The Robots: Volume One (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Robots 1 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Roland Moore, Robert Whitlock, & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Nicola Walker and Claire Rushbrook

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released December 2019

Running Time: 4 hours

Despite my love of the ongoing Eighth Doctor adventures I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of Liv Chenka.  She has grown on me, but overall I find her to be a fairly drab character.  She's always so cynical, mistrusts everyone to a fault and, quite frankly, I find Nicola Walker's performance to be bland and boring.  From time to time, I have found sparks in the character...but on the whole, I tend not to like her that much.  I was disappointed when Molly was phased out in the Dark Eyes series and Liv took on the companion role.  Granted, Ruth Bradley (who portrayed Molly) was the main reason for the change, but I loved the rapport between her and McGann, and I still feel (even after nearly 5 years) that the rapport between McGann and Walker leaves something to be desired. Luckily, I have enjoyed the character of Helen Sinclair. And with Mark Bonnar so often along for the ride as the main antagonist, McGann always playing the Doctor superbly, as well as a ton of great scripts...the (in my view) deadweight of Liv Chenka is forgivable.  

So...in this modern age of Big Finish, where every small part in Doctor Who is just as likely as anyone to get their own spin-off, we arrive at the Liv-centered series The Robots which is purportedly meant to be a 12 part (over 4 sets) story that takes place on Kaldor in the year Liv stayed behind (which was during the boxset Ravenous 2). I can't say the idea had me terribly enthusiastic.  Not a fan of Liv and generally indifferent to Kaldor and the titular Robots (their original story with Tom Baker is great, but I can't say I ever felt they needed too much expanding), this was bound to be an uphill battle of enjoyment for me.  

The stories are, as per usual with Big Finish, excellently produced.  But the stories don't feel so original that I was won over by the set.  The opening story, The Robots of Life, introduces Kaldor nicely enough, and it sets up the relationship between Liv and her sister Tula. The idea of the overarching story is about how Kaldor copes with the quickly evolving robots. Their tech is getting better, and it's upgrades are moving faster.  And it seems one robot may have even achieved sentience.  It's an intriguing time for the planet.  Beyond the set up of the world and something involving a doctor losing patients, I have already forgotten most of this story.  

The second story (The Sentient) is likely the best of this particular set, involving a young artificial girl, meant to serve as a perfect child to be adopted by some parents longing for offspring...but her AI has some quirks.  Mostly that she is contemplating genocide. It's at least an episode that delivers on the promise of a story exploring AI, robots, and all the moral implications within those topics.  

The final episode is Love Me Not which is such a boring standard story of a guy who tries to use a robot to replace his dead wife and how it stunts his grief process.  This episode might have felt really innovative if it had been produced for The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits back in the 60s. As it stands it just felt so predictable.  It just didn't have a twist to make it feel worthwhile.  

The story of a planet, similar yet different to Earth, trying to deal with their ever-expanding tech of robots and the implications of AI is not a bad idea.  In fact, the Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica had a very similar premise.  And just like Caprica, this doesn't deliver on the topic as much as you'd hope. I still remember the sting of watching the Caprica finale, and they spent the last five minutes showing where the show could've gone had it not been cancelled, and it was a way more interesting show than what most of it had been up to that point.  If that show hadn't wasted it's time getting to some of those potential storylines, maybe it wouldn't have lost so many from it's built-in BSG fanbase.  Now I am listening to an inferior version of a show that was inferior, to begin with. 

Maybe I went into this set with a bad attitude.  I tried not to.  As much as I don't care for Liv and my feelings on the Robots can only be described as indifference, I really don't want to hate it.  If I am going to spend three hours with a set I'd rather it be good for sure.  And I don't hate this, I just didn't care about it on the whole. 






