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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Video: All Regenerations From Hartnell to Smith (Including Hurt and McGann)

Here is a fitting tribute to the one time every few years that Doctor Who fans both dread and anticipate the most – The regeneration. This video includes ALL of the regenerations minus the fake-out one with David Tennant where he displaced the energy and simply healed himself. That’s right, you see both John Hurt and McGann in here! I am confused by the inclusion of Matt Smith’s Doctor and his “death” at the hands of “The Impossible Astronaut”, but I didn’t make the video. And without further ado…

 

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (2013)

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Fans have been speculating for quite awhile about the mysterious “project” that Peter Davison was working on for the 50th anniversary. There were tweets that went out hinting at involvement with the Day of the Doctor, there were odd pictures, and even clandestine meetings between the classic actors making media rounds. That speculation has been silenced today, as fans were treated to a hilarious romp through the lives of four guys that don’t take themselves too seriously.

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The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot follows Peter Davison as he spearheads a campaign for his, and any other classic Doctor Who actors, inclusions into the 50th anniversary special. This is of course Davison, Sylvester McCoy, and Colin Baker playing self absorbed versions of themselves that borderline on being quite pitiful. Peter is jealous of how his younger children don’t seem to respect the fact that he was in the show, and feels that he should be in it to win their affections. Other classic Doctors are just as bad as Davison. McCoy, for instance, constantly drops the fact that he was in the huge budget film The Hobbit, and is even wearing a shirt with “The Hobbit” emblazoned on it. Colin Baker sits around forcing his family to watch old episodes of Doctor Who, not realizing that everyone has grown pretty tired of it. If you are wondering where the other two actors are that the title mentions, they are definitely in there. Doctor number four is a cameo from Paul McGann, who the other three humorously resent for having tons of work all the time, and then there is Tom Baker

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The “Tom Baker” scene was so ridiculous that both my wife and I laughed so hard that we scared our cats. The three actors start arguing who should call Tom for quite a while, only to get his voice message, a quote taken directly from Dimensions in Time from 1994. He, of course, was not able to answer them because they cut to the infamous “recycled from Shada” footage of the boat scene used in the original The Five Doctors. Both things were poking fun at the way Tom used to brush off Doctor Who anniversary stuff in the past, forcing the production teams to be “creative”. There are a lot of good gags in here, but this literally left us in tears.

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The plan that the “three amigos” concoct involves storming the production studio where the special is being filmed in sneaking into camera view. Keep, in mind that this is “Plan C” after bugging Steven Moffat over the phone failed, and picketing the BBC also failed. They eventually hitch a ride with John Barrowman to Cardiff, Wales and try their best to steal the real Tardis from a Doctor Who exhibition, as Peter seems to have forgotten that it was a prop in a fictional show. They eventually settle on merely “borrowing” their old costumes and convince David Tennant to prop the door open for them. Problem is, security is after them, and time is running out. I won’t spoil how they supposedly appear in the special, but it’s pretty great.

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As you can tell, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot has tons of cameos from Doctor Who alumni both classic and new. There are literally too many to mention, but eagle eyed viewers will notice every era of the show represented, from Carole Ann Ford (Susan) to Mathew Watterhouse (Adric). These cameos aren’t too “in your face”, and many were too esoteric for me to pick out immediately, only a trip to Wikipedia shed light on who some of the people were.

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As you can tell, this was made for the fans of the classic show primarily, and it’s a great spoof of how many fans perceive various Doctor Who actors to be in real life. Unlike some parody material, this was very well made, and most importantly pretty funny. I’d rank it right up with The Curse of Fatal Death, and may even have enjoyed it more. If you’re a classic fan, do yourself a favor and check this out. New fans may scratch their heads with some of the jokes, but there is even stuff in there for them!

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EDIT: I’ve been getting a decent amount of traffic from folks that want to watch this, so here is a link to an official source:

Watch The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Here

(let me know if the link crashes)

Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor (2013) A recap

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When Matt Smith became The Doctor way back in 2009, there really wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare. This was made more abundantly clear on my side of the big pond as the show had yet to hit the current levels of promotion that it achieves over here. As I recall, some promo images were snapped and Matt recorded a short video interview and that was that. This time around, the BBC has gone all out with a live TV program simulcast around the world. With the nature of Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor pretty much existing to introduce us to the new actor, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of substance. And that my friends is what we got here: some fluff with a cool interview at the end. I decided to write up a brief synopsis for those unable to watch the show, and despite the fact that everyone suddenly knows who Peter Capaldi is, his relationship to the show may be foggy for some fans.

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Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor was presented as a sort of late night talk show in a similar vein to either the Graham Norton Show or the old BBC Jonathan Ross Show. The presenter for the evening was Zoe Ball, someone that I’m unfamiliar with. A quick trip to Wikipedia land reveals that she hosts things like dancing shows over in the UK, a fact that means I will immediately forget who she is after typing this. Ball did her best job of hyping the crowd up and keeping everyone relatively excited as she and the audience watched video clips with selected celebrity guests. These guests included Peter Davison, Liza Tarbuck, Bernard Cribbins, Rufus Hound, and Daniel Roche. We also got to see brief glimpses of video recordings of Steven Moffat and Bonnie Langford as well as other cast members from the past, too bad these clips were short and were similar to VH1 “I Love the 80’s” shows.

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The audience was basically silent for this whole thing until the very end, forcing guests to go for cheap pops in order to make the audience cheer. Rufus Hound went as far as to mention England to get a cheap audience reaction, the same thing rock musicians do at a concert to get the crowd going. I’m not saying this was bad or anything, but aside from Bernard Cribbins and peter Davison, I have no idea why some of these guests were chosen. One decent bit from the whole video clips montage was a Matt Smith interview where he talks about his departure from the show, and gives some kind advice to the new guy.

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There was a tense moment where we saw the new actor’s hand as he waited for the cue to go onstage,and then the tension was relieved as Peter Capaldi walked out. Capaldi discussed his love for the show, and trying to win over the audience. They reminded fans that he has been on both Doctor Who and Torchwood at different times, and that he once wrote a letter to a newspaper about the show as a teenager. Look’s like we’re in good hands, folks Capaldi is awesome.
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To be honest this show was sort of unnecessary and seemed sort of thrown together. It is cool seeing a show I love getting this much attention though, as it was a mere 4-5 years ago that I had to defend it’s existence to a co-worker that insisted nobody had heard of it, and there was no way more people watched it than Lost, his contender for “greatest sci-fi show ever”. Last time I checked, Lost didn’t have vapid talk shows discussing casting choices did it? I claim the win!

If you guys want to check this interview out, here it is:

Doctor Who: Loups Garoux

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Synopsis

Brazil, 2080: The Doctor and Turlough arrive for the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
Is wealthy heiress Ileana de Santos all that she seems? What sinister ailment afflicts her invalid son, tended by the mysterious Dr Hayashi? And who exactly is Rosa, engaged on a secret quest to fulfil the destiny of her extinct tribe?
Time is running out for Rosa, Ileana and the Doctor, as the fearsome shadow of an ancient werewolf moves ever closer…

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Nicholas Pegg

I’m just going to start this off by saying that I was not a huge fan of Marc Platt going into this audio drama based entirely on his earlier contributions to Doctor Who, a TV episode called Ghost Light and a book called Lungbarrow. In fact, I would rather watch the terrible charity episode Dimensions in Time than sit through Ghost Light again. Thankfully, Platt seems to be on his A-game in Big Finish as I thought Loups Garoux was quite enjoyable. This is surprising as I think that Davison has got the worst scripts of all the Doctors (up to this point); a problem that seems to be sorted out.

First thing first, Turlough is awesome and I was pretty excited to hear Mark Strickson reprise the role in this drama. This isn’t just a guest role either; Turlough is up in the forefront of this whole play. As listeners, we get a glimpse at his mysterious darker nature, a fact that he has hidden from the Doctor and the other companions. He gets separated from the Doctor at one point (as with many Doctor Who stories), and takes center stage for a bit, even getting his own temporary companion in the mix. We also see a bit of a reluctant romance for not only Turlough, but the Doctor as well (Gasp!). This added romance is surprising for those familiar with Platt’s writing as Platt himself created the ridiculous “The Doctor is Asexual and Timelords are born in looms” garbage found in Lungbarrow, a piece of novelized fanwank that many fans cling to despite countless contradictory pieces throughout the show.

The rest of the actors are pretty solid as well, especially Emily Bron as Ileana. She plays the matriarchal leader of a group of old-world werewolves clinging to a hidden existence in the future. Despite a few wonky stereotypical accents, there really was nobody to single out as the weak link of the production. Everyone had their part, and everyone was important here. Even the Fifth Doctor, who did very little in his past few plays, was on top form here both in Peter Davison’s acting and the storyline itself.

The actual story is a solid plus from me as well, as it delves into the topic of werewolves without zany Hollywood movie hijinks. The creatures are treated in a manner that I’m not used to, and I really liked it. Basically these wolf creatures live among us, but use an ability to stay hidden from our eyes. While this isn’t exactly talked about at length, it’s sufficient to explain why we don’t have huge wolves walking around all the time. Of course the wolves can also take a human form, something that sickens a few of them to their core. This shape shifting is more-or-less the basis for the main plot. You see, Ileana has a son that can’t turn to a human appearance. She wants her son to be able to walk amongst the “cut-claws”, but he has a feral monstrous disposition and appearance. Oh and there is an ancient demonic former ex-lover of hers out there trying to kill the other wolves!

I guess I gained a new-found respect for Marc Platt, a writer who I was not too enamored with in the past. I’ve actually listened to one more of his Big Finish plays that I enjoyed, but that’s a review for another day. In closing, if you want a solid Peter Davison title to start out with in Big Finish, you could probably pass on the ones before this, as Loups Garoux is definitely a new benchmark for this Doctor.

Doctor Who: The Mutant Phase


After weeks, even months, of listening to the void of soundless boredom, I started taking my iPod to work this week in order to keep occupied for my long ten hour shifts. Since I do not want to listen to the same songs every day, I decided to load up on podcasts of varying topics, and a few Doctor Who audio dramas. As you may have noticed by a few earlier posts, I am attempting to listen to all of these Doctor Who Audio plays by Big Finish in order, and one would assume that I would review them as such.

I realized that I had gone far too long without keeping notes, writing things down, and generally getting ready to write any reviews. So guess what? I’m going to re-listen to a lot of these in order to keep these up rather than going off of memories of these plays that could date back to over one year ago. You never know, I may end up liking dramas I previously hated (there are actually two I never finished of the forty or so I have heard, I need to fix that). Luckily this drama did not make my “poop list” the first time I listened to it according to my iTunes star rating, and stayed just as enjoyable the second time around.

 

Synopsis

In the 22nd century, the Daleks have occupied planet Earth. By the 43rd century, only a handful of humans survive. Still further into the distant future, a Thal scientist must choose whether to betray his heritage, or see the universe destroyed.

When the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves trapped in this deadly chain of events, they must decide who their real enemies are. What is certain, however, is that no matter where the Doctor turns… his arch enemies, the Daleks, will be waiting for him.

What could possibly be worse than that? The Mutant Phase…
The Mutant Phase has an immediate bonus for me in that it is a re-visitation of my favorite Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. For those unfamiliar with that title, said episode was an important episode for many reasons: it was Susan’s last appearance as a regular companion, it was the first serial shot on location, it was the second Dalek appearance, and it was so popular that it was one of two stories to be remade into a feature film starring peter Cushing. Going back to such a classic episode is a cool idea, and thankfully we get the setting as more of a “bookend” to the meat of the story rather than a “fanwanky” total revisit.

In that episode, the Tardis crew including Susan, Ian, Barbara, and the first incarnation of the Doctor, arrive in a bleak post-apocalyptic and Dalek infested England in 2167. What really made The Dalek Invasion of Earth stand out for me was the chilling use of vacated landmarks during location shooting, and the utter bleakness of the overall story. For a “kid’s show”, this episode had a lot of dark things like signs saying not to dump dead bodies in the river and humans turned into a slave work force.  What we have here with The Mutant Phase can be seen as a “prequel” of sorts to this classic episode as we see The Doctor As played by Peter Davison and his companion Nyssa arrive a few years earlier, to a time where Daleks have never met the Doctor and don’t meddle in time travel.

My only real quibble with the episode rears its ugly head in this introductory portion of the episode. The Doctor realizes pretty quickly that they are somewhere in the state of Kansas, which for foreign readers, is located in the United States. While looking through a field of genetically altered crops infested with wasps, The Doctor and Nyssa stumble upon a “Roboman” guardsman, a zombie-like policeman for the Daleks. By zombies I don’t mean the Romero-esque eating brains and rotting away living dead variety, but the classical use of the term as in brainwashed servant. Not to be confused with Cybermen, Robomen are just regular people with some sort of mind control device implanted onto their heads.

So anyway, this roboman gets America back for the dreadful British accent Dick Van Dyke used in Mary Poppins, by delivering his dialog in the worst, most overdone, American accent out there. This can partly be chalked up to the dronish manner in which the robomen characters talk, but behind all the reverb and monotone was a glimmer of a vocal style not heard since The Apple Dumpling Gang. I seriously hope that many in the U.K. do not think all Americans talk like 1890’s old prospectors, but I get the inclination that it may be the case. I think Mark Gatiss was responsible for the voice, as he is credited as such! All joking aside, this small slip-up was very minor, can be overlooked easily, and does no harm to the play itself.

This play has quite a few interesting characters, and chiefly among those are two Thal scientists, Ptolem and Ganatus, both forced to work for the Daleks to stop the mutant phase. We hear a lot of mentions of these guys before we see them interact with the Doctor, so their motives stay hidden for the majority of the play. Another nice addition is Karl Hendrick, a man that lives in the dark and studies old relics from our current history. He gets quite a few great one-liners and funny moments making him one of the better side characters.

Aside from a couple of minor things like over-done foreshadowing that Nyssa’s wasp sting may be important in some way, the plot of the Mutant Phase was well done, and revolved around some good ol’ fashioned “timey-wimey” stuff involving a temporal paradox. With any paradox based episode the resolution didn’t exactly wrap the whole thing up in a bow – a fact that is actually made fun of in the dialog. When the Doctor explains what has happened to Nyssa at the end, she tells him that it simply made no sense, to which he replied “paradoxes don’t make sense” or something vaguely similar. Admitting this, the play somehow jumped over any plotholes it may have obtained whilst jumping between a multitude of timelines. For me this was nice, humorous touch.

While not the classic of its older brother, The Mutant Phase is a competent audio drama that keeps one entertained throughout. Keeping in mind that the Daleks are the only race that the doctor has ever really considered committing mass genocide on, listening to him being forced to work alongside the horrible creatures is compelling and makes this a must listen. I’ve been lukewarm on the Dalek Empire Releases so far, but this one has really redeemed the series, can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Reaction: Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday

With the latest season of the current Doctor Who over with, I figured it was just about time to dive into some classic episodes that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet. Up this week I decided to bust out Four to Doomsday, a serial starring Peter Davison as the Doctor, and his standard crew of Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric. The episode opens with one of the many attempts that the Doctor tries to take Tegan home, only to find them on board an alien vessel traveling to Earth. On board, things seem to be a bit “funny” as they find Chinese, Mayan, Greek and Aboriginal crew members being led around by a race of aliens called the Urbankans. The Urbankan leader, Monarch, invites the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric to continue the trip to Earth as his guests.

To be honest I’m not really a fan of this popular companion group as a whole. Of all the controversial views on Doctor Who out there, this is probably the main one that I subscribe to. I have always felt the later crew that had Turlough, and even Peri, were better suited to the fifth Doctor than these guys together. While I enjoy Nyssa, I find Tegan’s constant gripes at the Doctor tiresome, and equally find Adric’s “I know everything, check out my math metal!” attitude to be quite annoying. I guess I’m just not a fan of episodes where everyone bickers with the Doctor, as it generally makes him look foolish in many ways, when he should be the smartest guy there. This episode open woefully with something like five minutes of pure bickering, so much that ou wonder if they all got into some off-camera fight before this story or something. Every time I watch an episode with Adric, I always trick myself into giving him the benefit of the doubt: “yeah he’s a stubborn kid, and he’s not that bad.” Then he does something like launching into a random misogynistic rant like he does in this episode, and I want him to disappear.

Many compare this crew to the original “first Doctor” set of companions staring Ian, Barbara, and Susan; this is something I find confusing. Yes, the three were intelligent, but they didn’t continuously try to pull rank on the Doctor, nor did they stop having that sense of Jules Verne inspired wonder that I love in British sci-fi. Had Hartnell’s Doctor been with this crew, I think he would have “accidentally” left two of them behind. For this episode to fall so early on in this particular Doctor’s lifecycle, it’s almost as if some of the companions see Davison’s Doctor as too “nice”, and try to walk all over him.

The special effects in this serial are a mixed bag. While I like most of the model shots, some of the costumes are a bit wonky. Right from the beginning we see this with the Doctor’s space helmet, a device that looks to be in league with an old episode of Buck Rogers in the cheese factor. Now that I think of it, all the headpieces in the episode are pretty bad, especially Nyssa’s helmet that has “googley eyes”! The rest of the sets were actually pretty well done, if not a bit minimalist in nature. The walls are basically just a ton of random switches and dials placed everywhere. This definitely does the job at making it look like they are standing on a spaceship, or the house of a computer hoarder. To be honest, the special effects, makeup, and set design are the only shining beacon in a somewhat bland episode.

The overall plot has to be the most insane thing I have ever seen outside of the earlier Douglas Adams episodes. Not insane in an incoherent way, but insane in that the plot makes such little sense it’s almost funny. The main villain, Monarch, basically wants to invade earth so that he can strip-mine the planet for silicon. he plans to turn this into computer chips he needs to travel back in time to meet himself as God….yikes! Rather than settling on one trope (alien invasion, androids, dancing?, religion vs. science) it’s as if the production crew took a page from the creators of Family Guy and grabbed a bunch of concepts from a big hat and compiled them into a nearly competent episode.

I think the main problem lies in the utterly bad manner in which science is used in this episode. For an episode that relies on said science such as this one, it’s just inexcusable. There are many examples of this including Monarch’s bizarre time travel plan that makes no sense, except for the fact that he yells “E=MC squared”. I would have settled for some technobabble here, but using an actual scientific theory incorrectly is bad. Another quibble is when Adric claims to not know what photosynthesis is, keep in mind that he lived on a jungle planet, and is supposed to be insanely smart.

While not the worst episode of Doctor Who, Four to Doomsday is most definitely not a favorite of mine. Luckily the episodes of this season are not all of this quality, thus keeping me away from the “Davison Hater” category that many toss out there.

Review – Doctor Who: Winter for the Adept

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Summary: “When a teleportation accident goes badly wrong, Nyssa finds herself stranded on the freezing slopes of the Swiss Alps in 1963. But is it mere coincidence that she finds shelter in a snowbound school haunted by a malevolent poltergeist?  When the Doctor arrives, Nyssa and the other inhabitants of the school soon discover that the ghost is merely part of a darker, deeper and more deadly game involving rogue psi talents and something else… Something not of this Earth.”

When we last left the Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, they were leaving frigid Alaska bound for some place hopefully warmer.  Not only does that not happen, but they end up in a house with a religious zealot that believes that cold air is the path to salvation and warmth is a sin.  Nyssa gets stranded in this place long before the Doctor arrives, and is taken in by a group of Swiss School girls living on the mountainside.  This story contains a few weird motifs that are out of the ordinary for Doctor Who, but serve well in this story….for the most part.  The first of which is that the story itself is bookended by a narration from one of the Swiss school girls.  The cheesy overly flowery diary entry harkens back to such writers as Jane Austen, but only in a superficial way.  The girl basically says very little with as many adjectives as possible to make it sound classy.  This sloppy writing should have been the first red flag for what I was getting into.

From: Doctor Who Magazine

Winter for the Adept is one of those audio dramas that I really wanted to like, but sadly did not whatsoever.  The story begins as a ghost story intertwined in a Stanley Kubrick’s Shining-esque wrapper, but completely falls apart 3/4ths of the way in and becomes a Michael Bay film.  It’s like Andrew Cartmel (the writer) was so set on adding aliens into the mix that he forgot he was writing a ghost story.

The choppy writing doesn’t end there, as there is a lot of dialogue talking about “Spillagers” at the beginning, a term that is never explained until towards the end of the play.  When it is revealed what a “Spillager” is, I was rolling my eyes due to how convenient it was within the plot.  The Doctor constantly talks about “spillages” and his “spillage detector” in such a way that it leads you to believe that he is talking about some sort of energy release or some such.  Not the alien that magically happens to be there in the Alps at the very same time.  I also found myself having a lot of trouble imagining what was going on especially in episode four.  There are many instances where random yelling, noises, and explosions can be heard with little explanation as to what is actually going on.  Sadly this play is a frightful miss for me.

 

My rating 1 out of 5

Review – Doctor Who: Red Dawn

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis:

Ares One: NASA’s first manned mission to the dead planet Mars. But is Mars as dead as it seems?
While the NASA team investigate an ‘anomaly’ on the planet’s surface, the Doctor and Peri find themselves inside a strange alien building. What is its purpose? And what is frozen inside the blocks of ice that guard the doorways? If the Doctor has a sense of deja-vu, it’s because he’s about to meet some old adversaries, as well as some new ones…

We open Red Dawn with a countdown timer and launch of man’s first foray to the red planet in a ship called the Argosy.  From the very get-go this seems a doomed mission as a ton of stuff begins to go wrong right out of the gate.  At the exact same moment, The Doctor and Peri travel to a large building that seems to have doors and other controls that are run empathically.  Once they run into the now landed Argosy crew, they find out that they are on Mars just as the Ice warriors show up.  The villain of the piece is a man named Paul, who is so stupidly one-dimensional that he might as well be a textbook example of bad ethical practices.  The man literally tries to incite a inter-galactic war for the sole reason to make money on weapons trading and other like things.

The play has a few missteps that made this drama hard to finish for me.  While I have complimented Nicola Bryant as Peri in the handful of audio adventures I have heard with her, this audio play is seemingly back to the “old school”.  I found Peri (of no fault to Bryant, but the script) to be about as annoying as she was in the earlier parts of her run on the classic show.  All she did was run around and hound one of the Ice Warriors about his promise not to kill the Doctor and yell at folks about ethics.  Peri was not the only blight on this drama as it seemed as if everyone involved was completely incompetent in all situations.  The Doctor kept talking about the Ice Warrior honor code, but never takes advantage of it, as he has with other races such as the Sontarans.

This is quite easily the most boring of these audio dramas so far, and it was slightly less entertaining than The Sirens of Time.  Not all stories can be top shelf I guess.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

Here is a “trailer” of sorts:

Review – Doctor Who: The Land of the Dead

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

For me, the first three of these Big Finish Audio dramas were sort of like a warm-up for what the range could really bring; and The Land of the Dead is the first of these that really stands up along-side the TV series.  As I’ve stated before, not being a big fan of the Peter Davison era worried me about these plays, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that his audio plays are usually my favorites.  Sarah Sutton returns to reprise her role as Nyssa, a companion I actually really liked during this time.

The story follows The Doctor and Nyssa as they pop up in frigid Alaska in the dead of winter.  They stumble upon an encampment where a crazed billionaire named Shaun Brett is trying to build a shrine for his dead father from parts of the surrounding landscape.  This themed museum of sorts includes a rather ghoulish room consisting of old bones that freak out the hired Inuit laborers.  They believe that such a room will bring the vengeance of nature upon them; and this superstition isn’t helped when monsters begin to attack.

The acting in this play is very strong in almost every way from the principle cast to the background characters.  I was really worries that the voices for the various Inuit people would be off, as many UK based actors would not have a lot of knowledge on their language and culture.  Aside from a few minor UK-isms, I think they did a fairly good job, and kept the whole thing believable.

The play does a great job of helping the listener imagine exactly what the villains look like, which is a step up from the last few were it was sort of hard to imagine what the Big finish crew were really going for.  All in all a very enjoyable tale!

My Rating 4 out of 5

 

Review – Doctor Who: Phantasmagoria

All in all Phantasmagoria is better than the Sirens of Time simply by having a better less convoluted narrative, but still suffers by being early in the run.

