Doctor Who: The Eye of the Scorpion (2001)

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Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor); Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown); Caroline Morris (Erimem); Harry Myers (Yanis); Jack Galagher (Fayum); Jonathan Owen (Antranak); Daniel Brennan (Kishik); Stephen Perring (Horemshep); Mark Wright (Slave); Alistair Lock (Priest); Gary Russell (Ebren)

For some reason or another, this particular audio drama happens to be the one audio drama that I have listened to the most. A lot of it has to do with the time period in which I first started to listen to these, a time when I had long walks to work and back every day, and the fact that I would sometimes miss important things due to walking in traffic – thus repeated plays. Then again, I think I can chalk a lot of it up to my fascination, at an early age even, with the ancient Egyptian civilization, mythology, and everything related to it. For a long time, the movie Stargate was actually a film that I considered to be my favorite movie for much the same reason!

This adventure stars Peter Davison as The Doctor and Nicola Bryant as his voluptuous companion Peri. Neither Davison’s Doctor or Peri are my favorites if I were to lay out a big list of preferences, but I’ll hand it to Big Finish – they take things I dislike about Doctor Who and trick me into liking them! Bryant has definitely matures as an actress, and everything that annoyed me about her portrayal of the character (the terrible accent!) is gone now. She also has gone from being the eye candy of the show, merely there to twist her ankle and scream, to someone that is an actual asset to The Doctor’s travels. Big Finish has also redeemed Paul McGann‘s Doctor, Mel, and even Adric for me somewhat, it’s like they know what fans don’t enjoy about the show or something!

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This story is perhaps Davison’s strongest yet, and considering how critical I’ve been with a few of his adventures so far, that’s strong praise. The Tardis materializes right in time for the Doctor and Peri to witness an attempted drive by assassination of a young girl on a chariot. The Doctor channels his inner-Ben Hur and saves the day without realizing that he has possibly changed the course of history completely. You see, the girl he has saved is the only daughter of the great Pharaoh Amenhotep II, Princess Erimemushinteperem (or Erimem for short), her father has died and she is possibly next in line to be pharaoh. The problem is that The Doctor has no recollection of any pharaoh named Erimem, meaning that something is wrong.

Erimem is happy to give much thanks to her saviors, and the strangers’ arrival in Thebes is the talk of court. This causes problems for a lot of her direct aide’s such as a man named Antranak, who serves as her head of security, as there have been a lot of attempts on Erimem’s life as of late, and her consorting with strange people is not good. What follows from here on is an adventure involving a disputed throne, a warlord trying to become pharaoh and an alien hand in the whole mess.

I really enjoyed Both Erimem and Antranak (who reminds me of Egyptian Brigadier) and love the idea of an unknown historical figure as a companion. We have seen so many times, the travels of a contemporary person in the Tardis, but imagine someone from ancient history doing it. Not only would that person be amazed by the future, aliens, and space, but pretty much anything else they are shown. I think this is why I was initially excited when Clara on the TV show was revealed to be a Victorian character initially, only to have my hopes and dreams dashed just like that!

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Without spoiling too much, Erimem realizes that she has no place in history and chooses to travel with The Tardis crew, I for one, cannot wait to listen to their travels. I have so far loved these “original companions” like Charley, Evelyn, and now Erimem – great characters that keep me coming back time after time. Perhaps the only downside to this drama is that it keeps with a lot of tropes seen in Hollywood films about ancient Egypt, but we really have no idea how the civilization really lived, so it’s fair game. At least it didn’t succumb to the fad of ancient alien theories, that I have no doubt would be in an Egyptian episode made today!

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Paul McGann Messing with Fans on Twitter

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@pauljmcgann “This is my moment…!”

Some people criticize Steven Moffat for relentlessly “messing” with Doctor Who fans all the time, but this week saw the rise of a new contender in the game. Paul McGann (of Eighth Doctor fame) posted this image of himself, donned in his new costume from NIght of the Doctor, standing in the most-current Tardis interior. While most realize that this was most-likely taken DURING the filming of that mini-episode, others are clinging to hope that we will see Paul making a cameo appearance this year. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’ve been wrong before!

