Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Cry of the Vultriss
Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor returns this month for a new trilogy of adventures with his Big Finish companions Flip (Lisa Greenwood) and Constance (Miranda Raison), last seen in 2018's Static.
Cry of the Vultriss was written by Darren Jones and directed by John Ainsworth. It is available to purchase exclusively on the Big Finish site here, and goes on general release on the 31st May 2020. Here's the synopsis...
Violently ejected from the Space-Time Vortex, the TARDIS crash lands on the remote planet of Cygia-Rema, a mountainous world ruled by the bird-like Vultriss. Their newly-crowned Queen Skye is expecting first contact with alien ambassadors – Ice Warriors - and the sudden arrival of the Doctor, Flip and Mrs Constance Clarke causes confusion.
However, Skye is no ordinary ruler, she is the Fabled One gifted with the deadly power of ‘The Cry’. The queen who will enable the Vultriss to fly once again – at any cost.
But as the Doctor investigates why the TARDIS crashed, he discovers that the Vultriss are hiding a deadly secret. An ancient legacy that if left unchecked will plunge half the galaxy into an eternal living end.
I'll be joined by my son Ben, the world's biggest Doctor Who fan and regular co-reviewer of Big Finish to discuss this latest release...
Baz Greenland (aged 38)
The Sixth Doctor, Flip and Constance TARDIS team might be the best character combo on Big Finish. So their return for three new adventures is very welcome indeed. The legacy of what happened to Constance in the superb, chilling Static hangs over this, story suggesting a potential end to her time on the TARDIS. Though thankfully, there is plenty more to come from her as we kick off three new stories.
Cry of the Vultriss gets things off to a good start. Jones's script is packed with political machinations, twists and betrayals, a perfect setting for Colin Baker's Doctor to immerse himself in. The powerplay between the two rival Vultriss factions enables the TARDIS team to separate into an exploration of both parties; the displaced queen Jabule (Caroline Lawrie), trying to reclaim her throne and newly coronated Queen Skye (Natasha Cowley). The arrival of the Doctor and his companions is complicated further with the arrival of new Martian ambassador Vextyr; Adele Lynch playing a very similar Ice Warrior queen role to that in 2017's Empress of Mars.
Lynch brings that same energy to the role here, a ruthless, insidious menace that will destroy everything in her path. But Cry of the Vultriss is careful not to overplay its hand immediately, devoting the first two parts to the conflict between the Vultriss actions before Vextyr's motives become clear. The threat of the tear in space and time also adds to the scale of the piece, making her actions far more dangerous than just the manipulation and corruption of one planet.
Director John Ainsworth perfectly balances the quieter character moments with epic action as the fighting breaks out, really making the most of the audio setting to tell a story - like many Big Finish productions - that would have been difficult to realise in the eighties. From the bird-like Vultriss to the armies fighting in the city and the interior of the Ice Warrior ship, there are grand set pieces and characters, all vividly brought to life across the four-part story.
And of course, Jones' script keeps a steady pace, throwing in even more revelations in the final part, shifting the drama to the Ice Warrior threat, while still keeping the fate of the Vultriss at the heart of the story. If this was a Sixth Doctor televised story, it would certainly be regarded as one of the highlights of his era.
The cast are on top form too; from Lynch's dramatic, scene-stealing villainy, to the vulnerability of Cowley's performance as Skye. Colin Baker is as superb as always, Big Finish serving him far better than his televised era ever did. And the dynamic of Greenwood's energetic, modern companion Flip and Raison's mature, authoritative Constance really shines through, the story playing to both their strengths.
Cry of the Vultriss is a welcome return for the Sixth Doctor, Constance and Flip, with a bold, dramatic threat from the Ice Warriors, a fantastical alien world and plenty of twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes.
Ben Greenland (aged 14)
The best TARDIS team at Big Finish is back with Cry of the Vultriss.
The story is very much in the tone of The Curse of Peladon (to the extent the Ice Warriors show up as ambassadors). It is a fun and enjoyable adventure, filled with bird people, rips in the time vortex and the Doctor and co. nearly being chucked off a cliff at the part two cliff-hanger. The rip in the space time vortex, and machines powered by a crystal left behind by the Time Lords is quite a unique concept. The Vultriss characters were great aliens, even if I did tend to forget these were meant to be bird people. It's great to see Big Finish try something that the TV budget in the mid-80's would have had a lot of trouble realising. The real character drama was shared among the Vultriss, mainly the cruelly manipulated Queen Skye who's special power gave her rule over Cygia-Rema.
The Ice Warriors were a great opponent for the Doctor to spar off against, especially Colin Baker's Sixth who sadly never met them on screen. It was also great to see the addition of another female Ice Warrior after the concept was introduced in Empress of Mars on TV a few years ago; and as an added bonus, both Iraxxa and Vextyr are both voiced by Adele Lynch. The best moment with the Ice Warriors is their involvement is the twist towards the tail end of Part Three. You start off with them being peaceful ambassadors as they were in The Curse of Peladon, only for them soon to reveal that they're still the same old Martians as ever, only for the story to reveal that they are peaceful and the real ambassador was attacked by a rebel group wishing to go back to the old ways. This makes for an amazing addition to the typical 'alien pretends to be peaceful but is actually evil' format and is very welcome.
As for the TARDIS team themselves, Colin Baker, Lisa Greenwood and Miranda Raison spark off each other exceptionally, cementing themselves as my favourite Big Finish TARDIS team. It's hard to believe that we last saw them together at the end of 2017 in Static, a story in which Constance died and was revived into a new body. I was hoping the aftermath and trauma of what happened would be addressed here, to really continue Constance's character. I was happy that it was tackled, but still a little disappointed that it was such a minor addition to the script when I firmly believe it should have been explored further. That aside, Colin Baker was as terrific as ever as the Doctor, and his interactions with Queen Skye and Vextyr are a highlight. The rest of the cast also shine in this production and nicely sets up the next two stories in the trilogy featuring this perfect TARDIS line-up.
The music suite between parts two and three runs at nine minutes and forty five seconds, and Simon Power's score really captures the mood of the piece. The use of racing strings creates a well sense of urgency, the soaring orchestral moments creating a real sense of wonder. There are some wonderful ominous moments, rumbles of percussion and blasts of synth creating a real sense of tension. When the choral chants kick in, Power takes the score to another level, perfectly capturing the epic feel of the story.
The trailer for next month's Scorched Earth returns to Constance's time and teases something deadly lurking within the fire...
Almost twelve minutes of behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew conclude this set. Writer Darren Jones and director John Ainsworth chat about Jones' three pitches for a Sixth Doctor Ice Warrior story. Miranda Raison talks confidence of her character and her WREN background while Lisa Greenwood discusses Flip's developing relationship with Constance and her growing maturity. Combined with Colin Baker's admiration of his Doctor's companions, these moment offer a lovely insight into this ever-evolving team.
A number of the key actors reflect on their roles in the story. One of the most interesting moments sees Nicholas Briggs, who plays a number of the Ice Warrior roles in Cry of the Vultriss, reflecting on his memories of the original Ice Warrior stories and he loved them when they were proper villains. Adele Lynch talks about the legacy of playing the first female Ice Warrior in Empress of Mars, the surprise at the sheer amount of prosthetics involved in bringing her character to life. An altogether lovely set of reflections rounding off another strong entry from Big Finish into the Doctor Who universe.