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The amazing soundtrack to The Five Doctors was recently released and thanks to our friends at Silva Screen we have two copies to give away.

The Five Doctors Soundtrack
The Five Doctors Soundtrack

Details of the soundtrack:

The bracing, spine-chilling and atmospheric music soundtrack was composed by Peter Howell at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with special effects by Dick Mills. The Five Doctors album features both the original score and the BBC Video special edition version which was, in 1995, produced, reworked and extended by Peter Howell.

Peter Howell comments: “Listening again to the score for The Five Doctors, it seems to represent a very particular period in time when the variety of sounds at our disposal was becoming extensive, yet the ability to memorise them was yet to come; when the quality of taped sound was impressive but the equipment was large and the use of it sometimes clumsy and mechanical. In those days, you really did need a studio full of gear and you really did need to play it all.”

The Five Doctors (1983), was a 90 minute TV special made by the BBC to celebrate 20 years of Doctor Who. In this extraordinary story The Doctor and his previous incarnations are brought to the Death Zone on Gallifrey as part of a renegade Time Lord’s scheme. Here, Peter Davison joins previous Doctor Who incarnations – Richard Hurndall (standing in for the deceased William Hartnell), Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. Famously, Baker declined to appear so some footage from “lost” story ‘Shada’ was used instead.

In order to win a copy, either tweet us, comment on Facebook or email us (hello[at]bigblueboxpodcast.co.uk) the answer to the following question:

On what date was the first episode from The Five Doctors broadcast globally?

We will announce the winner on next week’s show (Friday 5th October) and the winners will be contacted on that day via social media or email.

Good luck Who fans!

This competition is available to residents in the UK only. Full terms and conditions here.

Welcome to Episode 203…

The News

We get another, meatier trailer which takes the show in a very different vibe and some news on the Episode 1 press screening in Sheffield.

Merch Corner

New vinyl exclusives from the 4th and 10th Doctor’s are heading to Sainsbury’s and HMV respectively and three new 13th Doctor books (with their audiobook counterparts) are on the way.

“SJA – The Last Sontaran” Review

We’ve loved reviewing SJA so far and Series 1 was awesome. Are we just as happy with this story that kicks off Series 2 or does a Sontaran in SJA turn out to be too much for our Attic Crew to handle?

Thank you so much for joining us for 203. Next week for episode 204 we’re travelling to visit the 1st Doctor story  – The Tenth Planet. Until then have a fantastic week, do something Doctor Who related and until next time – Allons-y!

So, a proper trailer Doctor Who: Series 11 Trailer #2  has been released and it does look incredibly CINEMATIC as an early clarion call for Jodie Whittaker’s debut has finally delivered some of the excitement and action sequences we have been crying out for months. I hope all the secrecy around the new series is worth it and we are blown away by series 11. Macklemore’s ‘Glorious’ continued to set the sentiment with its lyrics of ‘a new attitude and a new lease of life’ which I liked. It looks grand, expensive, colourful and whilst you can’t really get a sense of Jodie’s Doctor or the companions it promises much… despite continuing the ‘It’s about time ‘motto which I can’t deny worries me. “It’s about time” that I discuss it.

It's About time? ( RadioTimes.com)
It’s about time? ( RadioTimes.com)

So this statement emerged from the oddly toned little 30-second trailer Doctor Who: Series 11 | Release Date Trailer that dropped down a few days ago and was a strange video game style of visuals, which left me annoyed. The trailer didn’t reveal much of the coming series which is okay, considering the secrecy this whole series has been shrouded in but, and this was what annoyed me, concentrated a bit too much on a rather self-satisfied declaration, which I felt wasn’t really needed, with the “Its about time “motto. Presumably, this was meant to have an initial meaning highlighting the time travel element of the programme. I didn’t realise that the phrase had also been used for the promotion of the eighth doctor movie. But with the image of the shattered glass, Jodie saying ‘Whoops’ it was also showing how it is ‘breaking the glass ceiling’. Breaking the glass ceiling refers to the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps women and minorities from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. I understood it but the tone left me feeling slightly confused.

Misogynist: noun 1. “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women”

Isn’t using that imagery and the wording “It’s about time” just allow the programme to shout a little too loudly its credentials about how politically correct and progressive the show is now? There does seem to have been a conscious effort recently to show they are breaking completely from the past but I believe the tone used is too dictatorial against its audience. I was intrigued by the wording of a statement from former Doctor Who Executive Producer and current BBC Drama Controller Piers Wenger “Gone is the daffiness and idiosyncrasy of her predecessors in favour of a Doctor with energy, spark and relatability” The wording seemed crass, a bit of a disrespectful gesture to the loyal fans who have loved previous doctors and a little dismissive what went before. I think there is something very ingrained about the longevity of the character because of his eccentric nature that I can only wish will not be completely lost as Jodie plays the role. So, my question is just who is the production team trying to score points against? Some of the fans who don’t like the idea of a female doctor? Previous production teams classic and new who kept the male status quo? Commercial channels?  A trailer is meant to show off the best of the programme so just let it speak for itself in writing, performance and visuals, without trying to score points for itself in a self-conscious way.

