Doctor Who - Short Trips 9.6: The Same FaceBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Same Face (Credit: Big Finish)
Narrator: Katy Manning
Written by: Julian Richards
Director: Nicholas Briggs

No one survives in politics on Samael. Felicity Morgan has learnt this the hard way, as she keeps being assassinated. However, she has a secret. A secret that has kept her alive. A secret that has propelled her to the top job. When the Doctor and Jo arrive on Samael, they learn the impossible truth.

One woman. One face. Many lives.

The story for The Same Face is a third Doctor classic template. An alien government in crisis - with the Doctor turning up just in the nick of time. I must admit to rolling my eyes a little when I started listening to the story unfold, thinking to myself how unoriginal it was.

Then something happened that gave the story a much-needed kick up the rear end, something that perhaps I should have seen coming, but didn't....and THEN well, the least said about that big second twist, the better!

In short, The Same Face takes a (very) well-worn plot and adds a lot of magic to it. What also helps is that Katy Manning is on ABSOLUTE top form, slipping back into Jo Grant with startling ease. I expected the character to sound different with age, but no, not at all.

Julian Richards has created a mini-masterpiece with this story. An absolute gift to fans of this era that was an absolute joy to listen to.

The Same Face is available from Big Finish HERE.

 






The Tenth Doctor Adventures - Volume Three (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 7 June 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume Three (Credit: Big Finish)


Starring David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins, Jacqueline King, Nicholas Briggs
Written by James Goss, Jenny T Colgan, & Roy Gill
Directed by Ken Bentley

Released by Big Finish - May 2019

David Tennant and Catherine Tate return to Big Finish for Tennant's third and Tate's second boxset, and this time they've brought along some supporting characters from Series 4 as well: Wilf and Sylvia! 

The set opens with No Place, seeing all four characters in a haunted house, with the Doctor and Donna pretending to be newlyweds for some haunted house makeover show. Obviously, this is all in order to deal with whatever alien presence is stalking the house. In all honesty, the opener feels half baked, like they got part of an idea and never truly figured out the details...maybe hoping that the joy of hearing Bernard Cribbins as Wilf again would distract us from the fact that the story isn't terribly great.  And while it is great to hear Wilf and Sylvia in on the action, I can't say I even buy the idea that Sylvia would get involved in this plot.  It's nothing against Jacqueline King, she is good in this...but the way the character had always been written is contrary to her getting roped into a Doctor Scheme. She just wouldn't. And in the end, these are the kind of silly details I focus in on when the story itself isn't terribly interesting. 

Luckily the set bounces back with One Mile Down as the Doctor takes Donna to a tourist trap that was once a beautiful underwater city, but in order to make money with tourism they've encased it in a bubble, with the original fish like inhabitants forced into protective helmets, and essentially be treated as lower life forms despite having built the beautiful city everyone has come to see.  It can be a bit ham-fisted with it's social commentary, but that was the Tenth Doctor era I loved so much!  You've got 45 minutes to an hour to explain your premise, introduce your guest characters, build a world and solve it all for the next adventure...if you want to put in a message, well you just need to shove it in and get the point across quickly.  And I enjoyed this episode!

The set closes out with The Creeping Death, which takes place in Smoggy London in 1952. This was an actual thing that got really bad in December 1952, and a number of people got ill or died due to toxins in the air.  In this story, some minuscule alien lifeforms that live in those kinds of toxins have come to Earth and hope to make the smog last forever, and of course, it is up to the Doctor, Donna, and a small group of people to stop them.  This one has a fun atmosphere, and I enjoyed all the guest characters. It is definitely the best outing for this set. 

As the Tenth Doctor is probably my favourite version of the character, and Donna my favourite companion of his, I'd be hard pressed not to just enjoy hearing Tennant and Tate together again (even out of character the two are always a blast to listen to).  I think despite the lame opening effort, they bounce back and make stories that definitely feel like episodes that could've fit into Series 4.  The only thing that could capture the feel of that era better is Murray Gold's music.  Unlike the first set in which Tennant had to sort of find his Doctor voice again, and the second set in which Billie Piper didn't quite feel like the old Rose, this time Tennant and Tate are rock solid in their performances, and it's a fun ride. 





The Fourth Doctor Adventures - The Haunting of Malkin PlaceBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 30 May 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Haunting of Malkin Place (Credit: Big Finish)

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), 
Simon Jones (Talbot), Denise Black (Mrs Mountford), 
Gunnar Cauthery(Maurice), Fiona Sheehan (Beatrice),
Rikki Lawton (Tom), Phil Mulryne (Jack). 
Written By: Phil Mulryne, directed By: Nicholas Briggs

We first come across the Doctor and Romana in the Doctor’s Baker Street address in 1922. Romana is reading an M R James novel and is questioning the Doctor about what makes a good ghost story, all the while being interrupted by unexplained bangs and bumps from the attic Spooky goings on that for once the Doctor refuses to investigate. To further enlighten themselves, they decide to hop on a train and visit the village where M R James lived. While on the train the pair befriend a spiritualist, Talbot (Simon Jones) , and his assistant Tom (Rikki Lawton), who are on the way to Malkin Place, where their presence has been requested by Beatrice (Fiona Sheehan) and her brother Maurice (Gunnar Cauthery), who claims that Malkin Place is VERY haunted. Of course, the Doctor can never resist a good ghost story, so he and Romana decide to tag along and help.

 

Doctor Who will of course normally do a ghost story very well, and this one has all of the hallmarks of a classic:

A daunting house in the middle of nowhere? Check. 

A vulnerable woman who (at the beginning) refuses to acknowledge the danger that she is in? Check.

Creepy séances? Check.

A mysterious neighbour with an ulterior motive? Check.

A great reveal of a scientific explanation by the Doctor? Check.

 

So why didn't I enjoy it as much as I felt that I should? I'm as surprised as anyone else, as I’ve been loving these Fourth Doctor audio dramas. I suppose there would have to be the odd one that I wouldn’t find up to scratch. I think with this, it was just the predictability of it all. You know that there is something amiss with Maurice, thanks to the opening scene. If this had been held back, and we just get the details of his nightmares, things could have been a little more intriguing. Plus no matter how spooky things get, you know that the Doctor will have a non-supernatural explanation for events – even if it is starting to sound like he might have doubts himself. I did chuckle though at the big reveal as to who was making the noises in the attic of Baker Street.

 

The sound design is great and reminded me of the recent Knock Knock television episode from its audio abilities. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are as always very reliable, and the supporting cast is good. I just found the writing by Phil Mulryne a tad pedestrian. I hound the Haunting of Malkin Place to be average stuff I'm afraid.

 

The Haunting of Malkin Place is available now as a CD or a digital download from Big Finish.