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Big Finish (non-Blake's 7)
Spaceship Dispatcher
This is the thread for reviews and discussion of all Big Finish's other audio series. My reviews, saved from the old site, will be reposted here and updated with new reviews as further packages fall through the letter box!

The 'mystery bundle' of audios sent to me (by Galaxy 4) for January included:

Doctor Who: The Lost Stories (Tom Baker and Louise Jameson)
Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter (Tom Baker and Mary Tamm)
Graceless s1 (Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington)
Sherlock Holmes: the adventure of the perfidious mariner

Spaceship Dispatcher
My reviews copied from the previous Horizon forum

The Eighth Doctor Adventures

Just listened to the two part finale of s4, titled Lucie Miller/To The Death, and have to say that it was completely brilliant. I don't normally fall into saying that the big finale episodes are better just because they are bigger as that's not necessarily true, but imo this is an exception. An unashamedly blatant homage to the Doctor Who work of Verity Lambert and her team, Terry Nation, Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat. So many fan-pleasing references to the Hartnell stories like Dalek Invasion of Earth, even down to quoting individual lines of dialogue; loads of famous Nation tropes like disease as a weapon and Dalek saucers everywhere; another crazy Dalek that's fallen through the temporal vortex (or somesuch) and sounds way too much like like Dalek Caan to be unintentional...; and a very well worked scene at the end that's reminiscent of the dvd extra plot device used in Blink. The production style was completely unlike any BFP audio that I have ever heard before and had the same style and tone as a BBC radio drama, and shared the same emotional depth and thought provoking qualities as some of the best radio dramas. The first half of the story is essentially a remake of the first episode or two of Dalek Empire s1 and that works equally well, reinforcing the mental picture of the Daleks story of conquest being a pattern repeated over and over throughout the Universe. Nick Briggs wrote in his sleeve notes that he cried writing it, and I can certainly affirm that its a tear jerker to listen to. Well done to all involved, this is a real triumph.

Love and War - 8/10

The better of these two releases. Although Love and War was never one of my favourite spin-off novels, the New Adventures era was when I first became a fan of Doctor Who and so until 2005 came along these were my only experience of receiving new stories. Therefore I have a special fondness for the range and was very much looking forward to this adaptation, an audio release that didn't disappoint. The origin of the story as a novel has been respected in the slow progressive pace of the narrative, with the emphasis on lengthy passages of dialogue and exposition rather than overwhelming special sound effects. This makes this very much a 'New Adventure on audio' rather than an 'audio based on a New Adventure', which is how I hoped it would have been approached. All the performances are excellent, especially Ela Gaworzewska as Christopher - a very challenging role. It was great to hear Bernard Holley, after meeting him at Dimensions, and there was also a small uncredited role for the book's original author Paul Cornell as a radio weather forcaster! Some of the more imaginative elements of the novel, such as the virtual reality aspect, are very well done and the whole story is very much easier to follow on audio than I expected - so well done to all concerned!

Dark Eyes - 6/10

Not in the same league as the previous four series, Nick Briggs attempt at a single epic adventure takes far long for the three groups of main characters to meet each other and keeps its secrets for just a little too long. The result is that episodes 1-3 are not so much 'suspense and anticipation' as they are a three hour long prologue. This is compounded by the absurd premise in episode one of a full size train, travelling at speed from the trenches of the Great War to a nearby command chateuax, that has passenger compartments and corridors and gangways between carriages (allowing characters to run from the front to the back of the train) and headlights to see a broken rail in the dark and make an emergency stop. Nonsense. Six times over nonsense. Support railways for the trenches in the Great War were very slow miniature railways with rough uneven track and carriages that were basically trucks, and they didn't have powerful headlamps to see where they were going! Episode four was much better than the episodes that went before it, and the twists and turns therein lifted this from a 5 to 6 out of 10 for me. The performances were a joy to listen to, making up for a below average script that was largely running and shouting for the first three hours, and Ruth Bradley's wonderful Irish accent as Molly was very easily to listen too - yes I know she is Irish, but she usually doesn't perform with an accent. Toby Jones and Peter Egan worked perfectly alongside the always excellent Paul McGann. Despite this story's shortcomings, I'm definately looking forward to hearing more of Paul's eighth incarnation of our favourite Timelord...

Bernice Summerfield: Road Trip - 7/10

Very good little trilogy of short stories, with the second and third episodes being especially reminiscent of the Virgin Publishing glory days of Benny at her best. The guest cast here includes Arthur Darvill, Jaqueline King and Anjli Mohindra from BBC Wales' Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures series along with a whole load of other very good performers. Unfortunately this does form part of an epic story arc consisting of at least nine stories, and it would be nice to have more stand-alone adventures. But this collection was very enjoyable and a good 7/10.

Top marks for The Prisoner of Peladon and congratulations to all concerned. Peladon is definately my favourite fictional place in the Doctor Who canon so I'm quite touchy about wanting the atmosphere and style of stories set there to match the vision created in the two television stories Curse and Monster, but this audio captured the whole thing perfectly! David Troughton was superb so please can we have a sequel chronicle David, perhaps a very moving drama about the death of the King? This was perfection, brilliant stuff. Thank you so much David Richardson, Nicola Bryant, Nick Briggs, David Troughton and everyone else involved.

Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code is quite a good little story, although imo it didn't use the archaeological setting and the conference enough with the reveal of the artifacts' true nature coming without Benny actually going on an expedition. But the character of Benny seemed about right and it was very easy and enjoyable to listen to, and the Doctor's role in the story fitted the Virgin Publishing vision of that incarnation well. Not as good as Big Finish's other audios based on Doctor Who: The New Adventures imo but still very good and well worth any TNA fan opening their wallet for.

Destination Nerva and The Renaissance Man

Quite a reasonable start to the series, but it was a little disappointing. Positives first, and they were big positives! Tom and Louise were straight away recognisable as the 4th Doctor and Leela, aided by excellent dialogue that got the characters exactly right. There were some nice musical touches that reminded the listener of the compositions of Dudley Simpson, and the first episode of each story had good atmosphere and felt right for the period being recreated. Sadly, neither story maintained this into the second episode. On each occasion, the steady and thoughtfull start descended into a 'fight the foe' scenario with lots of action. On audio this means, to use Destination Nerva as an example, fleeing sounds effects in competetion with attacking sound effects and both in competetion with louder and louder music. Which imo is a shame, because time and again Big Finish and others have showed that the real strength of audio drama is when the drama itself, the work of the actors, drives the plot from start to finish. Telling the end of the story through sound effects with characters 'responding' verbally to the things the sound effects represent might be more 'film like' as its been put in the past, but it transfers the emphasis away from the written story and onto the post-production. Too often, the dialogue can become like "Look at that! It's horrible!" (insert monster sound effect) "Yes, run this way... oh no! Another one!" (insert running feet sound effect) and so on and so forth. I'm going to be quite generous with these as Tom, Louise and the rest of the cast were excellent, as were the first episodes, and give both stories 7/10.

Wrath of the Iceni and Energy of the Daleks

Congratulations to the team behind these 4th Doctor adventures for the wonderful Wrath of the Iceni, a historical tale where the Doctor and Leela travel back to around AD60 and meet the infamous tribal leader Boudicea. Its a story that has a nice pace and, without being overloaded with different characters, is a good character driven story about ideals and cultural differences. The main supporting character, played by Nia Roberts from The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, becomes the Doctors companion for much of the story and was very well written; her role not becoming implausably great while still having plenty to say and do. My favourite of the series so far. Energy of the Daleks on the other hand was a little bit of a disappointment, although there were still good points to recommend it. The leads were on top form again, with some wonderful lines when the Doctor and Leela are together, and were joined this time by Mark Benton from the very first BBC Wales episode Rose. His character desperately needed more background and more time to develop before the action started, but Mark did well with the material he was given. But that's where this story didn't really work for me: it cut to the chase far too quickly, almost straight away. There was no time to learn about the characters before they all start running around and shouting each other as the usual tropes of capture/escape, threat shouting and chasing/fighting took over and the whole thing was drowned out by a wall of white noise... sorry, the Big Finish soundscape. The Daleks as voiced by Nick Briggs always sound good, but this wasn't a great story for them. Overall, 8/10 for Wrath of the Iceni and 6/10 for Energy of the Daleks.

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Having enjoyed Big Finish's dramatisation of classic horror novel The Phantom of the Opera, I was really looking forward to this dramatisation of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's legendary gothic tale of generations stalked the mythical beastly hound of Dartmoor. The first thing to say is that I wasn't in any way disappointed and its a definate success imo. The narration by Doctor Watson keeps the 'feel' of the original Holmes stories as written for The Strand, and also maintain's Watson prominence as the leading character of the piece. All the performances are good; although it would have been nice to hear more of the Stapletons than the few very brief scenes they get, but that's a minor complaint and overall this was faithful to the spirit of the original and a very well performed and produced drama.

Doctor Who: Trail of the White Worm

What is going on with these 4th Doctor adventures? This was another hour of chaos and cacophany that was just bad guys chasing and attacking good guys and everyone running away from a monster; more like a comic strip than the atmospheric and steady televised adventures from the mid-1970s. Tom and Louise were wonderful and had their characters spot-on, and all of the all-star guest cast were on good form too with Geoffrey Beevers joined by Michael Cochrane and Rachael Stirling. But they really do deserve better scripts than this.

Counter Measures - series 1

This is a wonderful series! One of Big Finish's best ever series imo (although so far I have only listened to the first 3 stories) as it completely fits the 1960s and representation of the characters in their original television story, has Kneale-esque stories that are synonymous with this particular sub-genre, has superb dialogue matched by great performances and hasn't so far suffered from deafening special sound or electro-pop 'music' covering over those lines. All three stories that I listened to yesterday were brilliant and I can't yet pick a favourite! I'll post again once I have listened to the final part, but so far this is a series that I would highly recommend...

Sherlock Holmes: Holmes and the Ripper

This is the audio dramatisation of a play written for the theatre; the play was excellent, with Nick Briggs starring as Holmes on stage as here, and so I was looking forward to this one very much. It didn't disappoint at all and plodded steadily along like a Bobby on the beat, with Holmes genuinely struggling to get to grips with a mystery that operates on completely different levels to what he and the local police believe. It soon becomes clear to the listener that we're heading into a tale of secret societies and conspiracies at the highest level, but for Holmes and Watson its a much slower path to enlightenment. As with some of the classic movies of Alfred Hitchcock, the audience know things that the characters don't for much of the story and its more about discovering Why? rather than Who? and the suspense of waiting for the protagonists to catch up with the listener. The main and guest cast were all excellent and it was interesting to hear audio Doctor Who companion actress India Fisher, who plays Charley Pollard alongside Colin Baker and Paul McGann's Doctors, tackle the challenging role of Sherlock's romantic interest Kate. Another very good audio and I'm rapidly becoming a big fan of this particular line.

