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I travelled a few months ago on our national airline carrier to Cyprus and as I sat there served sandwiches in a box and a hot drink from a paper cup I felt a real pang of disappointment for the changes brought in for short-haul travel.  Gone was that air travel pleasure I had taken from past journeys to see my family where you were served a tray of hot food hidden underneath silver foil, with a sometimes-soggy salad and a creamy sweet dessert.

A Storm in a Time cup – The New Time Team at Doctor Who

What does this have to do with Doctor Who you may well ask? Well adapting to change can be a difficult emotion to navigate and I have been left both amused and slightly dismayed at the furore that the appointment of a new Time Team by the Doctor Who Magazine has caused. Twelve new people have been selected to be on the team for 2018 but it created a bit of a twitter storm due to the average age of the reviewers being just twenty-two.

If you haven’t read about this already Doctor Who Magazine put a call out through social media for people interested in being part of their Time Team, to review and comment on classic and new Who stories in the magazine. The original Time Team started in 1999 and finished watching every classic Who story in order ten years later in 2009. In 2011, the project was restarted in order to view and review the new series with a different team who stopped in 2017 with the Matt Smith story The Almost People, which aired the same year the second team started.

The headline yelled in the Mirror recently “Doctor Who fans boycott official magazine over young age of new reviewer team”. and when reading the article initially and seeing the picture of the new team I understood the feelings of older fans. A picture tells a thousand words and they do look uncannily young when viewed from this end of the age spectrum. Where is my representation my inner child shouted at me? When the magazine’s former editor Gary Russell then chipped in helpfully “This new Time Team is the single best thing to have happened in DWM in donkey’s years. If it upsets a bunch of moronic ‘Doctor Who is only for those of us who’ve been there since the proper series’, even better.” I wondered was I as an older fan somehow being included in this description and who was really being the moron here?

His tone wasn’t helpful in the least I would say to bring older fans along with the changes. I don’t necessarily disagree with him that only people that have seen the classic series should be able to comment on the series per se but the issue is only having young people. (I’m still waiting to be represented by another Greek, white female Doctor Who fan in her 40’s. Please can you make yourself known to a member of the DWM staff please) I suppose what I’m saying is I agree let’s have more diversity, men, women, different ethnicities sure yes, in the Time Team but let’s not exclude the age demographic. Would it REALLY hurt that much to do it? Surely by excluding the older fan, they are doing the opposite of promoting diversity? I don’t agree with a comment made in an interview from Benjamin Cook, a writer for the magazine for twenty years and who put the team together that there was an assumed conceit with previous Time Teams because they were aware of the episodes prior to viewing them again. There is something to be gained or lost with every viewing of an episode.

The class of 2018 - The new Time Team at Doctor Who Magazine
The class of 2018 – The new Time Team at Doctor Who Magazine

Would I cancel my subscription to the magazine because of the changes? Well if I was considering it which I’m not it would depend on how important the feature was to me personally out of the whole magazine.

This new Time Team is the single best thing to have happened in DWM in donkey’s years. If it upsets a bunch of moronic ‘Doctor Who is only for those of us who’ve been there since the proper series’, even better.” Gary Russell

So as I have said I understood the feelings of older fans, reading the Mirror article, and I do but I can also acknowledge the financial implications of their decision. From DWM’s point of view, they have opened the door to a younger demographic that they want to attract to their digital content, buying all the merchandise they actively promote in their reviews etc. DWM hasn’t said older fans are no longer welcome to buy the magazine (of course they wouldn’t) but I would be fascinated to know the age group breakdown of their subscribers. The last big survey of stories they did in 2013 had the largest percentage of respondents in the over 35’s which doesn’t tell you much except that they actively participate in expressing their opinions.

When I bought my first issue of Doctor Who Magazine (Issue 61) as a young fan there was no greater joy than reading the magazine cover to cover discovering all about the show. Then it was just five doctors, three which I hadn’t seen and the magazine was the best source of learning about the show, apart from a few features in the Radio Times. What I’m saying is I understand the magazine has to attract new people to its publication. It must be a very exciting prospect for them to have people in the Time Team who have never seen or have limited experience of the classic series and to be able to garner a fresh perspective.  It is mirroring the mantra of change that the show has thrived on to last 55 years.

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 61
Doctor Who Magazine Issue 61

I’m probably no longer in their target audience anymore although I hope I still can be. I have a larger disposable income than younger readers and still loyally buy the magazine. I’m interested in the show as much as ever. The proof of success will obviously be if they can attract younger subscribers or buyers of the magazine in the long term.

Other snippets…

Graham Strong (1949- 2018) – Saving Classic Who for Posterity

Garry covered, in the recent podcast, the passing of Graham Strong, a young fan in the 1960’s who made audio recordings of the early episodes of the show using domestic reel-to-reel, quarter-inch tape. These tapes have been used to create a complete audio record of the Hartnell and Troughton stories even where the film tapes are unfortunately missing.

Graham Strong gave his recordings to Mark Ayres for safekeeping
Graham Strong gave his original recordings to Mark Ayres for safekeeping a few weeks ago

It reminded me how in the early 1980’s I did something similar using a portable Casio tape deck next to the TV set to record Peter Davison’s story ‘Time Flight’ as I really liked this young exuberant Doctor’s first season. This was three years before we could afford to buy an actual video recorder and I remember flipping the cassette tape tab to record at slow speed so I could get more of the episode on side A before changing to the B side. I would then listen to the soundtrack at night whilst under the covers pretending to be asleep, my imagination and memory doing the rest. Fans these days have never had it so good with the plethora of DVDs releases and different formats.

Thank you for what you did Mr Strong as we can now listen to all those early stories even though the search still goes on for missing stories. My condolences to his family and friends.

Genesis of the Daleks playing at the BFI, London Saturday 23rd June

There is a screening of the classic story which has been newly restored followed by a question and answer session with producer Philip Hinchcliffe on Saturday 23 June 2018 12:15 pm.

Genesis of the Daleks playing at the BFI this June
Genesis of the Daleks playing at the BFI this June

Well done to whoever got tickets. They were sold out by the time I checked my BFI emails earlier this week (so annoyed with myself – I subscribe for days like this!!) so enjoy. Unless of course, you find you can’t go and I’m then very available to purchase your ticket!

Until next time…

The Fourth Doctor Adventures have undergone a bit of a revamp of late. In the years they have been running they have been released in a series of 6 from January to July/August. Series 7 took a different approach and was released in a box-set of four adventures. One thinks this might be due to the large output Big Finish now handles, only so many audios can go out in any given month. But this isn’t bad news for fans of the Fourth Doctor as instead of waiting a month for the next release, we get all the releases in one go!

