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The News

A school in Wales produces a great fan film, Rani from SJA and Laura Fraser to star in Series 12 and sadly the last surviving writer from the 1st Doctor era, Donald Tosh, passes away.

Merch Corner

Blu rays and steelbooks all round as Series 5 and the upcoming Series 12 are now available to pre-order.

Review story this week is: The Moonbase

Classic Cybermen this week as the 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben try to survive in this base under siege four-parter. They do say too much sugar is bad for you!

A huge, big, massive thank you…

…to all of you who have listened to our show in 2019 (and prior). This is our last show for this year as we embark on our two-week break. We will be back on either 3rd Jan or 10th Jan with our reviews for the Series 12 opener “Spyfall”.

We have lots of Doctor Who still to cover and no doubt we’ll be out and about throughout 2020 at various events and cons so will be another busy year for us.

Until then we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. Take care of yourselves and remember… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallons-y!

November was a real treat for us Big Finish fans, though our wallets may hate us! We had the brilliant ending to the latest Fifth Doctor trilogy which saw the return of the Cybermen, the return of the Lost Series range which gave us two unmade television adventures for the Sixth and Fifth Doctors and the First and Second Doctors met in a brilliant, and heart-breaking adventure, with Katerina and the Daleks. And we also got another face-off between the Doctor and the first incarnation of the Master, with Ben, Polly and Jamie caught in the middle.

Just reading the synopsis on the Big Finish website will tell you that things aren’t what they seem in The Home Guard. Polly and Jamie are married and living in a quiet English village when Ben gets some leave he comes to visit them. But none of them seems to know who they are to the Doctor, the man who seems to be in charge of the small village. Why are Polly and Jamie married? Why is Ben coming back from the war and who is the strange man who seems to be trying to convince them all that the Doctor is working for the Nazis? Author Simon Guerrier asks these questions and then some throughout this great outing.

The cover art for The Home Guard
The cover art for The Home Guard

Guerrier has always been great at writing early outings for the First and Second Doctors but he seems to have really made a name for himself in more recent years for the stories he has written for the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie. The Yes Men and The Outliers are great and entirely original ideas for a Doctor Who adventure and The Home Guard is no different, with Guerrier keeping the secrets of the story under wraps well into the second half of the adventure. It’s a great way to layout a story, the listener is just as confused and intrigued as the main characters and we find out things at the same time as those characters.

Guerrier’s handle on the sixties period is second-to-none and it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t the soundtrack to a lost adventure, its that good. Guerrier also has a great handle on how the Second Doctor’s first TARDIS team should sound like. It’s not difficult to see Troughton, Wills, Hines or Craze delivering any of the lines here. And as long-term readers will know, I’ve always loved these Second Doctor adventures and I’m pleased to see that Big Finish is still giving this era of the show such love and attention.

Frazer Hines plays both Jamie and the Second Doctor and with each release, his impersonation of Patrick Troughton gets better and better. Anneke Wills is also on double duties here as both Polly and the narrator and she makes sure that the story really moves along, she’s a great narrator and I could listen to her reading out anything! And Elliot Chapman continues to really impress me as Ben. Chapman is fantastic at the role originally played by Michael Craze and he’s really got the character down to an art form now, it’s impossible to tell the difference between Chapman and Craze and he’s been a great addition to this team, allowing Big Finish to finally give us some brand new full-cast audio adventures for the Second Doctor. I hope he stays with them for a very long time!

The cast of The Home Guard: Molly Hanson, Anneke Wills, James Dreyfus, Frazer Hines and Elliot Chapman
The cast of The Home Guard: Molly Hanson, Anneke Wills, James Dreyfus, Frazer Hines and Elliot Chapman

And what of the Master? Well, it has been over two years since we last heard James Dreyfus in the role with the First Doctor tale, The Destination Wars. What I really like about this incarnation is that he’s not completely crazy like the other onscreen incarnations. Don’t get me wrong, he’s ready and willing to kill people, were first introduced to him here as he kills someone trying to run away. And Guerrier really seems to enjoy teasing the appearance of the character, we’ve got some musical cues that are very reminiscent of the Delgado tune and the use of the Tissue-Compression-Eliminator. And the immortal line, “I am the Master. And you will obey me,” rightly ends the first episode.

