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

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

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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



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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.