Doctor Who star Colin Baker’s gag backfires, but he’s still the king of audio

The erstwhile and verbose colorful action man, Colin Baker may no longer look like his TV counterpart from the 80′s, but he is still a strong actor on stage and screen, appearing as Inspector Morse in House of Ghosts and currently playing an abandoned husband obsessed with listening to cricket matches in the garden in the production of The Final Test.

Baker is possibly the most enthusiastic actor to have ever played the role of the Doctor and was unceremoniously rousted from the part. We can talk about this in a new light these days as he has won over fans as the Doctor in the Big Finish audio range and is even the acting president of the Doctor Who fan club, a mantle he has taken over from Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney.

But a recent joke regarding a return to Doctor Who may have back-fired… if the 50th anniversary will feature any of the classic Doctors at all. It’s rather sobering to hear Baker state that the new series ‘doesn’t need him’ and yet he seems to say so without any venom in his heart.

Sixth Doctor Who Colin Baker

At that event [all five classic Doctor appearing at Milton Keynes] you said you wouldn’t be interested in getting involved with a 50th anniversary special next year. Really?

I said it purely to irritate. ’Cos they’d all said: ‘yeah yeah, I’d be interested’ so to provoke a reaction I said: ‘I wouldn’t’. And nobody took me up on it! I thought they’d ask me why and I’d say: ‘Well I might if they were nice to me’, but I never got the opportunity. So it was a gag that fell like a lead lump and didn’t go any further!

So if Steven Moffat calls, I’ll tell him you’re available?

Do you know, it’s not going to happen. They don’t need us – the programme is doing extremely well without us. Also, every time someone asks me that question I hold up a photograph of myself when I played the part, compared to what I look like now, and say, ‘OK, how do you deal with that?’ With four of us, all of whom have moved on – some less gracefully than others. You know, Peter still looks a bit like what he looked like, but I’ve changed.

Doctor Who (Colin Baker) in 1986′s Terror of the Vervoids

It’s Doctor Who – I’m sure they could get round that.
I suppose they could. And in theory, I’m neither for nor against it. There would be two big questions I would ask: The first is, is my Doctor going to get a fair crack of the whip in the story, and not be eclipsed by anybody else? Because you want parity. And the other one is, what vast fortune are you offering me? I’d be quite brutal about myself and say, if they offered me a million quid, I’d go on and say one line for them. If they offered me a tenner, I wouldn’t.

It’s the apple of the BBC’s eye now, isn’t it, which is the exact opposite of your day.

I know, I do envy the three most recent Doctors because the BBC have suddenly realised they’ve got a golden egg in their hands. And they had it then, but the BBC back then seemed to be almost embarrassed about having popular programmes. Now, with all the reality television, they’re falling over themselves to reach the lowest common denominator. So it’s quite nice that a programme that actually does have high production standards like Doctor Who is extremely successful.

(more at CambridgeNews)

Doctor Who and The Mark of the Rani

‘The Mark of the Rani’

Written by Pip and Jane Baker, Directed by Sarah Hellings
Story 139
Transmitted 2 February – 9, 1985

Looking forward to showing Peri The Great Exhibition, the Doctor is frustrated that the TARDIS has once again missed the date. But it seems that it is not a wasted journey as there is a distinct trace of alien technology in what appears to be an otherwise peaceful mining village. Hiding amid the citizens of Killingsworth is a deadly mastermind with schemes that could threaten human development. To add to the danger, the Doctor has been followed by his old nemesis, the Master, who vows that this encounter will be their last.

When the Doctor and Peri witness the delivery of machinery attacked by a band of roving ludites. Soon, it becomes evident that the seemingly random acts of violence are hardly random as the inventor George Stephenson (an inventor responsible for the success of the railroad system) has arranged for a meeting of learned men to take place in a few day’s time. Combined with the trace of technology far in advance for the human race of that time period, the Doctor realizes that someone is attempting something quite deadly that could have far-reaching consequences. All clues lead to a bath house run by an old crone, which demands that the Doctor infiltrate her operation by placing himself in direct peril.