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Revisited: The Top Ten Things I wanted to see in the 50th Anniversary Back in March 2012

Doctor Who 50th Celebration - David Tennant toy
Doctor Who 50th Celebration – David Tennant toy (Photo credit: p_a_h)

Almost twenty months ago, I made a few predictions, or at least some sort of wish list for what I wanted to see with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration. Here it is:

Top Ten Things I’d like to see (Or Not) With the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

There has been a lot of chatter on podcasts and fansites where people want to know how fans felt about what we got, and more specifically want we wanted in the first place. This mostly came up because there was a vocal minority that whined about “how BBC were handling things” in relation to “the 50th.” I think looking back at my ramblings from then would be fun, since I do have such an article . I will re-list each segment of the original article, then follow it up in a different color with commentary on how it turned out, why It didn’t happen, or why I was full of crap.

Red words = I got it wrong

Blue words = I got it right

(I apologize if the color formatting does not work well in your reader)

10. Multi Doctor Story with at Least McGann and Tennant – I know that some fans bemoan such an episode, but I think it goes without saying – the best way to celebrate the long run of Doctor Who is to run a “multiple Doctor story” like past episodes such as “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors”, “Dimensions in Time” etc. The old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” so why not – why break a tradition that has been around for decades. This coupled with the fact that David Tennant has basically said that he is going to have something to do with the anniversary, I think It’s a shoe-in that we will see something like this, even for a short cameo.

What I would really LOVE to see is Paul McGann reprise his role as the eighth Doctor. Many fans see him as an overlooked part of the saga, and he is still technically a “current Doctor” as his regeneration has been only seen off-camera. We don’t know how old he was before the time war, I mean heck, he could have had white hair before it was all said and done. Unlike other older titular actors, McGann isn’t much older, so they do not have to come up with a terrible explanation about why the Doctor has aged forty years. This brings me to:

NAILED IT – This turned out better than I expected. Not only did we get a new “Three Doctors” essentially, but all twelve incarnations – no make that all thirteen – Doctors had appearances via computer effects and well placed stock footage. One can’t forget the awesome inclusion of The Night of The Doctor(READ THE REVIEW!), starring Paul McGann to make this 100% on the ball. 

9. Cameos from older actors – The above problem is one that I hope they don’t have to discuss as one only has to watch something like Dimensions in Time to see how weird it is to see a former “doctor” that has aged so much. Of course I’m speaking of Tom Baker, and the silly half-explanation about why he was old, overweight and had grey hair. Yes, age happens, and I’m sure Moffat is a more than capable writer to pull something like this off, but why waste tape? Why not have as many actors as one can get, that want to take part, and have them be there in cameos? Maybe we can have a scene of some sort of government body like the Parliament composed of actors from the older show. This would be good to showcase the older actors, and not get too over the top. If they were to bring back an old companion, like they have done with Sarah Jane, Jo Grant, and the Brigadier, why don’t they bring back:

NAILED IT – Aside from Tom Baker’s awesome appearance, there was a veritable “who’s who in Doctor Who, if you factor in things like Adventures in Space and Time, Night of the Doctor, and The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Tom was the only “classic Doctor” to appear in the main special in the flesh, and it was explained with tongue-in-cheek vagueness to avoid my main concern. “The Curator” is such a mysterious character that nobody really knows the intention. Could he be an aged Fourth Doc? Is he another Timelord? Is he a future incarnation? The other specials had brief cameos cameos from just about every living person that wanted to be involved, from John Barrowman to Matthew Waterhouse!  

8. The Return of Susan – what better way to look back at fifty years of this amazing show than to have the first companion come back? I have no idea how this would be pulled off, but having Carol Ann Ford reprise her role as the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman would be awesome, even if it was a brief appearance.

NOPE! – Unless you count her portrayal in an Adventure of Space and Time, and the cameo of Carole Ann Ford, the actual character never appeared in any return. She was mentioned, and we saw a picture of her in U.N.I.T.’s black vault, but that’s about it. 

