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

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

World Apart by Scott Handcock

Directed by Ken Bentley

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

Big Finish Productions - Released June 2017 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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






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

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

Cortex Fire by Ian Potter

Directed by Ken Bentley

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

Big Finish Productions - Release May 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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






The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 6 - Episode 6 - SubterraneaBookmark and Share

Thursday, 29 June 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Subterranea (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Jonathan Morris; Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana) 
Matthew Cottle (Mr Maxwell Wilberforce Bell)
Abigail McKern (Mrs Lucretia Bell)
Robbie Stevens (Mr Jelicho Wigg/ Mr Wilfer Wagstaff)
Jane Slavin (Miss Arabella Wagstaff/ Mrs Betsy Wagstaff)
 John Banks (Silex/ Mr Stoker)

The TARDIS somehow manages to materialise INSIDE a planet, but before the Doctor and Romana have time to work out the hows and whys, they are swallowed by a giant burrowing machine. It turns out the inhabitants of this planet have been forced to live underground, in giant Drill Towns, which are essentially monstrous ships with drills at the bow in which they roam beneath the surface, burrowing for minerals and anything else of use.

Of course though, nothing is simple in the world of Doctor Who, there is also something else lurking beneath the planet's surface - and that is the Silex.......and they are hunting!

Let me start by saying I loved Subterranea. On paper it should be just a simple, straight forward Who story. The TARDIS arrives on a strange planet, there are new aliens. The Doctor and Romana are quickly split up, and must work locally with different factions to overthrow a massive threat. You get the idea.

Perhaps it's that very simplicity of the story that adds to it's appeal. That said, Jonathan Morris injects some fantastic twists into the narrative that lifts the events way above run of the mill, and truly makes them sparkle.

The inhabitants of this planet are mole like people, who to prove how industrious they are speak with northern accents (well, why not? - every planet has a north!). The tech is all very steam punk, evoking a very Victorian time period, and the characters are all very reminiscent of those to be found in a cracking Dickens novel (with names like Maxwell Wilberforce Bell and Jericho Wigg, this does get hammered home somewhat). BUT this world is so believable, which is simply down to top notch writing and a cast that seem to gel perfectly.

The only slight issue with the story is that the treat is very familiar. The Silex are a scavenger cyborg race, somewhat more reminiscent of Star Trek's The Borg, more than our very own Cybermen. The solution to defeating them is, to be honest, a bit mundane (imagine a hive mind running on....shortwave radio), but again, it's about the overall journey. Which is a true joy. For me, this story reminded me of The The Crimson Horror, crossed with The Robots of Death (there are some great sound effects used for the Drill Towns, that will instantly put the listener in mind of a sand miner in Robots of Death) all of that AND a smattering of a certain Jules Verne classic. In my book, not one of those influences is a bad thing at all.

As mentioned, the cast are stellar. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are effortless at evoking Tom's final season, and as always gel together perfectly. The stand out of the supporting cast has to be Matthew Cottle (probably best known for the '90s sitcom Game On) as Maxwell Wilberforce Bell, a jobs worth of a character, who is very proud of his Drill Town, and very much devoted to his wife. Bell's character also provides a fair bit of comic relief to the proceedings. Among the others we have stage and television character actress Abigail McKern, who gives a suitably duplicitous performance as Bell's wife Lucretia. We also have Big Finish stalwarts Robbie Stevens as Mr Jelicho Wigg, and Jane Slavin as the heroic Arabella Wagstaff.

 

Subterranea is available now as a digital download, or audio CD from Big Finish.






Doctor Who - The War Doctor Vol 4: Casualties of WarBookmark and Share

Thursday, 15 June 2017 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Doctor Who - The War Doctor Vol 4: Casualties of WarWritten by Guy Adams, Andrew Smith and Nicholas Briggs
Produced by David Richardson
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Productions, 2017
Stars: John Hurt (The War Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Joseph Kloska (Schandel), Julia Hills (Sera/Spokesperson), Mark Elstob (Editor/Old Man), Lizzie Roper (Rosata Laxter/High Minister), Chris Porter (Skaul/Freel), Alan David (Castellan Kanteer), Jane Slavin (Panopticon Guard Lintok), and Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Time Strategist/Daleks/Assault Team Leader)

“I’m the stuff of nightmares! I’m a murderer, a warrior, a demon let loose in the time stream, a man who’s lost his conscience, his friends – even his name!”

