164. GODS AND MONSTERS
Written By: Mike Maddox and Alan Barnes
Director: Ken Bentley
The TARDIS travellers arrive in a bizarre landscape seemingly immune to the physical laws governing the rest of the universe. Ace, Hex and their motley army of allies battle to rescue the Doctor from the trap he’s walked into… soon realising that the odds are stacked against them.
But the gods and monsters who inhabit this strange realm loaded the dice against them long ago, in the dim and distant past – and defeat’s their only option.
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), John Standing, Blake Ritson, Gus Brown
165. THE BURNING PRINCE
Written By: John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
The Drashani Empire – a galaxy-spanning civilisation, the glory of Rome set among the stars. But for decades now, the Royal Houses of Gadarel and Sorsha have been at war, each claiming the Imperial throne.
The wedding of Prince Kylo and Princess Aliona was meant to change all that – a blessed union between the Houses, a new hope for the Empire. Until Aliona’s wedding galley crash-landed on the planet Sharnax – and all contact was lost.
The TARDIS lands aboard the ship carrying the fiery Kylo in search of his lost princess – but with a sabre-toothed monster roaming its corridors, the Doctor soon discovers he’s not the only alien presence aboard.
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Caroline Langrishe (Shira), George Rainsford (Prince Kylo), Clive Mantle (Tuvold), Dominic Rowan (Corwyn), Derek Hutchinson (Altus), Caroline Keiff (Riga), Tim Treloar (Tyron), Kirsty Besterman
OUT IN SEPTEMBER
166. THE ACHERON PULSE
Written By: Rick Briggs
Director: Ken Bentley
The planet Cawdor. Deep in the heart of the Drashani Empire.
The Doctor lands thirty years after the Succession of Blood brought Empress Cheni to the throne. For most of her reign there has been peace and prosperity. The Empire flourished. But five years ago, the War came. And nothing was ever the same again. Now the Drashani are at war with the mysterious alien race known as the Wrath, led by the Warlord Tenebris. As more and more planets fall to their advance events are rushing to a head.
What exactly does Tenebris want? What is the secret of the Wrath’s weapon, the terrifying Acheron Pulse? As the Doctor races to save an Empire, he may not like the answers he finds.
Colin Baker (The Doctor), James Wilby (Tenebris), Joseph Kloska (Dukhin), Jane Slavin (Teesha), Chris Porter (Vincol), John Banks (Boritz), Chook Sibtain (Athrid), Carol Noakes (Olerik)
OUT IN OCTOBER
167. THE SHADOW HEART
Written By: Jonathan Morris
Director: Ken Bentley
One empire has fallen and another has taken its place. The race known as The Wrath are expanding into new territory. Only the Earth Empire stands in their way.
It’s been fifty years since the Doctor last visited this sector of space. And one man in particular has been awaiting his return. As the mistakes of his past come back to haunt him, and with a price on his head and bounty hunters on his tail, the Doctor is heading for a last reckoning.
The pieces are finally coming together. Somewhere deep within The Shadow Heart.
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), James Wilby (Tenebris), Chase Masterson (Vienna Salavatori), Eve Karpf (Talbar), Alex Mallinson (Horval), John Banks (Captain Webster/Starbaff/Wrath Emperor), Jaimi Barbakoff (Lt Dervish)
OUT IN NOVEMBER
168. 1001 NIGHTS
Written By: Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, Jonathan Barnes, Catherine Harvey
A long time ago, two travellers came from far away…
In the perfumed palace of an omnipotent Sultan, a girl must tell stories to keep the man she cares about from a cruel and horrible death. She spins tales of distant lands she has visited with a mysterious traveller, of fabulous creatures and fantastic adventures – and of a blue box that can travel in time and space.
Meanwhile, in the dungeons below the throne room, there lurks a secret which will bring down the kingdom – perhaps even the universe.
Can the Doctor and Nyssa escape from this never-ending story before the final chapter spells their end?
Doctor Who main range subscribers whose subscription includes this title will receive the complete Doctor Who audio drama Night of the Stormcrow absolutely free. The adventure stars Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, and Louise Jameson as Leela. Night of the Stormcrow will be available to buy separately in December 2013.
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Alexander Siddig (Sultan), Nadim Sawalha (Old Man), Teddy Kempner (Nazar), Kim Ismay (Lottie/Woman Stallholder), Malcolm Tierney (Gantha/Warder), Debbie Leigh-Simmons (Elizabeth Spinnaker/Bessie/Crying Woman), Christopher Luscombe (Alien Psychiatrist/Balladeer), Oliver Coopersmith (Hill/Archie)
OUT IN DECEMBER
XI. DOCTOR WHO: NIGHT OF THE STORMCROW
Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
High atop Mount McKerry sits the observatory. For years now it’s been watching the skies. Now something’s watching back. Something dark and huge that blots out the stars. Something with giant wings. Something that kills.
