Torchwood: One RuleBookmark and Share

Friday, 15 January 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Torchwood: One Rule (Credit: Big Finish Productions)
Written by Joseph Lidster
​Directed by Barnaby Edwards
Starring: Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Gareth Armstrong (Barry Jackson), Rebecca Lacey (Helen Evans), Dan Starkey (Ross Bevan), Catrin Stewart (Meredith Bevan)
​Released by Big Finish Productions - December 2015

For better or for worse, the quirky premise powering the fourth instalment in Big Finish's first season of Torchwood ​initially sounds more akin to that of a parody take on the original series as opposed to a respectful continuation of what came before; after all, can you really imagine one of the intrepid Torchwood Three team ever spending almost an entire episode roaming the intoxicated (both metaphorically and ​literally, in this case) streets of Cardiff in the hope of protecting local mayoral candidates from a series of grisly demises? Either way, that's precisely the situation which Yvonne Hartman, the short-lived commander in chief of Canary Wharf's Torchwood One who had both her entrance and exit in 2006's two-part Doctor Who ​serial "Army of Ghosts / Doomsday", finds herself in as she travels over from England's capital to Cardiff Bay just three weeks after both cities fell under siege from the Nestene Consciousness' Auton armies in March 2005.

It perhaps shouldn't come as a great surprise to any keen follower of the Whoniverse that far from the aforementioned extraterrestrial attack seeming to have had any noteworthy impact on Welsh society's apparently universal (at least if the manner in which One Rule ​depicts England's neigbours is any indication) appetite for an extravagant, no holds barred nightlife, life appears to have moved on in such a way that Cardiff's residents regard the attempted invasion more as a running joke than anything else. Indeed, in a similar vein, this reviewer couldn't help but gain the suspicion that whereas The Conspiracy and in particular last month's ​Forgotten Lives ​were intended to serve as reminders that the darker, often more enticing elements of Torchwood ​as a franchise still live on in aural form, Joseph Lidster hoped to demonstrate that much of the humour which came to define the show over the course of its five-year tenure still resides in Big Finish's adaptation, even if doing so meant crafting a more simplistic, inconsequential piece of drama than its recent predecessors.

In case any readers are wondering based on that sweeping assertion whether Lidster's latest addition to the history of the organisation which still insists on branding itself as being "outside the government, beyond the police" doesn't deserve their time, rest assured that whilst it's far from the series' finest hour to date (either in terms of its newly-conceived audio incarnation or in terms of the overall saga which began life way back in 2006 with the aptly-named "Everything Changes" on BBC Three), One Rule ​still provides its listeners with more than enough in the way of laughs, memorably exaggerated set-pieces (most of which brilliantly play on Yvonne's undisguised disdain for the working class by placing the character in an all manner of situations where social etiquette is immediately thrown out of the window) and intelligent references to the programme's now less than recent history - look out in particular for an unexpected development with regards to Ianto's burgeoning romantic relations with a certain soon-to-be "Cyberwoman" - to warrant its asking price. There's no doubting that Lidster still holds just as keen an understanding of what the Torchwood ​fan-base was surely looking for from this quasi-prequel tale (not least some insight into Torchwood One's perspective on everyone's favourite ragtag team of Welsh secret agents) and better yet, how best to exploit Tracey-Ann Oberman's character so as to ensure she reaches her full potential here.

