The Second Doctor Volume 2Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 August 2018 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
The Second Doctor Volume 02 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writers: Julian Richards, Rob Nisbet, John Pritchard, Tony Jones
Directors: Helen Goldwyn, Lisa Bowerman
Featuring: Anneke Wills, Elliot Chapman, Frazer Hines, Daphne Ashbrook, Louise Jameson

Released by Big Finish Productions - June 2018
Order from Amazon UK

What with Big Finish’s ever-accelerating expansion into new realms of the Doctor Who universe, from boxsets chronicling the exploits of underserved New Series allies to their ambitious work reviving axed spin-offs like Torchwood, it’s often all too easy to forget that the studio’s roots lie in offering classic incarnations of the titular Time Lord a bold new lease of life. How better to remind us of this noble goal, then, than by transporting us back to the 1960s with the latest Companion Chronicles boxset, showcasing Patrick Troughton’s tenure at the helm of the TARDIS in all its monochromatic, bowtie-donning and frequently base-sieging splendour?

Whereas those content to explore Troughton’s televised adventures alone can only – barring telesnaps or the painfully gradual drip-feed of animated reconstructions from BBC Studios – experience but a minute fraction of those serials in their entirety at present, our lives are different to anyone else’s: we’ve got The Second Doctor Volume 2. So without further ado, let’s dive straight into this nostalgia-laced new collection and discover whether there’s life in a bygone era yet or whether, much like the ancient Cyber Tombs of Mondas, some artefacts are better left buried…

“The Curate’s Egg”:

“I’ve walked on the moon. I’ve faced down the Confederates of Brilpoor. But there is nothing, nothing in the universe as exhilarating as riding a dinosaur!”

Had soon-to-be showrunner Chris Chibnall’s 2012 Eleventh Doctor odyssey “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” aired in the Troughton era rather than the dying days of Matt Smith’s, then Julian Richards’ charming opening salvo offers perhaps the perfect approximation of how the story might’ve played out under such circumstances. Dropping the newly-regenerated Doctor, Ben and Polly within spitting distance of a castle populated by cybernetic dinosaurs, “Curate’s Egg” throws caution to the wind, embracing Doctor Who’s frequent flirtations with the fantasy genre through elements as unashamedly ridiculous as mind-swapping gizmos, talking T-Rexes as well as arguably the best canine-themed visual gag of the year so far.

Will it all seem too far-fetched for some listeners? Quite possibly, although Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman – working on double duties here, albeit with Ben only featuring in proceedings for 10-15 minutes at most – do a fine job of keeping events grounded with their heartfelt exchanges as Polly and underappreciated scientist Andrew Clarkson respectively, their joint irritation at society’s efforts to side-line them at every turn adding a welcome emotional core amidst all the prehistoric hi-jinks. Indeed, so brimming is “Egg” with potent concepts – not least the Doctor’s underlying efforts to regain his companions’ trust in the wake of his recent “renewal” – that this reviewer couldn’t help but wish at times that Richards had explored some of them in greater detail over the course of his jam-packed hour, for instance by saving one or two ideas for future scripts instead. Food for thought next time around, perhaps.

“Dumb Waiter”:

“Die, false Doctor!”

Anyone well-versed in the increasingly popular art of the meme will doubtless recall one such trending gag which did the rounds on social media in April, come the release of Marvel Studios’ long-awaited cinematic superhero epic Avengers: Infinity War:

Marvel: “Infinity War is the most ambitious crossover in history.”

Me: “[Insert award-worthy viral response here.]”

Apologies if the experience of reading the last 55 words felt akin to learning a foreign language for the first time, but put simply, Infinity War might’ve just met its match in the eyes of Doctor Who fans worldwide with Volume 2’s sophomore instalment. Just as we’ve seen multiple Doctors cross paths in anniversary specials from “The Three Doctors” to Big Finish’s own The Light at the End in 2013, so too does the audio behemoth’s wide-ranging Who license allow them to bring together companions from differing eras of the show at times, and in this case it’s the turn of James McCrimmon to shine alongside one Leela of the Sevateem. In other words: cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.

