As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 3 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 14 May 2012

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Volume OneBookmark and Share

Monday, 16 May 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Volume One (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matt Fitton, Jenny T Colgan and James Goss

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Niky Wardley (Bex), Rachael Stirling (Jill Meadows), Rory Keenan (Kevin), Alex Lowe (Soren), Sabrina Bartlett (Cora), Terry Molloy (Rone), Blake Ritson (Rudolph), Alice Krige (Queen Mother), Beth Chalmers (Hortense)

Big Finish Productions – Released 16th May 2016

So finally the most hotly anticipated Big Finish release since their Doctor Who license was expanded to include the new series of 2005-2013 has arrived. It’s been six years since David Tennant left the television series and yet just as he did on TV in the 2013 special The Day of The Doctor, he still effortlessly embodies the Tenth Doctor. Reuniting him with Catherine Tate for three new stand-alone stories set at inexact points during the Doctor’s travels with Donna Noble during the 2008 TV series is an obvious move. Despite, a less than auspicious beginning to their TV partnership in the 2006 Christmas special The Runaway Bride, the Doctor and Donna are still thought of as one of the most fondly remembered partnerships of the post 2005 series and hopefully this set of new adventures will be the first of many.

 

Technophobia by Matt Fitton

“Doctor, stop saying dongle!”

Prolific Big Finish scribe Matt Fitton sets the bar high for the Big Finish debut of the Tenth Doctor. What starts of as a story about Technology taking over develops into a much more sophisticated and sinister plot. The sixty minutes it takes to listen to this adventure whizzes by with similar pacing to the Russell T Davies written scripts of the 2008 TV series. Big Finish does here what it does best in managing to make a story featuring a handful of characters seem epic. Special mentions should go to Niky Wardley as Bex and Rory Keenan as Kevin, both great proto-companion characters. Wardley is no stranger to long-time Big Finish listeners having previously portrayed the Eighth Doctor’s companion Tamsin Drew. It’s also nice to hear Rachael Stirling as Jill Meadows, although it seemed a little strange to have someone so well known in a small role.

 

Time Reaver by Jenny T Colgan

“Somewhere there is a planet of the boys just dancing about in their pants…”

Established novelist Jenny Colgan recently wrote ‘The Boundless Sea’, the opening episode of the well-received first series of The Diary of River Song. For an author with a reputation for writing great historical stories, Time Reaver is a depature in being set at a futuristic space port planet albeit with a distinctly Pirates of the Caribbean atmosphere. For the most-part this story is a swashbuckling romp and as such Howard Carter’s music scoring which clearly seeks to imitate the Murray Gold TV scores really comes into its own here.

Some nice casting again in this story with special mentions to Terry Molloy as Rone and newcomer Sabrina Bartlett as the tom-boyish Cora. As is typical of Colgan’s Doctor Who novels, there are some great moments of pathos intermingled with the action and whilst Catherine Tate tends to get some of the best lines, David Tennant’s parting shot is perfectly judged.

 

Death and the Queen by James Goss

“Are you going to ruin all my weddings?”

James Goss has previously contributed some great audio plays to both Big Finish and BBC Audio, however, perhaps because of the high bar set by the first two adventures, this one didn’t quite seem to gel. That being said, there is still a lot to enjoy. The slightly unusual quasi- fairy-tale setting of Goritania works quite well and the highlights are the verbal sparring scenes involving Donna and the ferocious Queen Mother played by Alice Krige. Blake Ritson is also a welcome addition to the cast as Donna’s intended Prince Rudolph. The inclusion of one of the Tenth Doctor’s trademark “I’ve always wanted to meet you” lines may have long-time Big Finish listeners scratching their heads at an apparent continuity error but this a minor point. Overall, a fun story with some good performances with the highlights being the early scenes where the Doctor plays gooseberry to Donna and Rudolph and the later scenes when the Doctor finds a would-be replacement companion in the shape of the extremely practical maid Hortense played by Big Finish regular (and sometime companion to the Seventh Doctor) Beth Chalmers.