When the TARDIS is struck mid-flight, the Doctor and Leela crash-land on the mountain to find they are not the only aliens to be visiting. Beings of nothing infest the complex, staff members are dead or mad. As the survivors argue amongst themselves and attempt to take advantage of the situation, a creature vast and terrible is coming ever closer.
A creature called… Stormcrow.
This release is available to customers who buy a 6 or 12-release subscription to the Doctor Who Monthly Range and will be available to buy from December 2013.
There are currently two ways to obtain this exclusive audio:
Ensure your subscription includes the December 2012 Doctor Who Monthly Range release 1001 Nights
When buying a 12 release subscription, select this release as your free gift from the Doctor Who – Bonus Releases range
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Chase Masterson (Peggy Brooks), Ann Bell (Professor Gesima Cazalet), Jonathan Forbes (Trevor Gale), Mandi Symonds (Erica MacMillan)
OUT IN DECEMBER 2012
Posts Tagged ‘doctor who big finish audio adventures’
Posted by dailypop on September 16, 2012
Posted by dailypop on September 13, 2012
The most popular and longest reigning actor to play the Doctor, Tom Baker’s return to the role is nothing short of explosive. His Big Finish adventures have had that certain unique blend of drama and absurd humor that made his era so remarkable. The details on his second series reuniting Baker with the late Mary Tamm and John Leeson have been coming in, but the finale looks quite amazing!
It’s a Dalek-filled finale for the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 in this forthcoming full cast Doctor Who audiobook
Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor on TV, 1975-81), Romana (Mary Tamm, 1978-79) and K9 (John Leeson, 1977-present day) become embroiled in an epic battle with the Daleks in the second season finale of The Fourth Doctor Adventures.
The Final Phase is released in July 2013, and also features David Warner (Titanic, The Omen) and Toby Hadoke (Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver) reprising their recurring roles of Cuthbert and Mr Dorrick. Nicholas Briggs (Doctor Who, Torchwood) is the Voice of the Daleks.
The second season of The Fourth Doctor Adventures is now available for pre-order.
Season one, which stars Tom Baker opposite Louise Jameson as Leela (on TV 1977-78) is available now.
Posted by dailypop on September 2, 2012
‘The Butcher of Brisbane’
Written by Marc Platt, directed by Ken Bentley
Released: June 2012
The TARDIS is drawn off course by time travel experiments in the 53rd Century. Facing an evil that he had thought forever in his past, the Doctor enters the bloody world of Magnus Greel, a villain whom he had defeated in his previous life in Victorian London. However, the Doctor must be careful to insure that history plays through its proper course while protecting his companions at the same time.
One of the most celebrated of the classic Doctor Who televised stories, Talons of Weng Chiang is a classic of immense proportions. The plot of Robert Holmes’s script was rather thin but the atmosphere and character was boundless. A time travelling war criminal trapped in Victorian London, Magnus Greel poses as a deity Weng Ching. Protected by a devilish gnome Mr. Sin, he draws wayward women of the night to the sewers in order to draw their life from them using future technology.
There were a few scattered hints at the world that Greel had escaped which Marc Platt drew from, developing a lush nightmarish realm. Nyssa and Turlough are separated by the Zigma energy and disappear three years in the past, lost in the tundra as bodies fall from the sky, sent there by Greel’s scientific adviser and resident madman, Findecker. Turlough and Nyssa manage to get involved with the underground, a group of journalists determined to expose Greel for the power-mad dictator that he is.
Three years later, the Doctor and Tegan arrive to find their lost traveling companions deeply entrenched in Greel’s inner circle with Nyssa lined up to marry him! The Doctor must carefully extract his friends from their situation, but before he can act he is captured by cybernetically enhanced dingoes with a basic intelligence and brought before Findecker who seems to know far more about the Doctor than he lets on. Facing gut-wrenching torture, the Doctor resorts to his wits and escapes his capture by plying the dingo named Chopper with sweets.
For me, the Butcher of Brisbane is one of the most enjoyable Doctor Who stories by Big Finish to date. I had very low expectations (a prequel to one of the finest classic Who’s?), but the finished product is so polished and clever that it is a classic in its own right. The Doctor shines in this story, acting witty, clever, reserved and cannily wise all at once. It could be one of Peter Davison’s strongest outings as the Doctor. His interactions with Chopper the cyborg dingo are touching (I’m a big dog-lover) and side-splitting.
The supporting cast also comes out strong as Turlough and Nyssa play the espionage game in a not dissimilar fashion to Jamie and Victoria in the classic The Enemy of the World. There are some stark parallels to that story, I found, as Greel has put himself up as the best hope the world has for peace while secretly building his own private army for a massive war, one which the Doctor has already witnessed.
Actor Angus Wright is captivating as Greel, a charismatic madman who thinks that a doll using the brain of a pig is a good gift for a child. There are so many solid gold moments in this adventure, but when Mr. Sin made his entrance as a bizarre birthday present, my mind leaped out the window.
