Warlock's CrossBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 January 2019 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
Warlock's Cross (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Steve Lyons
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Klein), Blake Harrison (Daniel Hopkins), Genevieve Gaunt (Linda Maxwell), Richard Gibson (Colonel McKenna), Tom Milligan (Gregory Lord), Russ Bain (Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Price). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer Nicholas Briggs
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

This year’s main range, ‘UNIT’ trilogy concludes with Warlocks Cross. So far the UNIT trilogy or the ‘Daniel Hopkins’ trilogy has been excessively dark, dealing with some incredibly bleak themes. The first, The Helliax Rift was a story that dealt with some interesting ideas in a way that had some gut-wrenching impact. The second, Hour of the Cybermen was an exercise in Sawardian nastiness and violent as a result. This final installment is no different. What results is an emotionally hard-hitting and bleak affair full of characters haunted by their past, be they Klein, Hopkins or UNIT itself. The story itself also certainly sits comfortably in that area of Doctor Who stories which can be described as having elements of horror within them. In short; it’s bloody frightening.

Steve Lyons script concerns the Doctor arriving at UNIT in its dark period of the 1990’s. When here he reunites with Dr. Elizabeth Klein and becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a forgotten psychic research facility, the titular Warlocks Cross and Daniel Hopkins, still alive after his part cyber-conversion. As I stated above, Lyons really has let his darker side come out here and those who were perhaps hoping for a more jolly installment in this year's trilogy may be disappointed. This is as adult as Doctor Who can get and the scenario he creates, allows for some interesting thematic scenarios involving themes of paranoia.

McCoy himself is wonderful here. After last months, The Quantum Possibility Engine allowing him to explore the lighter side of the 7th Doctor, it’s great to see him return to the more sinister aspects of his interpretation. McCoy gives a very quiet and understated performance throughout, the sequences with Hopkins are some of the highlights, as this Doctor shows a distinct lack of sympathy and seems to play games with Hopkins. And what of Daniel himself? Well if there’s one thing that has been consistently good throughout this year's trilogy, it’s been Blake Harrison's performance. In the space of three stories, Harrison has taken an incredibly likable character and managed to transform him into one of best original characters Big Finish has created in a long time. Original Doctor Who Villains are a hard thing to create, but Hopkins must sit among the best. Of course, another talking point of this release is the return of Elizabeth Childs as Klein. Admittedly this isn’t a Klein focussed story, she has a great deal of wonderful moments of course and she does get some character exploration, but she is very much a bit character here, which may disappoint some. However, Childs is great as always and honestly, it was refreshing to see a version of Klein more at peace with herself, despite a few underlying ‘ghosts’.

All in all, Warlocks Cross, can be seen as a rousing success. This UNIT trilogy has been the highlight of the main range this year, resulting in some wonderfully rich stories full of depth. Here’s hoping that we haven’t seen the last of Daniel Hopkins!

 

 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Dec 2018
Doctor Who Main Range #244 - Warlock's Cross




Doctor Who: Iron Bright (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 June 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
Iron Bright (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Chris Chapman      Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), James MacCallum (Isambard Kingdom Brunel), Christopher Fairbank (Marc Brunel), Catherine Bailey (Tan), Imogen Church (Rispa / Lady Raffles), Becky Wright (Flo Hawkins / Alayna), Anthony Townsend (Richard Beamish / John Chubb), Sam Woodward (Charlie / Lord Raffles / Captain Sanderson), Richard Unwin (Tour Guide / Scientist). Other parts played by members of the cast.

We Big Finish listening Doctor Who fans, seem to continually be on the lookout for new audio adventures through which to introduce possible converts. Less so a perfect ‘Jumping on point’, more a short introduction that perfectly epitomises Big Finish, without much continuity to speak of. Well I’d like to add  Iron Bright to that list. The second of the sixth doctors main range trilogy this year seems to harken back to the earlier days of Big Finish, being a completely stand-alone adventure with seemingly very little to connect it to last months; The Lure of the Nomad. Not only that but Chris Chapman has described his story as a ‘celebrity historical’ in the Russell T Davies vein and certainly it conjures images of The Unquiet Dead and The Shakespeare Code amongst others. Aside from just being a phenomenal showcase for what Big Finish can achieve, Iron Bright is an incredibly produced drama with a wonderful story, excellent cast and superb direction.

The story revolves around the building of the Thames Tunnel by both Marc Brunnel (Christopher Fairbank) and his son Isambard (James MacCallum), which is haunted by a mysterious blue lady. Of course much of the emphasis is placed on the young Isambard and James MacCallum is a wonderful choice for the role, indeed he steals much of the show and presents us with a multi-faciated and completely believable character. Not only that but he achieves all that with a historical figure who has been interpreted a million times before and still MacCallum manages to present a fresh and likeable figure. it’s a superb performance and I hope to see much more of him yet.

And what of the Doctor? Colin Baker is superb as ever and indeed I personally enjoy his doctor far more in a historical setting, finding that the writers seem to enjoy the sixth doctor attempting to ‘act with the times’. This paves the way for some wonderful comedic moments. However Colin really shines when working with MacCallum and the relationship between the Doctor and Isambard is one of the joys of the audio.

However it's unfair to concentrate on these two alone when the entire cast is wonderful. There’s some show stealing parts for Catherine Bailey, Imogen Church (who makes a formidable villain) and Becky Wright.  Bailey and Wright in particular have a wonderful chemistry and provide two characters who are just as interesting as any of the historical figures. The sub-plot featuring these two is one of the highlights of the drama and Chapman was lucky to have two such wonderful actresses to portray it. this sub-plot also manages to provide a little historical context away from the Brunels, providing us with an original historical character whose arc is just important as anyone else's.

