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: Bloodtide (2001)

Bloodtide

A review of Big Finish audio drama no. 22

Written by Jonathan Morris

Directed by Gary Russell

Music, Sound Design and Post Production by Alistair Lock

WOW! It’s been a while since I reviewed a Big Finish audio adventure, or any audio drama for that matter. For a few years, I was listening to these constantly, actually I was re-listening for review purposes, and I sort of let them slip a tad. For a little while, listening to stuff like this was kind of hard due to a promotion at work. I was previously blessed with over nine hours of work time to fill with podcasts, audio dramas, and radio – but this got hard when I became a supervisor. Suddenly I had a radio to listen for, and constant questions to answer. Now I’ve balanced this out, and plan to review an audio drama once a week! That’s right! Check back every week for another new edition.

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This week, I’ll be time-traveling back to 2001 and the infancy of Big Finish. This is a review of the twenty-second audio drama produced by these guys, starring none other than Colin Baker as The Doctor and Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe, his audio companion. Bloodtide follows on from a previous audio drama that I reviewed a few years back, The Apocalypse Element, and sees The Doctor and Evelyn coming face to face with a big historical figure – Charles Darwin. Just like any other historical Doctor Who story, the trip isn’t exactly a pleasure trip for our dynamic duo.

In the Ecuadoran settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there has been some bad stuff going on. The Doctor and Evelyn attempt to have a normal meeting with a young Charles Darwin, circa his Beagle days, only to start learning about all sorts of horrific stuff happening there. Baquerizo Moreno is an Ecuadoran penal colony, so one can imagine that there are tales of barbaric atrocities going on. Something is different here, however, there are rumors that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from locked prison cells, A local fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves, and the Governor seems sort of suspicious.

The Silurians

Of course, everything can be chalked up to appearances by the nefarious Silurians, recently awakened from millions of years of slumber. At the beginning of the episode, we actually saw a flashback to the dying days of the Silurian Empire. The planet was dying, oceans were foul, and many animals were going extinct. The Silurians are preparing to place themselves into suspended animation, but one man is not welcome. A Silurian scientist, S’Rel Tulok, is banished to wander the Earth along with the reason he’s in trouble – genetically modified primates that he altered to be more intelligent. As one can imagine, this is the birth of the human race.

As you can imagine, this isn’t the modern Madame Vastra brand of Silurians we’ve been used to seeing in the current run of the TV series. These are the classic iteration as seen in Pertwee episodes complete with the hissing voice and all. The Silurians are a great audio villain, because they were sort of cheesy until they got revamped a few years back. Without seeing the unmoving mask and other shoddy special effects, the listeners imagination is left to run wild and create quite the formidable foe. This is especially true when the drama re-introduces The Myrka, a monster that never lived up to it’s hype in the actual show. Instead of a rough guy in a rubber suit caliber monster, we are treated to something more like Godzilla – a stature that seems to be the original idea behind the Myrka.

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Once again, I am reminded why I love Evelyn Smythe so much in these audio adventures, she’s not the center of the Doctor’s love-life since she is older and is written as an equal of sorts. I LOVE older companions, I wish there would be more in the actual show! She does do a bit of the annoying stuff that companions tend to do when they meet a historical figure (i.e. trying to lead them into coming up with a future theory while they are there, or helping them along), but she isn’t as bad as Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say “I am not amused!” Maggie Stables has done the role five other times up to this point, and so far she has yet to do a bad job.

I have said many times, that I really enjoy the “softer” version of The Sixth Doctor in these audio dramas. It really shows that Colin Baker is a great actor and was “screwed” during the production of the actual show. While I do enjoy the moral ambiguity his Doctor had, sometimes it was a bit much, often resorting to murders followed by witty one-liners ala James Bond. Audio Colin Baker could be my favorite Doctor if future episodes keep this quality.

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The supporting cast was very good, with the only blemish being the shrill voice of Greta in the first episode (she improves vastly afterward). The Ecuadoran characters have suspect accents, like any other Big Finish audio with exotic characters, but since I am not from South America, I’m not going to pretend I am the authority on this. This adventure stars Miles Richardson as Charles Darwin, George Telfer as Captain Fitzroy, Daniel Hogarth as Tulok, Julian Harries as Governor Lawson, Helen Goldwyn as Shvak, Jane Goddard as Greta, Jez Fielder as both Emilio and Lokan, and finally Rob Shearman and William Johnson as The Myrka.

The Historical accuracy of this episode comes into question a bit for me, mainly because this adventure goes to great lengths to paint the picture that Charles Darwin became a devout atheist due to revelations attained on the island. With the premise of the episode being based on evolution and such, I can sense an agenda here to a degree, and unfortunately words are placed in Darwin’s mouth that he would have never said at the age he was here. Darwin is one of those figures that has become so “fetishized” that I’m not surprised this was in there, but a bit disappointed. Darwin was fairly religious into his middle age, but slowly edged towards agnosticism in his golden years. If anything, the revelation of the creation of mankind would have simplified his life, because he often struggled to reconcile his views with that of his upbringing, looking for ways to prove his theories tied in with God. Finding out that man was created by lizard people millions of years ago would have just lead to one conclusion: the Silurians are God(s).

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this episode despite the political tightrope walking in the plot. Being somewhat religious myself, and a history buff, I just get annoyed when science fiction tries to hammer an atheist subplot into stuff unnecessarily. The highpoint for me really was the Myrka attack, and how Big Finish was able to take a questionable monster and re-inject it with a bit of monstrosity and power. Maybe one of these days Big Finish will make a drama about The Supreme Dalek’s pet from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and make it cooler than a guy wrapped in paper and vines.

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.

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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