The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 6 - Episode 6 - SubterraneaBookmark and Share

Thursday, 29 June 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Subterranea (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Jonathan Morris; Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana) 
Matthew Cottle (Mr Maxwell Wilberforce Bell)
Abigail McKern (Mrs Lucretia Bell)
Robbie Stevens (Mr Jelicho Wigg/ Mr Wilfer Wagstaff)
Jane Slavin (Miss Arabella Wagstaff/ Mrs Betsy Wagstaff)
 John Banks (Silex/ Mr Stoker)

The TARDIS somehow manages to materialise INSIDE a planet, but before the Doctor and Romana have time to work out the hows and whys, they are swallowed by a giant burrowing machine. It turns out the inhabitants of this planet have been forced to live underground, in giant Drill Towns, which are essentially monstrous ships with drills at the bow in which they roam beneath the surface, burrowing for minerals and anything else of use.

Of course though, nothing is simple in the world of Doctor Who, there is also something else lurking beneath the planet's surface - and that is the Silex.......and they are hunting!

Let me start by saying I loved Subterranea. On paper it should be just a simple, straight forward Who story. The TARDIS arrives on a strange planet, there are new aliens. The Doctor and Romana are quickly split up, and must work locally with different factions to overthrow a massive threat. You get the idea.

Perhaps it's that very simplicity of the story that adds to it's appeal. That said, Jonathan Morris injects some fantastic twists into the narrative that lifts the events way above run of the mill, and truly makes them sparkle.

The inhabitants of this planet are mole like people, who to prove how industrious they are speak with northern accents (well, why not? - every planet has a north!). The tech is all very steam punk, evoking a very Victorian time period, and the characters are all very reminiscent of those to be found in a cracking Dickens novel (with names like Maxwell Wilberforce Bell and Jericho Wigg, this does get hammered home somewhat). BUT this world is so believable, which is simply down to top notch writing and a cast that seem to gel perfectly.

The only slight issue with the story is that the treat is very familiar. The Silex are a scavenger cyborg race, somewhat more reminiscent of Star Trek's The Borg, more than our very own Cybermen. The solution to defeating them is, to be honest, a bit mundane (imagine a hive mind running on....shortwave radio), but again, it's about the overall journey. Which is a true joy. For me, this story reminded me of The The Crimson Horror, crossed with The Robots of Death (there are some great sound effects used for the Drill Towns, that will instantly put the listener in mind of a sand miner in Robots of Death) all of that AND a smattering of a certain Jules Verne classic. In my book, not one of those influences is a bad thing at all.

As mentioned, the cast are stellar. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are effortless at evoking Tom's final season, and as always gel together perfectly. The stand out of the supporting cast has to be Matthew Cottle (probably best known for the '90s sitcom Game On) as Maxwell Wilberforce Bell, a jobs worth of a character, who is very proud of his Drill Town, and very much devoted to his wife. Bell's character also provides a fair bit of comic relief to the proceedings. Among the others we have stage and television character actress Abigail McKern, who gives a suitably duplicitous performance as Bell's wife Lucretia. We also have Big Finish stalwarts Robbie Stevens as Mr Jelicho Wigg, and Jane Slavin as the heroic Arabella Wagstaff.

 

Subterranea is available now as a digital download, or audio CD from Big Finish.






World Enough and TimeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 24 June 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
World Enough and Time: Mondasian Cyberman, The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) (Credit: BBC/BBC Worldwide (Simon Ridgway))
Starring Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas
Guest starring Michelle Gomez and John Simm
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Executive-produced by Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin

First broadcast on BBC1, Saturday June 24th, 6:45pm
 

This review is based on a BBC preview and discusses major spoilers from the very beginning

 

From its specially-shot 'A Time for Heroes' promo trailer onwards, Series Ten has raised the question of Bill's fate. And although Steven Moffat's writing is famed for reversing and undoing the loss of key characters, this episode has the feel of something truly irreversible. It's the bleakest and darkest that Doctor Who has been for quite some time, and hopefully it won't provoke audience complaints. But the Mondasian Cybermen are incredibly spooky and unsettling, thanks both to their authentic, old-school voices and the very visible remnants of their humanity. Moments such as a pre-Cyberman intoning "pain" over and over again seem a world away from stereotypical 'children's TV' (either that, or I need to adjust my sense of the stereotype). Bill's predicament is treated in a full-on stylized fantasy mode, though, as if to render it less shockingly 'realistic'. Of course, there was never going to be blood - Doctor Who has to make sure that it doesn't transgress BBC guidelines - but the impressively striking visual of Bill (and us, and the Doctor, and the camera) realising that there was gaping, empty space where flesh and blood should have been was a truly startling sequence. And this in an episode packed with reveals and surprises, right from the pre-titles.

Seeing the Doctor fighting his regeneration suggests that this must be the beginning of a three-parter that will only properly conclude at Christmas. Yet featuring a flash-forward (if that's what it is) to the Doctor's moment of regeneration doesn't quite seem to fit with recent publicity discussions of the regen's "complication" this time round. There must be more to it, I would have thought. And the opening's impact also felt a touch reduced thanks to the game-playing of Lie of the Land earlier this series: is this just another tease and fakeout, or is it the real deal? Hopefully the latter, but in a provisional world of stories and simulations, doubts can linger.

However, there's enough 'meta' and self-referential commentary on show to stock a supermarket shelf's worth of easter eggs; the Master seems passingly familiar with conventions of Doctor Who episode titling, for instance. He prefers 'Genesis of the Cybermen' to World Enough and Time, though is less familiar with the Big Finish story Spare Parts that this appears to supersede in canon. And Missy enjoys teasing her "disposables" (and the fan audience) with tales of the Doctor's "real name", resulting in the fourth wall at times appearing to have a ragged SFX hole punched right through it. Putting Missy and the Master together risks overloading the density of camp quippery, but sadly they share relatively little screen time during this outing.

World Enough and Time: Bill (Pearl Mackie) (Credit: BBC/BBC Worldwide (Jon Hall))For an episode marked by the science of time dilation, there's an odd kind of temporal distortion going on throughout. In effect, 'time' has already passed much quicker in Doctor Who's hype and marketing than it does within the story: we already know that the Cybermen will show up, and that the Master is somehow behind proceedings. Consequently, World Enough and Time frequently feels like an episode striving to catch up with itself, yet remaining focused on almost pure delay (the emphasis on arriving elevators captures this perfectly well, along with the near freeze frames of Mr Razor's TV). This must surely count as one of Who's great set-up episodes. Even the Doctor gets in on the act, settling down to watch with a packet of crisps.  

Despite much grumbling about the recent (final?) series of Sherlock, one thing I thought it did extremely well was to mislead the audience into believing that a particular actor was actually a number of different characters. Prosthetics skill aside, the device is far less successful here. Depending on your facial recognition capabiities and knowledge of past Doctor Who, it may seem fairy obvious what trick is being pulled for the sake of a Masterful cliffhanger, and this aspect struck me as the least well achieved element of the episode. But given how hard-hitting the reveal of Cyber-Bill was, the Master's ornate scheming was always going to be left slightly in the shade, and it could be argued that its "dah-dah, it's me!" daffiness offered a lighter counterpoint to the terrifying narrative of Bill's situation. (As an aside, presumably part of the BBC's strategy behind live-streaming a Pearl Mackie Q&A right after this episode must be to reassure younger audiences that Pearl is fine in real life). And as a lead-in to episode 12, this multi-cliffhanger does its job perfectly.

