Doctor Who – Ghost Light

‘Ghost Light’

DoctorWho_McCoyStory 153
Written by Marc Platt
Directed by Alan Wareing
Transmitted 4 October – 18 October 1989

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“Redvers had some stories… The pygmies led him blindfolded for three whole days through uncharted jungle. They took him to a swamp full of giant lizards like giant dinosaurs.
“Do you know young Conan Doyle just laughed at him?
“Well… that’s doctors for you.”

_______________________________

As part of an initiative test, the Doctor has taken Ace to an unknown location for a surprise; a seemingly normal Victorian house which is anything but. A diabolical alien known as Josiah Samuel Smith has taken over the house, bending it to their will with one goal, to assassinate the Queen and take over England. Deep in the bowels of the house, Smith has a pair of prisoners, one a bestial creature surviving off of scraps, the other revered as a God by a primate, impossibly serving as a man servant.

The Doctor plays the mad house as a master manipulator, a role that developed through McCoy’s brief run in the part. Playing with Smith and the other tenants of the house, he appears to have the situation well in hand, but the truth of the matter is something other. In his attempt to teach Ace a lesson, he has exposed her to one of her darkest memories, a haunted house that she had firebombed as a teenager. By bringing her to the same house earlier in time, the true horror of the haunting is evident and it could potentially crush her psyche and her trust with the Doctor.

The final season of Doctor Who is, in many ways, it’s most ambitious and adult in decades, certainly since 1970 when the program re-invented itself. The scripts were more far-reaching and diverse in their directions, from the straight forward and lighter Battlefield to the intense Curse of Fenric and Survival, a story which appears to be yet another Master adventure on the surface but is deeply embedded with meaning. In the case of Ghost Light, author Marc Platt adapted a tale that was intended to explore the Doctor’s family into one that more fully developed the companion Ace while utilizing the amazing aptitude of the BBC to craft beautiful period dramas.

This is a story that has a lot of naysayers and for good reason; it is overly complicated and crammed into three parts when four would have been better, McCoy is not exactly up to the demands on him and it is very difficult to even talk about what happened. For me, it is a special story that I hold a lot of care for simply because of the mood, set design and guest cast. The script is rushed and awkward at times but also brimming with evocative imagery and moving emotional exchanges. Ghost Light functions as a horror story, a cerebral thriller, a science fiction tale and a domestic drama. It’s marvelous.

The ‘monsters’ of the story, a pair of husks that ‘Josiah’ had discarded as he out-evolved his previous forms, are memorable creations. I quite like the image of creatures in tuxedos launching attacks from behind velvet curtains. Smith himself is a suitably insidious villain, oozing with charm and malevolence, he even tries to buy the Doctor’s services! Additionally, Michael Cochrane as Redvers Fenn-Cooper is outstanding; a big game hunter wandering the halls of the house with an elephant gun, recounting his adventures in the jungle, his mind shattered.

When the facade is pulled back and the Doctor frees Josiah’s prisoners, things get a bit… overloaded. Both ‘Control’ and ‘Light’ threaten Josiah’s plans as they develop their own. Light is an alien that started a catalog of all life, took two samples, one free to evolve into other forms and another that would remain static. The first got ideas above his station and imprisoned his master and the control subject. Now free, Light is frustrated to see that his catalog is useless and vows to destroy all life on the planet. Meanwhile Control has become ‘infected’ by the same evolutionary bug that drove Josiah to dreams of empire, but in her case she simply desires to be a lady.

There is so much to love about this story… but a lot that hampers its enjoyment.

Sure, you have to watch this story very closely, paying clear attention to it (possibly twice) and even then you may scratch your head wondering who or what ‘Light’ is. That’s a failing in the story as the dramatic potential is undercut by a plot interlaced with layers, characters and revelations that all play out in concurrence. The story does not always play to its strengths and can easily lose even the most devoted fan. Some of the performances, such as Ian Hogg as Smith, are extraordinary, and while McCoy has some outstanding moments he also gurns at the camera so badly I wince in pain *for* him.

Doctor Who in 1983 was, even at its best, formulaic. In 1989, it was trying something new, something that the new series could take some lessons from. Even at its worst, Ghost Light tells a complete story that develops the companion, uses the Doctor, has monsters and an amazing guest cast. A true gem of the classic program, this story deserves an other look.


Recommended:

Doctor Who: Ghost Light DVD

Doctor Who: Ghost Light (novelisation)

Doctor Who In-Vision Magazine Issue #102 Ghost Light

Doctor Who – U.N.I.T.: Dominion

U.N.I.T.: Dominion

drWho_BF_Unit_dominion_CoverWriten by Nicholas Briggs and Jason Arnopp, directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released October 2012

The Doctor and Raine receive a distress call from an alien world. They are also contacted by Ace in Gallifrey of some enormous danger. When the TARDIS lands, the Doctor meets a future incarnation of himself, a rather rude bald man who also insists that the Doctor not get involved in the distress call. The beings on the planet are dying, their life force drained away by a device that is sucking up their energy. In a fit of pique, the Doctor refuses to follow anyone’s advice and insists that he must stay true to his nature. Harnessing forbidden Time Lord dimensioneering knowledge, the Doctor reverses the node’s function and saves the lives of the aliens, but also creates a cataclysm of a higher order than he has ever known.

Meanwhile on contemporary Earth, Elizabeth Klein is operating as the scientific adviser to U.N.I.T. She is attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding an incursion of weird unidentifiable creatures only to find herself face to face with an old friend with a new face, The Other Doctor. Klein had encountered the Doctor several times before, in an alternate future where the Nazis won WWII and later when she used the alternate Eighth Doctor’s TARDIS to travel back to the past where she met the Seventh Doctor and Ace in Colditz castle.