The final part of a 5th Doctor trilogy (with The Emerald Tiger and The Jupiter Conjunction before it), The Butcher of Brisbane is a thrilling story that draws from the rich history of classic Doctor Who to tell a new adventure that is so unique yet nostalgic at the same time.
The Butcher of Brisbane can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:
Posted by dailypop on August 25, 2012
‘The Jupiter Conjuction’
Written by Eddie Robson, directed by Ken Bentley
Released May 2012
“So you trust me enough to be disappointed? … Charming.”
The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a comet circumventing an orbit between Jupiter and Earth in the far future. However, rather than finding a cold barren rock, the crew discover a bustling community built around a massive corporation using the fortuitous orbit as free hauling passage. But all is not well and the blame for a string of thefts is rather fortuitously laid at the Doctor’s feet. While the Doctor and Turlough struggle to extricate themselves from the law, Tegan and Nyssa find that there are strange creatures on the far side of the comet made entirely of gas. Tegan dubs them ‘cloud monsters’ but the Doctor recognizes them as one of the most mysterious and brilliant of alien races, the Jovians. They are said to be mainly peaceful, so just why have they constructed a cannon pointed at the Earth?
The Peter Davison era is a mixed bag to say the least. It is a period of intense optimism in the program’s history as it extricated itself from the 1970′s and the immense shadow of Tom Baker’s importance. But the scripts were often far too ambitious for the limitations of the budget and the short rehearsal and film time allotted often meant that the cast and production team were equally in the dark about just what the story was about. Added to this is the largest group of travelling companions at any one time since 1964 and you have a recipe for… a mixed bag. There are moments of brilliance to be sure, but all too often the end result does not hide the harried pace with which the episodes were produced. Even so, I am very fond of this period as it was a time of reinvention and it also portrayed the Doctor in an entirely new light for the first time in seven years!
The crowded TARDIS syndrome started as Davison arrived and the worry can be seen on the actor’s face when he regenerated into the gaze of three supporting cast members. The cultured and talented Nyssa, the brash Australian Tegan and the mischievous Adric from E-Space challenged writers to find new ways to write the line ‘what is it, Doctor?’ and also split it up between three people.
The death of Adric meant that there was more story to go around, but in short order a new companion was introduced, the red-headed assassin from Trion named Turlough. Personally I am a big fan of Turlough, but the writers seemed confused by him and often gave him nothing to do at all.
The Big Finish audio series of course makes good use of this TARDIS crew and through a cracking yarn not only gives each character something to do but also delivers some strong development as well! Turlough is absolutely hilarious as the devious companion who no one trusts at all (he turns traitor on the Doctor at one point and when another character accuses the Doctor and Turlough of mass murder, Tegan can’t bring herself to entirely rule it out). Tegan meanwhile is a frazzled mess as always but also dares all to save stranger and friend alike while Nyssa is her soulful self, both intelligent and compassionate. This could be one of the best outings for this quartet!
I had mentioned in previous posts that I could never put my finger on what Davison was doing in his portrayal of the Doctor but that in the Big Finish audios it is much more clear. The staggered breathless speech and confused air of the distracted genius really comes through in these stories and Davison is given some witty dialog to boot.
The Jupiter Conjunction is a fascinating and gripping drama with many twists and turns along the way while still managing to retain a tone and feel of mid 1980′s Who, even to the somewhat rubbish wrap-up at the end when it is still unclear just what is going on so characters provide huge info dumps to try and clear things up. This is unfortunate because there is so much potential along the way for this story to be a real stunner that is let down by some necessary exposition that shows the cracks. Nevertheless, it is strongly recommended for fans of the Davison era and even those with no knowledge of that period.
The Jupiter Conjunction can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:
Posted by dailypop on August 24, 2012
‘The Fourth Wall’
Written by John Dorney, directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released February 2012
“Kill without conscience, without pity… without motive.”
For one of the briefest of incarnations on screen, the Sixth Doctor has an exceptionally large retinue of traveling companions from Peri and Mel on screen to Frobisher, Charley Pollard, Evelyn Smythe, Jamie McCrimmon, Jago & Litefoot and now Philipa Jackson in audio format.
An abrasive yet brilliant and confident personality, the Sixth Doctor is a divisive incarnation of the Doctor, but in my opinion one of the better ones because he is so very different. Colin Baker infused a unique alien quality to his performance along with an unpredictability when the character had become so familiar and somewhat pedestrian. Say what you will about him, but there’s no other version of the Doctor like the Sixth. Baker himself points out that he is the ‘middle Doctor’ and that may contribute to his peculiarity. In audio format, Colin Baker’s Doctor has matured into a lovable if egotistic and brash hero possessing a keen wit and sharp analytic mind. It is the Sixth Doctor’s inspired intelligence that always made him stand out to me, and also made him so difficult to write for, I imagine. For that reason, the Fourth Wall could only be his sort of adventure.