'New' Doctor Who (though of course, it's not-so-new now) tends to be at its strongest when it intricately melds intimate moments of characterisation and emotion with epic science-fictional conceits. World Enough and Time displays this quality of 'intimate epic' by combining the vast Colony Ship with moments such as the Doctor and Bill discussing his history with Missy. This suffers slightly from the old 'show don't tell' maxim; a lot of the emotional weight behind the Doctor's fateful decision to test Missy's redemption/'goodness' relies on what we are told rather than what we're shown, and on how invested audiences are in the Doctor-Master/Missy backstory. Yes, the Doctor's hope was sharply delineated at the very end of last week's episode, but it still feels as if more emotional scene-setting would have been valuable for the Doctor-Missy storyline. As ever, though, Missy is a joy to behold, and her introductory sequence as she steps out of the TARDIS and shares her newly adopted name is simply brilliant. Michelle Gomez makes the absolute most of Moffat's zinging dialogue, whilst Missy's companions/pets look on, suitably aggravated.  

If the Master-Third Doctor era was marked by the 'UNIT family', then this moment in the show's history also carries a strong familial sense, and not just because Missy's continued presence echoes that of the Delgado Master. Bringing Rachel Talalay back behind the camera for another finale means reassembling a crack team, whilst Bill and Nardole have gelled extremely well across this series, with Capaldi's Doctor undoubtedly benefitting from Doctor-companion relationships designed to World Enough and Time: Missy (Michelle Gomez), The Master (John Simm), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) (Credit: BBC/BBC Worldwide (Simon Ridgway/Ray Burmiston))suit his characterisation. 

Talalay's direction makes the Mondasian Cybermen genuinely scary; the decision not to directly show Bill's partial conversion is also a sound one, as it ramps up the tension when we realise that a cyber chest-unit must have been installed, whilst the eventual 'full' Cyberman emerging from shadows is a memorably familiar sequence. Although the body horror that could have been pursued is dialled down somewhat, the partial conversions' monotone cries of anguish remain bleakly forceful. Who has rarely been this disturbing or this existentially raw. Thankfully, Talalay also has some fun with the time dilation (assuming this wasn't purely an editor's choice), as various sequences cut stylishly in and out of freeze frame. It is only the treatment of Mr. Razor that feels a little curious; he is featured so directly, even in relative close-up, that it's difficult not to discern the stunt being entertained, even though this kind of disguise has a well-established history in the programme. Presumably it was decided, directorially, that it didn't really matter when the penny dropped for audiences as they'd be waiting for the cliffhanger pay-off in any case.     

Given that the 'iconic poster image' for this episode so strongly echoes that from Day of the Doctor, next week's title seems equally likely to refer back to the "Gallifrey Falls" strand of Steven Moffat's overarching plot. Will we see more of the Doctor's regeneration... perhaps even a number of different possible new faces starting to coalesce as the twelfth Doctor progresses towards the thirteenth? This transition has been more of a tease than ever before, and no doubt the showrunner hasn't run out of tricks yet. 

Bring it, as the Doctor would say.





The Eaters Of LightBookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 June 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Eaters of Light: Bill (Pearl Mackie), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) (Credit: BBC/BBC Worldwide (Simon Ridgway))
Written by Rona Munro
Directed by Charles Palmer

Starring Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas

Produced by Nikki Wilson
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin

A BBC Studios Cymru Wales production for BBC ONE

First broadcast 17 June 2017​

This review contains spoilers

CAUTION - Some Spoilers Apply

 

The trio of Nardole, Bill and the ever-developing (and 'reborn') 12th Doctor find themselves in the time of the Roman Empire - a period which previous selves such as the '11th' and '1st' had been in. The location is Scotland, which is long before the times of referendums and Brexit controversy. This also happens to be a land where the current incarnation of the Doctor can speak, and sound like a native).

The story follows a standard modern Doctor Who pattern in having a simple enough foe to face, but mainly showing the characters (both regular and one off), who go through a journey of personal discovery.

