s arch nemesis the Master, who in 2016 year celebrated his/her own milestone of 45 years. While there’s great potential in the idea of pitting the two amateur sleuths against one of the Doctor’s deadliest adversaries, the execution is not quite as satisfying as the inspiration.

Certainly, the box set artwork hints that the Master must play a quite dominant role across the four tales in the box set (not to mention shoehorning the Sixth Doctor into the overall saga as well).  Yet while the Master is indeed present in the four tales, he is not (as you might think) the “big bad” – that is, someone who manipulates events from behind the scenes while getting others to do his bidding. It is not until the concluding chapter – Masterpiece – that the evil Time Lord comes into his own. The Master, though, does share some terrific dialogue in the opening and closing scenes of the second play Maurice with that serial’s villain and is wonderfully wicked in its climactic moments.

The villains in the opener Jago & Son are of an earthlier disposition than the Master, although their divine purpose is indeed based in the extra-terrestrial. Nevertheless, their incompetence would easily disappoint the evil Time Lord! In all, Nigel Fairs’ opener is farce from start to finish as Jago (Christopher Benjamin) encounters a mysterious young man who claims to be Henry Gordon Jago Junior (even though Mr J swears until he’s blue in the face in his own profligate, baroque Victorian lingo that he doesn’t have any offspring). Meanwhile, Professor Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) has caught up with an old flame in archaeologist Professor Jean Bazemore (the wonderfully pompous Rowena Cooper). Prof Bazemore has returned to the British Isles after years away unearthing ancient Egyptian tombs to uncover something infinitely older in London’s catacombs. Jean’s strong anti-establishment character is the opposite of the reserved and chivalrous Litefoot yet they gel brilliantly, even if the former’s more masculine demeanour blindsides both Jago and Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith). Indeed, there are a few LGBT jokes and references that go over the heads of the Victorian characters but will leave a smile on the faces of 21st century listeners!

As for whether the “son” of the title is indeed Jago’s, time will tell. Regardless, there is a wonderful chemistry between Benjamin’s flamboyant, yet reticent and quite unheroic Jago and James Joyce’s Junior whose dialogue just oozes youthful enthusiasm and a hero worship of his father that leaves Jago duly beaming and mortified! There’s even a “bereavement” scene between the two characters that’s touching and humorous! You get the strong impression from Fairs’ writing that the story is only half-concluded and that its premise will be revisited later. Certainly, little to no explanation is given for the abnormalities that the principal characters encounter beneath Professor Bazemore’s dig ...

The second instalment Maurice, written by Matthew Sweet, is a very different “beast” in tone and pace to Jago & Son. The story focuses on French composer, pianist and conductor Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), better known for his composition Boléro, but set some 30 years before that famous piece. Indeed, the musical work that the young Ravel (played by Andy McKeane) works on in this tale - Gaspard de la nuit, which was inspired by the book by French author Aloysius Bertrand, and which premiered in Paris in 1909 – plays a pivotal role in the story. Litefoot finds himself thrust into a macabre fantasy world in which many strange elements of Ravel’s composition seemingly come to life. McKeane impresses as Ravel and the villain, even though his hackneyed French accent can sometimes grate on the listener.

The other interesting aspect of the story is the role of the Doctor in this tale. Although the Time Lord is only mentioned in Maurice, his influence is felt nonetheless. You are reminded of just how much of an impact the Time Lord must have on Earth’s history, even when he’s not particularly interventionist – and how he seemingly attracts danger whenever he appears. Even the simple, unselfish and gracious act of leaving a gift for a friend in the wrong time period can have serious repercussions – both for that friend and other peers in his circle.