Vienna - pilot episode

Quite a promising start, although for me it was difficult to get into properly. I never watch 'zombie' films, whether UK films with Simon Pegg et al or the equivalent US films, and this was most definately a parody of that genre with Vienna (Chase Masterson) being chased and attacked by the undead while exchanging humorous banter with those in peril around her. I'm sure there were lots of witty references that those who usually avoid zombie fiction simply won't understand, but it was a well told story with good pace and volume; that is to say that, although it was very much a space fantasy with plenty of running and fighting, it was steady and dialogue driven for the most part. The other main element of the plot, without writing any plot spoilers, involved multiple memories occupying the characters' minds and even sharing the memories of other characters. This is another fantasy element that really doesn't work for me, as it didn't work for me in the Who's Who? episode of The Avengers, but that's just personal preference. But the style of the drama impressed me, as did Chase Masterson's performance, so I'm going to give the series a chance when it comes out next year...

Doctor Who: The Oseidon Adventure

Excellent episode; perhaps the best of the series...

Very impressed with this episode, a sequel to Terry Nation's adventure The Android Invasion from Tom Baker's original second season on television. This time the Kraals are back not only with another ridiculous plan, but are now also in league with the Master! Its a very humorous episode, with lots of android duplicates and mistaken identity crisis in a wonderful parody of the original story, but it also moves along at a steady pace without the frenzied scene changes and chaos of previous episodes; in fact, this episode is notably unhurried in the way the plot unfolds and also the directorial style. All the performances are good, and Michael Cochrane shines far more here than in the previous worm hunting episode. A good end to the first series.

The Lady of Mercia

If there's anyone out there who likes their audio Doctor Who adventures to be intelligent, steadily paced, sometimes free of monsters, without lots of sound effects of characters running along corridors, inspired by actual real history, with recognisable and well written regulars, with guest actors who are full of enthusiasm for their roles and the show, and with a plot that has twists and turns but doesn't throw logic out of the window then this audio drama from Big Finish's main range could be for you. Its one of their best ever 'pseudo-historical' adventures, combining a University research program in 1983 with an obscure event in the Dark Ages, and easily held my attention for all four episodes. Its part of the story arc which sees an older Nyssa return to the Ship and join the season 21 crew of Turlough and Tegan, and the combination works well with all the cast getting along well together. Highly recommend this, especially to anyone who enjoyed the recent Wrath of the Iceni short story.

Counter Measures series 2

*** Counter Measures Spoilers ***

Have started listening to the second series of the brilliant Counter Measures, and its a slightly indifferent but promising start; the characters are still spot-on and hugely entertaining to listen to, but the first two stories are very different to each other and all the stories in series 1. The first episode is a generic and rather dull 'physical transformation' horror story of the sort that Big Finish have done dozens of times before, but the second story is an amazing and (almost) totally realistic and plausable disaster story about a nuclear accident in a cold war survival bunker. The only issue with the second story is some rather strange ideas and factual errors about the London Underground that don't add up. The casting of both stories is excellent with Lucy Fleming and Blake Ritson in the first episode and Celia Imrie in the second. Will post again after I have listened to episodes 3 and 4...

Some time later

Have now finished the second series of the excellent Counter Measures series. The third episode was another classic, set in the Le Carre and Forsythe world of espionage but with a sci-fi twist, and it was hard to choose between that and the previous episode for a favourite story. The last episode wasn't as good as what went before it, but was still okay. Something that stands out in this series is the steady pace of the stroy-telling; never rushing, rarely unevenly paced, always easy to follow characters' lines of dialogue and argument. The characters taken from Remembrance of the Daleks all sound exactly right in both lines and performance, and the new characters all fit the authentic 1960s style of the show perfectly. For anyone who loves the 50s and 60s sort of Earth based sci-fi/fantasy series (like the original BBC Quatermass serials or the ABC series Undermind) then this is very much recommended. Most of the stories keep their feet on the ground with only one alien story, which was more supernatural than extra-terrestrial, and two slightly shallow horror stories. Looking forward to the prequel story called The Assassination Games now, which will also star Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as the Doctor and Ace.
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 20 January 2014 12:11:25
Spaceship Dispatcher
Peter Anghelides wrote:
How would you describe that "house style"?

I have my own thoughts. For example, I think a strong characteristic of Big Finish audios is that they typically have a detailed soundscape. They're designed to be listened to quite closely, assuming that most listeners are being quite attentive and probably using decent speakers or headphones. Whereas Radio 4 drama makes a different assumption (and brief their writers appropriately) -- that a lot of listeners are pottering around doing other things while listening, and so on the whole need much clearer dialogue, with suitable moments of repetition or reiteration. Similarly, when I wrote scripts for BBC Audio, they made it clear as part of my brief that they assumed a lot of the audience would be listening to the CDs in their car, and so without "dumbing down" I needed to ensure a clear through narrative that wouldn't require them to pause or "rewind."

Big Finish have started to do their own original series such as Graceless and Dorian Gray, but their principal output continues to be spin-off series based on media franchises. For those, it seems to me that if they have any kind of "default position" or "house style" narratively, it is to stay broadly consistent with those original franchises -- that's what distinguishes them from other companies' "reboots" like Battlestar Galactica, The Tomorrow People, the Rebellion Reborn audios, or the proposed new B7 TV series. I think that' "default position" is true of Big Finish's approach to Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Sapphire & Steel, Stargate, the 2000 AD audios, Highlander, etc. I also think it's true of their extended series like Gallifrey, UNIT, Counter Measures, Jago & Lightfoot, Cyberman, Dalek Empire, I Davros, and the Sarah Jane Smith series.