The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Series 7 Volume 2
The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Series 7 Volume 2

The Fourth Doctor and Leela are at the height of their travels. The TARDIS takes them from the strangely shadowy backstreets of London in the 1940s to a hotel in the 1970s. Then they are onto a planet called Drummond. They find a world obsessed with technology and so lost in their screens, the people can’t see what is happening around them. While the rich get richer and the homeless become more and more hungry, the Doctor and Leela have differing views on how to handle the situation. But it is all part of the machinations of an old enemy, so one who has encountered the Doctor on a couple of occasions. The last time was in a country house, then in the far future. Now on Drummond, he is rising again and this time, Sutekh will be free…

The Shadow of London
The Shadow of London

THE SHADOW OF LONDON

The set kicks things off with The Shadow of London by Justin Richards and it starts the set off at a great pace. With the TARDIS arriving in London during the early 1940s, the Doctor and Leela are confronted with a strange environment. Everything seems slightly off and the British public is just slightly too British.

Of course, it doesn’t take the pair to realise that things are wrong here and they are soon embroiled in the mystery as the bodies begin to stack up. Justin Richards gives us a very strong story using a concept we have seen before but making it feel fresh again. In fact, it feels like there could have been a little room to make this story a four-parter instead of just two episodes but maybe it was for the best. Richards brings some weighty questions to the party too. What is ethical in war? How far is too far? He does it intelligently and doesn’t give us any easy answers.

What makes the story even better is its heavy message that while the Doctor can solve the current problem, a crazy hybrid on a homicidal rampage, he can’t fix the war. That is one monster he must consign to human history. And it isn’t an easy message either as the Doctor is so obviously torn up about it. The Shadow of London is a great way to kick things off.

The Bad Penny
The Bad Penny

THE BAD PENNY

The second story for the set is The Bad Penny comes from Dan Starkey, who pens his second solo story after The Authentic Experience at the beginning of the year.

The Bad Penny was for me, the weakest story of the set but only because the first episode felt a little slow. No doubt it was because they were building up to the cliff-hanger and the second episode but it just felt like there was too much talking and wandering around with no clear idea of where they were going.

Once the second episode kicks in, things really get going and you’ll find yourself investing in a lot of the characters more easily. And the monster, when it is finally revealed is quite interesting. Starkey takes the timey-whimeyness and cranks things up to eleven in the second episode with the introduction of possible futures. To say any more would spoil the second act. But once, more, not having enjoyed Starkey’s debut co-authored Terror of the Sontarans with John Dorney in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised by this. Keep it up Mr Starkey.

Kill The Doctor!
Kill The Doctor!

KILL THE DOCTOR! & THE AGE OF SUTEKH

Kill the Doctor! and The Age of Sutekh forms the final four-part story split over two discs. It is down to Guy Adams to craft a suitable tale for the return of one of Doctor Who’s most enduring monsters, the Osiran God, Sutekh.

What is so impressive about these two tales is that Adams does something very, very clever with it. First of all, he decided to set it after the events of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: Volume 2 and these stories see Sutekh having been reduced into something akin to the Great Intelligence, a creature that inhabits people’s minds. Having been reduced to a floating consciousness, Sutekh is hungrier than ever to get back to the land of the living only to destroy it all!

It is a real delight to hear Gabriel Woolfe back as Sutekh, his voice is so deliciously evil, (I’m sure he is a really nice guy in real life!) and it works so well on audio. Hearing his interactions with Leela is a delight too. Leela came at a time when a lot of the monsters were original creations. On television, she never met the Daleks, the Sontarans, Cybermen, The Master, Omega or Sutekh. On audio, she has met all of them and then some in various forms, be it in Doctor Who, Gallifrey or Jago & Litefoot. Leela has now joined Sarah Jane, Ace and Bernice Summerfield in the list of companions who have socked it to Sutekh!

The Age of Sutekh
The Age of Sutekh

OVERALL

The performances from all around are just excellent, I don’t think, if you’ll pardon the pun, there is a bad penny amongst them all. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on fine form and I hope they continue to travel together for as long as humanly possible. Gabriel Woolfe is still just as sinister as Sutekh as he was in 1975. The guest cast is excellent, with Darren Boyd, John Dorney and Sophia Myles particularly standing out.

The sound design from Jamie Robertson is great too, effortlessly fitting in with every story without distracting you too much from the tale and the direction from Ken Bentley is superb. Bentley is only one of a handful of directors at Big Finish who seem to know how to get the best out of their actors. He has done it again here. Well done.

This set is just excellent. The stories are great with some great scripts and concepts from everyone involved. The cast is fabulous and the whole thing feels like a well put together package. One might even say it is essential…

RATING 9/10

Synopsis

7.5 The Shadow of London by Justin Richards

The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship’s library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.

But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians… whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.

Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild… and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.

7.6 The Bad Penny by Dan Starkey

In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite… which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.

When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.

Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.

You can check in… but you can never leave.

7.7 Kill the Doctor! by Guy Adams

The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the datastream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.

But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.

Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s datastream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?

7.8 The Age of Sutekh by Guy Adams

The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.

As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.

Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.

A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.

Written By: Justin Richards, Dan Starkey, Guy Adams
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs, Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Darren Boyd (Hemmings), Timothy Speyer (Fanshaw), Catherine Bailey (Maddox), Dan Starkey (Hadean/ Small Hadean/ Liddell/ Mr Richards), Keith Barron (Lord Tulip), Greg Haiste (Ron Tulip), Andrew Ryan (Edwin), Laura Rees (Deborah / Major Harris), Sophia Myles (Rania Chuma), Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh), Eleanor Crooks (Kendra), John Dorney (Charlton Joyce), Barnaby Edwards (Ash/ Stall Owner/ Shop Keeper/ Barge Captain/ Dupree). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

The Lure of the Nomad sees the Sixth Doctor travelling around the universe with a new companion Mathew Sharpe, play by George Shear, it also kicks off a new trilogy for the Sixth Doctor and is the last Big Finish audiobook to feature the iconic side-bar cover before they switch to the new logo.

For thousands of years, it has drifted through space, forgotten and lifeless and then one day it is seemingly discovered. The Doctor and his new companion Mathew Sharpe respond to a distress call, where they find the multi-tentacle Makara who have gone from renovated a space-station to killing its inhabitants. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the Makara has been programmed to kill. But who by and for what purpose? The truth will threaten the entire universe…

Doctor Who: Lure of the Nomad
Doctor Who: Lure of the Nomad

Author, Matthew J. Elliot, gives us a rather enjoyable sci-fi story which has more to it than appears at first glance. One thing that will grab your attention is the darker tone of the adventure, certainly the darkest since The Peterloo Massacre released a few years ago. With that darker tone comes some great humour and a few shocking moments scattered throughout the runtime. But what of the story itself?