Thankfully – not that this should come as any surprise given the levels of acclaim which both stars continue to court with their audio portrayals – neither Frazer Hines nor Louise Jameson disappoint, their hallowed characters’ clash of primal wits so ferociously unpredictable and regularly hilarious that you’ll soon wonder how it’s taken so damn long for this heavenly pairing to occur. That’s for the best too, since the core plot of “Waiter” leaves something to be desired in comparison, its rapid barrage of reality-warping setpieces and convoluted technobabble rendering the TARDIS team’s trip to a deeply sinister garden party even more overwhelming for the audience than it is for the Doctor as his present and future collide before his eyes. Scribe Rob Nisbet has his character drama down to a tee, then, but he’ll still need to work on balancing this with comprehensible plotting in order to craft the next Big Finish masterpiece.

“The Iron Maiden”:

“I suppose that time makes legends of us all…”

It’s worth noting from the outset that Volume 2’s penultimate chapter, John Pritchard’s “The Iron Maiden”, houses all the components of a great Doctor Who serial – intriguing temporal anachronisms by the dozen, an extremely sympathetic central supporting character with whose mind these anomalies predictably play havoc and quite possibly the finest companion of the Troughton years, Wendy Padbury’s Zoe Heriot, taking the initiative as our de facto protagonist this time around. Upon sitting through the credits one hour later, then, imagine this listener’s disbelief at only being left with the following inescapable question: just what went wrong here?

Despite her touching struggle to endure the seemingly endless conflicts of 14th century France, all while realizing that the worst is yet to come thanks to the suspect arrival of First World War technology on the scene, Jo Woodcock’s fascinating prophet-of-sorts Marie is criminally underserved here, lacking much to do beyond trigger the plot with her mysterious visions and prompt Zoe’s occasional epiphanies as she gets to the bottom of the situation. Throw in the disappointing absence of any real suspense – in spite of the deadly weaponry in our heroes’ vicinity – as well as what should’ve been a hugely poignant denouement falling surprisingly flat due to our minimal emotional investment in the ensemble, and “Maiden” unfortunately ranks as the boxset’s weakest link by some distance.

“The Tactics of Defeat”:

“We’re on the clock, Zoe.”

Volume 2, in stark contrast to prior Companion Chronicles collections, opts out of binding its four serials with any ongoing plot threads or recurring thematic beats, such that “Tactics of Defeat” isn’t nearly as burdened with tying up loose ends as The First Doctor Volume 2’s “The Plague of Dreams”, wherein Guy Adams faced the intimidating task of endowing the First Doctor with a more fitting send-off than his abrupt departure in “The Tenth Planet”. If the benefits of this procedural structural approach weren’t already obvious to Big Finish upon commissioning the set, then they’re downright unmissable here, with Tony Jones’ refreshingly understated quasi-season finale proving all the more satisfying as a result.

Not dissimilar to “Curate’s Egg”, “Tactics” pairs Zoe with her supposed Foe from the Future – better known to us as UNIT captain Ruth Matheson. Why the change of moral allegiances on Ruth’s part? Is everything as it seems? Both fair questions, but you won’t find us spoiling the answers here; much of the piece’s appeal lies in the constant twists and turns which Ruth’s mission to recover plague-emitting extra-terrestrial technology from a decaying temple take, not least Zoe’s supposed oncoming demise at the vicious hands of unknown assailants. The latter plot element might appear unthinkable given our foreknowledge of events to come in “The War Games”, yet we’re also well aware by now that “time can be re-written”, and indeed future Doctor Who scribes should keep in mind Pritchard’s tense work here as a prime example of how to put gripping new spins on the well-worn paradox-driven story format.

Come for Daphne Ashbrook’s still-endearing work as the constantly resourceful, inspiringly courageous Ruth; stay for one of the more innovative scripts that we’ve seen enter classic Who’s audio pantheon for quite some time.

The Verdict:

How much you’ll get out of Volume 2 depends largely on what you expect from Big Finish’s Second Doctor productions – if you’re looking for authentic reprisals of the Troughton era’s unashamedly outrageous jaunts into fantasy territory or surreal mind-trips into worlds hell bent on distorting their visitors’ perceptions, then the fifth Companion Chronicles boxset since the range ceased its monthly output will fall right up your alley. If, however, you’re hoping to see the scribes involved push narrative / creative boundaries given their lack of 1960s budgetary limitations, then barring the basic set-up of “Curate’s” and the brilliant “Tactics” in its entirety, the end product mightn’t offer quite as much bang for your buck.

But while we can’t afford the collection with quite the same glowing recommendation as its Chronicles predecessors, rest assured that there’s still plenty of entertainment in store for any Second Doctor fans craving further sustenance after last year’s "The Power of the Daleks" animated rejuvenation. And who knows – if Matt Smith consulted Troughton’s work in “The Tomb of the Cybermen” as part of the inspiration for his portrayal of the Eleventh Doctor, perhaps future stars lucky enough to portray the Time Lord’s allies might follow suit by picking up Volume 2, thereby starting the cycle of legacy anew…






Land of the Blind (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 19 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Land of the Blind (Credit: Panini)
Written by Dan Abnett, Gareth Roberts, Nick Briggs, Kate Orman, Scott Gray
Artwork by Colin Andrew, Enid Orc, Martin Geraghty, Barrie Mitchell, Lee Sullivan
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Available from Amazon UK

In the mid-90s, with Doctor Who off the air for a few years and showing no signs of returning, Doctor Who Magazine Editor Gary Russell tired of the comic strip playing second fiddle to the Seventh Doctor novel series, and decided it was time to change it up. Instead of continuing to have confusing continuities with a book series that possibly not all readers were reading, he decided that the Comic Strip should forge it's own path.  The first step to that was to stop the Seventh Doctor adventures in the strip. This was a bold move, because up to that point the Doctor Who Magazine strip had been pretty much running continuously in a variety of publications, but had always featured the most recent Doctor. Instead, the long running strip would now focus on different Doctor adventures.  Land of the Blind is a collection of the first batch of these comics, and features a story each for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors.

The book opens with the Fourth Doctor story "Victims," which has the Doctor and Romana thwart a plot to take down the Human Empire via beauty products on a Fashionista Planet.  The story here is okay, and the art is pretty bad, but there is a bit of charm to the premise...it is just rushed.  We then move forward the Fifth Doctor who has an adventure on the Moon with some evil Space Cows.  That is just the kind of bonkers premise I like in Doctor Who, particularly in comic form.  Following from there we venture back to the First Doctor with Ben and Polly, in which they battle a giant slug that is eating cryogenically frozen people or something.  It is fast paced and hollow, with little substance. It also doesn't really capture the tone of those early 60s stories.

The next stop is the Third Doctor, who is reunited with his first companion Liz Shaw as they stop a Professor who is using psychokinetic powers to kill his perceived adversaries. This story captures the tone of the Third Doctor era pretty well, and tries to give more detail to the offscreen exit of Liz Shaw from the TV series, which is nice.  The final two stories both feature the Second Doctor.  First up is the titular Land of the Blind and has the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe save a spaceport from some alien overlords who have trapped them there for decades. This is a pretty good story, with a good script and good art.  The last story in the volume is a one-off from a a Doctor Who Magazine special, called "Bringer of Darkness" which is told from the perspective of Second Doctor companion Victoria Waterfield, as she explains of an adventure with the Daleks that made her realize that her time with the Doctor was going to need to end soon.  It is a short but solid piece, with some good character development, including some stuff about the Doctor that surprisingly has paid off in the years to come.

While not the most cohesive period, for the strip, it is an interesting one.  There may not be a uniting factor behind all of the stories, whether that be a single Writer or Artist, or even a continuing plot thread.  But it does have some fun random adventures for these past Doctors. They are all pretty short and light, but that isn't always a bad thing.  Only a few feel like they rush to the finish line. I think this was sort of a lost period for the strip.  The Seventh Doctor had run his course, especially with all the Novel Continuity clogging up the works, and they didn't really find their voice again until the Eighth Doctor would finally launch as the star of the strip. So here is this weird little period, where they are trying to figure out their voice again, and they didn't even really have a regular Doctor starring.  As a bit of a novelty, this volume collects together some interesting stuff.  It may not be the best collection they have put together, but I still enjoy reading these old black and white strips.  





The Enemy Of The World - Special Edition (DVD)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 25 March 2018 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster
Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World (Credit: BBC Worldwide)
The Enemy Of The World
Starring Patrick Troughton as Doctor Who
With Frazer Hines as Jamie and Deborah Watling as Victoria
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Barry Letts
Released by BBC Worldwide March 2018
It's out, and it's about time.

Some five years after its initial release, The Enemy of the World is once again released this month, this time bursting with the features we've come to expect from a BBC Doctor Who DVD and that were notably absent from 2013. Indeed, even the DVD blurb acknowledges this: "Originally rush released shortly after its recovery, there was little time to complete the extensive Special Features typical of archive Doctor Who releases". Well, quite!

So what do we get in what many would say is the "proper" release? Commentary: check. Production notes: check. Photo Gallery: check. An exhaustive making-of: check! The two-disc release also includes an interview with the man behind the rediscovery of this story, Phil Morris, a brief item on the restoration work undertaken in 2013, a tribute to the late Deborah Watling, the Jon Pertwee introduction to the then only existing episode 3 from The Troughton Years, and the original trailer from 1967 that followed The Ice Warriors. You even get a reversible cover so it can happily sit alongside the rest of your DVD collection if you prefer to maintain that consistent look and feel.

However, one thing that certainly isn't consistent is the disc's opening menu! If you've been watching a number of DVDs recently like I have, the absence of the 'traditional' Davison opening accompanying the TARDIS 'arrival' into the main menu is quite a jarring shock, with the sequence being dispensed with in favour of a brief snippet of the Troughton titles leading straight to the menu. I guess I'll get used to it - at least the familiar "roundels" menu has survived!

For the episodes themselves, the DVD boasts of further remastering with modern techniques by Peter Crocker and MArk Ayres - how much of an improvement in picture quality to the previous release I'm not so sure about, but the story looks and sounds very clean, and possibly as pristine as it'll ever be (and a definite improvement to the 480 line i-Tunes cash-in back in 2013...).

I won't dwell over the story itself - after all if you're reading a review then you're probably familiar with the plot(!) - but it is one of those stories that features the change of direction halfway through that transforms the story into something else rather unexpected that I always like in drama. With only episode three as a visual guide for literally decades I hadn't appreciated this change of direction, and it is still a delight to savour now - it's probably no coincidence that the director, Barry Letts, becomes producer of an era full of such twists and turns. The complete serial also allows us to enjoy the characters in all their glory, and more to the point being able to watch the performance of Patrick Troughton in his dual role as hero and villain. I must admit that it still feels like a novelty being able to watch and appreciate the full story, and leaves me eager for more (something that animations can only partially sate!). But seeing Troughton smoking a cigar in episode five as though in competion with Roger Delgado in The Mind of Evil still feels out of place, even though it is of course Salamander puffing away, not the Doctor. How the perception of that enemy of the world's health has changed!

The accompanying production notes provide the usual behind-the-scenes essentials, dates, figures, the development of the story from script to screen, changes to planned dialogue, action, etc., plus of course detail of the cast and crew and related observations. Insights include how several inserts made their way into later stories, how the slick action sequences in episode one were more fraught in production with both a hovercraft mishap and the helicopter very nearly following suit. During episode two it is revealed that there is a mysterious scene included featuring the Doctor and Kent that doesn't appear in the production schedules. And in episode five it is revealed how some of the more excessive blood and violence in the script were restrained in production. Though the production of the story can of course now be digested through reading Volume 11 of The Complete History, here the notes are more practical in illustrating what's currently appearing on screen - for example, In episode four, a practical example of the way in which those recording the programme worried less about the edges of the frame owing to on-screen visibility of the time is illustrated.

The commentary for the story is initially taken up with a lively discussion between Frazer Hines and Mary Peach, joined by Gordon Faith for the next couple of episodes. All change for episode four with Milton Johns and Sylvia James taking up observational duty, before returning to the original duo for the finale. Discussions across the episodes included acting with helicopters, working with Patrick Troughton, actor-come-director Barry Letts, and the delightful Debbie Watling (of course!), acting in the confines of small studios and limited sets, plus Sylvia's explanation of how the crew approached the creation of 2018[1], some 50 years ahead of time.

The commentary was moderated by Simon Harries, who had big shoes to step into following the mighty moderator extraordinaire Toby Hadoke; however he was more than capable of keeping the conversations going and keeping Frazer in check!