Surviving his first meeting with the crone, the Doctor comes face to face with the brilliant yet twisted Time Lady known as the Rani. Seeking to deprive the miners of much-needed serotonin, the Rani is causing havoc in the village, but to her it is just a bi-product of her mission to obtain chemicals required to control a far off population of subjects. When the Master learns of her involvement, it takes little coercion to use the chaos to their advantage and destroy the Doctor as well. Against two individuals of equal intelligence, the odds are against the Doctor, but if he loses the first steps toward industrial progress will have never happened.

Peri and the Doctor investigate the Rani’s TARDIS

Mark of the Rani is one of my favorite Doctor Who adventures, specifically of the Sixth Doctor’s era. The combination of an historical setting with a new and old villain was a brilliant move. Filming in a genuine historic site is an added bonus while the musical score is inspired and moody. Just three stories in and Colin Baker is rocking the role of the Doctor.

In 1985, Baker had intended to play the role of the Doctor for as long as possible. It had appealed to him as an actor to be the best part on television and he had even attempted to get in the door when Tom Baker departed but missed out to Peter Davison. Having strong opinions on how to play the role, he was devastated when he found that the garish costume would threaten to out-act him on screen. Nonetheless, he took to the part with enthusiasm and saw the program through one of its rockiest periods.

A follower of science fiction and fantasy, Colin Baker has stated that he preferred scripts by Pip and Jane Baker as they were more intelligently written, but in my opinion this is the only good one of their three efforts. Still, it’s a cracking yarn.

Even die-hard fans slag off Colin Baker, yet his first series is actually quite solid with Mark of the Rani ranking quite high alongside Vengeance on Varos, The Two Doctors and Revelation of the Daleks. There are admittedly some sore points in Mark of the Rani, such as how the Master got to 19th Century England, why he was masquerading as a scarecrow and what is he doing there anyway aside from cackling like a loon.

Ainley’s contract demanded that he appear once per year and this is a poor excuse to place him in the series, nevertheless he is excellent as the Master. His diabolical grins and devilish physical language are just superb. An admirer of Roger Delgado, the original Master, Ainley describes his performance as part imitation and part homage to Delgado’s characterization. An accomplished stage and screen actor, Ainley was independently wealthy and only acted because he enjoyed it. The Master was Ainley’s favorite role which could explain why he kept coming back so often no matter what the situation. Appearing with more incarnations of the Doctor than any other guest actor aside from perhaps Nicholas Courtney, Ainley adjusted his performance slightly to match his opponent. Against Colin Baker, he is scintillating in his language and Machiavellian in his actions.

The Master (Anthony Ainley) and the Rani (Kate O’Mara)

Reportedly, Ainley was a bit cheesed off that he was little more than a guest villain, playing second fiddle to Kate O’Mara (The Rani), but none of this comes through on screen.

A starlet in her own right, O’Mara had become a household name on TV thanks to the US drama Dynasty. She had also appeared in a similar drama, the Brothers, which also starred a young Colin Baker. Getting the pair together again was likely the sole reason John Nathan Turner asked O’Mara to appear in Doctor Who, but even so, it resulted in a new villain(ess). As a new enemy, the Rani doesn’t do much for me. Smarter than the Doctor and the Master, she is so methodical and clinical that there’s not much to invest in her as a character. It’s an interesting direction to take the concept in, just not a very rewarding one.

I had noted the musical score earlier as being part of the reason why I dote on this story so much. It was composed by Jonathan Gibbs and is so evocative and effective at setting a specific mood that I wish he had contributed more work to the series in the 1980′s. Strangely, his score was a last minute addition after the original composer John Lewis had taken ill. Both soundtracks are available on the DVD which is a nice treat.

The Doctor (Colin Baker) confronts the Master and the Rani

When it was first screen on my local PBS station, I was very excited about this one. Already the visceral Attack of the Cybermen and the cynical Vengeance on Varos had been aired and were excellent installments for a new era and this one added the element of smarts. A sterling adventure with a wonderful location and a top notch cast, Mark of the Rani is a high point for Colin Baker’s debut season. It played up to his strengths; action, brilliant dialog and intense drama as well as provide some lovely actors to spark off of. If you are unsure of Colin Baker, you may want to give this one a go.