I have to admit it but The Lure of the Nomad failed to really grip me, it kept me interested but I found my mind wandering at moments throughout the tale. The Lure of the Nomad is a story that requires your attention at all times, something that unfortunately it didn’t have from me. But what this story does very well is taking it in one direction and then, at the final hurdle, switching things up and changing tracks giving us a thrilling cliff-hanger at the end of the third episode. What begins as a simple base-under-siege tale changes when the Doctor begins to experience time shifts to an alien race who should be nothing but a footnote in history. It moves expertly, not really jarring you out of the story but as I stated above, if you aren’t paying the fullest of attention, you might lose the plot a little.

The new companion, Mathew Sharpe is an interesting creation. Played by George Shear, he is an enjoyable character, who like Mel did on the television, turns up first in the middle of his adventures with the Doctor. A space pilot, probably from around the time of Steven Taylor or Sara Kingdom, Sharpe is capable of looking after himself while his younger age means he is still a little vulnerable and needs rescuing from time to time. I found myself really getting into his character and investing my time in his debut story. Given how pivotal he is to the plot, he gets a really large chunk of the action and with this being Shear’s first foray into the world of Big Finish, he acquits himself nicely. He has a nice rapport with the supporting cast and with Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor and the pair do feel like they have been travelling the universe for a while. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from Mathew Sharpe and that Big Finish let us delve into some of his earlier adventures soon!

But Mathew Sharpe isn’t the only interesting character to spend time with the Doctor in this story. We’ve got the shady businessman, Eric Drazen playing a large part in the plot too. Drazen is a really cool character who wants to do the right thing, even if it goes against every dodgy thought in his head. Drazen would have been a brilliant anti-hero companion, along with the same lines as a certain, not-a-Nazi, Elizabeth Klein. He and the Doctor make an excellent pair and it is a shame that they don’t go off in the TARDIS at the end of the story.

The Lure of the Nomad, on reflection, is a play that is rather different from the normal output from Big Finish. The story does have an epic quality to it and the emotional torment the Doctor has to endure is equally as epic is scale. Matthew J. Elliot gives us a story where the characters are well rounded and fit nicely into the tense and dangerous world they inhabit. George Shear makes a dynamic debut for Mathew Sharpe and I hope we hear more from him in the future. But ultimately, it is a story about atoning for one’s sins and the lengths people will go to do just that…

Synopsis

For thousands of years, it has drifted through space, unimpeded, forgotten, seemingly lifeless. Now, finally, it has been discovered.

Responding to a distress call from the mysterious hulk, the Doctor and his companion, space pilot Mathew Sharpe, walk into a desperate situation. The multi-tentacled semi-bionic Makara was tasked with renovating the abandoned craft, but now they’ve begun murdering their employers.

The Doctor soon realises that the Makara has been programmed to kill, but by whom, and for what reason? Finding out the truth will mean uncovering a secret that threatens the entire Universe.

Written By: Matthew J Elliott
Directed By: John Ainsworth

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), George Sear (Mathew Sharpe), Matthew Holness (Eric Drazen), Susie Riddell (Esther Brak), Ruth Sillers (Willoway), Jonathan Christie (Captain Schumer), Anna Barry (Juniper Hartigan), Dan March (Varian). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Welcome to Episode 188…

The News

Sadly, Graham Strong, custodian of a large collection of high-quality classic Who audio recordings has passed away aged 69.

Merch Corner

The upcoming Series 12 Blu Ray boxset is being delayed by a week to Monday 18th June and there’s a new image released showing the awesome inside, booklet and disc artwork.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” Review

More series 6 shenanigans this week as we continue the 11th Doctor’s story. This one isn’t so much about Hitler but more about River (thank you Moff 🙄) so does it entertain like a sweet melody or get drowned out by story arc faff.

Thank you for joining us for 188. Next week we’re back to The Sarah JaneAdventuress and Eye of the Gorgon (and a special guest co-host). Have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Cyber-Reality sees Big Finish continue to explore the modern world of UNIT with the continuing adventures of Kate Stewart, Osgood and the rest of the gang. The previous boxset, Encounters, introduced the Auctioneers, a fanatical group who collect alien artefacts and sell them on to the highest bidder, they are using virtual reality to hold its prisoners. But something else is using the world of virtual reality, something silver, something that used to be human.

UNIT: Cyber-Reality
UNIT: Cyber-Reality

The Auctioneers, a secret global network who collect and exploit alien technology. They have been a thorn in UNIT’s side for a while now but the consequences of their actions are most certainly grave and Kate Stewart has vowed to take them all down. But the Auctioneers aren’t the only threat UNIT has to face, a couple of old foes are waiting in the wings. The Cybermen are coming to our world and the Doctor isn’t around this time. Kate has no choice but to turn to another source for help. The Master…

Game Theory
Game Theory

GAME THEORY

Game Theory picks up from where Encounters left off, Sam Bishop has gone missing, he is lost at sea with a very valuable hostage with Kate and Osgood subjected to a number of games to save him. The script from Matt Fitton brings together two main plotlines being brought together one left over from the previous set and the main arc for this set but they both have a common endpoint with Warren Brown giving us a very intense performance is UNIT’s trouble-shooter who must use his instinct and military training to piece together the mystery.

Kate and Osgood have also got a lot to do here, with their rescue mission for Sam seeing them go from one dangerous situation to another. There are Krillitane codes to crack and rust eating viruses to defeat and Matt Fitton suitably ramps the stakes up, especially when Kate realises that they are being set up to fail by the mysterious Overseer.

Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver are excellent as the double act of Kate & Osgood and their performances are brilliant as their characters begin to take the advantage and take the fight straight to the Auctioneers.

Game Theory is a highly enjoyable way to begin this set with the script from Matt Fitton really showing the strengths of those UNIT characters included. The performances are also brilliant, particularly from Warren Brown whose performance is so intense you are on tenterhooks the whole time.

Telepresence
Telepresence

TELEPRESENCE

Guy Adams pens the next story, Telepresence which takes the idea of virtual reality and pushes it even further with Osgood, Colonel Shindi and Josh Carter being sent on a perplexing journey into a mysterious realm. It was fun to hear them all coming to terms with what they could and couldn’t do in their virtual reality and there are plenty of references and nods to previous Doctor Who adventures if you are really paying attention, especially when it comes to certain metal-meanies. We’ve got strange dogs and metal worms as well as super-speed and the idea of mind-over-matter in an arid desert. They must remain alive as they travel to the dark heart of this strange world.