 

Overall, these three stories are a joy to listen to with the first two being particular highlights. Tennant and Tate remain as engaging a team as they did on television and it is hoped that we will hear more from both of them before too long. As already mentioned the soundscapes are well-realised and Howard Carter’s work on the sound design and music ensures that these stories feel very much in keeping with the 2008 television series. On the basis of this and of other recent new series related releases featuring UNIT, River Song and The War Doctor amongst others, it is to be hoped that this is only the start of many new audio adventures for the Tenth Doctor. It’s certainly far from being all over. With the recent news that Big Finish’s license has been extended until 2025, it seems fitting to conclude with a quote from one of last year’s milestone releases: Our future is in safe hands.





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The Fourth Doctor - Series 5 Episode 1 - Wave Of DestructionBookmark and Share

Sunday, 15 May 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Wave Of Destruction (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
John Leeson (K9), Karl Theobald(Mark Lanchaster),
Phil Mulryne (Barnaby Miller), Alix Wilton Regan (Jill),
John Banks (Derek Fretus)

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

I must confess that I am a novice to these new fourth Doctor stories. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, as quite obviously, the years have rather marched on since Tom was featured on my television on an early Saturday evening

I hit play, Baker's classic theme kicked in, I was in heaven. From my point of view, this episode could easily have been called Wave Of Nostalgia.

Indeed, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward do sound older, but their fantastic chemistry is still present, and to also have John Leeson onboard as K9 is pure bliss to this 46 year old Who fan. I found myself quickly forgetting that the actors were older, and their voices had changed a little, instead I was sucked into the story. Laughing at Baker and Ward's excellently written comedy moments (can you imagine Romana handbag shopping?).

The story is actually quite throw away, which if you think about it, is nostalgic in itself, as the dating would place this in season 17, which did of course include the fantastic City of Death, but also included the not so classics The Horns of Nimon and The Creature from the Pit (saying that though - I'm one of the few that love Nimon).

The Doctor, Romana and K9 find themselves in 1960s London, where they stumble into a mystery involving an unconscious Professor, MI5 and a pirate radio station. An alien threat is invading through our transmissions (it's a threat that the fourth Doctor has come across before - if you can name them from that synopsis, give yourself a pat yourself on the back!). Can the Doctor, Romana and K( save the day before it is too late? Of course they can!

For me though,  it wasn't about the story, it was about getting my TARDIS 'A Team' back together. There's intrigue and threat. There's a great cliffhanger. The dialogue is cracking, and very funny, (in a way that is very reminiscent of Douglas Adams) there is also beautifully nonsensical technobabble abound (modulated frequency wave cancellation signal anyone?). 

Along with the three leads, this episode also features Karl Theobald (Plebs) as Mark Lancaster, Phil Mulryne as Barnaby Miller, Alix Wilton Regan as Jill and John Banks as Derek. Wave Of Destruction is written by Justin Richards and confidently directed by Nicholas Briggs.

As well as the main story, this CD/ download also features interviews with the cast and crew. Wave Of Destruction has given me a real taste for Baker's audio adventures, I'm looking forward to the next one.

 





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Ninth Doctor: Issue 1 - 'Doctormania Part One' - (Ongoing Monthly Series)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Ninth Doctor  #1  (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott

Artist - Adriana Melo

Colorist - Matheus Lopes

Letterers - Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Senior Editor - Andrew James

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Gabriela Houston

Designer - Rob Farmer
 

Published April 13 2016, Titan Comics

 

Their epic encounters with the Unon and the Lect now some way behind them, the Ninth Doctor and his two human friends Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness are ready for trials and tribulations anew. A visit to a world, where the cult of a certain "Doctor Who" seems to have taken popular cultural entertainment and its consumers by storm, causes consternation for the last survivor of the great Time War between Time Lords and Daleks. As much as he has a healthy self-regard, he is not prepared to be the cause of such unbridled joy and reverence. But metallic beings with considerable weaponry are also operating close at hand, and this challenge may be up the centuries-old-hero's street to a greater extent.

 

The triumvirate of Rose, Captain Jack and the Christopher Ecclestone variant of the ever-enduring Doctor only had a small clutch of adventures on TV together (especially if taking into account that two-parters were always just the one overall story during that time of the show's history).

The decision to persist with this particular TARDIS team after the success of the mini-series was a wise one and most welcome to my mind. The lack of complete trust the Doctor and Jack have with one another, coupled with a grudging respect ensures that things are never that cosy. Rose's naivety on one hand, but great ability to empathise and give good counsel on the other, make her one of the best companions even to this day. Cavan Scott knows his Doctor Who as well as anyone and makes sure that the three core characters are front and centre and take the reader along with them on their journey full-bloodedly.

 

This is a relatively straightforward and no-frills action adventure beginning, but it also plays out in a coherent and meaningful fashion, which sometimes is a noticeably lacking trait when a TV tie-in product is concerned. The traditional cliffhanger is well done, even if to some long-term fans it trades of the much-used device of having 'an evil version' of one of the regulars.

We meet a good clutch of supporting characters who do their role in fleshing out the latest world the TARDIS has landed on, and it remains to be seen which play the largest role in the plot. Yani and Penny are two intriguing female players in the mix, the former being sweet and deferential, the latter having various hidden layers much alike an onion.

Dialogue is consistently up to the mark that the initial Russell T Davies series of modern Doctor Who was so celebrated for. I have repeatedly stated my regard for the Moffat/Capaldi era we are currently in (even with a noticeably longer season interregnum), but the work of the versatile RTD still sets respectably high standards to this day - whichever of the many forms Doctor Who fiction can take its form in.

The art here perhaps is still to win me over as much as I ideally would like it to. I was very impressed by the combined efforts of Blair Shedd and (on a semi-regular basis) Rachael Stott for the 2015 mini-series. Now, for this new arc taking place within a regular monthly series, Scott has been united with the services of Adriana Melo. Whilst the consistency and textures needed to tell a coherent visual narrative are all perfectly sound, they seem to portray the main three protagonists in a way I do not associate from my various memories onscreen. Taken as a different interpretation in its own right, there is nothing technically wrong. Sometimes a whole story, complete with its visual twists and turns, needs to play out in full for me to truly appreciate its merits. Hopefully this is such one instance in the ensuing 'episodes' to come.

 

BONUS MATERIAL:

 

My many years as a comic addict have involved just as much anticipation with the letters page section (complete with pithy responses from the editors), as with the main comic story itself. So it is welcome that Titan have opted to make views known in this somewhat traditional form, and bestow some small honour on devoted followers of these well-crafted tales. A clutch of three letters is included here this month, although it is actually Cavan Scott himself who kindly responds to comments on the stories he puts so much thoughtful work into.

                                                                                                                ***

Once again there are some nicely done (full-page) alternate covers, and (smaller-sized) previews for next months' allotted selection, and in generous quantity for this inaugural issue. These serve to demonstrate the many artistic voices that can be so finely aligned with the evergreen Doctor Who core concept.

 





FILTER: - COMIC - NINTH DOCTOR

UNIT - ExtinctionBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
UNIT: Extinction (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Andrew Smith, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Warren Brown (Lieutenant Sam Bishop), Ramon Tikaram (Colonel Shindi), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Steve John Shepherd (Simon Devlin), Karina Fernandez (Jenna Gold), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Derek Carlyle (Tim Stevens) and Nicholas Briggs (The Nestene Consciousness).
Other parts played by the cast.

Producer David RichardsonScript Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

UNIT Extinction, is a four part story from Big Finish which takes the characters of Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), the key players in the modern on-screen UNIT, and effectively gives them their own spin-off, as well as introducing some interesting new characters along the way.

 

Episode 1 - Vanguard.

