Big Finish - May/June Round-Up

We're a bit behind on our regular Big Finish reviews so it's time to catch up with a look at the releases of the last two months.

Doctor Who



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The Wreck of the Titan by Barnaby Edwards
Number: 134
TARDIS Team: The Sixth Doctor and Jamie
Running Time: 120 minutes approx
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Released: May 2010
Buy: Here.

Wreck of the Titan is the third instalment of the four "Sixth Doctor and Jamie" stories, following the Companion Chronicle Night's Black Agents (see below) and City of Spires. Legend of the Cybermen (below) concludes the story.

The Tardis lands on a ship at sea; but it's not the Queen Mary as the Doctor and Jamie were expecting, it's the Titanic and it's 14th April 1912. But it gets worse, they aren't on the Titanic, and the Titan, long before some strange irregularities cause the Doctor to question those ship's true identity. This leads the Doctor, Jamie, and some new hangers on, to journey through some strange places and meet other ship which is a slightly more far fetched than the Titanic.

I did not dislike City of Spires quite as much as James did in his round-up last month. Jamie coming back with the sixth Doctor didn't bother me and while the story took its time, the plot and dialogue worked well enough. So, aside from a dodgy French accent in there, the performances were fine and it was a passable tale. However, moving on to the next book, I didn't think much of Wreck of the Titan. There were far too many location changes, the acting seemed to “take a dive” (excuse the pun) and it reached a point where, due to the nature of the situation the characters were in, I felt there was no peril or tension to proceedings. Indeed a scene involving a huge sea creature should have got the heart racing, in reality, it was just funny. It also had another character with a terrible French accent, that's two too many for me. The worst part of this book for me is how long the Doctor take to work out what's going on. I thought it was telegraphed and obvious right from the beginning, he should really have got it sooner. Though I don't think that would have had much impact on the plot as the Doctor was along for the ride like everyone else. Disappointing. 4/10

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Legend of the Cybermen by Mike Maddox
Number: 135
TARDIS Team: The Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Zoe
Running Time: 120 minutes approx
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Released: June 2010
Buy: Here.

So on to the conclusion. After the events in the previous book slowly building to reveal where they are, the Land of Fiction. The book starts off by separating Jamie and the Doctor. How this happened isn't clear. This leaves Jamie open to meets another familiar voice, Zoe, who is now along for the ride. At this point the Doctor randomly meets the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist. 'The Dodger' and Zoe act as exposition machines for a while which got a bit tedious. Then we are slowly introduced to yet more and more fictional locations and random characters from literature. The weak accent work on these characters (Count Dracula) meant all I could picture in my head was these people as they would be depicted in 'Shrek'.

In the end we get a logical, but weak, explanation of the “black oil” in the previous stories. The Cybermen's aims are revealed; again, they are logical, but silly. Then towards the very end, the story begins to eat itself in a meta-fictional mess. A mess that leaves James' concerns about City of Spires moot. Needless to say I found this book worse than 'Wreck' so it gets a 3/10

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The Song of Megaptera by Pat Mills
Number: 1.07
TARDIS Team: The Sixth Doctor and Peri
Running Time: 100 minutes approx
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Released: May 2010
Buy: Here.

Of all the Lost Stories in this season, The Song of Megaptera is perhaps the one with the longest and most tortuous history. On-again off-again for much of the Eighties, it was originally pitched by Mills and his writing partner John Wagner, both of whom were working on 2000AD and the Who comic strip at the time, to Anthony Read for the Fourth Doctor in 1980. Not used then, it was revived as a possible introductory story for Turlough in 1982, but Mills and Eric Saward had a fundamental disagreement about certain aspects of the tale (Eric Saward having a fight with someone? That’s very unusual) which rumbled on for the next few years until finally, after it had been for the umpteenth time usurped in the schedules in Season Twenty-Two, it was formally abandoned. The Song of the Space Whale as it was then known was one of the most famous casualities of the era, its evocative title and regular appearances in each season’s “Other Stories Being Developed” lists meaning that everyone was aware that it had existed, even if there wasn’t much information about what it was actually about.
Now it’s arrived, it turns out to be not unlike The Beast Below, so much so, in fact, that the Space Whale title had to be dropped for the less-inspiring version it now has. Both have a heavy ecological message as inhabitants voyaging through the stars live off the benign creature, which in this story is also being pursued by intergalactic whalers. It’s a reasonably decent story without ever doing much remarkable and is, in truth, fairly generic – pretty much every other story up to now in this Lost Stories range has been memorable for some reason or another (not always good ones!) but this just trundles along, its message is driven home with all the subtly of the Sixth Doctor’s waistcoat. Indeed, the most striking thing about it is the fact that out of all the stories so far this is the one which does least to replicate what it would have been like had it been made as part of the show. Mills has turned in a very modern script, complete with references to the Credit Crunch and l33t speak, and while I know such indulgence shoudn’t bother me so much, somehow it does, as though the thing isn’t playing the game. 5/10

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The Macros by Ingrid Pitt and Tony Rudlin
Number: 1.08
TARDIS Team: The Sixth Doctor and Peri
Running Time: 100 minutes approx
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Released: June 2010
Buy: Here.