There are some similarities to Thin Ice, in terms of exploring the impact of invasion and subjugation of a weaker settlement. The Roman Empire left many a positive aspect over the course of time, but the means to the end were brutal and borderline-animalistic. Bill Potts does good work in pointing out the problems with the system to Kar (one of the valiant Picts).

The exploration of language translation is also pleasing, as this was often glossed over for much of the show’s history (and especially so with the 'psychic paper' device). Bill’s ability to recognise the issue without the Doctor telling her is yet another big step forward in proving how the Doctor needs his companions, just as much as they need him.

Returning female scribe Rona Munro knows how to pace her stories and bring something a little different so that they are a cut above the average in terms of being memorable. Ever since creating the final transmitted Sylvester McCoy story, she has forged a fine career as a playwright.

But something is missing in this episode. I deplored the cheesiness of ‘girl/Vikings in Series 9, and felt it was more akin to a CBBC show (in other words for mainly children under the age of 12). This episode does some good work – especially for the Doctor – but it never comes together with the gravitas of the most successful modern Who tales.

Munro’s premise is fine, but perhaps her partnering the writing team of today sees an awkward clash of storytelling styles. Doctor Who – despite being set anywhere in Space and Time – should always be forward-looking, and this entry is somewhat of a nod back to glories of long ago.

But the season arc continues to gather steam, with Missy's witty remarks being the very best sections. Michelle Gomez simply cannot do no wrong, and displays even more facets to this villainous character. Facets which were never for a moment contemplated by previous writers, when he was in ‘his normal’ form. Now we are getting to the finale and the long-awaited appearance of the (perhaps divisive) John Simm Master. I for one simply cannot wait.

Back to this episode. The production values are decent enough, with the alien being that consumes its victims being especially scary, in concept and visual execution. The guest cast never really present more than the minimum necessary for the stakes to feel relevantly high. I also found both Lucas and Mackie a little flat at times. After such good work from Oxygen onward, this seemed to be a relative come down in their ability to either be funny or conveying ‘normal reactions’ to unusual events. But Capaldi never misses a trick in his ability to translate the words on page he is given. I expect great things from this record breaker (in terms of seniority in the main role), in the ensuing conclusion to a great run of episodes.

Doctor Who is really on song once again, and makes the most of its spotlight during the Spring/Summer seasons.





Doctor Who - The War Doctor Vol 4: Casualties of WarBookmark and Share

Thursday, 15 June 2017 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Doctor Who - The War Doctor Vol 4: Casualties of WarWritten by Guy Adams, Andrew Smith and Nicholas Briggs
Produced by David Richardson
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Productions, 2017
Stars: John Hurt (The War Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Joseph Kloska (Schandel), Julia Hills (Sera/Spokesperson), Mark Elstob (Editor/Old Man), Lizzie Roper (Rosata Laxter/High Minister), Chris Porter (Skaul/Freel), Alan David (Castellan Kanteer), Jane Slavin (Panopticon Guard Lintok), and Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Time Strategist/Daleks/Assault Team Leader)

“I’m the stuff of nightmares! I’m a murderer, a warrior, a demon let loose in the time stream, a man who’s lost his conscience, his friends – even his name!”

The War Doctor

The latest – and possibly last – instalment in Big Finish’s The War Doctor saga, Casualties of War, has an unintentional poignant edge to it – it is the last Doctor Who-related work of the late, great Sir John Hurt. Hurt delivers such a lively, commanding, sometimes weary and at other times profound portrayal that it is hard to believe the owner of that distinctive, gravelly voice will no longer entertain us with his gift. As co-star Louise Jameson remarks in the CD extras, his voice is “perfect for audio … so full of character and a life lived!”

Hurt clearly enjoyed doing drama on audio; he could project his wonderful voice and deliver some great oratory. Indeed, in an interview with BF supremo Nick Briggs (that is available as part of a tribute podcast that BF released not long after his death), Hurt talked about the advantages of radio drama over television and the theatre.