We meet two more historical figures in Simon Barnard and Paul Morris’s The Woman in White – the  19th century Shakespearean thespian Sir Henry Irving (played by one-time Doctor Who guest star Edward de Souza) and Irving’s theatre manager Bram Stoker (Jonathan Forbes), the future author of Dracula. Aside from borrowing elements very heavily from Stoker’s famous novel and what is known of the Irving/Stoker partnership, Barnard and Morris’s titular character is also clearly influenced by the 2011 Doctor Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot. De Souza is wonderfully over the top as the intolerant, bewildered Irving while Forbes brings the right level of naivety to the fresh-faced, inexperienced yet effusive Stoker. Special mention should also go to BF alumni Robbie Stevens who again displays versatility as the villainous Mr Manners (Stevens previously impressed as both a crusty British MP and a union shop steward in 2015’s We are the Daleks).

The final instalment Masterpiece brings the investigative duo and publican Ellie (Lisa Bowerman) face to face with the Master himself, played throughout this box set by stalwart Geoffrey Beevers. Beevers’ silky tones, dripping with delicious mischief and menace (butter certainly doesn’t melt in this Time Lord’s mouth!), reinforce why his version of the Master is ideally suited to audio. It’s just a pity that the so-called “masterpiece” of the story is quite underwhelming. Admittedly the Master is in a weakened state (it is very clear by the climax exactly when in the Master’s timeline Masterpiece occurs) but even he would agree that it’s a pretty unambitious plot by his standards. Perhaps the blame should be levelled not so much at the Master as the writer in Justin Richards. Richards seems to have a penchant for delivering “by the numbers” stories that are quite dull, slow-moving and relatively undramatic (his concluding piece for the last series of the Blake’s 7 audio adventures was equally uninspiring, as was his contribution to The Diary of River Song Vol 1). Masterpiece sadly falls into that criteria. Perhaps it’s because Richards is often busy with other projects beyond BF but if that’s the case, then it’s even more reason for him to take a step back and let someone with fresh ideas take on the writing duties.

The performances and production qualities of this Jago & Litefoot box set live up to the bar that Big Finish regularly sets itself. Hearing Benjamin and Baxter’s voices unaltered by the years almost takes you back to their one-off appearance in The Talons of Weng-Chiang a good 40 years ago! Lisa Bowerman also impresses as feisty publican Ellie, a character that has been involved in the revival of the Jago & Litefoot saga since The Mahogany Murderers. Ellie’s cockney East London accent is completely unrecognisable from the more refined, cultured tones of 26th century archaeologist Bernice Summerfield – if you don’t necessarily follow the careers of many of the names that regularly contribute to the BF stable, then you wouldn’t even realise they are both Lisa Bowerman. And to boot, Bowerman also directs this box set as well. Colin Baker’s appearance as the Sixth Doctor is small but as you’d expect of the great man, his performance as “ol’ Sixie” is near perfect and his presence in the boxset’s climactic showdown does not overshadow the true protagonists in Jago and Litefoot.

It’s difficult to compare Vol 11 of Jago & Litefoot to previous or subsequent volumes (this reviewer hasn’t listened to the other box sets) but overall, when compared to BF’s broader Doctor Who-related content, it is highly entertaining. Apart from Masterpiece, the various serials are creative, comedic and even theatrical – not unlike the theatre manager that makes this amateur detective pairing so loved by fans. Vol 11 is both a good introduction to the Jago & Litefoot series (if you’re only familiar with the characters from The Talons of Weng-Chiang) and a great stepping-on point if you haven’t heard any of the other box sets. With 13 lots of adventures under their belts, these wily old dogs aren’t showing any signs of slowing down!



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 May 2016
48% off
Jago & Litefoot: Volume 11



Zaltys (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 24 April 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Zaltys (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matthew J Elliott
Directed by Barnaby Edwards

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sean Barrett (Perrault),
Niamh Cusack (Clarimonde), Philip Franks (Gevaudan),
Rebecca Root (Sable), Alix Wilton Regan (Lusca/Siobhan), CarolSloman (Talia/Computer)

Big Finish Productions - Released March 2017

The first main range trilogy of 2017 concludes with another solid entry which once again allows all four members of the season 19 TARDIS crew to play to their strengths. Kudos due once again to director Barnaby Edwards, who once again has clearly done well to get the best possible performances from the lead characters and assembled yet another strong supporting cast. First up we have Niamh Cusack as Clarimonde, the main villain of the piece who convincingly portrays the role of old adversary (with a gentle nod the habit of the 1980s series to reference previously unseen adventures). Among a sea of great performances, honourable mentions also go to Philip Franks as Gevaudan and Carol Sloman, the daughter of The Green Death writer Roger Sloman, as Talia. Finally in what is possibly a first for Doctor Who, we have openly Trans actress Rebecca Root in the key role of the mercenary Sable, who is one of the most enjoyable characters in this play. Well done Big Finish for allowing such a significant step in LGBT representation.

