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.





The Contingency Club (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 20 March 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Contingency Club (Credit: Big Finish)Written by Phil Mulryne
 
Directed by Barnaby Edwards
 
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Clive Merrison (George Augustus), Philip Jackson (Mr Peabody), Lorelei King (The Red Queen), Tim Bentinck (Wakefield/ Cabby/ Stonegood), Alison Thea-Skot (Marjorie Stonegood/ Computer), Olly McCauley (Edward/The Knave)
 
Big Finish Productions - Released February 2017

The second of this trilogy of plays opens with the season 19 TARDIS crew very much in their fractious time-travelling youth hostel mode forcing the Doctor to take on the role of headmaster as he intervenes in yet another row between Adric and Tegan. The Doctor manages to get the TARDIS to London but not Heathrow and over 100 years too early for Tegan as they four travellers soon realise that they have arrived at a gentleman’s club in Pall Mall. The Contingency Club seems at first much like most of its neighbours, but the unusual initiation ceremony and the fact that it’s inhabitants don’t seem bothered by the strange appearance of the new arrivals or indeed the fact that two of them are women soon indicates that something is amiss. And then there are the waiters, all called Edward and all identical.

The TARDIS crew quickly split into pairs as Nyssa and Adric team up with a resourceful young woman called Marjorie (played by Alison Thea-Skot) who is looking for her engineer father after he recently disappeared shortly after being admitted as a member of the club. The Doctor and Tegan meanwhile end up in the company of George Augustus, a journalist who has been rejected from club membership. Augustus is played by Clive Merrison whose radio performances as Sherlock Holmes make him perfect casting for this role, especially when the full extent of his agenda becomes clear. They are also joined by another radio veteran who has become something a regular fixture with the Big Finish rep in recent years, Tim Bentinck, the familiar voice of Radio 4’s David Archer, plays a trio of key roles, most notably a cab driver.

At the heart of the story is the mysterious Red Queen, voiced by Lorelei King, who provided the voice over for 2012 TV episode A Town Called Mercy. She is the central character to this story and provides a worthy adversary for Peter Davison’s Doctor, with able assistance from Philip Jackson as the sinister Peabody. Phil Mulryne’s tale evokes the stuffy drawing room atmosphere of the clubs of St James with just enough sci-fi thrown in for good measure. It might’ve been nice to have the traumatic events of TheStarMen referenced in some way but this is a minor criticism. Overall, another enjoyable outing for the crowded TARDIS which once again gives all four leads the chance to shine. We can only look forward to their next trip to the planet Zaltys.

TheContingencyClub is available now from Big Finish and on general release from March 31st 2017.






The Star Men (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 13 February 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Star Men (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Andrew Smith

Directed by Barnaby Edwards

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sue Holderness (Kala Tace), Sophie Wu (Autumn Tace), Peter Guinness (Rovus), Damian Lynch (Fell/Lom), Kris Dyer (Nomar/Vedrin / Surgical Robot/ Pilot), Barnaby Edwards (Computer).

Big Finish Productions - Released January 2017

Big Finish’s first trilogy of main range releases for 2017 gets off to a flying start with this enjoyable entry from stalwart Andrew Smith. After the critical success of 2014’s The Fifth Doctor Box Set, it was only a matter of time before Big Finish persuaded Matthew Waterhouse to reprise the role of Adric once again and so this story sees his debut in the main Fifth Doctor range. Once the usual season 19 checklist is ticked off (Adric learning how to fly the TARDIS in the opening scene, an obligatory line for Tegan about them not yet reached Heathrow during which you can almost sense Janet Fielding’s eyes rolling as she says it), the Doctor and his companions find themselves on the Gallius U space station at a pivotal moment in the history of space exploration. The typical scenario of the TARDIS crew being mistaken for stowaways is quickly bypassed as Adric is given the first of several hero moments in this story (presumably this was incident which led to an interesting exchange on twitter between Waterhouse and Fielding last year).

The team are sensibly split up with Adric and Nyssa remaining on the Gallius U whilst the Doctor and Tegan head off to explore the mysterious goings on in the Large Magellenic Cloud (a nice touch to include a genuine astronomical phenomenon) which leads to the first direct encounter with the eponymous Star Men, led with menacing example by the excellent Peter Guinness as their ruler Rovus. There is further strong cast support from Sue Holderness as Kala Trace and Sophie Wu as her daughter Autumn, who proves to be something of a potential love interest for Adric. Knowing that fate has another path in store for our favourite Alzarian the audience is kept guessing as to how the story will resolve itself. Although it is to be hope that the remaining stories in this trilogy will resist the urge to continuously foreshadow that fate. Whilst Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are on their usual great form as the Doctor and Nyssa, this particular story belongs most to Tegan and Adric. The only mild criticism this reviewer can think of is the author’s occasional over use of the phrase “lead on” which brought to mind some of the author’s previous plays at inopportune moments.

