U.N.I.T Series 6- Cyber RealityBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
UNIT: Cyber-Reality (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
R
eleased  May 2018
Running Time: 5 hours

The sixth series of U.N.I.T, entitled ‘Cyber Reality’, sees a return to the format of one ‘blockbuster’ story across four one hour episodes as opposed to the previous series which featured single hour stories only loosely connected. Of course the big bad this time are the Cybermen, though the cover spoils another Who villain who makes his appearance in the final story. The regulars all reprise their roles, with Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, Ingrid Oliver as Osgood, James Joyce as Josh Carter, Ramon Tikaram as Colonel Shindi and Warren Brown as Sam Bishop and the series picks up directly where the previous left of, with U.N.I.T on the hunt of the mysterious auctioneers…

Game Theory- Matt Fiton

‘Game Theory’ opens the series and sees U.N.I.T being put taught a lesson by the Auctioneers who seek to try and attempt to keep them out of their business once and for all. It’s a thrilling series opener, with Kate Stewart and Osgood being forced into a sick game that presents the Auctioneers as a palpable threat and a powerful foe. Meanwhile Warren Brown gets to take the spotlight after being conspicuously absent last series. His role here is an interesting one and although towards the end his segments do tend to get…repetitive, however intentionally so they do tend to drag. Unfortunately, the story is let down somewhat by a semi-obvious plot development but it’s at least interesting. A brilliant series opener and one of the highlights of the set.

Telepresence- Guy Adams

Picking up directly where the previous story left off, the U.N.I.T team are investigating some strange technology that sees’s Osgood, Shindi and Carter embarking, ‘virtually’ into a strange deserted desert-like world. It’s a deliciously creepy tale that is incredibly imaginative in its imagery, with strange metal worms bursting out of the ground and attempting to convert our heroes. There’s a genuine feeling of danger throughout, of something extremely malevolent and dangerous lurking (quite literally) beneath the surface. Of course, the listener knows who the secret rulers of this planet are, but that doesn’t make the build-up any the less effective and I kind of wish we could spend a little more time in this cyber-ruled post-apocalyptic nightmare. Another success for the sixth series of UNIT.

Code Silver- Guy Adams

Again following on directly, Code Silver sees an offshore UNIT base (which we’re told should be familiar to fans of The Sea Devils) invaded by a new breed of Cybermen. Guy Adams really works wonders with the Cybermen here, managing to do the impossible and bring something new to the table. He uses the idea of the Cybermen utilising modern technologies to its logical conclusion and we’re presented with a rip-roaring action fest that features Kate Stewart and Josh Carter trying to compete with a cyber-force that is constantly updating and bettering itself. A rip-roaring adventure.

Master of Worlds- Matt Fitton

Unfortunately, after three incredibly strong stories, what should be the explosive finale ends up being my least favourite. Now as a story, it’s not bad, not bad at all. As a season finale? It’s terrible. Why? A simple reason- the inclusion of the Master. Now I should say that in fact Derek Jacobi was actually my favourite thing in this story, if not the entire box set. This is my first experience of his version of the Master on Audio and he is incredible. Fitton also gives him some incredibly juicy moments but that’s just the problem. The Master is introduced only in this story and suddenly all the attention is on him. The result is that the other elements that have been built up throughout this series (and to an extent the last) are suddenly pushed aside. Indeed one particular element that felt should have been central to the plot had about two minutes and was dealt with in at least thirty seconds of those. It’s a shame really as the Master elements are the best part of this story but they result in a weak finale to the set. Big Finish really should have held off and had the Master as the villain for an entire series.

All in an all another amazing set of stories. Unfortunately, the last episode does let it down somewhat but it’s still an amazing set of audio dramas and whilst it may not work as a series finale, it still works as a brilliant showdown between UNIT and The Master.






The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2 (Credit: Big Finish)Writer: Guy AdamsDan StarkeyJustin Richards
Director: Ken BentleyNicholas Briggs
Featuring: Tom BakerLouise JamesonGabriel Woolf
Released on:  May 2018
[Big Finish Release]

Running Time: 240 minutes

THE SHADOW OF LONDON by Justin Richards

"Good grief - it looks as if we are too late..."

 

The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship's library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.

But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians... whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.

Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild... and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.

Whilst listening to The Shadow of London, with the Doctor and Lela wandering around the uncannily quiet streets of London, I was reminded on The Android Invasion. In fact, that very story is fleetingly referenced by the Doctor himself, so it wasn’t just me that noticed the parallels.

