The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 4 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 25 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 4 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Moran, Mark Bonnar, Geoffrey Beevers, Michelle Gomez, Derek Jacobi, & Eric Roberts

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous has been an odd set of adventures.  The titular monster of the set doesn't even show up until the final episode of the second box set.  The first boxset was really more about doing a bit of clean-up from the aftermath of Doom Coalition.  It was the third set that really explored the Ravenous storyline for the first time. And now, one set later, we are already wrapping the whole thing up.  

 

As I always do, here I will warn that SPOILERS may be ahead. For those weary, skip out.  If you want to know whether or not you should grab this set: do!  It's a ton of fun and a great conclusion to these adventures.

 

The set opens up with Whispers, which is really just a Doctor Who take on the concept of the recent horror movie “A Quiet Place.” The TARDIS lands on a planet where they must be extra quiet as making too much noise gets then killed by a monster. It’s fine, if derivative. The point of this episode is really to just showcase the dynamic of having the Eleven being a new member of the TARDIS team, and how much distrust Liv still has of him.The events that lead to the ultimate conclusion of Ravenous truly begin with Planet of Dust. The Doctor takes the Eleven to a desolate planet where he can become a hermit and learn to control his other selves. It is quickly apparent, to the audience and it seems just Liv, that the Eleven actually has another scheme up his sleeve.It turns out the Master (in his Geoffrey Beevers husk form) is also on the planet, withholding the planet’s water in an attempt to hold the people hostage, as he searches for the Tomb of Artron. The history of the Husk version has always been somewhat confusing to me, particularly in spin-pff media. I get that he is post-Delgado, but on audio he also seems to appear both as pre-Ainley and post-Ainley. There was also dialogue in this that made me think he might also be post-Roberts...but also some dialogue that made me think he was pre-Roberts. At any rate the best I could gather here is that the Husk keeps returning. He can take on Tremas’ body, but it eventually fails...he can try to sustain himself with the Cheetah people, or turn into a weird liquid snake thing, or steal an EMT's human body...but in the end he keeps reverting back to the husk. And this time even that body is failing. So he is desperate to find Artron’s tomb which may contain some secret to eternal life.The second episode is quite good.  I've not listened to a ton of Big Finish stories featuring Beevers as the Master, but he really is damn good in the role. The story with the Master also sets up the epic two-part finale to the Ravenous line, as the dying Master is devoured by the Ravenous creatures, allowing the Doctor and company to escape. It also throws out any kind of redemption story for the Eleven, as it turns out he was playing the Doctor for a fool all along, and is still a baddie.

The two-part finale, The Day of the Master, makes good on it's title's promise, by giving us three major Master guest stars: Eric Roberts (playing opposite McGann for the first time since the TV movie), Derek Jacobi (who has been KILLING it on audio these days), and Missy (who is also there!).  

The Doctor and Liv were forced to leave without Helen, who somehow disappeared from the planet, and the Doctor decides the best way to find out where the Eleven has gone is to head for to the same planet the Master got his info on the Tomb of Artron. But where he needs to go is too dangerous, so he drops Liv off and leaves her behind, hoping to keep her safe.  And this is where all the Masters come in.  Helen, it turns out, was taken hostage by Missy.  Missy wants to use Helen's knowledge of ancient languages in order to translate some text that should lead to a God.  Meanwhile Liv is quickly rescued not by the Doctor, but by the War Master (though she assumes he is a Time Lord agent).  The Doctor ends up on a planet Kolstan, where he not only finds the ancient Time Lord scientist Artron, but also the "Bruce" version of the Master (let's just call him Bruce to simplify things) from the TV movie, who escaped the Time Vortex and eventually ended up here, on a planet within the Vortex.  

Ultimately the stories all converge with the Eleven and the Ravenous as well.  The Planet Kolstan is within the Vortex, and therefore everyone on it should be ripped apart. Yet a happy lovely people live on the world, the Kolstani.  They have a sort of energy that keeps them alive.  Artron hopes to use it as a key to immortality.  But when Bruce tries to force Artron to give him all of the Energy in order to sustain his own life indefinitely, it all backfires on Bruce when Artron takes all the energy himself to save the Doctor's life and keep Bruce from such unlimited power.  This turns Artron into essentially a God, but a God who feels guilty for what he has done to the Kolstani...as they are deprived of their lifeblood they become hungry for any kind of regenerative energy.  They become the Ravenous...hence their need to feed on Time Lords.  

