Some news to catch up on plus new stuff. We start with the sad news of the passing of Paul Darrow, the next classic animated movie will be “The Faceless Ones” and in the US, “The End of Time” gets a cinema outing for its 10th anniversary year.
New Character Options figure sets are coming to B&M stores this summer, the next classic Who limited edition blu ray box set will be Season 23, a new book is on the way titled “Star Tales” later this year to coincide with Series 12 and another Big Finish vinyl is out soon – “Wave of Destruction” which will be a Sainsbury’s exclusive.
“SJA – Prisoner of the Judoon” Review
We’re always up for reviewing SJA as you know and this week we eagerly kick off Series 3 with this creepy story of Judoon vs Attic crew vs Androvax the Anhiliator. Does this continue the decent scores we’ve dished out for SJA or is this the downturn we hope wouldn’t come?
Next week our review will be the 4th Doctor story – The Leisure Hive. Until then have a super week and remember – Allons-y!
After the smashing success of the previous set, it didn’t take Big Finish long too commission a second outing for Captain Jack. As with Volume 1, this set shows us some more moments and adventures in Jack’s long life. This time, we go from 100 years after The Parting of the Ways, to the trenches of WW1 and then meet up with another old friend of the Davies era!
PIECE OF MIND
The story that kicks off the set is Piece of Mind from James Goss sees Jack reunited with the Doctor, just not the one he was expecting.
With the Ninth Doctor and Rose having left Jack for dead at the end of The Parting of the Ways, Piece of Mind is set 100 years after that. Jack, on another planet finally sees the TARDIS arrive only for the Sixth Doctor to stumble out and die in his arms.
The set was publicised with the striking cover of John Barrowman in Colin Baker’s costume and it is a truly brilliant pairing. Goss has a lot of fun showing us what Jack really made of the Doctor and Barrowman says in the extras that this is Jack’s interpretation of both the Doctor he knew and the one he has just met. Indeed there are strong hints of Eccleston’s Doctor littered throughout Barrowman’s performance. But Jack isn’t demeaning to the Doctor’s character which was a nice touch as he had been abandoned! He gets the mindset right, helping the oppressed, even if he does blunder in and get it completely wrong!
Goss gets the characters right too, Jack is the same fun-loving character he was in Doctor Who before the darker character took over in Torchwood and The Sixth Doctor is at his best here, his sarcasm working as a perfect foil for Jacks’. It isn’t hard to see this story fitting into the Sixth Doctor’s later timeline, this is a slightly more serious version of the character, with shades of the Seventh Doctor but the final act is hilarious with The Doctor pretending to be Jack, with Southern American accent too! It’s a hilarious punch-the-air moment that only Colin Baker could have delivered! He’s a comic genius, why he and Peter Davison never had a television series I’ll never know!
We get a nice moment at the end where the Sixth Doctor works out that Jack is one of his future companions that he has abandoned whether intentionally or accidentally and for a moment, I thought the story was going to end with Jack going off to have new adventures with the Sixth Doctor. While it doesn’t, one does wonder with this excellent pairing if that was a mistake!
It’s clear how much fun everyone had making this episode when you listen to the episode and as a result, it is a resounding success and a fantastic way to kick off this new volume!
WHAT HAVE I DONE
The second story in this set is, What Have I Done by Guy Adams takes us from the far-flung future to the claustrophobic trenches of World-War-One. For me, this is the best episode of the piece, though all the entries are brilliant, this two-hander was a great way to spend the listening time.
Guy Adams does something very clever here and explores the emotions of war and what people are forced to do in wars and with the recent celebrations this year, it is an interesting time for this episode to come out. But I think it was a good idea, people need to remember that war isn’t fun, it isn’t all parades and celebrations, it’s gruesome, its mud, and blood and scary. And Adams does a great reminder of that, the monster, complete with guttural grunting and shuffling is a brilliant representation of that fear, while Adams never going too far in the other direction and taking away the dignity of those who did fight and die. It’s all expertly done.
The other brilliant thing about this story is the performances from John Barrowman and the guest star, Atila Akinci as the Turkish soldier, Ata, who keeps mumbling the titular line, which comes into play towards the end. While the main twist in Ata’s story isn’t that hard to work out if you have been listening to what he says, it’s still a nicely performed moment between the pair as Jack can’t act shocked or indignant because of all the things he’s done in the past and the future. Like Piece of Mind with Jack and the Sixth Doctor, Jack and Ata are a brilliant pairing and work in much the same way as Jack did with Angelo in the flashback episodes of Miracle Day.
And with this intimate character piece, the sound design from Blair Mowat becomes a third character, working nicely in conjunction with the monster to remind the listener that even in the quiet scenes, the characters are in constant danger, we’ve got explosions and gunshots and screaming. You can hear the characters trudging through the mud the whole thing feels very claustrophobic as a result. While this is a brilliant episode, it isn’t one I’d listen to on a whim, maybe if I were listening to the set again, just because the subject matter is so strong. But this isn’t one to be missed.
DRIVING MISS WELLS
The third and final episode in this set from James Goss sees the return of newsreader, Trinity Wells, who featured all throughout the Davies era of the show to show the international repercussions of many alien invasions. What was brilliant about this story though was that it showed that Trinity didn’t believe a word of it. She’s written a book about her time as a newsreader and now she is thrown into the world of aliens again, thanks to her mysterious new driver, one Jack Harkness.
While there is an alien to be fought and something of a conspiracy to be uncovered, what’s really brilliant is that Goss takes the time to incorporate commentary on how powerful media companies can influence events and how they will be remembered. Trinity points out at one point that while people will rise and fall, the media will always remain virtually silent and yet all-encompassing, no matter if its the truth or ‘fake news’ people will always be there to lap it up.
We get some nice throwbacks in the beginning to some of the news-pieces from the Davies era, including mentions of a mysterious Mr Saxon. Trinity was one of a few characters who ever appeared in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures so anyone who has watched all of the above will no doubt get a lot out of those little nuggets. Actress, Lachele Carl does a brilliant job here and is instantly likeable, even if it is a little weird to hear her character out of the newsroom.
I was a little disappointed in the villain for this story though. Fans of the Tenth Doctor would be forgiven for thinking the monster was the Vespiform’s, the giant Wasp from The Unicorn and the Wasp but it isn’t unfortunately, even though we get moments that highly imply this. But if you take the monster out, it would make a great conspiracy episode, something akin to The X-Files, maybe this episode was an example of less is more.
But on the whole, Driving Miss Wells is a great listen, with shades of The Bodyguard, the main pair, John Barrowman and Lachele Carl are a brilliant double act, especially in scenes where Trinity kidnaps someone. Jack is pretending to be shocked about it and it was a funny scene between the pair. We get some other funny moments too, like a chat about Strictly Come Dancing which had me chuckling! But it is fun to have Trinity Wells back, maybe Big Finish can now roll her over into some of the Tennant era dramas for some more little cameos or maybe a greater role? Please!
The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume 2 is another solid entry into the world of Jack and Torchwood, with three strong stories and some brilliant direction, as always, from Scott Handcock who clearly loves the Torchwood franchise. John Barrowman does a brilliant job here too, clearly having settled into the world of Big Finish since his return in 2015 and he works brilliantly alongside the guest cast, all of whom put in tremendous performances.
These are three stand-alone stories so no viewing or previous listening is needed. For newcomers to the worlds of Big Finish, these three stories would be the perfect place to start if you love Captain Jack. And for the cover alone, it is more than worth the money! Well done guys!
Concluding the brilliant trilogy with the Seventh Doctor and his new companion, though returning character, Mags, is An Alien Werewolf into London, which sees the Doctor and his alien Werewolf arriving in London and reuniting with the Doctor’s previous companion, Ace, who, presumably, has just been sent away from Gallifrey at the beginning of the Time War and had her memories of that time scrambled. But does An Alien Werewolf in London stand up to its namesake?
Alan Barnes is on hand here as the writer for this story and over the course of the story, he takes his time setting up the breadcrumbs for us to follow. He makes sure there are plenty of twists and turns peppered throughout the adventure and there is certainly a lot of plot to follow.
As usual, though, there is more than one alien in London and the real baddies turn out to be a group of vampires and anyone who knows their Doctor Who mythos knows that the Time Lords and Vampires are old enemies so we can expect some explosive moments.
Indeed, there were a few moments littered throughout this story that I didn’t see coming and Alan Barnes certainly kept the twists coming so much so that one wonders maybe if there were one-two-many but his creation of the Sin-Eater was an inspired one, even I wasn’t too sure what it was actually about! This might have been because I was listening to this at the same time as I was sorting my comic-book collection out so might not have been concentrating but I would have maybe liked a few more bits of information on the creature. But it all gave us a satisfying conclusion so it couldn’t have confused me all that much!
Barnes also gives us something new and interesting for Jessica Martin as Mags to do here. Making her spend much of the story in a health care facility, he carefully makes sure that we don’t know what is real and what isn’t but he blends it nicely in with the story’s main mystery and Mags has proved herself a capable companion so luckily for us, these scenes are some of the best this story has to offer.
The other thing that Barnes handles well is the inclusion of Ace. Sophie Aldred as Ace has had a bit of a confusing timeline with Big Finish, leaving the Doctor in Love and War, then re-joining the Doctor, going to Gallifrey, then back to Earth when the Time War kicks off which is where we find her in the Class series. But there is little cohesion between these events so Barnes rightly ignores this, leaving us to surmise that Ace is currently running her charity that Sarah Jane mentions in The Death of the Doctor, (A Charitable Earth. Get it?) Indeed, Ace doesn’t hate the Doctor like she does at the end of Love and War so some considerable time has passed for the pair since they last saw each other. But as always Ace is a welcome inclusion here and Barnes makes sure she gets enough to do.
In amongst the vampire references, nods to things that the actors have done in their own careers and action sequences, there is actually a rather imaginative story to enjoy, which Barnes should be praised for. It isn’t every-writer who can pen a rip-roaring adventure that goes from the streets, skies and back again in London! The motives of the vampires are original too, these aren’t creatures who want to feed on humanity, indeed they strive to do the opposite, though they go about it in the wrong way, putting many people in harms way in process. Its a very original way to look at these creatures and the dynamic between the Doctor and them, I’d be happy to see them return at some time in the future.
Sylvester McCoy is excellent as always and like with any great Seventh Doctor story, he straddles the line between good and evil with ease. Its always nice to hear the Doctor switching between sides, never fully knowing which side is good and the other evil. McCoy’s Doctor is the one who battled darkness with darkness the most and it’s great to hear McCoy continue to do that here! With this being his last Main Range release of this year, I’m really looking forward to hearing another trilogy of adventures with his Doctor next year!
Jessica Martin has no doubt been the breakout star of this year. Originally Mags was a one-off character in 1988, designed for one story and then destined to never be seen again. But Big Finish are magicians at bringing beloved characters back and Mags is no exception. Throughout this trilogy she has shown us why she is such a capable companion, sneakily stealing things that will help the Doctor, solving much of the mysteries without the Doctor being around, being funny and brave. Martin’s performance throughout these three adventures has been fantastic too and she is clearly having a ball getting to play this character again. I’ve no doubt she will become a very popular companion thanks to these adventures, already she ranks up there with Evelyn, Hex and Erimem for me! And it’s nice that promises not to be the last story for the Seventh Doctor and Mags as the story ends with the pair heading back for the TARDIS. Please, can we have more with this team Big Finish?
Sophie Aldred is always a welcome presence with Big Finish, no matter what range of Doctor Who audio’s she is featuring on. Here, she gets to play a slightly older version of the character and as a result, Ace is a little wiser. That’s not to say that her fun-loving attitude has gone as Aldred delights in playing the scenes here where she is flying around in helicopters and stealing cars! Buts its interesting to see some of Ace’s later timeline playing out across Big Finish and as long as they continue, I’ll always be here to listen to them!
The guest cast here is excellent too. Shiloh Coke has brilliant chemistry in the hospital scenes with Jessica Martin, making sure you don’t know quite what side she is on! Jacob Collins Levy makes for a great villain in the form of Rufus and Rex Duis, Lara Lemon and Gideon Turner are also excellent in their roles as different vampires. Overall, this is an excellent guest cast with no weak link between them.
New coming director Samuel Clemens who has directed this trilogy has done another brilliant job here, wrapping us this set of stories in style. His cast is excellent and he never lets up, keeping the story moving along at a real pace. Hopefully, we’ll see more from him at Big Finish in the near future!
Overall, An Alien Werewolf In London does stand up to its movie counterpart. In fact, it goes above and beyond to make sure its something completely new, different and fresh with its great script from Alan Barnes. The main cast is on fire and makes a great team, it’s a shame that Ace doesn’t go with them at the end. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we hear from her with Mags and the Seventh Doctor!
Mags continues to be a great inclusion in the companion ranks, working brilliantly alongside McCoy’s darker Doctor which was nice to hear again. The guest cast was strong too and this is a case where everything comes together to make something excellent! I can’t wait to hear more!
It wasn’t too long ago that it seemed impossible for Big Finish to produce the audio adventures of the Modern-Era Doctors. But over the last few years, we’ve had new adventures for the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. And fans didn’t think that the first of the Tenth Doctor’s companions they would get back would be Catherine Tate! But it was in 2017 that the first of the Tenth Doctor’s three sets of stories came out with David Tennant and Catherine Tate at the helm.
Now, they are back for three new adventures and the first of which also sees the return of Bernard Cribbins and Jaqueline King as Wilfred Mott and Sylvia Noble!
Some fans might not know that there was intended to be a story with the Tenth Doctor that followed the ghost-television show that was made famous thanks to Most Haunted. However, like many stories and concepts, it never made it to screen. But No Place, from James Goss, works almost like an entry into The Lost Adventures range from Big Finish.
As usual for stories with this TARDIS teams, things are pretty light and amusing in the beginning and Tennant and Tate are obviously having a blast pretending to be a married couple and it’s so funny to hear! And it’s great to hear Sylvia and Wilf having to keep up the pretence, even if they do sometimes amusingly slip up.
But things quickly take a turn for the more ghostly and bizarre from the middle of the second act with the gang, along with a television crew, discovering a skeleton and a bunker in the garden of an old house. It is a nice way that Goss ties the house and its history into the lives of the Noble family as it allows for some exploration of the characters. Donna learnt piano here, even if Sylvia can’t think of anything nice to say about her talent. Indeed, we get a scene where she plays the grand piano and Donna isn’t that bad. For all of Sylvia’s funny lines in this story, it is a nice reminder that she was always hard on Donna.
But it is also not hard to see Sylvia’s point of view in this adventure as she says that people tend to get hurt whenever the Doctor’s around. She does say that he is doing the right thing in the end but its the journey there that’s perilous around Donna’s friend. But Wilf puts it much more eloquently when he describes the Doctor after everything’s popped off. He says that the Doctor is like fire, standing between humanity and the darkness. It’s one of the best speeches from the audio adventures of Doctor Who I’ve ever heard and it’s delivered brilliantly from Bernard Cribbins.
Goss makes sure there are references and nods to different horror movies and the clichés that plague them, including creaking doors and floorboards, drafty corridors and people splitting up. And the nods of shows like Most Haunted are evident from the beginning and while we all know that they make a lot of stuff up, Goss handles talking about those shows, their audiences and their participants with dignity and without offence, when anyone else might not.
It goes without saying that David Tennant is one of the most popular incarnations of the Doctor in the show’s history and rightly so, here, he effortlessly reprises his role as if he never left nearly ten years ago! His chemistry with Catherine Tate is superb too and as a result, this episode really does feel like a missing adventure from the modern series.
Likewise, Catherine Tate does a brilliant job, picking up her role as Donna like she never left in 2008. I’ve always loved Donna and she is one of my favourite companions in all of Doctor Who history so this would have always been a success to me. But with so much character being injected into Donna from Goss, Tate seems to really relish this script, obviously enjoying playing around with the character!
Perhaps the biggest selling point for this story though was the inclusion of Donna’s relatives, Wilf and Sylvia. While we’ve heard from Sylvia in Big Finish before this as she appeared in an episode of Lady Christina, Jaqueline King really shines standing beside her former co-stars. It is clear how much she loved being in the show proper and that love for her character continues here as she gets some great lines and moments for us to enjoy.
Bernard Cribbins has done some audio work with Big Finish before too but this is the first appearance of Wilf since he left in 2010. But like the rest of the cast, it feels like he has never been away. Like Donna, I’ve always loved Wilf and the idea of the Doctor travelling with an older character is something that I’ve enjoyed. We’ve had Evelyn Smythe and Graham to prove this dynamic works and it still does on audio with Cribbins and Tennant easily falling into the Doctor/Companion dynamic. With some great moments and lines, some serious and some extremely funny, Wilf will no doubt enjoy a brand new love from the listeners. Hopefully, there will be further adventures for Sylvia and Wilf soon in the future!
Overall, No Place is a triumphant return for the Tenth Doctor in the Big Finish landscape. As the first adventure in a trilogy, it kicks things off nicely. Goss manages to throw in a number of small references to things that we have seen in Series 4 of the television show, to help ground it into that season of the show and there are fun for die-hard fans to pick out and digest.
Ken Bentley does a great job in the director’s chair here too, keeping things moving along at a real pace and the story is aided by some brilliantly ghostly soundscapes from Howard Carter who manages to give the whole thing a really spooky feel. Well done guys.
With the whole story owing to masterpieces like The Others, The Conjuring, Ghostwatch and Most Haunted, this story was going to be a hit with me as I’m a tremendous fan of horror. But I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it! This is one of those adventures that is not be missed!
Continuing on the Torchwood series with returning Doctor Who aliens is Sync, which not only features the return of Indira Varma as Suzie Costello but also Annette Badland as the villainous Margret Slitheen!
Lisa McMullin has penned a rather interesting story. Not only does she get to delve into the characters of Suzie and Margaret she also gets to play this as a sequel and prequel to Everything Changes in Torchwood and Aliens In London/World War Three and Boom Town.
What might seem like an impossible task is handled admirably as McMullin makes sure you don’t need to have seen those mentioned stories from both Doctor Who and Torchwood but she makes sure she doesn’t alienate listeners who have seen those episodes. The way McMullin does this is through some exploration of the characters. We all know that Suzie and Margaret are manipulators and evil, but is that all they are? It’s interesting to get that question answered here and it throws up some rather interesting and surprising scenes and moments.
McMullin also makes sure to keep this audio a character piece, keeping the plot light enough so she keeps the pair together. McMullin makes sure the pair go through some ups and downs, and it is hilarious to hear them trying to outdo each other! We all know that Margaret is a survivor, but she meets her match here in the form of Suzie.
In Boom Town, we get to take an interesting look at what would happen when an alien adopts the human way of life. Margaret admits she likes where she lives and she doesn’t kill a pregnant woman when she tells her that she is going to have to tell the press about the nuclear plant that Margaret is planning to build. But that sudden discovery of humanity actually starts here as Margaret has a couple of moments where she could easily kill Suzie but decides not too.
Likewise, Suzie gets a lot more of a chance to prove her humanity, even if she goes about it completely the wrong way. It is interesting that this is only the second audio that Varma has done in the role and it is a fun exploration of her character. Is Suzie really as bad as she appeared in Everything Changes? You’ll have to listen to find out.
With this being a Torchwood release, it gives McMullin a chance to show the slightly more sadistic side of the Slitheen and we get a surprisingly tense scene in Suzie’s hidden lockup which is basically a darker version of the scene in World War Three where Margaret hunts down Rose and Harriet Jones. But the dialogue in this scene is electric as it shows how really intelligent both characters are and hopefully the Slitheen will make a return in a future Torchwood release soon!
The final moments also show the more sadistic side of Suzie as it becomes apparent the whole plot is a mistake from one of her vast manipulations. She wastes no time in combating the threat in her own way but it once again shows that she isn’t necessarily evil, just someone who will do whatever they have to do to save the day, even if that might be construed as the wrong way of doing it.
Listening to the extras, it is clear how much Badland and Varma had performing this script. From their first scene together, it is clear this pair is going to be a great and surprising double-act. Both of them haven’t really been back to perform these characters for over a decade and they both sound exactly the same. They really play up to the idea that over the course of the story, Margaret and Suzie develop a begrudging respect for each other. They know they could both quite easily kill one-another and even though that sense of fun continues throughout the majority of this play, by the time it comes to an end, you aren’t quite certain if they will actually kill one another. It is a great dynamic to explore and hear playing out across the hour runtime and Badland and Varma are excellent in each other’s company. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we hear either these characters together or on other audios in the future.
In the director’s chair is Scott Handcock who keeps the light script rattling along at a real pace. But the real appeal of this audio is the sense of fun it has and Handcock should be congratulated for keeping that going for the runtime. One wonders how much direction he actually had to do because the whole piece feels so effortless! Well done.
Overall, Sync is a great listen. The script is brilliant, the main cast is on fire and the direction is fabulous. The whole piece is a joy to behold and one of the strongest and most enjoyable Torchwood releases of this year. I could say more but that would ruin the piece for you if you’re going to give it a listen. Sync is not to be missed!