Monday, November 06, 2006

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who Audios

I've been meaning for a while to post reviews of the excellent Big Finish 8th Doctor audios. There's a new season coming on BBC 7 with a new companion shortly (her from Two Pints of Lager probably playing a similar character), so I've been catching up. I mostly listen to the McGann ones, but recently I started listening to the McCoy ones (the Harvest, Night Thoughts and Master are excellent), and one Colin Baker audio which wasn't too bad. I plan on listening to more McGann and Peter Davidson's Spare Parts, which apparently formed the basis for the Tennant Cybermen stories.

Listening to the Master on a trip to Nottingham reminded me to finish this post I started yonks ago.

Storm Warning acts as the pilot for the series, so the Doctor naturally picks up a companion, 1930s self-styled Edwardian adventureress Charley Pollard. The story starts out a bit like Titanic, set aboard the R101 airship but suddenly becomes very steampunk - with aliens and Her Britannic Majesty's forces clashing in an epic battle. In the end the Doctor is not able to save the R101 but he does save Charley, irreperably ripping the web of time and setting up 2 seasons worth of arc plots. Good stuff, definitely a good first play to listen to.

Stones of Venice on the other hand is very Shakespearean. It's set in Venice in the future and deals with a cursed duke and his lost love. Despite it's future setting there seems to be little technology and the dialogue is very Shakespearean, with many many monologues. It is quite a good play though.

Sword of Orion is set in a Bladerunneresque future, when mankind is at war with replicants. Both sides are courting the Cybermen for aid, with disasterous effects. The doctor and Charley transport into a lone human military vessel, cuing a claustrophobic alienesque story.

Minuet in Hell is where Doctor Who tries to do Buffy badly. The Doc has gone to the States and lost his memory (again!), and it seems his very identity is in question. In the meantime there seems to be this whole convoluted plot with demons, the Brigadier (back in the days when UNIT, not Torchwood were everywhere), Charley, an evil priest and a demon-fighting chick named Becky-Lee (guess what this is a rip-off of). It goes on a little too long. Quite weak and skippable.

The second season starts with Mark Gatiss's Invaders from Mars, a story a bit like the Idiot's Lantern in that it is set around Orson Welles's broadcast of War of the World. Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevens from Spaced star, but with everyone doing similar mafiaesque accents it is difficult to tell who's who.

Embrace the Darkness is another alienesque claustrophobic adventure but much better than Sword of Orion. It also puts a twist on the formula however. Seasons of Fear is a romp through time, visiting Ancient Rome, medieval times, 19th Century England and beyond. Excellent stuff, though Time of the Daleks, where the time-ripples created in the arc plot cause Shakespare to disappear from the timeline, and the Daleks are involved. It's not particularly great, though the Daleks do quote Shakespare and it leads into...

Neverland, which is very Timelordy, but is excellent nevertheless. The Doctor, Charley and Romana discover what has been affecting time since Charley was rescued, and take on anti-time (think anti-matter). With much heroism the Doc seemingly sacrifices himself to save Gallifrey (a bit pointless now, given the new series, but hey) and returns infected with anti-time as...

Zagreus. This was meant to be the 40th anniversary story, featuring all the Doctors that Big Finish have on the payroll, namely Davidson (meh), Colin Baker (bad Doctor, though his audio stuff seems okay), McCoy (yay) and of course McGann. Pertwee returns via some sound-bytes he recorded for a fanfilm that was not released. Tom Baker on the other hand doesn't feature, but nearly everyone else who has ever appeared in Doctor Who also features. However rather than doing a multi-doctor story the 3 CD extravaganza follows a surreal narrative, using elements from Alice in Wonderland and the relatively insular Timelord lore RTD has trimmed from the new series. The surreal visions are meant to highlight the Doctor's battle with the anti-time infection, and all the cast play weird characters in the visions, even the ex-Doctors. Eventually it turns out Rassilon was behind it all, and the Doc exiles himself to a universe where time does not exist... and proceeds to have lots of adventures over... er... time? And Charley comes along despite her plotlines being ably resolved in Neverland. I recommend listening to the first 20 minutes of Zagreus, and then the last CD entirely.

Season 3 has its highs and lows. Season 2 is doubtless the best, as most folk seem to think Invaders is amazing (admittedly I was driving while listening to that one).

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