Overall though, this play sets a high bar for the remaining plays in this trilogy to match up to and certainly left this reviewer looking forward to this TARDIS crew’s next adventure which will see them return to Victorian London for a visit to TheContingencyClub.

 

TheStarMen is available now from Big Finish and on general release from February 28th 2017






Short Trips - Rulebook (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 28 October 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Rulebook (Credit: Big Finish / Anthony Lamb)

Producer & Script Editor: Ian Atkins

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Tony Jones

Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast: Nicola Bryant (Narrator)

After helping save Beadledom 3, and it’s inhabitants the Ellani from an invasion by the Valtor, a cybernetic race, the Doctor and Peri find themselves on Beadledom 3 caught up in a mind boggling loop of continuous red tape, forms to complete, rules, then more rules and cheerfully mindless local authorities to contend with. The Ellani are a race whose society is totally dependent on the rules, they literally have rules for everything. Our two heroes are separated from the TARDIS, and as the story progresses, it looks less and less likely that they will be reunited….

We have all had jobs, or found ourselves in situations where we have been stuck in some awfully pathetic and petty internal issue where one department is quoting one rule at you and another doing the same, and there you are, feeling very frustrated and caught in the middle, exasperated, and not knowing which way to turn. That is the basis of Rulebook. You feel for the Doctor and Peri, especially when the rules are manipulated in the Ellani’s favour when it suits them in order to settle a local dispute.

Toby Jones brilliantly paints a picture of a society that knows nothing of spontaneity. The listener can really relate to the Doctor and Peri’s plight, and share their frustration. Of course, scratch the surface, and the story is a satire on our own world today, somewhere where risk has been removed, and if something goes wrong – well it is always someone else’s fault – the rules say so.

Nicola Bryantis a true joy to listen to, you can really feel the frustration in her voice when she is voicing the straight talking American Peri. Counter this with the monotonously calm and cheerful Ellani, and the contrast is perfect. I also thought that it was great to hear a new adventure with this Doctor and companion pairing. Although Big Finish have done the Fifth Doctor and Peri proud, I still feel the pairing as being a tad underused on television. When I think of the character of Peri, I always put her in the TARDIS with Colin Bakers doctor. I loved a chance to hark back to an era on television that seemed wrongly abrupt.

Rulebook is an easy listen, from a brilliant new writer, the story is available now from Big Finish.





The Memory Bank and Other Stories (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 17 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Memory Bank and Other Stories (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Chris Chapman, Paul Magrs, Eddie Robson,
and Ian Potter

Directed by Helen Goldwyn

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough),Suzann McLean(Max/Autumn Voice), Ian Brooker (Archivist/Computer/Elder), Sarah Sweeney (Diamon/Lara) Mandi Symonds(Alitha/Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir) Duncan Wisbey (Grayling Frimlish/Shiri/Zounds),Kae Alexander (Waywalker)

Big Finish Productions – Released October 2016

This year’s anthology release of four single-episode stories featuresPeter Davison and Mark Strickson on great form as the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in a collection which following in a now annual tradition does not disappoint. Largely due, one assumes, to Strickson’s limited availability and the decision to use Turlough in a long-running arc which also involved Tegan and Nyssa and only concluded in March 2015 with TheEntropyPlague, this is the only the fourth release in the Big Finish main range to feature this particular pairing and the first in over a decade since 2005’s Singularity. The continuity gap in the between Tegan’s departure in Resurrection of the Daleks and Turlough’s exit in the following televised adventure Planet of Fire remains ripe for exploitation making this team an excellent choice for this anthology. It is also a joy for those who listen to the behind the scenes tracks, to discover that the director for this collection is long-time Big Finish regular Helen Goldwyn, best known as an actress whose numerous credits included series regular Elena in the much-missed audio series of The Tomorrow People.

The Memory Bank by Chris Chapman plays with the concept of lost memory and why memories are important, a theme which loosely recurs throughout this anthology. This is a strong start to the set with good supporting performances from Suzann McLean as Max and Ian Brooker as both the Archivist and Archive computer voice.

The Last Fairy Tale has a typical feel of a Paul Magrs story which sees the Doctor and Turlough arrive in a medieval European town awaiting a storyteller for whom, naturally, the Doctor is quickly mistaken. This enjoyable tale clearly evokes the importance of storytelling as a way of preserving memory and again is well-supported, especially byDuncan Wisbey as Frimlish.

Repeat Offender by Eddie Robson is the highlight of the set with a cleverly evoked futuristic setting of 22nd Century Reykjavik which feels as if it’s not as far away from our own world as we might like with its erosion of civil liberties. There are some neat twists which will keep the listener guessing and some strong central performances by Mandi Symonds as Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir and (for some reason uncredited except by mention in the extras tracks) Sarah Sweeney as Lara. It is also good to be reminded that Turlough has an occasional darker side which Strickson really plays up to.

The Becoming by Ian Potter is for the most part a three-hander in which the Doctor and Turlough encounter the enigmatic Waywalker, played in an excellent debut performance by Kae Alexander. The theme at the heart of this story is the rivalry between the preservation of traditions against the necessity to adapt and survive with Turlough’s interaction with Waywalker proving to be an unexpected catalyst for change.

Overall, this is a strong collection of very different stories yet with similar themes relating to the importance of memory. Unlike previous anthologies such as You are the Doctor and Other Stories where there was a clear arc running through, there is no direct link between these four tales, however the conclusion of the final episode still provides a satisfying feeling of the circle having been squared. Once again, this collection proves to be one of the best releases of the year so far and on this form it is to be expected that the annual anthology release will remain a regular feature of Big Finish’s Doctor Who main range for many years to come.

 

TheMemoryBank is available now directly from Big Finish and on general release from 30th November 2016.






Short Trips - A Full Life (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
A Full Life (Credit: Big Finish / Anthony Lamb)

Producer Ian Atkins. Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and
Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Joseph Lidster. Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast - Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)

AFullLife is an interesting, and very thought provoking listen. It is essentially a ‘what if’ sort of story that veers off after a known ‘event’ into a parallel universe, that in the end, finds Adric an old man with grandchildren.
 
Written by Joseph Lidster, and narrated by Matthew Waterhouse, it starts quite jarringly with someone flicking backwards and forwards on a tape player, the sound of the clicking and fast forwarding ringing loud in your ear. An older Adric is relaying the action, which for very obvious reasons grabs the listener's attention from the start. What the older Adric is disclosing is essentially the story of Adric’s life, starting of course on Alzareus with the loss of his parents, then mist-fall, and the the Marshmen, and  later of course the tragic death of his brother Vash. We follow as Adric then stows away on the TARDIS (so far, still so familiar), and of finding himself on a planet where vampires are real. As his adventures progress we hear about Adric slowly forming a meaningful relationship with the Doctor and Romana, a feeling that he actually belonged somewhere once again. It’s not only quite nostalgic that the story mentions moments that we have seen, but also very interesting the mentions of adventures between those that we know. How the Doctor, Romana K9 and Adric have become a force to be reckoned with for the monsters and megalomaniacs of E-Space, whilst all the time hunting for the elusive CVE that would take The Doctor and Romana back to their own universe.
 
Suddenly, and rather jarringly there is a mention of the planet Veridis, and the tape is abruptly wound backwards for the first time. We rejoin the narration when the TARDIS first lands on Veridis, our trio (K9 is left in the TARDIS because of the rain) soon manage to thwart a young girls murder, and stumble upon a rather horrific secret.
 
A Full Life is about death as much as it is life, probably more so in fact. Oh - and resurrection, there is a lot of resurrection. I couldn't help but grin when I heard a classic reference to Frankenstein (and, of course the Paul McGann TV movie). The story asks the age old question of - if we could bring a loved one back from the dead, who would it be? And then where would we stop after that, who else would we bring back? What if we didn't have to stop? It also asks that once a power and responsibility of bringing the dead to life is removed - what is next? How does a world acclimatise to suddenly having to lose their loved ones for real?
 
For a seemingly unassuming forty five minute audio, A Full Life packs a real emotional punch, and when the skew in the established timeline happens (and believe me - it's a doozy!) the listener discovers what consequences this has to Adric. What would happen if he were allowed to live on Veridis, to fall in love and build a family. Oh – and there is even a clever cliff-hanger in there, where the tape that we are listening to ends and needs to be 'turned over'. You can hear the listener trying to clumsily ram the cassette back into the player as quickly as he can, and then fumble the buttons before the story resumes - something that is perfectly simple, yet very effective.
 
My only slight gripe with this release is the actual narration. I need to say that I am not an Adric 'hater'. When he was introduced to Who back in the day he was a very similar age to what I was at the time, meaning that I felt a real connection with the character. I'd go so far as to say I still find him endearing to this day. He was from a period of time when the TARDIS was a busy place, a time I REALLY enjoyed. Plus of course he was one of the few companions to be killed off. The thought of that crumbled gold star for mathematical excellence, on a black backdrop, while the credits roll silently still makes me feel misty eyed right now. Well I might be exaggerating a bit. A lot. Probably. Anyway, the narration. i felt that Matthew Waterhouse threw himself into some of the reading a little too much. Sometimes sounding a little desperate. This was only occasionally, and when it happened, it was mostly when he was trying to voice either the Doctor or Romana. Let me stress though that this is a very minor moan. It did nothing to quell my enjoyment of the story.
 
A Full Life is the first of the Short Trips that i have listened to. I'd definitely be back again. A Full Life is available from Big Finish.