Overwhelmingly, in hundreds of separate audios over many years, they start from the continuity of the original franchises -- even to the extent of overwhelmingly casting the original actors. That's why I love writing for Big Finish -- because the people who work on the products love and respect the originals.

Hi Peter,

these are my thoughts on which internally consistent qualities make Big Finish audios different from most others:

1. The soundscape, which you identified above; much more detailed (sometimes imo too loud) ambience and 'special effects' to tell a story. 2. A tendency to break scenes down and sequence scenes together, unlike the 'radio theatre' of broadcast audio, again as you describe. 3. More realism perhaps, in the way that characters speak to each other; more actors talking very fast or slow, shouting or in hushed tones. 4. Greater use of incidental music than generally heard elsewhere. Sometimes imo it doesn't match an original era, but B7 seems okay so far. 5. Reluctance to tell stories that fade away. That's to say that BFP always want a climax or final twist, a listener 'pay off', to finish the story. 6. There's a ready willingness to tell 'what if' fanfic-style stories (ie 'what if' Adric survived etc) mixed with more continuity adherent stories. 7. There's also at the same time a sombre quality to most BFP drama. They rarely mix light with the dark; sometimes, but not often. 8. There's always been a leaning towards physical horror (transormation, gore etc) rather than speculative science-fantasy. 9. At the same time, they are usually well grounded and familiar. There were a couple of 'trippy' McGann Dr Whos, but they're not the norm. 10. BFP also tend to shy away from creating detailed alien civilisations over several audios, usually 'cutting to the chase' after initial set-up.

That's how I would summarise the points that imo make BFP stand out (for good or bad) from other audio (or even other printed) works. Some of them are qualties that I like, others less so. But of course, as you rightly say, different directors and writers will have their own particular way of doing things. In making up the above list I have tried to avoid listing likes vs dislikes or things that are done well/badly, but have tried as best as I can to describe the framework that all those individual flourishes fit within. SD
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 20 January 2014 12:06:26
As mentioned elsewhere but worth mentioning here as well I think:

I'm one of the hosts of the recently launched Stories From The Vortex podcast. We're focusing entirely on the audios which of course means we're primarily reviewing Big Finish's output as well as that of the BBC and AudioGO. We'll also be dipping into Big Finish's non-Doctor Who output from time to time as well.

To date we've released four episodes. The first served as an introduction while episode two saw us reviewing The Sirens Of Time and The Light At The End. Our two most recent episodes were reviews of the eighth Doctor audios Storm Warning, Sword Of Orion and Dark Eyes. Episode five last week has us reviewing the fourth Doctor audios Destination: Nerva and Night Of The Stormcrow.

You can find the podcast via our website http://storiesfro...ogspot.com or on iTunes at http://itunes.app...d776733067 and if you'd like to send in your thoughts, we'd love to hear from you as well via our email address listed on our website. Happy listening!

Edited by timdalton007 on 17 January 2014 07:59:47
Spaceship Dispatcher
Doctor Who: The Auntie Matter - 6/10

Not a bad start to the second series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, but sadly nothing very special either. Yet again we have a story with a 'physical horror' theme; come on Big Finish, use your imaginations more! So many BF audio dramas have used alien possession of human hosts or human beings tranforming into hideous creatures that I simply have lost count, never mind the will to live sometimes. But aside from that, the production values were very good and the script had plenty of memorable lines. There was even a humorous misquote of a line from Time and the Rani! The play was based on the 'early 20th Century aristocracy' genre occupied by the likes of Downton Abbey and You Rang M'Lord, and inparticular the works of PG Wodehouse. Guest actors this time included Julia McKenzie (Marple) and Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood), but their characters were a little two dimensional due to the 'comic' nature of the story in trying to recreate genre stereo-types. Episode 2 was not quite equal to the opening episode, which set everything up with a variety of settings, and was just a chase/capture/escape run around for the most part.
Spaceship Dispatcher
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner - 8/10

Really enjoyed this short story! Set during Holmes' retirement in Sussex, and set in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster of 1912, the tale sees Watson travelling to the cottage in an attempt to persuade the great detective out of retirement. But he is followed by infamous White Star Line director J Bruce Ismay, a man claiming to be haunted by the ghost of a soul lost in the tragedy and plagued by the death of everyone to have entered his life and shown him sympathy since. After a confrontation with a berieved Watson, who lost Mary in the disaster, Ismay persuades Holmes to look into his case. This story is a beautiful thing; slow paced and atmospheric, taking time to explore the players and their feelings and relationships, and allowing the plot to develop in such a way that things progress logically without events being thrust into the narrative or the need for a convenient deux ex machina. If the Fourth Doctor Adventures were this good then I would score them much higher too! This is good drama.
Spaceship Dispatcher
Graceless series 1

Listened to the first episode of the first series yesterday. Graceless is a spin-off from BF's Doctor Who range, featuring the characters Amy (who becomes Abby) and Zara who were created by the Grace as tracers to aid the Fifth Doctor's quest for the Key to Time. This series immediately explores more adult themes than the original stories, as the girls discover that they are (unexpectedly, being pan-dimensional illusions) capable of sexual relations and becoming pregnant; or at least, Zara believes that she is pregnant, but the baby has not yet arrived by the end of the first episode. The setting for episode one is highly effective and one the studio's best fantasy creations yet imo, with a space station casino like a 'Vegas in space' that welcomes visitors in but doesn't let them leave as easily. The climax of this story is impressive, but equally impressive for me is way that the episode deals with fantasy settings and very visual ideas but is always a dialogue based play and never allowed music or sound effects to tell the story instead of the characters. Very well done to all concerned with this one, a good 8/10