The first episode opens at a great pace while establishing old and new characters on a mission to get a crashed reptilian alien back into space. As the episode progresses, it is clear that there is a bigger threat to Earth. Hundreds of spheres are detected on a collision course with the Earth. A shady business man is launching a 3D printer that uses a new type of liquid plastic....and there are are some scary looking mannequins lurking in the shadows.

 

Episode 2 - Earthfall.

The spheres start to land, and the Unit team quickly identify them as Nestine in origin. There is a frantic race against time to get to a sphere in Bangkok, and an opportunity for one of the team to go undercover.

 

Episode 3 - Bridgehead.

A pattern is discovered as to how the spheres are landing, and Kate is held captive. Meanwhile, all across the world, every 3D printer starts to print shop window dummies that lurch suddenly into life.

 

Episode 4 - Armageddon.

With the Auton invasion in full force, UNIT has to retreat, leaving Osgood at the Black Archive in the Tower Of London. Why are humans being herded into population centres, and what is the Nestine Consciousness's plan? 

 

I have tried to keep my review as spoiler free as possible. UNIT Extinction is such a great listen, and really romps along, I didn't want to spoil it for anyone. The opening of Episode 1 is pretty frantic, and is a good indicator as to what to expect. The action is well handled, and the story has a true international and epic feel to it, with characters nipping off to all corners of the globe. Each episode builds towards a cliffhanger, meaning there is a real feel of classic Who about it.

At UNIT, Kate Stewart and Ingrid Oliver are joined by a truly stellar cast, including Warren Brown (Luther, Good Cop), as Lieutenant Sam Bishop, a heroic field operator. Ramon Tikaram (Happy Valley, Casualty) as Colonel Shindi, a soldier who remembers serving under Kate's Father, and James Joyce (The Musketeers, Downton Abbey) as Captain Josh Carter, an over confident new recruit. Joyce's Carter gets most of the best lines, especially whilst flirting outrageously with Oliver's Osgood, who as I am mentioning her, comes out head and shoulders above everyone else. Oliver's performance is perfect, and will endear Osgood to you all the more.

Other cast members are Steve John Shepherd (Eastenders) as the Howard Hughes like business man Simon Devlin, Karina Fernandez (Pride) as the Devlin's sinister security chief Jenna Gold, Tracey Wiles (Bronson) as the over inquisitive reporter Jacqui McGee and Big Finish stalwart Derek Carlyle as Tim Stevens. Oh - an there is of course a certain Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Nestine Consciousness. This story is produced by David Richardson, directed by Ken Bently, and is written by Andrew Smith and Matt Fitton.

The script is crackling with action and humour, and there are a lot of nods to Who both old and new. The classic, buzzing Auton sound effect is married up with the twisting plastic squeak from the modern era. Devlin's cry of "Destroy. Total destruction." is also another classic nod. However, the best line has to be from the Nestine Consciousness snarling/ gurgling the words "Plasticise the Stewart Woman". 

The story itself is genius. Self replicating 3D printers, liquid plastic, Autons - what is not to like? This truly is an up to date Auton story that could have been written for television.

My only couple of gripes on these episodes would be that there are a few to many Daddy references (yes we know that Kate has a very famous Father - but we really don't need reminding every ten minutes). Also, as much as I am a fan of the character of Kate Stewart, I have never really enjoyed Redgrave's delivery. It always seems so one tone, and that is reenforced here.

So with a great new theme tune, some interesting extras, a thrilling plot and great performances and direction, modern day UNIT arrives on Big Finish with a bang. I'm sure that there will be many more to come.





FILTER: - Big Finish - UNIT

Doctor Who - The War Doctor - Vol 2: Infernal DevicesBookmark and Share

Monday, 9 May 2016 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Doctor Who - War Doctor - Infernal Devices (Credit: Big Finish Productions)

Written by John Dorney, Phil Mulryne and Matt Fitton
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Productions, 2016
Stars: John Hurt (The War Doctor), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), David Warner (Shadovar), Jamie Newall (Co-ordinator Jarad), Zoë Tapper (Collis), Robert Hands (Captain Solex), Oliver Dimsdale (Commander Trelon), Laura Harding (Navigator Valis), Barnaby Kay (Commander Thrakken), Jaye Griffiths (Daylin), Tim Bentinck (General Kallix), Tracy Wiles (Commander Barnac), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

If any single thing could be considered Gallifrey’s deadliest weapon – and greatest hope – then it’s him!