It was nice that Adams kept Sam Bishop suffering seemingly from his prolonged exposure to Auctioneers’ equipment. But things quickly take a turn for the worst for Sam, Osgood, Shindi, Josh and Kate as Adams also ramps the tension up and the stakes get higher as the real baddies become apparent.

Code Silver
Code Silver

CODE SILVER

Code Silver, also from Guy Adams sees things go from bad to worse as Osgood, Shindi and Sam emerge partially converted to a Cyber-form. Kate mentions at one point that she could handle a group of Cybermen but up against Osgood she doesn’t stand a chance. There can be no denying that the Cybermen are one of the biggest threats to the Doctor Who universe with their many variations and upgrades especially given how parallel their origins are with humanities current technological status. But there are some body horror moments as we hear people having their individualities stripped away.

Code Silver doesn’t deal too much with the consequences of cyber-conversion and Adams instead decides to explore the reasons why some of the Cybermen always seem different to the others. Knowing that some are vulnerable to gold, radiation and emotions, Kate goes on to arm herself and Josh with different weapons depending on which Cybermen they are facing. So much happens in this story that it would spoil it to talk about any further.

Master of Worlds
Master of Worlds

MASTER OF WORLDS

It all comes to ahead with Master of Worlds in which the War Master, played by Sir Derek Jacobi pays a visit. What I love about the War Master is that he has this constant feeling that he is running. He just pops up, tries to find something or get away from somewhere and then moves on. This is still what happens this time, even if he gets a little caught up in the adventure.

The Doctor would stay around to help the situation but the motivations for the Master “helping” are purely motivated by self-preservation and the desire to get back to his TARDIS. The Master has a long history with UNIT and because of this, The War Master can see that Kate is willing to take more extreme measures than her father was. The Master makes a brilliant point that they would be unstoppable if they just converted Kate and Osgood and the Master is at his best here when he is taunting Sam about his feelings for Osgood. The scene is excellently sinister and Jacobi is just vicious when he is trying to take people down. The War Master is easily one of the best incarnations of the Master and it is down to the excellent performance Jacobi gives us each time he comes around.

OVERALL

Cyber-Reality is a really well-produced set that continues the story of UNIT superbly. The performances are pitch perfect with all the cast giving it their all. If I were to say anything negative about this set, it would be that it takes too long to introduce the threat of the Cybermen and the Master both of whom are the main selling points. But Derek Jacobi is just brilliant and his performance is a definite highlight. Cyber-Reality might be one of the best UNIT releases to date, let’s hope this quality continues in the future…

Torchwood has always been a mixed bag for me with Big Finish. There was no denying the excitement surrounding Big Finish’s announcement they would begin to continue the Torchwood story in 2015 but the narration style of storytelling wasn’t something that appealed to me and it didn’t suit the style of the television series. Eventually the narration style was taken away and was replaced by full cast audio drama’s but still, something felt missing for me, having tried a number of different titles, even the first volume of Aliens Among Us, didn’t really grip me. When I heard that the original cast was getting together to produce a new story I decided to give it a go, almost as though it was going to be my swansong to the Torchwood range. But Believe might have convinced me to stick around and see what the Torchwood range has to offer in the future.

The three-disc set, all written by Guy Adams and directed by Scott Handcock takes place towards the tail end 0f the second series of the show and the story revolves around the main cast, Captain Jack, Ianto, Toshiko, Owen and Gwen. The cast is stripped down a little with smaller characters like Rhys and PC Andy not being featured at all, even though they are as much a part of the Torchwood family as the main cast.

The Church of the Outsiders believes that mankind is going to evolve and reach out to the stars. But Owen Harper believes that Torchwood should do whatever they can to stop them…

Torchwood: Believe
Torchwood: Believe

The cast of Torchwood has gone from project to project, John Barrowman has gone onto DC Comic Book series, Arrow as Malcolm Meryln and fought the likes of Green Arrow, Black Canary, The Flash, Supergirl and the Legends of Tomorrow, he was last seen saving his daughter Thea Queen from a landmine. Burn Gorman enjoyed a stint on the US show Forever and is currently working on a number of movie roles and Eve Myles is doing a lot of television dramas over here in the UK. As you can imagine, it was a logistical nightmare to get everyone together and as such, there are only a few scenes where the whole gang appears together. But the opening scene is brilliant as each character gets their time to shine in a mission briefing and we are treated to some bickering as Owen tells them all about the Church of the Outsiders and a small gang who recently hit a UNIT warehouse. Because of the cast not being together, the characters are split up, Tosh and Owen go after the cult’s accountant, Lanto infiltrates the Outsiders and Gwen protects the Cult leader’s daughter while Jack goes off somewhere in a huff and pouts.

It is delightful that each character gets a decent chunk of the action but is definitely nice that Owen and Tosh get the best storyline here. We’ve all heard Gwen running off to be an action hero and Lanto being incredibly nice to people, Owen and Tosh are the two who have had the least character development on audio and it was nice to see that happen here, though I am still waiting to hear an Esther Drummond audio from Miracle Day! Owen and Tosh had a sort of love story on the series and Believe explore that as it tests their different outlooks on life and sex. It can be an uncomfortable listen at times but that makes this series all the better and the performances from Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori are brilliant.

Believe is far from the first big Torchwood event Outbreak and Aliens Among Us have had an epic quality about them. Believe is much smaller in comparison and sometimes this works and sometimes it works against the whole piece. There are moments that are very interesting and the story wraps up nicely. But there are moments that could lose someone’s interest, like the scenes of Lanto at the Church of the Outsiders which feel a little too stretched out.

It goes without saying that the performances are top-notch, not that we should expect anything else from this gang. John Barrowman, Gareth David Lloyd, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori and Eve Myles are sublime, each one devouring the rich and powerful script. The guest cast is also excellent with Arthur Darvill (Frank Layton) and Lois Meleri Jones (Andromeda) standing out as two powerful performers. Darvill has just finished a long, three-season stint on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow so it is nice to hear him in a Big Finish play again.

The script from Guy Adams is just as brilliant and is very interesting. It wrong-foots you at the beginning but by the end of the piece has some interesting things to say about belief. And of course, this being Torchwood, when I say ‘interesting’, I mean ‘depressing’. But Adams captures the real world that Torchwood inhabits perfectly. The Church of the Outsiders is depressing with many of the characters ending the play with their beliefs shattered or being embarrassed by what they believe in, as many people do in the real world. The large cast of characters begin by wanting certain things and when they get them, they wish they hadn’t, just like real life too.

