Sunday, 1 January 2017

Quicksilver written by Matt Fitton and directed by Jamie Anderson


What’s it about: It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:  DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU LT-CMDR H CLARKE LOST IN ACTION. CLASSIFIED OPERATIONS.  Those classified operations concerned a top-secret military project code-named ‘Quicksilver’. A project based in Vienna. A project with alien connections. But bombed-out Vienna is not what it was before the war – with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. It's not the time nor the place for a happy reunion. As Constance Clarke is about to discover... And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!

Softer Six: ‘I don’t stand a chance against the two of you, do I?’ Sixie has been inundated with new companions of late it would seem, unable to settle unlike his early days where Evelyn was the focus. He’s been on jollies with Flip and Constance, Jago & Litefoot, we’ve hopped back to Mel and Peri…and recently skipped away from an adventure with Kate Kennedy. You might feel as though the production team are trying out so many combinations to see which ones stick but a little continuity would be quite nice now. He’s enjoyed two trilogies with both Flip and Constance and it has taken the audience a little while to warm to both. Brightly, the creative decision has been made to have them join forces at the point where they are both starting to find an audience and some popularity. The end result? A duo that rival and possibly best Peri and Erimem for sass, smartness, humour and culture clash. Things are finally looking quite bright for Sixie in the main range if we can enjoy an extended run with this trio, which is sounding extremely promising. My suggestion would be to shy away arcs (and with Constance’s backstory sown up here there is no need for that) and just let the three of them enjoy their adventures. A bit like it was for the seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex before they got bogged down in the most convoluted and ultimately hugely unsatisfying arc in Big Finish history. The future’s bright, the future’s Flip and Connie. The Doctor taking a cutting of an English rose from Constance’s garden to remember her by is very sweet. The Doctor has a wedding invite from Flip that he hasn’t answered, much to Constance’s chargin. He’s appalled at Kinvar’s blatant abuse of the laws of time, offering superior future technology to the SIS in order to protect himself whilst trapped on Earth. He understands there are stages of grief and is aware that Constance is avoiding them. Obviously, he has the highest security clearance and has exactly the right level of arrogance to get by in intelligence circles without even showing his ID. His special interest is Mrs Clarke. There’s not much that can boggle the Doctor but the sudden appearance of Flip out of time truly floors him. The Doctor playing the Lord of Time at the climax is delightful, Baker hamming it up to the nth degree. Flip’s ‘OMG!’ is perfect. ‘Ten million years of absolute power!’ indeed!

Constant Companion: ‘Constance! You are astounding!’ ‘And I’m astounded it’s taken you this long to realise, Henry!’ She feels as though she has neglected her duties for far too long. She suggests that Amar had nothing to do with her desire to return him but it’s astonishing what the fluttering of the heart can do to remind you of your responsibilities. Sometimes one feels the needs for home comforts, and she invites the Doctor in for one last cuppa for the road. She’s fastidiously tidy and can always see how any place can be improved. There is a coldness to her when she tries to say goodbye, trying to hurry the Doctor away as quickly as possible. In truth she is as bad at parting with people as he is and she’s trying to ease the pain of both of them. It’s lovely material, this friendship between them that seems to have springed for nowhere is finally giving me the feels. A character who has been strong and capable but deliberately lacking in background (because they were waiting for this story for all to be revealed), Constance has needed this kind of breakthrough story to make her truly shine. She suspected Henry’s affair before she went off on her travels with the Doctor. It’s clear from the flashbacks that there is a great deal of affection from Henry for Constance, but I didn’t feel the warmth of a husband. She tries to brush aside her reaction to Henry’s affair by offering to help the Doctor once more but she’s only running away from feelings she is going to have to deal with eventually. For somebody so reserved, Constance’s anger when she finally catches up with Henry is something to behold. She’s terrifying, thinking Henry is a serial adulterer she starts hurling things about. I wouldn’t want to be on the sharp end of her tongue. The Fillipa/Connie gag might have become annoying had it gone on for a long time – aping the Mrs Clarke/Constance affectation – but it actually serves a character purpose, showing how Constance has relaxed into her role as a member of the TARDIS crew as she’s prepared to allow Flip to soften her name. She knows that Henry isn’t a traitor to his country, even if he has betrayed her. When she first met him he turned her head in a spin because she had hardly met any men. This is the first heartache she has suffered and it’s painful, particularly when Ana is pregnant and she never can be. She can offer Henry what he wants, she can’t.

