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Big Finish (non-Blake's 7)
Spaceship Dispatcher
Just caught up with three Big Finish releases over the last couple of days...

This is Colin Baker was absolutely fascinating! The format of these epic interview CDs is starting to emerge, and they are pretty epic at two and a half hours long, which is interesting with Call Me Jacks due next year. There is a lot of time spent on the early professional life of the actor and their work beyond what they are best known for, which means there is quite a bit of variety, but Nick Briggs is also a very good interviewer with regard to asking tactful viewpoint questions. I was expecting a chat mostly in the "everyone was wonderful and it was all so much fun, apart from the hiatus and leaving Doctor Who" mould, but actually it gets really deep and thought provoking. Jacqueline Pearce is very different of course, and unlikely to be interested in long philosophical debate, but the way that the interview probed deeper than the usual 'red carpet platitudes' and Nick Briggs' skill as an interviewer makes me very positive.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is apparently not as good as the film! The audio drama left me distinctly underwhelmed with its rather forced comedy and uneven hillbilly accents, and all the things that troubled me about this production are I'm told absent or better realised on screen.

Doctor Who: The Time Machine is part of an eleven part saga of short stories, but it also stands alone perfectly well by itself. Jenna Coleman is an amazing reader and puts so much energy and variation into performing the story while always keeping a steady pace and staying in control of her voice; additional characters are played by Michael Cochrane and Nick Briggs. It's not a Clara story, but does feature a very similar character who fills the companion role for just this one story.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
If anyone is planning to buy the forthcoming Avengerworld book of fan essays next year, my contribution is about The Avengers: The Lost Episodes starring Julian Wadham and Anthony Howells. The book is along the same lines as Blake's Heaven; articles are all autobiographical and cover the author's own relationship with the show and its fandom as well as the subject itself and why the author enjoys that aspect/element of it.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
I'm seriously thinking about dropping Classics Doctors vs New Monsters from the shopping list for next year. It looked quite exciting when first announced as a rare foray into nu-Who territory but has since been joined by complete spin-off shows for Kate and Osgood, the John Hurt version of the Doctor, and River Song along with one off collections like the Tenth Doctor Adventures with David and Catherine; all of these grab my attention more than yet another Cyberman or Sontaran play or a Weeping Angels audio (in itself something that screams Gimmick! rather than sensible idea)
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
timdalton007
***SPOILERS***

The War Doctor Volume 1 - Only The Monstrous:

When one looks back over 2015, it comes across as one of Big Finish's banner years. Sixteen years into producing audio dramas based on Doctor Who, the company shows no sign of slowing down. They released their 200th story in the monthly range that began in 1999, began a new series of audio adventures for the Third Doctor and saw Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor at last regenerate. Perhaps above all, the announcement that the company could at last enter into the previously forbidden realms of the New Series was perhaps the cause for biggest anticipation. The end of 2015 saw the release of the first New Series related stories including one that promised to take listeners into the much speculated but largely unseen Time War and the Doctor who fought it in the form of the man who renounced that name played by John Hurt. Entitled Only The Monstrous, this three disc release (four counting a bonus features disc) promised great things but did it live up to them?

On the surface, Only The Monstrous promised two things. The first of which was the return of John Hurt's War Doctor who had only appeared onscreen back in 2013. Listening to the opening minutes of the set, you'd never known Hurt had ever been away. Having appeared fully formed and afire in The Day Of The Doctor, this story picks some time before that with a Doctor who willingly tries to sacrifice himself in its opening moments. This is a War Doctor who has fought the Time War for a long time though he isn't quite the man we meet in the midst of the fall of Arcadia. Hurt plays this darker, more mournful man excellently and his best moments are when he at his darkest. The scripts from Nicholas Briggs does offer him some lighter moments in the opening disc which Hurt plays admirably and there's echoes of the Doctor we're more used to there. At its heart though, this is a war story and Hurt plays the bitter warrior who is sick of fighting but knows there is no other way beautifully. It's Hurt's performance that makes this release a must listen for fans.