The War Master: Anti-GenesisBookmark and Share

Sunday, 12 January 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Anti-Genesis (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Nicholas Briggs & Alan Barnes

Directed By: Scott Handcock

Starring Derek Jacobi,  Mark Gatiss, Seán Carlsen, Nicholas Briggs, Zaraah Abrahams, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Vikash Bhai, Daniel Brocklebank, Richard Clifford, Ben Crystal, Christopher Harper, Will Kirk, Jordan Renzo, Gavin Swift, Franchi Webb

Released by Big Finish - December 2019

I flat out love Big Finish's War Master series.  It has got to be their most intriguing series of Who spin-off material they currently offer.  Seriously...look at the bulk of their line-up of spin-off stuff. Most of it is friends of the Doctor adventuring and investigating aliens on their own.  The War Master...it is this deep dive into the truly dark nature of the Time War.  Derek Jacobi is so damn good in the role, as he constantly schemes to take advantage of the Time War for his own gain.  Constantly finding some evil plan to wreak havoc in his own way, and use the Time Lords and hte Doctor's preoccupation with the War to have a little fun of his own.  

In the latest set, he gets the hold of something called the Anti-Genesis codes, and as such he is able to break an unwritten rule of the Time War...neither side is meant to go back and keep the other side from ever existing.  That is how the war started essentially (as the seeds of the Time War were essentially planted with the Fourth Doctor story "Genesis of the Daleks" in which the Doctor is sent by the Time Lords to keep the Daleks from ever being created, and fails to do so).  

But the Master has his own plans.  He gets the codes, uses it to go back to the moment of Davros' accident in which he was horribly disfigured, and gets Davros to not be in the safety of his lab where he was merely disfigured, but is instead killed by a dropping bomb.  Then the Master himself takes his spot in history...he still creates the Daleks but in his own vein.  

It begins to unravel the universe slowly...at first in small ways, but eventually, it unmakes Gallifrey to a point where the Time Lords don't exist. Original Davros created Daleks team up with an Alternate version of the Master played by Mark Gatiss (reprising a role he played in Big Finish's Unbound series from yesteryear) in order to undo the War Master's plan...as it is essentially unmaking reality. 

What I love about this series is that the Master doesn't have the counterpoint of the Doctor to stop his evil plans.  He just does downright awful stuff; ruins lives, kills, destroys, emotionally scars people just for a laugh...and he often wins in the end. But in this one, the Master goes to gloat, he finds just a few weak Gallifreyans who know nothing of him, the Time Lords and barely even of the Daleks. And since he had the Doctor killed years earlier...he has no one to laud his accomplishment over...and then even his Daleks turn on him, just as they had with Davros in the original timeline.  

And so, the War Master must use the slice of his original reality (the Dalek Time Strategist's ship) to undo the damage. His hollow victory isn't worth dying for...because if it is one thing the Master never wants to do, it is destroy himself.  So he goes back in time, stops his former self, and then is trapped with the Daleks who offer to return his TARDIS to him as long as he helps them and gives them the secrets of the TARDIS...a set up for the next set I am sure.  

Anti-Genesis the best War Master boxset yet.  Its story flows naturally and builds brilliantly (it flows so naturally from episode to episode I didn't even feel the need to do an episode by episode review this time around).  I'll admit the third episode got a tad confusing with all the alternate timelines and jumping about...but overall the story was great and I must recommend it for any fans of the Master. 






The Paternoster Gang - Heritage 2 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Guy Adams, Gemma Arrowsmith, & Dan Starkey
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, & Dan Starkey

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 4 hours

The Paternoster Gang returns for their second boxset, titled Heritage 2. So far I’ve not really latched onto any real theme or links between the boxsets or even any episodes, so why they’ve subtitled it Heritage, and even gone so far as act as if this is a sequel to the first set, I have no idea. They don’t need to be linked, just release a boxset of random adventures, who really cares?

This set I overall found less interesting than the first. The opening story (Dining with Death) was especially drab. It felt so bog standard. A couple of warring alien races who despise each other trying to find some sort of diplomatic solution, and somehow Madame Vastra becomes their mediator. The two races feel vastly different about everything! What one finds mormal the other finds appalling...how will they find common ground. I’ve forgotten most of the details already.

