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The Merch

Big Finish announces weekly freebies starting now with Jago & Litefoot and a new War Doctor book for charity is up for pre-order.

Review story this episode: The Key to Time Part 3 – The Stones of Blood

Part 3 has rolled around after our short break and we’re back to present-day Earth (well, for 1978 anyway) to deal with druids, walking stones and a silver lady.

Coming next week: The Key to Time Part 4 – The Androids of Tara

Next week we continue on to Part 4 where there’s a sinister kidnap plan afoot for the legitimate thrown to the planet Tara.

Thank you all for listening, and until then have a great week, take care of yourselves, stay healthy and remember – Allons-y!

Over the course of his era, Jon Pertwee spent much of his time with UNIT. UNIT was led by Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Gordon Stewart. And like all the great companions, The Brigadier holds a special place in the Doctor Who universe and fan’s hearts.

It’s brilliant then, that over the course of the show, since 1968, the Brigadier has met every single classic incarnation of the Doctor as well as reuniting with Sarah Jane Smith and nearly meeting the Tenth Doctor in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, but due to poor health, Nicolas Courtney couldn’t appear. It’s great then that The Spectre of Lanyon Moor would be the first many great appearances for the Brigadier in Big Finish. And Winter for the Adept gives us another good Fifth Doctor and Nyssa story as well as introducing us to India Fisher who would go on to not only narrate Masterchef but also voice one of the most popular Big Finish companions, Charley Pollard.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

Written by: Nicholas Pegg

In many ways, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is something of a missed opportunity. Once you’ve finished listening to this, you’ll wonder why Big Finish never did at least one series of adventures with the Sixth Doctor, Evelyn Smythe and The Brigadier.

For a such a great audio adventure, it’s surprising it gets off to something of a rocky start with a rather oddly voiced monster threatening to ruin things before they’ve even begun. Thankfully, even that gets more bearable as the audio goes on. Largely down to the shining performances from the main cast of Colin Baker, Maggie Stables and Nicolas Courtney.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

The story concerns a recently uncovered Fogou and an archaeological dig which has uncovered a few ghosts and monsters that are now seemingly lurking around the countryside. Of course, the Doctor has some suspicions of what is actually going and suspects something more alien than just your traditional ghosts.

The moment the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, you’ll notice the Doctor has a strange voice. This is because Colin Baker had a bad cold at the time of recording and so couldn’t do much with his voice, so the cold was written into the script with a couple of quips from Evelyn. What’s also interesting is that this is only the second story for Evelyn and yet Maggie Stables feels so comfortable in the role, that you’d think she’d been around for a lot longer. And listening to Stables and Baker spar off one another, it isn’t hard to understand why she is the popular companion she is.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor plays out like many of the most popular 70s stories, a quiet and strange village, duplicitous locals and Pegg makes sure to give us some nostalgic nods to stories like The Daemons, The Stones of Blood and Battlefield. Where Pegg struggles is the handling of so many of the characters and a couple of the plots. Evelyn gets to explore the B-plot, which puts her in danger, though it is great to have a character using an accessory like a handbag to their advantage, this allows her to rescue herself rather than waiting for the Doctor to come and get her. Just because she is an older lady, doesn’t mean she is a damsel in distress, I really liked that.

Nicolas Courtney hasn’t lost any of his charms since his last appearance in 1989’s Battlefield. The version of the Brigadier here feels much less shoehorned in this story than he did Mawdryn Undead, and the reason for his being there slowly becomes clear as the story progresses. Courtney’s love for the character is evident in every scene he is in and it’s a shame that we never got a proper boxset with him involved. Had Courtney been a little younger and still with us we’d probably get just that these days, however, it does prove a nice a little what-if? question.

As only the third Sixth Doctor audio, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor continues his development nicely. I think his pairing with Evelyn went a long way in Big Finish’s development and re-design of the character, and the fact that Colin Baker got a lot of input in how he was going to perform the role really helps as well. With a few flaws, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor isn’t the really-stone-cold-classic that some fans hold it in, but it’s a cracking adventure nonetheless. As a love letter to the 70s Doctor Who its really excellent though I can’t help thinking had it not been handled by the fantastic performances of Colin Baker, Maggie Stables and Nicholas Courtney, it might not have been held in such high regard.

