The Eighth Doctor: The Time War Series 3Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 8 September 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Time War - Series 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton, Lisa McMullin, Roland Moore, & John Dorney
 
 Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGannRakhee Thakrar, Adele Anderson, Michael Jayston

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: August 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

The latest Big Finish boxset starring Paul McGann is the third entry in the Time War series.  This time, The Eighth Doctor and his companion Bliss face off against Multiverses, Planets ravaged by the Time War, A Survivor of an Alien Race meant to be entirely erased from history, and the unexpected return of the Valeyard! 

The story begins with a strong vehicle for Rakhee Thakrar's character Bliss (State of Bliss).  This is good because this is the third boxset, and I still feel like I hardly know the character.  Too often she feels like someone for the Doctor to talk to.  No more, no less.  This episode gives her a lot to do, and she carries the whole thing.  Unfortunately, this episode is not a sign of things to come, because for  the rest of the set she feels sidelined into the "generic companion" role.  It's a shame, because it feels like if the writers had any real character with Bliss, Thakrar is clearly capable of pulling it off. But the opener is the only story in this set that gives her any depth.  It's one thing McGann's other ongoing boxset has over the Time War series, Liv and Helen have personalities. They aren't my favorite companions, not even for the Eighth Doctor, but they seem to have some depth written into the characters that Bliss mostly lacks.  Still, this is a fine episode to open the set because like anything Time War related should, it really explores the consequences of the War.

So to does the second entry, The Famished Lands, which dives into a planet which has been turned upside down as a side effect of the Time War.  It's a planet that has limited resources of it's own, and relied on trade to thrive...but the Time War has cut off their supplies, and society has broken down.  A story like this, where the Eighth Doctor has to try and help a troubled world effected by the actions of his own people...well that is exactly what I want from this particular series.

The third entry is Fugitive in Time, and in order to help the people of that planet, the Doctor does a favor for Major Tamasan of the Time Lords...if he helps her, she will help out the little planet he wants to save.  But of course her mission isn't so easy.  They are meant to track down an alien whose race was meant to be entirely erased from History by the Time Lords, find out why she survived and make sure she joins the rest of her race.  This doesn't really gel with the Doctor's usual modus operandi, so it gives him some moral quandary to deal with. 

The set closes out with The War Valeyard which sees the return of Michael Jayston to the role, but this time he believes himself to be the Doctor, fighting the Time War on the front lines...though he seems to be battling himself, caught in a time loop.  The Eighth Doctor is of course concerned by his very existence, as he believed he had wiped him out when his Sixth Incarnation had regenerated.  This is a very entertaining end to the set, and it is always fun to hear Jayston's voice. 

On the whole, I'd say this is a pretty stellar set. It has good stories, good acting, and fun Time War concepts.  If I had a complaint, it is that beyond the opener, Bliss doesn't have nearly anything to do.  Maybe that is why she carries so much of the opener, they knew they were going to waste her in every story that followed. But even with that complaint, there is a lot to like in this set. 

 

 

 






The Eighth Doctor: The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 August 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Eighth Doctor: The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller (Credit: Big Finish)
Starring Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Written by Nicholas Briggs, Alice Cavender, Eddie Robson, & Alan Barnes
Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Released by Big Finish - July 2019

Once upon a time, it was not as accepted to be a nerd in the mainstream.  In college, I was slowly rediscovering my love for such nerdy things as Star Trek, when I discovered Doctor Who. Tennant was still the Doctor, just about to start his second series in the role, and I watched and rewatched his debut series and then the preceding one with Eccleston over and over again.  But because being a nerd was still not something that people proudly declared to the world, I would tell myself that I only liked the new series, I wasn't someone who would get sucked into that old show. Of course, I got sucked in and went back and watched the entire classic run as well. But I'd never be such a nerd that I'd listen to those audio stories.  

But Big Finish released the first adventures with Lucie Miller, and for whatever reason, I gave them a listen.  They were easily digestible, made in the style of the new series, and they had a Doctor that hadn't much of a TV run, so why not listen to these stories to see if maybe beyond his rather bad movie he could actually be good.  And McGann was great...and Lucie Miller was a fun companion to have along for the ride.  Eventually, I gave up trying to convince myself I wasn't "that big of a nerd" and just listened to the whole back catalogue of Eighth Doctor adventures, starting with Storm Warning on, and I became a massive fan of anything Eighth Doctor.  But every time a new series with Lucie Miller came out, I was always ready and excited.  As good as some of the early Charley stuff was, as good as epic boxsets that have come out since can be...nothing comes close to the Lucie Miller run in terms of consistent quality for me.  