A complicated fan favorite character, Elizabeth Klein went on to feature in an absolutely superb trilogy of stories with the Seventh Doctor. Klein was determined to bring about her world of the Third Reich at any cost, leading the Doctor to wiping her memory and placing her in a new life. Uneasy about the situation, he visited her on several instances to make sure she did not revert to her previous nature. Unfortunately, the Doctor was not as subtle as he had thought in his visitations, leading to Klein developing a persecution complex over the ‘umbrella man.’

U.N.I.T. deals with the arrival of massive cherubic heads from another dimension with its usual show of force, leading to a massive misunderstanding until the Other Doctor takes control and uses mesmerism to calm the ‘skyheads’ into cooperation. In sharp contrast to this behavior, he also welcomes the slaughter of mind leeches that are similarly displaced from the other dimensions. Each arrival of other dimensional creatures proves more disastrous than the last yet the Other Doctor and Klein manage to stay on top of the situation. He seems eager to help, but The Other Doctor continually insists on the return of his TARDIS and access to the node that had opened the portal in the first place. He seems to have abilities far in advance to any version of the Doctor we have seen (or heard) previously and Klein has her doubts about his motives.

When the Seventh Doctor and Raine manage to crawl through an interdimensional tunnel into contemporary reality, they meet the Other Doctor once more, happily riding a skyhead as a cowboy would ride a horse. The two do not get on, but they must work together to defeat the several concurrent invasions of the Earth. Unfortunately, U.N.I.T. refuses to deal with the cause of the problem which would involve giving over access to the TARDIS to the Doctors and instead insists on handling the symptoms by combating the exiled creatures.

drWho_BF_UnitDominion_discs

Briggs and Arnopp have crafted one of the most amazing audio adventures I have ever heard. The ideas are out of this world and addressed as truly alien rather than monstrous. Both Doctors realize that creatures may not be malevolent at all, but are more likely scared and confused. Nonetheless U.N.I.T. is true to form by reacting as one would to a pest in one’s house; with more force than is needed and out of sheer panic. The death and destruction heightens and soon the noose tightens around the Seventh Doctor’s neck as it becomes clear none of this would have happened if he had just listened to the council of himself and the Time Lords and left the situation alone.

The relationship between the Seventh Doctor and Klein is especially compelling here as the Doctor so deeply believes in her better nature yet is unwilling to trust her absolutely. The differences between him and this Other Doctor are also key to the story as they deal with their challenges in different ways that betray their true characters. Klein is in the middle about who she can trust, if either of them, while U.N.I.T. scrambles to understand and defend the planet from creatures that are so incredibly different that they defy the physical laws of accepted reality.

Sylvester McCoy squeezed this set in to his busy schedule filming the Hobbit and is in fine form. Set in the waning years of this incarnation, there are many concepts that are tied together, such as the timing of the Klein trilogy, the return of Raine and of course the placement of Ace on Gallifrey where she apparently is studying to be a Time Lord. I am quite taken with Beth Chalmers as the delectable Raine Creevey, the posh crook. I look forward to hearing more from her as this is likely the bridge to another set of Seventh Doctor/Raine adventures. Briggs and Arnopp deal with the large supporting cast masterfully and it never feels like it is detracting from the plot or action (a lesson the new series could learn from).

Dominion is like a year-long story crammed into four bumper-length audio CDs that are full of wild beings, tense drama and side-splitting comedy. The Other Doctor feels a bit forced at first, but I soon warmed to him and became enthralled by him by the end.

drWho_BF_UnitDominion

There is so much to love about U.N.I.T.: Dominion but personally I found Alex MacQueen to the real gem. His performance as ‘The Other Doctor’ is among one of the best guest appearances in Big Finish’ history. His effervescent personality is almost definitely a dig at the BBC Wales Doctor, a wonderfully bubbly eccentric with a steely determination to fight alien menaces. Raine calls him for what he is on the spot, brilliant but an arrogant ass. For almost the first three installments, the Seventh Doctor and Raine are stuck in a transdimensional tunnel, leaving the bulk of the action to The Other Doctor and Klein. Dealing with U.N.I.T. forces, the Doctor is eager to chastise the military for their ineptness, ‘Well done, Colonel Lafayette. Good job escalating the situation.’

It is difficult to discuss much of MacQueen’s performance without revealing a key plot element, but I will say that if the BBC Wales team does not run with this, they are incredibly foolish. I will say that even after having the revelation ‘ruined’ part way through, I was even more entertained by his performance and found it to outright iconic.

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Doctor Who U.N.I.T.: Dominion can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:

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Doctor Who – Thin Ice

The Lost Stories- ‘Thin Ice’

By Mark Platt, directed by Ken Bentley
Story #1.3
Release date: 2011, April

Ace is eager to see Earth in the swinging 60′s but is disappointed to find that the TARDIS has landed in the middle of gloomy Moscow during the Cold War rather than London in its hey day. The Doctor is acting more secretive than usual and appears to be talking to himself. Both the Doctor and Ace are expected and soon become part of a heist of galactic proportions. The KGB is on their tails, an armored motorcycle gang is tracking their every move and a platoon of Ice Warriors is stranded on Earth and desperate to recover a very special lost treasure. Reluctantly, the Doctor removes himself from the action to allow Ace to pass her final test. If she fails, it’s bad news for the time line and for Earth, but the Doctor has faith in her abilities. Is his faith misplaced?

