Menu

Welcome to Episode 204…

The News

Series 13 gets its Sunday evening time slot confirmed and our friends in Canada also get their broadcast time confirmed.

Merch Corner

A new 4th Doctor audio adventure is on the way from the BBC and the 13th Doctor is making an appearance in the Eaglemoss figurine magazine.

“The Tenth Planet” Review

We thought it would be fitting to do a Hartnell story for two reasons; one, we haven’t done a Hartnell story in ages and two, it seems fitting to go back and look at his farewell story just before we say hello to the 13th Doctor. Lots of snow, bad American accents and those awesome Mondasian Cybermen. All good or is this one a bit cold?

Thank you so much for joining us for 204. Next week we’ll finally reviewing the first episode from series 11 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth! Until then have a brilliant week and until next time – Allons-y!

The Early Adventures are back! Following on from a very successful year in 2017 with the adventures of the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben, Jamie and Zoe. The Dalek Occupation of Winter kicks the series off in high gear for what looks to be another successful entry of stories for the First Doctor!

The TARDIS lands in a city called Winter on a planet where the winter season is seemingly endless. Wandering around a fair, the trio of travellers soon learn that a lucky group of youngsters have won entry to the highly-regarded Scientific Research Centre.

But it soon becomes clear to the Doctor, Vikki and Steven that something else is working behind the scenes. The Daleks are also in residence. They have been for a very long time. But they seem to live in some-kind of harmony with the Human residents.

While the city leader believes himself to be in full control of the situation, the Daleks have been plotting and planning. This is the occupation of Winter and everyone is in danger…

The cover for The Dalek Occupation of Winter
The cover for The Dalek Occupation of Winter

The previous series of The Early Adventures had abandoned the use of narration amongst the dialogue because a large number of the cast are luckily still with us. Unfortunately, the First Doctor era isn’t quite so lucky. You can count on one hand the surviving members of the cast from the years between 1963-66. The Dalek Occupation of Winter has no choice but to go back to the use of narration. While it seems a little jarring at first, something that for me, ruined the debut series back in 2014, the story quickly becomes a masterclass in its unique format thanks to the brilliant script from David K Barnes and the always superb direction from Lisa Bowerman.

The title reveals the return of the metal meanies and of course, Nicholas Briggs is back on hand to give us the grating voices of the Daleks. He is always a delight to hear in the role both on television and audio and he sounds wonderful here, as the original Sixties Daleks who had a voice all of their own. The Daleks occupying planets is nothing new, they did it in 1964 when they invaded the Earth in, The Daleks’ Invasion of Earth, a story which said goodbye to Susan. But this story does something different. While the previous story had the human race working to rebel against their Dalek overlords on Winter, those in power know what is happening, they’ve excepted it. After all, the Daleks are their benefactors, what harm could they possibly pose?

You could draw plenty of comparisons between Invasion and Occupation, the way the people mindlessly work at constructing the Daleks isn’t all that different from the mindlessness of the Robomen. There are rebellions in both stories and the Daleks are at their most cunning.

It could have been very easy for Barnes to copy Invasion but where the two stories break their similarities it is in the characters of Gaius Majorian and Karna, played respectively by Robert Daws and Sara Powell. These two characters are genuinely vile and do some despicable things. As the story progresses you do have to wonder who are more evil, the Daleks or these two. But to feel such hatred towards two fictional characters is a testament to the fantastic performances from Daws and Powell who really shine here.

My favourite releases from this range are those that can effectively evoke an atmospheric feeling, The Forsaken and The Night Witches are perfect examples of this. A good use of musical cues can also easily evoke such a feeling and fortunately, The Dalek Occupation of Winter does this brilliantly. Toby Hrycek-Robinson has created an enjoyable guitar-synth soundtrack that manages to work brilliantly with the actors and doesn’t distract from them while helping to evoke the sheer bleakness of the whole piece.

The story also boasts a slightly-longer than usual runtime of just over two-and-a-half hours. Sometimes this can be a worry as, no matter how good the story might be, it just won’t stretch to that length. But David K Barnes has no trouble in keeping things interesting. In fact, he uses the extended run-time to his advantage, really allowing to see how poorly the people of Winter live under the rule of the Daleks.

Barnes keeps things mysterious and interesting throughout the first two episodes and gradually, the thin visage of the benevolent Dalek masters slips away and their endgame is brought to light. They begin to exterminate and destroy and it is glorious to hear. Barnes also manages to give us some new and fresh cliff-hangers, ones that are more interesting than an alien gun being turned on our main cast.

The sixties reverse cover for The Dalek Occupation of Winter
The sixties reverse cover for The Dalek Occupation of Winter

Everything gets kicked into another high gear in the second half. Once the real Dalek threat has been revealed, we get a shift in the action as the horrors of the Dalek research centre come to light and there is a rather unsettling mutation for a member of the cast.  Matthew Jacobs-Martin does a great job as Kenrick Vost, someone who is paired with Vikki for much of the story. Martin and O’Brien have a really great chemistry, and their scenes together a real treat.

Paired with Steven for much of the story is Kenrick’s sister, Amala Vost, played brilliantly by Shvorne Marks. She does a brilliant job at going from someone who is … excepting their situation to someone who decides to stand up and fight for what is right. It’s a glorious character arc that Barnes takes this character on and Marks does a fantastic job of bringing Amala to life.

And what of the main cast?

Well, Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves are just brilliant. Both actors are also on narration duty as well as playing their original characters of Vikki and Steven. Purves is also on hand to bring life to Hartnell’s Doctor. He does a tremendous job in the role, not copying his performance but instead, focusing on the character of Hartnell’s Doctor. It is always a treat when Purves is involved in a Big Finish audiobook and that continues here.