Matthew J Elliott’s story of space vampirism and psychic attacks is another very strong evocation of the best of this era. There is also some clever retconning of Nyssa’s psychic abilities which have previously been alluded to in her solo adventures with the Doctor set during the gap between seasons 19 & 20. Overall, this is a strong conclusion to what has been an enjoyable trilogy of plays. Having very few ties to other plays or indeed each other, means these are all enjoyably accessible to fans of this TV era who may not have heard Big Finish’s extensive back catalogue. A massive credit is due to the original actors Peter Davison,Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton for proving that this TARDIS team still has an immense of storytelling potential. It is very much to be hoped that we will hear more from all four of them in the not too distant future. Although fans of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa can rejoice in the knowledge that they can shortly be heard in the next release which sees the main range experiment with a new release format of two linked stories in Alien Heart/Dalek Soul.

 

Zaltys is available now from Big Finish and on general release from 30th April 2017.





Short Trips - Series 7.3 & 7.4 - The Jago & Litefoot Revival (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 20 April 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Jago & Litefoot Revival - Act One (Credit: Big Finish)The Jago & Litefoot Revival - Act Two (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins; Script Editor Ian Atkins

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Jonathan Barnes; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Trevor Baxter (Narrator), Christopher Benjamin (Narrator)

A two part Short Trip? Surely this is a Medium Meander then, but believe me - it's a joy to have these two parts as they are surely two of the best Short Trips to date.

 

Jonathan Barnes brings us an infectiously enjoyable tale of our two favourite Victorian gentlemen as they recount a recent adventure in a lecture to the Club For Curious Scientific Men. The tale follows them as they both fight the sinister Men of Dice, simultaneously, from two different countries. Professor George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) finds himself being chased across a beach on the island of Minos by floating gunslingers. While back in London we find Henry Gordon Jago menaced by a terrifying, huge arachnid in the basement of his very own theatre. Both are helped in their fight by a certain enigmatic Time Lord that they are proud to call a friend, its just that the version of the Doctor that they encounter here has a very different face to what thy are used to.

 

I was lucky with this story. I had seen no promotional art, so fully expected it to be a tale in the same vein as most other Short Trips, a companion recounting an unseen tale which involves THEIR Doctor. The set up of these stories usually the same in that you would normally expect a narrated introduction to the story by the companion, followed by the Doctor Who theme tune of their Doctor. Being completely unspoiled, I listened to the opening narration from Baxter and Benjamin, there was a pause - and I waited for the fourth Doctor's theme. What I got instead was the tenth Doctor's theme in all of Murray Gold's loud strings and drums glory. I couldn't help but grin like a loon. 

 

The teaming of these two great characters with a modern Doctor is genius. There are one or two other surprises along the way that I refuse to spoil as their reveal is a pure joy to listen to, and discover as the story unfolds.

 

And unfold it does - the narration is very fast paced, switching from the straightforward storytelling of Litefoot to the bluster and pompous exaggeration of Jago. The story goes backwards and forward between the two characters, each time leaving a mini cliffhanger in it's wake, eventually bringing the pair together beautifully in the end where they must literally perform for their lives.

 

Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin are simply exquisite. We need to bear in mind that these two have over 120 years of acting experience between them - and it shows in a very good way. Big Finish are lucky to have them, and we are equally as fortunate to be still listening to them.

 

The Jago & Litefoot Revival is essential listening to fans of the show, thank you Big Finish for allowing us to be able to listen to this brilliantly executed tale.

