Big Finish - March Round-up
It was all Doctor Who this month, with the conclusion of the main range's Klein trilogy very definitely the highlight...
The Architects of History by Steve Lyons
TARDIS Team: The Seventh Doctor
Running Time: 117:49
Directed by: John Ainsworth
Released: March 2010
Klein creator Steve Lyons returns to conclude the trilogy following her further adventures with the Seventh Doctor which has kicked 2010 off to a very strong start for the main range. Both previous stories have been good entries, with the caveat that the weakest aspect has been Klein's presence - up to now, I haven't been bowled over by the character, even though both previous stories have made her ideology a central theme. However, all that is forgotten here, with Lyons giving us an intelligent, three-dimensional villainess both ruthless and also, by the end, strangely pitiable, one who makes for a thrilling foil for the Seventh Doctor far more so than she did in Colditz, in which she made her first appearance. Lyons has long been one of Doctor Who's secret weapons, producing consistently superb stories in both audios and the novels, and this is another cracker. Given that Klein is his character it's probably unsurprising that his portrayal of her is streets ahead of the other stories in this series, but nevertheless this is a rich portrait that has, over the course of two hours, made me want to go back and re-evaluate her again in light of what's heard here. Childs also gives possibly her best performance in the role, so much so that come the end of the story you'll be genuinely moved by her fate... in both timelines.
But that's not all. This isn't just the Klein show. Lyons's great strength is his strong story concepts, which often involve some kind of mind-bending time paradox, and this is a perfect example. In addition, he brings into the audio range the Selachians, the aquatic baddies from his two BBC novels The Murder Game and The Final Sanction to extremely good effect, and a surprisingly moving love story - one, admittedly, which has distinct echoes of elements of Dalek Empire - to produce a rich, multi-layered audio which rewards repeated listening. A couple of months ago I said that the first part of this story, A Thousand Tiny Wings was the best main range story there's been for quite some time. This one is better. 9/10.
Paradise 5 by PJ Hammond and Andy Lane
TARDIS Team: The Sixth Doctor and Peri
Running Time: 135:44
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Released: March 2010
The latest of BF's Lost Stories series is possibly the most satisfying yet. While some of the previous entries have suffered from being obviously written for a visual medium, you could well believe that this story, written by PJ Hammond and adapted by Andy Lane, could have been penned for audio in the first place. It was disappointing that when BF did Sapphire and Steel they couldn't persuade Hammond to get involved, so it's good to hear his work here in what is a solid, if surprisingly unspooky, adventure. That said, with its setting of a holiday camp in which the guests are being preyed upon, Paradise 5 has distinct echoes of The Macra Terror, and I'm not sure that the latter isn't the better story, but this is still an amusing, exciting story, and is at least streets ahead of that other Doctor-Who-holiday-camp nightmare Delta and the Bannermen. Ultimately, though, the main thing in its favour is not Hammond's script but a superbly oleaginous performance from Alex MacQueen as the main villain. Anyone who knows MacQueen from The Thick of It will know exactly what to expect, and he plays the part with just as much relish as he does when facing down Malcolm Tucker, so much so that he's easily one of BF's most memorable recent guest performances. For him alone it's worth listening to. 7/10
The Emperor of Eternity by Nigel Robinson
Starring: Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Running Time: 66:44
Directed by: Lisa Bowerman
Released: March 2010
For the second month in a row we get not one but two Companions appearing in a CC, following last month's epic The Suffering. Regrettably that's about all The Emperor of Eternity has in common with its superlative predecessor - while the former lays claim to being one of the finest CC there has yet been this dull-as-ditchwater Second Doctor adventure is one of the poorest, and certainly lays claim to being amongst the most boring. Nigel Robinson, making a return to the world of Doctor Who after what must be a nearly two decade break, commits the cardinal sin of making the era of Qin, China's first Emperor, rather boring, delivering your standard escape and capture romp without a single memorable scene or character. Although Frazer Hines chips in as Jamie, it's Deborah Watling who does the main narration - as has been observed in the past, she really doesn't sound a bit like Victoria which doesn't help one lose oneself in the play, while her Troughton impression isn't much better (a shame Hines's famous impersonation wasn't called on more.) All-in-all, while this play doesn't commit any horrendous crimes, it's very hard to find anything to recommend in it either, and I struggle to see why both actors were involved. 3/10.
Many thanks to Big Finish for their help with this review. Next month the Sixth Doctor is reunited with Jamie which should be interesting...