Part two today! The second episode was even better than the first imo. The girls arrive at a small Lancashire town called Compton, and immediately find themselves under suspicion of murder. The residents are disappearing (literally) into a mysterious fog, the remaining survivors accuse Abby and Zara of witchcraft and calling the fog into existence. Some very well written maneouvering ensues, and this is where the excellent writing of Simon Guerrier really gets into top gear with each side playing a clever gambit. Of course, all is not as it seems. But the atmosphere that builds is very haunting and atmospheric, as the fog seems inhabited by apparitions of the lost as they reach out to the minds of the living. The final explanation is perhaps the most exceptional element of the script: (spoilers - highlight to read) it turns out that a meteor has struck and destroyed the town, and the girls and the other characters are trapped in a shadow dimension within a moment of time immediately after the disaster and the fog is death itself claiming the victims; only when those killed have all given themselves up to death are the girls set free. Its a brilliant premise. The actors' efforts are all equal the material too: Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington as Abby and Zara are always good, and this a must for any fans of David Warner who puts in one of his best Doctor Who-genre performances. I once got to see Laura Doddington in a play, a staging of Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment at Northampton Royal Theatre, and its one of my favourite evenings of many at the theatre; and Laura was a reason for that as she was excellent on the night. When her character Zara is threatened with execution in this audio drama and dragged out to the gallows, with Abby missing and presumed killed, Laura plays the scene for real without any humorous asides and is totally convincing. This drama was excellent and for me is one of BF's best single disk stories... 9/10


The first series ends with another stunning episode! This time we had a space-fantasy setting and pan-dimensional illusions where characters' minds meet in alternate planes of existence, very much like the psychic meeting in Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor which came along later. The two leads put in great performances again, but again its a couple of amazing guest appearances that make this even more special. David Warner returns and is brilliant again, and there's a role as a space pirate for Michael Keating; imagine if Vila had gained possession of the Liberator and you can imagine the sort of part he plays. This character is dishonest, but the ruthless streak he has is not a dominant part of his personality. He seeks personal gain, but is charming and funny in a very Vila-like way and many of his lines made me laugh out loud because they're lines that Vila might say if he had his own ship with his own crew; and Michael delivers them in a Vila-like way which re-enforces the comparison. Interestingly, this series came before the LCs but Simon Guerrier has been one of the writers most passionate about getting the dialogue right in the B7 range and if this was written for Michael then he was already on great form. The end of the episode neatly ties up the plot arcs of the season and sets up series two... 9/10


Overall view of the series? Brilliant drama with the characters, their feelings and philosophies, and their relationships with each other at the forefront all the way through. The drama tells the story, rather than sound effects telling what's happening, and it has a steady pace that allows everything progress in a natural and unforced way. Indeed, everything follows on logically from one episode to the next and the narrative never feels like its jumping around at random. The acting is noteworthy for being above the already high standard for Big Finish audios. Laura Doddington inparticular gives a strong performance in several scenes that are quite dark and weighty, and the guest cast includes star turns like David Warner and Michael Keating who are both given plenty of opportunity to demonstrate why they are such top actors. The dialogue is perfect from Simon Guerrier and always comes across as emotionally right in whichever scene it takes place. This is one of my favourite series in the whole Big Finish catalogue at the moment, along with Sherlock Holmes and Counter Measures. Highly recommend this series, but its also recommended that Doctor Who releases 117-119 and Companion Chronicle 3.8 are listened to first as Graceless is a sequel to those stories.
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 23 January 2014 21:36:19
Episode six, where we review the recent 1963 trilogy from the Doctor Who main range is out now. Once again you can find the episode via either our website at [url]http://storiesfromthevortex.blogspot.com/2014/01/episode-6-back-in-63.html [/url]or on iTunes at http://itunes.app...d776733067 Happy listening and please feel free to let us know what you think.

Spaceship Dispatcher
Hi timdalton007,

would be very interested to read your thoughts on Big Finish's audio ranges.
Please feel free to share your reviews here!

SD Grin
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 22 January 2014 22:41:10
Spaceship Dispatcher
My reviews of The Liberator Chronicles went with the old site, and I will have to give them a second listen to write new ones, but I can recall my overall impressions and will evaluate them again properly at a future time...

Stories set in series 1

The Turing Test - 7/10 - this was a good start, with Avon and Vila just about spot-on and a tearful ending
Solitary - 3/10 - very disappointing; not even a Blake's 7 story really as it features two original characters
Counterfeit - 7/10 - enjoyed this one as it was a nicely paced memoir read by Gareth, with a good ending
Promises - 9/10 - one of my favourite LCs in the range so far; a good character drama and audio play
Epithaph - 7/10 - not a bad little story this one, and a good performance by Sally; not outstanding though
Kerr - 3/10 - at least this story had Servalan, but what a waste having PD in the studio and not play Avon!

