Short Trips - The Hesitation Deviation (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Hesitation Deviation (Credit: Big Finish / Anthony Lamb)

Producer & Script: Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast: Lisa Bowerman (Narrator)

Or the lost Sylvester McCoy Christmas Special....this festive, but very dark story finds the seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield visiting a planet that celebrates Christmas for just two weeks of the year, where mince pies are considered one of your five a day, and Christmas jumpers must be worn ( seven fits in quite well here then!). But in true Who fashion, something is not quite wrong, and the locals are revolting...

 

Now, please reader - don't judge me, I need to start this review by saying that I have never listened to a Big Finish that featured Bernice Summerfield as the companion (I'm still a relative Big Finish novice - but thanks to DWN, I'm getting there!). I was, of course, aware of the character, and it was a pleasant surprise for me to read that Lisa Bowerman has been playing the role since 1998. The character herself was of course created by Paul Cornell as a literary post-Ace companionin the New Adventures back in 1992, but I'm sure that you all know this already! 

 

I was actually blown away by the character of Bernice, someone who in this story has a very established relationship with the Doctor. Lisa Bowerman voices the story very well (have a look at the credits - Bowerman also directs this story!), she gets McCoy's very Scottish 'burr' spot on. Bernice Summerfield is obviously a very feisty character who has no problem taking chances and standing up to the Doctor when the need arises. 

 

The Doctor here is at his absolute most playful and mysterious, the story contains a lot of true to form seventh doctor moments - apparently he uses a toffee hammer to mend his train-set, and only likes
jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces of blue sky. He is portrayed essentially as a child at Christmas, which I think quite fits the character. Bernice is there to make weary excuses for his odd behaviour, and to put him back on the right track, just like one of his broken train-sets. The vocal ticks of the Doctor are excellently realised, and you can imagine them all fitting neatly into a  McCoy episode. "Ah! Corridors!" particularly made this listener smile.

 

The story is cleverly book ended by Summerfield visiting a robotic therapist. She wants the therapist to help her forget the Doctor, to remove all traces of him from her mind. Now with a genius lead-in like that, I was instantly drawn into the story.  I was needing to know what had happened to make Bernice want to erase all trace of the Time Lord from her life. There are plenty of surprises, and beware - the story does veer from fluffy Christmas, to something rather disturbing quite quickly - oh - and the final reveal is a joy.

 

The Hesitation Deviation is written by James Goss, who of course is more than adept at jotting out the odd short story for Big Finish. He knows the material so well, you know you are in safe hands. The running time is a very brief 35 minutes, but this only makes things more tense. Download it and have a listen, I promise that if you are a fan of Sylvester McCoy interpretation of our favourite Time Lord, you won't be disappointed.

 

The Hesitation Deviation is available from Big Finish as a digital download now.





The Eleventh Doctor (Year Two) #10 - First RuleBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
ELEVENTH DOCTOR #2.10

 Writer - Rob Williams, Artist - Simon Fraser
Colorist - Gary Caldwell

[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


COVER A - DAN BOULTWOOD
Released June 8th 2016

"Of course I knew! I'm not you, Daak! I actually think! I think a lot! I am very, very, very smart! Why else do you think I kept you around! Not for your witty repartee. I had something specific in mind for you. You had to be her bodyguard."

The Doctor chastising Daak for failing to protect Alice.


 

'The Then And The Now ' could not be stopped forever, and at some point in its pursuit was going to cause serious damage. The badly injured Squire lies prone in the clutches of the TARDIS Robo-med, with the Doctor desperate to save the aged warrior's life. And all Abslom Daak can do is speak up and find his Time Lord 'ally' in far from his usual convivial mood.

 

Meanwhile Alice is abroad the diseased TARDIS belonging to the Doctor's nemesis, the Master. She is aware of the importance of getting to a point in the Time War that will solve the current threat hanging over the Doctor. A mysterious amorphous entity may be the key to her accomplishing her mission.