This episode has plenty of twists and turns, so I don’t want to reveal too much. I will though say that the monster in this is fantastic. A slobbering, growling, roaring beast that is absolutely perfect for this era of the show. The thought of it stalking you through the empty streets of London is rather unsettling. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on absolute top form. Darren Boyd makes for a deliciously duplicitous villain (or is he?). The story, by Justin Reynolds, could have easily been crafted by the great Terrance Dicks.

The Shadow of London is a great opener to this second part of Tom Baker's Series Seven with Big Finish.

.


THE BAD PENNY by Dan Starkey

 

"Goodbye Edwin...Goodbye!!!"

 

In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite... which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.

When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.

Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.

You can check in... but you can never leave.

As with the previous story, The Bad Penny would not only fit perfectly into season fifteen of the classic show, but it also has a rather repulsive and brilliantly imagined monster - a time feasting parasite, which has created a tear in time that stretches across two hundred years. 

Dan Starkey (who needs no introduction), is on writing duties (and acting duties), and weaves a wonderfully taut story, that could so easily have folded in on itself under the complications of the paradoxes that it creates. The mental image that he conjures of the aforementioned creature is fantastic, all teeth and tentacles, it is something that the budget of the time could never have imagined, but thanks to some fantastic writing, in my mind's eye, it was terrifying.

The cast are all top notch, with the late Keith Barron being the standout as Lord Tulip, a delicious caricature of a working-class man who has been pushed over the edge by desperation.

The Bad Penny is a finely crafted time travel story, with a few lovely twists.

 


KILL THE DOCTOR! by Guy Adams

 

Umm...."Kill the Doctor!"

 

The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the data-stream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.

But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.

Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s data-stream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?

Kill The Doctor follows the familiar pattern of being the first two parts of a four-part story. So when the Doctor and Leela land on Drummond and find that the fashion of choice is Egyptian chic, it doesn’t come as any surprise, as we know that Sutekh himself will be soon making an appearance.

The story’s driving force is Rene.net, - a powerful wireless network that will let Sutekh to convince the population of Drummond to turn on the Doctor. The actual concept of Drummond itself, is quite a modern one, with the population having to rely heavily on handheld phones that are powered by Rene.net. The whole population wandering the streets with their heads down, staring at their phone screen is, of course, a worryingly familiar image.

Sutekh makes his appearance through Rania - The Girl In The Fireplce's Sophia Myles - who plays the tortured soul very well.

The Doctor and Leela are split up quite early in the story. Leela is paired with Kendra, a girl who lives hand to mouth, the Doctor is sidetracked, having to find a new scanner for the TARDIS.

Sadly though Kill The Doctor is more filler than thriller, a taste of what Sutekh can do before the main event that follows. 

 


 

THE AGE OF SUTEKH by Guy Adams

 

"Of course I have a plan.....it involves a screwdriver.....and a LOT of running."

 

The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.

As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.

Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.

A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.

And here we have it. A proper, classic villain taking centre stage in a rematch with the fourth Doctor. Gabriel Woolf is back as the ancient Osiran. who is at first weak, but still very dangerous. Thanks to Rene.net he quickly changes Drummond into the image of Osiris, also transforming the local security team into Osiran Server Robots, who are, of course, disguised as mummies.

The story quickly ratchets up the tension from the opening two episodes, with the Doctor being helped by PC Joyce, who is a wonderfully written character that provides a lot of much needed comic relief, John Dorney is obviously relishing this gift of a role.

The writer, Guy Adams has, with these last two episodes, crafted a fine followup to a much loved, classic story.

 


To sum up - Series Seven, Volume Two of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, carries on the excellent run of stories from the first volume and is well worth your time and money.

 





The Lure of the Nomad (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Lure of the Nomad (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), George Sear (Mathew Sharpe), Matthew Holness (Eric Drazen), Susie Riddell (Esther Brak), Ruth Sillers (Willoway), Jonathan Christie (Captain Schumer), Anna Barry (Juniper Hartigan), Dan March (Varian). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

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

The latest adventure for the Sixth Doctor in Big Finish's Monthly Range is a mildly enjoyable tale. Colin Baker, as always, delivers as the Doctor...but the story around him is average at best.  That is not to say there are not good ideas, but the best idea of the bunch is undercut by the presentation...but  will dive deeper into that in a moment. 