The second story, The Screaming Ceiling, I found to be the best of the set. It has a creepy old house that may be alive and eating people. Not too far from feeling like fairly standard Who fare, but it was well executed at the very least.

The set concluded with a story about the legend of the titular Spring-Heeled Jack. A man or creature from British lore that had batwings, spit blue fire, red glowing eyes, and could leap higher than most men. It’s exactly the sort of legend you expect Who to explore. In fact it has in and Eighth Doctor comic from Doctor Who Magazine. I’m surprised the show proper has yet to dive in to it. That said I have been indifferent to both takes on it so far, so maybe it is better left alone.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with this set. When the first set came around, I worried I’d find it uninteresting, but the characters were so charming it earned my recommendation. This second set has done the opposite. I went in expecting charming characters that would hold my interest, and came away completely indifferent. Also, why they are pretending there is some arc with the boxset’s subtitle is beyond me.






Torchwood: God Among Us Part 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 November 2019 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Torchwood - God Among Us - Part 3  (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Alexandria Riley, Robin Bell, Tim Foley, James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Featuring: John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Paul Clayton (Mr. Colchester), Alexandra Riley (Ng), Jonny Green (Tyler Steele), Tom Price (Andy Davidson)

Released by Big Finish Productions - June 2019
Order from Amazon UK

After facing city-wide comas, plummeting planes, homeless-hunting apps, body swaps and even the odd far-right conspiracist, in any other mission Torchwood Three might’ve already put the worst behind them. Trouble is that the rather gripping final instalment of God Among Us Part 2 only exacerbated their escalating grievances further, namely thanks to Season Six’s titular deity failing to prevent the scheming Committee from sending a cataclysmic tidal wave in Cardiff’s direction. Such a devastating set of affairs inevitably presents a monumental challenge not only for the fictious team, but also the real-world writing team tasked with picking up the pieces in Part 3; how best to deliver on these unprecedented stakes while also ensuring that the show’s beloved status quo somehow remains intact amidst the carnage?

Our answer comes in the form of another tonally wide-ranging quartet of missions from (star and newfound scribe) Alexandria Riley, Robin Bell, Tim Foley and James Goss, each of whom explore different aspects of the city’s environmental crisis, from its tragic effects on individual families to its far-reaching implications across the universe. Sure, some stories hit their intended marks with greater accuracy than others, yet as you’ll discover below, Part 3 should once again quell any fears that Big Finish’s Torchwood offerings might start to lose momentum a few years into the range – quite the opposite appears true from the evidence presented in this formidable boxset…

“A Mother’s Son”:

“They keep lists here – lists of the missing. That’s why I came here, soon as I heard. I got in my car and drove all the way from Chorley. To find Anthony – to find my son.”

Regular readers of our Torchwood audio reviews will recall our observation that the show, for all its overblown graphic action and outrageous sci-fi conceits, often peaks when revealing the consequences of the team’s escapades for bystanders caught in the crossfire. Just look at “Adrift”, which used the ever-prevalent societal plight of missing children as a catalyst for Gwen’s emotionally wrought investigation, or more recently God Among Us Part 2’s “Hostile Environment”, where Tyler Steele’s rite of passage as the latest team-member involved the harrowing and life-threatening trials of modern homelessness. Indeed, it’s Riley’s dedication to depicting human suffering on such an intimate level – along with her impeccable lead star – that elevates her contribution to become Part 3’s staggering highlight.

Whereas the likes of Captain Jack, Ng, Tyler and the gang are scrambling in various capacities to support the city-wide recovery efforts and unveil the disaster’s true culprits, Bethan’s objective is a far more personal one: track down her lost child amidst the hordes of refugee camps established since the tidal wave struck. Riley’s deeply moving script somehow effortlessly captures the vast array of emotions which these turbulent circumstances would evoke for any parent; initial hope and conviction give way to self-resentment, fury at the authorities’ ignorance, hollow cunning when manipulating the media to promote her search, then inevitably the deafening sense of helplessness when one is forced to consider whether their courageous efforts may ultimately yield no results.

