Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Enemy of My Enemy (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: Tracy Ann Baines

Director: Scott Handcock

Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicholas Briggs, Rachel Atkins,  Samantha Béart, Jacob Dudman, Raj Ghatak

 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released November 2020

Running Time: 1 hou

The second Big Finish instalment of Time Lord Victorious seems to play in that specific sandbox a little more than the first outing. This one has it all, Daleks trying to work with the Doctor, timelines all askew…and the Doctor caught in the middle. 

The story has the Doctor held prisoner by the Daleks and forced to help them. This is essentially the same set up that the Titan Comics story had. This time the Daleks claim to want to go in peace with a race of aliens from a planet that is meant to be a barren wasteland. The people of this planet have a genocide weapon that wipes out a whole race by breaking them down into cells and letting them evolve from scratch. It is pretty clear that the Daleks plan of coming in peace is just a ruse to get at this ultimate weapon. 

This is maybe the first time in my experience with the Victorious stories that I have felt it was losing me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a well-produced adventure, with plenty of good story elements...but I think despite the idea that the multi-media event is something new and grand...a lot of it feels fairly typical Doctor Who. Planets and Civilizations that shouldn’t be there, timeline shenanigans, crazy sci-fi weapons that need to be stopped and...Daleks. Big Finish is good at producing Dalek stories, but they’ve become a tad old hat. Not only have they had a constant presence on TV (they’ve not missed an appearance, even a brief one, in a single series since 2005), and on Big Finish they have faced off with the Eighth Doctor a lot. 

This is a solid adventure, well-produced and acted, a decent entry in the overall Time Lord Victorious event.  The only problem is that in general, I am seeing a trend with the Time Lord Victorious. It is starting to just feel like standard Doctor Who with a fancy label on the cover.  I’m curious to see where they take it, but so far it doesn’t feel like it is going in any incredible new direction. I found myself not as invested this time around, but it isn’t bad by any standard. 





The Eighth Doctor: The Time War Series 4 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Time War - Series 4 (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: John Dorney, Lisa McMullin, Matt Fitton

 

Director: Helen Goldwyn

 

Featuring: Paul McGann, Rakhee Thakrar, Terry Malloy, Adele Anderson, Isla Blair, and Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: September 2020

Running Time: 5 hours

In the fourth volume of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures hovering around the edge of the Time War, he ends up in an alternate universe, deals with multiple versions of Davros, has a total loss of memory of who the Daleks are, before getting caught up in the midst of a Dalek Civil War.  It is, in short, another winner of a boxset from Big Finish, who have been really nailing the time War saga throughout their various sets and series.  Ahead will likely be SPOILERS, but if you are wondering whether this instalment is worth your time if you have enjoyed the Time War series thus far, this is on par if not better than many of the instalments.  

****POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD****

The set begins with Palindrome, Part 1 Davros living peacefully, married to a Thal, and working on his scientific endeavours, such as an interdimensional portal that can maybe let folks travel between other universes. But his happy little world is quickly disrupted when Daleks attack.  He and his wife are killed...but he awakes anyhow, but it is a day earlier than it was. And he gets killed one way or another each day, only to awake another day earlier.  The Doctor and Bliss are there, and they try their best to help this version of Davros, but that is difficult when they are travelling through time in opposite directions.  And when Davros meets, well, Davros (a version who seems far closer to what we all know) he is convinced that it may be the Doctor and Bliss who are in the wrong.  

Palindrome, Part 2 shows what happens when Davros is merged with all the alternate universe variations of himself, as planned out by the Dalek Time Strategist, and he begins moving forward in time again.  The Time Strategist is plotting to restore the Daleks, who were nearly beaten in “our” universe...and his plan is to use this dimensional portal to merge all Daleks from every universe to supply Daleks with an endless supply of Daleks.  Blow up one Dalek and a new one will pop in its place.  Obviously not an ideal situation.  

Beyond all that plot, that is honestly difficult to summarize with its wonky time mechanics, the heart of this episode is Terry Malloy’s latest performance as Davros. He starts off playing a perfectly innocent Davros from another universe, one that never grew up in an endless war, that never grew to despise Thals, one that was never injured and required the use of a travel machine, that never had hate that grew so deep, and certainly never had a need to create Daleks.  This Davros is just a nice guy, married and happily working on his own, more peaceful scientific endeavours.  But after he is merged with Davros from various alternate timelines, he struggles to maintain his peaceful nature.  He wants the Daleks to not hate indiscriminately...but he is slowly losing his own sense of self. His merger leaves him just as disfigured and in need of a chair as the Davros we all know, and while he tries to remember who he was, his hate for Thals starts to shine through.  By the end, he is utterly lost, ordering the death of his own alternate self and wife (again timey-wimey business is about here). Malloy plays it perfectly, from his innocent version, through his struggles losing his sense of self, until he is finally just the evil Davros we have always known.