 

The Jago & Litefoot Revival Acts 1 & 2 are available to download separately from Big Finish now.





Torchwood: Visiting Hours (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Written by David Llewellyn
Directed by Scott Handcock

Cast: 
Kai Owen (Rhys), Nerys Hughes (Brenda Williams), Karl Theobald (Mr Tate), Ryan Sampson (Mr Nichols), Ruth Lloyd (Nurse Brown), Stephen Critchlow (Dr Fletcher)

Big Finish Productions - Released March 2017
 

Eighteen months since the first Torchwood audio was released by Big Finish, which started a continuous run of twelve monthly releases followed by three special releases which has seen this fledgling range go from strength to strength, the monthly series returns with the first of six new releases which promise to continue their successful expansion of the Torchwood universe.

Visiting Hours finds Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) visiting his mother Brenda in hospital where she is recovering from a routine hip operation. Brenda is once again played by the wonderful Nerys Hughes who previously appeared in the television episode Something Borrowed. There is a great chemistry between mother and son and when strange things start to occur, it is Rhys who is forced to take the lead without being able to ask for help from his wife Gwen. Both characters are a joy to listen to, especially when they find themselves in danger and Brenda starts swearing like a trooper!

The two main characters are ably supported by the small supporting cast including Stephen Critchlow as the mysterious Dr Fletcher, and Karl Theobald and Ryan Sampson as henchmen Tate and Nichols. The story reaches a sinister conclusion with the appearance of the robotic cleaners who reminded this reviewer of being scared by Paradise Towers. The almost too neat ending suggests that we may not have heard the last of Fletcher and his cronies.

Overall, this is an enjoyable start to the new series of adventures from veteran Torchwood writer David Llewellyn. On this form, the series looks set to continue as one of the most consistently strong ranges produced by Big Finish. Next month the series heads stateside as we meet an all new cast of characters in The Dollhouse.

 

Visiting Hours is available now from Big Finish and on general release from 31st May 2017.





Original Sin - Big Finish AudioDramaBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Original Sin (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Written By: Andy Lane,

Adapted By: John Dorney

Directed By: Ken Bentley

STARRING:
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), 
Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), 
Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester), 
Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej)

WITH: Andrew French (Beltempest), 
Philip Voss (Robot/ Under-Sergeant), 
Amrita Acharia (Rashid/ Computer/ Shythe Shahid), 
Robbie Stevens (Dantalion/ Homeless/ Securitybot), 
Jot Davies (Powerless/ Pryce/ Hater/ Evan Claple).

( Other parts played by members of the cast).
 


 


Written By: Andy Lane + Adapted by John Dorney

Director: Ken Bentley

Sound Design: Russell McGee

Music: Crispin Merrell & Gordon Young

Cover Art: Tom Newsom

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

****

Available on 2 CDS or Digital Download

Duration: 2 hours approx
 

Big Finish Release: December 2016

General Release: 31st January 2017

The future Earth Empire is truly a bustling and expanding phenomenon. But something very suspect and decadent lies at its core. Two of the law-keepers of the ‘United Kingdom’ – better denoted as Spaceport Five Overcity – start their day assuming ‘business as usual’. One is the experienced Roz, the other the relatively fresh-faced Cwej.

By the end of their run-in with a mysterious little man called ‘the Doctor’ and his unusually informal academic friend Bernice, they will have markedly different views of their identity and the wider cosmos around them. Unstable stasis fields, cybernetic technology, and travels across the stars will all come into play. And a slug-like race known as the Hith will have a chance to restore their reputation, in spite of the sizeable propaganda delivered on the ever-present public newscasts.


Original Sin was a novel that saw the New Adventures range re-calibrate for a different ‘era’. Following the milestone that was Human Nature – a book so remarkable it had a second telling as a Tenth Doctor story in 2007 - more ‘traditional’ adventures across the cosmos were back amongst the status quo. Sporting a very nice cover, the book is now unfortunately hard to track down, and thus for many this adaptation is even more welcome.

I had become a somewhat infrequent reader of the paperback adventures, at the time. Owing to having a multitude of other books to read as part of homework assignments, as well as those tomes given as presents, the net-result was that the Seventh Doctor’s literary incarnation had some serious competition for my escapist affections.

Damaged Goods had already showcased the wonderful duo of Cwej and Forrester, with Yasmin Bannerman and Travis Oliver established as committed and engaging performers. Credit once again to them for managing to convince of the same characters, but this time at an earlier point in their lives; before they had the chance to travel with the Doctor and Bernice.

What is important, and what Ken Bentley so handily delivers in this play, is a credible bonding process between the two markedly different Adjudicators. The listener swiftly cares for their friendship, and it is also important that they relate as well as they do to the Doctor’s present companion; Professor Summerfield.

Supporting characters are especially well done here, a by-product of Andy Lane’s sterling source material and enlivened with panache by the voice talent enlisted by Big Finish. Especially well-characterised is Provost-Major Beltempest, who goes from seemingly heartless military professional to someone more helpful and open- minded, and then a key twist is revealed which ties in with one of the core story strands. Also the psychotic criminal Zebulon Pryce is portrayed in more than broad brush strokes, and together with the Doctor – during a standard moment of captivity for our title hero - has a truly fascinating ethical debate, where some of the ‘Time’s Champion’ burden is fully explored. The only real drawback is the scale of the story, and thus some familiar sounding voices recur as some cast members  have two (or more) roles.

Sylvester McCoy and Lisa Bowerman typically work well together, and this story sees an even better partnership. Whilst their alter egos do split up several times, they have enough audio time together, which perhaps was not the case in a story such as The Highest Science. With plenty of knowing wit and teasing of one another, it is clear they match as personalities, and furthermore it is clear that each would take a bullet/ laser/arrow for the other.

Having a returning villain from the classic series is typical for the Virgin line of books that lasted for much of the Nineties. This antagonist hales from the black and white days of the TV series, and is well-done and authentically acted; thus justifying his/her inclusion. Furthermore, the theme of survival, but at the cost of identity, is nicely combined with this use of Who continuity.

The demented prisoner Pryce is in some ways a more interesting character in the context of the story proper, but I still enjoyed the nod to the past. However the inconsistency over the TARDIS’ internal dimension rules is only re-enforced in the final showdown, so perhaps this area of Doctor Who lore is best regarded as a convenient plot device (along with the likes of the Sonic Screwdriver).

Also I did find the Hith voices an acquired taste, and the timbre also for some reason reminded me of the rather forced third cliff-hanger from The Paradise of Death; a contemporary of the Virgin New Adventures, but rather more solitary compared to the Big Finish audios that followed.

However any quibbles with the production are negated by the truly superlative interludes featuring news broadcasts to the various citizens of the Earth Empire. Often showing just how little humanity has advanced in terms of emotional intelligence and diplomacy, they are a great way to prevent the story proper from ever stalling. Transitioning from one supremely confident anchor to a rather more ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ colleague further on, these ‘excerpts’ of daily life add much to the already competent world building conveyed by the dialogue from the supporting characters, in addition to the exposition the Seventh Doctor so eloquently provides to his dear friend Bernice (who certainly appreciates it in spite of her sizeable qualifications).

The previously released Seventh Doctor audios managed to deftly condense the source material of these often groundbreaking novels, and this latest release is particularly confident, thanks to the experienced and astute writing skills of John Dorney.

A whole-hearted recommendation is awarded to this two-parter. I hope more such adaptations will follow, in due course.


BONUS:

Full and candid interviews are again in supply here, along with some proper explanation of what the production team were aiming for with this re-telling. McCoy in particular has some interesting input, as well as evident enthusiasm that he has so many opportunities to deepen the character, that he first portrayed all those years ago in the final stanzas of the 20th Century.