Cardinal Ollistra

After the tour de force that was Only the Monstrous, the first volume of Doctor Who – The War Doctor adventures, the second – Infernal Devices – has some rather large shoes to fill. Whereas the first volume was an epic story told over three one-hour discs (and which had sufficient time to establish and develop its characters and concepts), Infernal Devices is more of an anthology of three distinct one-hour episodes, told by separate writers.

Nevertheless, the three tales contain linking material that comes to a head in the final instalment – again emphasising just how desperate the Time Lords, and particularly the shrewd, calculating Cardinal Ollistra (again colourfully portrayed by Blake’s 7 veteran Jacqueline Pearce), are to seize victory in the Time War, even though such triumph may come at too high a price.

Each of the three tales are entertaining and thought-provoking enough. They land the Time Lord formerly known as the Doctor (“I’ve told you, Cardinal, no one answering to that name here!”) – played brilliantly by the incomparable Sir John Hurt – in a series of inescapable moral quandaries that sow the seeds for the tortured, embittered incarnations that come after him. Hurt’s agonising responses to these dilemmas also illustrate that as much as the War Doctor would like everyone to believe that the Doctor is long gone, there is still more of that persona under the War Doctor’s hardened exterior than even he acknowledges. Other characters recognise that, including Ollistra, who wilfully exploits it.

Boxset opener The Legion of the Lost is an effort by writer John Dorney to tell a Time War-era story that doesn’t specifically involve the Daleks. While Dorney sets out to be original, the story itself is mostly dull and its main antagonists abstract and uninteresting. Even the commanding performance of the excellent David Warner as the sinister, humourless Shadovar cannot paper over the shortcomings of an ordinary story.

A Thing of Guile, while entertaining and thought-provoking in parts, is probably the weakest link in the anthology. As its author Phil Mulryne mentions in the CD extras, the story draws on hints and scuttlebutt about the Time War gleaned from David Tennant’s era of Doctor Who. Certainly, the “weapon” the War Doctor and Ollistra encounter in A Thing of Guile is clearly inspired by Tennant era two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks. However, the core idea is so quickly disposed of that it fails to have emotional impact. Even the climax to the tale – in which the Doctor and Ollistra outwit a Dalek fleet, surely no mean feat – is all too conveniently solved by a deus ex machina and is virtually a carbon copy of the climax to the recent Seventh Doctor/Dalek tale We are the Daleks (a more superior, inventive Dalek tale).

The Neverwhen is the best of the three stories in the boxset. Script editor Matt Fitton’s central idea would be ingenious if it hadn’t unfortunately been surpassed by Heaven Sent, the penultimate episode of Peter Capaldi’s second TV series. While the nightmarish recurring scenario presented in The Neverwhen is very different to the 12th Doctor’s predicament in Heaven Sent, and certainly not as personal for the War Doctor, it is definitely personal and painful for each of the Time Lord/Gallifreyan and Dalek/Kaled soldiers caught in the crossfire.

Doctor Who - War Doctor - Infernal Devices (Credit: Big Finish Productions)What really makes this boxset so interesting, though, is not so much its three distinct stories as its broader themes. We realise not only how interventionist the Time Lords have become but how callous and cold they are about other races in the universe. In The Legion of the Lost, they are prepared, to the Doctor’s disgust, to sacrifice entire races and cultures to replenish their armies. In A Thing of Guile, the Doctor makes the observation that the Time War is pushing Time Lords and Daleks alike towards grotesque behaviour in their pursuit of victory. In the final instalment, Ollistra covets deploying the Neverwhen as a twisted, devastating weapon against the Daleks, despite the Doctor’s warning that it would risk the stability of the time/space continuum.