Credit where credit’s also due to the range’s casting team, though, for mining the Doctor Who universe’s past – specifically The Sarah Jane Adventures and Season Ten’s “Smile” – to position the quite simply breathtaking Mina Anwar in this challenging role. Whether she’s standing up to the likes of Sergeant Andy (whose recast allegiances force us to reconsider a character we’ve known since 2006) over their inability to save the city, or wrestling with her psychological isolation in a car seat, Anwar can’t help but endear herself to listeners and directly relay her character’s inner turmoil at every turn. Whilst there’s no easy answer to the events that plague her and countless fractured families across the world today, Riley and Anwar’s dual production has a vital role to play in bringing this oft-overlooked issue to our undivided attention – that it also produces one of the franchise’s most powerful one-off supporting characters in years is but an entirely welcome bonus.

“ScrapeJane”:

“Why are you still doing this?”
“I guess I still believe in Torchwood.”

Strangely for a series which dabbled so much in the fantastical, Torchwood rarely took urban myths as its inspiration, only fleetingly delving into such territory with ancient artefacts in “Greeks Bearing Gifts” or time-hopping circus troupes in “From Out of the Rain”. The dearly-missed late Robin Bell, however, opted to tackle the matter head-on in his final contribution to the range, bringing to life a much-rumoured voracious creature that supposedly now stalks Cardiff’s underbelly. In “ScrapeJane” therefore comes an unsettling hour of conspiracy meeting reality, as Mr. Colchester and Ng join forces with said myth’s innocuous author to hunt down her creation and put an end to the bloodbath left in its wake.

Admittedly the above premise may sound like a rather marked detour from the boxset’s overarching apocalypse at first, so Bell quickly works to prove otherwise of his tale, his study of the simultaneous escapism and fears of the dark which fuel mythological terrors tying seamlessly into this season’s wider take on belief-driven deities. The story particularly shines when leaving Colchester and Ng alone to confront said manifested fears in the dead of night, their increasingly strained breaths amidst fleeting moments of silence clashing with the creature’s subsequent haunting screeches and vicious attacks – a true feat of horror-style sound design from the range’s immeasurably accomplished technical artists.

So too does the play’s character drama work brilliantly in continuing to further our understanding of Torchwood Three’s most recent recruits, not least thanks to stars Paul Clayton and Alexandra Riley’s accomplished balancing of survivalist tension with moments of humour and pathos. To see how the two constructs’ dynamic has progressed from tempestuous cooperation – after Ng’s actions across the Aliens Among Us saga – to joint understanding of godly interference has been a real delight in recent episodes; indeed, Bell’s script affords them time to hilariously prove their equal ruthlessness to one another again, open up about the near-hopeless odds against Cardiff and in the process realise how such doubts only serve to further fuel their drive to succeed no matter what.

“Day Zero”:

“Cardiff has seen all manner of crises over the years, but the people are wondering: is this the one?”

She’s got a point, you know. Considering all of the existential perils they’ve faced in the 21st century alone – Abbadon, the 456, the Miracle, you name the menace and it has probably laid siege to the city at some stage – the irony that water merely running out might foreshadow the Welsh capital’s destruction can’t have been lost on the Torchwood team. Tim Foley’s latest chosen subject matter for the range will surely hold a profound resonance for listeners in regions which have undergone (or continue to experience) such devastating droughts, their day-to-day lives thrown up in the air by the question of when and where a clean source of water may emerge for sustenance, hygiene and other basic life functions. No pressure whatsoever on Foley’s part, then, in terms of doing justice to the issue at hand…