First, the story.  The Sixth Doctor has been adventuring lately with a fellow named Mathew Sharpe.  The two have been traveling for a bit, but the Doctor thinks it may be time for their adventures to come to a close. Before he takes Mathew home though, they answer a distress signal.  They end up on a big ship in space being renovated into some kind of resort, but the creatures in tentacle robot suits that are renovating it begin killing people. The question is why? 

It's all standard Who stuff, and it isn't really told in any new interesting way.  That isn't to say it can't be entertaining, but it certainly keeps it from being terribly memorable.  The best element of the story, for me, was also a bit of a letdown.  So...SPOILERS AHEAD:

The problem with the big reveal is that it is totally undercut by the fact that we had never heard of this Mathew character before now.  So the big reveal that he is actually an evil alien that was trying to trap the Doctor loses some impact in that we don't know Mathew.  We haven't spent time with him, so the reveal that he is secretly evil isn't too shocking.  As the story progressed I figured he was going to either die or be a villain.  If they had actually lead up to this story with Mathew, it may have had more impact.  But I don't care that the Doctor loses a friend here, because I never met him before this story. I am told they adventured together, but I never experienced it. 

So this is a hit and miss story for me. It doesn't do anything too new or creative, and the most intriguing element...a companion that is secretly evil all along, lacks the impact it may have had if they had actually had a series of adventures leading up to this moment.  Instead it feels like a climax to a story I missed out on. 





Dr Who - Short Trips - Erasure (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 20 May 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Erasure (Credit: Big Finish)

Written & Directed By: Gary Russell

Cast

Seán Carlsen (Narvin)

The Celestial Intervention Agency, a shadowy, unspoken of part of the Time Lord hierarchy. Beloved and loathed in equal measure by various Presidents and High Councils the millennias over. But they serve a very important function: they keep the time lines safe and clear - they do the darker, dirtier jobs that most Time Lords would prefer not to know even need doing.
 
CIA Sub-Coordinator Narvin has always taken his oath to uphold the Worshipful Laws of Gallifrey very seriously. But when he is sent on a mission to investigate the planet Bellascon, even he hasn't reckoned with the force of nature that is the Fourth Doctor, who has - one might say - his own way of dealing with things, and his own views on people like Narvin. But somehow the two must overcome their instincts and work together to stop the web of time being erased forever...
 
With Gary Russell on writing duties, you know you are in for a treat - and Erasure doesn't disappoint. I must admit that I was worried that I wouldn't get Erasure, especially as it features a character that I am not familiar with, but I needn't have worried. There is just enough back story here to cover off any issues that I might have had.
 
The story is narrated by Sean Carlsen who plays the Celestial Intervention Agency's Sub-Commander Narvin, as he recounts a meeting with the Doctor and Adric to Leela. Narvin isn't the Doctors biggest fan, and the story finds them thrust together in a rather desperate situation.
 
Carlsen is a fantastic storyteller who captures the Fourth Doctor and Adric perfectly. With the CIA involved, and Gary Russell behind the story, things soon get VERY timey-wimey. So much so I had to stop and back track a couple of times - not a bad thing as it proved that I was very invested in the story.
At forty  minutes long, Erasure is somewhat on the long side for this series - but I have to be honest, I could happily have listened to more. Oh - and the cameo at the end was quite a surprise. I might just have to go look up the Gallifrey range.
 
Erasure should definitely be treated with A Little Respect (sorry!), and is available from Big Finish now.




The Christmas Invasion (BBC Books)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 20 May 2018 - Reviewed by Stephen Blenkinsop
The Christmas Invasion (Credit: BBC Books)
Author: Jenny T Colgan
Publisher: BBC Books
Released: April 2018
Paperback: 169 pages

As the second book in the range of new series novelisations (at least in terms of the broadcast chronology) The Christmas Invasion, by Jenny T Colgan, marks the start of the Tenth Doctor’s era.  As such it is a logical choice even though there are arguably many more popular stories from this period, although for me this remained the best Christmas episode for many years until some of the more recent contributions.

This novelisation is a faithful retelling of the broadcast episode with fewer deviations or additional contributions than the novelisation of Rose.  The theme of the story is as much about the Doctor and Rose both coming to terms with the former’s regeneration as it is with battling the Sycorax invasion.  There is a therefore more emphasis on the strength of the relationship that has built up between the Doctor and Rose (and how it is affected by the Doctor’s regeneration) which is explored more explicitly, but there is also a little more background to the Guinevere One team and their relationships.  There’s also rather less continuity here than in the novelisation of Rose although John Lumic, who will crop up in the not too distant future gets a mention, as does the Brigadier.  There are also obvious references to the previous TV episode and with the Doctor’s first encounter with the Slitheen when he last encountered the Member of Parliament for Flydale North, now Prime Minister.

