Four to Doomsday (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who - Four To Doomsday (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Matthew Waterhouse

Released by BBC Worldwide - March 2017
Available from Amazon UK

Four to Doomsday seems like the type of story that is rarely going to make anyone's Top Ten list. It is a rather tedious and boring story, it doesn't have much of a thought provoking plot, and it lacks any real exciting action to make up for that.  I actually rewatched this story not too long ago when I was in the mood for some Fifth Doctor style stories, and even having recently rewatched it, most of it ended up being forgotten. If nothing else, Terrance Dicks' novelization really captures just how boring and forgettable the original serial was. 

The Fifth Doctor - along with Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric - land on a spaceship lead by some aliens who have visited Earth throughout it's history and gathered up locals each time they make it to Earth.  So there are some humans from various time periods in Earth's history aboard as well. But now they seem to be heading back to Earth to overtake it. Adric gets hypnotised or something by the evil leader, nd Tegan pouts about how much she wants to get to work some more....and eventually the only thing I remember from the story happens, which is that the Doctor uses the bounce of a cricket ball off a spaceship to propel himself back towards the TARDIS while floating in space.

It is a dul story, but I must give Matthew Waterhouse, who originally portrayed Adric, some credit, he does his best reading this dull story.  As much as I never cared for his character on screen, he proves himself a decent narrator, and actually does a pretty good impression of Peter Davison's Doctor as well! 

This is a release only for completists.  It is a lame story, and despite being nicely read by Waterhouse, that really can't make up for how uninteresting the story always has been. 





The Diary of River Song - Series 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Diary of River Song: Series 3 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Nev Fountain, Jacqueline Rayner, John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Alex Kingston (River Song), Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian), Peter Davison (The Doctor), Ian Conningham (Kevin / Rindle), Julia Hills (Sharon / Rindle), David Seddon (Mr Quisling / Tarn 2), Leighton Pugh (Lake 2 / Dave / Tarn), Sophia Carr-Gomm (Lily), Joanna Horton (Brooke), Issy Van Randwyck (Giulia), Rosanna Miles (Antoinette / Maid / Constanze), Teddy Kempner (Viktor / Mozart / Stefan / Apothecary), Jonathan Coote (Maitre D' / Chef / Assassin), Nina Toussaint-White (Brooke 2), Francesca Zoutewelle (H-One / H-Two / Mission Captain), Pippa Bennett-Warner (O / The Deterrent). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editors Matt Fitton, John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

When Big Finish began their River Song series, I was initially quite excited. I had really warmed to the character, and so the idea of her living on for further adventures on audio, at a company that consistently releases entertaining stuff, thrilled me, to say the least.  But the first boxset actually left me quite indifferent to the idea of even listening to more. It wasn't bad, and it had Paul McGann in it...but it felt like it was missing something. In preparation for this review, I decided to give the second boxset a whirl, just in case it had some lingering plot thread I might need to fully understand this newest set...and I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I had the first set.  Maybe it was better plotting, a more engaging story, or if it was just the timey wimey Doctor crossings featuring both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the tales...but whatever it was I felt was missing from that first set, seemed rectified by Series 2.

Some SPOILERS may be ahead, as it would be somewhat impossible to talk about certain episodes without discussing plot revelations in earlier episodes.  Reader Beware!

So we come to this third box set of River Song adventures, and from the word go it is quite exciting.  The opening story, The Lady of the Lake is slightly intertwined with the Eleventh Doctor story A Good Man Goes To War, which was the episode that finally revealed just who River was. We find out here that River wasn't the only thing Madame Kovarian experimented on at Demon's Run, they also took River's DNA and created seven other Time Lord hybrid babies...basically River's own brothers and sisters...and she has to stop one of them that has gone a bit mad due to the mysteries of his regenerative nature.  It's an exciting opener, with lots of wonderful bits, character moments, and a tremendous pace.

The second story has the River playing companion to the Fifth Doctor, along with a previously unknown companion known as Brooke. They land in Vienna in the 18th Century and end up on the trail of murders and mystery...as things so often tend to go when you travel anywhere or anywhen with the Doctor.  It is basically a solid Fifth Doctor story, from the point of view of River Song.  The big reveal of this episode is that Brooke is not who she says she is when in the end she attempts to kill the Doctor. using the same means as the murders of the episode. River is able to save the Doctor, the question remains what to do with Brooke, and just who is she?. 

It is quite clear that the River Song series is taking it’s time travel shenanigans and story structures from the Eleventh Doctor era, and that is probably most evident in the third story in the set, My Dinner With Andrew which plays with time travel and hopping around more than most. it is a quite entertaining, though just like the Eleventh Doctor era it moves fast and sometimes needs a bit of relistening in order to get the full picture of what is going on. I rather liked this one, but I did find a few things hard to keep track of...such as which River is which, but ultimately it is a fun story with good performances from Kingston, Davison, and co. The story also brings back Madame Kovarian, and reveals that Brooke is, in fact, another DNA clone of River hoping to succeed in killing the Doctor...which she does, only his Fifth Incarnation.