And another note on this Master not being as crazy as his next incarnations, it is refreshing that the character doesn’t just kill characters for the sake of it. He gets his fair share of kills in here but he isn’t afraid to manipulate others into doing it for him. But what was really interesting was that he stopped the more-evil take on the Doctor from killing his friends. There were a couple of moments where things looked hairy for Polly and Jamie and yet the Master didn’t let things go too far. Could it be that this incarnation of the Master actually likes some of the Doctor’s friends? It’s certainly an interesting look and take on the character and I’m looking forward to hearing more from this Master in next year’s Seventh Doctor story, The Psychic Circus.

The Home Guard is a completely unique Doctor Who story that somehow seems perfectly suited to this TARDIS team. I can’t see any other characters playing these roles that the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie play here. Lisa Bowerman has done another fantastic job here as director, really making the most of the cast and the script and the whole package is something that is pure magic.

The Home Guard will join The Yes Men, The Forsaken, Resistance and The Night Witches as one of my favourite stories from this TARDIS team and I’m happy to say is one of my favourite Big Finish releases of this year. It’s dark, mysterious, fun, full of twists and turns, has some great performances from the main and guest casts and its powered by a strong script and tight direction. The Home Guard is a triumph in every way!

Reviving The Lost Stories range of audio adventures, Big Finish has given us two new stories, Nightmare Country and The Ultimate Evil. Nightmare Country sees the Fifth Doctor and his companions Tegan and Turlough having to face a brand-new threat and virtual realities in a story that feels massive in its scale.

That’s not a surprise when you find it’s written by Steve Gallagher, the same man who gave us Warriors’ Gate and Terminus, two stories that feature some very heavy sci-fi and Nightmare Country is no different. I’ve always enjoyed Terminus, not a story that many fans do but Warriors’ Gate has always felt like more of a slog. I would say though that Nightmare Country is perhaps the strongest Doctor Who script that Gallagher ever submitted to the BBC office in the 1980s and it’s a shame that it never made it to the television screens around the world because this is a story that I would have loved to see in that format.

Cover art for Nightmare Country
Cover art for Nightmare Country

While Warriors’ Gate, in particular, was a little more ‘out-there’, you’ll be surprised to learn that Nightmare Country does feel a much more traditional fare. That’s not to say that Gallagher doesn’t put his own unique spin on the proceedings but there is a clear beginning, middle and an ending. Throughout the four-episodes, there are some brilliant ideas and some nice twists and some moments that made me think and some emotional beats. It also featured what will probably become one of my favourite Doctor/Companion moments between the Fifth Doctor and Tegan which I found surprisingly sad.

Gallagher has a great handle on the main cast. It’s not very often we get a story that features just the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough, normally they’re accompanied with either Nyssa or this year, Kamelion. And the smaller main cast allows Gallagher to give them all moments to shine. The Doctor gets an unusual stance in this story where he has no idea what is going on and finds himself thrown into the events of the story. Tegan gets to play, going into the virtual-reality to save the Doctor and Turlough has to keep everyone together, make sure everyone survives and work out who is on their side and who isn’t.

The cast of Nightmare Country
The cast of Nightmare Country

Each character gets some great moments and the performances from the main cast are particularly strong here. It’s clear they are enjoying the script. Davison has always been my favourite Doctor and he is great here, excelling especially at the more emotional side of things. As does Janet Fielding, who as Tegan, puts aside the attitude for much of the story and gets a lot of the sadder scenes, the difference in Tegan here and say, Four to Doomsday really cementing how desperate things seem here.