Even though Doctor Who had been cancelled after Survival in 1989, stories for series 27 had been commissioned by Andrew Cartmell and plans were afoot to send off Ace, introduce a new companion and also feature the return an old monster, the Ice Warriors. Strangely, Mission to Magnus by Philip Martin would have also involved the Martians and it too was scrapped back in 1985. Perhaps the Ice Warriors are just bad luck?

Markus Creevy arrives in Moscow, 1967 with a valise full of rock albums and a sly grin. His girlfriend Raina Kerenskaya has been waiting for him and is also playing a vital part in his caper. Not much is known about Creevy’s job or who he is working for, but it is obviously very dangerous. This puts some strain on Raina who must hold back the news that she is pregnant with Markus’ child. The Doctor and Ace stumble about past security checkpoints acting like they know what is going on only to find that Markus is working with a stranded Ice Lord named Hhessh who has hired Creevy to break into a vault containing lost relics of the War Lord Sezhyr, a sword, breast plate and helmet along with several egg-shaped power cells.

The Ice Warriors are more than just blokes in turtle-shaped armor, they are bonded to their armor via cybernetic implants. This means that Sezhyr’s personality and memories are stored within his helm. The KGB have attempted numerous experiments with the technology to no avail, as all subjects experience an explosive change in metabolism.

The heist is a bit of a shambles, but they manage. During a high speed chase through the streets of Moscow and across a frozen river to the safety of the TARDIS, they are ‘rescued’ by an Ice Warrior tractor beam and hauled off into space. Raina is mesmerized by Sezhyr’s helmet and places it over her head only to have her personality lost entirely. Additionally, the change in her metabolism prompts an early child birth. The Doctor is eager to help Raina through her birth and the Ice Warriors in their return to Mars, but is coerced into retreating into his TARDIS, abandoning Ace to the consequences.

Throughout this adventure, the Doctor has psychic conversations with a Time Lord about Ace’s induction into the Academy on Gallifrey. Apparently, all of the tests and developmental treatment of the last two years were to get her ready for her formal education on an alien world. Unfortunately, this demands that the Doctor leave Ace to deal with the situation just as it gets out of control. Now merged with the War Lord’s psyche, Raina becomes Sezhyr and becomes overwhelmed with bloodlust. The Martian Empire is a shambles and she is determined to bring about a revival, starting with the domination of the planet Earth.


Thin Ice (also known as Ice Time) is an enjoyable audio adventure that fits perfectly with the 1989 series. The music, dialogue and characterizations are spot on. Both McCoy and Aldred have slid back into their roles with consummate ease, which cannot be said for many of McCoy’s audios that he shares with Aldred. Ace is a tricky character as she is among a select few companions who actually had an arc. She was being tested by the Doctor for a reason, and the pay off is within Thin Ice, but in the other audios this is side-stepped and Ace just kind of flounders as a character.

In this story, Ace has a much stronger purpose and her interaction with the Doctor reads like an organic extension of what we had already seen in Curse of Fenric, Ghost Light and Survival. Weirdly, the story sidesteps the planned ending of Ace leaving for Gallifrey and instead concludes with an uneasy alliance and more adventures ahead. It’s not as out of the ordinary as I had expected it to be, but given the strong lead in, it feels strange.

The guest cast is incredible, with newcomer Beth Chalmers excelling as Raina/Sezhyr, a part that is daunting to say the least. Ricky Groves is also lots of fun as the London con man Creevy and I look forward to seeing him return in Crime of the Century as an old man. Apparently he was only available for a short period of time and had to record all of his sequences in quick order. But he comes back. Yes, the baby Raine and her father return in the next adventure, set in London of 1998.

Beth Chalmers as Raine Creevey

The unique idea of introducing the companion as a baby then jumping forward in time to get her on board the TARDIS strikes me as one that Steven Moffat could never pass up (though in that case it would somehow turn out to be River Song or a relative of Amy’s or Rory’s).

There are some sore points to Thin Ice, such as the way the story starts off strong then staggers through parts three and four. The period setting is brilliant and the Ice Warriors are treated very well (though I cannot figure out why they keep eating fish fingers).

There is a tendency to treat the Ice Warriors as stock monsters (Seeds of Death) or as sophisticated aliens that teeter on the edge of becoming Klingons in the ST:TNG vein (Curse of Peladon/Monster of Peladon). This story straddles both options and they come across as real characters who can be deadly monsters. Cool. I hear that the Ice Warriors are due for a return in Matt Smith’s new series and I hope that Nicholas Briggs can be the voice of sanity to Moffat on how to treat them.

The story line of Ace’s test is a bit of a strain and I still cannot figure out the Martian motorcycle gang or how they got from Moscow to London… or what they were doing in either.

This story gets a lot of flack from fans and I very reluctantly purchased the entire series hoping that I was the exception to the rule and could find some redeeming qualities. It’s a mixed experience as I can see why someone would be let down (there was a lot of anticipation of this series) and the result is less than perfect. Even so, it feels like a late 1980′s Doctor Who adventure and that is a good thing.

Doctor Who The Lost Stories- ‘Thin Ice’ can be ordered directly from Big Finish or online retailers such as Mike’s Comics.

Doctor Who and the Return of the Daleks

Return of the Daleks

Written by Nicholas Briggs, Directed by John Ainsworth
Special Release V
Release date: 2006, December

In the far future, humanity’s fate hangs in the balance. A fleet of Dalek ships has attacked suddenly and viciously, enslaving the few remaining survivors to assist in their scheme of galactic domination and total extermination of all inferior beings. To do this, they have engaged the services of an outspoken slave known as Susan ‘Suze’ Mendez. It was her forthrightness and bravery that gave the people hope, and it is with that hope that the Daleks have tightened their psychological strangle hold on their subjects.

