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After being distracted by Drashigs and disappearing mathematicians, the Doctor, Ann and K-9 are back on the trail of the Sinestrans’ mysterious benefactors as The Syndicate Masterplan Volume 1 comes to a close. Landing on a desolate planet that is all-too-familiar, the TARDIS crew find themselves guests at a sinister health spa where some old enemies of the Doctor lie in wait.

The story opens with the heroically named Mac Foley coming a cropper of some very hostile plant life and from there, we’re thrown into a pacey mystery involving sinister experiments, mistaken identities and references to some of the Doctor’s earliest adventures.

Guy Adams has achieved something remarkable with The False Guardian, combining the wit and whimsy of the late 1970’s with the Boy’s Own, science fiction of Terry Nation and David Whittaker’s 1960’s serials. For if it wasn’t made clear in Doctor Who Magazine, interviews and the boxed set’s title, this is a sequel to one of the Doctor’s earliest adventures, one that is largely missing from the archives.

Alternative diamond logo cover for Guy Adams' "The False Guardian"
Alternative diamond logo cover for Guy Adams’ “The False Guardian”

Whether this works for you as a listener depends on what it is you want from a Big Finish audio. If you want an authentic feeling 4th Doctor adventure, then you may find yourself chipping away at some of the cracks. After all, it’s unlikely that Graham Williams would have mounted a series long sequel to a story from over a decade ago that was, most likely, bundled into a skip and had never aired again. It wouldn’t even be novelised for over another decade.

If you want your Big Finish audio to take beloved characters and put them in new situations, taking full advantage of the imaginative flair that the audio medium can provide, then this is probably for you. This is a Fourth Doctor story that could only really exist in an age where the minutiae of adventures from over 50 years ago are available to peruse in a variety of forms prior to, or following, the listening of this boxed set.

It’s not an easy thing to pull off, and the second cliffhanger’s meticulously constructed tension is deflated somewhat when you have to do a quick TARDIS Wiki search afterwards to confirm what’s actually happening. That being said, Tom Baker and guest actor John Shrapnel are having such fun with the script that it’s hard to be too critical of the overall play. Adams’ script is brimming with ideas and energy, with some outright hilarious moments for the Doctor. His instruction to a masseuse to work around his clothes elicited a belly laugh from this particular commuter.

Similarly, the Doctor and Nigel Colloon’s discussion about their fellow guests over a ginger beer is at once conspiratorial and convivial, the Doctor’s more relaxed good cop routine bearing fruit as we reach the story’s cliffhanger ending.

Ann’s more dogged investigative routine bears fruit too, as she uncovers the more sinister side of what’s happening at the complex. Strange experiments conducted by the sinister Elmore, played with lip-smacking relish by Blake Ritson.

Whilst both Doctor and companion’s investigations lead to an underwhelming climax, there’s definitely the sense that we’re at the tip of the iceberg where the overall arc is concerned. If the remaining stories build on this heady mixture of big concepts, space opera and sharp, witty dialogue then we’ll be in for a treat when The Syndicate Masterplan Volume 2 is released in February.

The False Guardian by Guy Adams

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Stars: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Jane Slavin (Ann Kelso), John Leeson (K-9) John Shrapnel(Nigel Colloon), Anna Acton (Brox), Blake Ritson (Elmore), Roger May(Mac Foley), Tracy Wiles (Drones). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

So far in The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Syndicate Masterplan, Ann Kelso has battled aliens on her home turf and has visited an alien planet. She’s also met one of the Doctor’s old foes, granted they were Drashigs, but they still count. All that’s left for her to do on the Doctor Who companion bucket list is to visit the past and meet a historical figure. In the boxed set’s third adventure The Enchantress of Numbers, she gets to tick both those boxes.

The historical figure in question is Countess of Lovelace, daughter of libertarian poet Lord Byron and the mathematician and great grandmother of modern computing, Augusta Ada King. Bedbound from exhaustion and haunted by images of both her father and strange bird faced men, the Countess soon finds herself at the centre of a plot that stretches hundreds of years into the future.

