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 Legacy Of Time - Big Finish - 20th Anniversary SpecialBookmark and Share

Sunday, 28 July 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley

“Brave heart…….ermmmm……all of me…?”

 

The Legacy of Time is an epic six-part adventure, celebrating 20 years of Doctor Who at Big Finish!

Time is collapsing. Incidents of chaos and devastation are appearing throughout the lives of one Time Lord and his many friends – all fallout from one terrible disaster. From Earth’s past and present to timeless alien worlds, from the cloisters of Gallifrey into the Vortex itself….The Doctor must save universal history – and he needs all the help he can get.

 

Lies In Ruins by James Goss

At the opening of Lies in Ruins, we join River Song (Alex Kingston) and her team excavating some ruins, only to find that one Bernice Somerfield (Lisa Bowerman) had beaten her to it. It seems that the ruins lie on a mysterious planet, a planet that until very recently didn't exist. The planet is rich with ruined temples and towers…as well as ghosts from the past. 

Not being able to resist a mystery, the pair are joined by the eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and new companion Ria (Alexandria Riley). Between the four of them, they discover the identity of the planet, while at the same time fending off a rather ruthless salvage attempt.

Lies in Ruins is a story that is jam-packed with action. It hits the ground running, and doesn't let up that rather frantic pace. I found the plot with its slow reveals quite intriguing, and was genuinely surprised with the final twist as to what the new planet actually was.

My one gripe would be Ria. She really grates, and yes, this is a part of the plot - but did they really need to make her quite so unlikeable?

 

The Split Infinitive by John Dorney

The Counter-Measures team are investigating a gangster who seems to be aging people to death. Without warning, they are visited by Ace (Sophie Aldred)  and the seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), who are investigating a very strange, temporal anomaly  The twist is that Ace is visiting them in the 1960's and the Doctor in the 1970's.

Once again, things unfold at breakneck speed. I'm beginning to wonder if it is because there is simply so much to cram into these stories!

The plot device of having the narrative split across two time zones is a great idea, especially when the story relating to the earlier time zone needs to play out in order to see how the later time zone will deal with any ramifications, which is probably the dictionary definition of timey-wimey.

What really stood out for me though was Howard Carter's music. It had a proper old school jazz vibe about it, quite unique, and something that went well with the story.

 

The Sacrifice Of Jo Grant by Guy Adams

In the present Jo Grant (Katy Manning), Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) are investigating a spate of wormholes, when Jo and Kate are inadvertently sucked into one and deposited in the middle of a UNIT adventure from the 1970’s (or is it the 1980’s). This lends itself to quite a touching reunion between the much older Jo Grant and the third Doctor (here voiced by Tim Treloar). We also find that Kate Stewart’s father is contactable on the other end of a radio link – will she take this opportunity to talk to him? 

Sadly, it is with Kate’s dilemma on whether to contact her father where the story falls down. I found the writing that shows Kate ‘agonising’ over whether to contact the Brigadier to be incredibly trite – it just seemed so out of character, and I just didn’t buy it.

Despite that, I think The Sacrifice of Jo Grant is my favourite of this collection. It is after all a classic Pertwee tale of holes in time and dinosaurs.

Let’s address the title of this segment. The story starts with a voiceover declaring Jo Grant dead and a hero, so we know straight away where this story is going – does it fulfil its promise – I’ll let you find out.

 

Relative by Matt Fitton

Relative is a rather light-hearted story (and a great play on words), with the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) thrown together with his (future) daughter Jenny (Georgia Tennant). It's also the first story in the set to truly try to bring together some of the dangling plot threads that might prove a link to the previous entries. 

It seems that a TARDIS has exploded and is creating some sort of temporal event. The TARDIS is forced to materialise on a ship full of tourists…and a stowaway, Jenny. There’s a lot of humour to be mined from the situation especially when Jenny keeps referring to the fifth Doctor her “Great, great, great, great, great Gramps”, much to his obvious annoyance.

The Sirens are introduced to the story arc here (previously seen in Sirens of Time). These are creatures that feed on temporal energy and positively feast on a paradox…..and space tourists. The kleptomaniac Time Lord the Nine (John Heffernan) is also thrown into the mix to complicate the Doctor and Jenny’s rescue attempt.