And Mark Strickson continues to impress as Turlough. I’ve always liked his character as you never really knew where he stood on the television series, he was just as likely to side with the baddies as he was with the Doctor. Here though, he is clearly in charge, commanding respect from the people around him and saving the day when Tegan and the Doctor are in the Virtual Reality. As perhaps one of the most under-rated companions in the series, Nightmare Country proves why he deserves so much more credit.

For me though, where Nightmare Country falls just short of being an all-time classic is in its experimental way of storytelling. I didn’t like that we knew more about what was going on than the Doctor. If something like that is going to happen, then the Doctor needs to find things out at the same time as we do, not the other way around. Perhaps it just feels strange to know more information than the Doctor and it makes sense to give us some information on what is going on, but there have been other stories that have had similar twists, like House of Blue Fire and the more recent, The Home Guard, that have done this kind of twist better. But is a minor quibble because I really did enjoy this story!

Nightmare Country certainly feels like one of the more obscure Fifth Doctor adventures but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s experimental, it is bold and exciting. Gallagher’s script was clearly too big for a television budget back in the mid-eighties but it is a story that even if they had made it, would have probably been held in high regard for its bold way of telling the story. On audio it works just as well, proving that Gallagher still has a great scientific brain and isn’t afraid of telling stories that dabble with heavy sci-fi. That aspect of heavy sci-fi makes this outing a nice ending for the Gallagher trilogy of Warriors’ Gate and Terminus and like those stories, is an audio adventure I look forward to rediscovering in a few years time!

The News

A new immersive show, Doctor Who: Time Fracture, is heading our way next year and you can purchase Gallifreyan Coin tokens now to exchange for official tickets when they go on sale in February.

Merch Corner

New Target novels are coming in summer 2020 including paperback versions of the recently released Resurrection and Revelation of the Daleks plus another 5 including some new era novelisations; a new 4th Doctor sixth scale figure was announced by Big Chief Studios; a TARDIS cardigan (read: poncho) is out from emp and a glow in the dark t-shirt is up for pre-order from Forbidden Planet.

Thank you all for listening this week. Our review story next week should be the 2nd Doctor story – The Moonbase. Until then have a great week and remember – Allons-y!

In 2017 a 13-year-old girl from Swansea in Wales became a new record titleholder for the Largest collection of Doctor Who memorabilia with 6,641 items. With less than two weeks to Christmas Day dear reader, the annual ritual of being allowed to indulge in excess is fast approaching. There are “I want” lists for Doctor Who items being written up and down the country and left for father Christmas. So it got me thinking about how much is too much?

As a Doctor Who fan I imagine you’ll have your own collection of Doctor Who paraphernalia whether it’s autographs, books or DVDs or more specialist items but at what point does it become all-consuming? I ask this question as a person who has desired a more minimalist style of living for a while but has real trouble making it happen. Minimalism is pursuing a simpler life free from too many material possessions, enabling you to make better use of your time. Whilst I can never boast a collection as big as Lily Connors gigantic haul of items, after a very long period of resisting the urge to “own” anything newly released for Doctor Who I unexpectedly succumbed.

It started by me winning an auction job lot on eBay of 60 Doctor Who DVDs where the proceeds went to charity. I then felt the compulsion to fill the gaps in that collection. Every TV story is out there new and classic. Checking eBay daily for interesting items, as anyone who is a buyer knows, its a strange driving desire. The scale of my buying journey since then has grown. I attended the DWAS Capitol 4 convention event in April this year where I saw a host of replica Daleks sliding around the hotel corridors, “escorting” guests in the lifts. I loved that fiction to reality scenario so much that I have somehow acquired a quarter share in a full-size replica Dalek!

Why do people collect? Well according to psychology its more complicated than you would imagine. Psychologists do point to differences in the genders when collecting. In a generalised way, women are more interested in people and men are more interested in things so collecting is seen mainly as a male occupation. Male collectors gather due to the caveman instinct to hunt from prehistoric times and bring back resources. That collecting instinct has been recognised and manipulated by marketing people cleverly over the years usually using the most receptive of audiences, children.