“I love sound for a start,” he told Briggs. “I’ve always enjoyed voice work, I’ve always enjoyed doing radio, I think, because it’s very akin to film and less akin to stage … You can cut between this time, that time … You can play with it the same way you can in film but it’s more immediate. You have to have a sensibility for it, you have to hear it in your head, you have to know what your voice is sounding like and how it comes across.”  There is no doubt that Hurt was in his element in The War Doctor saga and in BF’s adaptation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Despite Hurt’s dedication to his art, Casualties of War won’t ever be a tour de force, nor is it the best of BF’s four War Doctor volumes. However, it would be unfair to judge it too harshly in the context of Hurt’s passing. It is an entertaining collection, and it brings The War Doctor saga to a satisfactory, if somewhat predictable close.

Just as the titles of the last couple of box sets reflected loose themes – eg the lengths to which Daleks and Time Lords alike would go to find an edge in Infernal Devices, and the machinations of third parties in Agents of Chaos – so Casualties of War explores the impact of the Time War on worlds, societies and even other realities unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. The war’s effects through time have been explored in other Doctor Who audios (notably the Eighth Doctor serial The Sontaran Ordeal) but this box set does a sterling job of putting the Time Lords, the Daleks and the listeners on the front line.

Pretty Lies, the first of Volume 4’s tales, largely resumes from where Vol 3 concluded, with the Doctor and Time Lord War Council strategist Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) on the run from the Daleks. In some respects, the story setting is reminiscent of an old Western – as a couple of strangers “mosey” into an isolated township on a remote frontier planet and inadvertently defend it against marauders.

After crash landing on Beltox, the Doctor and Ollistra meet Schandel (Joseph Kloska), a time-travelling war correspondent. Schandel, with the aid of an AI conveniently called Editor (Mark Elstob), has anticipated their arrival and is aware of their roles in an impending Dalek attack on the human township of Fairgill. Reluctantly the Doctor and Ollistra must use their wits and Fairgill’s scant resources to buy themselves time and save as many lives as possible against an all-out Dalek assault.

Throughout almost two decades of BF’s Doctor Who range, we’ve come across a few journalists and war correspondents in its serials (notably in Colditz and The Angel of Scutari). Whereas those characters were largely unlikeable and unheroic, Schandel is clearly naïve. In fact, given his unbridled enthusiasm upon meeting one of his idols – “the legendary Doctor”, “the greatest hero of the Time War” and an “inspiration” – it’s clear Schandel is more of a clueless, overexcited fanboy than a detached journalist. “I’m not normally this giddy!” he confesses to the Doctor. “I really am a bit of a fan!”

There is no doubt that scribe Guy Adams has based Schandel on a variety of Doctor Who fans he’s met but he doesn’t let the character get too out of control. Adams uses Schandel to show, much to the Doctor’s chagrin, how truth can indeed be one of the first casualties of war and how the camera can sanitise war for the sake of entertainment. Indeed, the Doctor is horrified when his words are edited and presented in a context that make him out to be a hero (the one thing he insists he’s not).

Adams devises a clever ruse at the climax which also ties in with his underlying commentary on the wartime role of the media. It’s not necessarily an original climax (indeed it’s very reminiscent of a ruse used to fool Pearce’s former persona Servalan in the Blake’s 7 TV episode The Harvest of Kairos) but it’s effective and dramatic.

The second instalment, The Lady of Obsidian, sees the War Doctor and Cardinal Ollistra again on the front lines of the Time War, as the Time Lords make a stand at the planet Grend. While Ollistra seeks to amass a Gallifreyan time fleet to head off an impending Dalek strike force, the Doctor goes in search of the mysterious “Lady of Obsidian” to recruit her guerrilla faction which is attacking Dalek forces in the sector. It isn’t long before the Doctor realises the so-called “Lady” is in fact his former companion Leela (Louise Jameson). But this is a very changed Leela from the “savage” we knew in the classic era of Doctor Who and indeed in BF’s Gallifrey spin-off series. Her psyche has been scarred  –  both figuratively and literally – by the Time War. While Leela’s affliction – a “time wound” – is not entirely convincing to the listener (anyone else in her position would probably be driven mad by the condition), Louise Jameson turns in a persuasively tortured, anguished, confused and uncertain portrayal. In the subsequent tale, once restored of her faculties, Jameson portrays the naïve, instinctive and curious huntress that we’ve loved for more than 40 years.

