Quicksilver (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 15 January 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Quicksilver (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Matt Fitton

Directed by Jamie Anderson
 

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke) Lisa Greenwood (Flip Jackson), Matthew Cottle (Henry Clarke), Joel Fry (Kinvar/Rogers), Oliver Cotton (Major Callahan), Kate Kennedy (Ana), Robbie Stevens (Boyarov/Vilal General).
 

Big Finish Productions – Released December 2016

Picking up immediately from the end of AbsolutePower, Quicksilver finds the Doctor and Constance returned to Bletchley Park some months after they originally left at the end of Criss- Cross. For Constance there is bad news in the form of a telegram advising her that her husband Henry who had been absent on a classified operation is now missing presumed dead. However, there is also a reunion in store for the Doctor as this story sees the return of Lisa Greenwood as popular companion Flip Jackson. 2014’s Scavenger ended with Flip falling through the earth’s atmosphere. She then reappeared in an episode of TheSixthDoctorTheLastAdventure set at an earlier point in her travels with the Doctor, allowing the Valeyard to tease her eventual fate. However, the ambiguity had already been cleared up in The Widow’s Assassin, in which the Doctor revealed to Peri that he had intervened to save Flip and take her back to 2012, and had subsequently received an invitation to her wedding. Flip’s wedding invitation makes a reappearance as a convenient plot device to allow for her to be brought back in time in what seems an almost too obvious nod to the 2006 Christmas special The Runaway Bride.

The Doctor and Mrs Clarke meanwhile, are caught up in an alien invasion plot which conveniently links to the undercover project codenamed Quicksilver which Lt Cmdr Clarke was working on. This allows for a convenient transposition of events forward a few years in time to post-war Vienna, in which Matt Fitton effortlessly evokes the spy-movie atmosphere of The Third Man. After the slightly hit and miss antics of the previous play, this story is back on solid ground with clever use of characters and settings. In particular, the device of keeping the Doctor separate from both of his erstwhile companions for a large section of the story is well-used. Instead Constance and Flip are inadvertently paired together as a wonderfully chalk and cheese team who end up complimenting each other very well, sharing scenes which are an enjoyable contrast to previous occasions where past and present companions have met up.

As usual there is a reliable supporting cast with particular mention going to Matthew Cottle for bringing to life Constance’s much talked about husband Henry who has formed the centre of her story arc since her first appearance in 2015. Despite emerging as an unsympathetic character, he plays in very well in scenes with Miranda Raison’s Constance, allowing for a worthy conclusion to this stage of the character’s journey.

With the ending suggesting that, for a brief time at least, Colin Baker’s Doctor will, for the first time ever, have two companions in the TARDIS simultaneously, it seems that Big Finish are continuing to keep him in the excellent storytelling to which he has become accustomed. Overall, 2016’s main range releases have generally been a very strong collection of stories with much to recommend them. Quicksilver has rounded them off on a high note which has left this reviewer very keen to hear what will happen next.

 

Quicksilver is available now from Big Finish and is on general release from January 31st 2017

 

 






Absolute Power (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 6 January 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Absolute Power (Credit: Big Finish)

Written and Directed by Jamie Anderson
 
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Paul Reynolds (Lyam Yce), Jenny Bede (Florrie/Medical Doctor), Arian Nik (Ammar Elkady), Neil Edmond (Professor Aryan Wyke/Mine Worker), Gary Martin (Kohrbal), Esther Hall (Pheenan)
 

Big Finish Productions – Released December 2016

AbsolutePower is a solid story from Big Finish’s newest regular director Jamie Anderson who continues to prove his own ability with a competent first full length script for the Doctor Who audio range (having previously contributed the single episode Come Die with Me to last year's You are the Doctor and other stories) and clearly demonstrates that he's not here because of cult TV nepotism. Judging by the comments of other reviewers, this story has clearly been well received and why not when there’s a lot to recommend it.

 As ever, Colin Baker and Miranda Raison are on sparkling form as the Doctor and Constance find themselves in full-blown detective mode. They head up a cast which includes an enjoyable turn from Paul Reynolds as the morally dubious galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce. Reynolds has previously appeared in 2008’s FortyFive as the first incarnation of the villainous Word Lord, although for those of a certain age he will forever be remembered as Colin from TV’s Press Gang. Also worth mention are Jenny Bede as Florrie and an extremely impressive debut from Arian Nik as Ammar, a young man who falls very much under Constance’s spell and allows for some enjoyable final scenes.