One of the highly effective ways developed was including action figure toys in breakfast cereals for children to collect Flying Superman Toy – 1955 – Kellogg’s Corn Flakes – TV Commercial [English] [Toys]. The toys normally were one of a set and children would be encouraged to collect the full set otherwise their collection would be incomplete. Collection possibilities for Doctor Who have grown so much, since the Dalekmania days of the 1960’s where the “pepper pot” monsters were an instant hit, that it feels overwhelming at times. Here is a question for you. How much do you spend on Doctor Who related merchandise per month £30, £50, £100 more?

A Dalek Dream
A Dalek Dream

When it comes to Doctor Who merchandise for some people collecting everything is an obsession. Dedicated sites such as http://merchandise.thedoctorwhosite.co.uk/ exist to show everything available and upcoming and I do wonder if we are just being manipulated sometimes? There is a part of me that does want to protest against some of the output especially when it’s what I see as a “rinse and release”. BBC Worldwide, the commercial subsidiary of the BBC, is smart enough to know that most fans will shell out for Blu rays, vinyl’s, toys where there are limited editions.

As fantastic as the limited edition Blu-ray certainly are fans are in essence being persuaded to double-dip financially (if they have the original DVDs) or even triple-dipping (if they own the original and special edition DVDs) for variations of what is essentially the same product repackaged in a different way. It feels slightly cynical to make more money out of the fans when they have already invested and doesn’t always sit comfortably with me.

For some other collectors, there is mixed in with their desire a thrill of the hunt. There is a certain excitement chasing an item, which other people want. Desire is a difficult thing to control because there is just that one more thing you have to have. There are opportunities to buy replicas, masks made from the original moulds, replica costumes at reasonable prices. A replica Tom Baker head from Meglos (1980) sold recently for £150 at auction whereas a replica Sontaran head from The Two Doctors made from rubber latex was picked up for as little as £30

There are different categories to describe how people collect. There is a theory that for some collectors the value of their collections is emotional rather than monetary and that collections allow people to connect to times that they feel strongly about. These collectors are accumulators. There is some truth for me in the emotional aspects of collecting about Doctor Who. When I was younger Doctor Who represented thrilling adventure, escape, and was a space for me. No one in my family understood my fascination. I kept it separate from other parts of a sometimes-challenging upbringing. I felt if I could know everything about the show I loved then I could belong to this fandom.

As an avid reader in the 1980’s I started my own collection around Doctor Who Magazine and spent as much of my pocket money as I could on the magazine season specials before spreading into buying small toys, cards and other items. I even bought copies of a fanzine called ‘Doctor Who Bulletin’ which certain people may remember was a highly vocal critic of John Nathan Turner and the later seasons of Doctor Who. I guess I am an accumulator as I do want to possess and save items but my collection is haphazard and where I don’t have an emotional connection to something I can get rid of it.

A collectors world
A collectors world

We have all seen the extremes on television where there are people with houses stacked with all manner of things unable to get rid of anything. These are hoarders and not a concern here. Some other people are very methodical and want to have a good representation of everything a person can own about the subject. They search for items in different areas and buy to fill gaps. They might collect different versions of the same thing by different people seeing value in the differences. Their collection will be well thought out, defined and catalogued. These are known as collectors. Occasionally they may donate their catalogued collections to museums.

The most exciting times for me are when someone owns an original item, clothing, prop, script or autograph. where you do seriously need deep pockets. This becomes the serious end of collecting and is going into the area of memorabilia or collectables. Time and money mean nothing to these types of collectors who may travel hundreds of miles to feel the thrill of owning an object. These are the true obsessives. It will inform their lives, where they plan events, meetings, holidays around their collection. The most collectable items are from the late Sixties when ‘Dalek-mania’ took off and a Dalek that has appeared on screen will fetch the best prices. Sometimes people buying these items are hoping they will appreciate in value but most just want to own a part of the show.

It does fascinate me how much money people are prepared to spend on their collections. In 2005 an original Dalek sold at auction for £36,000; when this same model was sold 20 years previously it went under the hammer for just £4,600. If you do decide to buy at this end of the market then provenance and condition are really important. Verifying that an item has appeared on screen will appeal to collectors and if it’s worn by one of the show cast its value will be reflected in the price. The waitress outfit worn by Kylie Minogue sold for £3,120 a few years ago.

13-year-old Lily Connors from Swansea in Wales is the new record title holder for the Largest collection of Doctor Who memorabilia

One of the most important aspects I’ve learned now that I’ve come back into collecting as an adult is you have to like what you collect. No, actually you should LOVE what you collect, get real pleasure from it. A friend who has been a dealer and is also a collector has a philosophy about the items you collect: “Don’t have your collection hidden away, put it out on display, wear it, use it or sell it.”

There are theories that collecting can be good for your brain, the nucleus accumbens, your pleasure centre, is activated by the searching as it fosters organisational skills, as the collector catalogues items. As a pastime, it can also be creative, depending on what you collect and fosters social connections as its an opportunity to share. I’ve certainly had some interesting conversations and developed friendships after debates on what we owned and what our collections were. Maybe that’s what collecting is really about. Being a part of something, a community of shared common interests with other people. There is a saying that where there are numbers there is strength.

What was the first thing you collected and why? Post your comments on here or Twitter. Let’s talk.

Until Next time…

Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 26 is released on the 20th January 2020 and to celebrate the BFI (British Film Institute) on the London Southbank recently ran a special event on Doctor Who’s 56th anniversary showing the “ The Curse of Fenric”.

What seemed to slip under most people’s radar was the John Nathan Turner documentary that was added to the schedule two hours before the main event. It’s entirely appropriate that it’s a feature on the upcoming Blu-ray when you consider John Nathan Turner saw four Doctors as producer and more working on the programme in his career. It is the personal and revealing story of the life of the last producer of classic Who and packs an emotional punch. I’m not normally an early riser on a Saturday but I can honestly say I’m so glad that I made the effort to see it on a big screen.

Even though the theatre was half full (maybe it was the 10am start!) director Chris Chapman was there excited to see it with an audience which also included people who had taken part in the documentary. So, there were friends of JNT, Chris Bidmead (writer), Kate Eastell (JNT’s PA), Peter Davison, amongst others. It’s definitely a highlight of the whole day for me.

Chris Chapman, director of Showman - the Life of John Nathan-Turner
Chris Chapman (right) director of Showman – the Life of John Nathan-Turner

The tickets for the screening of “The Curse of Fenric” was probably one of the fastest-selling on the BFI site that I’ve seen. As soon as the members day tickets opened there was a rush on the event and I’m not surprised. Perhaps it is the growing popularity of these BFI events but they are always sold out but this time tickets were snapped up quickly. In the Doctor Who Magazine Poll of 2014, the story came 19th most popular out of 156 classic stories just behind the Five Doctors (18) and above Spearhead from Space (20) which is no mean feat. It is all in the writing for me from Ian Briggs. One of the surprises was Ian Briggs getting up before the screening to talk about the script. He describes the Curse of Fenric as more of a developing horror and supernatural story before becoming science fiction. It is one of my favourite stories of the 7th Doctor era because we get to see another more manipulative side to the Doctor and Ace is growing up.

I love the rich storytelling, where characters are well developed and believable even Sundvik who we never see but learn about through the translations. The script sparkles as it challenges faith and belief in family, love, ideology in a war period where people were questioning who was the enemy. I love Nicholas Parsons as Reverend Wainwright who despises that the British could bomb German cities and kill innocent people.  Doctor Judson, played by Dinsdale Landen, a wheelchair-using genius was Ian Briggs explained based on Alan Turing but with changes to expand the relationship with Nurse Crane. The antagonism between them was extended, in the novel, to explain that it came from a close former relationship.

Ian Briggs (centre) with interviewers Justin Johnson and Dick Fiddy
Ian Briggs (centre) with interviewers Justin Johnson and Dick Fiddy

Ian Briggs seemed very happy to be at the BFI and revealed that he started his writing career in the 1980s by attending a scripting writing event at the BFI where he got some excellent advice on how to pass interviews. He described his time on Doctor Who as “a joy”. He enjoyed writing Ace in Dragonfire describing her character as “beautiful” and he handed her over to Andrew Cartmel. He realised Doctor Who was a writer led programme where writers were listened to. His later experiences were as more as a hired gun but Andrew Cartmel created space and a think big mentality. Ian Briggs loved John Nathan Turner because he was larger than life character and he fought for the show.

Mark Ayres is a stalwart of the BFI events and besides revealing that he was working on an undisclosed season right now (Future release alert!) was happy to describe the revisions he made for “The Curse of Fenric”. He loves the show and cares that the releases are the best they can be for the fans, as a fan himself. He referred back to the 2003 DVD release where a feature-length special edition was then created. Whilst the original scripts were fantastic due to the demands of tv schedules for transmission the story had to have twenty minutes cut. John Nathan Turner had thought it a bad idea to recut the story but the special edition now was in script order and told the story as it was meant to be. He is someone who is regularly called on to restore and update effects and when asked which period was easier to tinker on and update, he said none as the technology keeps moving.

The differences were; the black and white era was about preserving as much as possible of the analogue sound and the colour era was mainly fixing fadeouts, clicks and pops and replacing the loss of sound. Mark described one scene where Kathleen and baby Audrey are escaping through a window. It was a summery dry scene as the Haemovores are coming around the corner which became stormy and wet. He restored the effect and revised the sound. I liked that before the story started there was an acknowledgement that the version was for director Nicholas Mallett and producer John Nathan Turner.

Mark Ayres, composer on Curse of Fenric (right)
Mark Ayres, composer on the extended and restored Curse of Fenric (right)

There were a quite a few highlights of extras created for the Blu-ray and they look hugely entertaining. Outtakes which prove Sylvester McCoy is naturally a comic. Behind the Sofa with Janet Fielding’s pithy wit, a feature including the season’s writers. The trailer featuring a grown-up Ace was shown and speaks to the popularity of Sophie Aldred character’s as it was very warmly received by the audience. Sophie Aldred and script editor Andrew Cartmel were together as the guests after the previews and there was some discussion that maybe it is time for Ace to come back in some capacity. She was meant to be a proactive Cathy Gale type in Fenric who seduced a soldier and fell in love.

Ace’s growth set the template for the companion in the revival and interviewer Justin described it as “groundbreaking”. It’s acknowledged that Ace and the 7th Doctor are a popular pairing and Sophie Aldred discussed their relationship where they clicked together having many similarities in their acting life, political outlook and sharing a birthday! John Nathan Turner was discussed as an instinctive caster of actors who would give new people an opportunity but also enjoyed the more showbiz aspects of the business where he might be accused of stunt casting.

Andrew Cartmel I must admit fascinates me. I had a very delightful discussion with him about “Ghostlight” at London Film and Comic Con and brought his book. For years there has been discussion about the Cartmel Masterplan, which is a backstory where the writers attempted to make the Doctor more mysterious. He started as script editor on the show on the strength of his scripts and explained he obtained an agent who was a friend of JNT. He wasn’t aware of the sword over the show but only of its reputation.

Q&A with Sophie Aldred and Andrew Cartmell
Q&A with Sophie Aldred and Andrew Cartmell

He revealed John Nathan Turner would read feedback from the magazines and  Andrew would get letters from fans saying don’t destroy the show. Andrew Cartmel hadn’t watched the show systemically but watched some early Tom Baker and got on with the scripts and finding new writers. Due to the lack of money, they had to be more creative and he felt by the end of season 26 that they were getting it right with the show. Characters came first and he didn’t realise the impact they would have on the modern era. Plans were in place for the 27th season, he had spoken to writers and didn’t expect the cancellation but was asked to write an open ending which he did.

The Curse of Fenric signing card and BFI information sheet
The Curse of Fenric signing card and BFI information sheet

After the panel, the whole event finished with a signing with Sophie Aldred and Andrew Cartmel with a lovely postcard available. Expectedly there was a huge queue for both and I had to admire their endurance talking with fans and the patience of everyone waiting to see them.

It was another well-organised event by the BFI and the perfect way to end it was settling down and chatting with our Big Blue Box podcast friends Garry and Adam in the BFI balcony bar. Next year is going to be another busy year for the BFI as more Blu-rays come out and the animated missing stories come to the big screen. I’m really looking forward to coming back in 2020!

The latest Fifth Doctor trilogy comes to a heart-pounding conclusion with the latest two, two-part outings, Warzone & Conversion. With a fun build-up in Warzone, we get a terrific re-match and showdown between the Doctor and the dreaded Cybermen, but with the death of Adric still fresh in everyone’s mind, this time will the Doctor go too far?

Cover for Warzone / Conversion
Cover for Warzone / Conversion

Opening the set is Warzone from Chris Chapman. I believe he stated that the idea of the story came from going out running and hearing stories from his friends about how much they enjoyed it. Personally, the only time I run is if someone is chasing me, so Warzone and the mentality of the competitors here were really enjoyable to listen too. I’ve always had the greatest of respect for marathon runners, though I’d never do it myself, and how much money they raise for charitable causes. Warzone takes that mentality and flips on its head, what if they weren’t running for charitable causes but for their own needs, their need to better themselves, to upgrade themselves?

It doesn’t take Chapman long to begin throwing in the Cybermen Easter-eggs and eagle-eared listeners will pick up on them instantly but it still makes a nice surprise for listeners who might be new to the show or don’t know that the monsters are on the cover. What is quite warped and twisted and something that I really liked was the Chapman allows Tegan to give the go-ahead for Marc’s Cyber-conversion, albeit that she doesn’t know what it entails. Marc falls victim to the rigours of running the race is hurried to a hospital to be fixed back up so he can get back to the race. When he seemingly dies, Tegan allows the robotic Florence to heal him but she doesn’t know that Florence is really picking out suitable candidates for conversion.

It’s a great performance from Janet Fielding and you really get the idea that even though they haven’t known each other for long, the adventures that the crew go on, quickly forge bonds between the TARDIS crew. She seems really upset that Marc might die or be hurt and it throws the first hints that they never really did get over the death of Adric.

Chapman makes sure that everyone here gets time to shine. He gives us the first hints at the darker mentality that the Doctor will take on over the course of these two adventures, and Davison puts in another great performance. Nyssa probably represents me in this story, someone who doesn’t race off at a hectic pace, but someone who takes the race at a much more reasonable speed and she gets her own companion in the form of Morris, played by Timothy Blore.

Warzone isn’t a story that in any way challenges the listener but it and the set as a whole aren’t designed that way. This is a character-driven story and it is Marc’s pride that proves to be his downfall. Its a great take on a companion who has been quite quiet up to this point. Overall Chapman’s opening story is strong enough to stand on its own two feet as well as tying in nicely to the overall storyline on offer in this set.

Mark Hardy and David Banks menace Peter Davison once again!
Mark Hardy and David Banks menace Peter Davison once again!

The second story, Conversion from Guy Adams is a much different kind of Cybermen story. While they are the baddies, there characters involved where you don’t know where they stand. And one character will throw a spanner-in-the-works at the very end in a twist that I didn’t see coming at all!

With Marc having been partially converted into a Cyberman in Warzone, the Doctor and the gang have taken him to a medical station. Leaving Nyssa with him, she quickly discovers that the doctor looking after him has a secret desire of her own, to learn about cybernetics and how it can be used to stop illness, death and decay. She wants to know about the Cybermen and the Doctor has just unwittingly brought one to her doorstep. Of course, she isn’t allowed to get too far, but some of her dialogue to Marc was a little disturbing to hear. But Adams makes sure that she isn’t an out-and-out villain, she is doing it for a good reason, just going about out in a bad way.

Tegan and the Doctor find themselves in the same sort of situation that the Tenth Doctor and Mrs Moore did in The Age of Steel, trapped inside a factory with millions of dormant Cybermen. Adams also introduces us to two technology-pirates, Herb and Creasey. I have to be honest if there was one thing I wasn’t too keen on in this set of stories it was these two characters. Despite enjoyable performances from Angela Bruce and Liz-Sutherland-Lim, whether it was down to the writing or the performances, they were a little bit too shouty and piratey for my liking. I know that sounds silly given that this is their characters but there was something there that I didn’t take too much. Still, that is a minor quibble for another strong script.

If you go into Conversion expecting another massive Earthshock-style Cybermen outing might be disappointed but the appeal of this story isn’t down to showing us the might of the Cyber-force but how the conversion process affects the victim, their mind and those around them. I found myself getting drawn into Marc’s struggle as he was trying to fight against the programming and reclaim his soul, despite the creepy taunting and explanations from  David Banks Cyber-Leader.

Much like their debut Big Finish outing in Hour of the Cybermen, David Banks and the Cyber-Lieutenant, Mark Hardy put in excellent performances here. In fact, the pair of them go hand-in-hand if you are talking about the 1980s Cybermen so it’s nice that they both are still friends in real life and were happy enough to come back to their respective roles.

Banks, in particular, seems so at home in the recording studio that it is surprising that he only made his Big Finish debut last year. In the same vein, as this isn’t another Earthshock-style story, the meeting between the Doctor and the Cyber-Leader is instead a raw one, it is because of the Cyber-Leader that the Doctor couldn’t save Adric from dying. It is a much quieter but darker affair and I can’t describe how enjoyable Davison’s darker-Doctor performance was. It was a great direction to take this incarnation of the Doctor, once again proving to me why Davison will always be my favourite iteration of the character. I’m hoping that this isn’t the last we hear from the pairing of Banks and Davison because they are so good together. And Banks still manages to bring the dread with his booming voice, when you hear it you instantly know things are going to be bad, I was worried for each of the companions as they came face-to-face with this monster once again.

The story ends in a twist that I won’t ruin but let’s just say it didn’t end how I was expecting it too! Adams knows how to leave things on a cliffhanger and I can’t wait until next year when I hope we get a further trilogy of adventures for the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Marc. This is the reason why I love Big Finish so much, they help to make the mythos of the show much deeper and richer than just the television persona, adding so much more to it!

Warzone / Conversion is another terrific outing for the Big Finish team. With great performances from the main and guest casts, brilliant and imaginative scripts that feel wholly original from Chris Chapman and Guy Adams and strong direction from Scott Handcock results in a set of stories which have to be heard to be believed. Definitely one to add to your collection!

The News

We run down the latest trailer for Series 12 and it’s opening story “Spyfall”.

Merch Corner

Cuteness all around this week with new Mr Men and Little Miss cushions for the 11th and 13th Doctors, chibi-style pin badges and a set of 6 Sonic Screwdrivers.

Review story this week is SJA: The Eternity Trap

Things take a dark turn for the Attic Crew in this creepy haunted house story. A slight change to the norm for SJA but is that good or does it give us nightmares?

Thank you all for listening this week. Our review story next week will be the 2nd Doctor story – The Moon Base. Until then have a great week and remember – Allons-y!