The final episode of the set reveals that there are several other clones of River still alive, with Brooke being the favorite. Kovorian's plan seemingly succeeded, but killing the Doctor so early in his time stream has catastrophic results for her.  She begins to see ghosts and then becomes the target of a new radical faction that wants to destroy her, for just as her plan to kill the Doctor was meant to stop him from destroying the Universe, her killing of him ends up doing just that, so now she is seen as the cause of the Universe ending.  The episode is really, at its heart though, about River and her sisters.  Brooke has a taste for killing now, even killing one of her own sisters, and the sisters are all completely warped by Kovarian, can River somehow get them to come around against Kovarian and maybe undo the killing of the Doctor and thus save the universe? 

SPOILERS...the Doctor lives.  This should be surprising to no one that they haven't killed the Doctor off in his Fifth incarnation, the means about how he is saved is where the story is interesting though, and that I will not spoil.  This is a good box set, with a story and structure that heavily ties into the Eleventh Doctor's era of stories, any fan that enjoyed the time hopping and intricate plotting (and even major plot elements) that shaped that era of the series will probably find something to enjoy in this set. 






The Tides of Time (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Tides of Time (Credit: Panini)
Written by Steve Parkhouse, Dez Skinn
Artwork by Dave Gibbons, Mick Austin, Steve Dillon, & Paul Neary
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Fifth Doctor’s entire run of Doctor Who Magazine not only fits nicely into this one volume (titled The Tides of Time), but it also genuinely feels closer to a graphic novel. It features some great stories, from the tremendous opening number that is the titular "The Tides of Time" through the Stockbridge stories and into the adventures with Gus that close out the book. Steve Parkhouse had taken over the writing duties of the strip in the latter days of the Fourth Doctor's run, and he ended up being the sole writer during the Fifth Doctor's era and continued on through the first half of the Sixth Doctor's time on the strip. Having that singular voice for the strip certainly gave it something, and it did a lot to build up the internal continuity of the strip itself.

The stories collected in this volume introduced some recurring characters like Maxwell Edison, Shayde, and Josiah W. Dogbolter, and really found a way to mix big sweeping epic storylines (like the opening story) and smaller stuff with a bit of heart to them (like "Stars Fell on Stockbridge" which is possibly my favorite story of the volume). It's a good mix of Doctor Who stories, the kind that feel like they could genuinely take place in the universe the series takes place in, even if the Fifth Doctor seemed like he never had a moment to be away from his TV companions...I am willing to go with it and say, sure he managed to have a period away from Tegan or Nyssa or Turlough or Peri, and had a whole set of adventures before returning to pick them up and carry on with his TV adventuring.

Overall, I really enjoy this volume. Parkhouse had a vision for what the strip should be, and that vision took off once the Fifth Doctor took over, and he would reach the peak and end of his tenure during the Sixth Doctor's run. As per usual Panini did a fine job remastering these old black and white comics, and this collection is well worth a look from any fan of the comic strip, as I personally think it is one of the best.

 





Time in OfficeBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Time In Office (Credit: Big Finish) Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
First Released: Saturday 30th September 2017
Running Time: 2 hours
“Time in Office” is a rather fun anthology audio from Big Finish, which explores the idea of how the Doctor would deal with actually having to take on the Presidency of the High Council of Time Lords, of which he was appointed at the end of “The Five Doctors” (before he ran away again).  Each of the four episodes is a separate little story, all taking place during the Fifth Doctor’s reign in office.  Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, and Louise Jameson star, all of whom give a fun performance within.  
 
The Doctor and Tegan are heading back to Frontios to pick up Turlough, when they are taken out of their time stream and returned to Gallifrey, as the Time Lords have decided to force the Doctor to take his place as the President.  As you'd expect, the Doctor is wholly unwilling to accept this position.When he is confronted with the chaos that could ensue due to the mess Borusa left behind, he reluctantly accepts in order to prevent anyone else abusing the powers that Borusa had put in place before his disappearance.  So the Doctor gets inaugurated and must battle his way through a variety of tedious problems and bureaucracy before he can reach Tegan and stop them wiping her memory of him and sending her back to Earth.  The anthology starts off well, with lots of humour and a breezy pace, which is surprising considering how little is actually happening in this opening episode. Eventually, he manages to keep Tegan on Gallifrey by appointing her Ambassador to Earth (which despite not having any formal relationship with Earth, works out much better for the Doctor than accepting Leela's plan of marrying her). The episode’s main focus is just to put the pieces and characters in place for the following tales of the Doctor’s reign as leader of the Time Lords. 
 