The second thing it promised was a major look into the Time War. Between Day Of The Doctor and the 2014 novel Engines Of War (as well as the unofficial for charity anthology Seasons Of War), we've had very few glimpses into the conflict that has played a major role in shaping the back story of the 21st incarnation of Doctor Who on television. Only The Monstrous promised to change that by offering a view into the Time War itself. It's a promise that is delivered upon but perhaps in not quite the satisfactory manor that fans were expecting.

What it delivers is a look at the Time War from both the front lines and sidelines to some extent. We're introduced to Cardinal Ollistra (played by Blake's 7 Jacqueline Pearce) and a number of agents of hers including Veklin (played by Big Finish stalwart Beth Chalmers) who deal initially with the aftermath of the box-set's opening minutes before embarking on a larger convert mission in which the War Doctor is drawn in. Briggs paints an interesting picture of Time Lord society at war that draws upon and expands on what we've been presented to date while also adding a new portion to the Time War story which comes to the fore in the back half of the release. All of which is immensely satisfying it must be said.

What isn't so satisfying is what the story really boils down to. Following the opening disc which acts as an interlude of sorts before the main story kicks in which finds the War Doctor recuperating on Keska with the help of a nursemaid (played by Lucy Briggs-Owen), the story takes the listener and War Doctor alike into what appears to be a Dalek stratagem. It's this part of the story which is perhaps a tad underwhelming due to it being perhaps overly familiar as Briggs script draws not just on past Dalek stories including The Dalek Invasion Of Earth but his own previous Big Finish series Dalek Empire for inspiration. For those expecting a full-on Time War story, you might just be in for a bit of a disappointment as this is perhaps more akin to traditional Dalek stories. If you don't mind that, and perhaps if you can accept that, then Briggs presents a tale of a very different kind of Doctor in a rather traditional story which gives the box-set a boost as well as something that helps to separate it from much of Big Finish's other output.

Moving on from Hurt and Briggs' script, there is plenty else to find to enjoy in Only The Monstrous. Pearce's Ollistra is a delight to listen to with the right mix of seriousness and wit while also not echoing too much Pearce's more famous role from Blake's 7. The War Doctor's pseudo-companions, Briggs-Owens Nursemaid and Carolyn Seymour's Slave, are both interesting and both give interesting performances as they bounce off Hurt and react to his almost vicious temper at times while also bringing out the best in him. The supporting cast also includes a large number of Big Finish stalwarts including the aforementioned Chalmers, Barnaby Edwards, John Banks and Mark McDonnell all help to populate the world of the Time War. Rounding off the cast is Nicholas Briggs who is, of course, playing the Daleks and brings the usual amount of menace and anger to his readings of the various Daleks. Only The Monstrous has a solid cast both in Hurt and its supporting players.

Last but not definitely not least is the music and sound design of Howard Carter. From the new version of the show's signature theme to the score of some of the biggest moments, Carter's score is nothing short of cinematic. Listening to the music suite at the end of the third disc, it's hard not to hear echoes of John Debney's score for the 1996 TV Movie at times, something which helps this to act as the bridge between the different TV incarnations of the series. Carter's sound design is just as impressive as it takes in Gallifrey, Keska, and a Dalek slave labor facility along the way. The results are nothing short of impressive.

Despite some reservations about the almost traditional storytelling that Briggs' script employs, it is hard not to think of Only The Monstrous as a success. From Hurt's triumphant return to a solid supporting cast and strong production values, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. Congratulations then are due to all involved for bringing this section of the Last Great Time War to life and the wait begins for Infernal Devices in February...

8/10

timdalton007
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 24 January 2016 13:25:38
 
Anniew
Donna is my least favourite companion, unfortunately. I actually stopped watching the show for a time, she annoyed me so much.

dragonq I thought I was the only one!