7.  No “every villain teams up” story – Since we’ve already had this kind of thing happen in “The “Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” it would be boring to have the same thing crop up in the special. I know it would be an easy idea to go along with, but this needs to be special, and to copy something from two seasons prior would not be so great.

NAILED IT! – although this does appear to be the plot of the Christmas Special.

6. The Return of the Master – I’d love to see the master come back, especially if they decide to do a regeneration scene. While I think John Simm did well in the role, albeit being in two serials that I did not particularly love, I’d love to see new blood. Maybe Bennedict Cumberbatch will have free time?

NOPE! Not even close!

5. No metafiction drenched “breaking the fourth wall” stuff – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was a solid few episodes of Red Dwarf, although fans were torn on it just a tad. A lot of that came from the plot, which seemed to make the distinction that the guys onboard the titular mining ship, were in fact on a TV show. While this made for an interesting story, it was almost on the verge of “jumping the shark” plot-wise, I mean where would they have gone from there had they kept that revelation part of the show? It would be too easy to write an episode where someone makes a TV show out of the Doctor’s exploits, but I hope we don’t see that. If they are going to think of something similar though….

NAILED IT – although the chances of this happening were pretty slim. There was a tiny “fourth wall” breaking scene with Tom Baker that rivaled the infamous “merry Christmas to all of you at home!” scene from the sixties “Congratulations (Wink)!”, but that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

4. Load us up with “special features” – I know Doctor Who Confidential is gone, but we need some documentaries produced, sort of like the one they made right before the 2005 re-launch just re-tooled to hype up the anniversary and rebirth of the show. This stuff would make some fans appreciate a show’s heritage that they may have never known about before 2005-6 and make any DVD set that much better.

NAILED IT! – As you can tell, by my recent reviews, this was more than done.

3. “Making of” Movie – A real kicker would be a drama production of the story of the production of the show. Many fans do not know the uphill battle the show had before it became an icon of British scifi. Lorded over by a female producer (Verity Lambert) and an Indian Director (Waris Hussein) in a world of old white guys, the show definitely had an uphill battle at the beginning, not to mention its terrible ratings the day it first aired, the day JFK died.  As Picard would say: “Make it so..”

NAILED IT- Not only did I predict the movie, An Adventure in Space and Time, I predicted half of the plot! I did base my earlier post on my knowledge of Gatiss’s earlier proposal from a decade ago (the 40th anniversary special that BBC scoffed at), but had no idea that this literal scenario was going down.  

2. More than one episode – I know we have half of the seventh season to look forward to in 2013, but I hope they do something like David Tennant’s final “season” where we get multiple long form episodes, just as long as they aren’t as unspectacular as what we got then. I’m not saying they were terrible or anything, but they definitely were at the bottom of Davies’ caliber as a writer.

Nope! but I will say that long form episode in the theaters and in 3D made it a much better pill to swallow. 

1. No Regeneration – while I bet this would get the papers really rolling, add to viewership, and keep everyone buzzing, this would overshadow the actual anniversary if it would happen. If Matt were to leave soon, I hope he stays on until the eighth season. Not only would that make him have the traditional “four or so years” but keep that season exciting as well.

NAILED IT – Although the Christmas Special says “hi!”

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So, to answer the question above, I got almost EVERYTHING I expected and more. I was fairly pessimistic going into the second half of series 7 for some reason, and the top quality of those episodes and the 50th itself more than made up for my reservations. If anything, I’m more excited about the show than I was two years ago because of how much I’ve enjoyed the the 50th.

The Night of the Doctor (2013)

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“I’m a Doctor … but probably not the one you expected!”

One of my dream storylines for the 50th Anniversary special was a multi-Doctor story featuring the return of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. Despite not being a huge fan of the 1996 movie that he appeared in, I grew to love his portrayal of the character because of the fine audio adventures produced by Big Finish. While my wish did not fully come true, I did get to see the Eighth Doc bless our screens for at least one final time. The Night of the Doctor is a fine prequel to The Day of the Doctor, and answers many questions. When did Eight regenerate? What/who is John Hurt‘s character? Who fought in the time war? There are more questions left after this, but the majority of the “gaps” that have been bothering fans for a while have either been filled or at least clarified. Pretty good for less than ten minutes of content!