Of course, had Oberman not brought the trademark wit, droll outlook on the so-called British Empire in its current state and vengeful charisma which rendered her somewhat tragic construct as such an instantaneous hit in the eyes of fans in 2006, then Lidster's efforts to resurrect Yvonne in style might well have been fruitless at best. As was the case with John Barrowman in September, Gareth David-Lloyd in October and the dynamic duo of Eve Myles and Kai Owen just two short months ago, however, the ​Eastenders ​star brings with her all of those qualities and so much more, infusing ​One Rule ​with a relentless sense of energy and momentum even when its central plot arc - which rarely taps into themes much deeper than surface-level political corruption or the needlessly selfish aspects of human nature - grinds to a halt for no other reason than to have her character down another pint or find herself the subject of social ridicule as a result of the state in which her increasingly digressive mission leaves her. This isn't to say that Lidster and / or Big Finish need necessarily hurry to invite Oberman back for further appearances in the role, but rather that if they elect to take this approach, then even if Ms. Hartman's next outing falls similarly short in terms of overall narrative ambition, then at least we can breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that having her at the reins will at least guarantee the audience a hilarious (albeit low-octane) ride.

Yet if Oberman represents this oft-uninspiring fourth chapter's saving grace, then unfortunately, her co-stars can easily be singled out as one of the primary factors behind its failure to captivate: neither Gareth Armstrong nor Rebecca Lacey afford their respective councillors any more enthusiasm or political / emotional nuances than the script asks of them, instead simply casting both constructs as wholly one-dimensional Welsh citizens, with only Lacey's Helen Evans coming anywhere close to representing an empathetic construct as she enters into a brief discussion with Yvonne on the subject of her somewhat empowering approach to politics late in the day. Worse still, whilst one could arguably have relied upon the Paternoster Gang's own Dan Starkey and Catrin Stewart to elevate proceedings to a certain extent in most cases, the married couple the pair portray barely make it through a single scene before taking their leave, meaning that neither of the two talented thespians receive more than the briefest of moments to leave an impact despite them having more than proved their joint ability to hold their own in recent Who ​serials such as "The Crimson Horror" and "Deep Breath". Naturally, some characters in an action-driven storyline must inevitably exist only to progress said narrative with their untimely departures, yet to have Starkey and ​Stewart fulfil such menial roles when they might well have served the release as a whole better had they traded places with Armstrong and Lacey seems a counter-productive move on either Lidster or the studio's part(s) at best.

Nevertheless, even if ​Torchwood: One Rule ​won't likely go down as a prime example of what makes Big Finish the strongest possible candidate to carry the show's legacy in its hands now that its televisual days are seemingly done, that it's still a far superior effort to many of the studio's monthly main Who ​releases (at least from this reviewer's modest perspective) should at least instil fans with a fair degree of confidence about the programme's immediate future on the airwaves. Oberman still presents the audience with an authentic, laugh-out-loud take on her character a decade on from her memorable on-screen debut, Lidster's script - while lacking in meaty thematic material - undeniably achieves its goal of taking the series in a more light-hearted, casual direction than was the case with the overly melodramatic Miracle Day ​(the less said about which, the better!) in 2011, and for what it's worth, despite their contributions only amounting to cameos, both Starkey and Stewart do a fine job of attempting to redeem the title's otherwise wholly underwhelming supporting cast ensemble. David Llewellyn's masterful season opener The Conspiracy ​still doesn't have anything to worry about in terms of maintaining its place on Big Finish's recently-erected Torchwood ​throne, but all the same, thanks in no small part to Oberman's return to the role, devotees of the British Empire's most dedicated servant will still find plenty to love this time around.





Twelfth Doctor #12 - The Hyperion Empire (Part One)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Twelfth Doctor #12 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Daniel Indro
Colorist: Slamet Mujiono
Letterer: Richard Starkings 
and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer


Humour Strip: Colin Bell + Neil Solorance
 
RELEASED SEPTEMBER 2015, TITAN COMICS
"Wrong place, wrong time. Right place, right time. Right place, wrong time. Wrong place, right time. It's all a matter of perspective. We're exactly where we're meant to be, Clara."

 

An international space station is suddenly assaulted by an almighty entity, resembling both a comet and a star. Before long, Lake Windermere in England is attacked by the same malignant entity, and reduced to an ugly-looking crater. The British Prime Minister calls in UNIT and Commander Kate Stewart to try and suppress the destructive force.