In a similar vein to Riley’s stellar “A Mother’s Son”, the scribe wisely opts to put his focus on a select ensemble of characters dealing with the fallout of the city’s newfound dehydration, specifically Colin Colchester-Price, Tyler (both of whom must wrestle with the distraught human communities desperate for water sources no matter how potentially toxic) and most of all Orr. Strangely the latter character faded into the background for much of God Among Us Part 2, seemingly forgotten by her teammates after God accidentally transformed her into a puddle in Part 1, yet she’s back centre-stage in “Day Zero”, her eternal desire to please enabling Samantha Béart to powerfully showcase the character’s physical limitations as society stretches a selfless benefactor to her very limits. Each experience, while to some extent rooted in fantastical events given Torchwood’s genre, tangibly demonstrates the disturbing ease with which our self-preservationist nature as a species can come to the forefront in times of peril, in turn forcing us to question whether we’d act any differently to the nameless citizens metaphorically and literally tearing others apart if this bought us more time.

It’s a shame that, partly owing to the need for our lead characters to endure and battle the boxset’s core threat in its finale versus in Riley’s piece, Foley doesn’t have as much room to interrogate the full societal implications of such events were they to go unresolved (as is tragically the case for countless LEDCs worldwide at the time of writing). Where Bethan’s story is all the more poignant thanks to its capturing the lifelong struggle for meaning which families with lost souls endure, that this instalment serves as the penultimate outing of an ongoing storyline inevitably robs some of its potential for the same ambiguous pathos. All the same, as a thought-provoking look at the darker aspects of our psyches in the midst of environmental conflicts suffered across the world today, “Day Zero” remains a compelling enough set-up for Part 3’s finale to be sure.

“Thoughts and Prayers”:

“Oh, well it would appear that you are no longer dead.”
“No. Excuse me, but…are you God?”

Never let it be said that James Goss lacks ambition when it comes to pitching his season finales. As well as bringing the season-spanning God arc and character journeys to their timely denouement, the range producer also tasks himself with achieving much the same feat for the Committee – who’ve appeared in countless instalments of Big Finish’s Torchwood continuation since 2015 – and setting the show off on another bold trajectory for the surely soon-to-be-announced Season Seven. So can a single hour-long script possibly hope to weave together such disparate strands in a manner that’ll satisfy both those who’ve only hopped aboard for the adventure this year and those of us who’ve experienced every audio episode since Jack’s fateful first Committee encounter in The Conspiracy?

Where listeners stand on the subject will, more than anything, depend on what they’re looking for from a season finale. Go into “Thoughts and Prayers” seeking a bombastic, high-octane resolution to the Committee arc which brings events to a head with a literal bang and you’ll doubtless come away content with the final product – Goss injects ample grandiose set-pieces featuring nightmarish alien threats and whirlwind races against time into his explosive tale, pulling a far more definitive curtain on God and the Committee’s machinations than Aliens Among Us’ tantalising cliffhanger did four boxsets ago. On the other hand, for fans like this reviewer who’ve followed said maleficent organisation’s machinations across four years’ worth of Torchwood releases, that their ultimate purpose is revealed to be a somewhat cliched pulp sci-fi conceit will come as something of a disappointment – almost begging the question of why so much time was invested in these antagonists in hindsight.

Thankfully, though, more of the storyline’s appeal comes in the way that Goss skilfully pays off 1-2 season arcs, with Tracy-Ann Oberman’s parallel-universe Yvonne finally earning triumphant redemption for her misplaced Committee support and Jacqueline King turning in a crestfallen-then-uplifting performance as an aged leader who’s found some purpose in a universe which seemingly had no further need of her services. No doubt the former’s journey still has new twists to come in future seasons while the latter’s appears at its end for now, but both developments feel completely organic and rewarding rather than the rushed attempts at closure / forward momentum respectively that they could’ve been in the wrong set of hands.