There is no need to robotize anyone if they can have believe in the possibility that there is a better life and that is what Suze has created. Dubbed ‘the Angel of Mercy,’ she travels from slave colony to slave colony spreading the message that if the survivors work harder they will live. Secretly, the Knight of Velyshaa Kalendorf has been accompanying her and planting seeds of rebellion on each planet using telepathy. But their plan hangs with the delicacy of a spider’s web, almost untangled or snapped at any moment.

As the Daleks build their ever-expanding empire, Kalendorf and Susan Mendez play a risky game by attempting to outwit the monsters. Conversing telepathically, they keep their battle strategies to themselves but are watched every moment of the day. When a stranger calling himself the Doctor arrives, they are of course suspicious and rightly so. The Doctor has one last gambit to engage in, and the cost is great.

There is a forgotten army of Daleks on the planet Spiridon that the Daleks are looking for. Long hidden but never forgotten, the army has remarkable abilities and could make the assault on Earth that much easier. It’s up to the Doctor to steer events in just the right manner so that the army is not revived, but he must first sacrifice himself. The Daleks are suffering from ‘light wave sickness’ and they know that the Doctor must have the cure. The game player of people has finally become a pawn himself. Allowing himself to be taken captive, he is a prisoner of the Daleks until just the right moment.

Return of the Daleks is set in a hazy point in the Doctor’s timeline, just before his regeneration and after his final confrontation with the Master (in the story with the same name). The Doctor is wracked with guilt and sorrow, weighed down with the consequences of his actions, implied by his invoking of his previous companions, especially Hex. The trickster god/champion of time has come to the end of his tether here and is a shadow of his former self in more ways than one.

It is fascinating to see Big Finish explore the decline of the Seventh Doctor’s era as it has been explored in print, but not in the audio line. The ‘longest reigning’ of the Doctors lasting from 1987 to 1996, the Seventh Doctor received more development off screen than any other incarnation. Between the comic strips, novels, multi-media projects and of course the audio stories the exact history of the Seventh Doctor is almost as vague as the Eighth, but we do know that he was a crafty individual who was ‘more than just a Time Lord’ who cleared old debts by destroying the Daleks, Cybermen alien gods and almost finished the Master on screen.

Uniting McCoy with Gareth Thomas of Blake’s 7 who plays the gruff and world-weary Kalendorf is a sheer delight. The addition of Ogrons and Daleks in the jungle of Spiridon is delightfully fannish and inserts some continuity to the Dalek Empire series.

It is very moving and sad to witness a version of the Doctor who is apparently at the end of his line, desperately trying to mend a few tears in space and time before he expires. A fitting homage to the Seventh Doctor, it also slots into the Dalek Empire series as a special bonus.

Doctor Who and the Return of the Daleks was a special release given to subscribers but can now be ordered directly from Big Finish or from online retailers such as Mike’s Comics.

Doctor Who and The Curse of Fenric

The Curse of Fenric

Story 154
By Ian Briggs
Transmitted 25 October to 15 November 1989

“We hope to return to the North Way, carrying home the oriental treasures from the Silk Lands in the east, but the dark curse follows our dragonship.”

Arriving on the coast Northumbria, the Doctor and Ace saunter into a top secret naval base busily deciphering Nazi codes. At the same time, a small platoon of Russian soldiers flees their sinking vessel, landing on the coast to retrieve British Intelligence. Inside the base, the most intelligent incryption device ever developed, the Ultima machine, is being used to break enemy codes. Professor Judson and his superior Commander Millington have another motive, one that promises great power if they can solve the mystery of the Norse runes in the village church.

In the water off the coast, a timeless evil waits, sculpting metal trinkets with their bare hands and pulling sunken bodies to the depths, turning them into inhuman creatures.

The Doctor is putting the final moves on a game he started long ago. He has worn many faces, but the Doctor is now taking on a role of champion against the forces of darkness. In ancient Arabia, he played chess with an evil spirit using pieces carved from human bone. The Doctor tricked the evil entity into a trap, but Fenric had his own plans that stretched throughout time, leading to another confrontation with the Doctor.

I tend to indicate The Curse of Fenric as the last gasp of greatness for Classic Doctor Who. It has a period setting, alternate history, a clever plot, some outstanding guest actors and terrifying monsters. Following Battlefield, referred to as one for the lads with its soldiers and knights and Ghost Light, an intricate and moody situation drama with formal dress and bug-eyed monsters, Curse of Fenric is the culmination of work that Sylvester McCoy and Andrew Cartmell had started back in 1987. A sense of mystery was returned to the Doctor and a new direction added to the program that made it both modern and reverential to the source material. It also focused on the companion Ace, forming the final part of her character’s arc that had begun back in her first story, Dragonfire.

Briggs’ plot draws from many excellent sources as the Arabian Nights, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, HP Lovecraft and even historical war records. While it does mention some continuity points such as the Doctor’s granddaughter and the chess game briefly shown on screen in Silver Nemesis, it draws strength from developing new mythologies and monsters. It also has some startling visuals that proudly declared Doctor Who had plenty of life left in it. The Ancient One leading an army of aquatic vampires assaulting a church is one of the absolute best moments of 1980′s Who.