 

This tenth issue in the intricate, broad Year 2 arc skilfully manages two parallel storylines, such that both grip in equal manner, but for different reasons.

The artwork, colours and panelling variety all operate well together, and the issue overall culminates triumphantly with a 'double whammy' cliff hanger.

Alice is being given supremely worthwhile character development, in a plot thread that shows that whilst the Doctor is key to any story, it is not always wrong if his assistant - or, in the case of this run of stories, team -  are vital in finding some kind of resolution to the problem at hand.

We also see a Doctor struggling to accept that Alice is having to fend for herself in some corner of the sprawling mess of chaos that is the Time War. And this was down to his own machinations, except that his plan involved Daak being there to help the rather benign and weapon less Alice. At one point the Doctor shows a dark fury which is welcome, given how sometimes - and certainly in my view - this particular incarnation is overtly clownish.

Further, the Squire's fate hangs in the balance this issue, and it is tribute to the fine work of Rob Williams, (with support from alternate writer Si Spurrier), that readers will be concerned over this potential tragedy. The character is decidedly offbeat and has not appeared in either TV show or legendary comic strips of yester year (as with Daak). Yet it still feels vital that the Doctor can 'pull a rabbit out of the hat'.

In sum then, the arc continues to astound and delight in equal measure, despite entering some rather grim settings and thematic backdrops.


The reviews for the Eleventh Doctor Titan comics will return with a look at the 'collected edition' of the next sequence of issues. So watch this space (!)





The Highest Science - Big Finish AudioDramaBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

The Highest Science (Credit: Big Finish / Mark Plastow)

Written By: Gareth Roberts,
Adapted By: Jacqueline Rayner
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), 
Lisa Bowerman (BerniceSummerfield), 
Sinead Keenan (Rosheen), 
Daniel Brocklebank (Sheldukher), Sarah Ovens  
(The Cell), Rehanna McDonald (Hazel), 
James Baxter (Rodomonte), Tom Bell (Fakrid/Jinka)


Producer/ Script-Editor: Cavan Scott,

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released December 2014 by Big Finish Productions

The planet Sakkrat is widely known across the cosmos for once being home to an ancient empire, which created the legendary technology known as 'The Highest Science'. But eventually this monumental asset ushered in doom, and the civilisation fell into oblivion.

The Seventh Doctor and his keenly intelligent assistant - Professor Bernice Summerfield - are in transit abroad the TARDIS. They are alerted to a remarkable fluctuation in time, which originates from Sakkrat. The Doctor announces to Bernice that this is a 'Fortean Flicker'. The Time Lord's curiosity demands that they both investigate proceedings on Sakkrat immediately.

Other parties are also drawn to the large green planet. The despicable and galaxy-wide infamous Sheldukher, is absolutely determined to obtain the aeons old technology, and will stop at killing no-one. He prepares his mission with the  help of several associates, one of those being the telepathic brain-entity, known as the 'Cell'.

Similarly lethal, if perhaps less malicious and instead more imperialistic and military are the Chelonians - a race of anthropomorphised turtles/tortoises. They are focused on conquest and the eradication of all human 'parasites' that get in their way. And a group of time-displaced humans from 20th century Earth are the latest such irritant.

Many lives will be endangered, and the safety of the wider cosmos could also be in peril. The Doctor's resourcefulness and wisdom will have to employed to full effect, if events are not to spiral out of control completely.


 

This particular adventure for the diminutive, chess master incarnation of the Doctor was one of the earlier ones to be published by Virgin back in the early 1990s. It is most notable for seeing the debut of Gareth Roberts in contributing an original, official story to the Doctor Who canon. In later years Roberts would complete other novels for both the New Adventures and Missing Adventures lines, and then be a semi-regular writer for the reborn TV series itself. Roberts is a lively and witty creative force, whose works under both main showrunners (Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies), helped add some contrast from more po-faced or worthy efforts. He also was vital to the success of the excellent Sarah Jane Adventures spinoff.