Maureen O’Brien is just fantastic as Vikki and she seems to relish getting a lot of the story to herself. Vikki is quickly separated from the Doctor and Steven and while on television, that pair got to show what they were made of, Vikki was always stuck to one of them. Here though, she gets stuck in on the action, fighting the Daleks and practically leading a revolution. She even says at one point that this isn’t the first time she has done so. Vikki has always been a favourite companion of mine but she is just bad-ass here. Maureen O’Brien is always a welcomed presence in these audios and with all The Early Adventures featuring both her and Purves, we’re in for a real treat.

I came to The Dalek Occupation of Winter a little while after it was released and I’d seen some of the reviews for the story. All seemed to agree that it was a brilliant few hours. They weren’t wrong. While I didn’t allow them to inform my view of the story, I didn’t need to. Newcomer, David K Barnes had the difficult task of giving us a Dalek story we haven’t heard yet and he rose to that challenge. I really enjoyed this story and there are some terrific twists in store for new listeners. I am looking forward to seeing what Barnes does next for Big Finish because this story was an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands in the capital city of a planet deep in the midst of an endless winter. The population are celebrating a new crop of candidates winning roles at the scientific research centre. Those who go there dedicate their lives to continued service and are rarely, if ever, seen again. Not everyone is happy to see them leave.

As the Doctor, Steven and Vicki watch, the city leader – Majorian – invites onto the stage in front of the happy crowd their ‘friend who made all this possible’… and a Dalek appears.

The people of this planet seem to be living in perfect harmony with the Doctor’s old enemies. But the TARDIS crew know this cannot be true. So what’s really going on?

Written By: David K Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Shvorne Marks (Amala Vost), Robert Daws (Gaius Majorian), Sara Powell (Jacklyn Karna), Matthew Jacobs-Morgan (Kenrik Vost) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

The latest audio adventure for the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Mel take them to a normal estate. Like the previous McCoy release this year, it effortlessly manages to capture the tone of the Seventh Doctor’s era, most certainly that of Paradise Towers, with its high rise tower block setting. Fortunately for us listeners though, The Dispossessed is a far superior outing.

The Doctor, Ace and Mel arrive on your normal council estate. If a normal estate is surrounded by eternal night.

Zombies stalk the corridors, lifts go to other worlds, there is a strange woman and an even weirder robot. While the Doctor meets the only two tenants left, Mel and Ace find themselves in the company of Arkallax, a creature who knows more than he is letting on.

Soon the Doctor must do battle in a psychic warzone, where he must make a terrible choice. Save himself or his companions…

The cover for The Dispossessed
The cover for The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed does have the feel of Paradise Towers, taking something ordinary such as a tower block or council estate and giving them something alien and evil about them. But where the differences between Paradise Towers and The Dispossessed end is that this one is a fairly light affair and moves along at a pleasing enough pace. And there is some good horror in here.

The Dispossessed isn’t exactly scary but there are some good horror moments with the Doctor and his companions fighting zombies. The horror motif is certainly here. This comes as no surprise when one discovers that the writer is Mark Morris who normally writes some terrific Doctor Who horror stories. He seems to really enjoy horror and this isn’t the first time he has used zombies as a villain. Check out Plague of the Daleks for an even more gruesome example! It does come as a surprise to find that this story isn’t more horrific. It’s got some very creepy ideas and imagery but Morris throws in some nice sci-fi ideas to keep things from becoming an episode of Hammer House of Horror!

What is also nice about The Dispossessed is that there is a nice mystery that lies at the story’s heart. You are kept completely in the dark for the first two opening episodes and during the third and fourth episodes threads you might have previously missed start to come into play and the whole plot becomes clear.

Morris has also penned some nice guest characters too, Ruck and Jan, played brilliantly by Morgan Watkins and Anne Mitcham come across as quite a sweet character. Morris manages to put them into situations where you have to root for them, some of those situations are quite dire, Ruck gets put through the wringer an awful lot and we are left to marvel at how they have managed to survive, alone in this tower block for such a period of time.

Morris also creates Isabel, played nicely by Stirling Gallagher, who is a fresh take on the somewhat dated sci-fi trope. She gets some brilliant lines and like Ruck and Jan, you root for her, especially with some of the one-liners she hands out!

The main cast are on fine form too, Sylvester McCoy is having a ball all the way through this script and Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred continue to prove why they are such a good pairing. Jamie Anderson is back in the director’s seat and continues to prove why he is one of Big Finish’s fastest rising stars. He’s assembled a formidable cast who give it they’re all. He has done a fantastic job yet again.

Overall, The Dispossessed is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. It is a simple tale that, won’t break new ground, but will allow you to have a ball retreading old grounds. The main cast is on fire and the guest cast compliments them brilliantly. There is some brilliant direction from Jamie Anderson and a strong script from Mark Morris. While this story might not be my favourite audio to be released this year, it is still very enjoyable…

Synopsis

The Doctor, Ace and Mel are caught in a forever night. After crossing the threshold, a strange world awaits them.

An army of tortured souls. A lift that leads to an alien landscape. An alien warlord left for dead, and willing to do anything to prolong his life… it’s all in a day’s work for the Doctor.

But when his companions become victims of the desperate and powerful Arkallax, the Doctor will have to do battle in a psychic environment where he must make a choice. Save his companions… or himself.

Written By: Mark Morris
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Morgan Watkins (Ruck), Anna Mitcham (Jan), Stirling Gallacher (Isobel), Nick Ellsworth (Arkallax). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: Nicholas Briggs
Script Editor: Guy Adams
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs