Dr Who - Short Trips 8.06 - The Siege Of Big BenBookmark and Share

Thursday, 12 July 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Siege Of Big Ben (Credit: Big Finish)
 

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

Written By: Joseph Lidster; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)

"He was BORN IN BATTLE......apparently.... which basically means he's a grumpy prawn...."

 

Jackie Tyler has everything she's ever wanted: a loving husband and, two children. But a terrible, far-reaching plan is underway, and only Jackie and a single friend stand in the way of it.

But the Doctor isn't the man he was...

I'm not going to lie - I love Jackie Tyler. I know the sniffier segment of Who fandom turned their noses up at some aspects of the Russell T Davis era of the programme for being too soapy - but I fully believe that by normalising the companions through giving them a family, new Who's success was firmly cemented.

Jackie Tyler is a stand out character. We all know a Jackie Tyler. She is the busy body down the street, heart of gold though. Here, we catch up with her talking to her friend Beryl, recounting a recent adventure.

We are of course in 'Pete's World', so things are a little different. Football is played backwards, and UNIT has a base in Big Ben. Talking of UNIT, they have a very familiar scientific advisor in the shape of the tenth Doctor....well....not exactly the tenth Doctor, as this is of course the meta-crisis Doctor that we left behind in Journey's End.

It is quite interesting exploring this version of our Doctor. He's definitely not the same as the Doctor from our world, he's not as brave, and not as much of a hero. Jackie thinks that if he were given the choice of having his TARDIS back or staying with Rose, the TARDIS would win, and he would leave Rose in a second.

The story is classic base under siege (which is given a very meta mention in the actual story). The base being Big Ben, where Jackie and the Doctor are trapped by a menacing alien race. 

There is a twist, and it's quite a touching one that then also highlights the differences in this Doctor and ours.

Joseph Lidster is on writing duties, steering the story expertly. Of course he has penned a fair few Short Trips already, as well a number of other Big Finish audios. Not to mention a few Sarah Jane Adventures, and a bit of Torchwood along the way. The writing is incredibly confident and hauls the listener in with sheer glee.

Of course Camille Coduri reprises Jackie perfectly. I'm very happy to see that in two releases time we have another Short Trips set in this Universe - Flight Into Hull. Once again written by Lidster and narrated by Coduri. I don't think this will be the last we hear from Jackie Tyler.

The Siege of Big Ben is one of my favourite of this range so far, and is well worth a few quid as a download. Go on, do it. You can find it here.





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Tenth Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan / Robert Hack)



"The Ghost Ship"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Iolanda Zanfardinoy
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Scott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in July 2018

Titan Comics can't actually show the Thirteenth Doctor before she debuts on TV in the fall, so they have decided to build to her Comic Book Debut with three one-shot comic books that leads into her debut story.  The first of these, in what is being called "The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor," is this story featuring the Tenth Doctor.  It is short and light doesn't really feel like it is building towards anything.  It isn't necessarily bad, but at this point doesn't really feel like it is on the "road" to anything. 

It begins with the Tenth Doctor and his two Titan Companions, Gabby and Cindy...as they land on a space station and face off with some creepy beings that the Doctor defeats easily, and exposes a creepy plot by the "Earth Corps" to create genocidal weapons.  And that is seemingly it. The conclusion feels quick and easy, nothing to write home about. The fact is the main story is just a regular Tenth Doctor story, which may or may not play into future events for either his series or the Thirteenth Doctor...but either way, it seems odd to build up and market this as a build up to her strips and then just give us an average story with an attached four page short story that is meant to sort of build to her. 

The short story that actually is meant to serve as the actual "Road To.." storyline, just goes back into the Tenth Doctor's first season on TV, where we see the Doctor in between scenes in The Girl in the Fireplace in which he finds something even crazier than 18th Century France on a space station, though it is left ambiguous as to what it is, as the Tenth Doctor races off to save Rose and Mickey before exploring anything further.

One can only hope this is actually going somewhere. I felt this story was too light, too easy an enemy to defeat...but I didn't quite know what it was they were setting up for the Thirteenth Doctor. I only discovered later that only the four page mini-comic had anything to do with the Thirteenth Doctor's eventual debut.  And I gotta say it was too short and ambiguous and relied a little too much on past continuity for me to get too interested. 

The art is nice, and as per usual for Titan, they just nail the characterization of the Tenth Doctor, but this ultimately is just a regular issue of the Tenth Doctor ongoing series, and anything that may be setting up the actual road to the Thirteenth Doctor feels like an afterthought...or something that might work better when the whole story is collected together. Right now, it isn't the strongest start for the big build-up to the new Doctor.





Torchwood: Goodbye Piccadilly (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 7 July 2018 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Torchwood: Goodbye Piccadilly  (Credit: Big Finish )
Writer: James Goss
Director: Scott Handcock
Featuring: Tom Price, Samuel Barnett, Lucy SheenRachel Atkins
Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
Running Time: 1 hour

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

“What’s your game, Norton? Who are you really working for?”

Stripped of his loyal Cardiff police force, his somewhat morally superior time-zone and above all his dignity, Sergeant Andy Davidson has but one option: explore the seedy underbelly of 1950s Soho with contemporary Torchwood (con) agent Norton Folgate. Throw conniving gangsters, scandalous sexual encounters and even some unashamed H.G. Wells allusions into the mix and what could possibly go wrong? Well, anything and everything which fans of Big Finish’s more NSFW additions to the show’s canon could possibly expect; depending on whether or not listeners count themselves among that group, that’s either Goodbye Piccadilly’s biggest selling point or shortcoming.

As the range’s overarching producer, there’s no denying that James Goss – more than any other playwright involved – understands the elements that make Torchwood tick. Its notably adult humour, for one, remains alive and thriving here as Norton fully exposes himself to Andy on numerous levels; from the pair initially finding themselves handcuffed in their bedroom suits to their exchanges with Norton’s similarly garment-devoid courtiers at regular intervals, the time-hopping copper gets rather more than he could’ve bargained for here. Tom Price’s earnest portrayal, as ever, works a treat in conveying Andy’s sheer bemusement and constant disorientation on this whistle-stop historical tour to hilarious effect, though Goss also thankfully enables him to flex the more dramatic muscles in his skeleton by interrogating Mr. Folgate more intricately than in 2016 team-up Ghost Mission.

Indeed, considering how many appearances Norton has made since Torchwood’s resurrection at Big Finish, one couldn’t help but notice up until now just how little we knew about this undercover Committee operative. What sparked his initial yearning to play both sides of the secret agency equation, manipulating the Torchwood Institute to his true employer’s ominous ends? How did he survive long enough to bring about The Torchwood Archive’s destruction in that masterful 10th Anniversary Special? And with rumblings of further sinister Time Vortex hijinks in recent releases such as Visiting Hours, are Norton’s machinations coming to a head? Whatever the truth of the matter, Samuel Barnett gleefully subverts our expectations further this time around. We’re shown a far more vulnerable character than that glimpsed before, with Barnett delicately peeling layer upon emotional layer from Norton’s exterior such that we’re just as captivated by his oft-reopened romantic scars as by his shifting allegiances, the latter of which Dirk Gently’s lead star still naturally pulls off with charismatic aplomb.

But for every character development there’s a half-baked supporting construct, for every madcap setting which our heroes plunge into – brothels-turned-body art studios, corruption-laden police stations, UFOs, they’re all here – a disappointingly pedestrian plot twist that we’ve heard recorded countless times before in the Big Finish studios. Such is the whirlwind nature of a comedy caper of Piccadilly’s ilk that there’s barely any time to flesh out the motivations of the tantalisingly ruthless Vicar running Torchwood One at present or the typically greed-intoxicated mobster who’ll seize any opportunity to carve her name across the Soho property ladder. The third act, almost inevitably, struggles to carry much real weight as a result, with both factions so superficially depicted beforehand that the only noteworthy stakes concern two characters who – what with this release presumably preceding Aliens Among Us in the range’s timeline – we know will reach the credits unscathed.

Might Piccadilly exhibit the pitfalls of Big Finish’s monthly Torchwood releases only opting for restrictive runtimes in the region of 45-60 minutes, in that case? Quite possibly. Contrast the range’s twenty-second instalment with Invaders from Mars, the 2002 Eighth Doctor tale from Mark Gatiss which earned itself roughly two hours’ worth of airtime to indulge in War of the Worlds-esque, gang warfare-infused tomfoolery not dissimilar to that which we’ve been discussing here, and it’s hardly absurd to wonder whether Goss might’ve benefitted from another hour in which to further illustrate his intrigue-laden world, characters and events. Much as Price and Barnett jest about the prospect of full-fledged Andy-Norton boxsets come the behind-the-scenes coda, then, this reviewer would wholeheartedly endorse any such pitch made over one of Big Finish’s now-legendary lunches.

Let’s avoid finishing on a sour note, though, since despite this reviewer’s initial reservations with a follow-up to the tepid Ghost Mission, Piccadilly has far more elements working in its favour than its predecessor. Beyond the two exemplary lead performances, the sound design team’s authentic rendition of Soho’s constant hustled-and-bustled nightlife, the rambunctious score and dizzying array of sexually-charged setpieces almost never fail to capture the listener’s attention. And, credit where credit’s certainly due, the latter risqué moments also confidently incorporate LGBTQ+ participants in a way that perfectly befits this release’s close proximity to Pride Week – not that you’d expect any less of Torchwood by this point, in fairness! – to the point where it’s likely a must-listen for anyone walking the streets in celebration this month.

While hardly the range’s finest hour, then, Goodbye Piccadilly offers a little something for everyone – London-bound hysteria for fans of classic comedy capers, plenty of explosive Andy / Norton action for Ghost Mission’s proponents, impressive technical workings behind-the-scenes for those of us who appreciate such pivotal minutiae and a script laden with LGBTQ+ representation for those who so deeply crave it elsewhere. If only every TV / film / audio drama franchise’s off-days could remain as riotously satisfying as this one, then the internet masses would find themselves left with far fewer matters to complain about.

Just kidding, of course, but we can always dream…

Next Time on Torchwood – We’re due another double dose of Torchwood in the coming weeks; as if it wasn’t enough for Toshiko to find herself beset by seemingly super-powered ne’er do wells capable of psychological assassinations in Instant Karma, the pre-“Army of Ghosts” Yvonne Hartman has her hands just as full in Torchwood One: Machines. Before the Cybermen, before her timely rejuvenation to face down Ro-Jedda in Aliens Among Us, another indomitable force threatened to bring her reign to an untimely conclusion. Its name? Will Operating Thought Analogue – WOTAN for short.



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Aug 2018
Torchwood - 22 Goodbye Piccadilly