Jenny T Colgan clearly relishes the chance to highlight the threat in this story - the horror of the population literally standing on a precipice around the world is darker here and the shock of those watching their loved ones on the brink is more apparent.  Meanwhile, although he features comparatively little in this story, the energy and enthusiasm of the Tenth Doctor is captured on the page and by the end of the story when he finally “arrives”, that spirit of excitement and the feeling that the show was on the verge of something great really leaps form the page.  She also has fun with the idea that the world of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide could be part of the Doctor Who canon (not for the first time in the show’s history).  The book also features some nice attention to the detail of the era here that serves to date the episode but also frighteningly to remind us of the passing of time since the episode aired - see Mickey connect to the internet using a dial-up connection on a laptop with 512Mb of RAM!

Overall this story is written with a light touch that perfectly evokes the episode and its central characters and won’t leave you feeling as if you’ve overindulged on Christmas pudding.  To top it off, some wonderful chapter titles themed around Christmas songs, a rather touching author’s afterword and another excellent cover by Anthony Dry are the icing on this particular Christmas cake!





Rose (BBC Books)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 18 May 2018 - Reviewed by Stephen Blenkinsop
Rose (Credit: BBC Books)
Author: Russell T Davies
Publisher: BBC Books
Released: April 2018
Paperback: 197 pages

Target is back!  The Target novelisations of televised stories were the mainstay of Doctor Who fans in the pre-VHS and DVD days – the only way to find out about adventures of Doctors you didn’t know existed.  And for collectors, these books were also an essential archive of the show’s past in their own right

Rose is a logical choice to include in the relaunch of the series – it’s not necessarily a fantastic episode (though it is pretty good and holds up well) but it did play such an important role in introducing the show to a new audience.

Like most of the previous Target novelisations, Rose, by Russell T Davies (the showrunner for the TV series as well as writer of this episode), tells the story pretty much as it was broadcast, primarily recounting the story of Rose Tyler and her introduction into the world of the Doctor as they battle the Nestene Consciousness and its army of killer Autons.  As in past books what this novelisation does is add extra depth and background to the characters.  Here, Rose and her boyfriend Mickey’s circle of friends is expanded upon with Mickey’s life story a particularly moving addition.  Extra depth is also provided on Clive Finch and his family, making the resolution of his story here more poignant and even a little threatening.

Another added feature to this novelisation is the generous sprinkling of continuity, not only from the Doctor’s past but also his future.  RTD takes the opportunity to draw on the show’s 13-year extended history, including Rose’s encounter with a strange man on New Year’s Day and the mention of a future companion.  Both of these additions make the interesting point that companions may already have unknowingly been caught up in the Doctor’s world before we get to meet them.  Extra mentions for Bad Wolf and Torchwood, and more obscure references for the eagle-eyed, including plastic daffodils, give the eager fan plenty to look out for – a kind of Doctor Who I –Spy.

As we would expect from RTD the story features plenty of humour, particularly when writing for Rose’s mum Jackie.  There are also knowing references to the episode’s broadcast – most notably a reference to Graham Norton whose voice was erroneously broadcast at a critical point of the episode.  The book also doesn’t try to avoid more mature themes, discretely hinting at the misbehaviour of Bernie Wilson and portraying a modern attitude to sexual difference that the show hasn’t hidden from.

Perhaps the most obvious place where extra material is provided is the climactic battle between the Doctor and the Nestene Consciousness – including an unexpected bluff involving Mickey – but most spectacularly the final battle with the Autons across London, with RTD taking the opportunity to wash MPs away as Parliament is flooded in the aftermath of the battle!  This battle is also more deliciously violent than we see on-screen with some gruesome comeuppances for some of the extra characters.  A significant improvement on the TV story is also, for me, the departure of Rose to travel with the Doctor which is handled more sensitively here.

All in all the story rattles on at a breath-taking pace, despite the extra details, and manages to evoke the spirit and novelty of the revived show but also the comfort and familiarity of the Target range.  The book also features one of the most vivid descriptions of the TARDIS dematerialisation I’ve read. 

The book cover is decorated with an illustration by Anthony Dry who evokes the classic designs of Chris Achilleos and so these books sit nicely, though not identically, alongside the recent classic series re-releases.  With three other titles from the new series also just published I’m hoping (as a reader and a completist collector) that there will be further additions to this range.