(Just be prepared for one of the weirdest moments in Doctor Who when a tree saves Peri’s life.)

‘Don’t worry, Peri! The tree won’t harm you!’

Doctor Who – Slipback

Doctor Who – Slipback

Written by Eric Saward
Transmitted 25 July to 8 August 1985

Suffering a painful hangover, the Doctor receives a psychic message that draws him to a massive spacecraft. On board, a series of mysterious killings threatens the lives of the crew while the craft’s artificial intelligence develops schizophrenia and the ship captain’s various illnesses increase to such an extent that he could will a plague upon his crew. When the Doctor and Peri are separated, Peri encounters a pair of unlikely policemen who insist that they are anything but while the Doctor bumps into their prey, a crook named Shellingbourne Grant. The Doctor soon realizes that the ship’s AI, full to the brim with knowledge of the universe from its various surveys, is disgusted with the state of existence and intends to travel back in time and cause a second big bang, wiping out reality in favor of a more structured creation. In order to save life as we know it, the Doctor must win an argument with an insane computer, dodge the police, avoid being eaten by a creature that should be extinct and stop the captain of the Vipod Mor from recreating the black death. Just another day for the Doctor, then.

Filling in the 18 month gap between Revelation of the Daleks and Trial of a Time Lord, Slipback is a strange experiment in radio drama for the long running science fiction program. With Big Finish Productions currently wearing a laurel of over a hundred and fifty audio dramas of Doctor Who alone, Slipback is difficult to judge in comparison. A somewhat stilted affair, the six part format is an awkward fit, resulting in some weird cliffhangers (the Doctor screaming ‘NOOOOOOO!’ when he realizes the ship computer’s plan being one) and plenty of padding.

The performances are varied, with Colin Baker showing his acting capacity in the lighter comedic moments as well as the heavy dramatic ones, winning his place as the Doctor even back in 1985 when he was still a relative newcomer to the part. Nicola Bryant fares less well as Peri, but given that she was still very new to the profession and likely had never acted on radio, you can’t hold it against her. Valentine Dyall (familiar to Whovians as the Black Guardian during the Fifth Doctor’s time) is splendid. This performance is sadly shortly before he passed on and he was in very bad health at the time. Both Jon Glover and Jane Carr are treasures to the production, their vocal talents bring Saward’s script to vibrant life.

A veteran of screen and radio, Saward’s script is a bit of a mess, unfortunately. It is firmly embedded in the various Saward-isms of the period; dark humor, absurd situations and plenty of violence. Many have compared Slipback to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy due to the doddering space policemen who seem to be ripped directly from its pages, but in truth Slipback is far stranger due to the character of the Doctor. With Douglas Adams’ work, there is the comfort of a likable (if ineffectual) hero, but the Sixth Doctor is so alien and unpredictable that he hardly brings a feeling of safety. Definitely one of the moire brilliant and forthright incarnations of the Doctor, one often gets the impression that he may not be on our side after all. When it becomes clear that he is the only force between life and death on such a galactic scale, it becomes very tense indeed.

An odd experiment that kept the fires burning for Doctor Who fandom, Slipback is often forgotten these days as it is neither part of the classic TV program nor is it part of the more recent Big Finish line of audios. Nevertheless, it is still finding fans as this animation shows:

Since his time on air, Colin Baker’s irascible Sixth Doctor has found a new legion of followers, hungry for more material. While it may not be his finest hour story-wise, Slipback should be included in that list of books, audios and such, along with the following:

Doctor Who: Slipback (BBC Radio Drama)

The Sixth Doctor (Doctor Who the Handbook)

The Sixth Doctor - ComicCon exclusive

Doctor Who Big Finish- The Sandman

The Sandman

“I hate to disappoint you, Evelyn… But I am every bit the monster they believe me to be...”
Story 37
Written by: Simon A. Forward
Released: October 2002

The Doctor takes his companion Evelyn on what is secretly a regularly scheduled maintenance trip, following up on unfinished business. Arriving in the middle of a vast fleet of gypsy starships known as The Clutch, Evelyn slowly discovers that the Doctor, a strange alien traveler that she has become familiar with as a close friend and companion, is known as a dark, terrifying creature who is feared by an entire race as ‘The Sandman.’ The Doctor has apparently interfered with the conflict between two races long ago and has been keeping tabs on them to make sure that his actions are still working and that they still fear him. Unfortunately, another party has decided to use his notion but rather than serving as a psychological boogie man, this one is a very dangerous killer. Faced with the irrevocable results of his previous actions, the Doctor must maintain his reputation as a superhuman entity while stopping another mystery man with similar ambitions.