I don’t need Chris Chibnall to educate me via my favourite programme that women have been treated differently whether in the media, the workplace or in private life. I already know we live in a patriarchal society where power structures are dominated by men. A trailer isn’t the right platform for a discussion like this. It has been well documented in history as far back as Aristotle. Aristotle argued in classical times only those with speech and reason could be included in political life and women were excluded from the sphere due to a perceived lack of rationality. The influential scientist Charles Darwin, in the late 19th century, compared the size of female and male skulls and bodies and made assumptions with ‘the greater size and strength of man’ and how women were ‘conscious of their beauty’ as somewhat superficial softer creatures. This enabled him to erroneously confirm why keeping women at home producing children was a valid course for all women. Today women have multiple roles as mothers, wives, and carers which are usually unpaid additions to paid work and their lives are ever more complex to understand.

When Moffat set the model by changing the Master to a woman I suppose becoming a woman felt like a gimmick which he exploited. When the Master was written as a coquettish female in series 8 after a long-established presentation as a male I found it uncomfortable viewing at times especially when there was that flirty kind of interaction with the Doctor being almost assaulted when kissed by Missy. The subject felt clumsily handled but perhaps it is easier to understand and accept these changes happening to a villain rather than a hero as villains are allowed by their nature, a certain licence to be as outlandish as they can be aren’t they? Jacqueline Pearce’s Servalan from Blakes 7 is a case in point as a kind of anti-hero. She was a multi-layered character, devious as a rattlesnake, and you still had a sneaking admiration for her as she plotted to be the ultimate leader using whatever means possible including her sexuality. It worked for her because she was a larger than life character. I do believe in women’s’ rights but I’ve never felt that Doctor Who ‘was the type of programme that ‘needed’ to follow those movements for equality in the lead role. Joanna Lumley didn’t bring anything special to her portrayal of the Doctor in ‘ The Curse of Fatal Death’ and from what I remember ran off with the Master. So when the news broke that the next Doctor was going to be a female about a year ago now I have to honest I felt a real pang of disappointment because I felt the programme was pandering to some kind of misplaced social pressure.

I have nothing against Jodie Whittaker, she may be a very good actress and I do feel a sense of anticipation to see what she brings.  I’ve thought about it though and as a female, I can say categorically that I am not a misogynist because I have disagreed that a woman should play the Doctor. My reasoning is I think it’s about who we grow up with as ‘heroes’. For me, the character of the Doctor that  I have loved since age 13 has been a male hero, pure and simple. It’s not misogyny to expect your heroes not to change gender. Yes, I know the Doctor is an alien and it’s different apparently. Yes, I know it’s not stated anywhere Timelords can’t change gender but making the doctor now a woman has changed that fundamental rock that I have held to as a fan. It has required a readjust to my own expectations because it is monumental.

Missy kissing the doctor
Missy kissing the doctor

I do have female heroes I look up too. I go to Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect or Gill Gascoigne as DI Maggie Forbes in The Gentle Touch. Now, Jane Tennison, there was a woman! She was a Detective Chief Inspector  https://youtu.be/XUZTDDbQiBA  fighting every step against indifference and judgement and somehow surviving the prejudices of a male-dominated profession. Maggie Forbes in The Gentle Touch was a widowed detective Inspector and the series covered social issues and her struggles working in a male-dominated field but also her home life balance trying to raise her son. Jane Tennison was a character who grew and changed over 16 years as did Maggie Forbes.

Doctor Who is a different beast. The history of the show has not had that many stories which are a social or political commentary which then has an impact on the central character. Doctor Who is about the fun and adventure of travelling and the Doctor walks away after each adventure. The Doctor is a moral character and the show pits our ‘hero’ against baddies of various types but it’s a very loose commentary of good and evil not usually requiring some kind of transformation by the end.

Her character was a single mother to a teenage son, juggling family life with her career after the murder of her husband in the show's first episode.
Her character was a single mother to a teenage son, juggling family life with her career after the murder of her husband in the show’s first episode.
Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors in Greater London's Metropolitan Police Service, as she rises to rank of Detective Superintendent whilst confronting the institutionalised sexism that exists within her job.
Jane Tennison, one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, confronted the institutionalised sexism of her role

The irony is when I go online and read the anxieties of fans the one common thing is they say is it doesn’t matter if it’s a woman as long the Doctor stays the same essential character. If that’s the case why bother changing to a female at all? Is it just change for change’s sake.

Taking on the mantle of a showrunner isn’t a job for the timid and now that the baton has been passed on to Chris Chibnall we will have to see if he can pull off this huge gamble, new doctor, new gender, new companions. Its early days and these are unchartered waters, and hopefully interesting times ahead.  There is definitely a Peter Davison vibe to the new series making a bold statement similar to the change from Tom Baker in Classic Who. I said in my article last year that I wouldn’t have been surprised if the series moved away from its traditional slot and lo and behold the programme is finding a home on Sundays which means one day less for the usual weekend internet explosion from fans and for me reading it all with a cup of tea on a lazy Sunday morning at my pc. I’ll miss doing that. Monday morning catch-up on my phone on the way to work won’t be quite the same. There are rumours of an over-reaching arch. Of course, if the series is going for one connected story then there may be a long-term character arch for the Doctor where we will go on a very different journey with her then previously. Can it, will it truly be the same character, my Doctor I ask myself? I’m not sold on Jodie’s accent yet which I hope softens slightly but I will certainly be watching her with huge interest.