Stories set in series 2

The Magnificent Four - 7/10 - this was very similar to The Forgotten (BF novel), but was a good production
False Positive - 6/10 - very strange script; very 'modern', and had a character who wasn't part of the story
Wolf - 5/10 - incoherent 'timey wimey' Moffat/Dr Who style fanfic that really needed more ruthless editing
Logic 10/10 - brilliant character drama with outstanding performances and an intriguing narrative style
Risk Management - 8/10 - this was a perfect demo by Una McCormack in how to write a simple adventure
Three 10/10 - brilliant character drama, clever plot development, and some points that stimulated speculation

Stories set in series 3

The Armageddon Storm - 9/10 - good story, mostly a full cast drama with linking narration; not sure about ep3.
Incentive - 7/10 - quite a good plot if not completely engaging, but good performances by Paul and Steven
Jenna's Story - 6/10 - disappointing because it was too good to waste on a one hour story; nice ideas
Blake's Story - 6/10 - as above, this should have been a complete box set and not crushed into one hour

4 = lowest mark generally for something like Blake's 7, unless there's something I really deeply dislike about it.
5 = very much below the normal standard for what I expect - bad direction or editing, inexcusable plot holes etc.
6 = good, entertaining... but something not quite polished about it - a theme not properly explored for example.
7 = good. Well written, directed and performed with good production standards, well edited together.
8 = very good. As above, but everything comes together perfectly. Themes and settings used to their full potential.
9 = reserved for something with an element deserving special merit, above and beyond what would normally be expected.
10 = something that exceeds all expectations on multiple levels and stands above everything else, that's truly impressive!
Angry Angel
SD, don't you want to put this in the BF B7 section?
Spaceship Dispatcher
Angry Angel wrote:

SD, don't you want to put this in the BF B7 section?

Not just yet AA; my recollections of LCs 1-6 are not clear or detailed enough without a second listen of them so, having been left behind by more dedicated followers of Blake's 7 who have heard them multiple times, I'm not ready to get involved in that area of the forum yet...
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:

Hi timdalton007,

would be very interested to read your thoughts on Big Finish's audio ranges.
Please feel free to share your reviews here!

SD Grin

Thank you. I started out writing reviews before I moved into podcasting. Here's a review of the first eighth Doctor audio Storm Warning I recently revised for the Doctor Who Worldwide fan site:


With interest in Paul McGann’s eighth Doctor still riding high after November’s release of Night Of The Doctor, fans both old and new have been finding their way to his adventures off the television screen and particularly those on audio from Big Finish Productions. Released thirteen years ago this month, McGann’s Big Finish debut Storm Warning has been the place many have started from and that’s not without good reason.

If nothing else, this story proves that McGann had the potential to be a fantastic Doctor. Beginning with the story’s opening minutes, in which McGann is by himself plus sound effects, McGann is effectively reintroduced in the role and really makes it his own. It’s hard to imagine another one of the audio Doctors being able to successfully do the opening scene for example which gives McGann an opportunity to show off his acting skills in the audio medium quite well. If one ever needed a single moment for proof that McGann is a fine Doctor look no farther then the speech he gives to Charley and Frayling early in Part Three. In that one speech alone lies one of the finest performance moments you’re ever going to find in Doctor Who, regardless of the medium. McGann also shares some wonderful chemistry with his fellow cast members as well especially India Fisher as Charley. McGann’s potential as the Doctor is put to full use here and it makes for a fantastic new beginning for the eighth Doctor.

Storm Warning is also blessed with a fine supporting cast as well. First off there’s India Fisher as Charley Pollard, a young “Edwardian adventuress” who will soon become companion to the eighth Doctor. Fisher plays Charley as a young woman full of a sense of adventure who finds herself caught up in an adventure bigger then she could ever imagine and it that, coupled with Fisher’s incredible chemistry with McGann, that makes Charley a fantastic companion. Also joining the supporting cast is actor Gareth Thomas (better known to science fiction fans as the title character in the BBC’s Blake’s 7) as Lord Tamworth, Britain’s Minister of the Air and he comes across as a believable, if too much of his time, man who is trying to do the right thing for his King and country. The cast is rounded off by nice performances from some of Big Finish’s repertory company including Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards, Hylton Collins and Helen Goldwyn as the alien Triskelies. All round it’s a nice supporting cast giving fine performances especially from Fisher and Thomas.

Storm Warning also has some nice post-production work going in its favor as well. The sound design by Alistair Lock is a fantastic piece of work and helps to give the story an epic feeling. Of special mention is is Lock’s score which has a really strong orchestral feel like the score to a major Hollywood movie. There is also the version of the Doctor Who theme arranged by noted film composer David Arnold which, while perhaps not the best arrangement of the theme ever done, is still an interesting take on a classic theme. While the story has fine performances, it is the sound design that really sells the story and this stands as a fine achievement for Alistair Lock.

Then there’s the script by Alan Barnes. Barnes, who after all had supervised the first eighth Doctor comic stories for Doctor Who Magazine, proved to be a fine choice for scripting the first audio adventure of the eighth Doctor. Barnes script takes of Doctor Who‘s traditions for using historical events as a jumping off point for a story and uses it to great effect. By basing the story almost entirely on the famed airship the R101 and infuses that tragic tale with a nice science fiction twist. By framing the story around the R101 the story has a ticking clock as well as the hour to the airship’s eventual fate gets closer and closer the listener is left to wonder just how things will end. The story also acts as the set-up to a major arc that would throughout many of the eighth Doctor audio stories starting with from the story’s finale onwards. Barnes script gives the audio adventures a fantastic start both as a one off adventure story and setting up a major story arc as well.

Storm Warning has proven to be a fine beginning for the audio adventures of the eighth Doctor. With Paul McGann’s triumphant return to the role the introduction of India Fisher’s Charley, fine performances from the supporting cast, the post-production work of Alistair Lock and a fine script by Alan Barnes it is hard not to enjoy this story not only a fine Doctor Who adventure but as the return of a Doctor who was thought to be just a one time performance. To quote the TV movie tag line “he’s back and it’s about time,” and this time he was here to stay.