Believe might not an action epic, but the great script, superb acting and strong direction give us another enjoyable character piece for the Torchwood team…

RATING 9/10

Synopsis

The Church of the Outsiders believe that mankind is about to evolve, to reach out into the stars. Owen Harper believes that Torchwood has to do whatever it takes to stop them.

Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), Mac McDonald (Steve Ross), Lois Meleri Jones (Andromeda), Mali Harries (Val Ross), Arthur Darvill (Frank Layton), Rhian Blundell (Erin), Chris Rankin (Val’s Assistant), Lloyd Meredith (Davey Russell), Jennifer Sims (Grey), Aled ap Steffan (Grey). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Producer James Goss
Script Editor Steve Tribe
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Welcome to Episode 187…

The News

Our Candian friends are getting the Genesis of the Daleks in cinemas and an update on that Hartnell An Unearthly Child script that went up for auction.

Merch Corner

Some new novels are on the way to coincide with series 11/Jodie’s Doctor later this year and a cool signing event in June for the 7th Doctor Titan comics.

“Day one” Review

It’s Gwen’s first day on the job and after a bit of a #fail, Cardiff is now in the midst of an orgasm energy seeking alien cloud. All good or a bit of an anti-climax?

Thank you for joining us for 187. Next week it’s modern Who and we’re continuing with the 11th Doctor for Let’s Kill Hitler. Have a lovely week and until next time – Allons-y!

Ah, the Eighth Doctor on audio. It all used to be so simple, you had Charley, C’Rizz, Mary then Lucie. Then Dark Eyes came out and felt like a real epic, then Doom Coalition and then Time War and now, Ravenous. The only problem is that all the Eighth Doctor stuff never feels like it has happened in chronological order anymore. What doesn’t help is that in Ravenous, the Doctor is travelling with Liv and Helen and in Time War he is with Bliss, so many time jumps can really make things confusing and you feel like you are missing out if you don’t buy releases that get mentioned later on down the line. Perhaps that is the biggest problem with this set, you have to hear Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition to get the whole story.

Doctor Who Ravenous Volume 1
Doctor Who – Ravenous Volume 1

Having saved the universe and restored peace at home, the Doctor and Liv go in search of their lost friend, Helen. They follow a trail of breadcrumbs through time and space, from the war rooms of WW2 to a space station experimenting with dangerous time travel. They eventually wind up in a maximum security prison where an old enemy is waiting in the wings with a rather unsavoury plan…

Their Finest Hour
Their Finest Hour

THEIR FINEST HOUR

Ravenous kicks off with Their Finest Hour, a little story set in WW2 which focuses on the Doctor and Liv having to stop a spaceship which is wiping out Churchill’s air force. This is easily one of the best stories of the set, quickly setting up the action and rarely letting that feeling go. It certainly is an energetic start to the new set with Paul McGann being his usual lovable self, devouring the material he has been given.

Their Finest Hour will possibly go down well with fans because it gives us a chance to appreciate Liv a little bit more. This is nothing to do with Nicola Walker’s performance but in the previous sets, Liv has never really stood out, next to the Daleks, the Master and Molly in Dark Eyes, The Eleven and River Song in Doom Coalition, she has never really had time to shine. She is brilliant in Robophobia, her debut story with Sylvester McCoy from a few years ago and this story gives her plenty to do. In fact, she gets much more to do than the Doctor as she joins a pilot in the air and literally dives from an alien spaceship with a parachute. Walker seems to delight in the material too and as a result, I got a real appreciation for Liv.

Like The Night Witches, Big Finish has once more taken some points from the era that we wouldn’t have learnt about in our history lessons. The Night Witches taught us about the Russian Night Witches who would fly planes and try to stop the Nazi advancement by blowing up their convoys. Their Finest Hour looks at the Polish fighter pilots who got involved to avenge their friends and family who they had an idea if they were still alive. There is one particularly moving speech Liv’s friend gives her about his family that is performed brilliantly and will bring a tear to the eye.

Ian McNiece is back as Winston Churchill and I must say, I much prefer him with the past Doctors than the modern ones. He just suits the way they older Doctors act than the rather energetic performance of the Eleventh Doctor. And McNiece is wonderful as always.

How To Make A Killing In Time Travel
How To Make A Killing In Time Travel

HOW TO MAKE A KILLING IN TIME TRAVEL

Like Their Finest Hour, How to Make a Killing in Time Travel is a lighter affair but being from the mind of John Dorney, it is quite a dark farce, even if it isn’t as successful as some of his other recent work. It really feels like a story which is trying to escalate and escalate but never really delivers on that front.

Still, the guest cast is brilliant, Judith Roddy puts in a great performance as Stralla Cushing and Christopher Ryan is excellent as the Security Chief Macy but director Ken Bentley never quite hits the kind of tone the story needed. It is virtually impossible not be hit half-way through this tale by its lack of substance. In a story like this, I couldn’t tell you what was needed but something was missing.

World of Damnation
World of Damnation

WORLD OF DAMNATION & SWEET SALVATION

Although they are released on two separate discs, these two episodes by Matt Fitton are really a two-part story. We finally find out what has been happening with Helen and the Eleven and the Kandyman from The Happiness Patrol is thrown into the mixture for good measure. As a fan of the Sylvester McCoy era, I was looking forward to this reunion and the idea is certainly a sound one. The Kandyman is serving confectionary to the inmates of a maximum security prison to alter the minds of the prisoners. But the change in the design of the iconic monster to work on audio seems a little silly as does changing his voice, no matter how damn good the actor is. I know there was some rights issues to his character but still. The Kandyman is one of those monsters who need to look sick and sweetly to really work and I like Nicolas Rowe in the role a lot, he just wasn’t I would have liked.

And unfortunately, the story feels like a Matt Fitton-by-numbers tale with a lot of the characters feeling supercilious to the loud bangs and action and the structure of World of Damnation is probably too clever for its own good. And then there is the notion that the Doctor doesn’t trust Helen any more thanks to her exposure to the Eleven which comes out of nowhere and then doesn’t have anything done with it. But the idea that the Eleven and Helen have some kind of connection is an interesting one but all too soon, the Eleven is ranting and raving about taking over the cosmos. The concept of the Eleven and Mark Bonnar’s performance is brilliant but it really does feel like Big Finish hasn’t quite worked out what to do with him just yet and that is a shame because it really limits the kinds of stories it can tell as a result.

Sweet Salvation
Sweet Salvation

OVERALL

It might be impossible not to feel a little let down with Ravenous Volume 1, it is certainly a rather underwhelming start to latest Eighth Doctor saga. One doesn’t know if this boxset format is getting tired or the creators or if I am a little.