The War Doctor

The latest – and possibly last – instalment in Big Finish’s The War Doctor saga, Casualties of War, has an unintentional poignant edge to it – it is the last Doctor Who-related work of the late, great Sir John Hurt. Hurt delivers such a lively, commanding, sometimes weary and at other times profound portrayal that it is hard to believe the owner of that distinctive, gravelly voice will no longer entertain us with his gift. As co-star Louise Jameson remarks in the CD extras, his voice is “perfect for audio … so full of character and a life lived!”

Hurt clearly enjoyed doing drama on audio; he could project his wonderful voice and deliver some great oratory. Indeed, in an interview with BF supremo Nick Briggs (that is available as part of a tribute podcast that BF released not long after his death), Hurt talked about the advantages of radio drama over television and the theatre.

“I love sound for a start,” he told Briggs. “I’ve always enjoyed voice work, I’ve always enjoyed doing radio, I think, because it’s very akin to film and less akin to stage … You can cut between this time, that time … You can play with it the same way you can in film but it’s more immediate. You have to have a sensibility for it, you have to hear it in your head, you have to know what your voice is sounding like and how it comes across.”  There is no doubt that Hurt was in his element in The War Doctor saga and in BF’s adaptation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Despite Hurt’s dedication to his art, Casualties of War won’t ever be a tour de force, nor is it the best of BF’s four War Doctor volumes. However, it would be unfair to judge it too harshly in the context of Hurt’s passing. It is an entertaining collection, and it brings The War Doctor saga to a satisfactory, if somewhat predictable close.

Just as the titles of the last couple of box sets reflected loose themes – eg the lengths to which Daleks and Time Lords alike would go to find an edge in Infernal Devices, and the machinations of third parties in Agents of Chaos – so Casualties of War explores the impact of the Time War on worlds, societies and even other realities unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. The war’s effects through time have been explored in other Doctor Who audios (notably the Eighth Doctor serial The Sontaran Ordeal) but this box set does a sterling job of putting the Time Lords, the Daleks and the listeners on the front line.

Pretty Lies, the first of Volume 4’s tales, largely resumes from where Vol 3 concluded, with the Doctor and Time Lord War Council strategist Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) on the run from the Daleks. In some respects, the story setting is reminiscent of an old Western – as a couple of strangers “mosey” into an isolated township on a remote frontier planet and inadvertently defend it against marauders.

After crash landing on Beltox, the Doctor and Ollistra meet Schandel (Joseph Kloska), a time-travelling war correspondent. Schandel, with the aid of an AI conveniently called Editor (Mark Elstob), has anticipated their arrival and is aware of their roles in an impending Dalek attack on the human township of Fairgill. Reluctantly the Doctor and Ollistra must use their wits and Fairgill’s scant resources to buy themselves time and save as many lives as possible against an all-out Dalek assault.

Throughout almost two decades of BF’s Doctor Who range, we’ve come across a few journalists and war correspondents in its serials (notably in Colditz and The Angel of Scutari). Whereas those characters were largely unlikeable and unheroic, Schandel is clearly naïve. In fact, given his unbridled enthusiasm upon meeting one of his idols – “the legendary Doctor”, “the greatest hero of the Time War” and an “inspiration” – it’s clear Schandel is more of a clueless, overexcited fanboy than a detached journalist. “I’m not normally this giddy!” he confesses to the Doctor. “I really am a bit of a fan!”

There is no doubt that scribe Guy Adams has based Schandel on a variety of Doctor Who fans he’s met but he doesn’t let the character get too out of control. Adams uses Schandel to show, much to the Doctor’s chagrin, how truth can indeed be one of the first casualties of war and how the camera can sanitise war for the sake of entertainment. Indeed, the Doctor is horrified when his words are edited and presented in a context that make him out to be a hero (the one thing he insists he’s not).

