Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Static
There have been some truly great Doctor Who releases for Big Finish this year and 2017 ends with the conclusion to the latest trilogy of stories featuring Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor, Miranda Raison's Mrs Constance Clarke and Lisa Greenwood's Flip Jackson.
Static is written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Jamie Anderson, has been released on digital audio and CD. It's available for Big Finish customers now and goes on general release on the 31st January 2018. Here's the synopsis...
Deep in the heart of nowhere, near a place called Abbey Marston, there’s a caravan site. The perfect place to get away from it all. Close by, there’s a stone circle they used for human sacrifice in olden times. A little further afield, there’s an old RAF research station, where they did hushhush things in the War.
There’s only one rule: the use of radios, cassette recorders and portable televisions is strictly forbidden.
People come here to get away from it all, you see. No-one wants to hear the noise. No-one wants to hear the voices in the static…
No-one wants to hear the ghosts.
I'll be joined by my fellow Big Finish reviewer and huge Doctor Who fan, my 11 year old son Ben to review this latest addition. Spoilers as always if you haven't listened to it yet...
Baz Greenland (aged 36)
There have been some really good Doctor Who releases on the main range for Big Finish this year, and while Time In Office still might be my favourite, Static is another stellar entry full of atmosphere, horror and great storytelling. We all love a good Christmas ghost story and that makes Static the perfect audio to end the year on.
It's also another superb story from the Sixth Doctor, Constance and Flip who have quickly emerged as one of my favourite Big Finish Doctor Who trios. For all those who wondered what Colin Baker's Doctor Who could have been, I would thoroughly recommend the latest trilogy of The Behemoth, The Middle and Static, with this latest entry the strongest of the three.
What I loved about Static was that it took it's time to tell the story; the 'alien' presence' doesn't even appear until the end of part three. Part one is full of atmosphere, as the TARDIS trio land in a remote 1970s caravan park at the same time as strained couple Andy (Scott Chambers) and Joanna (Pippa Nixon), the latter grieving the death of her sister by drowning a year earlier. The stern warnings of no radios, cassette recorders and portable televisions by gruff owner Percy (David Graham) sets the scene for something delightfully creepy when Andy disobeys and rigs up a portable TV and a screaming voice is heard through the television static. By the time Joanna's dead sister Susannah (Jo Woodcock) comes stumbling through the mist, still dripping in her swimsuit from drowning a year earlier, the stage is set for something terrifying.
Thanks to the taught direction of directed by Jamie Anderson and a page turner of a script from Jonathan Morris, the second part builds on the premise with the discovery of a body buried in the roots of a tree and the revelations that this part of Abbey Marston is a place where the dead always come back. The grim discovery of stone celtic sacrificial altar and stories of monks abandoning their monastery centuries earlier because their dead kept returning, is incredibly unsettling.
And just when the atmosphere is built up to its full potential, the story makes great use of time travel to have Constance and the Doctor travel back thirty years to her time period - World War II - where an RAF base is resurrecting the dead to learn airforce pilots died in battle before sending them back into the mist. It's quite dark material, and terrifically executed, all wrapped up in the greater tension of hearing Constance's screaming voice through the static in the opening track of the story; this tease to the listener only heightens to the tension.
The part three cliffhanger of the 'Static' breaking through and attacking the airbase in the past and caravan park in the present is one of the best I have heard this year and is satisfyingly wrapped up in the conclusion. Constance meets a fiery death as she destroys the RAF radios in the past and is resurrected in the present, while the ghosts trying to possess the Sham bodies in the trees is a suitably epic threat. I didn't see the Percy twist in parts two and four, while the Doctor taking control of the Static consciousness made good use of his Time Lord abilities. There was even a satisfying conclusion to the fates of Constance and Susannah.
There was a great pace to Static, which never felt too indulgent in it's attempt to tell a good ghost story. The three leads were superb and I eagerly await more adventures from them in 2018...
Ben Greenland (aged 11)
Mist is always a bad sign in Doctor Who, but it doesn't usually mean the dead returning. Static is my favourite release this year and it just shows how much more Colin Baker could've been on TV, if they had let him. I honestly do love a good ghost story and the teaser of the death of Constance was a good way to draw listeners in.
The setting to Static felt eerily creepy and pulled off a chilling tale. I was always wondering if each part's cliffhanger was going to kill Constance; turns out it wasn't a cliffhanger though her ultimate fate was good. The Shams were also a terrifying idea and the use of them was of very high strategic value (The Sontarans would be proud). The cliffhangers always kept me on edge and just provided a cracking tale. The static were superb monsters and the many surprises they created had me on edge.
Lastly, I have to mention Percy till. I was wondering why he had no Static in him but then it turned out he did! Flip, the Doctor and Constance were very, very good and I honestly didn't know if it was going to be the end of Constance.
After three tales with the Sixth, am ready for the next four stories are with a different Doctor. I am looking forward to Kingdom of Lies in January with more Peter Davison...
After part two we get a delightfully sinister music suite, full of ominous chimes and rattling sounds, wails and sorrowful orchestral movements that rise into something fast paced; dramatic percussion beats adding a sense of the scale of the danger faced in this story.
We also have a trailer for the first of three Big Finish stories in 2018, featuring the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. Kingdom of Lies looks to be a very fun tale, with the Doctor cast as a mysterious assassin and his companions sent to hunt him down.
Finally, a solid fifteen minutes of interview with the cast and crew who all appear to have enjoyed making this ghostly tale as much as I enjoyed listening to it.