Welcome to Episode 202…

The News

A quick update on the DWAS fundraising for the Hartnell Heritage plaque (check their eBay auction items here), talking of the DWAS they’re holding a cool Series 11 launch party if you can get to South End, Earthshock is being shown (the upcoming remastered high-def version) at the BFI London and we chat through a bunch of Series 11 info released by the Beeb.

Merch Corner

Rubbertoe Props release “Sonic docking ports” for the 11th and 12th Doctor Sonic Screwdrivers, Romana’s Sonic is up for orders also from Rubbertoe, a cool looking 13th Doctor children’s book is out in Nov and Missy is heading to Big Finish in 2019.

“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” Review

We had to put this one off last month so it’s come back around for our review. Does this one live up to the grand majesty of its title or does it flop, like a belly flop into a widely know pool somewhere in the TARDIS?

Thank you so much for joining us for 202. Next week for episode 203 we’re heading back to The Sarah Jane Adventures as we kick off the Series 2 story – The Last Sontaran. Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Welcome to Episode 201…

The News

We finally have an airdate for series 11 with a move to Sunday nights, our Australian friends will get the series 11 opener in cinemas, sadly actor Peter Benson (Bor in Terminus) has passed away and we’ve got some info on that K-9 movie that disappeared.

Merch Corner

The 4K UHD release of Twice Upon a Time can now be ordered in the UK, the 13th Doctor is coming to the Mr Men/Little Miss universe with a new story and on the subject of the Hargreaves characters, all 13 Doctors will be released in a collection in early 2019.

Torchwood “Small Worlds” Review

Continuing our plough through series 1, Small Worlds is a “fairy” odd story with some dark tones that we’ve come to expect from Torchwood so far. Likey or stinky?

Thank you so much for joining us for 201. Our review story next week is the Eleventh Doctor story – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (we were meant to review this last month but we had to cancel that ep). Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Back in 2010, Steven Moffat chose to focus his free-time (presumably already at a premium) on revamping Sherlock Holmes for a modern mainstream audience and inadvertently found himself in charge of the two biggest dramas on British TV. It’s tempting to ponder what might have happened if he had instead pitched a more risque, sexier Doctor Who spin-off fronted by Alex Kingston as River Song. For Big Finish, such idle pondering can equal serious boxed set potential and, to date, The Diary of River Song has been the most consistent and enjoyable of their ever-expanding range of spin-offs. The guest appearances by previous Doctors have been the selling point but the real appeal of this series is that it’s essentially Doctor Who with a much greyer morality. Nowhere is this better displayed than in this month’s The Diary of River Song Vol. 4.

The Diary of River Song Series Four Slipcase
The Diary of River Song Series Four Slipcase

Opening with a health spa smackdown straight out of Thunderball, Emma Reeves and Matt Fitton’s Time in a Bottle finds River recalled to her alma mater, Luna University, to join an archaeological expedition and clear her student debt. Previous attempts to collect Professor Song’s payments have resulted in death, we hear, a reminder that we’re in the company of a much more dangerous and self-serving time traveller than the one we’re used to. That said, the scene in which she storms a lecture to dispel various theories and myths could easily be delivered by any of the actors to have played the Doctor, reminding us that this happy couple have a great deal in common.

"Time in a Bottle" Cover Art
“Time in a Bottle” Cover Art

Time in a Bottle often finds River at her most Doctorish, providing her with a ragtag team of companions, an intellectual rival (and possible villain/friend) and a compelling mystery to solve. It also introduces this boxed set’s big bad, the Discordia, a demon-like race of ancient beings with the ability to twist time to their advantage so that they never lose. They’re a high concept villain, and River’s initial confrontation with them is a hell of a way to open the series. (Pun intended) Such wanton disrespect for the laws of time makes the Discordia an ideal foe for River, a character whose complicated personal timeline is ruled by those same laws.

Less suited are her “companions”, an occasionally shrill insectoid bailiff and a fanboy cyborg for whom working with River is ‘amazeballs’, admittedly this is more imaginative than anything the series has attempted since Kamelion, but also proves how difficult it is to warm to characters with no real-world backing. The rivalry between River and Professor Jemima Still (played brilliantly by Fenella Woolgar) is the most compelling relationship in the story, at times Still is the Master to River’s Doctor and vice versa. Overall, Time in a Bottle presents us with the all too rare instance of Professor Song in full-on archaeologist mode, which is a refreshing change of pace. It’s almost a disappointment that once the bottle is open, River is forced to revert to type as a time-hopping action heroine for the second story.

"Kings of Infinite Space" Cover Artwork
“Kings of Infinite Space” Cover Artwork

Kings of Infinite Space by new Big Finish writer Donald McLeary is River Song’s very own version of 1965’s The Chase. On the run from the time travelling Discordia, River and her new companions hop across the universe to avoid capture, the villains even have a robot replica of our heroine! It’s a testament to McLeary’s script that this only occurs to you in retrospect, due in no small part to the relentless pacing and fervent imagination on display. Unsurprisingly given McLeary’s background in comedy (amongst other work, he co-created the Radio 4 sitcom Fags, Mags and Bags) there are some big concepts and equally sized laughs, which pleasingly never derail the drama or undermine the stakes. A recurring gag involving the classification of planets sends up science fiction tropes and provides hope and comfort throughout River’s gruelling journey from world to world. The most memorable of her hops involves a giant talking rat with a degree from Edinburgh University, an encounter which quickly takes a much darker and sinister turn.