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The story opens with a major predicament for a space pilot named Cass. Her ship is plummeting towards the planet Karn, and it doesn’t look good. Right in the nick of time, a mysterious man calling himself “The Doctor” shows up and offers assistance, but is turned away once it is realized that he is a Timelord. You see, it’s the early days of the “Time War” and Timelords are just about as popular as a particularly grouchy Dalek. Cass accepts death rather than speaking to The Doctor, a fact that devastates him to his very core. It seems that he has tried to hide from the Time War, and take no part in the various atrocities his people are committing. Pretty soon, time runs out both Cass and The Doctor crash into the planet’s surface, and both are killed on impact.

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Suddenly, The Doctor wakes up to familiar faces. The Sisterhood of Karn, not seen since the 1970’s adventure The Brain of Morbius, have revived him, but it’s not permanent. In less than five minutes he will die, The Doctor is given the choice of either a) Dying for good or b) Kickstarting his regeneration cycle and escaping his fate. There is a catch though, The Sisterhood of Karn wants The Doctor to take charge of his people’s actions in the Time War, they want him to stop hiding and become a warrior for once. With great pain, The Doctor accepts and regenerates into “The War Doctor” via some sort of “magical potion.” He is handed a bandolier and a new face appears, that of a young John Hurt, the man we saw at the end of The Name of the Doctor.

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For his short amount of screen time, Paul McGann delights with his version of The Doctor, bringing the momentary humor that I’ve grown to love in his audio adventures, and a slice of his dark side. Another notable happening is the fact that this “episode” essentially canonizes the aforementioned audio plays, by having The Doctor mention his companions before he dies. So, at least for now, Charley Pollard, C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew, and Molly O’Sullivan are “legitimate” companions. I also liked how “Eight” took his regeneration. There was no emo-tastic “I don’t wanna die” tantrum that we’ve seen recently, just a stoic, if not slightly self-loathing nature to the way it happened. The effect was even like across between the new style (gold energy from hands and feet and head) and the old style (bright white light), which, if intentional, nice a nice touch by the producers.

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This ten minutes of Youtube greatness really brightened my day last week. I had no idea this even existed until I got home from work and noticed the internet had exploded into a nerdgasm of happiness. Petitions have gone up to get McGann back for some more filming in some capacity, and I think BBC had no idea that such a response would happen. It sometimes seems like old “Eight” is forgotten in the grand scheme of things, and having him get all this attention is awesome. Here’s hoping for a Capaldi / McGann episode in the future!

 

Doctor Who: Minuet in Hell

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Synopsis

“The twenty-first century has just begun, and Malebolgia is enjoying its status as the newest state in America. After his successful involvement with Scotland’s devolution, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has been invited over to Malebolgia to offer some of his experiences and expertise.

 There he encounters the charismatic Brigham Elisha Dashwood III, an evangelical statesman running for Governor who may not be quite as clean-cut and wholesome as he makes out. One of Dashwood’s other roles in society is as patron of a new medical institute, concentrating on curing the ills of the human mind. One of the patients there interests the Brigadier – someone who claims he travels through space and time in something called a TARDIS.

 Charley, however, has more than a few problems of her own. Amnesiac, she is working as a hostess at the local chapter of the Hell Fire Club, populated by local dignitaries who have summoned forth the demon Marchosias. And the leader of the Club? None other than Dashwood, who seems determined to achieve congressional power by the most malevolent means at his disposal…”

A few months ago I mentioned that there were two serials that I did not finish; the first was The Apocalypse Element, a serial that I think I fell asleep during the first time I tried to listen to it. And now we have the second one – and this one was rough. The story is great, the sound design is great, the brigadier is also great; so what went wrong? This serial takes place in America, vaguely set to be in the “Bible Belt” somewhere, in this part of the country most people have very little accent – so much that this part of the country is usually referred to as having a “general American accent”. Like “BBC English” this is the version of the language spoken in many TV shows and movies. I’m bringing this up because this play employs what I like to call “old prospector English” a variant in our language not heard since the film The Apple Dumpling Gang graced our screens all those years ago.