This set is packed.  I've barely scratched the surface of things packed into it, but it truly does a great job of wrapping everything up.  We understand the origins of the Ravenous, and Artron even solves that issue when the Doctor points out while he has granted one wish to anyone who asks, he has never granted his own wish, to save the Kolstani.  He takes away all his power to give them back the life they once had.  And from there the set leaves the Eleven feeling pretty down, his epic plan having just been toppled yet again.  And while he hopes to team up with a variety of Masters, they kick him while he down by killing his current incarnation (because the Doctor doesn't NEED another arch enemy, they've got that covered!).  This sets up the Twelve that was heard in the Time War sets.  The Masters then go back and restore life to the devoured Husk of the Master from Planet of Dust, giving themselves a whole new future (except Bruce who gets chucked back into the Time Vortex).  While they leave it somewhat ambiguous as to what the new incarnation that succeeds the Beevers Master is, at the moment I am choosing to believe this is where the Alex McQueen version (who was featured throughout Dark Eyes) began...and that he was the start of a whole new cycle of regenerations that lead to Jacobi, Simm, and Gomez. 

Like I said, this is a packed set.  It does a great job of wrapping up a lot of elements from not only the Ravenous series, but also some elements from Doom Coalition as well (like the conclusion of the Eleven).  Whereas Doom Coalition ended with some cliffhangers, Ravenous feels like a proper ending.  It seems Big Finish already has a new series in the works for the Eighth Doctor, Liv, and Helen (only slightly hinted within the story's end, but confirmed in the Behind the Scenes portion). That is nice, that we have more to look forward to, but part of me wishes that the Eighth Doctor could move on from Liv and Helen.  They've been fine companions throughout, but neither has really grabbed me in the same way Lucie or Charley or Molly had.  Then again, Bliss has been a bit of dud over in the Time War sets, so who knows if Big Finish has any more fantastic companions in them for the Eighth Doctor. 

 

At any rate, Ravenous has come to an end.  It was a solid series of adventures, but this ending was big, bold, and a ton of fun. 






5th Doctor - Short Trips: The Second Oldest QuestionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 23 October 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Second Oldest Question (Credit: Big Finish)
Narrator: Sarah Sutton; Cover Artist: Mark Plastow
Director: Lisa Bowerman; Producer: Alfie Shaw
Writer: Carrie Thompson; Script Editor: Alfie Shaw
Executive Producers:Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs Sound Design: Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios

The oldest question in the universe has haunted the Doctor ever since he left Gallifrey. A question that only a few know the answer to. A question that must never be answered.

This isn’t the story of that question. This is the story of the second oldest question. A question that has plagued humanity for millennia. A question which determines whether someone can live or die. A question that must be answered.

So, Carrie Thompson's Short Trips debut is about a chicken on trial for arson in medieval England. Mostly. Sadly this tale is about as exciting as it sounds. 

I found the story to be plodding, which is bad, as being a Short Trip, it's runtime is only forty minutes. Sarah Sutton is great as Nyssa, but I struggled telling her character and the fifth Doctor apart when the dialogue was bouncing between the two. Also the decision to give the simple locals a West Country accent is unimaginative, bordering on offensive - and for Big Finish rather repetitive (I say this as a proud Bristol bloke).

Apart from the interesting play on words in the title, I really didn't care about the answer to The Second Oldest Question. To download the story, please click here.

 

 

 

 


     

 





12th Doctor Short Trips - Dead MediaBookmark and Share

Friday, 18 October 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Dead Media (Credit: Big Finish)
Narrator: Jacob Dudman; Cover Artist: Mark Plastow
Director: Nicholas Briggs; Producer: Alfie Shaw
Writer: John Richards; Script Editor: Alfie Shaw
Executive Producers:Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs 
Sound Design: Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios

Like everyone else in 2017, the Doctor is doing a podcast. Named the ‘People of St Lukes’, the podcast is about the everyday lives of students at the university. Only, with the Doctor involved, the everyday is dangerous and extraordinary.

Something’s lurking in the A/V department, something that is trapped in old equipment… as the Doctor quickly discovers, outdated technology does have a role in the modern world.

That role? Ending it.

 

The story kicks off with the Doctor doing a podcast (something I bet he would do!). The podcast is centred around St Lukes, which places this story somewhere in series 10, to where it is an absolute perfect fit.

An evil recording is a great idea, and here its creepily handled, with feedback repeating your words back to you, but with subtle changes. Nicholas Briggs direction and John Richards writing combine to make Dead Media a truly atmospheric thirty four minutes.

There is a  small 'but', and the but is Jacob Dudman's Capaldi impersonation. Don't get me wrong, it's good - very good, but is not quite there, and I found this quite distracting. There needs to be more gravitas, more richness. Jacob Dudman is a truly fantastic vocal impressionist, and an invaluable find for Big Finish, as he will help move the brand forward. His take on the tenth and eleventh Doctor are literally pitch perfect. I'm hoping that Dead Media is a 'soft' opening for him as Doctor number twelve, and I'm sure that practice will indeed make perfect.