The identity of the Doctor as a kind of superhuman force of nature is a tricky road to maneuver through. It has been attempted with the Seventh Doctor on screen and to a much greater degree in print and of course more recently in the BBC Wales version of the character as the Tenth Doctor. Simon Forward approaches the same notion from a rather mature and intelligent approach with much greater success.

The Sandman is a fascinating adventure rich in atmosphere and history that gives the listener the impression that the Doctor Who universe is a far more vast and lush setting than has usually been seen. This is accomplished in language as the terminology used by the alien races is rich and bizarre, developing a world that the audience can easily relate to and honor at the same time. It is also accomplished by the performers who are in good form here with Colin Baker, a thespian with a Shakespearean tenor, the true star.

On screen, the Sixth Doctor was a mixed bag as he was such a departure from the more traditional and realistic Fifth Doctor who had preceded him. In the Big Finish audio format, Colin Baker has found his home and rules with a blessed instrument, his voice. The actor obviously relishes the opportunity to stretch to the grand moments of challenging a horde of alien marauders, but is also deeply invested in the more personal moments where he attempts to relate to Evelyn, played once again by the wonderful Maggie Stables.

What is truly wonderful here is that the Sixth Doctor hardly asks for forgiveness for his actions or even shows any signs of true guilt. The BBC Wales approach would instead offer up long mournful moments focused on the Doctor looking out on the horizon, fighting back tears while pouting. The Sixth Doctor is a much more complex and satisfying incarnation who plays by a different rule book for far greater stakes. It is adventures like this that make me yearn for more Colin Baker stories and thankfully the actor currently shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Doctor Who – The Sandman can be purchased at local retailers such as Mike’s Comics and online from Big Finish.

Read other Big Finish reviews at the Daily P.O.P. 

More Doctor Who Lost Stories for No. 6

During his short tenure on screen, Colin Baker encountered some resistance to his portrayal of the boisterous and brilliant Sixth Doctor. However, he has won over any detractors and earned a whole new army of followers through his work on the Big Finish Productions audio plays. With better scripts and a the removal of budgetary restraints, his Doctor shines in this format. One may imagine the tasteless coat of many colours, but it remains in the imagination as it refuses to translate into any recognizable sound.

It is well known that several scripts were in various stages of development for the planned 23rd series in 1985. When the program was put on an 18 month hiatus, all of those ideas were scrapped. Now, Big Finish has had the opportunity to develop these ‘lost’ adventures as new audio releases for purchase from local retailers and direct download through their site.

Via ColinBakerOnline:

Big Finish have announced that May 2012 will see the first release in a series of three Sixth Doctor and Peri ‘Lost Stories’

The Guardians of Prophecy by Johnny Byrne and adapted by Jonathan Morris is a sequel to the 1981 story The Keeper of Traken, in which the travellers face the evil Malador and an army of Melkurs. The guest cast includes Graham Cole (reprising his role as the Melkurs from that story), Nigel Lambert (The Leisure Hive) and Simon Williams (Remembrance of the Daleks).

June 2012 sees the release of Meltdown by Gary Hopkins, who has adapted his original script for audio. The story is set on present day Earth and catches up with Victoria Waterfield, the Doctor’s former companion who was played by Deborah Watling in 1967/68. Guest stars include David Warwick (The Pirate Planet) and stand-up comedian and actor Miles Jupp (Rev).

Next up is The First Sontarans by Andrew Smith, in which the Doctor and Peri meet a Sontaran attack squad on Earth in the year 1892. Dan Starkey (who plays Sontarans in the current TV series), will be showing off his old style Sontaran voice to play Fleet Marshall Jaka.