In the 2009-10 two-parter The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor spoke of other factions joining the Time War, including the “Could’ve Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres”. Lady of Obsidian writer Andrew Smith delivers a variation on this one-off line, creating the Unlived, hostile beings from a rift in the space/time continuum. While the Unlived, led by the Gollum-like Skaul (Chris Porter), are described by Leela as an even greater threat than the Daleks, they are for the most part unconvincing and one-dimensional. It could be argued the Unlived are meant to be vague beings but that shouldn’t make them caricatures as well.

Just as Pretty Lies borrows ideas from the Western trope, so The Lady of Obsidian draws heavily from space opera influences, notably Star Wars and Star Trek. This is evident in the dogfights in space between Dalek saucers and Battle TARDISes, the Doctor’s recruitment of a cocky former soldier-turned-smuggler, a guerrilla group that hides deep in a nebula (not unlike the Maquis in the Trek spin-off Deep Space Nine) and an “evil galactic empire” (the Daleks) intent on crushing all “non-Dalek life”.

The final instalment – The Enigma Dimension – is also reminiscent of a Star Trek episode (particularly DS9’s opening episode Emissary). Like The Lady of Obsidian, Nicholas Briggs’ script foreshadows significant concepts in the modern Doctor Who TV series, principally the Dalek containment sphere (or void ship) which graced Torchwood One’s Canary Wharf HQ in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. The Doctor, with the TARDIS back in his possession and Leela once more at his side, returns to Gallifrey, to be confronted with a potential threat: the extra-dimensional, non-linear Enigma, a life form unlike any he has encountered before. It is no coincidence that the Enigma arrives as reality on Gallifrey starts to shift; there are reports of “phantom Daleks” appearing in the Time Lord Capitol, portending an imminent invasion. Needless to say, the Daleks’ “prime objective” to win the Time War is more ambitious than mere conquest …

Briggs – who again voices the Daleks, including their deep-throated Time Strategist – quite rightfully resists the temptation to end The War Doctor saga on a space opera tour de force. Instead, he delivers a script that is quite surreal, ethereal and (excuse the pun) enigmatic – but definitely not to the extent that the listener loses track of the story. Indeed, some of John Hurt’s best work inevitably comes to the fore in The Enigma Dimension, particularly in the climactic confrontation with the Time Strategist.

Hurt’s performance is no doubt bolstered by close friend Jacqueline Pearce as Ollistra. As a reluctant sidekick or “helper” (her word for the Doctor’s erstwhile companions over many centuries), the cardinal is the perfect foil for the jaded, cranky War Doctor. No doubt due to her recent travels with the Doctor in Volumes 3 and 4, the character’s disposition has softened since she was first introduced in Only the Monstrous. She even shows signs of altruism. Ollistra passes off defending Grend as being a strategic advantage for Gallifrey that “by a pleasant coincidence … also happens to be the right thing to do”. However, she is also clearly shaken and emboldened enough by Beltox’s fate at the end of the Fairgill engagement to ensure that the Daleks do not repeat their atrocities in the Grend system. Ollistra’s ruthless, calculating streak really comes to the fore in the climax to The Enigma Dimension when, to the Doctor’s disgust, she seizes an opportunity to ultimately turn the Time War in the Time Lords’ favour.

Again, Pearce’s performance cannot help but be compared to her Blake’s 7 alter ego Servalan;  regardless she is an outstanding actor. And while this volume has debunked my theory (first postulated in my review of Vol 2) that “the unhappy woman” (as Leela cheekily calls Ollistra) is not a Time War incarnation of former companion Romana, it is great that Pearce’s Ollistra will continue to be a foil in the forthcoming The Eighth Doctor – The Time War series.

Aside from Hurt, Pearce and Jameson’s outstanding performances, Volume 4 of The War Doctor saga again provides great performances from some of Big Finish’s lesser known artistes – in particular, Julia Hills as Fairgill’s governor Sera and Lizzy Roper as smuggler Rosata Laxter – as well as excellent sound effects and incidental music from Howard Carter. In The Enigma Dimension, Carter’s blending of the iconic Dalek throbbing sound effect (which dates back to the pepperpots’ very first TV appearance in 1963-4) with the incidental track is particularly inspired and foreboding. It’s a masterstroke that Murray Gold has not even attempted in the modern TV series.

While not as memorable as the first three volumes in The War Doctor saga, Casualties of War is nevertheless entertaining and there are plenty of striking moments and performances – not least from Hurt himself. His confrontation with the Time Strategist in the climactic moments of The Enigma Dimension is both humorous and sublime. One moment, the War Doctor is describing the Daleks’ extra-dimensional destructor beam as “startlingly imaginative … Does what it says on the tin, I expect. Hardly surprising from a race of tin cans!” The next he is waxing lyrical about what fear means to him and the Daleks:

Perhaps I do fear ... Perhaps I do but not you yourselves. I fear what you can do. Yes, I fear that – the death, the pain, the suffering, the merciless, senseless destruction of … well, everything that isn’t you! Yes, I do fear that. But as for you, the Daleks fear powerlessness, defeat and in everything and everyone you ever encounter, you see your fear staring right back at you!

Whilst Hurt’s dialogue is extremely well written by Briggs, it succeeds because of Hurt’s wonderful delivery. Some of his final words as the War Doctor are equally as memorable:

We Time Lords have fought too long and too hard to be anything other than warriors … If the Daleks alone were to be destroyed, I think we would find someone else to fight now! I think that’s my real fear – that the war will never end!

Sadly, with Hurt’s passing, such wonderful monologues and dialogue is gone forever. It can only be hoped the great man’s departure doesn’t entirely close the door on the War Doctor’s adventures. BF has announced that the next four volumes of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures will focus on the beginnings of the Time War, which should compensate for the vacuum The War Doctor series leaves. However, why couldn’t there be more volumes of The War Doctor in the long-term? Yes, John Hurt won’t be there, but the absences of the actors to play the first three Doctors and Christopher Eccleston’s self-imposed exile from all things Who have not stopped BF delivering further adventures for each of those incarnations. Hurt’s Doctor shouldn’t be an exception, particularly as Ollistra, Leela and Veklin (Beth Chalmers, who appeared in Vol 1 and also makes a cameo in Vol 4) could all play parts in future narratives.

Hurt’s passing need not entirely mark the end of what has been a great series – and what better tribute could there be than to continue the adventures of a character whose artiste was so beloved by generations of viewers and who will even be long remembered by some Doctor Who fans as the noblest Doctor of them all?



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Torchwood: Corpse Day (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Corpse Day (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by James Goss

Directed by Scott Handcock

Cast: Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Tom Price (Andy Davidson), Hannah Maddox (Angela), Alex Tregear (Jan), Nigel Betts (Glynn), Oliver Mason (Sonny), Rhian Blundell (Marta), Aly Cruickshank (Desk Sergeant), Charlotte O’Leary (Waitress) 

Big Finish Productions - Released May 2017

 