That said, we should know better than to expect Goss and company to cap off proceedings without at least leaving us a hint of what’s to come when Torchwood returns. To say too much on the subject of where “Thoughts and Prayers” leaves the team would be to spoil the rollercoaster ride of shocks that awaits listeners upon first viewing, but Episode 12 certainly opens the door for the show to enter unexpected new territory come Season Seven, perhaps even in a Miracle Day-esque globe-trotting manner depending on Goss’ plans for the next major arc. Hopefully we’ll see more of Captain Jack in future runs, since John Barrowman’s ceaselessly charming bravado only features in fits and starts across Part 3 before “Prayers” – perhaps due to the actor’s increasingly packed schedule – and focus on the intimate style of character-driven storylines which made “A Mother’s Son” so especially memorable. Whatever the future holds, we can say this much – the worst is probably still ahead of the team and the best undoubtedly always ahead of us as avid listeners.





The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 4 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 25 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 4 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Moran, Mark Bonnar, Geoffrey Beevers, Michelle Gomez, Derek Jacobi, & Eric Roberts

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous has been an odd set of adventures.  The titular monster of the set doesn't even show up until the final episode of the second box set.  The first boxset was really more about doing a bit of clean-up from the aftermath of Doom Coalition.  It was the third set that really explored the Ravenous storyline for the first time. And now, one set later, we are already wrapping the whole thing up.  

 

As I always do, here I will warn that SPOILERS may be ahead. For those weary, skip out.  If you want to know whether or not you should grab this set: do!  It's a ton of fun and a great conclusion to these adventures.

 

The set opens up with Whispers, which is really just a Doctor Who take on the concept of the recent horror movie “A Quiet Place.” The TARDIS lands on a planet where they must be extra quiet as making too much noise gets then killed by a monster. It’s fine, if derivative. The point of this episode is really to just showcase the dynamic of having the Eleven being a new member of the TARDIS team, and how much distrust Liv still has of him.The events that lead to the ultimate conclusion of Ravenous truly begin with Planet of Dust. The Doctor takes the Eleven to a desolate planet where he can become a hermit and learn to control his other selves. It is quickly apparent, to the audience and it seems just Liv, that the Eleven actually has another scheme up his sleeve.It turns out the Master (in his Geoffrey Beevers husk form) is also on the planet, withholding the planet’s water in an attempt to hold the people hostage, as he searches for the Tomb of Artron. The history of the Husk version has always been somewhat confusing to me, particularly in spin-pff media. I get that he is post-Delgado, but on audio he also seems to appear both as pre-Ainley and post-Ainley. There was also dialogue in this that made me think he might also be post-Roberts...but also some dialogue that made me think he was pre-Roberts. At any rate the best I could gather here is that the Husk keeps returning. He can take on Tremas’ body, but it eventually fails...he can try to sustain himself with the Cheetah people, or turn into a weird liquid snake thing, or steal an EMT's human body...but in the end he keeps reverting back to the husk. And this time even that body is failing. So he is desperate to find Artron’s tomb which may contain some secret to eternal life.The second episode is quite good.  I've not listened to a ton of Big Finish stories featuring Beevers as the Master, but he really is damn good in the role. The story with the Master also sets up the epic two-part finale to the Ravenous line, as the dying Master is devoured by the Ravenous creatures, allowing the Doctor and company to escape. It also throws out any kind of redemption story for the Eleven, as it turns out he was playing the Doctor for a fool all along, and is still a baddie.

The two-part finale, The Day of the Master, makes good on it's title's promise, by giving us three major Master guest stars: Eric Roberts (playing opposite McGann for the first time since the TV movie), Derek Jacobi (who has been KILLING it on audio these days), and Missy (who is also there!).  