Cover artwork for "The Enchantress of Numbers" by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris
Cover artwork for “The Enchantress of Numbers” by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

Ada King would be a prime choice for the most recent television series, her brilliance and revolutionary thinking being undermined by her gender, not allowed into the boy’s club of the Royal Society. She and the Thirteenth Doctor would clearly get on well, and she and the Fourth Doctor get on like a house on fire. One of the story’s best scenes involves the pair playing a game of cribbage against the local barflies. Tom Baker and Finty Williams entertainingly bounce off each other in these scenes as each character learns more about the other through the course of the Doctor’s investigation.

Writers Simon Barnard and Paul Morris concoct an engaging mystery which is already in full swing by the time the story opens. The Doctor and Ann have arrived at the Countess’ home in Newstead Abbey on the trail of disappearing scientists and, even more troublingly, buildings. This sort of story is perfect material for former WPC Ann Kelso, who gets to team up with an uncharacteristically helpful butler to investigate Newstead Abbey and the mysterious foreign gentleman who mooches around the grounds at the night. Unsurprisingly, given how she hit the ground running in The Sinestran Kill, Jane Slavin has really settled into the role of Kelso, a companion who can very much hold her own against the bohemian, occasionally bombastic Fourth Doctor. Her shrewd policewoman’s eye and detective’s training means that she’s incredibly adaptable to the situations she finds herself in. This, combined with the sort of gallows humour you expect from fictional coppers means that she’s never in thrall to the Doctor, which makes her a companion in the modern mould of post-2005 Doctor Who and yet, she is at home in the authentic 1970s feel of the stories in this set.

In some respects, The Enchantress of Numbers is a bit like The Terminator remade by Christopher H. Bidmead, given its heavy mathematics, block transfer computations and future wars. And yet, there’s a chilling and spookily atmospheric tone to proceedings that means it sits more comfortably alongside The Stones of Blood than it does Logopolis. The Doctor and Ada’s visit to the family crypt is effectively realised in the sound design, so much so that it may set the hairs on your neck on end during your commute or wherever you listen to your Big Finish’s.

Whilst, much like Planet of the Drashigs, this story bears no connection to the overall arc, it’s an entertaining diversion with a snappy script, solid scares and terrific performances that sheds some light on one of mathematics, and history’s under-appreciated figures. Which, if we’re honest, is what this wonderful show has always been so good at and what, on a good day, Big Finish is great at replicating.

The Enchantress of Numbers by Simon Barnard & Paul Morris

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Starring: Tom Baker(The Doctor), Jane Slavin(Ann Kelso), Finty Williams(Ada Lovelace), Andrew Havill(Colonel Wildman), Eve Webster (Hettie / Lady Cleverley), Barnaby Edwards (Mr Hobhouse), Glen McCready (Edvard Scheutz / Lord Byron / Harry)

The Fourth and, so far, the final instalment of The Early Adventures range comes in the form of The Crash of the UK-201 by Jonathan Morris. It is a Vikki-centric story which features plenty of excitement and heart-breaking moments and might just be one of the best adventures that this entire range has to offer!

Every time-traveller knows you can’t change the past. You shouldn’t change it. Terrible things can happen otherwise but what if the past had never happened. What if the past is the present. What if Vikki had never met the Doctor, Ian and Barbara. What if the ship she had been travelling on had never crashed? What if her father had lived? What if…

The Crash of the UK-201 is a very emotionally charged Doctor Who adventure and given the tragic circumstances surrounding Vikki’s youth, it is hardly surprising that Jonathan Morris had grasped hold of that part of her character. When she first crossed paths with the Doctor, she was the sole survivor of a ship crash on the planet Dido. And then she discovered that the man she had thought her friend was the one responsible for the deaths of everyone on board, including her father. But the reason she slotted in so well with this particular TARDIS team was that the Doctor had just said goodbye to Susan at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Vikki felt like another granddaughter to the Doctor and so they went on many happy adventures together.

Morris takes Vikki down an interesting direction in this story though, making her seemingly forget all the lessons the Doctor had taught her on their previous adventures. The Doctor had previously warned her about changing the past in stories like The Romans and  The Time Meddler. But naturally, she gives in to her desire to save everyone, particularly her father. When Steven turns up, the Doctor had sent him down Vikki’s personal timeline, she uses his piloting skills to safely land the ship on Dido, instead of it crashing down. While Vikki keeps things a secret concerning where they have landed, when Stephen works it out, he understands that he has become a huge paradox. Since Vikki never joined Ian and Barbara, the TARDIS, her actions never guided the TARDIS to Mechanus, where they would have rescued him otherwise.