There are of course flaws with Curse of Fenric including dubious special effects and performances as well as some terribly bizarre dialog. Just what does ‘No one ever makes you come into the water, but everybody wants do’ mean? Why is the confrontation between the evil vampire girls and Reverend Wainright filmed on such a lovely sunny afternoon? You can even hear birdsong! Additionally, there are so many plot threads strewn about that it gets dizzying and the program attempts to resolve them all in a slap dash manner, making the end result appear amateurish at times. When the DVD arrived, I giddily screened it to a friend as one of the best Doctor Who stories that few had seen and was crestfallen when he lost interest almost immediately due to the convoluted plot, poor audio and some dire performances.

I can point to a few sore points where Curse of Fenric falters in its greatness but the biggest problem in my opinion is that it attempts to accomplish far too much, especially for a Doctor Who story.

Russian soldiers land on the beach of a sleepy English village to steal a top secret English encryption machine. Millington and Judson are involved in a clandestine ploy to bomb the Kremlin with an experimental toxin, but are also pawns of Fenric, an ancient evil entity trapped in a bottle. Fenric brings the Haemovores to the 1940′s to not only cause death and destruction but have his revenge on the Doctor by creating a temporal paradox resulting in a future apocalypse. The Doctor has brought Ace to her mother’s birth to force her to accept that she can both love and hate someone and move past it… That’s a lot for one four part story (and I skipped a few ideas).

To be fair, this is a case of Doctor Who straining outside of its bounds with nearly no resources and boundless ambition.

Even so, the performance by Nicholas Parsons as Reverend Wainright who struggles with his faith as his country’s army slaughters thousands is stirring and very adult for its time. Likewise, the chemistry between Alfred Lynch as the slightly mad Commander Millington and Dinsdale Landen as Dr Judson is fascinating. Landen plays one of the finest and most evil of villains in Fenric, delighting as he watches Judson’s nurse get assaulted by Haemovores yet chilling in his interactions with the Doctor.

The regulars McCoy and Aldred really shine in this story, making sense out of a plot and doubtless frenzied production schedule. A classically trained actor, McCoy reveals in this final series that he is an excellent choice as the Doctor just waiting for a decent adventure. An inexperienced actress, Aldred is especially impressive here as she takes on much more dramatic material than ever before. Ace was granted so much care and attention by the production staff, but it would have all been for naught if she flopped in the part.

Canceled shortly afterwards, this is a glimpse of what could be done if the BBC was courageous enough to let Doctor Who grow up. Much later, bits and pieces of Cartmell’s Doctor Who masterplan would crop up in Russell T Davies revision. Much like the Big Finish audio dramas, Davies cherry-picked ideas from this period, but sadly very little of the brilliance remained.

In 1989, Doctor Who had the lowest ratings in decades. The BBC had lost its interest in Doctor Who and producer John Nathan-Turner, a man who struggled to keep the series afloat for years, wanted out. It was also a time of incredible innovation and re-invention. Doctor Who had gone from a day-glow children’s program to sophisticated entertainment combining fantasy, horror and drama all at once.

Finally available on Netflix, The Curse of Fenric is an outstanding story that shows Doctor Who in a time of flux and evolution.

Commander Millington

Reverend Wainright

Professor Judson

A horde of Haemovores

An early design of the Haemovores

Ingiga, The Ancient One

Fenric possesses Doctor Judson

Sylvester McCoy returns to U.N.I.T. with Raine, Klein and… the Doctor?

This year promises to be an exciting one for Big Finish. A special set of stories starring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Paul McGann in a special Eighth Doctor set, the adaptation of the New Adventures classic Love and War and of course the Counter Measures spin-off series featuring characters from the 1988 story Remembrance of the Daleks.

In addition to all of those specials is a box set bringing Sylvester McCoy and U.N.I.T. back together, along with fan favorite companion Klein and the newly introduced Raine Creevy… along with a ‘Another Doctor.’

Big Finish Doctor Who – UNIT: Dominion Box Set
The universe stands on the brink of a dimensional crisis – and the Doctor and Raine are pulled into the very epicentre of it.

Meanwhile, on Earth, UNIT scientific advisor Dr Elizabeth Klein and an incarnation of the Doctor she’s never encountered before are tested to the limit by a series of bizarre, alien invasions.

At the heart of it all is a terrible secret, almost as old as the Time Lords themselves. Reality is beginning to unravel and two Doctors, Klein, Raine and all of UNIT must use all their strength and guile to prevent the whole of creation being torn apart.

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Dr Elizabeth Klein), Beth Chalmers (Raine Creevy), Alex Macqueen (Another Doctor)

Doctor Who – UNIT: Dominion Box Set £30 until December 17 2012, then going up to £40. To buy or download this cd set visit www.bigfinish.com

Released 31 December 2012

Via TardisNewsroom and DoctorWhoSite.

Doctor Who Big Finish -The Dark Flame

The Dark Flame


Story 42
Written by Trevor Baxendale
Released March 2003

“Ace, how nice to see you. I’m happy to see that you’ve found a nice big gun.”
“Happy?”
“It’s a figure of speech.”

The Doctor and Ace are on their way to reunion with Bernice Summerfield, a character from the New Adventures series in the 1990′s. They receive a psychic alarm from a good friend of the Doctor’s an aged Professor Remnex, warning the Time Lord of a deadly evil entity. Arriving on a facility hovering over Sorus Alpha, the Doctor is a VIP of sorts due to an upcoming controlled black light explosion that could use his input. However, the scientist Slyde seems ill at ease with the interference of the Doctor and does his best to make the visitors feel uncomfortable.

The Doctor is having something of a crisis, seeming to be overwhelmed by his current lifestyle full of galactic-level threats and god-like creatures threatening all of creation. He is doubting himself and his role in the scheme of things, making him all the happier to see an old friends like Remnex. Unfortunately, Remnex knows nothing of the psychic cry through time and seems oblivious to the Doctor’s concern.