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Let me get one thing straight before going into this audio drama review: on a whole I am not a huge fan of most 1980’s Doctor Who stories when stacked up to anything else.  I buy the DVDs, watch all of the stories, and read the comics, but I prefer the modern way the show is told, or just about anything before John Nathan Turner took the show over.  Not that I don’t like the actors that played the Doctor during this time, I just find the show a tad “hit or miss” in the decade of excess.  The audio plays, as a whole, have helped me really appreciate those actors that I may have never given much of a chance to.  This can be attributed to both maturity of the actors, and let’s face it, solid production quality.  I went into Phantasmagoria assuming that I would not like it due to it starring Peter Davison, and was greatly surprised to find a well acted, well written, if somewhat goofy episode.

I had heard of Phantasmagoria long before I actually listened to the production, as it was written by mark Gatiss, and was supposedly the template for his 2005 televised episode The Unquiet Dead.  I’m not sure where folks keep dragging that up, as the two stories have nothing in common save the period setting.  The play stars the Fifth Doctor and Turlough as played by Peter Davison and Mark Strickson respectively.  Aside from the usual cast of Big Finish Players, I did notice cameos from Mark Gatiss and David Williams, who later went on the create the super popular show Little Britain is side roles, so that was fun playing “spot the person whose voice I know”.

The Story involves The Doctor’s arrival in London of 1702, a time of highwaymen and strange disappearances.  When folks start to turn up dead clutching playing cards, a local occultist seems to think that spirits are on the loose, but the doctor thinks differently.

Being early in the Big Finish run, I would like to cut this play some slack due to its early release (being the second one made), but I can honestly say that for all the good in this episode, there was unfortunately some bad as well.  The one thing I really picked up on was that a few of the actors took to their roles a bit too much, if you get my drift and came across a bit too campy for my taste.  This would be commonplace for the TV show at the time, but audio dramas are a bit different.

All in all Phantasmagoria is better than the Sirens of Time simply by having a better, less convoluted narrative, but still suffers by being early in the run.  The acting, sound effects, and story are pretty solid, but the play suffers from a few over-actors, and a bit of storyline padding.  Big Finish is just hitting their stride, can’t wait to listen to the next one.

My Rating 3.25 out of 5

 

Review: Doctor Who – The Sirens of Time

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.

220px-Sirens_of_Time.jpg picture by spdk1

Big Finish Audio drama

Earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and start listening to a line of audio dramas from a UK based company called Big Finish.  Living in the U.S., we really don’t have audio dramas at all whatsoever, so I was not too sure if I would like them at all.  Gladly this was put to rest, as my experience with these is largely positive.  The first one I listened to was also the first Big Finish audio drama made that was officially licensed by the BBC.  Starring Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Sylvester McCoy all at once The Sirens of Time promised to be a crazy ride.

Multi Doctor stories are generally not nearly as good as one would think they would be, as they generally come across as ‘fanwanky” and nonsensical.  Take for instance the 80’s TV episode The Five Doctors in which everyone looks to the Doctor’s first incarnation for some sort of wizened advice from time to time, despite the fact that the Doctor was younger and less experienced than the others.  Luckily The Sirens of Time escapes this fate a bit, but still comes across as a little thin storyline-wise nonetheless.

The story involves an invasion of Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet,by a warmongering race called The Knights of Velyshaa.  The Timelords release that someone or something is meddling with time and forcing three different incarnations of the Doctor to mess time up in some way in order to create this militant army.  Terrified by this prospect, the Timelords try to take measures to kill the Doctor so he can’t do the deed he is being tricked into doing.

The fifth Doctor is revealed to be stuck on a German U-boat in WWI, unable to re-enter his Tardis to go home.  The Sixth Doctor is on some kind of conference ship where a group of dignitaries and scientists are investigating a spatial anomaly known as the Kurgon Wonder. And the Seventh Doctor is in a jungle of some sort, where he saves a young girl from dying only to end up meeting a reformed war criminal on the run from android assassins.

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.  As a one shot story I feel that the episode is very “middle of the road”, but as a “sampler” of sorts for the next few dramas that were planned, I can see why this was made in this way.  All in all I liked The Sirens of Time, but better audios were to come.

My Rating: 3 out of 5