In usual Morris tradition, this is a story that is told in a non-linear way. Steven pops up through Vikki’s timeline as she gradually gets older. While we fans know that things will have to go back to normal in the end, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ride in the meantime. It is lovely to hear Vikki starting a family and being happy, despite some of the very tragic things that happen to her along the way.

The Crash of the UK-201 from Big Finish
The Crash of the UK-201

Of course, this being Doctor Who, we’ve got some interesting monsters in the form of cloaked creatures who feed of paradoxes. While that sounds a little like The Weeping Angels and the Reapers from Modern Who, it is nice to finally hear the Classic era is beginning to tap into these new additions to the mythology. Morris handles these creatures brilliantly, never overusing them and so, as a result, the few moments they are there, they feel really creepy and there is a sense of threat to them.

The standout performance here comes from Maureen O’Brien who manages to display such a wide range of emotions, sometimes in the same sentence. She is really excellent here and Morris’ script also gives her the opportunity to use her natural voice as Vikki gets older and doesn’t ask her to turn the clock back to 1964. But when O’Brien is in young Vikki-mode, she is excellent as always, reminding us why she is such a great addition to the cast and a welcome presence at Big Finish. She really seems to love this script and that comes across very nicely in the way she pitches her performance. While this may be the last in the series of Early Adventures, I hope it isn’t going to be the last we hear from her with Big Finish!

Peter Purves is, of course, excellent as always. The Doctor is hardly in this story but unlike other stories in this series, his presence isn’t really needed as it is a story about the companions. The fleeting moments he does appear though, Purves does a great turn as Hartnell. On hand to add some narration to proceedings, Purves does a great job and like Maureen, the pair brings the story to vivid life, thanks to the excellent script from Jonathan Morris.

His turn as Steven is excellent too. It was interesting to hear Steven interacting with Vikki as she gets older. He is the usual Steven when he finds himself on the UK-201, calling Vikki out on her tampering with the timeline but also understanding why she had to do it. But as the story goes on and Steven turns up fleetingly throughout Vikki’s later life, he seems to understand that she has that much more life experience than him and he treats her accordingly. It was fun to her Purves tackle this and he and Maureen rise to the challenge brilliantly. Yet again, it is another reminder why this TARDIS crew is one of the most criminally underrated in the show’s history!

Overall though, The Crash of the UK-201 is a triumph. With a strong script from Jonathan Morris, fantastic performances from Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves and the guest cast and strong direction from Lisa Bowerman, for now, it is a strong way for The Early Adventures range to bow out.

SYNOPSIS

You can’t change the past, every time traveller knows that. What’s done is done and cannot be unwritten. But what if it isn’t the past any more? What if it’s now the present?

The spaceship called the UK-201 was intended to fly to the Earth colony of Astra. But it never made it. Crashing on the planet Dido, a tragic chain of events was set in motion leading to the death of almost all of its crew and a massacre of the indigenous population.

The only survivor of these events was a young girl called Vicki. Rescued by the time traveller known as the Doctor, she’s been travelling in his ship for some time.

So when she suddenly wakes up in her cabin on the UK-201 again, without her friends, a few days before the accident, she’s faced with a stark choice… Can she stop the crash from happening? And if she can, should she?

Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast
Maureen O’Brien (Vicki / Narrator), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor / The Doctor / Narrator), Michael Lumsden (Newton Pallister), Carol Starks (Captain Odessa Grey), Jemma Churchill (Carmen Scheffler), Arthur Hughes (Lieutenant Thorpe), Stephen Fewell (Jeran Dalton), Eve Webster (Carla / Maria Dalton), David Cooke (Additional Voices). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

Hey Who fans. In this week’s show…

The News

We say Happy Birthday to Tom Baker and David Tennant has started up new Twitter and Instagram accounts to accompany his upcoming interview style podcast.

Merch Corner

Two new as yet unreleased Dalek novels are due this year.

“Genesis of the Daleks” Review

We’re finally getting round to reviewing this often loved Classic Who story and good timing too with Tom Baker’s birthday. Do we love this one as much as the majority of Who fandom?

Next week our review will be Torchwood – Countrycide.  Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Big Finish’s latest Fourth Doctor boxed set The Syndicate Masterplan continues with new companion Ann Kelso’s first visit to an alien world and a return for one of Robert Holmes’ lesser creations.