A significant time later, the TARDIS appears within Central London. The attempts to contact its heroic crew regarding the attacks on Earth have seemingly not been successful.

The Doctor is still not entirely comfortable with Clara, and vice-versa. This is mostly because of the controversial decisions the Time Lord made recently (during Death In Heaven and Last Christmas).  After a bit of spirited disagreement as to which time zone of London they have come back to, the pair make the big mistake of wandering off in different directions. This leads to both facing danger, from seemingly maniacal survivors armed with lethal weapons. But worse is to come, and it is soon clear just why London has turned into a desolate capital city.

 

Year One of the Twelfth Doctor comics has featured a good variety of stories, some of which are more interlinked than others. Writer Robbie Morrison has quite clearly decided to go full-force with this new four-part story. The scope and premise are established clearly enough - even if the pace is clearly slower than most other stories. The Doctor and Clara take half of the story to show themselves, and there is no meeting with UNIT. Given the jump forward - designed to promote both mystery and suspense - it could be quite some time before such a team-up reoccurs; unlike the earlier story The Fractures.

Despite these rather bold choices, I still was able to enjoy the story quite a bit. And somewhat surprisingly, given my normal preferences, I was fully engaged by the first section of the story set over in space with unknown characters. There is a fine 'motley crew' of astronauts from around the world, such Dimitri Yemtov, Lee Jae-Yong, as well as the Americans in Major Weir and Cory - the latter being amusingly curmudgeonly.

Morrison does well to make us care for these ill-fated human beings. There is a feeling that despite the inferno that consumes them, there is some kind of later use for one or two of them in the developing story.   

I have mixed feeling on the artwork for this instalment. There is a well-done contrast between the earliest pages, which cover just 'another day in the office' from the astronauts' perspective, and the later sections involving grim ruins of London. The art manages to transition from being bright and picturesque, to heavily sketched and muddy-looking. But more negatively, Daniel Indro seems to repeat his weakness from the Weeping Angels/ World War One story, in that he struggles to produce familiar enough images of Clara and the Doctor. Their words and actions are recognisable enough as taking place between Series Eight and Nine, but the facial mannerisms and demeanour they display is rather distracting.

Ending in a pretty decent cliffhanger, this latest storyline is proceeding at a steady clip. It should ultimately be a fitting finale to the Twelfth Doctor's first year as a Titan comic feature star.

 

HUMOUR STRIP: The Five Masters

As stated last time, a bewildered Doctor and Clara have encountered a menagerie of ill-intentioned 'Masters'. Such a collection of near-immortals in one place is obviously against all known Laws of Time, and is normally attributable to the Doctor. Believing that they can brand themselves as a unique act, and then take over a cosmos subdued by their songs, this mix of Masters are feeling more than a bit giddy.

The catchphrase of Missy gets wheeled out as three quick sentences - "Say. Something. Nice." - and is a nice self-aware joke.  It seems the ongoing 'music for aliens far and wide' arc will persist into at least another issue. This is not problematic by any means. Certainly, the precedent has been set ably by A Rose By Any Other Name (which features in the monthly Tenth Doctor comics).





The Waters of AmsterdamBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
Waters of Amsterdam (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by Jamie Anderson
Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, and Sarah Sutton
with Tim Delap, Richard James, and Elizabeth Morton
Out now from Big Finish Productions

1983……. and Doctor Who returns to our screens with an exciting adventure by Johnny Byrne -  featuring Time Lords, and the return of Tegan, set and filmed in Amsterdam….

 

Well,  two out of three isn’t bad. Arc of Infinity isn’t really very exciting. It has got Time Lords in it, and Tegan returns, having been left behind at the end of Time-Flight. And it’s in Amsterdam, because JNT got a good deal at the Travel Agent.