In the past, the main show has referred to the vortex manipulator as ‘cheap and nasty time travel’ and it’s as much the ill-effects of overuse on River and her companions as the villainous Discordia that provides the drama in this hugely enjoyable, energetic and imaginative play. Given that McLeary’s sense of humour wouldn’t be out of place in Season 17, we can only hope he gets a chance to write for the 4th Doctor sometime soon. Kings of Infinite Space is the highlight of a set which features Tom Baker flirting with Alex Kingston, which is no small feat.

 

"Whodunnit?" Cover Artwork
“Whodunnit?” Cover Artwork

Given that Whodunnit sits in the middle of Kings and Tom’s appearance, writer Matt Fitton has his work cut out for him to keep us occupied for the hour prior to the main event. What we get is a story with only a tangential link to the overarching Discordia plot. On a dark and stormy night, the great detective Melody Malone arrives at a castle, inhabited by the author Franz Kafka where there has been a murder. What follows is a story that riffs on Christie, Kafka, Heaven Sent, Ghost Light and The Mind Robber whilst never standing on its own two feet. Fatally for a murder mystery, Kafka’s house guests aren’t compelling enough to keep you engaged in the mystery. They’re genre archetypes with faltering accents rather than the complex characters of both Kafka’s fiction and the modern murder mystery. The real mystery isn’t the murder, it’s how River has gone from dodging the Discordia to solving murders in a castle and whilst the eventual resolution goes some way towards explaining the two-dimensional portrayal of the supporting characters

There’s a sense of treading water here, as if the original plan was to have the 4th Doctor arrive earlier, teaming up with River for a two-parter rather than a single episode. There’s no evidence to support this in the behind the scenes documentary on Disc 5, with John Dorney explaining that he always knew how the Fourth Doctor and River Song were to first meet at the beginning of Someone I Once Knew.

"Someone I Once Knew" Cover Artwork
“Someone I Once Knew” Cover Artwork

Having changed the course of history to both achieve their goals and capture River, her marriage to the Doctor has been brought forward by a good number of incarnations. Teaming up with her husband’s fourth incarnation, River sets out to stop the Discordia once and for all by playing them at their own game.

Tom Baker is the last of the surviving classic Doctors to feature in Diary but, without giving too much away, don’t expect that we won’t hear how River gets on with his previous incarnations. On the Behind the Scenes disc, both Alex Kingston and Tom Baker talk with great fondness for each other. From Baker’s point of view, he relishes the opportunity to finally add a new dimension to a character he’s been playing for over 40 years, because, you guessed it, we get to experience the Fourth Doctor’s more romantic side and it’s as sweet and tender and slightly naughty as you would expect. This taps into one of the other appealing factors of the River Song character, she brings out another side of the Doctor. We certainly wouldn’t have had the softer, twinklier Twelfth Doctor without The Husbands of River Song nor would we have had the chance to experience the suave, charming romantic side of the bombastic Sixth Doctor without The Diary of River Song Volume 2. The story of the Doctor and River has always been a love story, and this is what we have here, the fate of the universe and reality itself may be at stake, but at the same time, love stories often dictate a happy ending.

This has been a characteristic of many of Steven Moffat’s season finales, The Big Bang is a battle to save the universe that mostly involves two couples who love each other wandering around a museum whilst Hell Bent is an ominous prophecy that comes down to a destructive and obsessive love between two friends. Dorney taps into the recurring themes of Moffat’s work as well as occasionally riffing on Star Wars to conclude a boxed set which boils down to what happens when an unstoppable force (the Discordia) meets an immovable object (love).

Tom Baker and Alex Kingston
Tom Baker and Alex Kingston

Now that they’ve completed their goal to have River meet all the Doctor’s in reverse order, Big Finish’s next move is to pit River against the Doctor’s best enemy in January’s “Four Masters” boxed set followed by a long overdue crossover with Professor Bernice Summerfield as part of their 20th anniversary set. Frankly, it’s about time, as firstly, it’s often more fun to find out what River’s up to whilst the Doctor isn’t around and secondly, it’ll be hard to beat the pairing of Alex Kingston and Tom Baker.

Welcome to Episode 200…

We made it to 200!

Wow, where has the time gone?! Back in 2014, we had no idea that our show would last this long and how it would progress in an already growing area of Who podcasts. I’m thrilled with the community we’ve built and able to share the good times with you all. Over the last 200 hundred shows, we’ve reviewed a ton of Who (and there’s lots of classic Who left to do!), put together an awesome writing team who put out great articles each week, travelled to plenty of conventions and met lots of you plus we’ve interviewed some great people involved in the show.