Dear England: I know you guys hate how many Americans talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins when doing bad community theater renditions of your manner of speaking, but talking like you crawled from a “Wild West” themed historical park is not good revenge.

After hearing Mark Gatiss do this exact thing in The Mutant Phase, it makes me wonder if this is a common misconception on that side of the world. Morgan Deare is the chief perpetrator here as he fleshed his character, Senator Waldo Pickering, out in this very manner. After hearing a whole string of “Jed Clmapett-isms” I turned to play off.

Well, I’d like you guys to know that I got over it and ploughed my way through the play once again. Waldo tried very hard, but I was not broken this time. I was strong and persevered through the terror. Upon completion I figured out that this play was actually very good, if not one of the best ones conceptually that they’ve done. It takes on very mature subject matter in a way far more fitting of what I feel is typical Doctor Who. Some of the Virgin New Adventures stories (plays or books) try to do the same thing (Adult Doctor Who), but end up with foul language, sex, body horror, drug use and other things more in line with an episode Torchwood. Instead of resorting to shock, this play talks about religious extremism, far right politics, and other topics usually left out of the show. Really, the only risqué thing in the entire drama is the fact that Charley is forced to be a serving girl in the Hellfire Club, and is too naive to realize that she is basically supposed to be a prostitute. The play doesn’t dwell on this, and by the time we realize this, she’s already out of there.

While, not the best episode for me, mainly due to the accents, I will say that this is one of the better plays that Big Finish has done, and a real step up from the previous play. Paul MGgann does a great job, especially when he is questioning who he really is due to having amnesia for a while. And let’s not forget that The Brigadier is here in his full glory, meeting the Eighth Doctor for the first time. All these positives tip this to the plus side for me, and I’m glad I listened again.

Doctor Who: The Stones of Venice

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Synopsis

“The Doctor and Charley decide to take a well-deserved break from the monotony of being chased, shot at and generally suffering anti-social behavior at the hands of others. And so they end up in Venice, well into Charley’s future, as the great city prepares to sink beneath the water for the last time…

Which would be a momentous, if rather dispiriting, event to witness in itself. However, the machinations of a love-sick aristocrat, a proud art historian and a rabid High Priest of a really quite dodgy cult combine to make Venice’s swansong a night to remember. And then there’s the rebellion by the web-footed amphibious underclass, the mystery of a disappearing corpse and the truth behind a curse going back further than curses usually do. The Doctor and Charley are forced to wonder just what they have got themselves involved with this time…”

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I’ve really been enjoying these Eighth Doctor adventures from Big Finish so far, and was excited to dive into another one. This play is slightly surreal in both setting and plot. While it exists in the far-flung future, the characters and things happening in and around Venice make it seem as if it could have honestly been a historical episode. There are Dukes and Duchesses, art dealers and religious cults wandering the streets – all of these scream “medieval period piece” to me. This oddness in setting makes for a serial that revels in atmosphere and characterization over the story itself.

We basically have a group that wants Venice to Sink, another than does not, and a religious cult that believes a long-lost Duchess holds the keys to salvation. These three groups run around and talk to each other for four episodes, and not much else happens. This simple story is kept this way because the author wanted to build an engrossing mystery, but there is one problem. The story is really quite simple, and many will figure out the big M. Night Shyamalan-styled twist at the beginning of episode one. For me, this would be like watching (or reading) a Hercule Poirot mystery knowing the killer from page one. No matter what sort of swerves and red-herrings come our way, it just isn’t that exciting.

I’d say that this is the weakest of the Paul McGann episodes so far, and there is a great explanation for this. When Big Finish did these audios, they actually recorded a few of them at the same time. While we got “Storm Warning” as a smashing introduction to Charley and a great re-introduction to the Eighth Doctor, this was actually the first one recorded. I’m not saying that those portrayals are bad, but they are a bit more subdued than earlier episodes. Keeping this in mind, the episode is a success and an entertaining listen based on the setting alone, although it fails to meet the standards of its predecessors.