 

2016……. and Doctor Who returns to our speakers with an exciting adventure by Jonny Morris, with just the one Time Lord, dealing with Tegan’s return, set in Amsterdam…

 

The Waters of Amsterdam does what Arc of Infinity manifestly failed to do – use its location and make good use of Tegan.  Into the bargain, it’s also very good. Arc could have sketched in Tegan’s time away from the TARDIS, but didn’t, beyond binning the stewardess uniform and giving her a haircut. It could have also really have been set anywhere near water, as the location had zero relevance to the plot. It might as well have been set in Barnsley.

 

The story picks up directly from the end of Arc, and wastes no time putting all of this right. After a pointed shredding of Arc’s events, Tegan walks straight into her ex, Kyle (Tim Delap) – and it’s awkward. Their story is related by Tegan to Nyssa in flashback. It’s an unlikely romance, as Tegan is, frankly, Tegan, and Kyle’s just so nice. A bit too good to be true, there’s also something iffy about the way he keeps showing up.

 

Delap’s performance is excellent, Kyle is calm and endlessly reasonable without being drippy. It’s quickly established that he’s in love with Tegan, but she’s just not that into him.. We eavesdrop on their relationship from beginning to end, via chance meetings, dinners out, and Talking Heads tickets, and find out how Tegan lost her job in the process. Janet Fielding is great here, she has the sort of character development that Tegan was crying out for in the 80s beyond trauma and Mara-possession. Her attitude and caustic humour are present and correct as always, but giving Tegan a relationship that fails because she doesn’t want to be fawned over is her all over, and really works.

 

In the meantime, the Doctor explores the Rijkesmuseum and has fun playing the art critic when viewing Rembrandt’s work, kicking off a lovely running joke about how to pronounce ‘chiaroscuro’. He also notices that some of the old master’s pieces are of spacecraft. At the end of an episode of exploring and chewing the fat, they are suddenly all attacked by the Nyx, grotesque water creatures that spring from Amsterdam’s canals.

 

They escape with Kyle in tow to the same spot in the 17th century, where Amsterdam is in its pomp as a trading Capitol and the East India Company rule the roost. The Nyx are also here, and viciously attack anyone in their way. Tegan and Nyssa are quickly taken into the custody of the Mayor, and brought before the mysterious alien Countess Teldak (Elizabeth Morton) - whilst the Doctor and Kyle go to meet Rembrandt (a stand-out performance by Richard James), who is acting as a draughtsman for the ship she plans to escape from Earth in. The old master is proud, but also bitter and cynical about his debts and his lot in life – charging for portraits by the face, and painting Businessmen’s “Wives and Fancy Women”, before they plead bankruptcy. For him, the promise of posthumous recognition isn’t enough. Happily by the end of the story, he’s letting the light back through the shutters.

 

The Countess is charming, softly-spoken, and outwardly peaceful, a refugee from a dead world, and a fugitive from the Nyx. She’s a complex character, and it’s no great surprise that she turns out to be utterly amoral and ruthless, as the story goes from twist to twist, and Kyle’s true nature is revealed into the bargain. The Nyx are no angels either, but they have a code, and only kill when they see necessary. The Countess uses the Doctor’s compassion against him, and he’s tricked into taking her to an alternative 1983 where she’s manipulated events purely so she can go home and take her revenge.

 

Jonathan Morris’s script is excellent -  funny, moving, and clever in equal measure. It’s ironic that a recording studio could capture so much more of the atmosphere and ambience of Amsterdam than actually going there ever did, and Jamie Anderson’s direction and some clever sound design sells three distinct versions of the same place expertly. The only slight criticism is the voices of the Nyx – inventive, but sometimes quite hard to make out.

 

The Waters of Amsterdam is a superb example of how Big Finish can go back in time and make things right.