There is a lot of Douglas Adams-style humour in this tale, and many of the best one-liners are given to Big Finish stalwart Lisa Bowerman to deliver. It should be noted that Jacqueline Rayner is very familiar with writing for Bernice, and this adds to the rhythm of the adaptation.

Much like Love And War and Nightshade, this reworking has made an effort to reduce the number of players, as well as significantly simplifying one of the major subplots concerning humans that belong to a different time and place altogether. This is effective to an extent in giving the production some vital pace, but there is still the drawback of the plot meandering a little. The opening episodes have some interesting character moments, but also a rather stately set up. Benny's particular storyline - which is the staple one where the Doctor's assistant is separated from him - does fall somewhat flat. The cliffhanger to Episode Two concerning her safety is poor, as it heavily involves a secondary character that is alternately bland and irritating.

However, the concluding pair of episodes have plenty of incident and surprise. There is a two pronged ending, with one adversary comprehensively defeated, but the other crisis needing the Doctor's genius is merely granted a temporary 'solution', and is best described as a Pyrrhic Victory.

McCoy is reasonable enough here, but a little weaker than in Nightshade and some of his better original Big Finish stories. He is at his best facing down either the Chelonians or Sheldukher, and showing a range of outrage, playful disdain and intellectual smarts. His interplay with Bowerman is enjoyable, but clearly a touch less authentic and affecting than the much stronger bond with Sophie Aldred, which many a general Who fan may be more used to.

Some of the one-off characters do engage the heart and/or mind, such as a pair of small time criminals who somewhat deserve justice, but still are angels compared to Sheldukher. The more wholly innocent human characters that have suffered time displacement also are identifiable, if perhaps lacking sufficient audio time to truly be memorable. And the Cell arguably steals the show, with a wonderfully lively portrayal by Sarah Ovens.

However I am not too convinced that Sheldukher needs to say with such arch relish the play's title, and with such frequency. It is somewhat jarring and makes him seem just a bit more unbalanced than is credible. Otherwise, Daniel Brocklebank is serviceable enough in the key adversary role.

The Chelonians have become a staple of the wider Who universe, if surprisingly not yet realised on mainstream TV. They can be fooled on occasion but are still notable opponents. Even if they are as unrelenting in sweeping aside those unlike them, in a manner similar to Daleks or Cybermen, there is a sense of nobility and honour that prevents them being purely 'evil'.

 

The music is quite strong, for the most part, and does help with adding a sense of wonder, dread or urgency as when needed. The audio effects result in the Chelonian creatures having a distinctive voice. It is also commendable how Tom Bell portrays the different creatures so distinctly.

Later on during the days of Virgin Publishing, Roberts would contribute a loose trilogy:  'The Romance Of Crime'/ 'The English Way Of Death'/ 'The Well Mannered War'. All have been adapted by Big Finish, and were critiqued by a fellow reviewer on this site previously.

Overall, this initial story from the pen of Roberts (originally out in book form in 1993) stands up both in past and present as an artefact of what was to come. The author has left his mark in a number of very enjoyable television episodes (particularly The Unicorn And The Wasp and The Shakespeare Code). It is far from flawless, but is still a good read, and now thanks to Rayner's commendable attempts at adaptation, also a worthwhile listen. 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 30 Dec 2014
The Highest Science (Doctor Who)
$8.96



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 Signs and Wonders. 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 A Life of Crime, 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 The Fourth Wall, 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 The Memory Bank and Other Stories will also live up to expectations.

 

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



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Dec 2015
39% off
You are the Doctor (Doctor Who Main Range)



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. 

 

Terror of the Sontarans is available to buy now from amazon.co.uk



Associated Products

Audio
Released 30 Sep 2015
Terror of the Sontarans (Doctor Who Main Range)
$24.99






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