New Adventures With The Eleventh Doctor #9 - The Rise And FallBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Eleventh Doctor issue #9 (Credit: Titan)
Writer Al Ewing, Artist Boo Cook,
Designer Rob Farmer, Colorist Hi-fi,
Letterer Richard Starkings And Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt,
Editor Andrew James,,
Assistant Editor Kirsten Murray
Released - March 2015
 

The employees and big wigs of SERVEYOUInc turn up to work expecting just another day at the office, on a world which would more accurately fit the description of an asteroid - except it is full of light, colour. A true embodiment of pizzazz. But individuality and creativity are looking like they might die out.

The sleeping giant that had briefly reared its head  in the science labs is loose and the entire playing board where the Doctor is involved has been reset. This malevolent entity is making a play for power, and the surrounding inhabitants that were utterly dependent on the galactic corporation can only react passively to this dark turn of events

And what of the TARDIS crew who have been going back and forth through time and space with grave fear that they are being stalked? And after the near Armageddon in the Solar System during their last adventure, can they expect any respite that common decency demands?

The answer is simple: No, and there are more trials and tribulations coming en masse.

But the Doctor won't react cagily like some. This time enough really is enough. Spurred on by the disturbing manipulation of Alice by the very-much-'alive' Talent Scout, the Doctor is taking the fight to SERVEYOUInc. Or whatever he finds down on the asteroid...

This latest instalment in the 11th Doctor range builds on the arc that has been so strong and noticeable up to now, (excepting the chronic instabilities of High-Watermark-Issue 6).

Red herrings have been scattered in the readers direction leading up to this latest edition, and it is very organically done when the reader is alerted to who the real enemy is for the Doctor and friends. The final pages and panels are especially riveting as the TARDIS crew have a seeming traitor in the midst, when that would be the last thing they would have come to expect by now.

 

After Warren Pleece's somewhat inconsistent efforts in the previous two issues, we are once again privy to the assured work of Boo Cook. This type of presentation is once again more than ideal - for my money anyway - and really sells the emotional stakes very well.  The sheer fury that the Doctor is trying to stop from erupting is never far away, even when he contrives to make light of the events and people he encounters.

The duo of ARC and Jones however continue to serve the plot first and foremost. They really have lacked the splendid rich character development of Alice, but perhaps there is a planned pay-off which still requires perseverance for these two unique individuals.

The dialogue is full of great moments. A few select gems of our leading rogue Gallifreyan being:

"I’ve made my calls and I’ve done my homework and today this day is the day it comes down. Today......I mean business".

"I’ve spent a thousand years living in a box and stealing most of my clothes. I’ve saved up" (when the Doctor is challenged over finances). 

And the dismissive " Whatever they've done, they’re just... monsters. That's all. Because they don’t have the imagination not to be monsters. They can’t think of any other way than cruel and cowardly".

Al Ewing has been a touch questionable in his consistency compared to colleague Rob WIlliams, but this issue is very strong work and now has convinced me that his earlier plotting choices were well-chosen and will pay off well.

This is an assured and swift read for any true fans of Matt Smith's era, and hopefully Doctor Who fans in general. I never felt like I was having to generate belief in the story, and I managed it in one sitting being left wanting more.  And with such a brilliant cliff-hanger to tantalise, 'more' is certainly coming with the force of a speeding bullet.

 

Bonus Humour 'Tag' Stories:

'Daylight Savings' is a perfectly respectable piece of fun from regular writer and 3D artist AJ. As the clocks move forward at the time of reviewing this issue, it is amusing to see the Doctor have his own issues with units that measure time. And some old 'friends' that were brought to life from Steven Moffat's vast imagination on several occasions make a suitably mechanical impression.

Marc Ellerby conveys a brilliant return to the much-loved quartet of Amy, Rory, The Doctor and River with 'Double Date'. The near-absurdities of age gaps and power relations not being as they should are brilliantly high-lighted with sharp banter and a dollop of awkwardness. The variety of colours for backgrounds help the 2-d sketches feel as lively as AJ's computer wizardry.

 

 





Interview with Nick AbadzisBookmark and Share

Monday, 30 March 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Nick Abadzis

Nick Abadzis  works on the ongoing Tenth Doctor series from Titan Comics. He recently gave an interview to Martin Hudecek of Doctor Who News

 

How exciting is it knowing that there is a couple of other regular series being made with the Tenth Doctor's successors at the same time?