Adams devises a clever ruse at the climax which also ties in with his underlying commentary on the wartime role of the media. It’s not necessarily an original climax (indeed it’s very reminiscent of a ruse used to fool Pearce’s former persona Servalan in the Blake’s 7 TV episode The Harvest of Kairos) but it’s effective and dramatic.

The second instalment, The Lady of Obsidian, sees the War Doctor and Cardinal Ollistra again on the front lines of the Time War, as the Time Lords make a stand at the planet Grend. While Ollistra seeks to amass a Gallifreyan time fleet to head off an impending Dalek strike force, the Doctor goes in search of the mysterious “Lady of Obsidian” to recruit her guerrilla faction which is attacking Dalek forces in the sector. It isn’t long before the Doctor realises the so-called “Lady” is in fact his former companion Leela (Louise Jameson). But this is a very changed Leela from the “savage” we knew in the classic era of Doctor Who and indeed in BF’s Gallifrey spin-off series. Her psyche has been scarred  –  both figuratively and literally – by the Time War. While Leela’s affliction – a “time wound” – is not entirely convincing to the listener (anyone else in her position would probably be driven mad by the condition), Louise Jameson turns in a persuasively tortured, anguished, confused and uncertain portrayal. In the subsequent tale, once restored of her faculties, Jameson portrays the naïve, instinctive and curious huntress that we’ve loved for more than 40 years.

In the 2009-10 two-parter The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor spoke of other factions joining the Time War, including the “Could’ve Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres”. Lady of Obsidian writer Andrew Smith delivers a variation on this one-off line, creating the Unlived, hostile beings from a rift in the space/time continuum. While the Unlived, led by the Gollum-like Skaul (Chris Porter), are described by Leela as an even greater threat than the Daleks, they are for the most part unconvincing and one-dimensional. It could be argued the Unlived are meant to be vague beings but that shouldn’t make them caricatures as well.

Just as Pretty Lies borrows ideas from the Western trope, so The Lady of Obsidian draws heavily from space opera influences, notably Star Wars and Star Trek. This is evident in the dogfights in space between Dalek saucers and Battle TARDISes, the Doctor’s recruitment of a cocky former soldier-turned-smuggler, a guerrilla group that hides deep in a nebula (not unlike the Maquis in the Trek spin-off Deep Space Nine) and an “evil galactic empire” (the Daleks) intent on crushing all “non-Dalek life”.

The final instalment – The Enigma Dimension – is also reminiscent of a Star Trek episode (particularly DS9’s opening episode Emissary). Like The Lady of Obsidian, Nicholas Briggs’ script foreshadows significant concepts in the modern Doctor Who TV series, principally the Dalek containment sphere (or void ship) which graced Torchwood One’s Canary Wharf HQ in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. The Doctor, with the TARDIS back in his possession and Leela once more at his side, returns to Gallifrey, to be confronted with a potential threat: the extra-dimensional, non-linear Enigma, a life form unlike any he has encountered before. It is no coincidence that the Enigma arrives as reality on Gallifrey starts to shift; there are reports of “phantom Daleks” appearing in the Time Lord Capitol, portending an imminent invasion. Needless to say, the Daleks’ “prime objective” to win the Time War is more ambitious than mere conquest …

Briggs – who again voices the Daleks, including their deep-throated Time Strategist – quite rightfully resists the temptation to end The War Doctor saga on a space opera tour de force. Instead, he delivers a script that is quite surreal, ethereal and (excuse the pun) enigmatic – but definitely not to the extent that the listener loses track of the story. Indeed, some of John Hurt’s best work inevitably comes to the fore in The Enigma Dimension, particularly in the climactic confrontation with the Time Strategist.

Hurt’s performance is no doubt bolstered by close friend Jacqueline Pearce as Ollistra. As a reluctant sidekick or “helper” (her word for the Doctor’s erstwhile companions over many centuries), the cardinal is the perfect foil for the jaded, cranky War Doctor. No doubt due to her recent travels with the Doctor in Volumes 3 and 4, the character’s disposition has softened since she was first introduced in Only the Monstrous. She even shows signs of altruism. Ollistra passes off defending Grend as being a strategic advantage for Gallifrey that “by a pleasant coincidence … also happens to be the right thing to do”. However, she is also clearly shaken and emboldened enough by Beltox’s fate at the end of the Fairgill engagement to ensure that the Daleks do not repeat their atrocities in the Grend system. Ollistra’s ruthless, calculating streak really comes to the fore in the climax to The Enigma Dimension when, to the Doctor’s disgust, she seizes an opportunity to ultimately turn the Time War in the Time Lords’ favour.