Sheridan Smith has returned for this boxset, set in between her first and second series, and it sees her reunion with the McGann, eight years since Lucie departed in To the Death. In the set the get trapped in a black hole with some confused Daleks, take down an evil mega-corporation with Roller Derby, help some people trapped in a warped Downton Abbey nightmare planet, and finally take on the return of the evil Fendahl.  It's a fun set, and while all the stories are fun and well written, it is the return of Smith and McGann's rapport that is the star of the show.  They play off each other well, and they don't feel like they have missed much of a beat.

If you were a fan of the Lucie Miller era of the Eighth Doctor audio adventures, you no doubt want to get this already.  As a sampler for new fans looking to dip their toe in with the duo, it is decent.  I think it probably more fun for fans who already loved this team.  If you really want to see if you like them together, I suggest just starting with their first series.  Obviously, it is more cost-effective to buy this, and if you want a taste of this dynamic I can tell you that it does not rely heavily on continuity, and you won't be lost. 






The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released April 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous 3 continues the Eighth Doctor storyline, seeing the Doctor and friends Liv and Helen trying to escape from the Ravenous, ancient monsters that love to eat Time Lords life energy.  Thinking back, it has been a long time since a Eighth Doctor lead boxset from Big Finish has let me down, and I am happy to say the rend continues!  Paul McGann has gotten some of the best stories from Big Finish since 2007 when he took Lucie Miller on board.  And that shouldn't even knock the good ol' Charley days of yesteryear, but 2007 is when I feel his Doctor truly took off...and he we are over a decade later and they are still knocking out really high quality boxsets with this Doctor. 

 

As always, I try to keep back the details of the stories as best I can, but Spoiler-phobic may wish to avoid may review...needless to say, I recommend it, those who want more details, carry on:

 

Our adventure begins with Deeptime Frontier, as the gang ending up on a Time Lord space station that is mining the Time Vortex...but the rift it has opened seems to be the very cause of the ancient Ravenous being unleashed upon the universe, and while the station seemingly only has one dead ravenous aboard, the Doctor knows more are on the trail.  I've felt that a lot of these boxsets have been staring slow, but I think this one comes out swinging.  As much as I have enjoyed the previous sets in the Ravenous series, it must be said that the actual Ravenous haven't played a large role so far.  They were only briefly mentioned at the end of the first set, and despite making their actual debut in the final story of Ravenous 2, they really played no role in the three stories that preceded.  They were good stories and fun to listen to, but they could've gone out in any set.  This set actually begins with the Ravenous heavily involved in the plot, and even as they take a backseat for an episode or two, at least the TARDIS team is technically still on the run from them.  

Episode two of the set (Companion Piece) has Liv and Helen captured by the Nine (a previous incarnation of the Eleven), and since he regenerated from the Eight back in Doom Coalition 3, he has been collecting all of the Doctor's companions and putting them in cells in chronological order.  Liv & Helen end up in a cell with a woman who keeps getting moved back in forth in her order, Charlotte Pollard.  Yay Charley!  I always liked Charley and the Eighth Doctor together.  While it is a shame there is no reunion between the Doctor and his old friend from his earliest Big Finish days, it was still nice to hear from her again.  The story also features River Song, who is being used by the Nine to help find all the old companions, though being River things are never so simple.  This was a fun episode, fun getting to hear so many companions make brief cameo, but just well executed fun beyond that.  

In L.E.G.E.N.D., The Doctor is reunited with Liv and Helen, having caught up with them at the end of the previous adventure, and with the Eleven in tow, they end up in an adventure in 19th Century Germany, where they meet the Brothers Grimm and have to fight off a super computer and some plasm that can create anything created by an alien researcher who is in over her head...the story may have little to do with the ongoing plot of the Ravenous, but I thought it was a fun story, and at least technically they are still on the run from the beasts. Likely not to be the most memorable story of the set, but still an entertaining hour. 