And SD - will look out for the Avengers book. Bit of a treat!
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Torchwood: The Conspiracy and Fall to Earth are a great start to the new audio series! The first episode stars John Barrowman and John Sessions, as a former journalist turned conspiracy theorist, and right the way through has the feel and story structure of a Torchwood episode based on the series' original format. The drama, which is most of the story, is linked in the first person by Jack Harkness; this 'enhanced audiobook' format does not always work, when the story itself is not limited to the character's experiences, and that's the case here too though the performances of the cast paper over the narrative flaws quite well. This issue does not apply however to the second episode, another masterpiece by James Goss! There was an excellent television play in the 60s, called The Man Out There, starring Patrick McGoohan as a stranded astronaut who makes contact by accident with a woman on the ground that happens to be tuned to his frequency. This story has a similar premise, albeit brought up to date with mobile phones etc, and is effectively a two handed scene between Ianto and a woman on the ground as he struggles to prevent the space-plane he is on from crashing. There is a definite similarity to the audio episode Blake's 7: Three by the same author, and this joins that episode in my opinion as one of BF's best audio productions of all time.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Anniew wrote:

And SD - will look out for the Avengers book. Bit of a treat!

The release has been delayed a couple of months due to the illness of one of the contributors, but I'll post an update when it's available. Thank you for your interest!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
UNIT: Extinction is pretty standard Big Finish audio adventure, and what I was expecting for the most part; lots of what I'm less interested in (action scenes, plenty of plot, lots of shouting and special effects) and less of what I care about more (long dialogue scenes, world building, exploration of character, surrealism, intriguing fantasy concepts) in a fairly dry, humourless alien invasion story. But my main reason for buying this was to hear more episodes with Kate Stewart and Osgood, and both transfer to the audio medium very well; the choice of dialogue generally, but specifically the rapport between them, are nicely recreated and both characters come across exactly as they do on screen. Not a story that I can rate highly in itself, but I had already decided to listen to the first two volumes of these before deciding to stick with them or not so will be collecting and commenting on the next story too. I'm hoping for a more 'radio sci-fi' style next time.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Theatre of War and All-Consuming Fire both lived up to, surpassed even, my hopes and expectations of them! These novels ranked among my favourites of the Doctor Who: The New Adventures range when first published so had a lot to live up to in audio format. I'm keenly interested in both theatre and history, especially archaeology through shows like Time Team and Dan Snow's documentaries, meaning that Theatre of War ticked plenty of boxes from its concept onwards; the dig to uncover a lost theatre is central to the whole plot, and this drama kept that intact without ever turning into a generic action story. History is central to All-Consuming Fire too, with the theft of antique books from a secret library forming the catalyst for a perfectly brilliant Doctor Who/Sherlock Holmes crossover story; the novel was written twenty years ago, but actually works even better as a crossover with Big Finish's own Holmes audio series starring Nick Briggs. This one does lose its way a little near the end as events turn very visual, but the joy of hearing the character match-ups is there all the way to the end! Both audios have good production values and maintain the feel of book-type stories, rather than trying to compete with television or film, and both get top marks.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Joe Dredd
I thought All-Consuming Fire had it's moments but overall didn't live up to my expectations.
 
rojkerr1
did enjoy the sherlock team up
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Visited Galaxy 4 today and came out with four unplanned Big Finish purchases, all featuring short story collections!

Doctor Who: Short Trips - Volume III
Doctor Who: Short Trips - Volume IV
Doctor Who: Breaking Bubbles and other stories
Doctor Who: You Are The Doctor and other stories

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:

Anniew wrote:

And SD - will look out for the Avengers book. Bit of a treat!

The release has been delayed a couple of months due to the illness of one of the contributors, but I'll post an update when it's available. Thank you for your interest!

Avengerworld is now available from Hidden Tiger Books

The editor is also keen for me to point out that this is a charity title, so there is no ebook version available but each copy sold sends money to a good cause.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Torchwood: Forgotten Lives is a good third episode of the new audio series, this time starring Eve Myles and Kai Owen as Gwen and Rhys; surely one of the nu-Who universe' most overlooked romantic couples! They are great here, simply brilliant, and it's like they have never been away. The effectively evoked Welsh setting, the alien origin of the threat being referenced but not seen, the way that an innocent mission turns deeply personal, and the subtle way that a character's backstory is revealed as a cause of the looming disaster are all reminiscent of the sort of show that Torchwood was on television. Except that so far I'm actually enjoying the audios more than I did the tv series pre-Children of Earth...