One time companion to the Doctor and space-faring archaeologist, Benny is on the facility to meet an old colleague, but cannot find him anywhere and has made herself busy performing menial tasks such as refuse disposal via TRANSMAT. Unbeknownst to Benny, her friend Victor is hard at work excavating a relic with the help of a mechanoid named Joseph. Joseph is something of a know-it-all and is antagonistic with Victor which is completely sensible when you take into account they share the same brain pattern. The relic retrieved, Joseph and Victor are relinquished of their find by their employer, a mysterious figure who knocks Victor out cold when he asks too many questions.

Soon it becomes clear that the Black Light explosion and the skull are tied together by the cult of the Dark Flame, a mythical association with so many mentions throughout history that many scholars, including Benny, insist that they don’t exist. But the Doctor knows better. The Dark Flame is an evil entity of immense power from the future long after our universe has died. The impulse to destroy, control and murder are attributed to the influence of the Dark Flame’s flickering embers reaching out from beyond and its intention is to break through completely.

The Doctor and Ace combo in the Big Finish audios have left me sort of cold on occasion, especially the previous The Shadow of the Scourge which drew on the New Adventures series published by Virgin. This time around the blend of humor, fantasy and moralizing gelled just right for me. McCoy is a voracious actor with a deep appetite for emotional delivery. So many of his stories feature confrontations where he struggles with a villain in a argument rather than physical conflict. In some cases this backfires and looks rather childish, but here it really works.

It must be very difficulty for Sophie Aldred to pretend to still be a twenty-something when she has two kids at home but she finds her way there. The rebellious soldier with a fearless attitude and explosives to back it up is in full effect here, daring dangerous megalomaniacs to try and get her one moment and kicking him in the jewels the next. Ace can be a bit too over the top in some adventures but is used in just the right amounts here.

Likewise, Bernice Summerfield is lots of fun, voiced by the alluring Lisa Bowerman. Benny was a big hit with readers back in the day and even earned her own line of novels and audio adventures before Big Finish even branched out into full Doctor Who. She’s a fun character, equal parts rollicking adventurer and cranky scientist.

Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield)

The character of Slyde has an unusually smooth purr to his voice that makes him an almost iconic villain. This is of course due to the vocal talents of Michael Praed, familiar to some as the star of Robin of Sherwood and of course the title character from Blake’s 7 in the Big Finish audio revamp.

The story reaches a fever pitch as Remnex is murdered and used as a vessel by Slyde and Lomar to bring about the emissary of the Dark Flame, Vilus Krull. Krull is the former cult leader of the followers of the Dark Flame, thought long dead. But with his skull unearthed, he can begin again, reaching out with his mind and bending others to his will. Krull ‘turns’ Benny to his way and she violently attacks Ace before leaving with her new masters. The Doctor, Ace and a damaged Victor have a massive army of the dead to contend with, Krull’s revived followers who were burried all over the planet… with just an umbrella for defense.

Of course the Doctor extricates them from the dilemma with a cunning plan and is soon toe-to-toe with Krull again for the final show-down. No magic wand, no gunfire, no timey-wimey nonsense, this Doctor stands just about 5 feet tall and stares down the best of them with his cold steel gray eyes. BBC Wales take note. THIS is how it is done.

Having seen a few interviews with Sylvester McCoy I witness in him an old gentle soul who truly wants to believe in the betterment of Mankind and the value of life. This comes through in his dialog with both Lomar and Vilus Krull as he asks them why they would give into to such a dark hopeless force of evil. Vilus Krull insists that the Dark Flame burns in everyone, but the Doctor simply cannot accept that. One must give themselves over to evil in order to be ruled by it. This bears fruit when the Doctor and Krull have a soul/mind duel and the Doctor flat out refuses to give in. Just like his battle in the Curse of Fenric, the Doctor draws on his belief to defeat the evil force and even manipulate it to do some good!

The conclusion may be a bit pat as the Doctor rewrites history so that not only is Benny healed and Remnex granted a peaceful death but the entire research project removed from history. Benny and Ace chide the Doctor for interfering with the ‘precious web of time,’ but he impishly insists that he didn’t interfere, he just made a few small alterations. McCoy’s childlike enthusiasm shines through in this excellent adventure filled as it is with walking corpses, senseless murder and impending doom.

I cannot help but smile at the final line spoken by the Doctor as he surveys his work, “I love my job.”

Doctor Who- The Dark Flame can be ordered directly online from Big Finish Productions.

Doctor No. 7 delivers the ‘pandorica speech’

Via i09
The seventh incarnation of the Doctor may have lasted from 1987 to 1989, but actor Sylvester McCoy is still kicking his straw hat and question mark-topped umbrella about at conventions. Still very active in the Big Finish line of audio adventures, he lent his voice to the speech from the ‘Pandorica Opens’ episode of the BBC Wales Doctor Who. Addressing a sky full of foes from every adventure, the Doctor challenges the might of the largest army ever assembled with nothing more than his unpredictable nature. Pure McCoy, really.

A fan caught the entire scene on camera for everyone to enjoy.

Sylvester McCoy’s adventures are available on DVD and CD.