Spaceship Dispatcher
The performances in Storm Warning are indeed very good. I wasn't into Blake's 7 at the time, but still though Gareth Thomas stood out as a fine actor. The sound design was well balanced in that story, not over-whelming the drama. My favourite 8th Doctor audios come from McGann's second season onwards, so I look forward to reading your comments TD007.
Spaceship Dispatcher
Doctor Who: The Valley of Death - 8/10

This is the second story in The Lost Stories: The Fourth Doctor collection. It was originally outlined by Philip Hinchcliffe as a proposal for a 4th Doctor and Romana II adventure to be recorded as part of the 1979 season, but it was rejected by script editor Douglas Adams as being too demanding visually for the budget available. Unable at the time to persuade Tom and Lalla to work together again (or just cautious of even asking, understandably), Big Finish asked Jonathan Morris to rewrite it as a season 15 story for the Doctor and Leela instead. The result is something of a master piece! The pace and style of the story, the way it progresses and fits together, is a perfect match for Williams era Doctor Who; and there is lots of humour that makes it sound like an s17 serial with an s15 companion which is quite interesting. The soundscape never intrudes upon the dialogue, so its very easy and fun to listen to. The villains are not all-out evil so much as misguided and dastardly, with redemption for all but the main antagonist. Some plot ideas from the era will be familiar to anyone that has watched The Android Invasion or City of Death, but are not similar enough to feel like pointless repetition; all the ideas fit the story and make it work very well. This is a good, fun story but is all the more worth listening to for the humour and the wonderfully authentic dialogue.

I'm planning to listen to the other story in the collection, The Foe From the Future, on Wednesday...
Spaceship Dispatcher
Doctor Who: The Foe from the Future - 7/10

Another good entry into BF's 4th Doctor library. Typically, they go overboard on the horror themes with their 'soundscape' punishing my speakers as humans turn into insects, but it was a lot less over-whelming by being spread over three hours rather than one. The story switches between a rural grange, always a good recommendation for an SF story, and a domed settlement on a ruined parallel Earth in the year 4000. There's plenty of humour and great one-liners concealing quite a tense and dark plot, so it fits the mid-1970s era very well; yes, it was based on an unused 1970s story, but rewriting it can still create a different atmosphere. The performances are good, and going on this recording I would say Louise Brealey is completely wasted in such a minor role in Sherlock as she is brilliant here as a plucky Devon village girl. The pacing of the narrative is very good as well, with the three hours passing quite quickly. imo this wasn't as good as The Valley of Death, but was still very enjoyable and well worth the expense.
Doctor Who: Storm Warning


Following on from the events of Storm Waning, the eighth Doctor and his new companion Charley soon find themselves a few hundred years in the future visiting first a futuristic space port and then facing the silver giants known as the Cybermen. After the triumphant beginning of Storm Warning Big Finish choose to take a still relatively new Doctor up against an old enemy in a story that is steeped well in Doctor Who tradition. While perhaps a bit too traditional, if not predictable, at times, Sword Of Orion is still a good old fashioned Doctor Who adventure.

Both Paul McGann and India Fisher build on their strong performances from the previous story. Given that this is essential a traditional style story it’s interesting to note just how good the performances are out of both McGann and Fisher as both bring their distinctive performances to what are effectively archetype characters of the Doctor and companion. The chemistry between them present in the previous story continues here as well and it is especially apparent during the first episode in particular. McGann is also given a bit more exposition to say in this story as well such as the absolutely haunting reading he gives of the Cybermen’s back-story to Charley. While the writing may be archetypes. The performances sure aren’t and the story is all the better for it.

The supporting cast is good as well. Michelle Livingstone gives a nice performance as scrap ship captain Deeva Jansen who is far more then she first seems to be. Bruce Montangue, who I rather disliked in his role of Chief Librarian Elgin in Big Finish’s The Genocide Machine, gives a much better performance here as the rather tough and even unlikeable Grash. The scrap ship crew consisting of actors Helen Goldwyn, Ian Marr, Hylton Collins and Toby Longworth come across rather well in their respective roles. Not to forget the brief appearances of Mark Gatiss and Barnaby Edwards in the story’s beginning either. All told it’s a good supporting cast all round.

Then, of course, there’s the Cybermen themselves. In there first Big Finish appearance the silver giants are voiced by Nicholas Briggs and Alistair Lock and their work captures the voices of the Cybermen from their 1980′s appearances spot on. The Cybermen come across rather well as both a threat to the characters and has characters facing a threat themselves. That said the Cybermen do take ages to show up and star having any real type of effect on the plot which seems rather odd considering that unlike say Earthshock where their late appearance was meant to be a surprise, this story puts them on the front cover and gets nearly half way through the story before they start making a sizable impact on the story. While it might not be their best appearance the Cybermen do get a nice audio debut here and certainly better the Daleks got.

The post-production of the story was done by Nicholas Briggs, who also wrote and directed it as well. Briggs post-production work is pretty good in establishing the places in which the story takes place such as the electronic yet recognizably Arabic bazaar music in the first episode. Briggs also adds little touches such as the sound of breathing and slightly muffled voices of characters while they are wearing space suits for example. In terms of the quality of its post-production Sword Of Orion is as good as any other Big Finish audio.