Again, Pearce’s performance cannot help but be compared to her Blake’s 7 alter ego Servalan;  regardless she is an outstanding actor. And while this volume has debunked my theory (first postulated in my review of Vol 2) that “the unhappy woman” (as Leela cheekily calls Ollistra) is not a Time War incarnation of former companion Romana, it is great that Pearce’s Ollistra will continue to be a foil in the forthcoming The Eighth Doctor – The Time War series.

Aside from Hurt, Pearce and Jameson’s outstanding performances, Volume 4 of The War Doctor saga again provides great performances from some of Big Finish’s lesser known artistes – in particular, Julia Hills as Fairgill’s governor Sera and Lizzy Roper as smuggler Rosata Laxter – as well as excellent sound effects and incidental music from Howard Carter. In The Enigma Dimension, Carter’s blending of the iconic Dalek throbbing sound effect (which dates back to the pepperpots’ very first TV appearance in 1963-4) with the incidental track is particularly inspired and foreboding. It’s a masterstroke that Murray Gold has not even attempted in the modern TV series.

While not as memorable as the first three volumes in The War Doctor saga, Casualties of War is nevertheless entertaining and there are plenty of striking moments and performances – not least from Hurt himself. His confrontation with the Time Strategist in the climactic moments of The Enigma Dimension is both humorous and sublime. One moment, the War Doctor is describing the Daleks’ extra-dimensional destructor beam as “startlingly imaginative … Does what it says on the tin, I expect. Hardly surprising from a race of tin cans!” The next he is waxing lyrical about what fear means to him and the Daleks:

Perhaps I do fear ... Perhaps I do but not you yourselves. I fear what you can do. Yes, I fear that – the death, the pain, the suffering, the merciless, senseless destruction of … well, everything that isn’t you! Yes, I do fear that. But as for you, the Daleks fear powerlessness, defeat and in everything and everyone you ever encounter, you see your fear staring right back at you!

Whilst Hurt’s dialogue is extremely well written by Briggs, it succeeds because of Hurt’s wonderful delivery. Some of his final words as the War Doctor are equally as memorable:

We Time Lords have fought too long and too hard to be anything other than warriors … If the Daleks alone were to be destroyed, I think we would find someone else to fight now! I think that’s my real fear – that the war will never end!

Sadly, with Hurt’s passing, such wonderful monologues and dialogue is gone forever. It can only be hoped the great man’s departure doesn’t entirely close the door on the War Doctor’s adventures. BF has announced that the next four volumes of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures will focus on the beginnings of the Time War, which should compensate for the vacuum The War Doctor series leaves. However, why couldn’t there be more volumes of The War Doctor in the long-term? Yes, John Hurt won’t be there, but the absences of the actors to play the first three Doctors and Christopher Eccleston’s self-imposed exile from all things Who have not stopped BF delivering further adventures for each of those incarnations. Hurt’s Doctor shouldn’t be an exception, particularly as Ollistra, Leela and Veklin (Beth Chalmers, who appeared in Vol 1 and also makes a cameo in Vol 4) could all play parts in future narratives.

Hurt’s passing need not entirely mark the end of what has been a great series – and what better tribute could there be than to continue the adventures of a character whose artiste was so beloved by generations of viewers and who will even be long remembered by some Doctor Who fans as the noblest Doctor of them all?