The pitch for Planet of the Drashigs is unashamedly “Doctor Who does Jurassic Park” as the Doctor, Ann and a newly assembled K-9 Mk II accidentally materialise on “DrashigWorld”, a theme park planet where the Carnival of Monsters’ carnivorous creations entertain the paying public. A recent fatal accident at the park is pending enquiry, and before long, the Doctor, his companions, an accident inspector and the park staff are fighting for their lives, pitted against the deadly emerald Drashigs of the rain forest.

Familiar though the premise is from many a Doctor Who serial and Spielberg directed Michael Crichton adaptations, Phil Mulryne’s base under siege tale shares more in common with the 2015 sequel Jurassic World than it does the 1993 original. Colin Trevorrow’s film was, after all, about the dangers of sequels. Faced with dwindling visitor figures, the team at Jurassic World turn to genetic engineering to create a new, deadlier dinosaur to reinvigorate interest in the franchise. It’s no spoiler to say that it all goes disastrously wrong for various members of staff and several innocent bystanders. Planet of the Drashigs treads familiar ground, introducing us to different species of Drashig whilst the plot hinges on an ill-advised scientific experiment which gamely attempts to give us some insight into the minds of these deadly predators.

Cover artwork for "Planet of the Drashigs" by Phil Mulryne
Cover artwork for “Planet of the Drashigs” by Phil Mulryne

All of which is to say that writing an interesting story for the Drashigs is something of a tall order. In Carnival of Monsters they were an obstacle for the Doctor and Jo as they attempted to escape the Miniscope. Perhaps the most monstrous of Doctor Who monsters, there’s no exchanging of barbed lines between the Doctor and the monster of the week, no villainous voice acting, no dramatic showdown. As the Doctor points out, the Drashigs don’t have an imagination, their only interest is to hunt and kill, for Planet of the Drashigs to succeed, the sound design has to be spot-on. Pleasingly, it is, with that memorable roar echoing through wetland landscapes and long metallic corridors. So vividly are some moments brought to life in script, performance and sound design that there are some memorable images brought to life in your non-Drashig imagination.

And speaking of performances, even if the characters are, broadly speaking, base under siege archetypes; the wealthy owner desperate to protect his life’s work, the harassed scientist with a secret, the conflicted gamekeeper who understands the creatures and the panicky official way out of his depth, the cast add some well needed depth. In particular, Jeremy Clyde as Lord Braye conveys the wonder and obsession of someone who’s never completely grown out of their childhood dinosaur fixation. Braye’s need to understand more about the creatures that transfixed him as a child is what drives the story, and Clyde handles it well, turning in a sympathetic and affecting performance. Lizzie Roper as the stern gamekeeper Trencher is also good value, capturing the hushed respect and caution of the creatures she’s spent her life working with. Fenella Woolgar, meanwhile, really comes into her own as the story progresses, beginning as a stressed out, potentially alcoholic scientist before giving The Planet of the Drashigs its emotional pay-off as a guilty and penitent saviour.

For Jane Slavin as new companion Ann Kelso, she gets some fun bits of dialogue with Baker at the start, good naturedly bickering with him about his bringing her to a dangerous planet but once the main action gets going, she’s unfortunately slightly sidelined. That being said, she is beginning to build a nice rapport with K-9, which will be an interesting relationship to hear develop.

In terms of the overall arc, Planet of the Drashigs is a standalone tale, but one that is pacey and entertaining enough that you don’t notice until long after the story has ended. Which is perhaps just as well, for as surprisingly successful as this Drashig centric story is, I imagine that a follow up of equal quality would require more imagination than most humans, let alone Drashigs.

Planet of the Drashigs by Phil Mulryne, directed by Nicholas Briggs

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Jane Slavin (Ann Kelso), John Leeson (K-9), Fenella Woolgar (Vanessa Seaborne), Jeremy Clyde (Lord Braye), Lizzie Roper (Trencher), Andrew Ryan (Titus Wayland)

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

With the recent nomination of Doctor Who for the NTAs (National Television Awards) and Jodie Whittaker nominated for Drama Performance I have been wondering whether Jodie Whittaker and the show have done enough in Series 11 to win? Jodie W is up against some stiff acting competition from Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Jodie Comer (Villanelle in Killing Eve) not to also mention Cillian Murphy from Peaky Blinders. There is also the fact that both David Tennant and Matt Smith are previous winners of the NTA’S so no pressure!