Twelfth Doctor #11 - Unearthly ThingsBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Twelfth Doctor #11 - Unearthly Things (Credit: Titan)

WRITER - GEORGE MANN
ARTIST - MARIANO LACLAUSTRA

COLORIST - LUIS GUERREROINK
ASSISTS - FERNANDO CENTURION& NELSON PEREIRA

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES
DESIGNER - ROB FARMER
ASSISTANT EDITOR - KIRSTEN MURRAY

PUBLISHED: AUGUST 19th 2015, TITAN COMICS

A Nineteenth Century evening in England. Two noblewomen are rapt in conversation as they ride their horses on the highway. Charlotte and Ellen have expected just another chance to catch up, as best friends do, before returning to Lord Marlborough's abode. But suddenly a strange blue box with a lantern on top appears in the mist, and causes them to come to a shuddering halt on their journey. Emerging are a curious pair of individuals: a man with silver-grey hair and a remarkable glint in his eyes, and a very confident-looking woman with garment that possibly resembles foreign fashion on the Continent.

Later this new pair, known as Clara and 'The Doctor' - although he does not profess to be a medicinal expert - become actively involved in solving a most distressing mystery where people are losing their senses and becoming violent. Something very disturbing may be hiding in a corner of the mansion. Even the remarkably skilled Doctor may be outmatched by such an un-natural entity.

 

This one-issue standalone story is easily read and flows mostly without a hitch. By the same token there is little to really challenge and reward readers, as had been the case in most prior issues in this range for Capaldi's Doctor. The essential basics of having an alien force causing trouble in a period of Earth's history where no knowledge of the wider universe exist are very familiar by now, and there needs to be a special extra 'hook' I feel to really make the most of this premise.

Apart from Lord Marlborough and Charlotte, most other characters are just window dressing. People are placed in danger, and of course the hope is that the Doctor saves as many lives as possible. But not enough incentive is there for us to care, perhaps due to the near immediate effects of the 'mental possessions'. I also felt that there was something of a Hide vibe to proceedings, (and that story did itself featured Clara), but to a somewhat diminished effect in  comic format.  Characterisation for the present Doctor felt variable. He does verbally spar nicely with Clara, but some other moments are perhaps more suited to the Ninth and Tenth Doctor.

The artwork is the biggest trump card here. I enjoyed Mariano Laclaustra's a great deal in previous stories such as The Swords Of Kali and the Free Comics Day issue. Here, he now is the one assisted by an ink team - rather than the other way round -, and readers can appreciate his capabilities further. The depiction of the mansion, the grounds and the surrounding countryside around are all first rate, and the characters are well sketched also. The different use of light and shade to emphasise the suspense and horror aspects of the narrative are effective and something that is often a hallmark of what made TV Doctor Who 'behind the sofa' material.

Rian Hughes' cover for this issue is one of the very best I have seen for any comic in some time, even if it perhaps hints at a mystical story that is not really what materialises Yet, the sheer look of glee the Doctor displays in the front cover sometimes is reflected in much of the story's characterisation.

However, it will now be quite poignant to read these stories, knowing that the Doctor and Clara are on finite time together as a partnership. Jenna Coleman's committed performances in (especially) Series 8 and 9 seem to be well-reflected in her alter-ego's presence in these Titan works of fiction.

What makes this issue ultimately worth a read is the focus on unravelling just who Charlotte really is, and why perhaps the TARDIS manages to get in her way on purpose. The end pages do a fine job of making this more than just another pseudo-historical. With writer George Mann also penning the Eighth Doctor comic stories currently, there is a notable link between this story from last year and that ongoing mini-series.

 

BONUS STRIP The Abominable Showmen

Colin Bell and Neil Slorance continue their loosely linked arc of one-page shorts, which have featured a music contest on an alien world. The Doctor's greatest foe - the Master - is back, and this time there are five of her/him! You can't keep a good villain down. and especially not when the rock spirit is in full flight. The Doctor and Clara's aghast reactions to this turn of events are priceless.