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Torchwood: Corpse Day (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Corpse Day (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by James Goss

Directed by Scott Handcock

Cast: Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Tom Price (Andy Davidson), Hannah Maddox (Angela), Alex Tregear (Jan), Nigel Betts (Glynn), Oliver Mason (Sonny), Rhian Blundell (Marta), Aly Cruickshank (Desk Sergeant), Charlotte O’Leary (Waitress) 

Big Finish Productions - Released May 2017

 

Corpse Day has been one of the most anticipated Torchwood releases so far this year (at least until the news of Aliens Among Us) as it finally sees the return the last of the original UK television characters make a welcome return in the form of Burn Gorman reprising the role of Dr Owen Harper. It can hardly have passed notice that the main reason for it taking so long for Big Finish to complete the set of the original cast is that Gorman has been seen in many other television series including Game of Thrones and The Man in the High Castle to name but two. It is perhaps a shame that this story only sees him teamed up with Big Finish regular Tom Price as PC Andy Davidson as it would have nice to hear him reunited with Tosh or Gwen. Admittedly Price probably has more availability when he’s not reporting for Inside Out West Midlands. However, this story makes a virtue of the fact that its main characters never interacted during the TV series from Owen’s initial greeting of Andy as “PC Not Gwen” to allowing them to develop a rapport over the course of this story. Both have drawn the short straw of being selected for “Corpse Day”, an annual event where Torchwood and the Cardiff police team up to solve cold cases which usually ends in failure and the mystery being inexplicably blamed on the rift. This year however is different as Andy has provided a genuine mystery for Owen to do “the whole Torchwood” on involving missing girls and culminating in some very disturbing revelations.

The irony of this story’s title is further amplified by the fact that these events are set in the aftermath of Owen’s “death” in the TV episodeReset as he is given the opportunity to meditate on life and death. Much credit should also go to composer Blair Mowat for using an excellent arrangement of incidental themes from the TV series which very much convey the feel of episodes from 2008. Gorman has stepped effortlessly back into the role as if he only left the series last year as opposed to nine years ago and hopefully his busy schedule will allow him to return again soon.

Corpse Day is available now from Big Finish and on general release from July 31st 2017






Alien Heart / Dalek Soul (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 12 June 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Alien Heart / Dalek Soul (Credit: Big Finish)
Alien Heart by Stephen Cole
Dalek Soul by Guy Adams

Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Eve Webster (Sonderal), Geoffrey Newland (Elthar), 
Alex Tregear (Theebe), Vineeta Rishi (Falex),
and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Big Finish Productions - Released April 2017

For this year’s trilogy featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in successive releases, Big Finish have abandoned the tradition of three linked stories featuring different Doctors and instead adopted for an experimental change to their regular release format of a four-part story. Alien Heart / Dalek Soul is the first of three releases each fearing two stories told over two episodes, each by different authors.

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole sees the Doctor and Nyssa arrive on the moon of the planet  Traxana, having discovered that ten nearby planets have been mysteriously destroyed by an unknown device. The story takes the fairly-standard approach of separating the Doctor and Nyssa early on so they can interact with other characters. Nyssa ends up on the planet Traxana itself with one of the natives whilst the Doctor remains at the moon’s outpost station with the two investigating crew members. Naturally, the two strands eventually combine to allow the two travellers to be reunited at the stories climax only for there to be a somewhat unexpected cliffhanger. Whilst it may on first listening seem that having promised a stand-alone two-part story Big Finish have cheated a little by setting the scene for what follows, this is by no means a four-part story in disguise.

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams picks up some time after the conclusion of the previous adventure. Nyssa is now on the planet Mojox, working as Chief Virologist to the Daleks and yet she can’t seem to quite recall how she and the Doctor ended up there. The Doctor, meanwhile appears to have undergone something of a personality transplant and is now working as a Dalek agent attempting to infiltrate a Mojoxalli resistance cell. This gives both Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison an excellent opportunity to play against their usual characters as both are given opportunities to show their more ruthless sides. As the clues to what has befallen both characters begin to assemble, this leads to one of the more memorable conclusions of Big Finish’s Doctor Who range and must certainly rank as one of Davison’s best performances on audio to date. Much credit to Adams, who has done great work on several of Big Finish’s other ranges including the Torchwood audios, for giving this well-established team such original material to work with.

Having given the main range a welcome sense of reinvigoration, the next release will offer two new stories for the Sixth Doctor and Flip.

 

Alien Heart / Dalek Soul is available now from amazon.co.uk



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