The second episode opens up with The Doctor's first real task as President. is to deal with is to clean up a mess he didn't really make.  Two warring factions on a planet both believe themselves to be truly righteous in the eyes of their God, but their God is an alien being that feeds off the worship.  The Doctor and his presidential company travel to speak with the God in a Military TARDIS (or WARDIS) and hope to attempt to clean up this mess...but when the god realizes that Leela and the Doctor killed his Brother years ago, he vows revenge.  So diplomacy isn't an easy sell.  I enjoyed the concept of the second story...godlike beings that feed off worship, the idea of diplomatic relations falling apart because of one of the many adventures the Doctor and Leela taking down a despot backfires on them.  I also liked Tegan's solution to the problem. 
 
The third episode has the Doctor visiting the Academy and dealing with protestors as well as imitators disappointed in his selling out and joining the establishment.  I found this to be the funniest instalment, some great social commentary on the Social Media Protestors that exist today, as well as the fun references and in-jokes provided by the imitator fan of the Doctor.  Davison is in fine form throughout the set but I felt he was particularly on his game here. His presence as the Doctor is always there, but with an air of frustration at his current status.  You get the sense, particularly in this instalment, that his Doctor may seem like he is settling into his role as President, but he’d rather be anywhere else.  
 
The fourth and final story has the Doctor touring the new Capitol building, fully dressed to the nines in his robes and sashes…seemingly fully committed to his role as the President. But a plot to end his reign is afoot…luckily, that seems to be just what the Doctor ordered.  Again, it is a fine addition to the anthology…a set of stories that truly entertain the longtime fans. In general, I loved the tone of the whole set of episodes, it doesn’t take itself or the threats too seriously, and feels small in scale, even the big climax of this episode doesn’t feel too grandiose.  Maybe it’s because I have been listening more and more to the big boxsets with epic storylines, and less and less to the monthly range, but the lighter tone and story felt like a good release after listening to such dark and sweeping stories in the Eighth Doctor’s Doomsday Coalition and the War Doctor boxsets.  As much as I enjoyed those storylines, I think I needed the palette cleanser, and this fun set of short stories did the trick nicely.  Mixing social satire, allegory, sci-fi concepts, and just a good old fashioned Doctor Who fan “what if?” premise…”Time in Office” is a great listen for longtime fans.  


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Released 31 Oct 2017
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Main Range - Time in Office (Doctor Who Main Range)



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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Released 8 Apr 2016
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Doctor Who Main Range: 224 Alien Heart & Dalek Soul: No. 224



Zaltys (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 24 April 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Zaltys (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matthew J Elliott
Directed by Barnaby Edwards

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sean Barrett (Perrault),
Niamh Cusack (Clarimonde), Philip Franks (Gevaudan),
Rebecca Root (Sable), Alix Wilton Regan (Lusca/Siobhan), CarolSloman (Talia/Computer)

Big Finish Productions - Released March 2017

The first main range trilogy of 2017 concludes with another solid entry which once again allows all four members of the season 19 TARDIS crew to play to their strengths. Kudos due once again to director Barnaby Edwards, who once again has clearly done well to get the best possible performances from the lead characters and assembled yet another strong supporting cast. First up we have Niamh Cusack as Clarimonde, the main villain of the piece who convincingly portrays the role of old adversary (with a gentle nod the habit of the 1980s series to reference previously unseen adventures). Among a sea of great performances, honourable mentions also go to Philip Franks as Gevaudan and Carol Sloman, the daughter of The Green Death writer Roger Sloman, as Talia. Finally in what is possibly a first for Doctor Who, we have openly Trans actress Rebecca Root in the key role of the mercenary Sable, who is one of the most enjoyable characters in this play. Well done Big Finish for allowing such a significant step in LGBT representation.

Matthew J Elliott’s story of space vampirism and psychic attacks is another very strong evocation of the best of this era. There is also some clever retconning of Nyssa’s psychic abilities which have previously been alluded to in her solo adventures with the Doctor set during the gap between seasons 19 & 20. Overall, this is a strong conclusion to what has been an enjoyable trilogy of plays. Having very few ties to other plays or indeed each other, means these are all enjoyably accessible to fans of this TV era who may not have heard Big Finish’s extensive back catalogue. A massive credit is due to the original actors Peter Davison,Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton for proving that this TARDIS team still has an immense of storytelling potential. It is very much to be hoped that we will hear more from all four of them in the not too distant future. Although fans of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa can rejoice in the knowledge that they can shortly be heard in the next release which sees the main range experiment with a new release format of two linked stories in Alien Heart/Dalek Soul.

 

Zaltys is available now from Big Finish and on general release from 30th April 2017.