The New Adventures Of The Tenth Doctor #13- The Spiral Staircase Part 1Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 January 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor #13 (Credit: Titan)
Written by Nick Abadzis
Pencils by Elena Casagrande
Lettering by Richard Starkings And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Inks by Simone Di Meo
Colorist Hi-Fi
Published July 29, 2015 by Titan Comics

Dorothy Bell has joined an alien force and the symbiosis has given her incredible powers. Cleo, Erik and their cohorts are searching for Dorothy believing her to be a Goddess incarnate. As usual, the Doctor is the only one who knows that none of this is going to end well.

By the title you would think that this is the beginning of a new arc but in reality it is the 3rd issue about these characters. It all started back in # 11 when we first came across the alien device, Dorothy and Cleo. So why change the name for this story? Why not just have it be The Fountains of Forever Part 3? I don’t really know, but if I had to hazard a guess it would be that the main focus has now shifted from the out of this world fountain of youth device to the aliens who created it. The story is no longer about an aging Hollywood starlet trying to recapture her youth and beauty, now we are focused on the consequences of awakening an alien consciousness from its slumber.

The details are finally starting to fall into place. Last issue we were left dangling as far as who Erik and his cohorts are and what they want with the alien object. It turns out they aren’t a top secret government agency or mercenaries or an evil organization but in fact a cult of fanatics who believe it to be a religious artifact. They are the faithful who think that their Gods have abandoned Earth and now with this device they are calling them back, hoping to bring on the “Day Of Ascension”.

That’s where Dorothy Bell fits in. In her twilight years she was searching for a way to extend her life. Now she has merged with an alien intelligence. It gave her everything she wanted, her youth and beauty has been restored along with almost limitless power. After the symbiosis she is treated with reverence by Erik and his cult because they believe her to be the Goddess incarnate, though they change their minds and later decide she is a harbinger of the Gods. Dorothy knows that she isn’t a herald and she completely ignores them, choosing to put her new found powers to use instead. Another famous web-slinging comic book character from New York told us “with great power comes great responsibility.” I don’t know if Dorothy is a Spider-Man fan, but she understands the lesson. Imbued with the power to do whatever she wants Dorothy chooses to use it benignly, reshaping NYC to make it easier for people to travel, taller buildings, better hospitals. But the beings behind her power are coming and they aren’t happy with her.

Cleo continues to surprise in this issue. She’s has betrayed the Doctor on numerous occasions but when his life is in danger she stands up for him and protects him, placing herself at risk instead. Cindy, Gabby’s best friend and a minor antagonist, continues to be a wallflower during much of this story. So much so that she even makes a comment about just staying out of the way. I have a feeling that when this arc reaches its end, Cindy will play a big role. We will find out soon enough.

A Rose By Any Other Name By Rachael Smith

In my review of that last issue I confessed that I didn’t like this bonus strip. It really did very little for me; I found it mildly humorous at best. My resolve to dislike them is slowly being eroded away. The previous strip was good and this one was actually enjoyable. In order to get the Doctor out of his funk, Rose The Cat takes him to a speed dating service where the creatures across the table are all old villains. How could you go wrong with that?





The Early Adventures: The Yes MenBookmark and Share

Saturday, 9 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Yes Men (Credit: Big Finish)

STARRING: Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), 
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor),
Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), 
Lizzie McInnerny (Harriet Quilp), 
Stephen Critchlow(The Yes Men), 
Timothy Speyer (Nesca Bangate), 
Jane Slavin (The President)

Written By: Simon Guerrier
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Sound Design/Music: Toby Hrycek-Robinson
    Cover Art: Tom Webster
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: John Dorney
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released September 2015, Big Finish

The TARDIS crew, including Ben, Polly and Jamie, arrive on a colony christened by mankind as 'New Houston'. Meg Carvossa was a long-term friend of the Doctor's - and one that he met in his first incarnation - and the reason for them paying a visit to the colony. However, there is no sign whatsoever of her. She was an important figure, as by repelling an alien invasion, she rose up to the title of President. Repeated enquiry over this woman points to various 'different' ways she died, which only results in a confused mess.