The Avengers - The Lost Episodes: Volume 5 is another four marvellous audio adaptations of stories from the original and mostly missing first series. This was a set of contrasts with two stories almost entirely original to the modern format, with no scripts or complete synopsis or even any photos surviving, and one story that's an adaptation of one of the episodes that actually does survive on film; I was disappointed when initially only the missing episodes were to be recorded, as I want to hear the new cast perform them, but this has happily been rectified and the surviving stories will both also now feature in the range. My favourite story of the set however was none of these but the final story Diamond Cut Diamond, an adventure that takes place within the airline world. The only airliners that I have ever seen inside have been in museums, but they do make great drama settings.

Doctor Who: Night Thoughts - this was a relisten for me, and one of the audios that I have listened to most often too! It was one of my favourite Big Finish plays from the day it was new and my view has never changed. The large old house on a remote island full of people with secrets to hide and a connection to the one person out to revenge themselves, but who remains an enigma, is right out of Christie's classic story And Then There Were None; but everything else is straight out of seventies or early eighties television horror/SF written by the likes of Nigel Kneale, especially drama like The Stone Tape and The Nightmare Man. What's great about this for me is that the finale ties up the plot while leaving the creepy atmosphere and the tense, haunting mysteries intact. There's no sudden multiplication of the dangers, no unexpected alien invaders, no action scenes or fight to the death. In fact, as the Doctor and his companions leave they are still speculating on many of the mysteries and events that they experience. As a listener of course we are privileged with cutting between this discussion and the house they have left behind in a way that says that the Doctor was at least probably right. But we start in a haunted house, and that's what it still is in the final scene. We follow the journey of the characters, for some a final journey, as they meet each other within the house and we discover what events have drawn them together. But the story does not, as much science fiction does especially on audio, take apart the setting that has been created in order to tell the story. This play is a beautiful thing in the art of telling this kind of story in this medium, and it's the one I always recommend first to new listeners.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
dragonq
I listened to the Carnacki collection from Big Finish this week. I was familiar with most of the stories because they are often anthologised, but I really enjoyed their version of it, not least because of the excellent soundscape they've added to it. At one point I was listening through headphones and a door slammed unexpectedly right in my ear. I nearly jumped out of my skin!
 
trevor travis
SD, thanks for the Torchwood reviews. I think I'm going to try volume 1.
 
Ela
Yes, thanks for the War Doctor and Torchwood reviews.

I listened to Only the Monstrous twice and loved it. Haven't downloaded War Doctor 2 yet.

I've listened to all the Torchwood 1 releases except the last one and pre-ordered Torchwood 2.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Torchwood: One Rule - it's quite an odd choice to set this one in South Wales, considering that it features Yvonne Hartman as the main character; the means of removing the regular Cardiff based characters to make way for her is rather contrived, and surely there was plenty of scope to tell a story about Torchwood 1 considering that the series arc deals with themes of global conspiracy? This matter aside though, it's a very good episode that perfectly captures the style of drama and plot of the first two series on television. We have an alien threat, but the setting is very 'every day' and the character motivations are all gloriously mundane in context with the extraordinary means that are employed to achieve those goals in a way that is instantly recognisable as Torchwood.

Doctor Who: Only the Monstrous - well, I really enjoyed this one. John Hurt was the Doctor seen on screen, quite a challenge with so little televised material to work from but a trick achieved once before by Big Finish when bringing Paul McGann's Doctor to life in his own audio series. Jacqueline Pearce's character Ollistra is very much Servalan by another name, and other cast members too play familiar character types similar to what they play in other audios; it's good to see actors cast in roles they are most comfortable in imo. Likewise, the story style was very familiar from Big Finish series of the past and in particular the brilliant Dalek Empire audios. Very enjoyable, character driven episodes that refused the temptation to go over the top with explosive action scenes and armies of millions simply because the setting was a war. The second half of the first episode was almost like a short story in its own right, a real joy that set up the emotional value of the finale.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
dragonq
I listened to the second War Doctor set earlier this week. Lots of lovely Jacqueline Pearce in the second and third episodes and John Hurt was great again. I did enjoy the first set more, but still a very enjoyable instalment.
 