Doom Coalition 4Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 9 April 2017 - Reviewed by Ben Breen
Doom Coalition 4 (Credit: Big Finish)
Doom Coalition 4
Written by John Dorney and Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Alex Kingston (River Song), Mark Bonnar (The Eleven), Robert Bathurst (Padrac), Emma Cunniffe (The Sonomancer), Rufus Hound (The Meddling Monk), Beth Chalmers (Veklin), Carolyn Pickles (Cardinal Ollistra), Jacqueline Pearce (Ollistra), Olivia Poulet (Jerasta), Vince Leigh (Volstrom/ Matrix Keeper/ Computer), Sasha Behar (Presidential Aide/ Tessno/ Ladonne), Ronnie Ancona (Joanie Carrington), Alex Beckett (Alekall). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Released March 2017 by Big Finish Productions

Doom Coalition, the sequel series to the acclaimed Dark Eyes Saga, has come to its final instalment.  Having been able to review each individual box set as it was released, I was curious to see just what Big Finish might pull from the wealth of material they now have to play with, given their ability to use at least elements of “classic Who”.  Turns out that River isn’t the only thing transferring into the audio-only adventures this time, even just going from the trailer.  Let’s see what else the company manage to achieve and whether ultimately this works as well if not better than the conclusion to Dark Eyes.

 

4.1.  Ship in a Bottle

With the intro setting the tone for what is to come, the events pick up from the ending of Doom Coalition 3.  Feeling very much like a 12th Doctor introduction, there are even subtle nods to the cherished Tennant era and that’s just in the opening 5 or so minutes.  The initial scenario The Doctor, Liv and Helen find themselves in allows for significant demonstration of their personalities and their feelings as to the events of previous stories in the series.  Even as the story progresses, regardless of how dangerous the situation, the characters remain well-developed throughout.  This episode serves partly as a recap, but also as a method of seeing the entirety of Doom Coalition from a new perspective.  Given there’s no actual enemies, the slew of references to prior events and the theme of the acceptance of death featuring so prominently, it’s a very human opening to what I hope will be a fitting conclusion, even if there’s no complete closure to this story.

 

4.2. Songs of Love

With a title like that, it was almost certain what, or rather who, was going to show up and the character in question doesn’t disappoint.  Appearing as part of a flashback relative to the previous story, what we see is an interesting change of heart, though one that is sure to have a reason behind it.

This primarily Time Lord centric story features some moments that, whilst unexpected, are well-executed, in addition to sequences that really emphasise just how much danger the universe is really in at this point in the plot.  However, the references to Series 6 of the television show and events therein might confuse those who stopped watching after the 10th Doctor’s departure.

That does not mean this story suffers, though it does try to run two simultaneous plot threads as well as introducing several important points.  At least the political edges of this story fit with the rest of the puzzle in well thought out cinematic fashion.

 

4.3. The Side of the Angels

Finally this box set has a clear villain to work with, but blink and you might miss them.  If I say nothing else about them and if you haven’t heard the trailer, I will credit the sound designers on introducing one of The Doctor’s most well-known foes in recent memory with a fitting entrance.  Of course, The Eleven is now embroiled in the plot too, but that doesn’t mean other Time Lords from The Doctor’s history can’t join in either.

This story seems to take a far clearer line than the last, with sound design and musical scoring to match the setting and the enemies involved in what are only described as “insane” plans.  Such plans, with a fair number of references and memorable moments, speed this story forth to its dramatic conclusion.

 

4.4. Stop the Clock

Is it too much to make a half pun, half reference to Mummy On The Orient Express here, specifically that certain events we witness during this story have been Foretold?

Probably.  Then again, considering how many references the stories leading up to this have provided, it’s probably not the worst way to open discussion on this final piece in the Doom Coalition puzzle.  So as not to spoil what is a slightly disorienting conclusion, including an ending that appears to possibly have influences from a well-known Japanese film franchise, I’ll leave it at that.

 

With a seamless score, a confident cast and a plot that knows just where it’s going even if the audience doesn’t, Big Finish certainly deliver in what probably won’t be the final 8th Doctor adventures set in this overarching plotline.