It’s nice to know you’re in such good and esteemed company. I talk to Robbie Morrison and Cavan Scott a fair bit and I admire Al and Rob’s work very much, so there’s a sense that we’re all “keeping the flame.” Apart from the TV show, and all the other spin-off media, I’ve read Doctor Who comics since I was a little kid, so it’s an amazing thing for me to be a part of this.

Where is the 10th doctor at in his timeline? And what impact does this have on the friendship with Gabriella - the new companion you have introduced?

These stories take place after Donna Noble left the TARDIS. They’re how the TV show might’ve continued on TV for a fourth full season of David Tennant in the role of the tenth Doctor. After what happened to Donna, he’s in quite a dark place and very, very cautious about taking on any other long term travelling companions. He doesn’t want to endanger anybody else and that does have a bearing on how he deals with Gabby at first. She has to win his trust, but also his willingness to even see her as a potential friend, because he’s very much aware that just by being with him, she’s in a dangerous position. Initially at least, he doesn’t really trust himself to look after anyone, so any potential companion has to be able to take care of herself.

Did you try and recapture David Tennant's sheer zest, and match it with the type of stories you tell?

To a certain extent, just the enormous energy and joie de vivre David Tennant brought to the role of the tenth Doctor propels a story with its own momentum, because you’re writing for that same character, that same spirit. Any Doctor has his own particular cadences and mannerisms, but you can’t just repeat what you heard him say on TV, because the way he speaks must continue to evolve and be responsive to the situation he finds himself in. While it isn’t exactly easy, I have a good time writing him, because I am very fond of that particular Doctor. Equally, you’re trying to recapture a general sense of the RTD era, of its many layers, without trying to be slavish about it; to continue it and reveal hidden new depths to it. I want to generate new kinds of chemistry for him, with new characters and unfold wholly unexpected directions and mythology.

Of course, any Doctor lives longer and in a more labyrinthine fashion than any of us mere mortals are privy to, but the aim is to shed some light on these hidden moments in the tenth Doctor’s timeline.  As far as I’m concerned he is still very much a living, breathing character and I try to invest in him all that nuance, pathos and fun that David Tennant gave him onscreen, and I am very lucky to have my scripts drawn by Elena Casagrande, who I know loves him even more than I do.

 

Which time zone(s) have you set these stories in and why?

Why, all of time and space of course! Without being facetious, it’s GMT+5 – the east coast of the USA. Gabby Gonzalez is a Mexican-American from Brooklyn, New York City, where the Doctor first meets her. Like Rose, Martha and Donna before her, this means to a certain extent she has a tie to her hometown, so there’ll be a few return journeys to the Big Apple. I’m writing our first “season finale” at the moment, much of which is set there, and it’s epic. 

Are the 'cliffhangers' a big focus for you in the creative process of writing serialised Doctor Who?

I do love a good cliffhanger, probably because I was brought up on them with the classic show. You always try and write in a good reason to make a reader want to pick up the next installment, of course, it’s part of the tradition. 

Are there clear heroes and villains in your stories and why?

My first set of villains are very clearly bad guys, quite singular in their intentions and nastiness, although they are not really responsible for being that way – they were created with a very specific set of traits in mind, to be an invasion force. The villains in the next story are a rather more surreal pair, who came into being entirely by accident, through sheer force of creativity. I’m writing a “big bad” for the final arc this year at the moment who is an entirely different beast again, who is not even a villain precisely. He’s something of a sleeping giant, someone who was best left asleep. He’s quite grumpy when his “alarm clock” wakes him, and he decides he needs the Doctor’s help – help that the Doctor is disinclined to give. From small misunderstandings and demands, drama and a lot of heartache ensues. I like to give all my villains some tiny element of sympathy, so their darkness holds an understandable allure.

Is there a preference for having the Doctor or the companion drive the narrative in the stories?