Stranger still, the near-total absence of the apparently large population, and scattering of obsolete looking robots that serve the interest of the colony would point to some drastic series of events that is not on record. So the Doctor and his friends must investigate, without putting their lives in jeopardy in the process..

Due to references to the Cybermen by Jamie, and even the Doctor's firm intention to somehow return Ben and Polly to the time and place they first him, this is yet another story that is sandwiched between The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones. It certainly feels quite similar in tone and style to these mid-1960s black and white TV chronicles.

In having narration as well as reasonably long explanatory dialogue, this story is unlikely to confuse listeners. The script from Guerrier has plenty of wit, as well as noticeable morality-inclined messages. The cast clearly are engaged by the core premise and help to make what is intended as a 1960s-storytelling throwback still feel relevant to our present time 21st century attitudes.

I cannot help but compare this new original story with the long-revered classic The Robots Of Death. The situation and resolution are somewhat different, but the themes of autonomy, slavery and ethics do bear reflection. As well-done as the Yes Men voices are here, they perhaps lack that eeriness and peculiar quality that the Sandminer robots did in the Tom Baker story. Having them all be exactly the same voice here is perhaps more realistic but also less engaging for the listener, but the play never allows them to take over a given scene for too long in a way that would grate.

The supporting cast otherwise all rise to the mark and the different characters with agendas that range from pragmatic to ruthless and corrupt are all distinct and play off well with the regulars. We are made to change our attitudes and sympathies several times, and this is due to a clever story where there is arguably no out and out villain but no 'goody-two-shoes' either.

Frazer Hines certainly makes a fine Second Doctor here. Return to Telos was a partial crossover of the Second and Fourth Doctors - and gave me a clear idea of how Hines approaches recreating the feel of his late co-star Patrick Troughton.  Of course in this story the Second Doctor is given centre stage, and is vibrant and complex as any story in the TV series.

Anneke Wills does a fine job as the narrator in this 'full cast' drama and come off as enhancing the overall impact, rather than being distracting. She also has that element of being wise and observant, rather than just 'a matter of fact' aid to the listener. Her recreation of Polly Wright is also to be cherished, even if we must concede there is the element of her voice aging which is rather less detectable in the case of Hines.

The new addition of Elliot Chapman is a very smooth method of finding someone who can sound and act like the late Michael Craze, and bring the fine earnestness and bravery that symbolized seaman Ben in all of his screen outings. Whilst this particular story gives better material to Polly and Jamie, there are still some moments that show how Ben Jackson has a native wit that is often necessary for an effective member of the armed forces. The hope would be for future 'Early Adventures' to reuse Chapman's services.

My main criticism for this production is that the music by Toby Hrycek-Robinson rarely manages to exceed simply breathing basic life into proceedings. Some tracks may bring an element of urgency but Big Finish has arguably done much better music frequently over the years. Hrycek-Robinson however does do well with sound design, as there are many different types of scene and action as well as substantial plot twists. Consequently the potential for confusion is quelled. 

The writer and director have proven their mettle many times before in working for Big Finish, and this play continues the trend. Thus, I look forward to further successes in this range which helps remind us all of just how brave and inventive early Doctor Who was in the Sixties.

 

EXTRAS:

A couple of documentary tracks feature, and they get right on with the necessary information about what inspired the story and how the cast recreated the different leading roles. Very few words are wasted, and the enthusiasm of the interviewees is symbolic of the committed performance in the actual audio play. A bit of insight into how an actor's voice develops when methodically 'getting in character' - by Chapman - is also very engaging.

There is also isolated music on offer. As i stated above, the music really was mostly just 'sort of there'. I cannot see myself playing those tracks in isolation, let alone repeatedly. However music is one of the most subjective and difficult things to argue for and against convincingly, and as such this special feature may well appeal to quite a few consumers.