Dead Media is available HERE, from Big Finish. 

 





Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 11 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Dimension Cannon (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Jonathan Morris, Lisa McMullin, AK Benedict, Matt Fitton

Director: Helen Goldwyn

Starring: Billie Piper, Camille Coduri,Shaun Dingwall, Mark Benton

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: June 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

Billie Piper was a key ingredient in the success of the Doctor Who revival.  Her portrayal as Rose was the audience's way into a world that had been closed up for many years.  Through Rose, the audience was discovering the many layers of this universe...the Doctor, the TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, and so many new corners of the universe.  Despite only appearing on the show for 2 series, each with a different Doctor, Rose made a lasting impression. Even after she left Rose's absence was felt until the end of the Tenth Doctor's run.

Despite all that...I'm not the biggest Rose Tyler fan.  Don't get me wrong, she was the companion when I discovered my love for the show, and I was really sad to see her go.  She was so integral to my love of the show, that at the time I didn't know how the show could go on without her.  Obviously it did, and as I then went back and discovered more companions, my love, slowly faded for Rose.  These days, I find her adventures with the Ninth Doctor to be top-notch, but I don't really dig the rapport she developed with the Tenth Doctor. Her return in Series 4 marked the moment I began to sour on the character.  They first re-introduced her as a more mature version of the character. The moment she finally reunites with the Tenth Doctor, however, she reverts back to a whiny teenager with a super crush.  And then rewatching the Second series only reinforced how clingy she was. 

At any rate, Big Finish's latest spin-off series focuses in on Rose and her adventures leading up to her return in Series 4.  Using a device called the "Dimension Cannon" she is jumping to various different realities, trying to find her original home and find the Doctor before the universe ends. It's a decent premise, but some details were majorly flawed which hurt my enjoyment of the set. 

In the opening episode (The Endless Night), Rose arrives in a version of Earth and meets a new version of Clive (a character only seen in her debut appearance, who first tells her about the Doctor), and versions of her parents who only dated a year, never married and never had Rose.  But when their sun goes out, Rose is left with the decision of having to save herself but leave them all behind to die. At least in this episode, she has this moral dilemma and then is taken hostage when this version of Pete discovers her way out.  Unfortunately, the reason for getting caught up in events falls apart in subsequent episodes.

For some reason that I genuinely couldn't wrap my head around, when Rose lands in a new reality, her first order of business is to find her parents and figure out how they are different.  For some reason knowing how they are different will tell her how this version of universe diverged.  This is pretty narcissistic. I suppose she is looking for clues to the Doctor in each reality, but she seems to just always focus in on her parents.  In the second episode (The Flood) she lands in a version of Earth that has been raining for 30 years and instead of Pete and Jackie having Rose, they had a boy named Rob.  Why Rose gets so hyper-focused on her parents when her mission is to find the Doctor doesn't really gel for me. Clive has joined her this time and he seems to be actually trying to look for clues to the Doctor, but he falls in love with someone instead.  Eventually, they leave with no headway truly made.

On her third outing, Ghost Machines, Rose is joined by Pete and they immediately recognize this as not Rose's original Earth and likely not to have a Doctor.  They then don't immediately leave. Rose claims that if they can figure out how the reality changed they can use it as a "signpost" to her reality.  How?  That part is skimmed over as if it doesn't matter...but it is the only reason they are apparently hanging around universes in which the Doctor doesn't exist.  Oh but also they are on a major time crunch...they need the Doctor now...but why not look around a place he clearly is not?  This simple flaw really disrupted my enjoyment of the set.  It could have been as simple as a line about how they can only use the Cannon once a day, so they are trapped in each reality for at least a day.  But they can come and go whenever they like as far as they are concerned.  There is no reason to stay around a version of Earth which seems to be overflowing with graves.

The set closes out with Jackie joining Rose on an adventure...for some reason.  They end up in a world where another planet is going to crash into Earth, and everyone in Rose and Jackie's old stomping grounds is throwing The Last Party on Earth.  It's fine, but despite initially deciding to leave immediately because it is the wrong place, they stick around to get to know everyone they know's alternate versions anyhow.  I'm not sure I see the point in sticking around if they never help, they just feel worse about having to jump universes again. 

I was indifferent to this set. Huge fans of Rose may enjoy hearing some of the old gang (though Mickey is notably absent), but really I had trouble getting into the premise.  Rose gets caught up in the events of these different realities like the Doctor would, but she never really helps things or solves any problems.  She just gets emotionally attached to different versions of her family before leaving them to die on their world and start it all over again.  It felt repetitive, and maybe just one Big Finish Spin-off too far.