Flip had met the Doctor during the story ‘The Crimes of Thomas Brewster’ and was later reunited with the colorful champion in the Curse of Davros. I had to admit that neither of those instances filled me with much admiration, but finally in The Fourth Wall Flip shines as one of the great companions.
While using the time-space visualizer (waaaaay back from the Hartnell story, The Chase) to watch a cricket match, the Doctor notices a warp in space and time. The fabric of reality has been damaged, pulling Flip into another dimension where her only way of communicating is through the visualizer. Meanwhile on the asteroid called Transmission, a desperate business man Augustus Scullop attempts to wrestle his fortune from oblivion with a ground-breaking form of entertainment where the characters are real. Unfortunately, Flip has found herself wedged into this fictional world and the Doctor soon discovers that there is more at play here than just bad television.
When the device malfunctions, the Doctor realizes that the fictional reality is overlapping the real one and threatening all of creation. When Flip realizes that she is living in some awful camp adventure program ‘Jack Laser,’ she challenges it and pays the ultimate price. Up until that point, the story was very weird and silly, but after the real danger becomes apparent, the bar is raised. Added to this is a group of Porcions, a bumbling race of also-ran alien conquerors. The Doctor is wary of the Porcions, but not because of their desire to conquer, rather the fact that they are so rubbish at it.
When Jack Laser’s poorly conceived villain (the production team admit that they never got around to finishing his back story) Lord Krarn escapes his limited reality, he has an existential dilemma. Why is he so bent on evil? Why does he kill? Meeting his creator hardly helps as Lord Krarn explodes at Augustus Scullop that he has a responsibility as a creator to his ‘children’ rather than just making them suffer for no other reason than a limited imagination (writers take note!). It’s a very moving scene when Krarn realizes that despite the fact that his wife was murdered by Jack Laser, he is the villain. Why?
Full to the brim with absolutely ingenious notions, the Fourth Wall is a wealth of mind-blowing ideas (actors are scanned into the alternate reality, but their performances take on a life of their own) and side-holding hilarity (an audible cue accompanies every entrance from the villains or any threat… something that Flip finds exceedingly annoying and reminds me far too much of Murray Gold’s work).
The young Lisa Greenwood (even Colin Baker is reluctant to address her age, yet in the extra material she shows how charming and intelligent she is) is scintillating as the spunky and forthright Flip. Refusing to give in to bullies or monsters, Flip had already gone toe-to-toe with Davros so anything after that is gravy! Playing opposite Colin Baker, she brings out his more affectionate personality traits. I understand that she has a single adventure after this one (to date, anyway), and I already miss her.
One of the most entertaining audios from Big Finish to date, The Fourth Wall can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:
Posted by dailypop on August 19, 2012
‘The Nightmare Fair’
In 1985, Doctor Who was suffering from a poor critical reception from the press, ailing ratings and dwindling fan support. After the departure of Peter Davison, Doctor Who continued down a path involving steadily darker and more violent material. The latest leading man in the role of the Doctor, Colin Baker, unduly took the brunt of the punishment. The 22nd series was actually a very strong set of adventures with at least two classics in its run. Stories had been commissioned for the following year that boasted the return of Sil, the Ice Warriors, the Tractators, the Master and another more obscure villain, the Celestial Toymaker. Some of the scripts were later adapted into novelized form and later still as audio productions by Big Finish. Some of the scripts were further along than others with The Nightmare Fair being one that was finished by former series producer Graham Williams.
The story of the Nightmare Fair marked the beginning of the ‘Lost Stories’ series by Big Finish, where stories that never made it to the screen were dramatized by a full cast with the auditory aplomb of the Big Finish crew. A rather lackluster story that meanders in places, it nonetheless has some very strong moments of characterization. The Sixth Doctor is at his decidedly most egocentric and vain as he crankily denounces others for their failings in intelligence as he boasts his past visits to other planets and times. It’s a shame that this story was not produced as it would have suited the Sixth Doctor’s period so well.
Invested in showing his companion Peri the finest of amusements, the Doctor has piloted the TARDIS to Blackpool in a contemporary time period (similar to Attack of the Cybermen set and transmitted in 1984). But the reality is that the Doctor did not pilot the TARDIS at all, and he had planned to take Peri somewhere else entirely. A space/time vortex has dragged the TARDIS to this location and even the Doctor is not sure what lies a its heart. An old villain the Celestial Toymaker sits at the center of the Blackpool Pleasure Beach like some massive spider pulling flies into his clutch.