Winter for the Adept

Written By: Andrew Cartmell

Winter for the Adept always has me conflicted. I really enjoy the gothic atmosphere, the locked haunted house mystery and the isolated location, all of which add up to make a terrific soundscape and feeling of total isolation. On the other hand, I don’t particularly enjoy many of the characters, some of the acting is questionable, in particular from Peter Jurasik who doesn’t seem comfortable with the audio format at all and the story seems to take forever to reach its conclusion. As one of the earliest Big Finish’s I listened too, I do wonder sometimes why I enjoyed it so much in my younger years. I think its largely down to the performances from Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton as the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, though this might have been a story better suited to any other Doctor and companion duo.

It’s strange that a story from Andrew Cartmell, the script-editor from the late 1980s who put his own stamp on the show in such a spectacular way would write a story that seems to be completely off. I’ve never been sure if the tonal problem is something wrong with the script or something that is intentional, though I suspect the former.

Winter for the Adept
Winter for the Adept

Setting aside his master-plan, Cartmell instead seems to focus much of the story on the development of Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa. Gone is the slightly prim and proper character from the television series and he allows her to be much snarkier, snappy with her dialogue. Sutton seems to enjoy this too, though there are moments when she feels like she has been given lines better suited for Tegan than Nyssa. But as a beginning of development for her character, this is a nice start, even if Sutton does get better stories as the range continued.

Also worth noting is that is the debut performance from India Fisher as a character called Peril, who works as a prototype Charley Pollard. Fisher is good in the role, even if it takes her a little while to get used to the audio-format, Masterchef this isn’t, not even is it Pollard-level good, but it’s a passable performance and Cartmell makes great use of her character.

Apart from setting the audio-scape, the feeling of isolation and his handling of the Doctor, who feels perfectly in character and Nyssa, Cartmell does fall into the traps of the audio format and some of the pitfalls of the classic era of Doctor Who. We’ve got cliff-hanger screams, strange pseudoscience, poor acting, mainly from Jurasik and a strange monster that doesn’t really work.

I think for me, at the end of the day, as much as I used to like this story, it really doesn’t work. At the time, when I hadn’t much else from the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, I don’t think there was much for me to compare it too, but there was so much better to come.

Next Time: The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn head to Gallifrey to confront the Daleks in The Apocalypse Element and The Seventh Doctor and Mel go back in time to the Romans and one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history, the eruption of Vesuvius, in The Fires of Vulcan… 

Continuing our look into the back catalogue of Big Finish releases, we’ve got another couple of firsts. The Genocide Machine, which I’ve just found out was the proposed release for a not to be made Big Finish collection from Eaglemoss, saw the first appearance of the Daleks since 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks, once again facing off against the Seventh Doctor and Ace and Red Dawn not only saw the return of the Ice Warriors, exploring their culture and warrior’s code but also began a small number of entries for the Fifth Doctor and Peri canon.

The Genocide Machine

Written By: Mike Tucker

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Mike Tucker made quite the name for himself writing a number of Seventh Doctor novels for BBC Books, his books mainly focused on the further adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Perhaps it was right that someone who had put so much work in the Seventh Doctor and Ace, that he should do one of the first releases for that pairing. The Genocide Machine feels like it should have been a BBC novel, with characters who feel like they could have had a lot more room to be explored in the larger page count and even the world they find themselves in could have done with a little more exploration.

The Genocide Machine
The Genocide Machine

However, for the first proper Dalek outing and being able to hear their voices once again this audio must have been a thrill. The Doctor takes Ace to a secret library, (remember those?), that holds every single book, good or bad, ever written in its halls. It’s the sort of place that puts the Library of Alexandria to shame. It doesn’t take the Doctor long though to say that this amount of knowledge can be exceedingly dangerous, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. Then the Daleks turn up. While there are much better Dalek outings to come, in the very near future after this one was initially released in fact, though this story does have some rather fun ideas, from the large library setting to the ambiguous titular, genocide machine.

The Genocide Machine also features a change in the Seventh Doctor. For once, he isn’t Time’s Champion, a chess player. He gets a great speech about justice and this is something else that Big Finish has continued to develop over the last twenty years.

Sophie Aldred is also great as Ace. She gets a special place in the story, which was nice to see in Ace and she works well with the guest character of Bev, a character who will later appear in a story, Dust Breeding in a few releases time.

For fans of the Daleks and those who have grown to be tired of them over the years, The Genocide Machine highlights why they are great and why they aren’t so great. They are a really powerful and resourceful force of evil here, really helping us to see why the Doctor hates them so much. But they also do fall into the trap here of using them as a way of explaining the plot. Why have the Daleks explained to us that they are invading the planet, seeking the Doctor and how much they intend to seize the library when we can hear it? I’m glad that Big Finish got better at doing these things later on, but it does get a little annoying here.

The Genocide Machine is a good first outing for the Daleks on audio, proving that they can be just as terrifying when you can only hear them as they are when they are on television. While better Daleks were to come, this story is satisfied to give us a number of interesting ideas and strong performances, as well as nice direction from Nick Briggs. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Red Dawn

Written By: Justin Richards

For years, we were led to believe that The Caves of Androzani followed on from the end of Planet of Fire. Red Dawn told us that this isn’t necessarily true, that the Fifth Doctor and Peri shared a few adventures in-between those two adventures.

Red Dawn from Justin Richards sees the Fifth Doctor and Peri gatecrash one of the early human landings on Mars. The small group of humans, one of whom is played by Davison’s real-life daughter, Georgia Moffet, are too busy dealing with corporate machinations to notice that the Doctor and Peri are there. But that also means that unfortunately, they’re too busy arguing to notice that they’ve also landed in the middle of the Ice Warriors home.

Red Dawn
Red Dawn

Despite some of the science being a little shaky, Red Dawn is actually a surprisingly enjoyable affair. It’s a first contact story, along the lines of something Star Trek would have done rather than Doctor Who but the tropes of Who step up to the mark nicely. Richards gives us some amazing imagination visuals, in particular the surface of Mars and some of the wonders the planet holds thanks to the dialogue from the Ice Warriors.

Richards also shines with his work on the Ice Warriors, making them warriors but noble ones, exploring their culture much more than perhaps we’ve ever seen on TV. While the warriors get some nice development and moments, showing they are much more than just an invading force, the human crew the Doctor and Peri find much more threat from are much more clichéd as each character seems to represent some of the nastier aspects of the human psyche. But it seems to work if you look at the human crew through the eyes of the Ice Warriors, who aren’t the real villains here.

I really like the pairing of Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and I really like it when Doctor Who introduces a new companion just before the Doctor regenerates. It offers a completely different era for the companion, while Peri is most known for her time with the Sixth Doctor, she also works brilliantly, and possibly better with the Fifth Doctor in my opinion, so these extra adventures before The Caves of Androzani are a real treat and both Davison and Bryant feel very comfortable in their roles together despite only having been in two onscreen adventures together at the time of this audio’s release.

Some long term fans have often criticised Red Dawn because of its slower nature and the fact that it’s slightly predictable. But I enjoyed it much more a second time around and it works wonders for the Ice Warriors in much the same way the Pertwee Peladon-double bill did for them. It just feels like a safe classic-era outing, with much better writing for Peri. While Red Dawn might not be one of the early classics for Big Finish, by no means is it a bad story, just a safe and comfortable way of spending an hour and a half. And that’s not a bad thing to be.

The News

Nothing this week!

The Merch

A new ebook Time Scope is out with proceeds going to charity and BBC Audio jump on the Time Lord Victorious bandwagon. BBC Audio have put up a story for pre-order for the Time Lord Victorius arc – The Minds of Magnox.

Review story this episode: The Key to Time Part 2 – The Pirate Planet

We’re cracking on with Part 2 with the Pirate Captain and Mr Fibuli. Does the second segment get found or does the Doctor and Romana get caught up in too many shouty conversations?

Coming next week: The Key to Time Part 3 – The Stones of Blood

More Doctor and Romana adventure for Part 3 as we venture to present day Earth (well, 1978) to deal with rituals and well, stones. With blood.

Thank you all for listening, and until then have a great week, take care of yourselves, stay healthy and remember – Allons-y!