 

The Enemy Of The World Special Edition: Treasures Lost and Found (Credit: BBC Worldwide)

The Enemy Of The World Special Edition: Recovering The Past (Credit: BBC Worldwide)

The Enemy Of The World Special Edition: Remembering Deborah Watling (Credit: BBC Worldwide)

The main feature on the second disc is Treasures Lost And Found. Unlike the more usual more straightforward fact-based making-ofs, here Toby Hadoke takes us on a "treasure hunt" for new information on the story in his indomitable style, uncovering "clues" along the way in a similar vein to Looking for Peter on The Sensorites - so it isn't surprising that his accomplice on this mission is researcher Richard Bignell[2]! Along the way Toby (possibly) drank his way through innumerable relaxing teas conversing informally with Mary Peach, Sylvia James, David Troughton, Frazer Hines and Sarah Lisemore, plus several inserts on the making of the story from a 2008 interview with Barry Letts and also a 2011 interview with Deborah Watling.

The informal approach to the documentary meant that Toby took time to chat to his interviewees about more than just their Enemy-specific memories. Mary's extensive career was discussed, including what occured when she met Marilyn Munroe, and David reflected on life with the Doctor and his father's views of acting in theatre - which also highlighted the perceived nepotism of the time with his cameo as a guard in the story, not to mention Frazer's brother Ian, Barry Letts' nephew Andrew Staines and finally production assistant come influential producer Martin Lisemore's wife Sarah, whose interview at the end of the programme turns into its most poignant moment as the treasure is finally revealed.

I did have a couple of niggly issues with the presentation, though: the archive interview of Barry Letts was interspersed with shots of Toby and Richard watching the footage on a laptop, which I found both disjointing and a distraction to hearing what Barry had to say. The other was the "pop-up" message gimmick, which reminded me more of Top Gear style antics (something perhaps not lost on Toby? grin). These were only minor quibbles though, overall the feature is highly entertaining, ably guided by Toby throughout.

With this release being a celebration of its return in the anniversary year, it isn't surprising to find its recovery being featured in the extras. In Recovering The Past, Phil Morris takes us through the journey he undertook in his quest to find missing television, and in particular the trail through Nigeria to his eventual find of both Enemy and The Web of Fear in Jos. The passion he has for his job is obvious from the interview, as is his optimism for future finds He also left us with a tantalising hint of what might be in store in the future...

Restoring Doctor Who is an accompanying piece which documented some of the process in restoring the story from its original off-the-shelf condition to what we can watch today.

Remembering Deborah Watling is a tribute to the actress whose bubbly presence is sadly missed. Featuring Louise Jameson, Colin Baker, Sylvia James, Anneke Wills, and Frazer Hines, Debbie's life and career is followed through the memories of her sister Nicky and brother Giles, with everybody involved reminiscing on her wicked sense of humour, practical jokes, and of course her healthy scream!

The package is rounded off with the brief introduction to the then single remaining episode by Jon Pertwee from The Troughton Years, a trailer for the story from 1967, and the usual photo gallery, plus PDF materials.

 


 

So is the special edition worth buying? It does of course rather depend on whether you are interested in the extra features. If you're only interested in the story then, with this version released, if you haven't already purchased it you might well see the original 2013 version drop further in price in the coming months. If you're only after a commentary then an alternative, unoffiicial release from Fantom Films[3] may be a cheaper option (though there isn't much difference in cost between that and this entire DVD online at present!).

However, if you haven't bought Enemy before then I would certainly recommend this as the version to get. It's just a shame it wasn't presented this way in the first place!

 

Hmm, with all the extensive recovery articles on this release, what's left for the special edition of The Web of Fear ... ?!!

 

[1] The production discussion places the setting of the story as 2017, but a newspaper clipping seen in episode five shows "last year's date" of 26th August 2017, indicating it is actually set in 2018 after all.

[2] I might well be the only person who will laugh out loud at Richard's ringtone!

[3] A notable absence on the DVD commentary is of course the wonderful Debbie Watling, who had left us by the time this package was put together. All is not lost, however, as she can be heard on the alternative commentary from Fantom Films (and you can also get your Toby fix as Master of Ceremonies too!). The CD is still available from Amazon etc.





Doctor Who Cybermen Display StandBookmark and Share

Friday, 2 March 2018 - Reviewed by Simon Moore
Cyberman Stand (Credit: Warlord Games)
N-FX Game Design Studio
Warlord Games
Released January 2018

For many fans of the classic “Doctor Who” Television Series, there isn’t a more iconic image than that of the Cybermen stirring from their lengthy hibernation in the first story of Season Five, “Tomb Of The Cybermen”. Carefully choreographed, with a hauntingly eerie music track and terrific sound effects, the sequence has been burnt into the memory of many a Patrick Troughton devotee since it was first broadcast way back in September 1967.

 

Now, for those wargamers who have long sought both the vault and its striking Cyber-head insignia as an appropriate backdrop for their Cybermen models “N-FX Game Design Studio” have released their excellent-looking “Doctor Who Cybermen Display Stand” as part of the “Doctor Who: Into The Time Vortex” miniatures range by “Warlord Games”.

 

Standing 170mm in height and made of MDF, this rack additionally comes already painted in a bright metallic silver, and despite its several pieces requiring some assembly, the parts fit together so snugly, that arguably no glue seems to be required whatsoever. Indeed, the joints are so tight that I'd actually recommend you don't try to simply push them together using brute strength, but rather cover the separate pieces with a piece of cardboard or some such, and then gently tap them into place with a small modeling hammer.

 

This process really does transform the platform into an extremely stable plinth for your Mondasians, and even though the stand is being advertised by the Nottingham-based company as "comfortably" accommodating nine figures, with three abreast on each row, I'd argue it can easily handle twelve of the silver giants if they’ve been mounted on just 25mm circular bases.

 

Ordinarily, I’d leave a review concerning a simple display stand there, but in this case the detail etched within the frame by “N-FX Game Design Studio” is so good that I’d recommend purchasing a few of them for use as Cyber-platforms within a Cyber-base. One could certainly bring out both the Cyber-head emblem at the rack's top, as well as all the grating and buttons carved into its sides, with just a straightforward black/brown wash (perhaps suggesting age) and subsequent silver dry-brush.

 

Considering that "Warlord Games" are imminently about to release both an actual “Tomb Of The Cybermen” scenic set (also designed/produced by the excellent "N-FX Game Design Studio") and an accompanying set of metal miniatures tied into the classic story, I think a bank of these platforms down one end of the tabletop or perhaps positioned in each corner, would look awesome and add some additional height to any Telosian battlefield...





The Wreck of the World (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 January 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
The Wreck Of The World (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Timothy X Atack
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Cast
Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Judith Roddy (Commander Lorne), Adam Newington (Twenty), Don McCorkindale (Porthintus), Richenda Carey (Professor Blavatsky).
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Originally Released December 2017

The Wreck of the World is a rare case of a Doctor Who episode title both poetic and literal. "The World" is the name of a long lost colony ship, a huge vessel sent out from a dying Earth like a message in a bottle. But its wreck has now been found, it’s crumbling metal bones creaking and shifting in protest as human feet step upon it for the first time in thousands of years. And naturally, one of the first things encountered by the expedition blunt and pragmatic Commander Lorne leads to the World is a funny little crumpled man, a Scotsman and a petite genius in a silvery catsuit.

The mutual suspicions that are the bread and butter of many Part Ones are present and correct here, but done with unusual charm. In particular, the expedition’s resident muscle, Porthintus, is a fun mish-mash of a Kroton, a Klingon, and the archetypical dictionary-swallowing NCO. The double act that emerges between him and Jamie lends an extra spark to the two groups teaming up, as they alternate between trying to beat the hell out of each other (Porthintus doing a little less ‘trying’ and a little more ‘beating’) and a jovial bond between soldiers. In parallel, Zoe teams up with her own opposite number, Twenty, though this is a bit less successful as it hinges on them both being ‘processed’ humans with artificially expanded intelligences and limited emotional range – something perhaps briefly mentioned about Zoe on TV but is depicted here into as essential an element of her character as being Vulcan is to Star Trek’s Spock.

Needless to say, there’s more to worry about than whether Lorne and company are pirates or genuine in their desire to rescue the artefacts of thousands of years of ancient Earth, from ancient Babylonian stones to early 20th century steam trains, and bring them to museums. Soon enough there’s an army of zombies to contend with, as the mysteriously undead occupants of the long broken down cryogenic chambers emerge by the hundred and swarm to overcome our heroes. A keen sense of menace and claustrophobia hangs over the whole story, and scenes of Porthintus, Jamie and Zoe making desperate scrambles through pipes while the former colonists close in, or of games of hide and seek (or hunt the needle) among the shadows and relics of the museum decks evoke the likes of Aliens and Pandorum.

Although, like other Early Adventures, we get narration it’s probably the least unintrusive yet, simply fading into the background for the most part. It takes a little while for Wendy Padbury to warm up to sounding like her four decades younger self, but by the second episode it’s hard to notice any difference and if Zoe seems a little sterner and more remote that’s largely down to a script that emphasizes that aspect of her character above all else. Frazer Hines’ hit-and-miss Second Doctor is sadly back to mostly missing the mark, though that’s largely down to a script that maintains such a high pace throughout that his Doctor doesn’t get as much room for the wit or character moments that Hines excels at.  In compensation, it’s a very good story for Jamie, who really shines here, both in the script and in Hines' good humoured performance. Plus, it has a sweet and melancholic maintenance droid that, with shades of D84 in The Robots of Death, will leave you a bit sad when she doesn’t hop aboard the TARDIS at the end.

All in all, The Wreck of the World is a fine, tense, survival thriller which excels in the sense of atmosphere it creates about the dying World. If some of the cast feel like an alternate take on well established characters, exploring roads largely untaken on screen, then it only distracts a little from an exciting entry in the Early Adventures series which matches the basics of the typical Troughton tale with the scares of a more modern horror film.

 





The Early Adventures: The Morton LegacyBookmark and Share

Friday, 24 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Early Adventures: The Morton Legacy (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast
Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), David Sibley (Josiah Morton), Kerry Gooderson (Jemma Morton), Ewan Bailey (Blazzard / Copeland), Alan Blyton (Dexter).

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released: November 2017

The Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie land in 1860s London (much to Ben and Polly's disappointment that they are not home in their own 1960s), and they soon find themselves trapped when the TARDIS is stolen. They track it down to a man named Morton, who runs a private museum in his home filled with plenty of exotic items...and while it is clear he has the TARDIS, they aren't sure how to get to the workshop where he is keeping it. The plot thickens as there are mysterious deaths around town, with Morton as the prime suspect. The Doctor and crew must somehow keep him out of jail, at least long enough for them to find the TARDIS. So they make an attempt to solve the murders, become increasingly weary of an artifact in Morton's collection, and foil a couple of crooks who attempt to steal from the collection. The story is decent, there are some nice character bits here and there, but I think it is the format of these Early Adventures that holds it back. 

I'm not sure I see the merit in moving halfway between the Companion Chronicles style of "enhanced Audiobook" and the Full Cast Dramas I am (admittedly) more familiar with.  Having narration describe things that could be easily illustrated by one of the characters via creative dialogue seems odd, particularly when the rest of the story is presented like a regular Full Cast Drama. The narration slowed the pace, and while a slower pace makes some amount of sense for a story trying to replicate the 60s era of the show...it just doesn't really flow like an episode from that era, so the whole operation doesn't really work. While I still didn't really enjoy the narration in the Third Doctor boxset, it still seemed to work better than it does here, and in general, it just managed to capture the era's feel much better. Really, when the whole concept of the Companion Chronicles was to skirt around the fact that some actors are no longer with us, it seems odd to then try and move on from that idea and replace actors yet still hold back and do that narration thing. If you're going to do it, go full throttle. 

Up until this moment, I had not yet found any time to give Big Finish's Early Adventures series a real go.  I think the concept is actually really novel.  But while Frazer Hines' vocal inflections often have that Troughton feel, sometimes I found it too hard to distinguish when exactly it was The Doctor that was supposed to be talking.  Clearly Hines is doing his best, and he certainly remembers his old friend's vocal inflections well...but it might have been less distracting or just easier to know who is who by finding a better Troughton impersonator, much as they did in replacing the late Michael Craze with Elliot Smith as Ben (or Tim Treloar's very good Pertwee impersonation from the Third Doctor sets). 

Personally, I found the story hard to engage in, and I really think it is the format of this particular Big Finish range. If the goal is to recreate the tone and feel of the 60s episodes, it doesn't really do that, nor does it feel like a modern and exciting story featuring characters from a totally different kind of era. It is just middle of the road, and there is nothing more forgettable than middle of the road. 

The Second Doctor ranks among my favorites, but it is always going to be hard for Big Finish to ever really capture that spark, when there is no possible way to bring back the man who made the part so fun and alive. 

 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Dec 2017
24% off
Doctor Who - The Early Adventures 4.3 - The Morton Legacy