A sequel of sorts to the 1965 William Hartnell story by Bryan Hayles and Donald Tosh, the Nightmare Fair features the return of that cosmic character The Celestial Toymaker. Initially portrayed by Michael Gough (familiar to many as Alfred in the 1989-1997 Batman movies), the Toymaker is a very strange character more at home in a comic book than anywhere else. Possessing mental prowess that staggers the mind, he is obsessed with games of skill and in his first meeting with the Doctor was undone by the crafty Time Lord much to his chagrin. This time he will have revenge.
Playing the Toymaker in Gough’s absence is David Bailie, Dask from the Tom Baker story, The Robots of Death. His performance is impressive as he manages to exude charisma and villainy in equal parts. Playing opposite Colin Baker, the pair make for an entertaining dual act, but sadly the two actors have very few scenes together. In fact, the Nightmare Fair feels like a story stretched out fill the running time with many sequences in which the Doctor and/or Peri are imprisoned repeating throughout. There are some great ideas such as the posh Humandroid who is mostly robotic and the Venusian mechanic in the nearby cell. If anything, the Nightmare Fair is a testament to the brilliance of Graham Williams, but it definitely requires additional tightening up to play up its strengths.
Much like its predecessor, The Nightmare Fair is very focused on games and traps which is where this story finds inspiration. Additionally, the Doctor sheds some light on the nature of the Toymaker, something that the 1965 story had no interest in doing. A being of immense power, even the Time Lords were unable to understand him or trace his origins. This story gives more clues to who and what the Toymaker is but in the end the Doctor once again decides that he is far too dangerously to be dealt with lightly. Using his cunning mental ability and a nerve of steel, the Doctor manages to unravel the mad plot of the Toymaker, leaving him and Peri free to visit the fairground once more for candy floss and another ride on the roller coaster.
An overlong yet charming adventure, The Nightmare Fair can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:
Posted by dailypop on June 13, 2012
‘The Foe From the Future’
The Doctor and Leela have arrived on Earth in what appears to be a sleepy English village, but all is not what it seems. Ghosts stalk the land, a haunted mansion draws attention to itself like a lightning rod and time has become broken, events erratically re-arranging themselves around the time travelers who seem immune to the alterations, but not the consequences.
Just who lives in the haunted Grange and what kind of threat does he pose to humanity? The truth is mind-staggering in its scope and stretches into a future on the brink of collapse just as the present teeters on the brink of destruction.
The arrival of Tom Baker in Big Finish audio productions is cause for celebration to be sure. I do appreciate the AudioGo series, but it is so very bizarre and outlandish that is clearly its own animal and not even close to ‘traditional’ Doctor Who. I appreciate that we have both, but I have been greatly anticipating what Tom Baker could accomplish with the full facilities of Big Finish at his side. Even moreso, what would an un-produced story from the 14th season even be like? Apparently it would have more in common with the following year under Graham Williams than the story that was screened, The Talons of Weng Chiang.
Graham Williams was clearly at the apex of an era of wit and madcap humor in his Key to Time series, but is first year is no less remarkable, if only a trifle uneven. It seems that the program was struggling to find its footing and still reeling from the departure of producer Philip Hinchcliff. Neither wholeheartedly mad and not entirely free of the Gothic horror that had preceded it, Williams’ first series ended awkwardly with a low budget space opera on Gallifrey called the Invasion of Time. I posit that Foe From the Future fits more comfortably in the place of tinsel alien invaders and clumsy Sontarans than the evil Magnus Greel slaughtering the innocents of Victorian London.
For some time the myth surrounding The Foe From the Future has been that it was provided by Robert Banks Stewart unfinished and hastily rewritten by Robert Holmes into The Talons of Weng Chiang. Listening to the audio, that is clearly not the case. John Dorney has taken the copious notes and partial script for five out of the six parts and woven together a wonderful adventure that is exciting, strange and full of whimsical notions that has me craving an on-screen depiction. Of course, there are several moments that would have been laughably executed with the shoe-string BBC budget, but this is so perfectly classic Doctor Who that it is painful to not have the opportunity to view it with a friend, pints in hand.
The plot starts off simply with a mystery surrounding the Grange and a temporal anomaly that the Doctor cannot pin down. Teaming up with ‘Charlotte from the village’ as the Doctor insists on calling her, the trio soon discover that it is not just the Grange itself that is haunted by ghosts out of time. The village as a whole is being torn apart at the seams, citizens and places winking out of existence randomly, which makes the Doctor and Leela look particularly peculiar as they are the only individuals who notice. Sitting in the center of the Grange like a great big spider is Jalnik, a devious and dastardly deformed scientist from the far future, transformed into a carnivorous half man/half preying mantis who thrives on raw meat.
Discovering the time portal, the Doctor and Leela bring Charlotte from the village into the future, a single domed city besieged by massive preying mantis-like monsters. Classes are held desperately attempting to train the few remaining human beings in the manners of the 20th Century. Everything from parlance to cooking to driving a Ford Cortina is covered with laughably poor reference material.