A huge huge huge thank you to all of you who take the time each week to listen to our crazy waffle and rantings. Whether you’ve been with us since the early days or you jumped onboard last week – we wouldn’t carry on doing it if there was no one to listen to us. Any interaction you’ve had with us, be it as a listener, chatted with us on the socials, sent in a review etc, you make it all worthwhile. For that, again, Adam and I want to send you all a massive thank you and here’s to the next 200 shows! Ready… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaallons-y!

The News

We kick off with the sad news of Production Designer Michael Pickwoad and Jaqueline Pearce have passed away but then some happier news of our friends in South Africa getting a special Who experience at the first Africa Comic Con.

Merch Corner

The BBC continue their retro audio releases with the Dalek Audio Annual, we gush over the upcoming K-9 figure from Robert Harrop, Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are reuniting for more audio adventures as The Doctor and Lucie Miller at Big Finish and Titan Comics reveal more covers and details for their upcoming 13th Doctor run.

“Earthshock” Review

So we, er, forgot that we did a Davison story recently (Ep197 – Snakedance) but what the hey, more Fifth Doctor action is never a bad thing and so we get stuck into a bit of a milestone for the show with the first (proper) death of a companion. Adric gets bumped off but what about the rest of the story? A decent Cyberman revival or is it “shock”ing?

Thank you so much for joining us for 200. Next week for episode 201 we’re reviewing the Torchwood story – Small Worlds. Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Volume 2 of the new adventures for the Class gang features three new episodes, each one giving our characters some exciting new threats to face. And what fun it is! These two sets have given me my belief in Class back, I think it is safe to say that Class has found its home at Big Finish.

Class is back in session with three brand new adventures!

April likes being the girl who organises events at Coal Hill, but what happens when Reagan Harper arrives. People flock around her as she helps them with their problems, even Ram and Tanya are taken in. But April doesn’t trust Reagan. There is something strange about her. Almost alien…

Tanya and Matteusz find themselves victims of bullying. But someone is looking out for the victims, some kind of avenging angel. But those bullies are ending up in comas. Tanya and Matteusz find themselves thrust into a mystery leading back to the sixties. And they have to wonder who the real bullies are…

Charlie and Quill are called back into Coal School after hours when an alarm is triggered. They find a stranger who calls herself ‘Ace’ in the main hall but she isn’t alone. There is a lone Dalek stalking the corridors, hunting them down, determined to stop their defeat at the hands of the Doctor and Ace in 1963. But When Charlie vanishes in time, Quill has to make a rash allegiance. But will it be one she comes to regret…

The cover for Class Volume Two
The cover for Class Volume Two

EVERYBODY LOVES REAGAN

The second volume kicks off with Everybody Loves Reagan by Tim Foley. Like the opening episode of Volume One, this episode centres around April and Ram, early on in their doomed relationship. He throws Tanya into the mix as well and as a result, Everybody Loves Reagan comes away as an excellent look at the nature of friendship.

The antagonist, even if that line is blurred is Reagan, a girl who has transferred, who quickly becomes the school most beloved student, much to the chagrin of April. Taj Atwal is excellent as Reagan, helping to blur the lines between hero and villain for her character.

In keeping with these sets so far, Foley adds another interesting villain to the mythos. Gifted featured a creature who could give you anything you truly desired and Everybody Loves Reagan gives us a villain who can take your troubles away. And this is where those much-mentioned lines get blurred, is it really something evil to take away someone’s troubles and pains? Or are they what makes us, us?

These sets have done a terrific job at mixing and matching characters that didn’t normally get much to do with each other on the television and April, Ram and Tanya make an interesting trio. Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed put in some particularly strong performances. Vivian Oparah does a good job too, but she isn’t the main focus of this story. She is excellent in the next story, however.

Everybody Loves Reagan is another interesting entry into the world of Class

NOW YOU KNOW…

The second story in this set is, Now You Know… by Tim Leng and it tackles the heavy subject of bullying.

Bullying is something that affected me heavily in my school years. I was bullied very badly and I was deeply moved by this story. In a good way mind!

Now You Know… kicks off almost as a conspiracy story, with letters being given out by teachers at Coal Hill about sick students and they are trying to cover up what is going on in their school. But Tanya and Matteusz quickly discover that it goes far beyond the latest cover-up. There is a mystery that dates back to the sixties. The rift has been opening all that time and things have come through. There is even a cool mention about Ian, Barbara and Susan that pleased this fan’s heart!

Leng pens a powerful story here. Many people say that their school years were the best of their lives. And maybe for some, they were. But for many other people, they were pure hell. In writing Peter Dillard, the school’s avenging angel, Leng seemed to delve into my experiences. My bullying began with name calling and silly things like being pushed around. But that quickly developed into punching and abuse from fellow students, be it, physical, psychological or verbal. It was pure hell for me.

And like Tanya and Mattuesz, I was bullied because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t have the latest tech, I was brighter and more intelligent than most of the students and I liked to learn. Of course, now the tables have turned. Not quite in the same way that Leng makes the bullies pay for what they have done, mine have done time in cells, been fined, picked up for possession of drugs and had sixteen screaming babies by the time they were twenty! What is it they say about karma?!

Leng’s story really moved me, it brought back memories that were both happy and painful for me but had the script been written any other way, the heavy topic it chooses to look at wouldn’t have worked and have been cheapened. And the performances from Vivian Oparah and Jordan Renzo are spot on! Now You Know… is the strongest story of this set, both volumes and one of the most moving pieces of fiction Big Finish have in their catalogue for people who have been through the same things. Well done everyone!