Recommended:

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Survival

Doctor Who: Ghost Light

Dust Breeding (Dr Who Big Finish)

The Fires of Vulcan (Dr Who Big Finish)

Doctor Who action figure review- Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy (born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith), led a rather strange life leading up to his iconic role as the time traveling champion of justice generally known as the Doctor. While he started his career as an executive, he enjoyed the company of hippies and vagabonds who, likewise, relied on his charm and respectable appearance to get them out of tight spots. After taking up a job selling tickets and keeping books for the The Ken Campbell Roadshow, he was soon enticed to take a turn on the stage as a spectacle, Sylveste McCoy, the human bomb. McCoy would keep ferrets down his trousers, brave a table top railroad train with a salad fork taped to its front driven at his delicates and more. The lifestyle jived with his personality and in time, so did his stage name.

Later becoming a regular on the children’s program Tis Was, McCoy became something of a household name. Off the air, he also performed on stage in several highly acclaimed plays including a piece devoted to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. When producer John Nathan Turner was looking to replace outgoing Colin Baker, he again chose to direct his attention to the polar extreme. Whereas Baker was grand, McCoy was sly, Baker’s girth was similarly met with McCoy’s diminutive stature (in fact he remains the shortest actor to play the part). As the BBC executives had continually pushed JNT to transform Doctor Who into a family-friendly program, it made perfect sense to cast an entertainer known for children’s TV in the lead role.

Of course, McCoy’s 7th Doctor was not only a comical character with a penchant for physical humor and tricks (just watch Greatest Show in the Galaxy to witness his ability as a circus performer), he was also deeply attracted to serious drama. His version of the Doctor was intensely soulful, showing a wide range of characteristics from rage to compassion and deep sadness. The 7th Doctor also displayed a bizarre and alien set of mood swings mirrored by his companions, the wholesome Mel and the rambunctious Ace.

Lasting a short three year stint, the 7th Doctor’s reign from 1987-1989 saw the program flex its creative muscles in what can only be called its last hoorah. Fighting Daleks, Cybermen, the Master, time-traveling vampires, an evil from the dawn of time, robot clowns and a sadistic candy creature… this Doctor did it all.

Surprisingly, Character Options has only released three versions of the 7th Doctor in action figure form (the third being a ‘kit bash’ of the previous two, combining the head of one version on the body of the other). I have also purchased a custom-made toy combining the best attributes of each.

Remembrance of the Daleks, Ghost Light and custom versions

First release version of the 7th Doctor

The first McCoy figure is from the 1988 adventure Remembrance of the Daleks. Donning his trademark panama hat, cream-colored jacket, tartan trousers, white/brown brogues and paisley scarf he is instantly recognizable thanks to the outrageous sweater vest (or jumper) assaulted with question marks.

While he always carried an umbrella as a prop, in his third adventure Delta and the Bannermen, the 7th Doctor had obtained a model topped with a question mark-tipped handle (McCoy’s idea, apparently).

This version of the Doctor’s costume is both eye catching and rather practical and somewhat less conspicuous than his previous two costumes. It informs the wanderer/adventurer traits of the character through the panama hat and safari-style jacket while retaining the mad professor traits through the two-tone shoes and tartan trousers. It is possibly one of the best version of the Doctor on TV as far as costuming goes as it delivers a cartoon-ish character that is instantly identifiable with the program as well as being practical (amongst gadgets and other handy devices, McCoy stuffed the scripts in the two copious pockets).

The oft-remarked upon smiling face is rather garish and makes the 7th Doctor look like a lunatic, but given the wide range of comical faces the actor has made on screen, it’s unfortunately not that far from the mark.

11 Doctors set variant of the 7th Doctor

For his third series, McCoy had requested a darker tone to his costume as he felt that the cream-colored model was far too soft and child-like. This fits the more serious tone of series 26 as well. In the second story of the series, Ghost Light, the Doctor and Ace arrive in a Victorian house taken over by malicious alien lifeforms plotting to kill the Queen (no, I did not ruin the adventure for you if you haven’t seen it, I might have actually helped you out as a matter of fact).

Almost immediately, McCoy drops his hat and umbrella on a hat stand and is transformed into a more dignified character. It helps, because the villain of the piece Josiah Smith (played to perfection by Ian Hogg) is a class act, dolled up in the refinery of a Victorian gentleman yet murderously mad. The pair have a series of stand offs that have all the more impact thanks to the loss of the 7th Doctor’s cumbersome props. In some cases, the umbrella and hat are signifiers that he is an alien adventurer, but in the setting of Ghost Light they stood out as incongruous.

The 11th Doctor 7th Doctor figure captures that moment with a repainted version of the costume we had already seen in cream (this time in deep brown) and removed the hat to reveal McCoy’s swept-back curly locks and stern countenance. It may sound like a little thing, but it makes a big difference. The scarf and necktie have also been recolored in dark blues and reds (mimicking a paisley pattern far too precise to replicate to a tee).

There are, as some have pointed out, some inaccuracies such as the color of the fob watch chain and that of the handkerchief hanging out of the Doctor’s pocket, but these are small problems. The first variant is a wonderful addition to the Character Options line and worthy of a place on your shelf. As the heads on both McCoy figures are swappable, I found myself switching them back and forth, giving a more serious tone to the light-colored costume that I personally prefer.

A third custom made version, combing both variants of the 7th Doctor

I had mentioned that a third 7th Doctor figure had been released. Accompanying a TARDIS supposedly from the Curse of Fenric, this figure was a kit-bash of the two previous figures, placing a smiling face wearing the panama hat on the brown jacketed body. A simple maneuver and as the Remembrance of the Daleks set has become a hard to find item, I can see why they felt there was a market for this variant.

However, I was lucky enough to find a custom-built McCoy figure that used the serious faced head from Ghost Light and the top of the head from the Remembrance of the Daleks version, resulting in a stern-faced 7th Doctor still donning his hat.