The script on the other hand is a different story as it is effectively a “Doctor Who story by numbers.” The script is adapted from a story Briggs wrote back in the 1980′s for the Audio Visuals series of fan audios which was, as Briggs has said, deliberately written that way and became quite popular back in the day. Having listened to that version there’s a lot of that story here especially once the story leaves the space port behind and the scrap ship heads out into space. The problem with the script is the very fact that it’s a “by the numbers” story which contains many of the cliches of the Cybermen’s appearances in the original TV series. These range from their late appearance in the story to them menacing an isolated group of humans right down to the return of the worm like Cybermats. The problem is that the story becomes quite predictable which makes much of Briggs attempt to create atmosphere and suspense downright futile at times. The story does get a boost from the inclusion of a subplot regarding the far off war with Androids in the Orion system and how it all relates to the events of the story which keeps the story from being entirely predictable. While I like traditional style stories this one is just too traditional for its own good.

While suffering from perhaps being far too traditional a story, Sword Of Orion has its pluses. It has fine performances from McGann and Fisher, good performances from its supporting cast and some fine post-production work to boot. While it might not be the best of the eighth Doctor audios if you enjoy the more traditional stories or want to get all of the Doctor’s up against the second longest running villains of the series, you’ll enjoy this. Otherwise this is a good adventure but nothing spectacular.

Spaceship Dispatcher
Hi TD007,

interesting that you don't rate The Genocide Machine; it was probably the story that sold me the idea of Dr Who audio adventures more than any other, and is still one of my favourite Sylvester McCoy audio dramas even now. Regarding the 'Dr Who by numbers' of The Sword of Orion, I'm happiest when Big Finish do stick to that format most of the time. They often produce very predictable scripts (inevitable with such a large output) but its often 'horror flick by numbers' story-telling, so at least SoO and stories like it are instantly recognisable as being from the right show. I recall not being too keen on SoO on first listen, but really loved it the second time around, although it was the supporting characters that didn't work for me rather than the format.
Spaceship Dispatcher
The 'mystery bundle' sent to me for this month from Galaxy 4 included:

Doctor Who: The Sands of Life (Tom Baker)
Doctor Who: The Silver Turk (Paul McGann)
Doctor Who: The Witch From the Well (Paul McGann)
The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Briggs)
Treasure Island (starring Tom Baker)
Blake's 7: Fractures

Reviews to follow! Grin
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:

Hi TD007,

interesting that you don't rate The Genocide Machine; it was probably the story that sold me the idea of Dr Who audio adventures more than any other, and is still one of my favourite Sylvester McCoy audio dramas even now. Regarding the 'Dr Who by numbers' of The Sword of Orion, I'm happiest when Big Finish do stick to that format most of the time. They often produce very predictable scripts (inevitable with such a large output) but its often 'horror flick by numbers' story-telling, so at least SoO and stories like it are instantly recognisable as being from the right show. I recall not being too keen on SoO on first listen, but really loved it the second time around, although it was the supporting characters that didn't work for me rather than the format.

I'll let the review I did of Genocide Machine back in 2009 speak for me:

Cast your mind back to April 2000 when The Genocide Machine made its debut. The story holds an interesting place as it was the very first Dalek story produced by Big Finish. Thanks to a post on one of the message boards I'm a member of I listened to this story again for the first time in over year. As I did I asked myself the same question that had gotten me to listen to this audio again: is The Genocide Machine a worthy addition to Dalek cannon?

To answer that let's start by looking at the performances from the lead actors. Both Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred give good performances as they reprise the seventh Doctor and Ace respectively. Considering this was only their second Big Finish outing together (with only The Fearmonger coming before this story) there is a very strong feeling that this is the same duo that walked off into the proverbial sunset way back in Survival. While they give good performances there isn't exactly a whole lot of range to be found in them. That fact is more to the script then the actors but more on that a little later.

The supporting cast is a bit of a mixed batch though. While Louise Faulkner gives an admirable performance as smuggler Bev Tarrant and has some wonderful chemistry with the character of Ace in particular the same can not be said of her other co-star. Bruce Montague gives a constantly annoying if not whiny performance as Chief Librarian Elgin which, given juts how much this character appears in the story, brings down the story considerably. On the plus side there is Daniel Gabriele in a couple of different roles plus of course the Daleks. Nicholas Briggs and laisatair Lock cover the whole range of Dalek voices admirably right through and up to the Dalek Emperor himself. Yet the real problem of the supporting cast is the fact that it is noticeably small. While all the audios have a small cast this is the one occasion I can recall where it became noticeable to the point of annoyance (like the character of Prink who keeps getting referred to but only gets a couple of lines at the very end).

And of course there is the script. Special effects man and novelist mike Tucker was given the task of bringing the Daleks to audio with this story. In doing so Tucker created the audio equivalent of the Pertwee era story Planet of the Daleks which means (to borrow from Nicholas Briggs for a moment) that this is effectively "the Daleks greatest hits". The story contains the Dalek Supreme, Dalek duplicates (Resurrection of the Daleks anyone?), Hoverbouts from the comic strips plus the Emperor amongst many, many other Dalek elements. The result is that story is probably second only to the novel War of the Daleks (which I'm reading now) for just how many Dalek references can be put into a single story weather needed or not. For the most part it seems a little unnecessary to cram so much into the story and it certainly isn't to the stories benefit in my opinion. Beyond the elements of Dalek continuity there is little original to the story outside of the setting of the Library of Kar-Charrat (one wonders if Steven Moffat drew some inspiration from this story when he wrote Silence In The Library / The Forest Of The Dead for the new series) which si a shame because there's so much more that could have been done in this story.

So how worthy is The Genocide Machine to Dalek cannon? While It has some good performances the story is marred down by its script. While this is perhaps a good adventure (if unexceptional) when comparing this story with later Big Finish Dalek stories like The Mutant Phase or Jubilee this story way too lightweight by comparison. Or, to put it another way, good but still found wanting.

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