Paul McGann will always be a brilliant Doctor and his performance is excellent, as are Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan and Mark Bonnar’s. But in a boxset which will go up to an expensive full price in a little over a month’s time, this set needed to be so much better…

RATING 7/10

Synopsis

Having saved the universe and restored peace at home, the Doctor and Liv go in search of their friend, Helen. Following a trail of breadcrumbs through space and time, they discover an unsavoury conspiracy, and an old enemy lurking in the shadows, waiting.

1.1 Their Finest Hour by John Dorney

In the early days of the Second World War, a strange and elusive craft attacks British targets. Could it be a German superweapon? Churchill calls for the Doctor’s assistance and with the help of a squadron of Polish fighter pilots the TARDIS crew take to the skies to investigate.

1.2 How to Make a Killing in Time Travel by John Dorney

A disturbance in the vortex causes the TARDIS to land on the Scapegrace space station, where Cornelius Morningstar experiments in time-travel for nefarious purposes. But the Doctor’s plan to stop him winds dangerously out of control as the different agendas of criminals, murderers and alien dynasties conspire against him.

1.3 World of Damnation by Matt Fitton

Rykerzon is a maximum-security planetoid designed to hold the most dangerous criminals in the star system. The Governor plans to reform its inmates, with the help of the Kandyman. But two prisoners prove particularly troublesome: the alien fugitives known as the Eleven and Miss Helen Sinclair.

The Doctor and Liv have finally tracked down their friend – but are they too late?

1.4 Sweet Salvation by Matt Fitton

The Eleven has the authorities in the palm of his hand and an entire world held to ransom when the Kandyman cooks up a deadly confection containing a secret ingredient. In a last-ditch attempt to prevent disaster Liv teams up with a desperate criminal, and the Doctor must decide whether Helen is still his friend.

Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Mark Bonnar (The Eleven), Ian McNeice (Sir Winston Churchill), Laurence Dobiesz (Wilhelm Rozycki), Gyuri Sarossy (Jan Ostowicz), Tracy Wiles (Secretary / Ground Control), Beth Chalmers (The Heliyon), Roger May (Cornelius Morningstar / Verdarn), Judith Roddy (Stralla Cushing), Sarah Lambie (Gorl), Jane Booker (Dron / Yetana), Christopher Ryan (Macy), Nicholas Rowe (The Kandyman), Amerjit Deu (Governor), Charlie Condou (Crabhead / System / Jarl), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Ruzalla), Beth Goddard (Ludina Braskell).  Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

If you stopped to really consider it, being a companion of the Doctor can be a rather dangerous adventure. Despite the best-laid plans, the Tardis will take the Doctor, whether by accident or design to a time or place that needs his help and the companion of the time just follows in his steps. With all the adventures the doctor has, the enemies he meets, the odds, in reality, are against the companion living that long. The companion just doesn’t have the inbuilt resilience of a Timelord to regenerate when mortally wounded unless they are Romana. However remarkably very few over the years have actually died.

Dangerous liaison

Maybe it is just me but if I stepped outside the Tardis onto a new world I’d guarantee I’d be the first one to fall down the mountain. I don’t have any survival skills training, know how to fire a gun against a Cyberman or use martial arts against an Exxilon. It would be thank-you but good night.

The killing off of a companion in Doctor Who hasn’t happened very often. I am referring here to physically and for good, so exclude mind wipes and alternative realities from your memory. It has only happened three or four times in classic Who over 26 seasons, with Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) in 1982’s ‘Earthshock’, Peri (Nicola Bryant) in 1984’s ‘Mindwarp’ and the short-lived Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh) and Katarina (Adrienne Hill) in 1965/1966’s blood-thirsty ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’. In New Who it has happened twice so far, in series 9 Clara died in ‘Face the Raven’ and in series 10 Bill died in ‘Fall of the Doctor’.

Don’t wander off

Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily cast the Doctor as the typical hero archetype in the mould of the Arthurian knights of the round table there would be something very wrong in the series if the Doctor let all his companions die on these journeys. He behaves like a hero and tries to mediate and save people and bring peace to planets. We have seen that he has been a warrior defending Gallifrey but he takes that role on himself and distances his companions from any participation. Leela was for some reason the exception perhaps because she was a Servaten tribe warrior who could look after herself?

He also tells the companion his rules of travel. Jackson Lake, when he believed he was the Doctor, told his companion Rosita ‘The Doctor’s companion does what the Doctor says’ The fourth Doctor told Romana to stay close to him, do exactly as he says and to let him do all the talking. The seventh doctor told Ace he was in charge and more than one Doctor in the New Series has told the companion to not wander off. The Doctor is the main character with the magical box who invites the companion along. So, it is implied by the structure that it is his duty to try his hardest to protect his companion.

But there is the possibility that his companions might die and their families wouldn’t know. Ian, Barbara, Tegan returned to London many months after they left with the Doctor and I do wonder did no one from their family or friends whilst they were away wondering what had happened to them?  People disappear and normally they are missed and I thought it was really inventive that Russell T Davies in ‘Aliens of London’ actually tackled the issue of what happens when someone just disappears off with the doctor. Jackie Tyler was beside herself with grief thinking the worst when Rose had been missing for a year. With an acknowledgement that life with the Doctor was dangerous, this led to her begging Rose not to go back out to the stars with the Doctor. She questioned the Ninth Doctor whether her daughter was safe travelling with him, he couldn’t guarantee it but that discussion pricked his conscience enough to protect Rose by sending her back to Earth in ‘Parting of the Ways’ to her mum Jackie rather than let her die as the Delta wave hit the space station.

A daughter of the gods

The killing off of a character is a dramatic device used in a lot of television series whereby a character dies, but the story continues. It can be an effective tool although the structure of Doctor Who doesn’t seem to support it happening too frequently as the companion is normally our eyes into the story. Katerina was the first companion to die in the programme and what I like is she was an experimental type of companion as she wasn’t representative of the audience. This was partly why she was written out of the programme so quickly by the writers because they thought it limited her possibilities but I rather like her. She believed she was dead already and the viewer was far more knowledge about the Doctor and his machine than her.  But if the doctor is a hero then a companion’s death can also be heroic and she fulfils a purpose within the story as the innocent who saves their lives. Katarina’s kind nature provided a real contrast to Sara’s hard-faced exterior and as she tried to make sense of the Tardis ‘the temple’ it is probably the first time so far, that the Doctor was seen with a new perspective through her eyes. She gives him a due deference with a title as a ‘lord’ It’s an unfamiliar concept now in our secular knowing world but Katerina being from ancient Greece makes it an agreeable idea and her sacrifice became so moving as she must have eventually realised she wasn’t already dead and would die but did it anyway. 