Doctor Who Big Finish- Bloodtide

Bloodtide

Story 22
Written by Jonathan Morris
Released July 2001

In an attempt to surprise his new companion Evelyn, the Doctor lands the TARDIS on the Galapagos Islands as the famed scientist Charles Darwin struggles to develop his theory of evolution. However, he has arrived just as a race of Silurians have been revived from their long hibernation. Just as Darwin’s theory on the origins of the human race are imagined, its fate hangs in the balance.

The Silurians, a creation of Malcolm Hulke are one of the classic monsters of the 70′s, brought back in 1984′s Warriors of the Deep and again in 2010′s two-part adventure The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. A brilliant race of reptiles that predate the human race, the Silurians remain one of the more inspired ‘monsters’ of the classic Doctor Who program. in the past they have been portrayed as a sophisticated if practical people, possessing an awesome technology hampered by xenophobia and a particular hatred of the humans that they once treated as pets. Bloodtide takes that relationship a step further by establishing that humans weren’t just pets for the Silururians, they were also food.

I have previously noted that the pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn is a fortunate one. They are so alike that it is comical yet the relationship between Colin Baker and Maggie Stables provides a modicum of comedy and drama. These two characters seem very real to the listener and move through the adventure displaying a wealth of cunning and emotion.

Bloodtide has gotten some stick from fans of the classic program as it borrows heavily from the eponymous Silurians (1970). I don’t really see that many similarities, but if you are going to borrow from any classic story, you can do worse than Hulke’s Silurians. In Bloodtide, the ruling power of the islands, Governor Lawson, has made a deal with the Silurians as a way to get rid of undesirable members of his society. To the Doctor’s horror, he discovers that they are being held in a larder as food. A brief preface establishes that Tulok, a member of the Silurian race, was cut off from their society for his outlandish ideas regarding the genetic manipulation of the ‘hairless apes’ in order to make them herd themselves, and be a better source of food.

Revived in a world over-ridden by humanity, Tulok strikes up a deal with Governor Lawson to meet their shared interest. However, the outcast Tulok has greater ambitions that are nothing short of complete and total domination of the planet, putting humanity back in its place, just as he had arranged it.

Artist Lee Sullivan's drawing for Bloodtide from Doctor Who Magazine

Bloodtide is a brilliant story that uses a classic monster in an inspired way. The addition of Charles Darwin to an adventure involving a race of reptilian beings that escaped the confines of history is clever enough but introducing the concept of humanity as a genetically designed food-source is so smart that it is stupefying. The Silurians retain their regal dignity tempered with a savage edge that has long made them a favorite amongst fans. Colin Baker is obviously reveling in the script that provides philosophical debates and monster attacks alike.

The adventure has several elements that I view as essential for classic Doctor Who ranging from historical and literate influences as well as fantastical elements. Warriors of the Deep failed to capture the dignity and power of the Silurians, depicting them instead as a bog-standard alien race of baddies intent on destruction. The modern BBC Wales program took a different approach and ended up giving an impression of the Silurians that bordered on Star Trek, a boring culture of people in rubber costumes. Bloodtide sticks to the basics laid out by Hulke and comes out the winner in my opinion, as the Silurians in this audio adventure are a complicated race with incredible intelligence and a brutally pragmatic view of life.

A charming and intense adventure, I thoroughly enjoyed this Big Finish Production and heartily recommend it to fans of the original Doctor Who series.

Doctor Who – Bloodtide can be purchased at local retailers such as Mike’s Comics and online from Big Finish.

Read other Big Finish reviews at the Daily P.O.P. here.


Doctor Who Big Finish- The Marian Conspiracy

The Marian Conspiracy


Story 06
Written by Jacqueline Rayner
Released March 2000

“Of course an execution is an excellent day out… take the kids, they love it!”

I had initially skipped around the Big Finish series and heard the Apocalypse Element, wondering who this flippant older companion was. Evelyn Smythe of course has a strong fan following amongst fans of the extended ‘Who universe. While I of course have a sweet spot for monster stories, I adore pure historical Doctor Who adventures. From Marco Polo to Reign of Terror and even the late 80′s attempts that inserted science fiction elements. Whereas the BBC Wales Doctor Who series seems unable to understand the point of tales set in established history and use the occasions to include historical figures as celebrity guest-stars. Another point that escapes the Wales team in the regard to historicals is that they are inevitably about the Doctor adhering to the time line and refraining from becoming part of established events or altering what must happen.