The Doctor and Liv were forced to leave without Helen, who somehow disappeared from the planet, and the Doctor decides the best way to find out where the Eleven has gone is to head for to the same planet the Master got his info on the Tomb of Artron. But where he needs to go is too dangerous, so he drops Liv off and leaves her behind, hoping to keep her safe.  And this is where all the Masters come in.  Helen, it turns out, was taken hostage by Missy.  Missy wants to use Helen's knowledge of ancient languages in order to translate some text that should lead to a God.  Meanwhile Liv is quickly rescued not by the Doctor, but by the War Master (though she assumes he is a Time Lord agent).  The Doctor ends up on a planet Kolstan, where he not only finds the ancient Time Lord scientist Artron, but also the "Bruce" version of the Master (let's just call him Bruce to simplify things) from the TV movie, who escaped the Time Vortex and eventually ended up here, on a planet within the Vortex.  

Ultimately the stories all converge with the Eleven and the Ravenous as well.  The Planet Kolstan is within the Vortex, and therefore everyone on it should be ripped apart. Yet a happy lovely people live on the world, the Kolstani.  They have a sort of energy that keeps them alive.  Artron hopes to use it as a key to immortality.  But when Bruce tries to force Artron to give him all of the Energy in order to sustain his own life indefinitely, it all backfires on Bruce when Artron takes all the energy himself to save the Doctor's life and keep Bruce from such unlimited power.  This turns Artron into essentially a God, but a God who feels guilty for what he has done to the Kolstani...as they are deprived of their lifeblood they become hungry for any kind of regenerative energy.  They become the Ravenous...hence their need to feed on Time Lords.  

This set is packed.  I've barely scratched the surface of things packed into it, but it truly does a great job of wrapping everything up.  We understand the origins of the Ravenous, and Artron even solves that issue when the Doctor points out while he has granted one wish to anyone who asks, he has never granted his own wish, to save the Kolstani.  He takes away all his power to give them back the life they once had.  And from there the set leaves the Eleven feeling pretty down, his epic plan having just been toppled yet again.  And while he hopes to team up with a variety of Masters, they kick him while he down by killing his current incarnation (because the Doctor doesn't NEED another arch enemy, they've got that covered!).  This sets up the Twelve that was heard in the Time War sets.  The Masters then go back and restore life to the devoured Husk of the Master from Planet of Dust, giving themselves a whole new future (except Bruce who gets chucked back into the Time Vortex).  While they leave it somewhat ambiguous as to what the new incarnation that succeeds the Beevers Master is, at the moment I am choosing to believe this is where the Alex McQueen version (who was featured throughout Dark Eyes) began...and that he was the start of a whole new cycle of regenerations that lead to Jacobi, Simm, and Gomez. 

Like I said, this is a packed set.  It does a great job of wrapping up a lot of elements from not only the Ravenous series, but also some elements from Doom Coalition as well (like the conclusion of the Eleven).  Whereas Doom Coalition ended with some cliffhangers, Ravenous feels like a proper ending.  It seems Big Finish already has a new series in the works for the Eighth Doctor, Liv, and Helen (only slightly hinted within the story's end, but confirmed in the Behind the Scenes portion). That is nice, that we have more to look forward to, but part of me wishes that the Eighth Doctor could move on from Liv and Helen.  They've been fine companions throughout, but neither has really grabbed me in the same way Lucie or Charley or Molly had.  Then again, Bliss has been a bit of dud over in the Time War sets, so who knows if Big Finish has any more fantastic companions in them for the Eighth Doctor. 

 

At any rate, Ravenous has come to an end.  It was a solid series of adventures, but this ending was big, bold, and a ton of fun. 






Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 11 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Dimension Cannon (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Jonathan Morris, Lisa McMullin, AK Benedict, Matt Fitton

Director: Helen Goldwyn

Starring: Billie Piper, Camille Coduri,Shaun Dingwall, Mark Benton

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: June 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

Billie Piper was a key ingredient in the success of the Doctor Who revival.  Her portrayal as Rose was the audience's way into a world that had been closed up for many years.  Through Rose, the audience was discovering the many layers of this universe...the Doctor, the TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, and so many new corners of the universe.  Despite only appearing on the show for 2 series, each with a different Doctor, Rose made a lasting impression. Even after she left Rose's absence was felt until the end of the Tenth Doctor's run.