The Doctor: [On the death of Katarina.] “She didn’t understand… She couldn’t understand. She wanted to save our lives. And perhaps the lives of all the other beings of the solar system. I hope she’s found her perfection. We shall always remember her as one of the daughters of the gods. Yes, as one of the daughters of the gods.”

Katarina triggered the controls to the airlock she was held in, propelling both herself and her captor into the vacuum of space.

‘You killed Peri ’

I quite admire John Nathan Turner that he had the gumption to take that most dangerous of paths, killing off a regular character not once but TWICE namely Adric and also Peri. When done successfully it can provide a boost to a programme because of the emotional investment audiences make in characters and the shock value for the viewer. When I watched ‘Mindwarp’ recently as part of the 23rd ‘Trial of a Timelord’ season it was really interesting that it still gave me chills, even after all these years, to see Peri Brown sit up, taken over with the brain of Lord Kiv calling for the guards in that cold alien voice https://youtu.be/e20Wn7Z7uAI and to then be killed by King Ycranos.

Peri met a terrible fate on Thoros Beta
Peri met a terrible fate on Thoros Beta

Apparently, Nicola Bryant had requested of John Nathan Turner that her companion Peri leave in dramatic fashion. She had seen the filming of the departure of Tegan Jovanka (played by Janet Fielding)  https://youtu.be/yHjr4JusPA8  and hadn’t liked what she felt was a rather low-key exit for Tegan after seeing all the wonders of the universe. What a way to go that she was given. For a modern audience now, her death may seem a bit tame but for me, at the time of original transmission, it was shocking to see Peri killed off in this way. What made it genuinely thrilling as a viewer was that the Doctor was taken away and placed in a situation where he couldn’t do anything to save Peri.  It adds a real peril to the drama. Events played out without the Doctor able to exert his usual influence over the outcome. The hero has abandoned the princess. There isn’t a happy ending.

As well as killing off a sympathetic character and giving the viewer a jolt, her death also allowed the story to continue, advance and change direction as the Doctor became determined to uncover the plot against him.

Four’s a crowd

The departure of a companion can be due to other issues besides the actor wanting to leave. Peter Davison’s first season, the 19th, had three companions which caused the writers a headache in giving them all enough to do. It was decided to reduce the number of companions by one by the end of the season. Originally it was going to be Nyssa but I can see why it became Adric. I don’t dislike Adric actually but this was Matthew Waterhouse’s first role and his lack of experience was exposed when the writing made Adric immature and annoying at times (He reminds me a little of Luke Rattigan in ‘The Sontaren Stratagem’).  Both he and Nyssa were characters whose thought relied on logic but Adric always seem to side with the villains (State of Decay and Four to Doomsday) whereas Nyssa had a natural sympathetic affinity with the Doctor due to a shared scientific knowledge. There was an unwillingness to retain the actor on the production side which then led to that character being written out. Its a shame in a way. With a more experienced actor, Adric, who was a rebellious Artful Dodger type, could have been played with a more nuanced performance as he learned from being with the Doctor. Perhaps to grow to become a younger Jamie type character more protective of the female characters.

Adric, the young Alzarian played by Matthew Waterhouse
Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse

Saying that though Adric’s death was quite skilfully done within the whole storyline of ‘Earthshock’. The ending partly due to great direction, music and storyline is fantastically set-up and it primes us for a dramatic conclusion. The doctor although he tries to pilot the Tardis back to the bridge to rescue Adric finds the controls are damaged due to the fight with the Cyberman and then the same situation happens to Adric as the Cyberman there shoots within the control deck of the freighter. Adric doesn’t die as a natural hero through his sacrifice but more due to his stubbornness in refusing to leave in the escape pod because he thinks he can defeat the locks on the freighter. Sadly, it is never proven if he could have been right. So we have the lost potential of youth.

‘The rumours of my death’

I mentioned earlier how it’s a risky road to decide to kill a character. This is because they normally don’t return from their ‘demise’ and if they do it is not without losing some credibility. Soaps have regularly cast new actors to bring back old characters or brought back characters from the dead with the same actor. In 1986, in the US soap Dallas, Bobby Ewing returned to the series in a notorious shower scene with the explanation that his accident and death the year before and a whole season’s events had been a dream. It took the suspension of disbelief that audiences have to have for certain genres to absurd heights from which the show never fully recovered.

Sci-fi is as flexible a format as soap opera if the audience is prepared to hold back any scepticism. The death of a companion is usually seen as final but Steven Moffat in the new series has managed to twist the convention somewhat with companion Clara to give for her a curiously happy ending. Whilst the deaths of Oswin in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ and Clara, the governess in ‘The Snowmen’ were suitably as sad as 21st century Clara dying in place of Rigsy, accepting her fate it was a shame she wasn’t left as such. Some of you will say but Clara’s death has happened and she will go back at some point to fulfil it and on a logical level I understand the argument but the death of a companion is an emotional affair. We invest time and energy in Doctor Who and when a companion dies it raises the dramatic stakes for the audience but if the companion doesn’t stay dead the event loses its meaning for the audience. Did Clara’s death, the result of her own recklessness, become less effective because she came back in ‘Hell Bent’ held between heartbeats deciding to travel with an immortal? In my opinion yes although some may disagree.

Clara's death was delayed for her to travel the universe
Clara’s death was delayed for her to travel the universe

The audience is in a sense being cheated as our emotions are toyed with.  When Adric’s death occurred, the episode ended in silence with a final shot of the mathematical star of excellence he had. It’s an image I’ve never forgotten, as important and final as it was. Adric didn’t pop up again in the next story and the 5th Doctor was firm with Tegan and Nyssa when they begged him to do something.  He couldn’t go back in time and rescue Adric. It would just break too many rules of time travel and fixed points. But it’s also about showing the truth to the audience that actions have consequences. Bring your companion back the next story and it negates all the grief and emotion spent mourning that character. Did Peri’s death lose impact when the Master later advised she hadn’t died but was alive and well married to Brian Blessed’s King?  Certainly. Blame Colin Baker here as he asked JNT what happened to Peri afterwards on Thoros Beta and the production team decided to quickly back-peddle on her demise!

VALEYARD: But Peri died, Doctor, because you abandoned her. We had to end her life because your negligence had made it impossible for her to live.