The only hope for a race of humans contemplating extinction is to escape into the past, a world that is rapidly becoming infected by the future. The entire affair is a metaphysical noose that tightens around the throat of history with the only contortionist possible of arranging an escape being the Doctor.
The audio landscape is expertly presented, bringing the listener into a world of rural simplicity, futuristic (studio-bound) settings and apocalyptic terrains populated by roaring monsters. The tone and feel of the 1970′s is lovingly maintained from the villainous dialog to the Doctor’s witticisms. One can only imagine what a scene depicting the Doctor and his companions escaping the clutches of gigantic insects in a barren future world would look like, but it sounds brilliant!
Paul Freeman as Jelnik is absolutely astonishing as one of the maddest of villains ever. I clocked back one of his rants three times to savor the insanity inherent in his delivery. Louise Jameson is of course an old hand at the audio format by now, but paired up with Tom Baker again must have been a mixed blessing. We all have heard that there was some friction on the set back in the day between the two, but you’d never know it seeing as how well the pair gel in the audio format. Leela is granted some stupendous moments to shine and the Doctor’s moods run a marathon gamut from heroic to sheer lunacy.
Despite my anticipation, I had misgivings about these missing stories and after hearing the harsh criticism targeted toward The Foe From the Future in online reviews, I lowered my expectations. Additionally, I had heard Tom Baker lilting toward the ceiling like a balloon filled with spiked Lucozade in the Paul Magrs AudioGo series which caused me to gird my ears for embarrassment. All the same, this was truly a joy to listen to and genuine treat for fans of the Tom Baker era as it moved from the dark era of Holmes and Hinchcliff and into the absurdity of the Williams years.
The Foe From the Future was bundled together with (the less impressive) Valley of Death in the Fourth Doctor Lost Stories Box Set released by Big Finish. It can be ordered directly from their site or from online retailers such as Mike’s Comics.
Posted by dailypop on June 9, 2012
The Companion Chronicles – ‘The Blue Tooth’
An educated scientist, Liz Shaw is having a bit of a professional and personal crisis. Her life has been turned upside down after getting dragged into service of U.N.I.T., a kind of James Bond outfit crossed with UFO enthusiasts. What’s worse is that she has been saddled with a flamboyant stranger who claims to have traveled in time and space and dresses like a stage magician. The fact that she regularly encounters the impossible hardly helps. Her quiet life of normalcy has been replaced with a wild mad experience and she is in desperate need of something familiar. She is therefore overjoyed when an old school friend rings her up. Sadly, the bizarre world of the weird and frightening knows no social bounds and soon Liz finds that while there’s no escaping the monsters, the monsters cannot escape the Doctor.
A filler story that serves as a bridge between Inferno and Terror of the Autons, this audio adventure attempts to give fans some closure on why Liz Shaw left U.N.I.T. One of the more inspired companions, Liz Shaw was a direct reaction to the screaming leggy assistants by outgoing producer Derrick Sherwin. When the ratings were crashing in 1969, Sherwin had many notions on how to enhance and modernize the program. An alien genius, the Doctor rarely had anyone to speak to on an equal ground. Liz Shaw would rectify that, and actress Caroline John wasn’t hard on the eyes either (even through those massive false eyelashes).
Sadly, script editor Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts disagreed with many of the concepts that Sherwin hads left them with and the character of Liz was deemed to be ‘too clever by half’ and written out for their second series on the program. But Liz Shaw never got a farewell scene (something she shares with few other companions including Peri and Ace) or even any development as to why she would leave. Liz Shaw clearly bristled at working with the military, but The Blue Tooth shows how the horror of the alien threats she faced touched her on a personal level, leaving the listener with plenty of reason for why she would move on.
On screen, Caroline John and John Pertwee gelled and presented what to many is one of the more iconic pairings in the program’s history. A period of reinvention, the seventh series of Doctor Who was far more sophisticated and mature than it had ever been before. The character of the Third Doctor was often ostentatious and grand, but he could be very sensitive and serious as well. Liz Shaw softened the hard edges of the Third Doctor while making his more dramatically heroic moments all the more exciting. A highly intelligent and forthright personality, she was rarely a ‘lady in distress,’ as her predecessor Jo Grant was, which raised the bar for threats. When Liz was in a pickle, the situation was clearly dire.
The Blue Tooth sees that bar and raises it.
Finding the apartment of her old friend ransacked, Liz is at a loss. When the Doctor and the Brigadier arrive to assess the damage, a personal crisis becomes part of her job. A line has been crossed. On the surface, it might have looked like a kidnapping or robbery, but the shredded reference books, melted television console and strange small bore holes in the front garden catch the Doctor’s eye. This was no ordinary intrusion.
After some additional investigation, it becomes clear that there has been a series of similar abductions with one connecting thread, a particular dental practice. While the Doctor and Brig look for more clues, Liz attempts to crack the mystery by playing detective and instead becomes a victim. I have lots of issues with dentists and dental pain, so this story really hit home for me. An adventure where humans are assaulted by alien blue metal that infiltrates the body through a dental filling is one of the craziest and scariest plot ideas I have ever heard. On screen, it would have worked as well!