timdalton007
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS***

The Prisoner: Volume 1

In 1967, Patrick McGoohan and ITV released The Prisoner onto an unsuspecting public. In the nearly fifty years since then it has become an iconic cult series that has remained both a product of its era yet timeless enough to find new generations of fans. It's perhaps no surprise then that Big Finish, the company now famous for producing audio dramas based off Doctor Who and Blake's 7 amongst other properties, and writer/director Nicholas Briggs have brought their talents and energies to bear on a new take of the series. Did they succeed or did they, as many feel about the 2009 TV reimagining, merely create something that was The Prisoner in name only?

Much of the success of the original series was down to leading man Patrick McGoohan and his presence, something that makes casting the iconic role of Number Six all the more difficult. Rather than going for a well known name, Briggs chose Mark Elstob for the role in an inspired piece of casting. Elstob's performance, as well as Briggs' scripts, give a flavor of McGoohan while also not imitating him. Those familiar with the original series will recognize the brooding and defiant former secret agent who finds himself slapped with a number in place of a name and apparently trapped in a prison calling itself "the Village." Elstob though also brings an air of vulnerability to this Number Six, especially in the set's third episode, as well as presenting perhaps a softer side to the character. It's a strong performance and one that firmly anchors the set.

Surrounding Elstob is a superb supporting cast. Like in the original series, there's a rotating series of Number Two's (the one who appears to be in charge of the Village) in the form of John Standing, Celia Imrie, Ramon Tikaram and Michael Cochrane who all bring their unique talents to bear on the role. Of the four, Standing and Cochrane perhaps come across the best with them both finding just the right balance between charm and menace in their appearances and interactions with Number Six. That isn't to diminish the strength of the performances from Imrie or Tikaram who both bring a determination or forthrightness to their Number Two's.

Beyond them are the villagers. Sara Powell's Number Nine is an intriguing character whose origins can be traced to various female characters in the original TV series but who becomes a major reoccurring character here, acting as something of an ally to Six in the Village. Big Finish stalwarts Helen Goldwyn and Barnaby Edwards play a number of different roles with Goldwyn voicing the ever present loudspeaker voice made so memorable in the original series. Rounding off the cast in the final episode of this set is Kristina Buikiate as Number Eight who plays the role splendidly.

What stands out just as much as the cast is the writing. Nicholas Briggs has a clear love for the original series and it shines throughout the four episodes of this set. While initially controversial in some circles, the decision to effectively remake or reimagine three episodes from the TV series on audio was a wise decision. Doing so allows the listener to hook onto the series, hearing familiar stories being not so much retold but presented in a new light. The Schizoid Man, the famous doppelgänger episode, comes across incredibly well on audio and proves a perfect example of how to bring a visual story to life on audio.

Yet this is not a slavish recreation if the original series. The third episode, Your Beautiful Village, is an episode that could only really ever be done on audio due to its plot and how it plays with the setting. There is also a brief glimpse of Number Six before his arrival in the Village that draws some elements from the TV episode Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling yet doesn't give anything way. There's the Village itself which is undeniably recognizable as the one from the TV series but, in keeping with it, also has a mix of the 1960s with the more futuristic. This Village has tablet computers, flat screen televisions and many amenities familiar to 21st century listeners but that serve to baffle Number Six upon arrival. What's clear is that Briggs isn't afraid to make changes, though none that distract from the elements of the original series.

With this set, Briggs and Big Finish might have done something that seemed unlikely to ever happen. With a mix of strong casting and writing, they've created a new version of an icon that is both familiar yet fresh and exciting at the same time. Fans of the original series will have much to enjoy and recognize while new listeners can take in an incredible tapestry that mixes 1960s espionage with thriller and sci-fi elements.

Or to put it another way: Welcome back Number Six...we've missed you.

timdalton007
 
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