The set is closed out with The Odds Against, in which the TARDIS lands on a planet, they stumble upon a dead body, the authorities show up, and it seems like a regular day at the office...only the authorities don't believe they had anything to do with the death.  A nice change.  But it turns out the Abbot of the Brotherhood of Ix that seems so helpful may have something more sinister up his sleeve.  Of course, that is because he is more sinister. Meanwhile the Eleven has lost the voice in his head of his Ninth incarnation, apparently, he was eaten up by the Ravenous, or so he thinks.  It turns out that his particular regeneration condition makes him immune to the Ravenous wanting to eat him, and the Abbot is, in fact, The Nine (Ix, get it?).  Overall, a solid conclusion, and a nice cliffhanger, to this volume in the series.

The particular fact of the Eleven's immunity to the Ravenous trying to eat him will clearly play a major role in the fourth boxset, and if this series is to follow the suit of the previous Eighth Doctor boxset series, the fourth is likely to be the finale to this storyline.  If my reviews haven't made it clear, this set has been great, and it is so far the best set in the Ravenous line. 

 

 






The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 2 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2018
 

Running Time: 5 hours

The Eighth Doctor is a box set machine these days.  Pretty much has been since his Fourth Series of "Eighth Doctor Adventures" ended it's run in 2011. Since then he has had four box sets under the Dark Eyes moniker, another four titled Doom Coalition, and more recently began a new line taking place nearer the end of his lifetime simply titled The Time War.  While Big Finish is producing The Time War, They are also continuing the story of The Eighth Doctor along with his friends Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair (his companions throughout Doom Coalition) with Ravenous 1.  This is the second box of that series, so unlike The Time War which is jumping closer to the time of the Eighth Doctor's regeneration as seen in Night of the Doctor, this one essentially carries on his adventures that really began back in 2007.

Ravenous 2 begins with Escape from Kaldor which has the Doctor return to Liv's homeworld, where they end up again battling killer robots and reunite Liv with her estranged sister.  It's a decent enough episode, plants some seeds of things to come, but I won't claim it was the best opener to a set. It felt like the family ties to Liv weren't perfectly conceived.  The episode also lacked a certain energy it needed to kick this new set off.

Luckily, things kick into a more interesting gear with the second story, Better Watch Out.  This story is more Christmas themed, and since the episode that follows continues that storyline...it made me wonder why they released Ravenous 2 in October, instead of waiting until December. At any rate, the story involves the Central European Christmas monster, the Krampus, who is essentially the anti-Santa Claus who steals the bad children away.  Krampus has had a bit of a pop culture jolt in recent years, with a pretty entertaining Christmas themed horror movie in 2015 (simply titled Krampus) as well as a slew of direct-to-video schlock in the last 5 or so years.  So Big Finish feels, in some ways, a bit late to the party.  Though their entry into the party is actually pretty darn good.

The Doctor takes Liv and Helen to Salzburg for their annual Krampusnacht event, but unfortunately, the bit of holiday fun falls apart when Krampus becomes real and begins to take all of the bad people in town.  This particular adventure spreads across two episodes in the set, concluding in Fairytale of Salzburg. That episode sees Krampus fought off by the ingenuity of the Doctor's companions and his historical opposite.  It's a good epic tale, and in some ways, I wish the entire set had been based around this one story.  Expand it in some places, end in Salzburg, then set up for the next boxset.  Then you'd have a pretty fun four hour Christmas adventure. 

Instead, the set comes to it's conclusion with Seizure, which brings the Eleven back into the fold.  The Eleven sends the Doctor a distress call, and the Doctor decides to answer the call, knowing that with the Eleven it could very well be a trap.  The Doctor lands inside the Eleven's TARDIS, but it is a labyrinth that begins to separate the Doctor and his friends...and a frightening beast is aboard.  The beast is the titular Ravenous, first mentioned in the first box set, and making it's first actual appearance here. It's a monster that feeds on life energy, constantly hungry for more...with it's favorite meal being Time Lords.  I think it is a cool monster, and this first glimpse is promising...though part of me wonders how much depth a monster like this can have, especially if it is to be the main antagonist of this particular series of boxsets going forward.  