Writer Jacqueline Rayner understands what makes an historical adventure work and the Marian Conspiracy excels in providing complicated plots that not only tempt the Doctor to take a part in history but also put him in jeopardy as well. Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is renowned for his intelligent and worldly manner tempered by an egocentric attitude. On screen this often came off as a bit camp and crass but he has found a new legion of followers in the audio format. New companion Evelyn gives the Sixth Doctor a run for his money by being almost as self-opinionated and sure of herself, spouting a stubborn streak and an indefatigable character. She’s what many call ‘brassy’ and I can certainly see why listeners like her.

The Marian Conspiracy opens with the Doctor discovering that Evelyn Smythe is a walking temporal anomaly. Taking her back to Tudor England, the Doctor seeks an audience with the Queen while Evelyn rubs shoulder with the locals by the pub… where she discovers the date after causing a catastrophic faux pas by raising a glass to ‘good Queen Bess’ long before Queen Elizabeth took the throne.

As the Doctor attempts to find the much-needed answers to the temporal anomaly, he becomes wrapped up in local politics. Placed in an awkward position, the Doctor is very fond of Queen Mary, but cannot support her overzealous mission to burn heretics at the stake. Meanwhile Evelyn introduces hot cocoa to her new friends only to find that they are involved in a dangerous plot. Both soon find that they must tread carefully to maintain the web of time but not too

A straight forward and sensible adventure, the Marian Conspiracy is like a step back in time to the Hartnell era when Doctor Who was as educational as it was entertaining. It’s a thrilling and smart story that appeals to a specific kind of listener, so I can fully understand fans of the monster story dozing off to this one. But for fans of the Smugglers and the Massacre of St. Barthlomew’s Eve, it’s an ideal offering. The quality of the material from the voice acting to script and soundscape (music and background sound effects) wrap the ears in a lush world of history and atmosphere.

Not a thrilling high adventure entry, the Marian Conspiracy is nonetheless a superb story and the beginning of a lovely friendship between the Doctor and Evelyn.

Doctor Who – The Marian Conspiracy can be purchased at local retailers such as Mike’s Comics and online from Big Finish.

Read other Big Finish reviews at the Daily P.O.P. here.

Doctor Who Big Finish- The Apocalypse Element (Dalek Empire II)

The Apocalypse Element

“You are the DOCTOR!”
“How terribly observant of you. No wonder you only need one eye.”

Story 11
Written by Stephen Cole

Released August 2000

A disturbance in the temporal vortex draws the Doctor and Evelyn to a gathering of time travel experts on the planet Archetryx. Many years ago, the planet Etra Prime disappeared completely without any explanation, taking with it the then Lady President of Gallifrey (and former traveling companion to the Doctor, Romana, along with it). This alerted the Time Lords that there was a dangerous rival in temporal engineering as it appeared that Etra Prime was removed from the time stream entirely. However, the Time Lords aren’t just trying to find the rogue planet, they are also eager to steal the advancements from other cultures in time travel as their complacence has finally caught up with their once great society, making them ripe for attack from any number of enemies.

This story makes for a turning point in regards to Gallifrey and the path that the Time Lords will take, in some ways leading to the vastly different race seen in the 2009 Doctor Who adventure, The End of Time… if you squint… really hard. From their first appearance in the War Games through to their last appearance on screen in the classic series in Trial of a Timelord: The Ultimate Foe, the Time Lords are shown as decadent and regressive, a people that are outside of time but have grown flaccid in mind and body from lack of activity.

The Doctor is aghast at the desperate measures that his people have been driven to in gaining new knowledge. Unable to find Etra Prime and the missing Romana, the High Council is obviously paranoid that anyone could understand time travel more than the Time Lords and are anxious to regain their stature as the all-powerful beings they once were. When Etra Prime finally does re-appear, it is driven back into existence by an army of Daleks who have arranged the entire affair to gain access to Gallifrey. Through the use of a deadly new weapon called the Apocalypse Element, the Daleks seek to hold the universe ransom to assault Gallifrey and gain access to the secrets of the Time Lords, finally defeating the once mighty civilization.