Top Ten Things I’d like to see (Or Not) With the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

As with any list of this type, I know that choosing what I want to be in the 50th anniversary spectacular is both “fanwank” and unlikely to actually materialize in any capacity. Keep in mind that I do not want all ten of these to happen in one episode, that would result in the most horrendous non-sensical mess ever! This fact doesn’t keep me from coming up with a list of ten things that I would love to see happen.

10. Multi Doctor Story with at Least McGann and Tennant – I know that some fans bemoan such an episode, but I think it goes without saying – the best way to celebrate the long run of Doctor Who is to run a “multiple Doctor story” like past episodes such as “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors”, “Dimensions in Time” etc. The old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” so why not – why break a tradition that has been around for decades. This coupled with the fact that David Tennant has basically said that he is going to have something to do with the anniversary, I think It’s a shoe-in that we will see something like this, even for a short cameo.
What I would really LOVE to see is Paul McGann reprise his role as the eighth Doctor. Many fans see him as an overlooked part of the saga, and he is still technically a “current Doctor” as his regeneration has been only seen off-camera. We don’t know how old he was before the time war, I mean heck, he could have had white hair before it was all said and done. Unlike other older titular actors, McGann isn’t much older, so they do not have to come up with a terrible explanation about why the Doctor has aged forty years. This brings me to:

9. Cameos from older actors – The above problem is one that I hope they don’t have to discuss as one only has to watch something like Dimensions in Time to see how weird it is to see a former “doctor” that has aged so much. Of course I’m speaking of Tom Baker, and the silly half-explanation about why he was old, overweight and had grey hair. Yes, age happens, and I’m sure Moffat is a more than capable writer to pull something like this off, but why waste tape? Why not have as many actors as one can get, that want to take part, and have them be there in cameos? Maybe we can have a scene of some sort of government body like the Parliament composed of actors from the older show. This would be good to showcase the older actors, and not get too over the top. If they were to bring back an old companion, like they have done with Sarah Jane, Jo Grant, and the Brigadier, why don’t they bring back:

8. The Return of Susan – what better way to look back at fifty years of this amazing show than to have the first companion come back? I have no idea how this would be pulled off, but having Carol Ann Ford reprise her role as the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman would be awesome, even if it was a brief appearance.

7.  No “every villain teams up” story – Since we’ve already had this kind of thing happen in “The “Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” it would be boring to have the same thing crop up in the special. I know it would be an easy idea to go along with, but this needs to be special, and to copy something from two seasons prior would not be so great.

6. The Return of the Master – I’d love to see the master come back, especially if they decide to do a regeneration scene. While I think John Simm did well in the role, albeit being in two serials that I did not particularly love, I’d love to see new blood. Maybe Bennedict Cumberbatch will have free time?

5. No metafiction drenched “breaking the fourth wall” stuff – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was a solid few episodes of Red Dwarf, although fans were torn on it just a tad. A lot of that came from the plot, which seemed to make the distinction that the guys onboard the titular mining ship, were in fact on a TV show. While this made for an interesting story, it was almost on the verge of “jumping the shark” plot-wise, I mean where would they have gone from there had they kept that revelation part of the show? It would be too easy to write an episode where someone makes a TV show out of the Doctor’s exploits, but I hope we don’t see that. If they are going to think of something similar though….

4. Load us up with “special features” – I know Doctor Who Confidential is gone, but we need some documentaries produced, sort of like the one they made right before the 2005 re-launch just re-tooled to hype up the anniversary and rebirth of the show. This stuff would make some fans appreciate a show’s heritage that they may have never known about before 2005-6 and make any DVD set that much better.

3. “Making of” Movie – A real kicker would be a drama production of the story of the production of the show. Many fans do not know the uphill battle the show had before it became an icon of British scifi. Lorded over by a female producer (Verity Lambert) and an Indian Director (Waris Hussein) in a world of old white guys, the show definitely had an uphill battle at the beginning, not to mention its terrible ratings the day it first aired, the day JFK died.  As Picard would say: “Make it so..”