All in all, this is a pretty good boxset.  While the first story didn't really grab me, the rest of the set is a lot of fun. While I enjoyed the eerie closing episode that marked the first appearance of the Ravenous, I still kind of think the whole set would've worked better if it had focused more on the whole Krampus story.  I think there was more to explore in those episodes, they had a lot packed into them, and the opening episode being dull, and the final episode felt like it belongs to a bigger story yet to come...I might've just enjoyed a Krampus set.  Still...McGann always delivers as the Doctor, and any set starring him is worth a listen.

 

 

 

 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 30 Nov 2018
Doctor Who - Ravenous 2




The Eighth Doctor: The Time War Series 2Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Time War - Series 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
 
 Director: Ken Bentley
 


Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
Released July 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

The Time War continues in the latest Eighth Doctor boxset from Big Finish, and it is another effort that showcases just how good Big Finish continues to be when the passion is there.  I get the sense that the Monthly Range doesn't have the same passion and excitement it once had from those working on it, while the bigger scope and chance to truly expand on a topic that comes with the boxsets still has a flame of passion ignited. Admittedly, I don't listen to the Monthly Range as much as I used to, so I could be wrong, but this just seems to be an impression I can't shake.  But this boxset keeps my hopes for the company continuing to release exciting stuff for some time alive.  

 

****THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS****

 

In The Lords of Terror, The Doctor takes Bliss to her homeworld, but they find it has already been ravaged by the time war. Instead of the home, Bliss remembers, her city is now encased in a dome, and it seems to be a dystopian nightmare. While the front story is that the Daleks attacked and they have protected themselves and are building a retaliation rocket in order to wipe out the Daleks, the Doctor soon discovers that it is even more nefarious. I rather loved what this story does with the Time War arc.  It seems that the Time Lords are actually behind this plan, and they haven’t created one dome and one rocket, they have turned the entire planet into a missile production plant, with every city put into a dome and forced into slavery to create a rocket...all in the name of winning the war. 

The second episode (Planet of the Ogrons) has the Doctor and Bliss recruited by the the Twelve (a regenerated and more stable version of the Eleven), and an Ogron who believes himself to be the Doctor. They head to the Ogron homeworld, where a mad genius Dalek with hybrid DNA is performing crazy genetic experiments. While I certainly enjoyed this episode, it felt slightly less engaging after the killer of an opening episode. That said, it does still have a lot of fun to offer. 

For the third story, In the Garden of Death, we have the very familiar trope of the Doctor and friends locked up in jail with missing memories.  I feel like the Eighth Doctor has been in this predicament before.  Despite the well-worn territory, it isn't half bad. I like the places it takes the Twelve, and the idea that while in the prison camp no one can remember their captors, and only when taken for interrogation do they recall the Daleks.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that though I only just listened to the story, much of it has already faded from my brain. It is certainly an enjoyable listen, it just doesn't leave much of an impact.  

Jonah closes out the set, and it is a tense submarine thriller in which the Doctor is Captaining a sub in a body of water in which no time travel can take place...and beneath the waters a mythological creature that can see every possible outcome of the future, and that is a beast that neither the Daleks nor the Time Lords should get their hands on.  I rather liked this story and felt it was a great closer to the set, and it is about as strong as the opening story, at least more so than the two stories that bridge them.  

While I can't say that the second and third stories are perfect, they are still rather engaging and fun, and with opening and closing stories that really are top notch, it is rather easy to recommend this set.  I don't even want to come down to hard on the two lesser stories, because I still think they work in the long run. Even so, no matter what the first and fourth episodes are really great episodes of Doctor Who, and McGann is giving his usual quality performance throughout the set.  Julia McKenzie should also get special notice for her turn as the Twelve, doing a great job running with what Mark Bonnar began as The Eleven. 

I have a soft spot for anything McGann or the Eighth Doctor, but I also think this set is worth the continued exploration of the Time War (and the weird ramifications of such a strange type of war), and Big Finish always put their all into these box sets, even the weaker stories have something to offer. Recommended.  