The second of the four Dalek Empire cross-over stories, The Apocalypse Element embodies the spirit of other overly violent Dalek tales such as Resurrection of the Daleks. There’s a lot of techno-jargon and parts of the narrative are quite difficult to grasp over the screaming and explosions as the Daleks fire their death rays throughout this four parter. Colin Baker once more proves his prowess as the proud and mighty Doctor in all of his resplendent glory. It’s difficult to put my finger on what is so different about his portrayal of the character in the Big Finish audios compared to the TV adventures, but it is like the Sixth Doctor was created for the audio format. It is also clear that the Big Finish material is far superior to the 1984/6 programs. The dialog is intensely smart and sharp, offering up plenty of bon mots for Mr. Baker and the wonderful Maggie Stables.

Her third outing as Evelyn and Maggie Stables has me loving her portrayal of the forthright and gutsy academic. On the screen an older companion would never have made it, but it’s the loss of the TV audiences to be honest. Her character is just so much fun and she matches the intelligence and determination of the Sixth Doctor perfectly. Colin Baker displays such range of emotion and a new depth to his performance that he practically carries the whole story on his own.

Back for the first time since 1980, Lalla Ward as Romana II is an unexpected surprise. Her character has gone through some big changes, held captive by the Daleks on a secluded planet and dehumanized into slavery. Back in her own dimension, Romana makes a defiant stand against the Daleks with such ferocity that the Doctor is understandably worried about his friend. As Romana appears in later adventures, I am sure that I’ll see her character undergo still more changes. To be honest, I prefer the first incarnation of Romana played by Mary Tamm, but Ward gives some new facets to her incarnation of the brilliant Time Lady, no doubt making fans of her on screen portrayal jump for joy.

As always, the music (including the outstanding Dalek Empire signature tune) and voice acting is exemplary with Nicholas Briggs embodying the Daleks with such gusto that it is difficult to remember he is quite a pleasant chap.  The more that I listen to Dalek Empire, the more I respect and enjoy his enormous skill at modernizing the Dalek voice while paying homage to what has come before (via the late Peter Hawkins, Roy Skelton and Michael Wisher to name just three of that long legacy of modulated screamers).

I have discovered that I quite enjoy Apocalypse Element and have listened to it several times… perhaps to understand just what is going on. The sequences on Archetryx are clear enough, but when Romana notices the Daleks using crystals to communicate, it all gets a bit hazy. It took me ages to understand that the Daleks hijacked Etra Prime in order to harvest the crystals native to that planet (the basis of the Monan Host’s temporal engineering) allowing them to build a weapon so powerful that it can reshape reality. Against an army of Daleks, the Time Lords are woefully unprepared.

Not so much a war, the conflict with the Daleks on Gallifrey is a blood bath. In the end, most of the Chancillary Guard are dead in the halls, at least one gutted of his eyeball in order to gain access to the main citadel through the retina scan-based security. Perhaps this is why the Time Lords resurrected their Warrior King Rassilon during the Time War? I’ll stop because I’m in danger of thinking back to the 2005-2009 era of Doctor Who which will only make my head hurt.

The activation of the Apocalypse Element in the Seiphia Galaxy puts the Doctor into an emotional fit as he attempts to stem the tide of destruction. By attacking Gallifrey, the Daleks force the Time Lords to collaborate and create a method of controlling the forces, thus giving the Daleks exactly what they wanted all along, the creation of a new universe. In the annals of all the Dalek’s schemes, this could be their boldest and most staggering.

With so much action conveyed in sound only, at times I found myself thinking that I was listening to the audio track of a ‘missing episode’ of the classic Doctor Who series and I needed some visual basis to understand what was going on. For a four part story full of explosions and Dalek screams as well as the return of Romana, The Apocalypse Element is a lot to digest in a short period of time.  But if you can keep up with it, this can be an exciting and nail-biting adventure.

Fan-made animation based on Doctor Who- The Apocalypse Element

Doctor Who – The Apocalypse Element can be purchased at local retailers and online from Big Finish.