The TARDIS materializes on the USS Eldridge, after the Philadelphia Experiment has gone disastrously wrong. Most of the crew are dead, the ship is disintegrating, and the Doctor soon realizes that the problem comes from another dimension… As they attempt to find a way to get the ship home, the Doctor and Peri visit the distant planet Capron and meet its tyrannical ruler Osloo. But the search for a possible solution only creates increasingly dire problems. Osloo's horizons have been widened – and space and time are hers for the taking…

This story is far more measured affair than the previous two books. The character of Osloo stands out here. Linda Marlowe clearly loves to chew the scenery as the megalomaniac president. The idea of setting a story amongst the particulars of the Philadelphia experiments and where they do take it, with the likes of Tesla and parallel dimensions is really interesting. Generally the script and performances were all solid and, while it gets a bit boring in the middle, there is a nice conclusion to things. 6/10


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The Time Vampire by Nigel Fairs
Number: 4.10
Starring: Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (Voice of K9)
Running Time: 72:33
Directed by: Nigel Fairs
Released: May 2010
Buy: Here.

I’ve never been that fussy about Leela as a character. I don’t believe she has the same chemistry with the Fourth Doctor as either Sarah Jane or Romana II (although compared to the lumps he ended his travels with she’s virtually his soul mate) and while Louise Jameson was never less than watchable, of her television stories it was only really Talons which used her backstory to real advantage. The same could be said about her afterlife – the series Gallifrey is one of BF’s few Who spin-offs I never warmed to, while none of the novels she has appeared in down the years have made me want to fundamentally re-evaluate my opinion.

As a result, I’m probably not the best person to review The Time Vampire. On a purely intellectual level, it’s plainly a brilliant CC, as are Nigel Fairs’ two previous Leela stories, The Catalyst and Empathy Games. This audio finishes off the story begun in those earlier CCs, and does so in a way that both pays off the mysteries Fairs laid down and gives the character a far more moving, emotionally satisfying conclusion than she got in The Invasion of Time (not that that would be hard.) It’s a multi-layered, complex story, a tapestry of themes and ideas woven together with considerable skill, and definitely one that needs two or three listens before its nuances are uncovered (or even exactly what’s going on at the end.) Jameson puts in another excellent performance, with John Leeson putting in an oddly chilling support performance as K9, and the sound design is just gorgeous, the choral score accompanying the climactic scenes a contender for BF’s soundtrack of the year. All-in-all, it’s a perfect example of why the CC’s are the best range BF have going at the moment, and why they’re generally streets ahead of the full-cast audios.

But it’s about Leela. So let’s say 9/10 and bump it up to the full ten if you’re a fan of the character.


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Night's Black Angels by Marty Ross
Number: 4.11
Starring: Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Hugh Ross (Merodach)
Running TIme: 60 minutes approx
Directed by: Lisa Bowerman
Released: May 2010
Buy: Here.

Erm, right. Okay. So here's the thing. I listened to this about three days ago but am only now sitting down to write it up. And I can't really remember... anything about it. I know it picks up from the end of City of Spires, and is an extra chapter in the Sixth Doctor and Jamie trilogy. I know Jamie was captured by the villain, and there was some banter between him and the villain. I know it was mainly set in the Scottish Highlands again. And I know that Frazer Hines's Sixth Doctor was pretty rubbish, in comparison to his amazing Troughton impression. But anything else? Nowt, nada. And, given that I listened to the main audios before this, and didn't feel I'd missed any of the story, it seems pretty non-vital. I think. If only I could remember it. 4/10.


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Solitaire by John Dorney
Number: 4.12
Starring: India Fisher (Charley Pollard), David Bailie (The Celestial Toymaker)
Running Time:62:32
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Released: June 2010
Buy: Here.

To this day, one of the finest runs in Big Finish’s history remains the first two seasons of Eighth Doctor and Charley adventures. It's been said before on this site so I won’t go over the same ground again, but those ten stories (even the rubbish ones) remain a real highlight of the company’s Who output, so it was a very welcome announcement that this month’s Companion Chronicle would return to that era with an adventure which sees Charley face off against the Celestial Toymaker. Writer John Dorney is one of the rising stars in the BF firmament – not only does he have another CC coming up in a couple of months’ time but will also be appearing as Alexander the Great in The First Doctor Box Set, with a Benny play and other unannounced projects.

This CC does break the rules of the format in that instead of being in the usual enhanced talking book style it is instead a straightforward two-handed play as Charley and the Toymaker match wits in his toyshop. Dorney’s theatrical background means he paces the piece perfectly while managing to capture the tone of the original Hartnell story – far more so, indeed, than The Nightmare Fair did a few months back. At times, especially in the first part, it feels a bit like one of those “Escape from the room” java games, or perhaps an old-style point-and-click adventure, but the piece is witty enough, and the performances sufficiently strong, to make sure that it never grows tiresome. In Bailie BF have found a worthy replacement for Michael Gough as the Toymaker, while, although Charley has frankly become ridiculously overexposed over the past few years, hearing Fisher back as old-style Charley makes for a good reminder why the character used to be one of BF’s strongest assets. A hugely enjoyable play, the hour flies back and makes for a very strong end to what has been, arguably, the finest season of Companion Chronicles yet. 9/10.

Also released this month was a four-story Jago and Litefoot season across four CDs (8/10), which reunited Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter as Robert Holmes's finest double-act following last year's The Mahogany Murderers. An entertaining series with the two actors successfully recapturing the chemistry of thirty-odd years ago in a series of Victorian X-Files, and two more Dark Shadows audios, The Dark Whispers and London's Burning.

As ever, many thanks to Big Finish for their help with these reviews.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 23:40:18

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