I know, right? FINALLY.

Despite my addiction to toys and Doctor Who I had never bought a custom action figure before this one. I feared that the head would fall apart, the limbs would swing all over the place, the neck would not turn, all kinds of worries went through my head. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had purchased a quality product that was indistinguishable from the rest of the Character Options offerings at their best. All of the limbs are tight, the joints are fluid and there is no noticeable line from where the two heads are joined.

A class act!

I’d like to point out that only the 4th Doctor (played by Tom Baker) and the 7th have received different faces depicting specific stats of mood. The first 4th Doctor release featured swappable heads including the stone-faced version(similar to the face seen in the opening credits) and a mad smiling head complete with floppy hat. I’m not sure why Character Options has taken so much attention to McCoy’s Doctor, but I have a feeling that they are not done yet.

There are still a few variants possible for Doctor no.7, such as:

The regeneration costume:

The duffel coat from The Curse of Fenric:

The TV Movie costume (a favorite of McCoy’s):

The linen costume from the New Adventures series:

What do you think?

(in closing, anyone interested in the custom McCoy figure, please check out the listing on ebay. I am not sure if the seller has plans to make any more, but it is well worth the money and a professionally crafted toy)

Doctor Who – Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant return to Big Finish and Sylvester McCoy plays a tri-logic game

The Sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker and his companion Peri, played by Nicola Bryant are once again united in a special anthology of audio adventures from Big Finish. This will mark the 150th release (of the main line of titles, there are many others). Baker and Bryant had a special kind of chemistry on the screen as the bombastic eccentric Doctor and the young American companion Peri.

The actors have appeared on and off screen since they left the airwaves in 1985, continuing their collaboration. Their latest Doctor Who adventure promises to be something very special.

Via TardisNewsroom:

August 2011 sees the release of the 150th Doctor Who main range title, Recorded Time and Other Stories. This two-disc anthology stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, and its four stories are written by writers new to the range…

“Three of the four Recorded Time stories made it to the final 12 of last year’s Writers’ Opportunity,” says script editor Alan Barnes. “The story that we picked to go into production – Rick Briggs’ The Entropy Composition – won out because it fitted best with the stories we’d already commissioned for the Demons of Red Lodge anthology release. But it broke my heart to lose some of those final 12, so I was determined to give my personal favourites a second chance!

“They’re a terrific mix of styles: Catherine Harvey’s Recorded Time – the title track, if you like! – is a surreal excursion into the court of Henry VIII, with a decidedly tragic edge; Matt Fitton’s A Most Excellent Match takes us into the world of Jane Austen (among others); and Philip Lawrence’s Question Marks is a real-time thriller set in a stricken vessel… but to say more would spoil it!”

The only episode not by a new writer is Paradoxicide by Richard Dinnick, in which the Doctor and Peri investigate a message from the legendary planet Sendos.

Director Ken Bentley has assembled a lovely guest cast which includes Raquel Cassidy (Party Animals, Lead Balloon, Doctor Who: The Judgement of Isskar), Joan Walker (Doctor Who: The Magic Moustrap) and Paul Shearer (The Fast Show).

The second news piece for this blog entry involves the Reeltime production ‘Downtime’ directed by Christopher Barry and written by Marc Platt (Ghostlight). This was created during the ‘Wilderness Years’ between the end of the classic Doctor Who series and the return of the program in the 1996 TV Movie starring Paul McGann. The Reeltime productions are superb films that included several actors from the classic program and several gifted creators who would become part of the BBC Wales revival.

Downtime- 1995

Downtime starred the late Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Lis Sladen as Sarh Jane Smith, Jack Watling as Professor Travers, Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield and K-9 voice actor John Leeson as Anthony, the DJ.

As some readers may recall, Downtime producer Ian Levine has been working with Seventh Doctor actor Sylvester McCoy in creating new material to be included in a DVD release of Downtime. Today, Shadowlocked released a new exclusive image of McCoy filming a scene. The scene looks very similar to one from the William Hartnell adventure Celestial Toymaker (starring the late Michael Gough) in which the Doctor was ensnared in a dimensional trap and forced to play a tri-logic game while his companions performed a deadly array of absurd tasks.

I’m very excited about this new Doctor Who project and hope that more information will trickle in.

Via Shadowlocked:

Sylvester McCoy films a scene for Downtime

Here’s a bit of fun to warm the hearts of Doctor Who fans. Having read last week’s interview with Sylvester McCoy, Rob Ritchie was kind enough to send us this pic of the great man recreating his most famous role (at least until the first Hobbit movie comes out) for a new imagining of the 1995 straight-to-video release Downtime…

Original director Christopher Barry could not include The Doctor as a character for the original release due to rights issues, but this seems to be getting remedied now for a revised version of the tale, which featured the late Nicholas Courtney as The Brig, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield.

We’re assured by Sylvester McCoy that the rather scruffy-looking table in the picture will end up CGI’d into the TARDIS centre console, with suitable background dropped into where the green screen currently is.

Chris tells us that the new inclusion of The Doctor in Downtime is accompanied by a new villain called Padmasambavah, played by Steven O’Donnell, who many UK viewers may remember as ‘Spudgun’ from the Rik Mayall/Adrian Edmonson 1990s comedy Bottom (his sidekick in that show, Christopher Ryan, is an old hand at Doctor Who, having played Lord Kiv in the Colin Baker adventure Mindwarp and also the Sontaran Commander Staal in the David Tennant story The Sontaran Stratagem, and a different Sontaran in the Matt Smith outing The Big Bang).

The re-booted version of Downtime is being handled by producer Ian Levine.