Despite all that...I'm not the biggest Rose Tyler fan.  Don't get me wrong, she was the companion when I discovered my love for the show, and I was really sad to see her go.  She was so integral to my love of the show, that at the time I didn't know how the show could go on without her.  Obviously it did, and as I then went back and discovered more companions, my love, slowly faded for Rose.  These days, I find her adventures with the Ninth Doctor to be top-notch, but I don't really dig the rapport she developed with the Tenth Doctor. Her return in Series 4 marked the moment I began to sour on the character.  They first re-introduced her as a more mature version of the character. The moment she finally reunites with the Tenth Doctor, however, she reverts back to a whiny teenager with a super crush.  And then rewatching the Second series only reinforced how clingy she was. 

At any rate, Big Finish's latest spin-off series focuses in on Rose and her adventures leading up to her return in Series 4.  Using a device called the "Dimension Cannon" she is jumping to various different realities, trying to find her original home and find the Doctor before the universe ends. It's a decent premise, but some details were majorly flawed which hurt my enjoyment of the set. 

In the opening episode (The Endless Night), Rose arrives in a version of Earth and meets a new version of Clive (a character only seen in her debut appearance, who first tells her about the Doctor), and versions of her parents who only dated a year, never married and never had Rose.  But when their sun goes out, Rose is left with the decision of having to save herself but leave them all behind to die. At least in this episode, she has this moral dilemma and then is taken hostage when this version of Pete discovers her way out.  Unfortunately, the reason for getting caught up in events falls apart in subsequent episodes.

For some reason that I genuinely couldn't wrap my head around, when Rose lands in a new reality, her first order of business is to find her parents and figure out how they are different.  For some reason knowing how they are different will tell her how this version of universe diverged.  This is pretty narcissistic. I suppose she is looking for clues to the Doctor in each reality, but she seems to just always focus in on her parents.  In the second episode (The Flood) she lands in a version of Earth that has been raining for 30 years and instead of Pete and Jackie having Rose, they had a boy named Rob.  Why Rose gets so hyper-focused on her parents when her mission is to find the Doctor doesn't really gel for me. Clive has joined her this time and he seems to be actually trying to look for clues to the Doctor, but he falls in love with someone instead.  Eventually, they leave with no headway truly made.

On her third outing, Ghost Machines, Rose is joined by Pete and they immediately recognize this as not Rose's original Earth and likely not to have a Doctor.  They then don't immediately leave. Rose claims that if they can figure out how the reality changed they can use it as a "signpost" to her reality.  How?  That part is skimmed over as if it doesn't matter...but it is the only reason they are apparently hanging around universes in which the Doctor doesn't exist.  Oh but also they are on a major time crunch...they need the Doctor now...but why not look around a place he clearly is not?  This simple flaw really disrupted my enjoyment of the set.  It could have been as simple as a line about how they can only use the Cannon once a day, so they are trapped in each reality for at least a day.  But they can come and go whenever they like as far as they are concerned.  There is no reason to stay around a version of Earth which seems to be overflowing with graves.

The set closes out with Jackie joining Rose on an adventure...for some reason.  They end up in a world where another planet is going to crash into Earth, and everyone in Rose and Jackie's old stomping grounds is throwing The Last Party on Earth.  It's fine, but despite initially deciding to leave immediately because it is the wrong place, they stick around to get to know everyone they know's alternate versions anyhow.  I'm not sure I see the point in sticking around if they never help, they just feel worse about having to jump universes again. 

I was indifferent to this set. Huge fans of Rose may enjoy hearing some of the old gang (though Mickey is notably absent), but really I had trouble getting into the premise.  Rose gets caught up in the events of these different realities like the Doctor would, but she never really helps things or solves any problems.  She just gets emotionally attached to different versions of her family before leaving them to die on their world and start it all over again.  It felt repetitive, and maybe just one Big Finish Spin-off too far.