Indeed, in contradiction of their efforts to rejuvenate their forces, the Time Lords demonstrate a cavalier disregard of their own numbers. Collis (Zoë Tapper) bemoans at the beginning of Legion that she won’t be missed on Gallifrey because she was only a lowly clerk before being pressed into service as a soldier. In A Thing of Guile, Co-ordinator Jarad (Jamie Newell) proves equally as out of his depth when he accompanies Ollistra and the Doctor to a Dalek-controlled asteroid; the Doctor describes him as a “penpusher” who should never have been in the line of fire. Even Jarad’s offsider, Chancellery Guard captain Solex (Robert Hands), discovers he is not as battle-hardened as he thinks he is. Ollistra also demonstrates a patent disregard and manipulation of the Gallifreyan battalions stranded in the Neverwhen, giving the troops hope when she knows there is none.

“You do not have the authority!”

“I don’t need authority – I have a [sonic] screwdriver!”

Co-ordinator Jarad and the War Doctor

The boxset also brilliantly portrays the strained relationship between the Doctor and his own people. It is clear across this boxset (it was hinted on TV in The Day of the Doctor and was more subtle in Only the Monstrous) that, much like his other incarnations, the War Doctor is a maverick Time Lord. In the Time War, he proves as much a thorn in his people’s proverbials as the Daleks. Hurt’s Doctor sticks his nose up at authority, wherever and whenever he can, for the good of races that are likely to be collateral. When he appears in the opening moments of The Legion of the Lost, alongside  Collis, it is quickly established that the Doctor is there to destroy an ancient temporal weapon that has fallen into Dalek suckers, not to claim it for the Time Lord High Council. As a result of his intervention, the Doctor is later arrested by Cardinal Ollistra as a war criminal and declared Prisoner 101 (in a none too subtle compliment, I suspect, to Hurt’s brilliant portrayal of Winston Smith in the feature film adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four).

While the Doctor may have been a nuisance and embarrassment in the past to his people (especially the “Ravalox incident” in The Trial of a Time Lord), that was in a period of supposed non-intervention. With the Time Lords now actively engaged in war, they can clearly no longer countenance the Doctor being left to his own agenda, as he is effectively robbing them of the strategic advantages they need to win the Time War!

Nevertheless, the War Doctor continues to be a source of admiration and hushed whispers amongst Gallifreyans who have been pushed into wartime service by the High Council. Collis is all too quick to defer to him when she realises his identity and in A Thing of Guile, Trelon (Oliver Dimsdale) is not only in awe of “the Renegade” but grew up on Gallifrey hearing stories about his exploits. Even Solex eventually understands the importance of the Doctor’s role in the war after spending time with him in the field. As intensely disliked as the Doctor is by the High Council, it is clear there is a respect and admiration, even hero worship, of him in the lower levels of the Time Lord hierarchy (which is also reflected in the Season 9 finale of the TV series Hell Bent, when Time Lord soldiers defy Rassilon and throw down their arms rather than execute the 12th Doctor).

The dramatis personae are well cast by Big Finish. Zoë Tapper brings warmth and empathy to the part of Collis, with the modern Survivors TV series star showing off her potential as Doctor Who companion material, while David Warner’s Shadovar dominates every scene he is in. Doctor Who - War Doctor - Infernal Devices (Credit: Big Finish Productions)Jamie Newall and Robert Hands are great as the odd couple Jarad and Solex, although both could have benefitted from more consistent characterisation across serials. In The Legion of the Lost, Jarad comes across as mostly assured and upright (even though he finds the alien Technomancers’ powers disconcerting) while Solex is just another dense, not especially bright Chancellery Guard commander (in the tradition of Hildred, Andred and Maxil). In A Thing of Guile, the positions are reversed – Solex is the brash, arrogant soldier while Jarad has reverted to a cowardly cutlet. Apparently, this is because Mulryne invented the characters first and completed his script before Dorney did. In the CD extras, Dorney admits to being too lazy to think of Time Lord names for two similar characters - so chose to use Jarad and Solex with Mulryne’s permission! Perhaps the fault shouldn’t be laid squarely at Dorney, as surely it is script editor Fitton’s responsibility to ensure that there is consistency amongst recurring characters. There is a partial explanation for why the duo spend much of A Thing of Guile bickering (which they do not in Legion) but for the most part, the 360-degree turnaround in the characterisation is confusing for the listener.