And what of Chapman’s script? Well it’s certainly something of a ‘block buster’. Starting with a creepy and slow building ghost story (something doctor who has always done well) the reveal is made around the half way mark and the story switches gears, emphasising the science fiction. Rather than harming the story in anyway by having a definite change of tone, this actually works wonders and in particular manages to show varying sides of Isambard. Indeed one of the wonders of Chapman’s script is that it’s so intently rooted in ideas of industry, progress, engineering and machinery that are so central to Isambard’s place in history. The fascinating moral dilemma posed in episode three presents us with incredibly sympathetic villains and indeed Imogen Church manages to gain listeners sympathy, between some incredible comic moments.

Of course it would be remiss of me to not mention the excellent sound design and musical score which seems to be a trademark of Big Finish's high quality. The blue lady herself is terrifying (and the general idea behind her is a genius one that’s incredibly haunting) whilst the various sounds within the tunnel provide a chilling setting, constantly reminding us we're under ground. The story is helped by a wonderful score that seems to fit it’s epic scope, getting gradually more bombastic towards the end.

All in all, Iron Bright is a truly wonderful example of just what Big Finish can achieve. Simply everything works and the result is one of the best the main range has put out in a long time. A magical, superb adventure.





Ghost Walk (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 24 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ghost Walk (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Fenella Woolgar (Leanne), Sacha Dhawan (Matthew), Stephen Greif (Sabaoth), Carolyn Seymour (Mrs Stubbs), Philip Childs (Giles), John Banks (Louie), Rebecca Tromans (Nancy). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Guy Adams
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

This is an interesting new Fifth Doctor audio from Big Finish, which bounces around time and features a ghostly entity as the main antagonist.  The story is fun to piece together, as you have to wait for certain pieces before the whole picture becomes clear, but it is fairly satisfying when it all comes together in the end.  

The Doctor, along with Nyssa, Tegan and Adric land in some catacombs, but there they discover there is an entity that feeds off of their energy, and there is no real escape from the tunnels.  So the Doctor attempts to send his companions forward in time, in the hopes that they will remain safe while he concocts a plan to save himself.  While Adric and Nyssa end up in separate eras in which they are faced with the possibility of death...Tegan tries to stay behind with the Doctor. We end up following four stories in four different eras.  

So you've got the Doctor and Tegan trying to figure out a plan to defeat the entity in the catacombs, Nyssa having to prove she is not a witch to some villagers, Adric facing a hanging for stealing some bread, and in a more modern era, you have the Guide of a Ghost tour who is hearing a voice in her head...the apparent ghost of the Doctor talking to her.  

For all these different elements and different eras, as well as storylines that leave you hanging for whole episodes before being resolved, you'd think this story could be a lot messier and less entertaining...but it is a really tight script from James Goss, and Barnaby Edwards direction is really great. It has a good spooky atmosphere, good performances from the whole cast (even our main cast actually sounds closer to their 80s voices than they did in their last entry), a really unique story, even the music sounds like the 80s scores...it is just a lot of fun. Definitely recommended.   





Kingdom of Lies (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Kingdom Of Lies (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Jonathan Firth (Sebastian, Duke of Cardenas), Charlotte Lucas (Duchess Miranda), Harriet Thorpe (Amelia), Tim Bentinck (Lord Crozion), Richenda Carey (Lady Crozion), Piotr Hatherer (Tomek), Patsy Kensit (Mercenary), Harry Smith (Additional Voices). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Guy Adams
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Peter Davison is joined by his original TARDIS team of Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, and Matthew Waterhouse in the first of three new stories from Big Finish starring the group.  In this story, the TARDIS lands in a kingdom that is currently embattled with itself, as the Royal Couple have separated and are using the hackneyed sitcom premise of drawing a line between their kingdom to designate all their stuff. If this was a sitcom, the premise would be lame...but as it is Doctor Who and it takes that goofy premise to the extreme, it becomes rather fun, plus it doesn't really focus too hard on that aspect.  

The bulk of the episode is actually more of a comedy of mistaken identities. After landing, Tegan and Adric are soon arrested by the Military of the Duchess, as they have crossed over into her side of the line. Not long after, the same happens to The Doctor and Nyssa, but this time by the Duke. But since the Duke had recently hired an off-worlder to assassinate his estranged wife, he believes the Doctor is the assassin known as "The Scorpion."   So while the Doctor poses as an assassin with Nyssa as his assistant, Adric and Tegan pretend to be a couple that can stop assassins for the Duchess.  Obviously, antics ensue.  

And those antics are fun!  This story is light and has a good comedy pace.  It is also quite fun to hear this Fifth Doctor team again. Admittedly I never found Adric to be much fun during his time on TV, and as such I preferred his eventual replacement of Turlough...but with that said there is something that is a bit fun in hearing this original Fifth Doctor team together again. I've not had a chance to hear some of their earlier Big Finish reunions, but I don't think I would mind picking those up some time.

This story really captures the feel of those early Fifth Doctor stories, with the crwoded TARDIS team bickering and going off on adventures.  The only thing that can keep you from getting completely lost in 1982 is that everyone's voice has audibly aged, particularly Davison and Waterhouse. But who cares, it is a fun little adventure with some good humor and a cast that is clearly having a ball.