There are different ways of telling stories, and I try to mix it up so it isn’t all one perspective or another. Sometimes, it’s from the Doctor’s point of view, sometimes the companion’s, sometimes another character’s, even the villain’s. In comics, you do have that luxury, and it isn’t always as jarring a switch as it might be in another medium like TV or the written word, because you float a lot of those changes on the visuals and the pacing. Comics is a language, and a far, far more sophisticated one than some people give it credit for, but as we now live in a world where comics grammar is used on a daily basis, where it’s colonized smartphones and desktop computing, I’d say we were ahead of the game.

Which other tv /film comic books have you done or might do one day?

I’m probably best known for a graphic novel called LAIKA, in the UK for my work on Deadline and a character called Hugo Tate (for readers of a certain age). As well as Doctor Who, I'm also currently working on a project for First Second, the same publisher as LAIKA. It's called Pigs Might Fly and yes, it's about flying pigs. You can stay tuned to my Twitter feed or Tumblr for updates on all my upcoming projects, including the good Doctor. 


What are your all time favourite comic stories or graphic novels? (e.g top 3, top 5)?

This changes all the time. Among perrenial favourites, I’d list:

The Incal – Moebius and Jodorowsky

The Love Bunglers – Jaime Hernandez

Hergé – Tintin in Tibet

Alan Moore and David Lloyd – V for Vendetta

Jack Kirby – 2001 A Space Odyssey

What would you say is the highlight of your comic book career so far?

Winning an Eisner award for LAIKA, and the various other international storytelling awards that came with publication of various foreign editions. Getting to write Doctor Who ain’t bad, either.

Historical fiction has been important in your writing career thus far. If you had a working TARDIS to hand, which past events would you want to visit and why?

“You can’t change history – not one line,” isn’t that right? I suppose I should say that I’d rescue the eponymous central character of my book LAIKA. If I was being a little more self-indulgent, I’d go and see David Bowie live as the Thin White Duke on the European leg of his Station to Station tour in 1976. Maybe nip forward a year and see Iggy Pop on The Idiot tour too, with Bowie on keyboards.

Have you used your own experiences of life in the USA to give life to your stories' characters and surroundings?

Yes. Any storyteller worth their salt uses their own experiences and observations  to bring their characters to life. They say write what you know, extrapolate from what you know and even the strongest flights of fancy, the best imaginative works have to be written so that a character and therefore the reader believes in them. It’s not so much about making it realistic, but making it believable.

Doctor Who: Tenth Vol. 1 hits comic stores on March 25 and books stores on March 31.

 

Amazon UK Link

Anazon US Link

 





Drama and Delight: The Life and Legacy of Verity Lambert by Richard MarsonBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 March 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

Written by Richard Marson
Published by Miwk Publishing
Available April 8th 2015 in paperback and deluxe hardback editions  

Considering Verity Lambert's legendary status in broadcasting history, it's surprising that it's taken this long for a book about her to emerge. An iconic figure in Television - forever known as the smart, beautiful, stylish young woman who cut a swathe through the stuffy cloisters of the BBC as a neophyte producer with a little show called Doctor Who.

Verity's pioneering work on Doctor Who's formative years needs very little introduction. It's already well-documented elsewhere, and was only the beginning of a long and illustrious career. We've seen a glimpse of this part of her story in An Adventure in Space and Time, but right from the off, Richard Marson's excellent biography is keen to point out that the 'soft' Verity as portrayed by Jessica Raine in Mark Gatiss's drama was far from the whole picture. Indeed, friends and colleagues don't remember her for the doe eyes and Roedean vowels familiar to Who fans from archive footage - her 'public' face. They recall a passionate, expansive, driven woman - just as prone to epic dinner parties as she was to thunderous meltdowns. She liked a drink, she smoked heavily, and loved men. She lived well, and lived life to the full. 

 

Marson paints a compelling picture of Verity's life and career, shaped as much by friendships and lovers as by career decisions. Her passionate, but doomed relationship with brilliant director Ted Kotcheff leads her indirectly to work with her mentor, Sydney Newman at ATV, before he sends for her at the BBC to help deliver the problem child of a children's drama he's been helping develop. She puts up with the bitchy whispers about how she got the job, and kicks back against the pipe-smoking boy's club at the workplace to forge a strong reputation. Marson addresses the rumours about Sydney and Verity, and her friends and colleagues chip in with their thoughts - but the jury remains out whether the whispers were right.