After such a big epic opening, the set could lose some lustre going forward.  How do you maintain that level?  Luckily while the third story is certainly smaller and scale and intensity, it is still quite good, and leads directly into the big conclusion. In Dreadshade the Doctor and Bliss return to their own universe, but their memories are faulty.  They don’t remember who each other are.  They can remember their names and whether they are human or Time Lord...they have some basics, but there are huge swaths of their memory that are missing.  Unfortunately, this is the case for almost everyone they meet.  

Before the mass memory loss, the Twelve was placed inside a Time Lord weapon vault and is in stasis.  In there with her was a Dreadshade, a creature that can be trained to fear a specific thing and then when it is confronted with enough of that very thing will wipe it all out.  It was trained for Daleks, but when the Daleks were wiped out and forgotten, the Dreadshade forgot what it was afraid of...and the Twelve has trained it to fear Time Lords. While the Doctor and Time Lords slowly figure this out, they are also having the sense that the Time War has finally ended, whatever their enemy is...is finally gone. Then the Doctor and Bliss remember the warning they were coming with.  The Daleks aren’t just coming back.  They are coming back with a vengeance.  

Everything closes up Restoration of the Daleks, as the Time Strategist schemes to use Davros to restore the Daleks and then eliminate him, restoring the Emperor as well.  It basically leads to a sped-up version of Dalek history.  Davros helps create them, some turn on him over his purity, the Emperor is created and the Daleks follow his word, but then Davros convinces some Daleks to follow him instead, it leads into civil war...it isn’t what the Strategist hoped for.  The Doctor and gang are able to destroy the Dimensional Portal and stop the Strategist’s endless Dalek scheme. The Daleks lock up Davros on the order of the Emperor, who believes there is still some use to be had from Davros.  This pleases the maniacal Davros.  

While the Eighth Doctor is not nearly as front and centre during this set, the set does end with a cliffhanger that is very dear to that Doctor...from out of the multiverse came a stasis pod...and within that pod: his great-grandson Alex.  For those struggling to remember in the long past continuity of the Eighth Doctor’s audio run, Alex was Susan’s son introduced during the Lucie Miller days, back in 2009.  He first appeared in a one-off adventure in-between Eighth Doctor seasons, then played a pivotal role in the final season with Lucie Miller, being killed along with many of the Doctor’s friends.  There has been a ton of material both following directly on from those losses, and the Doctor’s Time War stories are meant to be much further on in his history than any of those, but needless to say, this memory being brought back to life should bring up some very personal feelings for the Doctor going forward.  

Time War 4 is great.  Maybe the best entry for the series yet. Terry Malloy is such a key part of this boxset that it might as well have been called Davros: Time War as opposed to Eighth Doctor: Time War.  If I had any complaint, it is an echo from a previous set: Bliss does not feel like a fully realized character.  She just feels like “Generic Companion #342.”  She is well performed but has been given no dimension by the writing, no clear characteristics that make her feel unique.  She is just too blank.  Four sets in?  That is a shame.  Beyond that?  This is a hell of a set.



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Time Lord Victorious: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 21 December 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Time Lord Victorious: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not (Credit: Big Finish)

Writer: Carrie Thompson

Director: Scott Handcock

Featuring: Paul McGann, Silas Carson, Jack DeVos, Pauline Eyre, Misha Malcolm, Martin McDougall, Melanie Stevens

 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2020

Running Time: 1 hour

 

Big Finish enters into the Time Lord Victorious game with He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, which is a standard Eighth Doctor story involving heading for a vacation, stumbling into some trouble with the first people he meets, and trying to keep everyone safe from a murderous Ood, all while trying to sort out why the planet and time seem to be completely off-kilter.

The basic story of this feels like it has little to do with the overarching Victorious business, but it is more of a set up for things to come, this is mostly in the “planet where the society and art that should be there, is replaced with a wasteland and small population” background, and less to do with the main plot, which involves two young lovers trying to escape an Ood bent on murdering the lover of his employer’s daughter, because the daughter was genetically engineered to dote on the father, and not love anyone else. 

This is, obviously, pretty standard but good ol’ fashioned Doctor Who plotting.  Does it have anything to do with the Time Lord Victorious or the Daleks or any of that other stuff?  Not really.  But it is well-produced (I expect little else from Big Finish these days), with good performances and a decent little adventure for the always entertaining Paul McGann.  

In the end, the Doctor saves the day and attempts to save the Ood if it promises not to kill the girl...but the TARDIS has other plans and begins to take off...the Doctor narrowly gets aboard but the Ood gets sucked into the Vortex...and then the Doctor ends up as a prisoner of the Daleks!  Next adventure I presume! 





The Eighth Doctor - Stranded 1 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 23 August 2020 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Stranded 1 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton, John Dorney, Lisa McMullin, & David K Barnes
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicola WalkerHattie Morahan, Rebecca Root, Tom Price, & Tom Baker

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released June 2020

Running Time: 5 hours

Since at least 2007, the Eighth Doctor has been pretty much bouncing from one epic storyline to the next.  His adventures with Lucie Miller began his epic journey, where he had four series styled closer in tone and style to the revived version of the series, often ending in big epic finales.  This concluded with a big arc involving the Daleks and the Doctor facing great personal loss.  This led directly into the 4-set series Dark Eyes in which the Doctor yet again battled the Daleks (and eventually the Master) across time and space.  From there was the epics Doom Coalition and Ravenous.  While those have been his regular ongoing adventures, he has also starred in a series of sets set later in his timeline, once again in big epic adventures during the Time War.  Simply put, the Eighth Doctor has been put through the ringer.  He has been bouncing from big giant arc to big giant arc, and now, finally...things have quieted down a bit.  

The TARDIS has crash-landed on Earth in 2020 and has been depleted.  Right now it is just a box.So the Doctor, Liv, and Helen decide to take up shelter in the Doctor’s house on Baker Street...only they have found that it has been turned into a series of flats.  The Doctor being the owner has now become the Landlord.  Liv and Helen have attempted to take up the main duties of maintaining the building and the financial aspects...while the Doctor becomes reclusive and obsessed with fixing up the TARDIS (currently a seemingly impossible task).  Also featured is Tom Baker, who reprises his role as the mysterious Curator (from Day of the Doctor), who offers some mysterious warnings to Liv and Helen.  Lost Property really sets the tone for this new series. It is smaller, quieter, and it is genuinely refreshing.  I have enjoyed the big sets up to now, but you can only keep upping the ante so much before it becomes tiresome. This was definitely a necessary way to go at this point.  

In the second episode, Wild Animals, Liv has taken up a job in a shop in order to help pay the bills why the TARDIS team is stranded on Earth.  Sadly, she and her boss end up shot when a hold up goes awry. While Liv is recovering in hospital, her boss sadly doesn’t make it.  The Doctor then tries to make good on not keeping his friend safe by catching the shooter. But it is something of a wake-up call for the team.  They may not be in the midst of some big alien adventure with tons of explosions and lasers...but danger still lurks.  And the Doctor, who has been losing hope in this environment, hopes that solving the crime will alleviate his boredom.  But he doesn’t solve it.  The police beat him to it.  And he is finally forced to realize that he must start living...not just hiding away, wandering in the park moping.  

The Doctor is finally put into his element in Must-See TV when some sort of Alien tech is attached to several TVs of his tenants that appear to be spying on them.  There is also a mysterious new tenant called Mr. Bird, who is being very helpful with maintenance issues around the place...but also seems to be the cause of their alien spy tech.  Also involved in this episode is Sgt Andy Davison (from Torchwood), who is acting as a sort of liaison between Torchwood and Tania.  Tania is a resident of Baker Street who has begun a relationship with Liv, but also is working for Torchwood for some mysterious purpose. Torchwood seems to have her monitoring the Doctor, but she begins to suspect that who Torchwood is really after is Mr. Bird. 

The set comes to conclusion with Divine Intervention, which features aliens from the future who blame the Doctor for their future plight at the hands of Earth. It is a decent conclusion, which sets up threads for where this new series may lead, and ends with both a glimmer of hope that the TARDIS will return to its former glory someday, but also makes it clear that for now, the gang are stuck where they are.  

Stranded is the beginning of a new chapter for the Eighth Doctor, one that is far from the universe shattering epics he has been so present in for so long.  I definitely welcome this change of pace. Especially as the Eighth Doctor will continue to have his big epic adventures with Time War (which has at least one more installment coming next month).  But either way, it is nice to strip things way back, and focus in on the character stuff. I really enjoyed this.  It has a slower pace and less plot to keep track of...and in general it was just exactly what hte Eighth Doctor needed at this moment to keep from getting stale. 





The Monster of Peladon (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 24 July 2020 - Reviewed by Kenny Scheck
The Monster of Peladon (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By  Jon Culshaw
Released by BBC Audio - March 2020
Available from Amazon UK

Despite my love for the Third Doctor era of the show, I was never a big fan of the Peladon adventures.  I found the stories underwhelming and Alpha Centauri to be an annoying shrieking character in a lame alien costume.  Those were my main takeaways, and since I haven’t ever revisited since my initial viewing, it is really all I have to go on.  Something of a vague memory.  Someday, when the blu-ray collections get to the seasons that feature these adventures, I will give them another whirl and we will see how they hold up then.  Until then, I have the audiobook of the Terrence Dick-penned Target Novelization to refresh my memory.  

It is okay I guess. It isn’t as lame a story as I recall, but Alpha Centauri’s shrieking is definitely toned down by Jon Culshaw’s reading.  Culshaw really sells the whole thing.  He is a solid narrator, but it is his Pertwee that is just perfect.  

I do think this story has too much pad, even in this fairly short novelization I found parts of it were dragging.  But Culshaw’s reading elevates what I found to be mostly forgettable material.





Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 9 - Volume 2Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 12 July 2020 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 9 - Volume 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
 Featuring: Tom Baker, lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse,
John Leeson, Samuel Blenkin, Samuel Clamens  
Abigail McKern and Nicholas Woodeson
 
Original release date: February - 2020
Distributed by Big Finish
 

9.3 The Planet of Witches by Alan Barnes

"My turn for the brain scan is it? Izzy Whizzy let's get busy!"​

Whilst attempting a detailed scan of E-Space, K9 detects the trail of a large spacecraft. Seeking a lead for their escape, the Doctor sets out on its trail towards a misty yellow planet.

Arriving just in time to witness a crash-landing in the planet’s swamps, the Doctor and his crew discover a number of escaping prisoners fleeing from someone claiming to be a Witch-finder... whilst terrifying ‘familiars’ float around them.

For this is the planet of the witches... and the witches may just know the way home.

 

The search for the CVE resumes in this third story of the fourth Doctor's 9th series with Big Finish. The Doctor, Romana Adric and K9 find themselves on a very damp planet where witches and witch-finders exist.

The fantastical elements of the plot are very well handled, and for a while the listener is almost fooled into believing that this is a world where magic actually exists, despite the Doctor's reasoning that it can't.

K9 has quite a key role, with John Leeson pretty much front and centre for the final quarter of the tale.

The supporting cast is excellent, with Abigail McKern's duplicitous Crone being the standout, her never ending cackling did grate a little though.

Of course, there is no magic, and everything is explained away nicely by the time the final credits kick in, but The Planet of Witches is a very enjoyable listen.

 

9.4 The Quest of the Engineer by Andrew Smith

"Beards!?!? Is that the only scientific qualification on this planet!?"​

The TARDIS crew’s attempts to escape E-Space lead them to a strange planet with a surface that shifts and changes constantly.

Losing their ship down a fissure, they venture into the depths of this world and encounter the man who rules this place – a man known only as ‘the Engineer’. He tells them that he’s on a quest for illumination, and to find a rumored portal in space that may lead to another reality, with knowledge unknown in this universe.

It seems he may be on the same quest as the Doctor and his friends. But can he be trusted? And who is he really?

 

The big finale to this series is The Quest of the Engineer, where we join the Doctor mid-adventure, rescuing Adric from a prison cell, that leads them to a shapeshifting planet, that can literally turn itself inside out.

Nicholas Woodeson plays the titular Engineer with great relish, he makes for a perfect villain. I couldn't help though to think that his cyborg army The Enforcers could have easily been turned into E-Space's version of the Cybermen, which I think was a sadly missed opportunity.

It's a shame though that this grand finale was (for me) the weakest story of the four in this series, it just didn't quite gel with me.

Our four leads are all brilliant, and I'm happy to report that Matthew Waterhouse's Adric is on top form after a bit of a wobbly start in the previous two episodes.

Series 9 on the whole though was very enjoyable, if somewhat frustratingly repetitive in some aspects of the plot. K9 is 'lost without hope' at least twice. The Doctor and companions seem to get split up when one of them 'suddenly' needs to go back to the TARDIS, but none of this detracted too much from my enjoyment of revisiting one of my favourite eras of the show's classic era.

Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 9 Volume 2 is available from Big Finish HERE.