But JNT inadvertently set a pattern with Peri’s death that the modern series has followed. The show hasn’t been brave enough to do a companion death properly in the new series. RTD used misdirection with Rose as she ‘ died’ in one universe ( on the list of the dead) but was rescued to a parallel world.  I do wonder are the BBC  worried about offending their target family audience? I’m not necessarily saying that writers are reluctant to show that death occurs in the show but it is a sign of our times as a society. Are we now in the 21st century becoming delicate little flowers unable to accept seeing the final loss? Steven Moffat believes that Doctor Who isn’t the type of show where companions should truly die and so he enjoyed resurrecting his characters such as Clara, River and Bill. Although to be fair to River she was meeting the Doctor in an opposite direction to him (but she did turn up a few too many times after her death to labour the point ….ahem ‘Name of the Doctor’ )  Companions are threatened that they will ‘die’ but they don’t not really. Companions have mind wipes, get frozen in time or are transformed after death. But then it is also a risk to go mad with the ploy as employ it too often and then the drama is lessened considerably. Look at how many times Rory ‘died’  and kept coming back….. Get up Rory!

I suppose one reason the death of a companion in Doctor Who is rare because we need the companion who is symbolic of us to enjoy their travels with the Doctor. I do accept in many ways it’s a life-affirming show most of the time and whilst many companions have had their lives changed forever meeting the Doctor (I’m thinking of Sarah, Jo, Donna and Rose) this show isn’t the bloodthirsty Game of Thrones. Maybe we should all just want to believe most of the time ‘everybody lives ‘in Doctor Who including the Doctor’s friends. It does make probably for a better more enjoyable experience.  I do rather like the explanation from spin-off material about Peri that due to the Timelords interference in events on Thoros Beta multiple alternative realities were created and the version of Peri we saw did die but there was also another alternate version of Peri alive having noisy children with King Yrcanos . I can live with that.

You know I never even got started about the evergreen Captain Jack Harkness… he is a whole other story…

Post your comments on here or on Twitter. Let’s talk.

Until next time…

Can you believe that Big Finish are nearly twenty-years-old?! We’ve seen them grow so much since their first release, Bernice Summerfield: Oh No It Isn’t! And the changes are still coming with Big Finish switching from trilogies with one Doctor/companion team and having a stand-alone set of adventures spaced out throughout the year with a different Doctor and a brand new UNIT team.

The Helliax Rift sees the Fifth Doctor being the first to encounter the new UNIT team. Set in the eighties, sometime between Lethbridge Stewart and Bambara, Lieutenant Colonel Price heads the new group. Played by Russ Bain, Price is miles away from the friendly Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, even Brigadier Bambara. He is edgy, ready to use guns instead of words and untrusting, particularly of the Doctor. We’ve also got Corporal Maxwell, played Genevieve Gaunt filling in the Corporal Bell duties and in a real star turn, even though I’ve never seen The Inbetweeners, Blake Harrison stars as Acting Medical Officer, Lieutenant Daniel Hopkins, the substitute companion for this tale.

Doctor Who: The Helliax Rift
Doctor Who: The Helliax Rift

When he joined UNIT, Daniel Hopkins thought he knew what UNIT would be like. Lights in the sky? Check. Traipsing across the countryside after strange lights? Check. Not to mention strange encounters of the first, second and third kinds.

But Daniel Hopkins has no idea what alien beings are really like. All that changes the day of the Fallen Kestrel. The day he met the Doctor…

Author Scott Handcock kicks the story off with the Doctor already on the case following strange signals coming from a part of the English countryside and it turns out that while he has been investigating, UNIT is on the case too but they are chasing each other. All this leads to some humorous callbacks to Peter Davison’s days in All Creatures Great and Small. It isn’t long before the Doctor falls foul of UNIT and lands with the impatient Price. Naturally though, he forms a friendship with the Medical Officer Daniel Hopkins who reminds him of Harry Sullivan, who even gets name-dropped.

The new UNIT gang are a strange one. Maybe it is because we are all so used to the two Lethbridge Stewart groups and understandably, this gang is supposed to be different. But I’m not sure that making them darker and edgier was really the best idea. This results in a leader who is less friendly and takes a little while longer to be liked by the listener. Lethbridge Stewart and Kate are both quite open and friendly, even Bambara, who liked to talk with her fists, would listen to the Doctor. But Price doesn’t, he does his own thing, even if it means getting his men into trouble. There are a couple of moments in this story where you think if he had just listened then everything bad would never have had happened. It is almost so infuriating that it makes it unbearable. Luckily the performance from Russ Bain is good enough to save it from being really irritating and it will be interesting to see if the character gets better in the upcoming audios. The same could be said for Corporal Maxwell who doesn’t really get much to do. Hopefully, she too will get more material in later stories.

The same can’t be said for Hopkins though. From the get-go, Handcock handles the character brilliantly. He is the perfect love-letter for Harry Sullivan and he bounces off the Doctor brilliantly. The performance from Blake Harrison is pitch-perfect too. Having never seen The Inbetweeners, the star factor was completely lost on me but it just adds to the fact that Big Finish are getting more and more well known. Hopkins works brilliantly with the Fifth Doctor and the pair are very similar. They both feel a little out of place with the new darker-UNIT as both would prefer to ask first rather than shoot first and ask later. Both care about people and when they both discover where the strange signals are coming from, Hopkin’s throws himself into hero mode, doing all he can to save all those he can. It will be extremely interesting to see how he interacts with the Sixth Doctor in July’s Hour of the Cybermen.

Handcock’s story is a sound one, even if it does lose it a little towards the end. While the first two episodes are quite amusing, throwing glances at Doctor Who and Davison’s role in All Creatures Great and Small, the last two episodes take a darker tone, with people being shot and creatures tearing each other apart, a little too graphically maybe for a Doctor Who audiobook.

What makes The Helliax Rift really work though is that it is never clear who is the real villain of the piece. It is a shame that this is never fully explored to any great detail, with any messages of who is right or wrong when it comes to armies and violence when it is overshadowed by action that can get a little confusing to follow at times. But if you try and look past the story’s visual feel there are a few messages dotted about here and there if you can catch them.

The good script from Scott Handcock is dealt with brilliantly by Jamie Anderson who has become a really masterful director at Big Finish. Each story he has directed has been a good one, sometimes even a brilliant one and The Helliax Rift is no different. For its few faults, it rattles along at a surprising pace and is enjoyable throughout. The music and sound design Joe Kraemer and Josh Arakelian are very evocative and there are some brilliant 80s motifs added to the music style to help fit this tale into its intended decade.

All-in-all, The Helliax Rift is an enjoyable little story that, might not set the world on fire but will give you an enjoyable couple of hours. Blake Harrison’s Hopkins is certainly a breakout character and it will be interesting to hear him interacting with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors later on down the line. And the new UNIT team is interesting, even if they don’t feel like they settled too well in the Doctor Who world just yet. But I have faith in Big Finish that this all part of their story, estranging the Doctor from UNIT a little. It’s certainly going to be an interesting experiment that I look forward to seeing the continuation of when the 80s Cybermen, voiced once more by David Banks’, return in a few months time with Hour of the Cybermen