Jodie Whittaker said at the preview screening for the New Year’s Day Special “Resolution” that she has proved that the Doctor can be played by a woman but I don’t think the scripts this series really helped her come across as well as she could have.  Dont get me wrong I have liked her as the Doctor and there were some good one to one performances from her (I’m thinking here of  “The Witchfinders” and with Alan Cummings as King James) although having three companions definitely meant she became a part of the collective team Tardis rather than striding out as the leader. 

Has her characterisation been strong enough to merit her an award ? Well the critics loved her a lot but as a fan there were too many episodes she lacked the consistency, bearing and authority we’ve always expected from the Doctor. Sometimes she behaved like an Aunt Sally (of the Worzel Gummidge type)  a judgemental school teacher chiding the companions  or people she met such as in “The Ghost Monument “or she was just plain kooky. At times her Doctor felt a passive observer when we really needed an alpha female Ripley character, We were made to wait all series for a more forceful interpretation until New Years episode “Resolution”. Only then did we finally see her guns blazing  against a powerful villain. There were some lovely moments of regret from her during the series such as the death of the passenger on the train in “The Woman… to Earth”, appealing to Charlie to stop in “Kerblam” and saying goodbye to the frog… er sorry the conscious universe able to take any form it pleases, that were really appealing, because they recognised the long life of this Time Lord. However they were brief moments in ten episodes. 

Ratings Success

Ratings wise though her debut episode did incredibly well if you compare it to previous debuts of new series Doctors. Consolidated figures for the “The Woman Who Fell to Earth “of 10.54m put it second behind ‘Rose’ in new debuts (Rose achieved 10.81m) whereas Deep Breath achieved 9.17m. The high figure could certainly be curiosity from the audience about a female doctor. The figures did go down consecutively week on week until “Battle” when they went up. Resolution” had overnight ratings of 5.15m which then consolidated to 7.13m. This is lower than the 7.92m of Capaldi’s last story “Twice Upon a Time but if you look at the consolidated ratings compared to Capaldi’s last series Series 11 was typically averaging at least 2 million more viewers. It suggests amongst the general audience Chris Chibnall has succeeded bringing the series back to the national consciousness even though for me as a fan it was a bit hit and miss. The AI figure has been slightly lower than last year at between 79-83 where Series 10 came out between 81-85 (85 or over is excellent), “Battle” scored 80 on the AI with a story with a fresh untested and unknown villain. Whether a season of unfamiliar foes would have had an impact of how people would have votes we wont know as Chris Chibnall brought back a Dalek on New Year’s Day and the nostalgia of them may resonant enough to sway people to vote Doctor Who’s way. 

A “Water Cooler” moment

Chris Chibnall in an interview for Television, the in-house magazine of the Royal Television society revealed, when he was approached for the show runner role what the BBC was after was “risk and boldness” I’m not sure whether this phrase is just BBC executives speak echoing a much over-used hyperbole sentiment. But  we have to acknowledge that the show is to be fair in its 11th series. But Doctor Who did do something which hasn’t happened for a while. It had a “moment” with Rosa. Doctor Who became a talking point again with historical stories such as “Rosa” and also “Punjab” pushing the much-vaunted educational aspect of this series. Maybe it is a trite statement to aim to educate people in 50 minutes of television but it goes hark back to the original aims of the programme so from my view I didn’t mind learning something more. If people are moved by something that they will then go away and read something or talk about it further with their families then that certainly is a result for the series.

There is another valid reason to think the show stands a chance of an award. Part of the reason for the rating success and general bonhomie from critics has been the move to Sundays. Moving away from Saturdays with the competition from big light entertainment, shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing and having a different evening slot has certainly helped bolster the show’s profile. This is a different era to when the BBC were actively trying to kill off the programme in the 1980’s, moving it around the schedules and setting it up against the juggernaut which is Coronation Street. Drama debuts on Sundays from The Bodyguard, The Cry, Little Drummer Girl have created an audience appetite ripe for strong stories to discuss around the water cooler on Mondays and Doctor Who has mirrored a part of that wave of interest.

In the best drama category, the show is up against Bodyguard, Peaky Blinders, Casualty and Our Girl. Casualty was a recent winner in 2017 and its been five years since Doctor Who won majorly in 2012 . The audience does go familiarity most of the time with shows such as Waterloo Road, Casualty, Downtown Abbey winning these gongs but impact TV such as Doctor Foster has swept the board previously as last year in both Drama and Drama Performance. Most of the contenders  have become staples in the schedules now as is Doctor Who so my betting is it will be the new kid on the block who is the main competition, the political thriller Bodyguard. The final ratings for it were very good between 14.16m and 16.85m and the reviews were very positive. Bodyguard also picked a Golden Globe so it will be tough race to win but it is possible.  Jed Mecurio is also responsible for the acclaimed Line of Duty. He has said of the show ( Bodyguard)  “I like to try to do things that move the story on” and it certainly left viewers guessing with shocking twists which hasn’t been the case with many shows recently.   

Whatever happens at the awards it is good to see the show and lead nominated. Bradley Walsh has also been nominated as part of “The Chase” which I’m pleased about. He was one of the great things about Series 11. Good luck to all the nominees!!

S

Big Finish’s latest series of adventures for the Fourth Doctor adopts the same boxed set format as last year, containing eight stories split across two months and two sets. This time, however, there’s a storyline tying them all together under the umbrella title of The Syndicate Masterplan. Given that the opening story is set in 1978 and begins moments after The Invasion of Time finishes, the idea of a series-long arc for the Fourth Doctor never feels like a jarring, modern conceit given that we have The Key to Time just around the corner.

Cover artwork for 'The Sinestran Kill' by Andrew Smith
Cover artwork for ‘The Sinestran Kill’ by Andrew Smith

With Leela left behind on Gallifrey and K-9 Mk II still in need of assembly, the Doctor needs a new companion. The Sinestran Kill provides one in the form of WPC Ann Kelso and, refreshingly, it appears that the Fourth Doctor actually wants her around. It’s not until you listen to Jane Slavin and Tom Baker that you realise the Fourth Doctor always seemed to have companions thrust upon him, a reflection of Baker’s own situation behind the scenes.

Think about it; Leela forces her way on board the TARDIS, Romana is dropped off by the White Guardian, Adric stows away, Tegan accidentally wanders inside and Nyssa literally has nowhere else to go. The last person the Doctor actually invited to join him was K-9. It’s therefore something of a novelty to have scenes where the Fourth Doctor is impressed by someone and keen to show them the universe.

Writer Andrew Smith wisely opens the story from Ann’s perspective, as she pops in to visit her friend Tony whilst walking her beat as a WPC. Soon enough, Tony has attracted the attention of local gangsters sent to kill him, local gangsters with impossibly futuristic technology. Naturally, it is this impossibly futuristic technology which will bring the Doctor bumbling into WPC Ann Kelso’s life.

The early scenes between both characters are brilliantly written by Smith. In particular, the line “That all depends on how you react when I say yes” invokes a feeling of warmth and joy that you only get from the top tier Doctor and companion pairings. Much of this is down to the clear affection that Baker and Slavin have for each other, which is reflected in the easy chemistry between both characters. Baker gets some terrific Doctor moments here, too, suggesting that the introduction of a new companion allows the opportunity to showcase his Doctor at his very best. One particular exchange between the Doctor and thuggish gangster Hugo Blick about alien disguises and naturally fat faces is hilarious and calls to mind some of Baker’s very best moments in the role.

The rest of the cast are rather upstaged by our two leads, Glynis Barber and Ewan Bailey occasionally feel like two dimensional gangster archetypes in their roles as the villainous Blick couple. Frank Skinner’s DCI Nelson is never entirely convincing as the head of Scotland Yard’s gang task force but ably captures the weary indignation of dealing with the Doctor and two separate alien races. The Sinestran Kill is clearly attempting to reflect the affectionate genre pastiches that 1970s Doctor Who did so well, obvious cop show touchstones being The Gentle Touch, The Sweeney, Juliet Bravo etc. On paper it absolutely works, the boggle eyed bohemian Fourth Doctor materialising in the gruff world of plain clothes detectives and Cockney gangsters, raising merry hell as he does so. It’s just unfortunate that the direction and some of the performances impede the story from achieving the full potential of its premise.

All that being said, once the plot takes a left field turn into something more akin to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Nicholas Khan really comes into his own as Blick’s henchman Jimmy, a snarling, sinister villain. It is in these climactic moments that the threads of Smith’s script and, presumably, the larger arc come into focus intriguing both Ann Kelso and us as listeners.

Overall, this is an entertaining debut for a new companion who shows a great deal of promise, if anyone can help the Doctor solve the mystery of the enigmatic syndicate then it’s the level headed, sharp and funny WPC Ann Kelso. The Doctor may have a date with the White Guardian and Romana I in his future, but I’m certainly hoping we can postpone that for as long as possible.

You can listen to the first part of The Sinestran Kill for free on the Big Finish website

The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Syndicate Masterplan is available from here

The Sinestran Kill by Andrew Smith, Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Jane Slavin (Ann Kelso), Frank Skinner (DCI Scott Neilson), Glynis Barber(Kathy Blake), Ewan Bailey (Hugo Blake), Nicholas Khan (Jimmy Lynch), Leon Williams (Tony Reynolds). Other parts played by members of the cast.

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

Hey Who fans. In this week’s show…

The News

The tumbleweed is already rolling down the road – no news.

Merch Corner

A new collectors edition vinyl of The Daleks’ Master Plan is coming soon and Mags from the Psychic Circus is joining McCoy for an upcoming Big Finish adventure.

“SJA – The Day of the Clown” Review

We’re back on the SJA reviews and we pick up series 2 and a certain series 11 companion stars alongside Liz Sladen in this creepy story inspired by Stephen King’s IT.

Next week our review will be the 4th Doctor story – Genesis of the Daleks.  Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!

Happy New Year Who fans. After the New Year’s Day Special ‘Resolution’ we’re now faced with a whole year, at least, of no new Doctor Who. We’ve been here before of course, a few times, so we can get through it but what makes these “dark times” easier? Let’s look at some great ways you can still enjoy Who.

Plan some marathons

Doctor Who marathon
Classic Doctor Who offers a huge library of great content

This is potentially the easiest thing to do and it’s not something that’s unique to a Who drought, we all watch plenty of Who all the time anyway. What’s cool about starting a fresh year is that you can plan your marathon viewing for the whole year.

For example, you could say each month is assigned to a Doctor and you’re going to watch a bunch of stories every weekend of that month or every Friday evening or every Sunday morning. I’ll leave it up to you to refine the details.

Fans of Classic Who will be pleased to know that Twitch is doing another stream season up to the end of January so that’s the first month of the year ticked off 👍

Which ever way you do it, it’s a good feeling knowing that your year is planned and filled up with Who.

Get out to conventions and events

London Film and Comic Con
London Film and Comic Con

Ah, the good old fan convention/event. They come in all shapes and sizes across multiple locations spanning the UK (and many other countries).

The convention scene is typically the busiest with the more famous stars but as a result is usually the most expensive. These are things like London Film & Comic Con, MCM London Comic Con etc along with slightly smaller events these companies run at various times throughout the year. These are good if you want to meet your favourite Doctor or companion and get a signed pic and/or photo. There’s also some half decent merchandise sold at these events if you’re after that Adric suit style t-shirt.

Something to consider are smaller events. In the UK we have smaller conventions from organisations such as Fantom Events which run more low key days at a cheaper cost. They usually cater to a more Classic Who audience but it’s still a great day to be had.

There’s also more unique events to behold such as the very cool cinema showings at the BFI Southbank Cinema in London. They typically show a Classic Who story to coincide with the release of a special edition set (the last showing was Earthshock to celebrate the release of the Season 19 Blur Ray Boxset). These are accompanied by a Q&A with cast and crew of the era and they’re a ruddy good afternoon.

Whichever type of event you choose to attend the coolest aspect by far is simply meeting and hanging out with other Who fans. It’s awesome chatting Who (at very deep levels at times) with like minded folk who “get” what you’re talking about. People have made friends for life at conventions, dive in.

Start your journey into Big Finish

Big Finish
Fantastic adventures from Big Finish

Where do we start with Big Finish then. They’ve put out so much great quality content over the years, it’s a bit of a beast to behold. How would one describe Big Finish? It’s essentially a canon-friendly collection of stories from (mainly) the Classic Doctors with some modern era stories starting to gain traction.

What did the Eighth Doctor do for the many years before his regeneration? Ever wondered if the Sixth Doctor got a proper regeneration? After some more multi-Doctor stories? Big Finish has it all. Think of it as the world of Doctor Who that you love from the TV era’s but fleshed out with plenty of back stories and extended adventures.

All of the Doctors are here in some shape or form (the Fourth Doctor through to the 10th Doctor all star in their stories with some great voice actors filling in for the others) along with their respective companions along with some new additions you haven’t seen before from TV.

We could write a whole article on Big Finish stories but jump over to the site and have a browse around and see if there are any stories that take your fancy. There’s also a great website called The Time Scales which offers up lots of reviews and recommendations.

Dive into fan made content

Who's He Video Podcast
Fan made content can be awesome

Like Big Finish, there’s an absolute tonne of fan made content to get stuck into in the shape of podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs. The quality can vary from border-line professional down to listen/watch the once. Let’s break it down…

Podcasts. There’s a raft of them littered throughout the iTunes podcast section (and the now many other podcast networks) so do a search for “Doctor Who Podcast” and plenty should appear. Shameful plug alertalong with our own podcast there’s a few that I listen to regularly which are good starting points: “Doctor Who: Who’s He Podcast”, “Progtor Who Podcast”, and “Krynoid Podcast” plus a few more. Pick a few out and listen to a couple of episodes and decide if you want to subscribe.

YouTube. Like podcasts, there’s a large amount of content (more so here) and the quality varies. Here are some more recommendations based on some channels I subscribe to. Another shameless plug alert – my co-host Adam’s channel “The Geeks Handbag”, “The Who Addicts”, “thehostproductions” and “Doctor Who: Who’s He? Video Podcast”. Also like the podcasts category, have a browse around and get stuck in.

Start or expand your library

Doctor Who Target books
Target novelisations

Although the BBC aren’t putting out any new episodes on the telly box there are still official Who stories released regularly from BBC Books along with plenty of unofficial books too.

A few releases, both old and new, to kick-start or expand your library include:

  • Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter – I always recommend this one and have done loads of times on the podcast. It’s a fascinating insight into the making of Russell T Davies’ era of the show.
  • Doctor Who: The English Way of Death – A great 4th Doctor story based on the old Virgin Missing Adventures range. Great characterisation and the story pips along nicely.
  • Doctor Who: Rose (Target Collection) – One of the recent Target novelisations written by Russell T Davies and fleshes out the episode Rose with some extra characterisation and scenes.
  • Doctor Who: Witch Hunters – I’m a sucker for the Salem witch trials era and this story featuring the 1st Doctor is a belter. Dark, creepy, surprisingly historically accurate and author Steve Lyons writes dialogue for the 1st Doctor so well you’ll hear Hartnell’s voice in your head as you read it.
  • Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen – it would be remiss of me to not include a novelisation by Terrance Dicks in the list. He’s written so many he’s border-line superhuman. There are many great examples of his writing that I literally closed my eyes, waved my finger along my bookshelves and stopped after counting to three. The Abominable Snowmen won’t disappoint. Very well written, engaging story and you can see Dicks’ brilliance even in this early stage.

There’s plenty to keep Who fans busy throughout this year and into 2020 before Series 12 makes an appearance. Let us know on the socials if you pick up any Big Finish releases or books and better still, tell us face-to-face when we bump into you at a convention.

Welcome back Who fans, we hope you all had a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all. We’re kicking 2019 off with a coat of new paint on the website and a new intro to the podcast. Without further ado…

The News

We hate starting off a show (and a new year) on sad news but June Whitfield and William Sheppard left us, there’s a new Cosmic Masque from DWAS and a bunch of new high-quality audio recordings from early Who have been found.

Merch Corner

The War Master will battle The Eighth Doctor is the upcoming Rage of the Timelords and the kid’s mag Doctor Who Adventures is back for a one-off special jam-packed with cool Who goodies.

“Resolution” Review

Our final Thirteenth Doctor review until next year, 2018 did go quick! We ended series 11 feeling a bit flat so does this provide a suitable exit and leave us wanting more of Jodie and the team or is this an unfortunate continuation on poor writing etc from The Chibbers?

Thank you for joining us for 214. Next week we’ll be back to our usual schedule and it will be The Day of the Clown from The Sarah Jane Adventures. Until then have a great week and until next time – Allons-y!