Soon, the connection to a crashed space craft containing a damaged Cyberman is revealed and the Third Doctor finally gets to face the steely foes. There are several tragedies of Doctor Who such as the death of Roger Delgado, the loss of several episodes and of course Delta and the Bannermen, but for me one of the biggest tragedies is that the Third Doctor never faced the Cybermen. Nigel Fairs’s The Blue Tooth rectifies that and while it is an audio adventure that Jon Pertwee sadly could not be heard in, it serves the purpose.
There is a lot of body horror and inspired plotting in this story that makes it a real stunner. An invention developed by a lone desperate Cyberman, the blue metal that infects humans is an ingenious device that I would love to see another writer pick up. While they are an iconic monster, on screen, the Cybermen have a spotty record of success.
A race of alien nomads, the Cybermen are members of a race on the verge of extinction driven by extremes to embrace the logic of cybernetic enhancement, even at the loss of their own personality and free will. In the 1960′s, they were terrifying zombie-like creatures that came in the night, abducted you and transformed humans into members of an undying blank-faced legion. The 1980′s saw some enhancements but an eventual devolution into an silver action figure.
The new BBC Wales series does them no favor whatsoever as they have been reduced to Irish step-dancing buffoons. The Blue Tooth is a harsh reminder of why Cybermen are cool… and scary.
A brilliant story full of action, horror and continuity, The Blue Tooth comes highly recommended.
Posted by dailypop on May 29, 2012
The Natural History of Fear
In Light City, everyone enjoys watching their favorite emotionally-charged adventure program provided for light entertainment. The program is actually a rehash of the events in Neverland in which the Doctor and Charley struggle to express their true emotions to each other while the universe hangs in the balance. But this is a fiction in a bland world where every question is a crime punishable by removal. When one of the citizens rejects the distraction, he is forcibly removed from his home. Fleeing his captors, he launches into the air and falls to his death beside a fountain.
No one reacts or questions the event.
In an abstraction of reality, familiar voices of the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz swap from character to character as the truth is edited and rewritten over and over. Citizens start to see the cracks in the foundation of Light City, but are quickly silenced by censors and the editor.
The Natural History of Fear is the strangest and most post-modern Doctor Who story I have ever experienced. Not only does it feature the a fictionalized version of Doctor Who used as a tool to control the masses, but it also utilizes the creative writing process including revision and editing in order to control the course of a story… or society. This is a world that is struggling to maintain a static state and keep the masses from questioning their world or changing. It is the ultimate tyrannical empire where free thought is impossible.
The true nature of this story takes its time to unravel, but it is clear early on that this is not a simple tale of the Doctor and his companions fighting an alien despot. In fact, the Doctor inadvertently introduced chaos into this world while he was simply passing through. The rest is post-script as Light City nears a period of violent revolution and a toy top that the Doctor left behind spins languidly on.
A deeply sophisticated and mature story, The Natural History of Fear dwells on the question of identity, of the purpose of entertainment and the price of freedom. It is a disturbing and moving piece that teeters on the edge of being far too clever for its own good but never topples over. Author Jim Mortimore shows that he could be one of the most brilliantly gifted writers to ever pen a Doctor Who story with this one.
I have to admit that I was thrown by this one at first, desperately trying to figure out if our heroes had gotten their minds wiped by some evil entity or placed in some trap to derive secrets from their brains. The proximity to Zagreus in which several familiar actors and actresses voice different characters is unfortunate as it makes the innovations in this story seem familiar (and nothing should remind anyone of Zagreus). The shifting characters grants the actors ample opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and try on some different emotions which is a real treat.
The Natural History of Fear is a gift to the cast of McGann, Fisher and Westmaas who rise to the occasion and give life to what could have been a nonsensical audio story.
When it was first released, The Natural History of Fear had a somewhat split reception; some praising it as genius others derided it as delusional nonsense. There are some cliched moments (as one would expect in a story such as this), and some strong similarities to popular films such as THX-1138 and the Matrix as well as the novel 1984 but it introduces so many wonderful new ideas that engage the listener with its energy.
A welcome break from the journey through the Divergent Universe, The Natural History of Fear is a real stunner that reminds fans that one can truly do almost anything with a Doctor Who adventure. The only limit is imagination.
Posted by dailypop on April 6, 2012
Written by James Swallow , directed by Nigel Fairs
Release date: December 2007
“On learning of my intention to enter the military, my father told informed me that in life, as on the fields of battle, there are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are very few old, bold soldiers.”