Ultimately the story is quite throw away, but at least by the end of it, the listener starts to have a good idea of what might be going on.

 

The Avenues of Possibility by Jonathan Morris

When DI Patricia Menzies (Anna Hope) is called to a case where a man has seemingly stumbled out of the eighteenth century, things appear to be getting strange. When that man then asks for the Doctor, she knows something is very wrong.  Of course, the sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)  and Charlotte Pollard (India Fisher) are at hand to help. It appears that Earth is peppered with faults in time. There are wormholes that connect to possible futures and probable pasts everywhere.

Things are then further complicated when one possible future, where Britain is a dictatorship suddenly takes an interest in invading its own past, creating a huge paradox that attracts the attention of the Sirens, meaning that time itself could be torn apart.

Jonathan Morris has created an interesting take on a paradox with The Avenues of Possibility, which is another strong entry into this celebratory box set which really delivers the goods. The writing is slick and very clever, and well delivered by a very strong cast.

 

Collision Course by Guy Adams

Now we come to the grand finale. A fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Leela (Louise Jameson) and Romana (Lalla Ward) adventure split across two time periods, and two versions of the same planet. A planet that is steeped in Time Lord legend, and where the first-ever TARDIS had it's very first test flight with rather disastrous results. It'll take at least six Time Lords to save the day (and maybe a couple of others just for good measure). Where ever could we find them?

I found Collision Course, for the most part to be the weakest of six stories included in this set. I think mainly because of the way the action is split (again) across two time periods, everything after a while blurs together. There is also a lot of technobabble, and some very earnest monologues, describing how dire the situation is, and how there can be no resolution.

Collision Course also features the money shot that we have all been waiting for, and that is the payoff of having multiple Doctors in the same room, bickering away about their own self-importance.

So, here is the thing with The Legacy Of Time, I was looking for a proper multi-Doctor story, and yes, I got it for about 10 minutes of the 480 plus minute run time. However, I wanted more. As a sum of it's parts the overall story is very enjoyable and included some iconic characters that were solely the creation of Big Finish......but  I felt as if I was a bit short-changed by the lack of Doctor on Doctor action. I understand that this is Big Finish's huge 20 year finale - and that is truly a wondrous milestone to hit. But there could have been a lot more interaction between the Doctors.

I appreciate that there is a lot of celebration going on. With odd pairings of companions past and present and some nice, unexpected cameos from others, but - this story is nearly forty quid! That’s a lot of money. Rest assured, The Legacy of Time is no Zagreus (thank goodness), but it could have been a better celebration, maybe by pairing some Doctors together with the companions?

Overall, a very good effort, all expertly directed by Ken Bentley, and as mentioned previously, as individual stories, very enjoyable. But as a multi-Doctor epic? Not quite so much.

 

 

 






The Monsters of GokrothBookmark and Share

Sunday, 21 July 2019 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie

The Monsters Of Gokroth (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By Matt Fitton

Direted by Samuel Clemens

!

In Big Finish’s anniversary year, interesting choices have been made in terms of subjects from the ‘classic’ era of the show from which to tackle. The first three months saw a number of stories which finally chose to address the Fifth Doctors oft-unseen companion Kamelion and finally give him his due. In terms of the Seventh Doctors stories a more quirky but perhaps equally more inspired choice was made and The Monsters of Gokroth is the opening story in a trilogy which sees the return of punk werewolf Mags from the 1988 story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. It’s an inspired choice really, one which leaves room for a whole range of possible stories- possibly delving darker into horror that Doctor Who ever has before. After all ‘punk-horror’ is an intriguing sub-genre all of it’s own and the late 1980’s was it’s heyday. Indeed, the slasher and darker horror of the 1980’s is arich resource for Doctor Who to draw upon. The Monsters of Gokroth even seems to promise this, with elements of gothic littered throughout the synoposis. Unfortunately, what results is a story which whilst entertaining in it’s own right- is incredibly pedestrian and draws only from Gothic tropes, not really using the full potential of having an alien punk werewolf with the Doctor.

None of this is the fault of Jessica Martin, who is incredible and returns to her role as if it was yesterday. At several points throughout the story she…’transforms’ and the difference between her two performances are superb. One imagines playing an aggressive werewolf is hardly an easy task, the level of violence and aggression really is frightening.

Unfortunately, that is the only slightly frightening thing within the entire story. Now I don’t want to be too unfair, Matt Finton’s story is a fun and exciting romp and one imagines that perhaps some of the problems faced by Gokroth are far from his fault. As I briefly mentioned in my introduction, the main problem with this particular tale is that it’s just too safe. It draws from a number of classic Gothic horror tropes (the creepy carnival, the hunchback assistant) yet it does literally nothing new with them. Instead the result is simply another Doctor Who style take on classic horror films. it’s difficult here not to review what I have heard, but what I wanted to hear yet one can’t help but feel that the biggest issue with Gokroth is the sense of wasted potential that permeates the entire story. Even with Ace the Punk movement has hardly been touched upon at all and with the Seventh Doctor already having a darker, edgier side- it seemed the perfect era in which to explore these ideas.

Aside from the story, there’s very little wrong with Gokroth. All of the guest cast are fun and seem to be having a blast with the story. In particular, Jeremy Hitchen makes a particularly slimy villain and provides some nice creepy moments with his portrayal of the sadistic Varron. Abi Harris threatens to steel the show however as the bombastic Trella, head of the village and in an unusual move for a character of this kind within the Whoniverse, comes across as mostly sympathetic.

Whilst much of the main range of late seems to have played it safe (with the exception of last years Daniel Hopkins trilogy) with a large number of ‘romps’ it seems a shame that Gokroth is just another in this line. Hopefully, the next two tales will redeem this trilogy and use some of the potential that is unfortunately wasted here.






The War Master: Rage of the Time Lords (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The War Master: The Rage of the Time Lords (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Tim Foley & David Llewellyn

Directed By: Scott Handcock

Starring Derek Jacobi, Paul McGann, Mina Anwar, Taj Atwal, Paul Clayton, Lu Corfield, Su Douglas, Ryan Forde Iosco, Youssef Kerkour, James MacCallum, Shvorne Marks, Ricky Nixon, Katherine Pearce, Laura Riseborough, Anjela Lauren Smith, Liz Sutherland-Lim, Dominic Thorburn

Released by Big Finish - July 2019

 

 

As much as I have enjoyed Big Finish's exploration of the Time War the last few years, I don't think any series they have running explores this corner of the Doctor who universe better than The War Master. While the Gallifrey series has taken to exploring the political consequences on the Time Lord's homeworld in an interesting way, it is still exploring the earliest days of the conflict and is all about the political strife that comes with it. The War Doctor and Eighth Doctor series did/do a  good job of exploring the Time War and it's effects on the universe, but the Doctor as the lead character does limit how far they can take the concept.  Even the War Doctor has to be inherently good, otherwise the audience may turn on him.  They could only take the character too dark.  But that isn't the case with the War Master, you can take him as dark and deep as you want, as as such, you can really explore the cruelest aspects of the Time War.  

Throughout Rage of the Time Lords, the Master is collecting unique individuals for nefarious reasons (what else), and this plot begins with The Survivor.  He has infiltrated a small rural British town during World War II, posing as a Minister and has taken a particular liking to a young girl named Alice.  He tricks her into causing some trouble, culminating in her hurting another girl, and then he exploits this to turn the entire town against her, and then takes her away.

In The Coney Island Chameleon the Master chases down an Italian Strongman and a girl who can change her skin to match her surroundings (even taking on the properties of brick walls and velvet curtains), seemingly after the young girl and her powers.  Here the Master doesn't make any attempt to play a good guy, and is more of a sinister figure from the outset. First offering to buy the girl, then chasing them down until he gets what he wants.  

From there we travel off of Earth, to a facility where the Master has been keeping all of his specimens. We find that he is working on creating some kind of weapon from all these beings he has collected and caged.  The Master is searching for the very thing that will complete his project, the titular Missing Link, and finally he arrives:  The Doctor.  Obviously a big draw for this set is that we get to hear Derek Jacobi's Master face off with Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.  And it's worth it.  The moment McGann shows up I perked right up....and I'd been loving the set up this point.  

The big finale for the set comes in Darkness and Light, and sees the Doctor forced to help the Master as his creation, The Rage, breaks loose in the facility.  It's a great ending to the set, fun to hear Jacobi and McGann spar...and the conclusion for the Doctor is painful and sad...but totally works. 

The set is excellent. Not a bad story in the bunch.  The build-up to the Mastyer's plan, the introduction of the Doctor in the back half, the reveal of the Master's scheme: it is all perfectly executed.  And the fact that the Master is a villain means that Big Finish can truly explore the most sinister aspects of the Time War.  Highly recommended. 






Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #9 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 15 July 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #9 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini & Viviana Spinelli

30 Pages

Published by Titan Comics June 2019

In Issue #9 of the Thirteenth Doctor we begin a brand new adventure.  We start off at an alien parade, but as you'd expect the Doctor is soon arrested for supposedly stealing some sacred jewel. The Doctor obviously didn't do it, but some woman with Two Hearts and dark curly hair did...and the Doctor can only assume the worse: Missy.  Soon she and the gang escape their jailer, and head off to solve the mystery and hopefully stop Missy from whatever evil plan she may have.  

But things aren't that simple, as the gang trace her signal and find it isn't Missy at all...but is, in fact, the Cosair! I guess this is sort of a spoiler, but really it is more of a twist for hardcore fans, and most will have to stop and wonder "who?" For those who don't recall every detail of the show's history, the Cosair has never been seen, and was really only mentioned once before on screen (in The Doctor's Wife) as having been a Time Lord friend of the Doctor's.  The Cosair was described as having changed genders a few times, and here we find her as a female.  

Obviously this is just the start to a new story, and the idea of getting to meet the Cosair is intriguing.  We will see if the story has any meat on it once it gets going. 





The Paternoster Gang - Heritage 1 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 14 July 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Paternoster Gang  (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Jonathan Morris, Roy Gill, Paul Morris
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, Dan Starkey

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released June 2019

Running Time: 4 hours

The Paternoster Gang was originally introduced midway through the Sixth Series of Doctor Who's revival, with Madame Vastra and her assistant/wife Jenny being recruited to help the Doctor at Demon's Run, along with a Sontaran nurse named Strax who owed the Doctor a debt.  They then returned midway through the Seventh Series, where a few prequels set up that the duo became a trio when they brought Strax back with them, to act as their butler and in their investigations.  They made a few appearances during the rest of Series Seven, and also played a role in the Twelfth Doctor's debut story.  They were fairly popular with fans, and calls for a spin-off where not unheard at the time.  But showrunner Steven Moffat had enough on his plate with both Who and Sherlock, and his busy schedule meant spin-offs weren't really in the cards.  I also suspect that a period show that would require detailed sets and two of the leads to be in heavy prosthetic make-up was never really going to get the green-light when it mostly appealed to a niche fanbase.

But that is what Big Finish exists for!  They excel at giving every side character a spin-off of their own on audio.  They've certainly doubled down on that in recent years, particularly with the license for the new series opening up new avenues for them to explore.  Sure getting Eccleston, Smith and Capaldi is difficult, and even the game Tennant is so busy he can't really record as any sets as older Doctors...but if you can't get the new Doctors, why not give all of their friends a show! So we have River Song, Jenny, Missy, the War Master, Captain Jack, Lady Christina, Rose, UNIT, even Winston Churchill and new series of Torchwood and Class.  Now the Paternoster Gang gets in on the action, and their adventures are fairly fun. 

I was a little unsure how well they would fair as their own series if I am honest.  I remember when I first saw Deep Breath, that as much as I loved Strax, I was beginning to tire of the shtick of Vastra and Jenny.  They didn't really seem like a believable relationship to me.  So I went into this set a little unsure if the team could maintain my interest for a whole set.  Luckily the cast is quite likable in this.  Whether they are fighting early Electric Cars that turn into robots to wreak havoc on Victorian London, facing off with a Bizarro version of themselves (and zombies), or chasing down ghosts in Greenwich...they are a fun team to adventure with.  And this set is worth a listen.