However, when all’s said and done, for this reviewer, something about this story didn’t quite gel as a piece of Doctor Who. Every now and then, we all encounter an episode which, for whatever reason isn’t quite our cup of tea even if we can’t always put our finger on what we didn’t like, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that most others seem to have very much enjoyed this story. I will posture that perhaps there were a few too many rather obviously stereotypical characters woven into the plot which felt as if had more in common with the sort of adventures that Anderson is used to writing, almost as if the Doctor and Mrs Clarke had inadvertently landed in an episode of Captain Scarlet.

Most listeners will however find this a very enjoyable listen and it is inevitable that after 16 years of monthly releases, Big Finish aren’t going to manage stunning originality every time but this play is worth persevering with for the ending which segues very neatly into Big Finish’s final main range offering for 2016, Quicksilver.

 

AbsolutePower is available now from Big Finish and on general release from January 31st 2017






Order of the Daleks (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 24 November 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Order of the Daleks (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Mike Tucker
Directed by Jamie Anderson


Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) John Savident (Pendle), Olivia Hallinan (Asta), Robbie Stevens (Boswyck/Raspak), Sam Fletcher (Rosco/Gabber), Joseph Kloska (Habrild), and Nicholas Briggs (Tanapal and The Daleks).

Big Finish Productions – Released November 2016

This month sees the welcome return of the Sixth Doctor alongside his latest audio companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke, played with a perfectly clipped RP by Miranda Raison. This is actually Mrs Clarke’s fifth audio appearance to date but in a timey-wimey fashion this reviewer will be revisiting her first trilogy of adventures from last year at a later date.

This story sees the Doctor and Wren Clarke arrive on the idyllic backwater planet Strellin which has protected status but from which a signal is emerging which suggests that outside technology has infiltrated this primitive society. This has attracted the attention of the Galactic Census, who have sent assessors to investigate. The elder of the two assessors, Pendle is played by John Savident, who is still best remembered as Coronation Street’s Fred Elliot. Even without his regional accent there are still a few familiar mannerisms which add to the enjoyment of Pendle’s continual insistence in his own superior knowledge which rubs everyone up the wrong way. His trainee Asta is voiced by Olivia Hallinan whose many TV credits include Lark Rise to Candleford and the Torchwood episode Out of Time.

The four protagonists soon find themselves facing the monastic order of the Black Petal headed by the sinister Abbot Tanapal played by Nicholas Briggs alongside Robbie Stevens in the dual roles of Raspack and Boswyck, the latter of which becomes part of the team of protagonists. The title of this story means that it is of course not a surprise when Briggs gets to play his more well-known role as the voice of the Daleks. Despite having apparently beautiful new cases made of lead and stained glass (as illustrated on what has been one of the most eye-catching covers this year by Simon Holub), the Daleks have a sinister plan at work and have the monastic order very much under their control despite having to resort to primitive weaponry.

Mike Tucker, whose previous writing credits include Big Finish’s first ever Dalek story TheGenocideMachine, has provided a clever script which shows the Daleks at their devious best. As acknowledged in the behind-the-scenes interviews, the setting for this story owes a debt of inspiration to Vincent Ward’s original vision for Alien³ of a wooden planet inhabited by monks. Highlights include Constance’s unphased reaction when she meets a Dalek for the first time. Her “keep calm and carry on” attitude of pragmatism in the face of danger makes her a worthy new companion. Based on Constance’s adventures so far she is looking set to become the best Big Finish audio companion since the days of the much-missed Evelyn Smythe.

Overall, this is another extremely enjoyable addition to the Sixth Doctor’s long life of audio adventures which Colin Baker is clearly still enjoying. It also shows that there is still plenty of mileage to be gained on audio for the Doctor’s oldest enemies. With two more adventures for the Sixth Doctor and Mrs Clarke to follow in December, it looks like Christmas is about to come early.

 

 

OrderoftheDaleks is available now from Big Finish and is on general release from 31st December 2016.





Short Trips: Series 6 #1-3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen

Gardens of the Dead (Credit: Big Finish / Mark Plastow)Gardens of the Dead
Written by Jenny T Colgan, directed by Lisa Bowerman, narrated by Mark Strickson
Released January 2016

 

Seeing Jenny T Colgan’s name on a by-line associated with a Doctor Who story usually indicates that the listener is in for a treat and GardensoftheDead is certainly no exception to this rule. The story is told entirely from the point of view of Turlough as so it is doubly a treat that Mark Strickson is on hand to narrate it. He gives some spot on impersonations of the other characters especially Tegan and the Doctor and it really feels as if it Turlough telling the story from the way Colgan has captured his personality. Another nice touch is that the story is set shortly after Turlough’s arrival in Mawdryn Undead and so he is still under the influence of the Black Guardian and we get to enjoy Strickson impersonating the late Valentine Dyall. The story centres on Turlough building a relationship with and eventually coming to the rescue of Nyssa who finds herself falling foul of a sinister influence in the eponymous gardens. However, the conclusion of the story then disappoints as it references Nyssa’s departure in the television story Terminus a short time later but doesn’t make any reference to the various audio adventures set post-Enlightenment which Turlough would go on to share with Nyssa. Despite losing points for overlooking a significant development of the Big Finish continuity universe, this remains an extremely well-written story and is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Prime Winner (Credit: Big Finish / Mark Plastow)Prime Winner
Written by Nigel Fairs, directed by Lisa Bowerman, narrated by Nicola Bryant
Released February 2016

 

This slightly odd story from the usually excellent Nigel Fairs is something of a curate’s egg. It finds the Doctor and Peri arriving on a space cruiser with an on-board casino where one of the players seems to having an extremely lucky day. The more curious aspect is that the gambler at the centre of the story apparently bears a strong resemblance to Peri’s step-father Howard. It is perhaps because this story seems to feature the more fractious season 22 relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Peri that this reviewer found the story didn’t gel as well as it might have although the relationship does show a hint of softening towards the end of the story. Also, there are a lot of continuity heavy references as a result of the appearance of ‘Howard’ including mentions of the Master and Kamelion as well as Necros mourning colours. This 42-minute story seems to become a little confused around the midway point when it takes on a rather repetitive Groundhog Day aspect but eventually reaches a satisfactory conclusion. The only disappointment is the slightly dismissive explanation for the central character’s resemblance to Howard, which ultimately serves to set up a final continuity punchline which unfortunately feels rather forced. Nicola Bryant gives a good reading and it will hopefully get to read some stronger stories in future.

Washington Burns (Credit: Big Finish / Mark Plastow)Washington Burns
Written by Julian Richards, directed by Lisa Bowerman, narrated by Sophie Aldred
Released March 2016

This enjoyable short story from Julian Richards opens in July 1814 when the city of Washington was under siege from the British with the rather shocking revelation that Ace has just accidentally shot and killed a horse. It then becomes apparent that we are starting the story in the middle as the action moves back several weeks from Ace’s point of view to Washington in the 22nd century where she and the Doctor are on the trail of a mind parasite known as Cerebra which spreads through transmission of the written word. This is not an entirely novel concept and will call long time Big Finish listeners to mind of the Word Lord but still the threat is well realised within the confines of a single person narrative. There is an initial confrontation between the Doctor and Ace and the parasite’s commanding host body before it manages to escape into a time corridor. The action then moves forward, or rather back, to Ace’s present where it becomes apparent that the Doctor has cleverly infiltrated the British army to ensure that any books in which Cerebra might be hiding are destroyed. The story reaches a sinister conclusion with the suggestion that the parasite may yet have survived but there is at very least a strong suggestion that there is a bootstrap paradox which will result in Cerebra’s presence in the Washington of the future. Overall, aside from the slight misfire of the opening scene, this is one of the strongest and at only just over 30 minutes in more compact stories of the range and all the better for not outstaying its welcome. Definitely a worthwhile listen.





Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 12 August 2016 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories (Credit: Big Finish / Anthony Lamb)
Written By: Mark Ravenhill, Una McCormack, LM Myles, Nev Fountain
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Jemma Churchill (Safira Valtris/Dr Maria Backhouse), Andy Secombe (Laris/Akros/Policeman), Allison McKenzie (Tondra/Dr Joan Dalton), Janet Henfrey (Dr Petherbridge), Jessica Knappett (Dr Ruth Horwitz), Paul Panting (Maylon/Geoff/Llangragen), Anjella Mackintosh (Standing/Olivia), Phil Mulryne (Trobe/Warma), Johnny Gibbon (Michael), Toby Fountain (Young Trobe)
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: Alan Barnes
Executive Producrs: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released by Big Finish Productions - July 2014

Similar to the studio’s recent Companion Chronicles compilations, Big Finish’s Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories compiles together four bite-sized audio dramas, the narratives of which are united by a single thematic strand but otherwise serve as standalone affairs. Yet whereas June’s The Second Doctor Volume One box-set explored the ongoing personal journey of Jamie McCrimmon from aggressive Highlander to a seasoned, educated time traveller over the course of his tenure aboard the TARDIS, this Sixth Doctor-centric anthology takes a far more abstract approach, examining in detail the concept of perception from, quite aptly, a range of perspectives over the course of its two-hour running time.

As ever, rather than simply offering a sweeping, potentially misrepresentative verdict on the overall compilation from the outset, this reviewer shall examine each of the four contributory instalments making up Breaking Bubbles on a case-by-case basis before delivering a few broader thoughts on whether the box-set warrants a purchase at the piece’s conclusion. Read on, then, to discover whether a collection bold enough to base its title on one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory – though without stealing its inspired drug-addled premise or constructs, unfortunately – manages to reach the same colossal highs or falls woefully short of its loose namesake…

“Breaking Bubbles”:

This first instalment’s action commences in an extraterrestrial botanical garden, only for LM Myles to gradually reveal that this rural environment forms but a single section of a prison ship carrying deadly, sentient cargo. Soon enough, the Doctor and Peri find themselves separated as they wrestle with whether the criminal status of Safira Valtris, a former emperor whose deposition from the throne prompted her to lead an illegal coup against her cousin, instantly labels her as foe rather than friend. This, along with the myriad holograms Ms. Valtris deploys to fool the Doctor long enough to halt his progress, in turn kicks the aforementioned uniting theme of perception into gear, albeit with enough subtlety that listeners won’t feel as if they’re being rammed over the head with regular references to the subject matter along the way.

In terms of the performances bolstering this particular outing, Jemma Churchill brilliantly conveys the moral ambiguity of Valtris’ personality, transitioning between her longing for freedom and her willingness to turn violent if necessary effortlessly as and when the script dictates, while Andy Secombe and Allison McKenzie do a perfectly fine job of presenting their police officers as characters whose control of the situation flies out of the window within moments of the narrative starting up, even if their dialogue doesn’t exactly offer them the world to work with aside from one sequence bringing McKenzie’s vengeful Tondra face to face with her prisoner. As for our leading man and lady, although Colin Baker’s Doctor doesn’t serve much of a significant narrative purpose in this instance beyond searching for the now-captive Peri within the ship’s deceptive corridors, Nicola Bryant resultantly gets plenty of time to shine, depicting her oft-dismissed companion as one who’s completely capable of holding her own in the absence of her Time Lord ally, subtly manipulating Valtris so as to ensure both her own survival as well as that of the ship’s other inhabitants.

“Breaking Bubbles” won’t set the world alight and certainly didn’t earn itself many awards for Best Audio Drama back in 2014, but as a morally complex vignette intended to get proceedings underway in psychologically intriguing fashion, as well as a showcase of the enduring performing talents of Bryant along with her memorable one-off co-stars, it’s as fine a storyline as almost any produced by Big Finish to date.

“Of Chaos Time The”:

No, this reviewer hasn’t lost his ability to structure his sentences correctly; in fact, the bizarre syntax of this second instalment’s title factors directly into the piece’s utterly surreal narrative. Right from the off, it’s impossible not to recognise shades of Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow and the sequence involving the Eleventh Doctor regressing through his personal timeline in The Big Bang, as the Sixth Doctor navigates his warped chronology, jumping between his efforts to prevent a potentially catastrophic explosion and his investigation with Peri into an alien hospital for wounded victims of war, all taking place as part of an irksome time loop. One could argue we’ve seen this style of narrative structure before, yet given that he manages to throw Baker’s incarnation into an all manner of stake-laden situations during his efforts to set time back on course, writer Mark Ravenhill certainly can’t be accused of a lack of creative innovation in this instance.

What’s more, whilst too rarely are Baker’s immense talents as an audio performer given due praise, they can’t possibly be overlooked here, since the recent I’m a Celebrity contestant’s latest turn as his Doctor all but holds the tale together, ensuring listeners have a logical through-line to enable their comprehension of the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey events occurring. Just as importantly, though, he displays a level of sympathy towards innocent bystanders that his incarnation only infrequently exhibited on-screen during his 1980s tenure aboard the TARDIS, all but guaranteeing – with the help of Ravenhill’s engaging dialogue, of course – that even those sceptics who couldn’t get on with Peter Davison’s successor and Sylvester McCoy’s predecessor during his televised days will have a riot of a time here regardless.

Anyone looking for a work of science-fiction which realigns their entire perspective on the genre had best look elsewhere, yet anyone who’s often been unsure why the Sixth Doctor’s Big Finish storylines are held in such high esteem compared to their televised counterparts could do far worse than to start with this accomplished sophomore outing.

“An Eye For Murder”:

Based in a women’s college enduring the early days of the Second World War, “An Eye for Murder” tasks the Doctor and Peri with investigating the unexplained deaths of several scientists after a case of mistaken identity leads the principal to confuse Nicola Bryant’s character with a famous contemporary novelist, Miss Sarah Perry, and in doing so hilariously assume the Doctor to be her typewriting, ideally silent companion as opposed to the flamboyant, argumentative charmer fans came to know and – for the most part – adore during his original 1984-1986 tenure at the TARDIS’ helm. This time around, the thematic strand of perception manifests itself via a device capable of rendering objects nigh on invisible, although to reveal much more would be to delve firmly into spoiler territory.

With all of that being said, despite drafting a compelling first half laden with intrigue and poignancy as the war’s commencement in Britain is announced over the radio airwaves, Una McCormack unfortunately botches her standalone plot’s denouement, doing away with much of the impressive subtlety of the opening 15 minutes by introducing an all-manner of clunky sci-fi jargon later on as well as attempting to add substantial stakes to what was otherwise a captivating work of personal drama. Whereas the anthology’s other three stories could easily have formed captivating one-hour spanning audio releases in their own right, that “Eye” wraps itself up in the space of 30 minutes seems like an overwhelmingly merciful move in comparison, which is a crying shame to say the least.

True to form, though, Jemma Churchill shines once again in breathing more life into her character than the flawed script allows, endowing Dr Maria Backhouse with the necessary authority to lead St Ursula’s College through the dark times of this global conflict, with Allison McKenzie, Janet Henfrey and Jessica Knappett providing ample support as doctors Dalton, Petherbridge and Horwitz respectively despite their comparatively minimal airtime. Neither Baker nor Bryant quite receives the same level of accomplished material as what they’re offered elsewhere in the set, but in fairness, their wholly competent turns are – combined with the stellar other performances – more than enough to keep the listening experience feeling relatively immersive, even in spite of the structural flaws at this disappointing third chapter’s very core.

“The Curious Incident of the Doctor in the Night-Time”:

As if it wasn’t already audacious enough to play on the success of Breaking Bad in selecting their latest anthology’s name, Big Finish go one step further here, allowing Nev Fountain to take direct titular inspiration from Mark Haddon’s beloved young adult novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for his contribution. In fact, Fountain evidently has a substantial degree of admiration for Haddon’s work, at least judging by his simultaneous decision to base his narrative around a similarly innocent and inquisitive autistic protagonist whose quest to solve the mystery surrounding his father’s supposed demise – not to mention the appearance of a never-before-seen garden gnome on his family’s front lawn – forms the bulk of proceedings rather than serving as a mere sub-plot to the TARDIS crew’s latest escapades.

Had a complacent thespian taking on this potentially controversial leading role, then “Curious Incident” could easily have come off as downright disrespectful towards members of the real-world autistic community; thank goodness for Johnny Gibbon, then, who offers up by far Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories’ finest performance, perfectly channelling all of the endearing innocence, misunderstood intelligence and emotional fragility that are often associated with the psychological condition with award-worthy accuracy. Working in tandem with Fountain’s layered dialogue – as well as sparring against Baker’s Doctor like there’s no tomorrow – Gibbon goes so far as to offer a profound insight into the mental intricacies of living with autism, yet without ever daring to oversimplify the ramifications such a lifestyle can have for both the individual in question as well as for their loved ones.

Indeed, Fountain isn’t afraid to touch on a wealth of delicate issues such as grief, the feasibility of the conceptual afterlife and human perception of the psychological unknown as his superbly scripted narrative progresses. It’s tough not to resultantly wonder whether “Curious Incident” might have been better suited by a long-form format along the lines of a standard Big Finish title’s one-hour running time or even as a novel akin to Mark Haddon’s equally impactful tome, as opposed to the short story we receive here, yet any work of fiction that leaves the audience gagging for more should equally be applauded more than anything else.

The Verdict:

Despite hitting a snag with its ill-structured penultimate instalment, Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories provides two hours of sure-fire entertainment which are bound to satisfy both long-term Sixth Doctor devotees as well as those who want to warm to Baker’s divisive incarnation all these years later. “Curious Incident” ranks without question as the anthology’s finest hour, but it’s testament to both the writing talents of Myles and Ravenhill as well as the stellar turns offered by Baker, Bryant and their wealth of accomplished supporting players that “Breaking Bubbles” and “Of Chaos Time The” alike still impress in almost equal measure, thereby making the collection as a whole more than worth just about any Doctor Who enthusiast’s hard-earned time and cash.






Classic Doctors New Monsters: Volume One (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 9 August 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Classic Doctors New Monsters (Volume 1) (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Phil Mulryne, Simon Barnard, Paul Morris, James Goss, Andrew Smith
Directed by Barnaby Edwards

Starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy,
Paul McGann

Released by Big Finish July 2016, order from Amazon UK

This reviewer confesses to have been pleasantly surprised as to how well the four stories in the box set all work to complement each other and the respective Doctors they feature. When this set was first announced there was a certain amount of scepticism about whether some of the visual gimmicks of the post 2005 creations would translate well to audio. Also, as the behind-the-scenes disc indicates there are only a finite number of “new” monsters which can be included without breaking continuity, as indicated by the presence in the fourth story of the Sontarans which do not seem much different to how they have already appeared in previous Big Finish outings and by the revelation that next year’s volume 2 will only be featuring three “new” monsters across four plays.

This collection gets off to a strong start with 14772’s Fallen Angels which uses the Weeping Angels ability to send their victims back through time to excellent effect as the Fifth Doctor encounters a twenty first century married couple who have fallen foul of an angel in the crypt of a church in Rome and ended up in the fifteenth century where they soon encounter Matthew Kelly’s wonderfully temperamental Michelangelo. Newlyweds Joel and Gabby are well played by Sacha Dhawan and Diane Morgan (unfortunately this reviewer found the latter’s presence reminded him of annoying alter-ego Philomena Cunk) and are clearly intended to remind listeners of Rory and Amy and there are some clear parallels to The Angels Take Manhattan. Overall, the story is very much an homage to Blink and the silent presence of the angels is well-realised through clever use of music and sound-design. None of these stories attempts to offer a genesis account for any of the monsters featured and this is very much to their benefit especially here where the Fifth Doctor is shown very much in parallel to the similarly youthful Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, a role which Peter Davison responds particularly well to.

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is equally well suited to the second story of this set, particularly in the scenes with a courtroom setting. Simon Barnard and Paul MorrisJudoon in Chains is a clever tale which owes a debt to a number of well-known sources such as The Elephant Man and Pygmalion with one of the proto-companions even being called Eliza. Nicholas Briggs shows that the Judoon are capable of being much more than just space rhinos with a funny voice and the central character of Captain Kybo being a wonderfully nuanced performance. There is also a scene-stealing performance to enjoy from another Big Finish regular Nicholas Pegg as the wonderfully arch Meretricious Gedge.

The inclusion of one-off monsters the Sycorax for the third story of this set was initially suprising but James GossHarvest of the Sycorax proves that they have plenty of mileage left. Sylvester McCoy is reunited with former Red Kang Nisha Nayar who gives a great performance as Zanzibar, another great one-off in a collection full of similarly strong characters. There is also great support the rest of the cast, with particular mentions due to Giles Watling as the Sycorax Chief and Jonathan Firth as Cadwallader. This script has a great fast pace which definitely feels as if it could sit comfortably in a post-2005 series.

The set concludes in style with Andrew Smith’s The Sontaran Ordeal, which sits very much at the end of the Eighth Doctor’s life with the Time War beginning to make its presence felt. This is a solid final story which teams up Paul McGann with Josette Simon as Sarana Teel, an unlikely companion who just wants to bring peace to her planet. Her horror as she realises that the impact of the Time War means that there can never be lasting peace is wonderfully portrayed and her final confrontation with the Doctor gives a clear nod towards the inevitable events of The Night of the Doctor. Christopher Ryan and Dan Starkey also give excellent performances as variations on their new series Sontarans. Above all, this final story provides a hint of exciting things to come in next year’s much anticipated prequel to Big Finish’s War Doctor series, The Eighth Doctor: The Time War.

Overall, this is a set of four very different but equally enjoyable stories with too many highlights to mention individually. Based on the form of this collection and most of Big Finish’s other new series titles, the second volume also promises to be something special.