2. More than one episode – I know we have half of the seventh season to look forward to in 2013, but I hope they do something like David Tennant’s final “season” where we get multiple long form episodes, just as long as they aren’t as unspectacular as what we got then. I’m not saying they were terrible or anything, but they definitely were at the bottom of Davies’ caliber as a writer.

1. No Regeneration – while I bet this would get the papers really rolling, add to viewership, and keep everyone buzzing, this would overshadow the actual anniversary if it would happen. If Matt were to leave soon, I hope he stays on until the eighth season. Not only would that make him have the traditional “four or so years” but keep that season exciting as well.

So there we have it, hopefully some of this stuff happens, but what do I know? I bet what we actually see will be so much better!

Doctor Who: Sword of Orion

Hot on the Heels of my last Big Finish audio review, we have yet another Paul McGann /India Fisher Eighth Doctor audio drama to take a look at. This time we have the return of one of my favorite villains of all time – the Cybermen. This play actually marks the very first time we see Cybermen appear in one of these plays, and this is a good thing. After having a ton of these already star the Daleks, it’s good to see other classic villains get sprinkled in.

Here is a synopsis:

“The human race is locked in deadly combat with the ‘Android Hordes’ in the Orion System. Light years from the front line, the Doctor and Charley arrive to sample the dubious delights of a galactic backwater, little suspecting that the consequences of the Orion War might reach them there. But High Command’s lust for victory knows no bounds.

Trapped aboard a mysterious derelict star destroyer, the Doctor and Charley find themselves facing summary execution. But this is only the beginning of their troubles. The real danger has yet to awaken.

Until, somewhere in the dark recesses of the Garazone System, the Cybermen receive the signal for reactivation…”

What really stands out to me in this episode is the sound design. This story could have had a horrendous story, and I still would have liked it based on the atmosphere alone. Not only is the music well done, but the care at which the background noises and sound effects were produced sets a benchmark, for me at least, that no other drama up to this one has come to. The first instance of this occurs at the very beginning of the play. The Doctor and Charley are visiting a “space bazaar” of sorts to hopefully find a way to cure an ailing vortisaur, the creature that they met in the last episode. In this scene we hear layer upon layer of creatures talking, music, and idle chatter, all leading the listener to imagine a robust market side, hustling and bustling with tons of business.

Another place where this stands out is when we finally see the Cybermen that we all know take part in the serial. For the first few encounters we only ever hear a creature that is attacking various people. The noises are both animalistic and insane, making this creature terrifying. Later we find out that this is in fact a rogue Cyberman that has gone totally mad waiting for its connection to a cyberleader to get re-established. After years of seeing sub-par Cybermen that either stomp around saying catchphrases, or are wussy enough that they can be destroyed with a flick of a gold coin, I feel that this is the sweet spot for the creature. Well this or the unsettling voice that the original Cybermen had, which is definitely nightmare fuel of the highest octane.

While some of the side characters in this drama aren’t really all that well fleshed out, they do serve a great purpose to antagonize the Doctor and Charley when they initially believe the pair to be murderers of a fellow crewmate. These characters, the crew of a scrap ship, are your typical Doctor Who rag-tag, and somewhat mutinous ship crew. There definitely could have been a bit more fleshing out of a few of these characters, but it wasn’t really needed. Much like any Alien of Predator movie, some characters are just destined to be bad guy-fodder.

I’m not going to say that this is the best Doctor Who drama that I’ve listened to, but it really does have a great atmosphere and storyline to it. If this is the beginning of a quality plateau that holds steady for the next few releases, I’ll be insanely happy for the rest of the line.

Here is a trailer:

Doctor Who – Storm Warning

I remember being excited to import a copy of the Doctor Who television movie directly from the UK back when I got back into the show back in 2004. I had just purchased a region-less DVD player from China, and wanted to show everyone just how much of a nerd I could truly be. I had heard bad things about this movie, things that gave me absolutely no hope for it whatsoever. The movie could have been worse, but Eric Roberts basically ruined the whole thing for me; a fact that leads me to wish any character he plays in a movie the worst outcome possible. Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman causes Roberts (as Sal Marone) to break both legs?  Tears of pure joy from this guy.

Aside from a few bits of questionable dialog, that weren’t his fault, I have always felt that Paul McGann would have been an awesome Doctor had he been allowed to hang onto the role longer than a 90 minute Television movie. Thankfully all memories of The Doctor being half-human and Eric Roberts in a silly outfit were washed away the moment I booted up Storm Warning from Big Finish. Here is the official Synopsis for Paul McGann’s triumphant return to the Tardis:

October, 1930. His Majesty’s Airship, the R1010, sets off on her maiden voyage to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Empire, carrying the brightest lights of the Imperial fleet. Carrying the hopes and dreams of a breathless nation.

Not to mention a ruthless spy with a top-secret mission, a mysterious passenger who appears nowhere on the crew list, a would-be adventuress destined for the Singapore Hilton… and a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.

There’s a storm coming. There’s something unspeakable, something with wings, crawling across the stern. Thousands of feet high in the blackening sky, the crew of the R101 brace themselves. When the storm breaks, their lives won’t be all that’s at stake…

The future of the galaxy will be hanging by a thread.

The Eighth Doctor was definitely an underrated version of the character. Not only did he feel cheerful and somewhat goofy, but he definitely had a romantic and adventurous side; these are traits not really seen for a long while in the television show. The eighth Doctor definitely looked to be more of an Indiana Jones type of character, and that definitely is the case in this revival. I’m a fan of the darker Doctor’s as well, but the wide-eyed swashbuckling, name-dropping, and most importantly – fun Doctor is what I like the most; this could be why I seem to like Matt Smith’s take on the character so much. I did try to get into a few of the BBC Eighth Doctor Books at one point, but found quite a few of them to be depressing, pretentious, and a bit too un-Doctor Who for my liking. I’m glad that the continuity Big Finish has created at this point seems to have nothing to do with those books, as I probably would not have liked them much.

What we see here, is both a re-introduction of The Doctor and the appearance of a new companion. This story does a great job of tackling both tasks, and is as good as Rose in the regard that it does not get bogged down by its own baggage and keeps the story moving. What I mean by this is that we don’t have a long winded passage where we find out what happened to Grace Holloway and Chang Lee, as this is definitely not needed; this was one problem I have had with the newer BBC wales series as the writing tends to have the Doctor constantly talk about his previous companions (Like Rose), and in the case of a character such as Martha Jones, it really hurts the narrative. The new companion in question is Charley Pollard, a tomboy-ish girl that fashions herself to be an “Edwardian Adventurer”. Charley seems to be the perfect foil alternative to many classic female Who companions, and comes across as independent and strong, not just a shrieking character that always gets in trouble (Susan, Mel, etc..)

This drama seems to share a bit with the later Steven Moffat televised episodes of the show in that Charley is shown to be troublesome to time itself in the same way that Amy Pond seems to be. Since the Doctor plucked her from a large scale historical event, (the crashing of the R101), her mere existence afterwards is a paradox and causes him problems from then on. I like this little subplot, as it give any later audio dramas a plot to latch onto, rather than them just being a set of unrelated adventures.

The actual plot of this story involves the doomed flight of the R101 dirigible, and much in the old Doctor Who fashion it is explained that such a catastrophe was somehow caused by aliens and the Doctor was there. We have seen this with the Titanic, The London fires, Pompeii, and basically any other disaster! The aliens in question are the Triskele, which are described as being “dolphin-like” I’m not sure how literally to take the comment as the description given during the play could also describe our typical view of “grey” aliens, but since there are no pictures that I know of, I imagined them as such. This could be my only fault with the play that I could find – there is a lack of descriptive remarks that give an idea of the way that characters and such look. This isn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but I would have liked a few more “that looks like a dolphin” type remarks to solidify any impressions I had gained.

Storm Warning is a great beginning to a new series of Doctor Who dramas and kept me entertained the whole way through. This play has definitely re-kindled my like for the eighth incarnation of The Doctor, minus all the crap from the TV movie. I can’t wait to see what happens next.