The power behind In Remembrance. Nicholas Briggs, Greg Austin, Katherine Kelly, Scott Handcock and Sophie Aldred
The power behind In Remembrance. Nicholas Briggs, Greg Austin, Katherine Kelly, Scott Handcock and Sophie Aldred

IN REMEMBRANCE

The third and final story of this set is perhaps the story that raised the most eyebrows from fans both hardcore and casual. Guy Adams pens In Remembrance that plays with the popular story Remembrance of the Daleks and works it for a modern audience. And it really works. It is an excellent take on the 1980s epic.

On television, Class was missing something that both The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood had, in the form of an audience identification figure. In Remembrance gives us two. We’ve got Ace and the Daleks! What a pairing.

Being set in the time of Remembrance, it is really nice to hear Nicholas Briggs doing the voices for the 1980s Daleks. They have perhaps the most distinctive voices in the timeline of the metal meanies and it is cool to hear them still rocking it on audio! There are plenty of references to that story too but not enough to distract from the story.

Perhaps the best thing about this story though is the obvious chemistry between Sophie Aldred and Katherine Kelly as Miss. Quill. The pair bounces off each other working as both each other’s opposites and exploring their similarities. Aldred and Kelly are excellent and hopefully, if these sets get some follow-ups, it won’t be the last we hear from this pairing.

Greg Austin also gets some cool moments to shine as Charlie, particularly when he is transported back to the Coal Hill Incident in 1963. His modern take on that world is particularly interesting and funny and there is a brilliant riff on the famous Ace and Baseball Bat moment for Charlie.

OVERALL

Volume 2 of Class is just as brilliant a come back as the first.

There is some really great writing here and some very strong performances to match from both the main cast and guests.

The main cast is on particularly fine form here, lapping up the strong scripts and turning them into some pure audio magic.

The strong scripts and performances are aided along the way under the superb direction of Scott Handcock, who has obviously really enjoyed the material he has been given. He seems to get the best out of his casts every time and long may he continue at Big Finish.

I must put out another shout-out to Tim Leng who penned the story that really resonated with me!

Everything in these two sets has coalesced to give us some very enjoyable entertainment. To anyone who doubted it before, Class does have a place in the Whoniverse. Ignore the bad points about the television series, much of which I put down to the BBC marketing at the time and give these a go…

SYNOPSIS

Three new adventures for the students of Coal Hill Academy, based on the television series created by Patrick Ness.

2.1 Everybody Loves Reagan by Tim Foley

When Reagan Harper joins Coal Hill Academy, everybody instantly loves her – everybody except for April. Is there really more to Reagan than meets the eye? Or are there other forces at work in Coal Hill?

2.2 Now You Know… by Tim Leng

Following a series of freak attacks on staff and pupils, Tanya and Matteusz find themselves investigating a mystery that dates back to the 1960s. Together, they hope to solve it – even if that means turning on one another to do so…

2.3 In Remembrance by Guy Adams

When an alarm is triggered at Coal Hill Academy, Quill and Charlie encounter a mysterious intruder prowling around school premises. Worse, they also encounter a Dalek. Their only hope of survival lies with the stranger: a woman who calls herself ‘Ace’…

THIS CD BOX SET IS A LIMITED PRESSING. ORDER NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT.

Written By: Tim Foley, Tim Leng, Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Katherine Kelly (Miss Quill), Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh), Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean), Vivian Oparah (Tanya Adeola), Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski), Taj Atwal (Reagan Harper), Anson Boon (Peter Dillard), Shvorne Marks (Michelle), Wilf Scolding (Chris Richards) with Sophie Aldred (Ace) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: Scott Handcock
Script Editor: Scott Handcock
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Class is back in session.

After having been cancelled in 2016, after one series, Class has been resurrected by Big Finish for two, three-part volumes. Class was a troubled television show, not least because the fans didn’t seem to want to give it the chance it really deserved.

Overall, I enjoyed it on television, the cast had some great chemistry and there were some thoughtful and enjoyable episodes. But even the sudden-shock appearance from the Weeping Angels at the end of the final episode couldn’t save it from cancellation. These two-volumes from Big Finish aren’t the continuation of the show, but set at various points in the first series, helped along by the large time-gaps between the televised episodes. But did Big Finish work their magic? Will more people give Class the time and love it deserved?

The cover for Class: Volume One
The cover for Class: Volume One

April and Ram are confronted with getting everything they’ve ever wanted. But there is just one problem, it would come at a terrible cost as they will soon discover at Carterhaugh House.

Tanya and Ram take a work-experience at Servelin Laboratories. But soon an alien escapes its confinement and everyone is in danger and it is up to them to stop it.

Charlie and Matteusz are faced with some disturbing truths when they are infected with an alien mind parasite who makes them talk constantly. But will things get better or worse when Miss. Quill gets involved?

GIFTED

The first episode of Volume One instantly feels a lot different from its television persona. With a catchy new theme tune from the talented Blair Mowet, Gifted explodes through your headphones or speakers with a real fresh feeling.

