The Memory Bank and Other Stories (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 17 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Memory Bank and Other Stories (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Chris Chapman, Paul Magrs, Eddie Robson,
and Ian Potter

Directed by Helen Goldwyn

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough),Suzann McLean(Max/Autumn Voice), Ian Brooker (Archivist/Computer/Elder), Sarah Sweeney (Diamon/Lara) Mandi Symonds(Alitha/Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir) Duncan Wisbey (Grayling Frimlish/Shiri/Zounds),Kae Alexander (Waywalker)

Big Finish Productions – Released October 2016

This year’s anthology release of four single-episode stories featuresPeter Davison and Mark Strickson on great form as the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in a collection which following in a now annual tradition does not disappoint. Largely due, one assumes, to Strickson’s limited availability and the decision to use Turlough in a long-running arc which also involved Tegan and Nyssa and only concluded in March 2015 with TheEntropyPlague, this is the only the fourth release in the Big Finish main range to feature this particular pairing and the first in over a decade since 2005’s Singularity. The continuity gap in the between Tegan’s departure in Resurrection of the Daleks and Turlough’s exit in the following televised adventure Planet of Fire remains ripe for exploitation making this team an excellent choice for this anthology. It is also a joy for those who listen to the behind the scenes tracks, to discover that the director for this collection is long-time Big Finish regular Helen Goldwyn, best known as an actress whose numerous credits included series regular Elena in the much-missed audio series of The Tomorrow People.

The Memory Bank by Chris Chapman plays with the concept of lost memory and why memories are important, a theme which loosely recurs throughout this anthology. This is a strong start to the set with good supporting performances from Suzann McLean as Max and Ian Brooker as both the Archivist and Archive computer voice.

The Last Fairy Tale has a typical feel of a Paul Magrs story which sees the Doctor and Turlough arrive in a medieval European town awaiting a storyteller for whom, naturally, the Doctor is quickly mistaken. This enjoyable tale clearly evokes the importance of storytelling as a way of preserving memory and again is well-supported, especially byDuncan Wisbey as Frimlish.

Repeat Offender by Eddie Robson is the highlight of the set with a cleverly evoked futuristic setting of 22nd Century Reykjavik which feels as if it’s not as far away from our own world as we might like with its erosion of civil liberties. There are some neat twists which will keep the listener guessing and some strong central performances by Mandi Symonds as Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir and (for some reason uncredited except by mention in the extras tracks) Sarah Sweeney as Lara. It is also good to be reminded that Turlough has an occasional darker side which Strickson really plays up to.

The Becoming by Ian Potter is for the most part a three-hander in which the Doctor and Turlough encounter the enigmatic Waywalker, played in an excellent debut performance by Kae Alexander. The theme at the heart of this story is the rivalry between the preservation of traditions against the necessity to adapt and survive with Turlough’s interaction with Waywalker proving to be an unexpected catalyst for change.

Overall, this is a strong collection of very different stories yet with similar themes relating to the importance of memory. Unlike previous anthologies such as You are the Doctor and Other Stories where there was a clear arc running through, there is no direct link between these four tales, however the conclusion of the final episode still provides a satisfying feeling of the circle having been squared. Once again, this collection proves to be one of the best releases of the year so far and on this form it is to be expected that the annual anthology release will remain a regular feature of Big Finish’s Doctor Who main range for many years to come.

 

TheMemoryBank is available now directly from Big Finish and on general release from 30th November 2016.






You Are The Doctor and Other Stories (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 17 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
You Are the Doctor and Other Stories (Credit: Big Finish / Joseph Bell)

Written by John Dorney, Jamie Anderson, Christopher Cooper, and Matthew Elliott

Directed by Ken Bentley

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Jon Culshaw (Keith/Guard/Chafal), Kim Wall (Chimbly), Nadine Marshall (Katrice/Kordel), Amrita Acharia (The Resurrectionist/Clerk), Juliet Cowan (Bryer/Adriana Beauvais), Oliver Dimsdale (Morecombe/Mervyn Garvey), George Potts (Ruben/Guard), Vinette Robinson (Cynthia Quince)

Big Finish Productions - Released December 2015

Big Finish’s final main range release for 2015 is an anthology release of four separate single episode stories with a linking thread. These anthology releases have become something of an annual tradition with a reputation for being one of the highlights of the Big Finish calendar so this release has a lot to live up to. In this instance, we join the Seventh Doctor and Ace in the aftermath of the departure of Hex in 2014’s SignsandWonders. Ace is attempting to learn how to pilot the TARDIS but try as she might she can’t seem to get the old girl to take her and the Doctor to Australia. Her failed attempts are a linking theme between the stories and the suggested explanation cues up the events of the Doctor and Ace’s next appearance in ALifeofCrime, released in June 2016.

You Are The Doctor by John Dorney is a rather uniquely audio take on the classic Choose your own adventure format with choices to be made at the end of each track as to what decision the Doctor and Ace should take. If you think this reviewer enjoyed this unusual format then continue reading onto the next paragraph. If you think that this reviewer enjoyed the characters rather than the story itself then skip to the third paragraph.

You chose the second paragraph, unfortunately for you this reviewer found that after the first couple of times of listening to two different variations of the same scene, the first of which invariably resulted in one of both of our regulars being killed the format was rather grating. The only consolation being that there was a reasonable explanation provided for the alternate versions of events at the story’s conclusion. You chose unwisely, go back to the beginning and start again.

Congratulations, you correctly guessed that this reviewer’s favourite part of the story was the characters especially the Porcians played by Kim Wall, reprising his role of Chimbly from 2012 release TheFourthWall, this time joined by the excellent Jon Culshaw in the first of several roles in this anthology as Chimbly’s wife Keith. You have chosen wisely and may continue to the second story.

Come Die With Me by Jamie Anderson finds the Doctor and Ace in a much more typical scenario of strange goings in a spooky old house where they have somehow been brought at the behest of the mysterious (and strangely uncredited) Mr Norris to solve an apparently unsolvable murder mystery. This neat little story, which is Anderson’s first sojourn into the world of Doctor Who is clearly a paean to Ghost Light although perhaps it belongs in the true crime section.

The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel by Christopher Cooper opens with Ace on trial for a murder which, naturally, she didn’t commit facing a sinister Judge (Jon Culshaw, this time showing his darker side). The gravity of the situation is made clear through the tolling of an ominous sounding bell which on its own gave this reviewer shivers. Through flashbacks we learn that what led to Ace’s current predicament and how it seems that the Doctor (aka “the Approaching Inclement Weather System”) is up to his usual manipulative tricks during an investigation into strange goings on in the eponymous Betelgeuse hotel.

Dead to the World by Matthew Elliott concludes this set of stories with a straightforward tale with a few comic twists which finds the Doctor and Ace on board a tourist ship which has fallen foul of a plague sent by intergalactic estate agents with an unhealthy interest in planet Earth. Viewers of The Sarah Jane Adventures will no doubt recognise the star turn in this story from Juliet Cowan as the unsympathetic ship’s Captain Adriana Beauvais. The Doctor is able to offer a whole new meaning to the term hard bargaining.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable quartet of single episode adventures with the final reveal of the clues linking all four stories being particularly enjoyable. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are on great form and it is a relief to hear them both having fun rather than dwelling overly on the angst-ridden events of previous releases. Based on this release, the annual anthology continues to be a highlight and it to be hoped that the latest 2016 release TheMemoryBank will also live up to expectations.

 

You Are The Doctor and Other Stories is available to buy now from amazon.co.uk






Short Trips - A Full Life (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
A Full Life (Credit: Big Finish / Anthony Lamb)

Producer Ian Atkins. Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and
Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Joseph Lidster. Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast - Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)

AFullLife is an interesting, and very thought provoking listen. It is essentially a ‘what if’ sort of story that veers off after a known ‘event’ into a parallel universe, that in the end, finds Adric an old man with grandchildren.
 
Written by Joseph Lidster, and narrated by Matthew Waterhouse, it starts quite jarringly with someone flicking backwards and forwards on a tape player, the sound of the clicking and fast forwarding ringing loud in your ear. An older Adric is relaying the action, which for very obvious reasons grabs the listener's attention from the start. What the older Adric is disclosing is essentially the story of Adric’s life, starting of course on Alzareus with the loss of his parents, then mist-fall, and the the Marshmen, and  later of course the tragic death of his brother Vash. We follow as Adric then stows away on the TARDIS (so far, still so familiar), and of finding himself on a planet where vampires are real. As his adventures progress we hear about Adric slowly forming a meaningful relationship with the Doctor and Romana, a feeling that he actually belonged somewhere once again. It’s not only quite nostalgic that the story mentions moments that we have seen, but also very interesting the mentions of adventures between those that we know. How the Doctor, Romana K9 and Adric have become a force to be reckoned with for the monsters and megalomaniacs of E-Space, whilst all the time hunting for the elusive CVE that would take The Doctor and Romana back to their own universe.
 
Suddenly, and rather jarringly there is a mention of the planet Veridis, and the tape is abruptly wound backwards for the first time. We rejoin the narration when the TARDIS first lands on Veridis, our trio (K9 is left in the TARDIS because of the rain) soon manage to thwart a young girls murder, and stumble upon a rather horrific secret.
 
A Full Life is about death as much as it is life, probably more so in fact. Oh - and resurrection, there is a lot of resurrection. I couldn't help but grin when I heard a classic reference to Frankenstein (and, of course the Paul McGann TV movie). The story asks the age old question of - if we could bring a loved one back from the dead, who would it be? And then where would we stop after that, who else would we bring back? What if we didn't have to stop? It also asks that once a power and responsibility of bringing the dead to life is removed - what is next? How does a world acclimatise to suddenly having to lose their loved ones for real?
 
For a seemingly unassuming forty five minute audio, A Full Life packs a real emotional punch, and when the skew in the established timeline happens (and believe me - it's a doozy!) the listener discovers what consequences this has to Adric. What would happen if he were allowed to live on Veridis, to fall in love and build a family. Oh – and there is even a clever cliff-hanger in there, where the tape that we are listening to ends and needs to be 'turned over'. You can hear the listener trying to clumsily ram the cassette back into the player as quickly as he can, and then fumble the buttons before the story resumes - something that is perfectly simple, yet very effective.
 
My only slight gripe with this release is the actual narration. I need to say that I am not an Adric 'hater'. When he was introduced to Who back in the day he was a very similar age to what I was at the time, meaning that I felt a real connection with the character. I'd go so far as to say I still find him endearing to this day. He was from a period of time when the TARDIS was a busy place, a time I REALLY enjoyed. Plus of course he was one of the few companions to be killed off. The thought of that crumbled gold star for mathematical excellence, on a black backdrop, while the credits roll silently still makes me feel misty eyed right now. Well I might be exaggerating a bit. A lot. Probably. Anyway, the narration. i felt that Matthew Waterhouse threw himself into some of the reading a little too much. Sometimes sounding a little desperate. This was only occasionally, and when it happened, it was mostly when he was trying to voice either the Doctor or Romana. Let me stress though that this is a very minor moan. It did nothing to quell my enjoyment of the story.
 
A Full Life is the first of the Short Trips that i have listened to. I'd definitely be back again. A Full Life is available from Big Finish.




The Eleventh Doctor (Year Two) #9 - Running To Stay StillBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.9  (Credit: Titan)

   Writer - Si Spurrier
Artist - Leandro Casco
Colorist - Rodrigo Fernandes

[Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore + 
Steve Dillon, appearing courtesy of Panini Comics, 
with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine]

Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton +
Amoona Saohin
Senior Editor - Andrew James
 Designer - Rob Farme

Main cover - Mark Wheatley

"What is it? Is it Daleks? Did you find the secret Daleks? Can we fight the secret Daleks now?!"

"No. it's... odd. Not good-odd or bad-odd, exactly, just... odd. There was tech here once. Left traces. Extremely sophisticated. As in: Godlike. As in: not Dalek"

Abslom Daak and the Doctor in conversation.

 

The pressure on the Doctor and his friends continues to intensify. Before long, the normally effervescent River Song is rendered comatose, and placed alongside the (long-dead) 'wife' of Daak. The efforts to find a solution see a visit to a planet named Sshh.  The Master's TARDIS continues to be a tool of great value, but also a symbol of despicability and ruthlessness.

Furthermore, Alice suffers a rush of memories, that she would normally care to forget. Another companion makes a return to the fray, and in thrilling fashion, but could be risking too much for too little reward.

And amidst it all the Doctor shows a side to him that is far darker and more chilling than a good number of the foes he has defeated over the millennia..  

 

The main point of interest in this latest instalment of the Year Two arc is just out of character the Doctor is, and how indifferent he is to the suffering of others around him. Whilst glimmers of this happened now and again over the five-decades-plus history of the parent TV show, this choice of characterisation truly stands out. We get a real sense of an anti-hero at work, but one with somewhat less charisma and belief in his actions as well.

The urgency of the plot is kept reasonably high by having the 'Then and the Now' entity around and in no mood to hold anything back. We also see an interesting exploration of the Daak/Alice dynamic which was not really made too much of in previous issues, as they try and take the role of the Doctor in coming up with a solution. Daak had generally been just as much a millstone around the TARDIS crew's neck as an asset, but truly comes good here. By contrast, the Doctor shows a rather feckless and passive side to himself, when a truly harrowing sequence of events occurs.

Somehow though, a generally intriguing core to the story is not enough to result in a satisfying end product. Whilst myself and other reviewers here find Titan material to be of a generally decent, if not excellent, standard month-in, month-out, I have to go against this consensus on this occasion. Certain patches are lacklustre and there is an uneven tone and a confused sense of what the creative team are trying to say. Spurrier has done some decent work before on this monthly series, mixing the character work with the action. But the unusual portrayal of most of the protagonists just does not quite feel organic and convincing enough.

To be fair though, there are steps made forward in the arc, and the danger that especially Alice and the Squire face are of significance. The final stages of this issue are gripping and shocking in equal measure. Plenty of readers will rush to the ensuing issue 10 wanting to know what will come of the various frenetic twists of fate. Overall however, this is the first true blip in a generally confident second year, for Matt Smith's incarnation in comic strip form.

 

EXTRAS (Alternate Covers/ Issue 10 Preview Covers):

At this point the bonus mini story or humour strip is something of a scarcity, and once again does not feature. Perhaps with the plethora of Who comics now being made, and even a Torchwood one to attract readers, a decision was made to fully showcase the talent of the artists who deliver worthy covers that reflect either the actual issue concerned, or the general spirit of the monthly series.





Terror of the Sontarans (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 7 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Terror of the Sontarans (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by John Dorney and Dan Starkey

Directed by Ken Bentley

  Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush), Daniel O'Meara (Ketch), Jon Edgley Bond (Anvil Jackson/Technician Gyte), Andree Bernard (Tethneka/Carter/Thing #1 and #2), Dan Starkey (Field-Major Kayste/Skegg/Stodd), John Banks (Adjutant Commander Klath/Stettimer), John Dorney (Glarr).

Big Finish Productions – Released September 2015

.

Having recently enjoyed the reunion of the Seventh Doctor and Mel in the most recently released trilogy of stories which concluded with last month’s Maker of Demons, now seems an apt time to review this concluding story to last year’s trilogy of adventures set during season 24 which also featured Sylvester McCoy andBonnie Langford, both clearly enjoying being reunited for the first time in a number of years.

Rather intriguingly, Big Finish regular John Dorney has teamed up with actor Dan Starkey, who is best known for portraying the new series iteration of the Sontarans, to produce this rather curious tale about the nature of fear. Big Finish are to be applauded for giving Starkey the chance to write for the Sontarans and he and several of the other cast members certainly seem to enjoy bringing them to life but the overall story itself is perhaps not the most original that this reviewer has ever heard.

The story itself finds the Doctor and Mel arrive at seemingly abandoned mining station on a planet with an inhospitable atmosphere. So far so traditional sci-fi. In due course they find a rather motley group of survivors – Ketch and Jackson are the sort of double-act that initially may remind listeners of typically roguish space farers of the classic series. They are both well portrayed by Daniel O’Meara and Jon Edgley Bond respectively. Anvil Jackson in particular is larger than life character who provides most of the comic relief but proves to have a key role in later proceedings. They are joined in their captivity by the quasi-religious Tethneka (one of several roles played by Andree Bernard).

It transpires that the three surviving crew members have been the subject of experiments by the Sontarans, who have also been attacked by an unknown force and unusually have reported being afraid. Of course, some more Sontarans, angry at the disgrace of such a report being made soon arrive and seek to get to the bottom of events.

The Doctor and Mel spend a large amount of the story separated which gives Mel the chance to learn more about the crew whilst the Doctor seeks to get the heart of what has really caused the terror of the Sontarans. The story’s conclusion is reasonably enjoyable if not hugely surprising.

Overall, this is not the most memorable of entries in the Big Finish main range but it is still a solidly plotted enjoyable story with a good cast of characters. 

 

TerroroftheSontarans is available to buy now from amazon.co.uk






Philip Hinchcliffe Presents - The Genesis ChamberBookmark and Share

Thursday, 6 October 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
genesis chamber

Written By:Philip Hinchcliffe, adapted by Marc Platt 

Director:Ken Bentley

Cast          

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), 

Jon Culshaw (DeRosa Janz), Hannah Genesius (Ana Janze), Jemma Churchill (Farla Janz/Inscape), Dan Li(Grillo Clavik), Vernon Dobtcheff (Jorenzo Zorn), Arthur Hughes (Shown), Gyuri Sarossy (Volor), Elliot Chapman (Dack/Loyyo)

Producer David Richardson

Script Editor John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

So, here we have The Genesis Chamber, where we join the Doctor and Leela on a planet that has been colonised by humans. There are two communities, one that lives inside a technologically advanced dome, where they rely on a powerful computer system called Inscape to provide their every need, even down to designer children. The other community lives outside the dome, and relies on more traditional methods to survive, shunning technology completely. Both colonies are fearful of each other. Suddenly there is a third faction, could this be an advance guard of an invasion force with a twist? With the sudden threat, Inscape goes off line, and the city is in turmoil. Can the Doctor and Leela repel the invaders, reunite the two communities and get Inscape up and running again? Only time will tell.

Philip Hinchcliffe Presents – The Genesis Chamber is a full on, epic, it's a six part Fourth Doctor and Leela adventure. Personally I had the feeling it might be set right after The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the relationship  of the two leads still seemed quite new to me, they seemed to be still wonderfully, and quite gleefully discovering things about each other as the story progressed. The writing is great, but I felt not overly evocotive of Hinchcliffe's 'gothic' era, which surprised me. Like most of Hinchcliffe's work though there are undercurrents of classic literature. Romeo and Juliet being mostly to the fore (even Leela gets a tragic love story). Oh, and the sequence where Leela has to drive a futeristic car is priceless!

With a running time of three hours,  I was concerned that the audio might struggle to keep my attention, but once it gets going it romps along. There seemed to be a huge cast of characters, but never does it become confusing….unless you count the plots numerous twists and turns (there are many!). Some of which are pure genius.

Along with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, we have Jon Culshaw - who rather ironically of course has aped Tom Baker on numerous occasions, including voicing him for The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (please, do google his impressions if you havent seen them already - Jon rather famously  even fooled Tom Baker), as well as lending his vocal talents to the McCoy audio, Death Comes To Time. Ae also have Hannah Genesius, Jemma Churchill (who also featured in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, Dan Li (The Bells Of Saint John), Vernon Dobtcheff (The Borgias), Arthur Hughes, Gyuri Sarossy and Elliot Chapman. All voice artists do a sterling job at bringing their characters to life, the stand out being Volor (played with glee by Gyuri Sarossy), a character who is essentially the villain of the piece, and who there is much more to than meets the eye. My only gripe with the story is that the writers deided to give the 'simpler' colonist-folk, who live outside the dome a West Country accent, which grated on this Bristol boy just a little bit.

So, The Genesis Chamber is a great re-visitation back to a time when Doctor Who ruled Saturday evenings, with Tom Baker at his most bonkers, and the loyal savage Leela at his side. Those were the days!