The soldiers we also meet in The Neverwhen are also sympathetically portrayed – from the courageous Daylin (Jaye Griffiths, who will be familiar to fans as hapless UNIT operative Jac in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Zygon Invasion) and the cynical Commander Thracken (Barnaby Kay) to the steadfast General Kallix (Tim Bentinick) and his faithful, hopeful underling Commander Barnac (Tracy Wiles). You cannot help but admire them for their tenacity in bleak, impossible circumstances. Oliver Dimsdale also impresses as Trelon, the luckless captain of a Time Lord-acquired deep space miner called The Tempest. Dimsdale’s Mark Sheppard-like voice is distinctive and authoritative in its own right but he also plays an intriguing maverick character for even a lower Time Lord functionary.

Of course, Nicholas Briggs, who takes up the directing chores for this boxset after he wrote Volume 1, continues to steal scenes as the multiple voices of the Daleks. The Dalek threat is not as prominent in Infernal Devices as it was in Only the Monstrous, with the metal meanies almost being incidental to the trilogy. Even though it doesn’t quite pay off, Briggs and Mulryne at least try something inventive with the Daleks in A Thing of Guile. A Dalek scientist’s monologue about the future of the Dalek race, however, just comes across as extremely odd on audio – it’s a valid enough moral to the story but given Daleks are boring conversationalists at the best of times, it’s not entirely plausible!

“Tightening the artron leash hurts me more than it hurts you!”

“I sincerely doubt that!”

“Every time I have to scramble your nerve endings to force compliance, it simply means you haven’t seen my point of view! And that wounds me!”

Cardinal Ollistra and the War Doctor

Doctor Who - The War Doctor - The NeverwhenThe interplay between Hurt’s Doctor and Pearce’s Ollistra more than makes up for any disappointment on the Dalek front. They are great rivals, with Hurt once again providing the moral compass so lacking in this more ruthless breed of Time Lords and Pearce chewing up the scenery as the scheming Ollistra. While in the previous volume, Pearce indicated she had consciously tried to portray Ollistra differently from Servalan, her performance in Infernal Devices indicates she has well and truly given in on that score, especially when the writing and characterisation simply screams “Servalan” in her actions and motivations and keeps directing her back to her alter ego! When Ollistra tortures the Doctor with an artron energy leash and quips in the above exchange, it’s pure Servalan in sentiment. Fortunately, Pearce is still a joy to hear, regardless of the role – and the character is probably all the stronger for the comparison, rather in spite of it. It certainly makes Pearce a selling point of the War Doctor saga.

Nevertheless, while the character didn’t particularly strike me in Only the Monstrous as unusual for a Time Lady and War Council member, I am now convinced after some careful listening of Infernal Devices that perhaps BF has still only scratched the surface with Ollistra. There may still be a big revelation to come about her character. Ollistra's hatred of the Daleks, which she expresses in no uncertain terms in The Neverwhen, seems to stem from a personal vendetta, not simply that her people are at war with the Dalek Empire. Although it’s not corroborated by either the classic or modern incarnations of the Doctor Who TV series, there is only one other character I’m aware of – at least from Big Finish’s corner of the Whoniverse – that has expressed such loathing of the Doctor’s perennial enemies. It implies that Ollistra is more familiar to us than we realise and that the War Doctor is not the only Time Lord to have renounced his or her name in the Time War. This also seems borne out to me when in the climax to the boxset, the Doctor tells Ollistra to look at her “own hearts, see how black they have become”. It’s all speculation on my part, of course, but BF’s confirmation that a fan favourite companion will be guest starring in Volume 4 of The War Doctor saga has only intensified my suspicions …

Regardless of what may happen in Volumes 3 and 4, Infernal Devices is an entertaining and thought-provoking, albeit imperfect and sometimes disappointing addition to BF’s War Doctor saga. Like a curate’s egg, it’s not brilliant but it has memorable moments and ideas. With Volume 3 set to cast some light on how other antagonists are exploiting the Time War for their own ends, I still look forward immensely to BF’s next take on an otherwise fascinating series.

 





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Amorality Tale (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 6 May 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Amorality Tale
Author: David Bishop

Audio Performer: Dan Starkey

 Released 7 April 2016 BBC AUDIO

Run Time: 7 Hours Approx.

This escapade on audio depicts the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith trying to find out the origin of a picture dating back to the 1950s. The image apparently shows the Doctor living in that era as if he was from that time, and not the (somewhat confusingly dated) 'UNIT years' he has been accustomed to in recent times, even with TARDIS travel now restored to him by his own people. Deciding to travel back in time and clarify what could be behind all this, the Doctor goes onto assume an identity of 'watchmaker' and Sarah is first a 'barmaid' and then an undercover 'gangster moll' looking to get an insight into notorious criminal Tommy Ramsey.

A gangland war soon ensues, but darker forces are at work and potentially linked to a seemingly innocuous minister at St Luke's Church. And then there is a grim, and unsettling fog that effectively operates as a weather harbinger of doom.

Before long, the Doctor and his plucky journalist associate Sarah must somehow enable an alliance with Tommy, who quite evidently is an unsavoury and ruthless crime boss compared to his 'peers'. Fort the Earth could be facing a menace that has dimensional shifting and energy powers that few can scarcely conceive of.  Even with an effective, albeit temporary, partnership that could save countless lives, some hard decisions need to be made -- lest the Web of Time is damaged past the point of no return

Once again we are in the realms of original fiction that act as 'missing adventures' - this story being allocated with Season 11 of the classic show. Real life events of the Great Smog back in 1952 give this fictional work a bit of gravitas amidst all the more incredible and fantastical elements that present themselves.

There are many grim and tragic deaths, and this is unusually bloodthirsty for a story of this 'era', perhaps being more suited to the generally ruthless Philip Hinchcliffe , or Eric Saward sections of Doctor Who on TV. But most of the suffering and despair feels as if it has come organically from the setting and plot, and the main enemy force that the Doctor and his temporary allies deal with are clearly forces to be reckoned with and justify such carnage.

Having said that, a lot of the flavour of the Jon Pertwee TV era are noticeable, with certain dialogue and in-jokes coming into play. Author David Bishop knows how to make this feel both revolutionary and reassuring, and often in the same breath of prose. As a semi-regular writer for Doctor Who from the 1990s onwards, he has given his novels urgency and momentum, but also a definite knowing wit.

Dan Starkey is a terrific performer and makes the considerable run time feel far less burdensome. He has proven his mettle many a time when assuming a Sontaran persona, but there is much, much more to him as far as vocal and character performance goes. Even if Bishop's writing style is not the kind a given reader/listener would perhaps care for, Starkey puts together a top tier effort here. I hope BBC Audio re-engage him for similar duties very soon.

With some of the best music I have encountered in reviewing the various talking books and audio drama productions for this news page, there is further icing on the cake, helping make this a most nourishing extended edition Third Doctor tale. It clearly wishes to remind listeners of the halcyon days when Jon Pertwee was reigning supreme at the helm of the Doctor Who phenomenon.

If you can commit to an audio product which needs to be followed carefully for well over six hours, then this is worth both your time and the mental energy needed to translate the descriptions into actual 'minds' eye' imagery. A very fine effort. 





FILTER: - AUDIO - BBC - THIRD DOCTOR