The script from Roy Gill is superb. Taking the same kind of idea from Nightvisiting which saw a grief alien hitting London, Gifted uses another alien who will give you whatever you desire the most. The creature is really interesting and it would have been cool to see something like this on television.

Gifted focuses its attention on April and Ram, played once more by Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed. The pair is just brilliant together and even though Hopkins and Elsayed haven’t played their characters for some time, it is like they’ve never been away.

The pair has some fantastic chemistry which helps an already excellent script rattle along. Gill also, writes perfectly for the main characters, like he has been doing it all his life. It’s brilliant.

For all the action, and there is quite a bit, there is also a strong emotional core that runs through it and even the most cold-hearted listener would be hard pressed not to feel anything about the ending!

Gifted is an excellent way to open the set and feels like a perfect story for April and Ram.

LIFE EXPERIENCE

The second story of the opening set is brought to us by Jenny T. Colgan, who pens a story that is perfectly suited for Tanya.

On television, Tanya often suffered because there were too many characters all scrambling for something to do and with her character being the youngest, more-often-than-not, she was told to stay behind.

Nothing of the sort happens here and she is thrown right into the midst of the action. Following a work-experience placement at Sevelin Laboratories, her and Ram are thrown into the world of aliens once more.

This story really allows Tanya to shine, not only because it has some science moments, something she is good at, but because she is the one who sorts the whole thing out. In typical Class fashion, there is an alien loose around the underground labs who is murdering all the staff. While we learn its capabilities in the opening moments, it is nice to hear Tanya’s cool head working things out, while Ram seems to freak out once again!

Vivian Oparah is on fine form here, probably because she finally has some decent material to sink her teeth into. Overall, Life Experience is another thoroughly enjoyable outing.

The cast, Vivian Oparah, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins enjoy the recordings
The cast, Vivian Oparah, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins enjoy the recordings

TELL ME YOU LOVE ME

The third and final story for Volume One is Tell Me You Love Me by Scott Handcock who delivers what I felt was easily the best story out of this already strong set.

Set on a Friday after school, Charlie and Matteusz are in the locker room collecting Charlie’s belongings. Matteusz has other plans however but before things can get going, his romantic plans are thwarted by an alien who won’t let them stop talking.

It is a really interesting concept for an alien and it forces Charlie and Matteusz to say what is on their mind and what they really feel about their relationship. Both of them say things that are rectified as the story goes along.

Katherine Kelly is also back as Miss. Quill and she is just excellent. She slips back into that role perfectly and Handcock gets her lines down wonderfully. She is gloriously sarcastic. The trio of Kelly, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo work brilliantly perfectly, with Austin and Renzo reminding us why Charlie and Matteusz were such a great couple on screen.

For me though, the best part of this story was its final scenes which seem to take delight in showing us how ruthless Miss. Quill really is. Working out how the alien operates, she rings a random stranger and has the alien transport to its new victim. It is a conclusion but not a nice one, something that Miss. Quill even seems slightly ashamed by.

Tell Me You Love Me wraps up this brilliant trilogy nicely!

OVERALL

Class: Volume One features a trio of strong stories, ones that are practically superior to the television series, which was also good. The cast is excellent, even though they don’t all interact in a story, that works in the volume’s strength. There few times where all the characters had one big adventure on the television and these stories work better because there aren’t so many characters to try and a cram into one tale.

What I also felt worked a lot better was that each story featured a stand-alone monster, not one like The Shadow Kin who were weaved into almost every story of that solo-series. Each villain gives the duo of characters a time to show what they are really made off and it is excellent. Not focusing one monster through all these stories really allowed our main cast to develop.

The regulars are just superb. I was worried that some of them might not have been able to get used to the audio format. But each one surprised me at how easily they had slipped back into their original roles.

The guest actors are brilliant also, Rhys Isaac-Jones, Deirdre Mullins, Lu Corfield, Scott Haran, Joe Shire, Jasmine M. Stewart, Liz Sutherland-Lim and Gavin Swift all perform their roles excellently. There isn’t a weak link amongst them and they all work brilliantly with the main cast.

Roy Gill, Jenny T. Colgan and Scott Handcock all deliver some stellar scripts, all of which fit perfectly into the gaps in the first series without interfering with the story that was telling. They all work perfectly for the main characters and the trio should be very proud! And Scott Handcock delivers some superb direction with Blair Mowet on fine form as the sound designer.

And without a doubt, Big Finish have worked their magic once more, Class has definitely found its home in the audio format!

For those who took to Twitter in a rage back in 2016 about there being a new spinoff in a year when there was no new Doctor Who, then I would urge you to pick this set up immediately. For those of you who, like me, ignored the hate and gave the series a go, then I would urge you to do the same. This is only the first volume and already I’m hooked.

I really hope this isn’t the only two sets for Class Big Finish do, this is excellent and definitely one of the best set of stories I’ve heard from them this year! Everyone should take a bow!

Synopsis

Three new adventures for the students of Coal Hill Academy, based on the television series created by Patrick Ness.

1.1 Gifted by Roy Gill

When a talent scout arrives in Shoreditch, Ram sees an opportunity to further his goals, whilst April strikes up a friendship with new boy, Thomas Laneford. Their choices draw all three to Carterhaugh House – but who is the mysterious Mab that waits for them there…?

1.2 Life Experience by Jenny T Colgan

After signing up for work experience at Sevelin Laboratories, Tanya and Ram find themselves thrust into the world of medical research. But dark secrets lie at the heart of Sevelin Industries – and not everyone can make it out alive…

1.3 Tell Me You Love Me by Scott Handcock

The school day has ended. Charlie and Matteusz find themselves alone – though not quite as alone as they first believed. Three little words could mean the difference between life and death… and Quill is the only person they can turn to.

THIS CD BOX SET IS A LIMITED PRESSING. ORDER NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT.

Written By: Roy Gill, Jenny T Colgan, Scott Handcock
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Katherine Kelly (Miss Quill), Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh), Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean), Vivian Oparah (Tanya Adeola), Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski), Rhys Isaac-Jones (Thomas Laneford), Deirdre Mullins (Mab), Lu Corfield (Marta Vanderburgh), Scott Haran (Jason Campbell), Joe Shire (Aubrey Khan), Jasmine M Stewart (The Mayor), Liz Sutherland-Lim (Alicia Yan), Gavin Swift (Boris). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: Scott Handcock
Script Editor: Scott Handcock, James Goss
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

On television, Billis Manger was always one of Torchwood’s deadliest and strangest foes. Only appearing twice on screen, Murray Melvin has returned to the role in this excellent horror story.

Hywel Roberts finds himself lost in the rain, but the Travellers Halt offers him sanctuary.

Booking a room, he finds himself under the eye of the strange owner, Mr Billis Manger. But things aren’t as they appear. Who is the mysterious woman in the room next door? Why does Mr Manger seem to appear out of thin air? And why is it always raining?

The Travellers Halt isn’t your normal hotel. And soon, Hywel Roberts will wish he had kept driving…

The cover for Torchwood: Deadbeat Escape by James Goss
The cover for Torchwood: Deadbeat Escape by James Goss

Deadbeat Escape brings another strong series of solo Torchwood outings to an end until next year. We’ve had some great exploration of our favourite characters in The Many Lives of Captain Jack and Instant Karma, an excellent reunion for the original team in Believe and an excellent horror tale in We Always Get Out Alive.

Deadbeat Escape will certainly fall into the horror category. Torchwood did sci-fi but never really touched on pure horror, it was always the horror of whatever story they were in, unlike Cyberwoman which was a horror to watch!

We Always Get Out Alive and Deadbeat Escape are some of the best horror stories I’ve heard from Big Finish and one wonders if the writers, James Goss and Guy Adams were in competition to see who could write the scariest!

While Adam’s, We Always Get Out Alive was a gloriously disturbing and claustrophobic listen, Deadbeat Escape does outdo it on the pure horror front. From its opening minutes, James Goss lets you know you’re in for something different. And what really allows it to stand apart is that it doesn’t focus on any prime member of the Torchwood cast but on its deadliest villain, Billis Manger.

Thinking about it, the whole story isn’t focused on him, we get to see him through someone else’s eyes and how his plans will affect Hywel’s life.

Billis is a villain who works at his absolute best when he is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by darkness. His appearance in Captain Jack Harkness, End of Days and the audio adventure, To Kill A View, kept that mysterious illusion going.

The same can be said here, which is good because he continues to be a dangerous threat. Murray Melvin is just excellent in the role and even though he is the bad guy, it is physically impossible not to fall in love with his old-man act, right up until the very end when he finally gets some real bite.

Having a new character in the form of Hywel Roberts is a stroke of genius from James Goss. It allows the audience to already have a one-up on him as we know how evil Billis is but it is impossible to get to believe he is anything other than a warped old man. With us listeners knowing how evil Billis is, it allows us to stay on the edge of our seats as we learn whether Hywel will make it out alive.

Hywel was most certainly a character I wanted to see survive. Not only is there some great writing there from Goss but Gareth Pierce’s performance makes him a really relatable character. You really root for him, right up until the very end.

The cast for Deadbeat Escape - Gareth Pierce, Cara Chase and Murray Melvin
The cast for Deadbeat Escape – Gareth Pierce, Cara Chase and Murray Melvin

Just as the audience is learning everything there is to know, so is Hywel, and we get to enjoy the horror unfolding around him at the same time. Of course, we horror fans know how bad things are going to get for him when he decides to go into a house on a dark and stormy night!

But even that old horror trope is flipped on its head. Goss uses this trope, well known by the audience, to his advantage and uses it to explore the characters and their motivations.

Cara Chase also puts in an excellent performance as the mysterious guest, Grace. A character that would be a crime to spoil anything about but is it possible she is the one and only person that Billis cares about?

Deadbeat Escape is a brilliant ending to another successful series of Torchwood outings for 2018. It is very dark and effective and has a very strong emotional core at its centre. With some excellent performances from Murray Melvin and Gareth Pierce, even without any of the regulars, this is a pure Torchwood gold!

Synopsis

“Welcome to the Traveller’s Halt. You’re in luck – we have one room left. My name is Bilis Manger. Let me show you to your room.”

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

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Murray Melvin (Billis Manger), Gareth Pierce (Hywel Roberts), Cara Chase (Grace). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: James Goss
Script Editor: David Llewellyn
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs