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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Doctor Who: Project: Twilight (2001)

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A review of Big Finish audio drama no. 23

  • Written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Directed by Gary Russell
  • Sound Design and Post Production by Gareth Jenkins
  • Music by Jane Elphinstone and Jim Mortimore
  • Starring: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Maggie Stables (Evelyn Smythe), Holly De Jong (Amelia Doory), Rob Dixon (Reggie Mead), Rosie Cavaliero (Cassie), Stephen Chance (Nimrod); Rupert Booth (Dr William Abberton/Matthew), Mark Wright (Mr. Deeks),Kate Hadley (Nurse), Daniel Wilson (Eddie), Gary Russell (Newsreader)

Full disclosure here: In all honesty, I’m not much of a fan of vampire fiction. While I would say that Nosferatu is, quite possibly, one of my favorite horror films, anything after the 1950’s is pretty hit or miss for me. Things that “try something different” with the legendary creatures like Hellsing, Vampire Hunter D, I am Legend or even Lost Boys are fairly interesting, but exists as diamonds in the proverbial rough of all of the other vampire stuff. I especially am not a fan of the more “romantic” side of vampire fiction, meaning that anything from Anne Rice novels to True Blood aren’t necessarily bad, but are not my most favorite thing to watch/read/ listen to. So imagine my apprehension when I come face to face with an audio drama that is not only about vampires, but has the word “Twilight” smack dab in the center. If there is anything that I don’t like it’s a story of pre-pubescent love between a vampire werewolf, and a caricature of a high school girl, but I digress.

Doctor Who has tackled vampires before, to varying degrees of success. We have seen things like fairly classical vampires in State of Decay, fish monsters that have fangs in Vampires of Venice, or grotesque mutations with a taste for blood as in Cure of Fenric. I think one of reasons I’m not too enamored with these stories is that they go leagues out of their way to explain common vampire tropes like an aversion to garlic, thirst for blood, and sensitivity to light all with a scientific slant. This has been done so often since 1954’s I am Legend that it almost seems silly at this point; it’s quite similar to how contrived many of the “origin stories” for zombies have become. In the 50’s, Richard Metheson breathed new life into a tired genre by making his vampires somewhat science-based, 60 years later it’s yet another tired cliché. I honestly can handle these mythological creatures, there doesn’t need to be an elaborate background of expositionary dialogue to set everything up.

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In Project: Twilight we find ourselves knee deep in just such a situation, with vampires being explained in a silly way. It appears that the ‘Twilight’ vampires were a form of botched scientific experiment, having been humans (typically prisoners or war wounded) created during the First World War by the Forge, a top secret government initiative to research means by which a superior soldier class might be engineered. So basically, the vampires in this episode are like a messed up version of Captain America.

The reason The Doctor and Evelyn end up coming face to face with this situation is The Doctor’s hunger for what he says is the best Chinese food in all of the galaxy, located in the most unlikely place – a dockside in south-east London. He assures Evelyn that he has sat for dinner with the legendary Kublai Khan, and not had Chinese take-out as good as this restaurant – The Slow Boat. Once they are chowing down on MSG-filled wontons and noodles, they discover the remnants of what can basically be called a “nest” filled with carcasses of brutalized small animals and other refuse. Next thing you know something like a mafia hit appears to happen nearby, and The Doctor and Evelyn are stuck in the middle of another bad situation.

‘Private. Do not enter.’ Oh dear, perhaps I should tell them that’s ancient Gallifreyan for ‘Doctor come on in, have a snoop around.’

We are introduced to the staff of a shady nightclub and casino called Dusk, run by a man named Reggie Mead who is obviously in some sort of organized crime syndicate boss, oh and a vampire. Other characters are varying degrees of likability, but a character name Nimrod stands out the most. he is described as an older man, donning all sort of futuristic vampire hunting technology. He is apparently nearly one-hundred years old, and was a twisted scientist in his past. He was mortally wounded and had to inject himself with the very same serum that created the vampires in the first place, cursing himself to hunt the earth for his own kind. My mind immediately slipped to the Marvel comics character Blade, who was a vampire himself, and yet hunted other vampires.

I liked Project: Twilight for what is was, but it’s not my favorite entry of the Big Finish line. Try as I might, I just have trouble enjoying vampire stories as much as other people and I’m not sure why. I like the inclusion of the shady governmental organization Forge and Nimrod, and hope they show up up again in a later installment. Much like with a few of the New Adventures related Sylvester McCoy dramas, I disliked how gory this episode was. I am not squeamish to this sort of thing, but I don’t see Doctor Who as the prime place for exploding people and vampire torture with added “squishy organ” sound effects. I originally didn’t finish this drama a few years ago because it got silly towards the middle with this stuff, and I was especially burnt out on vampire stuff having worked at a retail store when those Twilight books and films were coming out. On the second listen I’m glad I finished it, and I would say that it’s above average.