 

After Who, Verity's fortunes vary at first, and Newman makes her unhappily take up production reins on a new soap opera before allowing her to work on her preferred project - Adam Adamant Lives!, which turns out to be a fairly fraught experience for all concerned. Nonetheless, Verity sees out the rest of the decade continuing to move forward in adult drama in the party atmosphere of the glass-chinking late-sixties beeb. It's only in 1970 that the party briefly skids to a halt, as Verity's contract at the BBC abruptly ends after an overspend on the prestigious W.Somerset Maugham series.

 

Verity quickly regroups, and moves on to Thames TV and Euston Films, where her career flourishes - but inamongst successes like Budgie or Minder there are bitter feuds over Rumpole of the Bailey and a long, messy court case over Rock Follies. She raises eyebrows with her marriage to the much younger Colin Bucksey - now an acclaimed director of US shows such as Breaking Bad and Fargo

Her later years in charge of Cinema Verity and return to the BBC in the 90s have a slightly thinner hit rate as TV production becomes more diffuse, but not even the debacle of Eldorado could slow Verity down. Cancer first diagnosed and treated in the early 70s returns with a vengeance in her final years, but Verity worked to the end with dignity and courage. In spite of all the personal drama and tensions at the coalface of TV production, there's plenty of fun stories and you get the impression that Verity inspired as well as innovated. She wasn't just respected, but loved. Marson's book is a class act, it doesn't stint on the sometimes scathing nature of its subject - but it presents a balanced portrait of a brilliant, trailblazing figure in broadcasting, the like of which we may never see again. Drama and delight indeed.

 

 





Doctor Who - The Early Adventures - An Ordinary LifeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 March 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
An ordinary life cover

Starring Peter Purves, Jean Marsh, Ram John Holder,
 Damian Lynch, Sara Powell and Stephen Critchlow.

Written By: Matt Fitton.   Directed By: Ken Bentley
Sound Design/Music:Toby Hrycek-Robinson
Cover Art:Tom Webster

Big FInish Productions - December 2014

Whilst safekeeping the Taranium Core, which powers the most powerful weapon in existence, the TARDIS crew are diverted to London in the 1950s. The Doctor has been rendered powerless to move or act and this forces his youthful friends to somehow take the initiative minus his wise advice. Both acquire jobs that get them out of their comfort zone - Steven at the docks, and Sara in the kitchen - and they also have to live frugally and in conditions which bring their comfy upbringings into sharp relief. 

They befriend the Newman family who are trying to establish themselves in Britain having left Jamaica behind. And whilst their new home is one rich in opportunities and resources, its inhabitants are decidedly mixed in the level of open-mindedness and welcome. This means that  Steven and Sara are forced to react to a hotbed of xenophobia - something particularly hard to imagine for a woman used to 40th Century Earth.

But deplorable human qualities are not the only adversary, as it soon becomes clear that the time travellers are late onto the scene of an invasion where people are being kidnapped and used as hosts for a force of non-humanoids. Their intentions being to redefine the dominant lifeform on the planet.

 

This four episode story starts off much along 'pure historical' lines with hints of the paranormal that eventually takes over. Having two characters from the future forced to get their heads round a time full of racism is a great launch pad for this story. In the context of The Daleks' Master Plan, we can reflect that Mavic Chen is not regarded as a villain in any way of his ethnicity, but instead due to his narcissistic and delusional personality.

Steven again is confident in coping with the new and unexpected, which fits his character outline of the 'fearless pilot'. It is also a neat idea to force this skilled man into rather banal manual work, but he still has the ability to work in a team and be unassuming and contrite. He almost gets into too much trouble, standing up for the bullied. The snarl of "You'll get yours Taylor" reverberates in listeners' heads - although Steven is not present for that threat. Billy Flint (Stephen Critchlow) is a fine secondary villain, and certainly disturbing enough in his bigotry. But the themes of prejudice are almost shoved to the sidelines; the emerging story of the hostile alien force with no regard for creed or colour is familiar enough territory and plays out with the usual beats we have come to expect from this type of science-fiction, 

Sara is given some respectable material herself, but doesn't quite stand out in the manner she did in 'Masterplan'. Due to her forthright personality and the attitudes of the other women native to this society, she takes on an 'early feminist responsibility'. This is of some interest as presumably gender politics are barely relevant in the far future she originates from, and where she has a high security rank. The scenes where her military training comes into play somehow end up being more amusing than compelling, and perhaps should have had more thought put into it. Even Jean Marsh does not seem quite sure how to play this one way or the other.