Corpse Day has been one of the most anticipated Torchwood releases so far this year (at least until the news of Aliens Among Us) as it finally sees the return the last of the original UK television characters make a welcome return in the form of Burn Gorman reprising the role of Dr Owen Harper. It can hardly have passed notice that the main reason for it taking so long for Big Finish to complete the set of the original cast is that Gorman has been seen in many other television series including Game of Thrones and The Man in the High Castle to name but two. It is perhaps a shame that this story only sees him teamed up with Big Finish regular Tom Price as PC Andy Davidson as it would have nice to hear him reunited with Tosh or Gwen. Admittedly Price probably has more availability when he’s not reporting for Inside Out West Midlands. However, this story makes a virtue of the fact that its main characters never interacted during the TV series from Owen’s initial greeting of Andy as “PC Not Gwen” to allowing them to develop a rapport over the course of this story. Both have drawn the short straw of being selected for “Corpse Day”, an annual event where Torchwood and the Cardiff police team up to solve cold cases which usually ends in failure and the mystery being inexplicably blamed on the rift. This year however is different as Andy has provided a genuine mystery for Owen to do “the whole Torchwood” on involving missing girls and culminating in some very disturbing revelations.

The irony of this story’s title is further amplified by the fact that these events are set in the aftermath of Owen’s “death” in the TV episodeReset as he is given the opportunity to meditate on life and death. Much credit should also go to composer Blair Mowat for using an excellent arrangement of incidental themes from the TV series which very much convey the feel of episodes from 2008. Gorman has stepped effortlessly back into the role as if he only left the series last year as opposed to nine years ago and hopefully his busy schedule will allow him to return again soon.

Corpse Day is available now from Big Finish and on general release from July 31st 2017






Alien Heart / Dalek Soul (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 12 June 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Alien Heart / Dalek Soul (Credit: Big Finish)
Alien Heart by Stephen Cole
Dalek Soul by Guy Adams

Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Eve Webster (Sonderal), Geoffrey Newland (Elthar), 
Alex Tregear (Theebe), Vineeta Rishi (Falex),
and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Big Finish Productions - Released April 2017

For this year’s trilogy featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in successive releases, Big Finish have abandoned the tradition of three linked stories featuring different Doctors and instead adopted for an experimental change to their regular release format of a four-part story. Alien Heart / Dalek Soul is the first of three releases each fearing two stories told over two episodes, each by different authors.

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole sees the Doctor and Nyssa arrive on the moon of the planet  Traxana, having discovered that ten nearby planets have been mysteriously destroyed by an unknown device. The story takes the fairly-standard approach of separating the Doctor and Nyssa early on so they can interact with other characters. Nyssa ends up on the planet Traxana itself with one of the natives whilst the Doctor remains at the moon’s outpost station with the two investigating crew members. Naturally, the two strands eventually combine to allow the two travellers to be reunited at the stories climax only for there to be a somewhat unexpected cliffhanger. Whilst it may on first listening seem that having promised a stand-alone two-part story Big Finish have cheated a little by setting the scene for what follows, this is by no means a four-part story in disguise.

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams picks up some time after the conclusion of the previous adventure. Nyssa is now on the planet Mojox, working as Chief Virologist to the Daleks and yet she can’t seem to quite recall how she and the Doctor ended up there. The Doctor, meanwhile appears to have undergone something of a personality transplant and is now working as a Dalek agent attempting to infiltrate a Mojoxalli resistance cell. This gives both Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison an excellent opportunity to play against their usual characters as both are given opportunities to show their more ruthless sides. As the clues to what has befallen both characters begin to assemble, this leads to one of the more memorable conclusions of Big Finish’s Doctor Who range and must certainly rank as one of Davison’s best performances on audio to date. Much credit to Adams, who has done great work on several of Big Finish’s other ranges including the Torchwood audios, for giving this well-established team such original material to work with.

Having given the main range a welcome sense of reinvigoration, the next release will offer two new stories for the Sixth Doctor and Flip.

 

Alien Heart / Dalek Soul is available now from amazon.co.uk



Associated Products

Audio
Released 8 Apr 2016
46% off
Doctor Who Main Range: 224 Alien Heart & Dalek Soul: No. 224