Doctor Who Big Finish- The Holy Terror

The Holy Terror

Story 14

Written by Robert Shearman
Released November 2000

Humor in Doctor Who is a tricky thing. When it is over-played, it can come off as pantomime or garishly vulgar or it may be written by someone with a bad sense of comedy. In the case of the Holy Terror, we are given a treat by Rob Shearman (of the 2005 script Dalek), a man who appreciates the double bit of comedy. Throughout Shearman’s story, moments are played for laughs, but always at the expense of another. It’s all beautifully written and crafted with brilliance that in the hands of another writer may have come off as strained or improper in some way.

In the opening sequence, Frobisher is in the bath hunting a holographic fish made by the TARDIS’s computers. The TARDIS revolts at being used in such a way and shuts down all of its systems. The Doctor attempts to explain to Frobisher the deeper threat of violence even when no one is harmed. Allowing the TARDIS to take them where it will, the travelers arrive in a strange world ruled by tradition without reason, ritual without understanding and belief on pain of death.

The TARDIS materializes during the inauguration ceremony of the new God-King, Pepin the Great. But Pepin isn’t feeling especially God-like after his father performed the cardinal blasphemy by dying. Flanked by a bitchy wife with dreams of opulence on one side and a scribe recording his embarrassingly unimpressive thoughts on the other, he scarcely notices his warped step-brother who plots to overthrow the kingdom. In the darkness of the secret catacombs, a secret evil has been crafted that promises to change everything. While the Doctor attempts to unravel the mystery of the strange world, Pepin comes up with the clever idea of naming Frobisher as God. Then things get… complicated.

As I have said in other reviews, the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor got short-changed on screen. His combination of theatrical bravado and heartfelt sincerity made him the most alien of personas, especially after the down-played gentlemanly Fifth incarnation played by Peter Davison. Dressed in an outlandish colorful garb, the Doctor was a brash genius with a strict moral code that often jarred with that if his companions. Actor Colin Baker has stated that he was overjoyed to play the part and planned to break the 7-year record set by Tom Baker before him. Rather unfairly, he was sacked after 2 years but has found a new following thanks to these Big Finish audio adventures.

The companion Frobisher is an odd one, even by Doctor Who standards. Introduced in the Doctor Who comic strip, he is a shape shifting private eye who is disguised as a penguin (simply because the editor and artist were both partial to penguins). Voiced by Robert Jezek, Frobisher is a charismatic companion with a frenetic energy, impish innocence and awkward New York accent. The voice threw me at first, but in time I got used to it and look forward to hearing him again.

Frobisher from the Doctor Who graphic novel-Voyager

One of the aspects that I have enjoyed of the Big Finish audios has been the inventive intelligence with which they are written. The Sixth Doctor in particular is depicted as a genius with keen insight, a deep understanding of technology and unflinching bravery in the face of danger. He often solves the problems that he encounters using inspired actions, but these acts usually place him directly in the path of some deadly threat. Another of the Sixth Doctor’s personality traits that I find unique and enjoyable is his deep emotional sympathy, often expressed in passionate ways. This story gives him many opportunities to express his feelings and it produces a many-faceted face of the character.

The Holy Terror is a wonderfully layered story that has several light and humorous moments that come off as vaudevillian. This comedic angle threw many fans upon first listening, but when the dark and sinister truth beneath the comedy are shown, it becomes clear why so much humor was injected into this one. Without giving away its secrets, Holy Terror is one of the most heartbreaking and terrifying Doctor Who stories I have ever listened to and while I was a bit shaken by this at first, it appeals to me that Shearman wrote such an ambitious story for the Sixth Doctor.

Doctor Who – The Holy Terror can be purchased at local retailers and online from Big Finish.

Additionally, a special box set of action figures is being released in the US next week based on the season 22 story, Revelation of the Daleks.

Pre-order this set at Mikes Comics

Also, fans can finally (?) wear the colorful garb of the Sixth Doctor as a comfy T-shirt:

Buy the 6th Doctor Costume T-Shirt from Forbidden Planet

Surely, a conversation starter…

Read other Big Finish reviews at the Daily P.O.P. here.


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.