Potential romance with these two companions of the original Doctor is hinted at several times in this new story. Obviously this was not shown overtly in the family show 1965 Doctor Who undoubtedly was. However, this is quite welcome as Jean Marsh and Peter Purves clearly got on back then and still get on now, so it feels quite a natural translation in acting performance by two fine actors

The Doctor being involved quite late on allows for much good material for the companions, but once he really takes charge the character work for Steven and Sara is almost thrown to one side. Also frustrating is that some of the Time Lord's lines are right out of the 'dandy' Third Doctor's speech patterns and feel quite jarring  - even if those two Doctors were two of the more egocentric of the pantheon. Otherwise the plot, the motivations of the aliens and the themes merge well in final stages, after perhaps a slightly clunky transition during the third instalment. 

 

Some naysayers will point out that the total absence of the Daleks is a missed opportunity given the core topics explored in this play. But this should not obscure the achievement of getting two busy actors in Marsh and Purves to work together. Jean Marsh has been in many cult or classic films and is a very compelling actress by any standard. She has not been as involved in spin-off Doctor Who as often as some of the other ex-companions, but still comes across as comfortable returning to her short-lived role. And she might well have thought her effort would be long forgotten back when TV was essentially 'one-off theatre', and in the pre-video era. Purves is a stalwart narrator and does a pretty good Hartnell imitation, if perhaps not the definitive one given the excellent work that William Russell has turned in over the years.

Matt Fitton is a reliable author and shows his skill with the core story aspects that worked for the most part in his 'Counter Measures' stories. The actual enemy in this story is disturbing and unsettling enough, if lacking the sheer groundbreaking nature that was apparent in the Daleks. Also there is some humour sprinkled across which can be engaging and gives life to people who sometimes struggle to act naturally, which is a very human quality and not always used as it should be in scripted drama.

This release certainly helps justify the continued exploration of Doctor Who's black and white days. That was a time when necessity was the mother of invention and many of the strongest aspects that make the show such a juggernaut first emerged. The play is one of the better ones I have reviewed from Big Finish, albeit lacking that je ne sais quoi that defines a sure-fire vintage.

 

EXTRAS: These are rather brief on this occasion with a reasonable mini-documentary where the cast and crew participate in a laid-back chat over some aspects of making this production. Somewhat jarring statements are made concerning the show always needing paranormal aspects or aliens. The Hartnell era had plenty of pure historicals, and some of the best were in Season Three where this play slots in. Otherwise the insights given into the creative process are well-thought-through.





New Adventures With The Tenth Doctor #7 - The Weeping Angels of Mons Part 2Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 19 March 2015 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
The Tenth Doctor #7 (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Daniel Indro
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Colorist: Slamet Mujiono
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer

If the seventh issue of Titan Comics’ ‘New Adventures With The Tenth Doctor’ saga is any indication, then in the case of the Weeping Angels, the eponymous pinstripe coat-wearing time traveller simply cannot catch a break. Thankfully, the character’s struggle to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds isn’t reflected in the text’s quality, since Part 2 of his second comic-book story arc – “The Weeping Angels of Mons” – easily maintains the momentum which its predecessor gained in terms of action, Hammer-esque horror set-pieces and (for the most part) a compelling set of secondary characters.

That said, before delving any further into how these elements combine to form one of the more memorable graphic adventures produced by Titan to date, it bears recognition that those aforementioned supporting players might irk some long-term Who fans given that half of their time seems to be spent inquiring as to what the mythology of the Weeping Angels entails, leading scribe Robbie Morrison to take the opportunity to throw in no shortage of exposition-laden lines of dialogue extracted near-directly from “Blink” and the Angels’ subsequent TV serials. For the scarce number of readers who picked Issue 7 up as a result of nothing more than mild curiosity as to what Doctor Who’s narratives centre on, Morrison’s approach will doubtless provoke a sigh of relief in that he ensures that knowledge of these silent antagonists’ backstory is anything but a prerequisite here, but one has to imagine given the show’s dual longevity and overwhelming popularity (at present, anyway) that most who shell out cash for these miniature tales will find themselves echoing this reviewer’s bemusement at the need for such heavy-handed call-backs to episodes gone by.