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

Sunday, 15 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 1 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Mark Bonnar (The Eleven), Ian McNeice (Sir Winston Churchill), Laurence Dobiesz (Wilhelm Rozycki), Gyuri Sarossy (Jan Ostowicz), Tracy Wiles (Secretary / Ground Control), Beth Chalmers (The Heliyon), Roger May (Cornelius Morningstar / Verdarn), Judith Roddy (Stralla Cushing), Sarah Lambie (Gorl), Jane Booker (Dron / Yetana), Christopher Ryan (Macy), Nicholas Rowe (The Kandyman), Amerjit Deu (Governor), Charlie Condou (Crabhead / System / Jarl), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Ruzalla), Beth Goddard (Ludina Braskell).  Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

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

Following on from the events of Doom Coalition, the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka are attempting to find the trail of their lost friend Helen Sinclair, and they begin a brand new set of adventures to stretch out over four boxsets, this time with the umbrella title Ravenous. It's a pretty exciting new beginning for this Eighth Doctor team, and bodes well for the Eighth Doctor adventures going forward.  

The set begins with Their Finest Hour, which has The Doctor and Liv answer a call from Winston Churchill, who hopes that the Doctor can solve the issue of an invisible ship that is wiping out his Air Force. It's a energetic start to this set, with Paul McGann in his regular fine form as the Eighth Doctor, and Nicola Walker far more settled into the role of Liv. I must admit that while I really enjoyed Doom Coalition, I have never been too excited by Liv as a companion.  She just seemed too low key, but I felt Helen picked up the energy where Liv seemed to drag.  Here, she seems far more comfortable in the role, she just has more energy and her sparring with the Doctor had a good flow to it. At any rate, the opener sets the tone nicely, with World War II and interferring Aliens, a good supporting cast (including Ian McNeice reprising the role of Winston Churchill), and a good mix of action adventure and character moments. 

The second story, titled How to Make a Killing in Time Travel, has the Doctor and Liv again diverted from finding Helen, and this time end up embroiled in a murder mystery and a prototype time machine. This is a pretty fun story, lots of humor and asort of madcap pace. These first two stories seemingly have little to do with the big new arc that will be the backdrop of the coming Eighth Doctor boxsets.  I've been fooled before, they may end up playing a bigger role than I realize...but even if they do not, they were a fun couple of stories that kept me engaged and reaquainted me to the Eighth Doctor and Liv...and they made me appreciate Liv more than I had in the past.  

Helen, along with the Eleven, make their return in World of Damnation. The two apparently crash landed in an asylum, and Helen wreaked some havoc when they arrived, apparently endowed with some powers from the Sonomancer (Listen to Doom Coalition 4).  But now she is just trying to calm the Eleven's psychopathic tendencies, and it is seemingly helping.  Also at the asylum is the Kandyman (making his audio debut), who is distributing sweets to the inmates, which somehow controls their behavior.  By the time The Doctor and Liv arive, the asylum is in chaos, and I rather liked that while the Helen and Eleven storiy is being told simultaneously as the Doctor and Liv arriving, it builds in a way that you only slowly come to relaize that the TARDIS arrival actually takes place some time after the rest of the episode, and that the chaos has been instigated by the Eleven and the Kandyman, who were secetly working together.

Despite having spent so much time searching for her, the Doctor is very suspicious of Helen once they have found her, and he is unsure of her motives throughout most of the finale of the set, Sweet Salvation.  In this episode we discover that hte Kandyman and the Eleven plan to rule over whole worlds by delivering the Kandyman's confections as a mind control device, and it is up to our TARDIS team to halt their plans.  This finale is a great conclusion to the set, as it while the titular Ravenous is only briefly heard and hinted at, I am intrigued about going forward.  

This set is a good start to the new set of adventures for the Eighth Doctor. It definitely helped me warm up to Liv, which is a definite plus, as I really never found her that interesting in previous boxsets. I do find it surprising that they brought the Kandyman back at all, as I don't think he actually worked in his lone TV appearance. But Big Finish manages to make him a more interesting character, with a brand new design on the covers, because I am pretty sure there was some copyright issues with the character design. I should also make special note of Mark Bonnar as the Eleven, who has been incredible in this role since the start of the Doom Coalition sets.

If I have a criticism of this new set, it is that it really cannot stand on it's own. You have to have listened to Doom Coalition to understand major plot points of this set.  Despite carrying on from Dark Eyes, you could have started fresh with Doom Coalition, that is not the case here.  Now, that previous series of boxsets is pretty entertaining, so it is kind of worth it, but those who are not fairly familiar with the ongoing adventures of the Eighth Doctor on Big Finish, you should probably catch up to start this new set of adventures.  Those who are fmailiar?  This seems like a fun new collection to add to a growing list of fun collections for Paul McGann and company.