Nursing a glass of whiskey, the Brigadier reminisces about his past, and his turbulent camaraderie with the Doctor during his years in U.N.I.T. Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has the unique honor of meeting every single incarnation of the Doctor on screen or in audio up to the Eighth, played by Paul McGann. As a military man, his understanding of what was possible became more malleable thanks to his collaboration with the Doctor where he met foes from the past and intruders from the stars. The most unlikely of everyday objects became deadly, shop window dummies took on lives of their own and mythical creatures stalked the sewers as well as the countryside.
After meeting with the Doctor during the trouble with the Yeti in the underground, the formation of U.N.I.T. was called for to meet threats of unknown origin. Backed by the United Nations, the Brigadier not only had to explain his outlandish situations to an international committee, but he was also answerable to the British Prime Minister, a situation that often placed him at odds for what was best.
In his earliest days as head of U.N.I.T., the Brigadier and the Doctor got along like chalk and cheese. After encountering a race of reptilian creatures that pre-dated mankind, the Doctor was hopeful that a peaceful accord between the humans and Silurians could be met, despite the numerous misunderstandings and violent threats on both sides. Unfortunately, the decision was made from U.N.I.T. command to close up the network of tunnels leading to the Silurian kingdom, shutting them off from the outside world forever. It was as near a thing to genocide as the Doctor could imagine and it placed a wedge between himself and the Brigadier for some time.
Old Soldiers is set just after the Silurians, when the Doctor is a wild card and one that the Brigadier is still struggling to understand. It’s a unique period in the program’s history as it serves as a turning point in the Brigadier and the Doctor’s stances toward their work together. The Doctor comes to realize that perhaps he had expected too much of the human race and the Brigadier comes to understand that the Doctor is more of an outsider than he had realized. In this ‘missing’ story, the two come to an understanding.
It all begins when the Brigadier gets a desperate call for help from an old friend convalescing in Kriegeskind Castle, a gloomy U.N.I.T. base. His comrade Kolonel Heinrich Konrad, remembered fondly as a formidable officer, has become a figment of his former self. His speech reduced to a weak mumbling of attacks in the night, Konrad is lorded over by his second in command, the inhospitable Major Schrader. Immediately, Schrader rubs Alistair the wrong way. He’s a man who makes the Brig’s militarism manner look downright easy going. There is obviously much more going on in Kriegeskind Castle than Schrader wants to let on, but he insists that Konrad is receiving the best treatment for a condition he describes as nothing more than a nervous breakdown… something the Brigadier just cannot accept.
Later that evening, the Brigadier is attacked in the dank halls of the castle by a soldier from the past, a Roman legionnaire. But the problem doesn’t stop there, the entire facility id under attack from soldiers of the past, and the U.N.I.T. soldiers on duty are getting cut down on their feet.
Using one his outlandish devices, the Brigadier calls in a favor to the Doctor, who promptly parachutes onto the castle battlements in the finest of evening wear.
The Doctor and Brigadier (and likely the listener as well) suspect a time phenomenon to be responsible for the Roman legion attacks, but it turns out that the answer is much more dreadful and is related to poor Konrad’s condition. In their desperate attempt to defend themselves from the unknown, U.N.I.T. has created a monstrous threat. A top secret project to create the ultimate soldier has failed, creating a zone of destruction around the castle as soldiers from the past continually invade the area. If the Doctor and Brigadier cannot find a solution to Project 995, the entire castle will be wiped out, as per standard U.N.I.T. procedure.
Old Soldiers a delightful adventure that perfectly captures that era of Doctor Who when it delved into the world of high adventure and pulp science fantasy. The setting of the ancient castle, the supporting cast and the portrayal of the Doctor himself all lends to a superb story. Courtney’s impersonation of Jon Pertwee can be a bit on the poor side, but bless him, I can let it slide. Apparently, Nick was rubbing his neck and performing other physical mannerisms that Pertwee engaged in on the set during the recording.
James Swallow’s script has some intense war violence in it, something that the program was famous for at the time. This was before HAVOC arrived and soldiers cartwheeled away from a grenade explosion. It can get somewhat grim, but it adds to the nature of the story about the grimness of a soldier’s life and its inevitable connection to death and destruction. A BAFTA-nominated author, I quite look forward to Swallow’s forthcoming Blake’s 7 – The Liberator Chronicles story, the Hard Road.
As a bridging tale between the Silurians and Ambassadors of Death, I strongly recommend this story. It better explains how the Doctor and Brigadier came to an understanding in the forthcoming adventure and extended their long-standing friendship for years to come. The Doctor begins to sympathize with the frailty and hysteria of the human race as it attempts to defend itself from the unknown. He also realizes that beneath his stern exterior, the Brigadier is a brave and soulful man.
A testament to his time on the program, Old Soldiers is a touching love letter to his first year as the Brigadier opposite Pertwee. Sadly, Nicholas Courtney is no longer with us, but his performances in Doctor Who continue to bring a smile to my face, even when its just his voice.
‘Old Soldiers’ can also be orders domestically in the US from local retailers such as Mike’s Comics.