At the same time, it’s extremely encouraging to see that the odd instance of needless exposition – and the fairly uninspiring setting, though that’s more a product of the tale taking place in 1916 than anything else – barely detracts from the overall reading experience in the slightest. Whilst he doesn’t leave those who missed Part 1 of “Mons” to completely fend for themselves, Morrison certainly appears to appreciate the need for notably brief yarns such as these to get down to business sooner rather than later, hence his opting to only dwell but fleetingly upon the plight of two Great War soldiers who became stranded on a 19th Century steam-train last issue (in a turn of events which has tragic results this time around) before reuniting us with the Doctor, Gabby and their newfound accomplice Jamie Colquhon – whose all-too-familiar first name is naturally dealt with by the ever-nostalgic Time Lord in a humorous aside – as they discuss with medics, corporals and other officials (each of whom benefit hugely from some intricate characterisation in spite of the relatively constrained running time) how long their not-so-angelic pursuers have spent feasting on the temporal energy of displaced World War One veterans.

Had these exchanges formed the bulk of this (for the most part) gripping issue, then given its scribe’s evident talent for writing dialogue which mimics that of the TV show, few of us would likely have complained, but even so, a few action-packed chase sequences break up the dialogue-heavy scenes in an electrifying manner on a number of occasions. It is here where the series’ resident artist, Daniel Indro, comes into his own, not least by showcasing his ability to depict shattering windows, advancing statues, frustratingly erratic light-bulbs and an all manner of obstacles placed in the TARDIS crew’s path in such a way that one becomes wholly aware of both the immensely unique beauty of the comic-book as a form of pictorial literature and its development to a point where those with sufficient experience can render beloved characters in an uncannily realistic light. Whereas some might dispute the extent to which the Titan version of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor resembles his on-screen counterpart, then, no such questions of representational fidelity need to be asked of Indro’s marvellously authentic take on Tennant’s incarnation or his persistent adversaries.

Even if viewed in isolation, these consistently impactful contributory elements would be considered worthy of plaudits in their own right, yet as they come together on the page, the readership must surely come to realise that both Morrison’s rapidly developing (in spite of its exposition and the familiarity of its premise) period narrative and Indro’s increasingly accomplished accompanying graphics work best by far in each other’s company. As a result, much as Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor appears to be making waves on TV screens across the globe nowadays, in the region of his comic-book escapades, he still seemingly has plenty of work to do if he’s to catch up with his spectacles-donning predecessor in the foreseeable future.

Bonus Humour Strips Mini-Reviews:

AJ treats us to a strip which pays homage to both the days of the First Doctor - via a subtle twist on his contemplation of what it's like to "touch the alien sand" - and the Tenth's encounter with the Vashta Nerada in 2008 with Shadows on the Pier. This innocent skit prioritises excessive dialogue over impressive visuals in order to get across its gags over the course of just six panels, yet does so with surprisingly effortless aplomb.

Rachel Smith's A Rose By Any Other Name, meanwhile, threatens to drive any reader whose tolerance for text language is limited close to insanity by throwing in non-words such as "soz" and "jeeez", but on the plus side, its lighthearted spin on how Tennant's Doctor might have spent his time post-"Doomsday" (when he wasn't busy getting a "Runaway Bride" to the church on time, of course). Although Smith - evidently an enthusiast of 1960s rock - might lose UK readers in namechecking Janis Joplin and needn't have included 'To Be Continued...' (a tag which will more than likely confuse newcomers to the strip) beneath the final panel, hers is a delightfully surreal contribution which only serves to strengthen the final product.





Big Finish - Dark Eyes 4Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 19 March 2015 - Reviewed by Ben Breen
Dark Eyes 4 (Credit: Big Finish)Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Alex Macqueen (The Master), Barnaby Kay (Martin Donaldson), Rachael Stirling (Adelaine Dutemps), Sorcha Cusack (Mary), Dan Starkey (The Sontarans), Susannah Harker (Anya), David Sibley (The Eminence), Beth Chalmers (Kitty Donaldson), Charlie Norfolk (The Woman), Derek Hutchinson (Usher), Alex Wyndham (Thug), Blake Ritson (Barman), Camilla Power (Receptionist/Mademoiselle), John Dorney (Android), with Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
This review will not be the usual attempt to summarise an entire story; such a task is difficult without attempting to create a linear timeline of events.  Therefore, here are my first impressions and conclusions on Dark Eyes 4 to allow you to judge for yourself.  Please note, I will make reference to Dark Eyes 1, 2 and 3, but will try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

4.1 A life in the day
The plot of this initial episode keeps you guessing throughout, with the cast performing admirably, dropping subtle clues to the situation.  It’s hard to see how this whole adventure fits into the rest of the story, but it works as a standalone adventure in its own right.  The action sequences are well handled, with the transitions between multiple locations being smooth and not interrupting the flow of the story.

4.2 The Monster of Montmartre

Those familiar with Dark Eyes’ intricate plotline will be able to find one important link to the rest of the saga even in the opening to this story.  However, things take on much higher stakes for The Doctor and Liv as the mysteries surrounding Paris’ latest new attraction unfolds.  The cast again performs well, with McGann and Briggs emotion-fuelled conversations as glimpsed in the trailer being worthy of note.  The score of the last few action packed scenes builds to a crescendo to encompass a final reveal.  Whilst it was expected, due to the cast list, trailers and the events of the series overall, it was well executed and did not seem clichéd.

4.3 Master of the Daleks

The opening of this story is humorous for reasons that I will not spoil.  The dialog between Liv and The Master is also comedic at points, whilst showing this Time Lord’s confidence as to the grasp of the situation.  References to the events of Dark Eyes 3, which are not entirely elaborated on (possibly so as not to confuse people getting into the story) are made here, with humour still being used in The Master’s dialog.  There are also new series references, which whilst possibly not directly intended, make for good fan service for those familiar with the revival era.  The Daleks are voiced with their usual levels of ruthlessness by Briggs, with the Dalek time controller’s softly spoken tones harkening back to the manipulative schemes of Davros. 

4.4 The Eye of Darkness.

The most noticeable thing about this story is the opening sequence.  Rather, the fact that it doesn’t have one.  The unidentified announcer in the first scene post-introduction is reminiscent of the Drudger from Dalek Empire or The Sirens of time.  Again, the events of Dark Eyes 3 are referenced, with the actions of a certain Professor Markus Schriver being of particular note.  Nick Briggs makes a cameo as a medical assistant, similar to Stan Lee in the Marvel films – if you weren’t listening for it you might not notice it.  The splitting up of characters works well, with events taking a turn for the worse, but signified in a rather unexpected way.  Briggs again plays the role of the time controller with skill, portraying the maniacal desperation and pain as this leader tries to get what he wants; domination of all of time.  The Doctor and Schriver’s wordplay being cut short by the least likely of arrivals is surprising, tinged with a sense that this is definitely not the last large-scale event to occur before the story ends.  This theory is confirmed as events draw to a close with a twist that, whilst being a shocking one, in its own unique way was not wholly unexpected.

Conclusions

The score throughout the entire boxset was well produced, not rising too far above the actors’ dialogue.  The sound design was, as has been the case with the past 3 interlinking Dark Eyes box sets, of a cinematic quality.  The casts of all four stories performed well, with no need for visual aids to convey the emotions that bring these characters to life.

It is still unclear how the opening Story, “A Life in the Day”, ties in to the following episodes, although I do have a theory.  However, I will refrain from elucidating on this as it could spoil important elements of plot.  Regardless of this relatively trivial fact, I would suggest anyone wanting to gain the full experience to start with Dark Eyes 1, 2 and 3 first in order to understand the plot and see the linking references as they appear.  However, in saying that, Doctor Who is one of those rare instances where episodes or story arcs could, hypothetically, be listened to or viewed in an incorrect order and have events still make some degree of sense.  Therefore, for those who are feeling adventurous it may be possible to listen to this well put together collection of stories first, returning to the remainder of the saga afterwards to see the relevance of prior events.  However, I would advise the former approach (listening to all the sets in order) for coherence’s sake.

This is a fitting end to what has been a saga full of memorable moments.  In spite of the events of all four box sets, one question remains: what’s next for The Doctor? According to the announcement at Big Finish Day 6, we’ll find the answer to that question and possibly others in Doctor Who - Doom Coalition







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