Flippin’ Heck: I felt a resistance to Flip when she first joined the Doctor from the audience, that somehow she was unworthy of him. I found her a plucky, cute young girl and her recklessness quite an adept tool at getting us to care for her (Wirrn Isle, Scavenger). The tide started to turn when she left the Doctor to go back to Jared…what’s the old saying: ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ Her appearance in the sixth Doctor’s Last Adventure box set was met with acclaim, pairing the Doctor and Flip with Jago and Litefoot. Now people seem ready to embrace her. Funny, I thought she was quite appealing all along, mostly down to Greenwood’s charming performances. I think the writers have just gotten better at writing for her now. I really like how proud she is to work in a Supermarket. Me too Flip, me too. She’s really gone and done it, she’s married Jared for better or for worse. She really thought the Doctor would make it to her wedding. As soon as Ana and Flip meet the eventual misunderstanding about who is Henry’s secret lover made itself clear. Strange goings on and she immediately thinks of the Doctor. She thought her trip to Vienna in the 40s was his idea of a honeymoon (minus her husband). She’s accused of being a floozy by Constance, although I’m sure she’s probably heard a lot worse in her time. Constance think that she has quite some pluck. Constance knows that Flip is a friend of the Doctor’s because she doesn’t have the slightest clue of what she is talking about. She has some grasp of history but only the stories her great-grandfather told her about the war. The wedding just sort spiralled out of control, from an idea to suddenly actually planning it and then it happening. Typical, the second she’s back in the Doctor’s company she’s running. Flip ran away from everything that was mapped out in front of her, her relationship with Jared and her job, as uninspiring as that might be. It was worth it, she saw some wonderful things with the Doctor but ultimately, she knew you have to live up to your responsibilities. Constance believes that things don’t just happen, that we don’t just drift through life without control or influence upon the events around us. Henry never trusted her enough to talk to her about his feelings and she recognises that even if he did they still wouldn’t have lasted. Saving the world is what she does now.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Self-preservation might be the purest evolutionary trait.’
‘Is it worth it? For a night of champagne?’
‘Anything off the wedding list would have been fine. But no…you had to get me the 1940s!’
‘If you want a marriage to work then you have to work at it and you stopped working at it, Henry!’

Great Ideas: I haven’t been too thrilled about the covers of the main range of late…like much of its output. They haven’t been as bad as some of the copy and paste jobs that opened the range but there has been a certain lack of visual imagination. Quicksilver is different; it’s moody, dramatic and even the colours are in on the act. There are some nice links to Criss Cross, Kinvar detecting the TARDIS when it was stationary in the 1940s but arriving too late, realising that the Doctor had left with Mrs Clarke and so sticking near her house for him to return. It all makes perfectly logical sense. I’m pleased that the story doesn’t paint Henry as a villain. He’s done something wrong and it doesn’t shy away from that but love is treated as a very complex emotion. He married early and to the wrong girl and he strayed and is now having to deal with the consequences. The Doctor explains the international division in Vienna succinctly, I never knew about it so I took something away from the story. Communism, McCarthyism…the brainwashing and torture will occur quite well enough on its own without Kinvar’s anachronistic technology being added to the mix. Kinvar is a living AI, a construct, the battle computer for Quicksilver. An alien war brought to Earth in the aftermath of the Second World War. A recipe for disaster.

Audio Landscape: It’s a story with an atmospheric source and time period and Jamie Robertson does a terrific job in bringing the story to life. The cut from the 40s to the 2010s through the use of music was very stylishly done. Sirens, a metal gate screeching, planes in the sky, bombs screaming through the sky and exploding, helicopters, the TARDIS materialising, birdsong, flicking through a book, a beeping horn, knocking on the door, a whistling kettle, a chugging train, cars growling on the streets of Vienna, the dank, echoing fetidness of the sewers, soldiers barking orders, ringing telephone, keys jangling,

Musical Cues: In complete contrast to Absolute Power (but just as strong), the score for Quicksilver is subtle and emotive which befits the material. Until the aliens arrive, then it’s all bombast and pace.

Standout Moment: More like blink and you’ll miss it but make sure you pay attention during the quieter moments. Constance blatantly admits that she cannot be Flip’s grandmother and later Flip admits that she couldn’t drink during her wedding. Two female companions, one who can have children (and probably is pregnant, although nothing is confirmed) and one who cannot. Could be heartbreak ahead, or by the signs of things here, mutual support. The scene where Constance and Henry finally talk about the weakness of their marriage and he explains how he fell in love with another woman is one of the more real moments to have come out of the main range in many a year. Bravo. More like this please.

Result: ‘You’re better than that, Constance. Stronger than that.’ Quicksilver does a lot of repair work for the Sixie adventures, bringing two companions that haven’t entirely found an audience together in a triumph of a culture clash, and tells an engaging story to boot too. The first episode being so character driven it highlighted just how long it had been since Sixie had enjoyed a story heavy on character. Scavenger, The Wrong Doctors and The Widows’ Assassin, that’s about it in the past couple of years. Quicksilver redresses the balance with some style. It’s Constance’s breakout story and one that gets us closer to her than the previous six stories (including The End of the Line) put together. Miranda Raison seizes the opportunity to flesh Constance out and the result is a number of standout moments for the character, moments where this cold character is put through the emotional wringer. How the story twists from convincing you that Henry has died to much more personal tragedy for Constance really twists in the gut. Pairing her up with Flip is another great move and one that offers a great deal of promise for the future. Flip has always been street wise and Constance mannered and proficient, together they make quite a formidable pair and there’s palpable chemistry between Greenwood and Raison too. They bring the best out in each other and the second half of the story is all the more enjoyable for their interaction. There’s a fairly full-bodied in plot too, mixing history, politics and science fiction to pleasing effect. It’s ultimately little more than dramatic window dressing for all the characters to strut their stuff in but it also provides Jamie Robertson a great chance to conjure up the atmosphere of post-war depression. And it plays with some tasty notions. I really liked that there were no easy answers, no quick solutions and no daft science fiction explanations to aid Constance in her journey. Henry has betrayed her and it’s portrayed in a complex way with no easy answers, as love often is. Fitton always writes Sixie beautifully and whether he’s berating Kinvar for his anachronistic technology, comforting Mrs Clarke at the loss of her husband, trading barbs with Flip or shouting down an alien war, he’s pretty damn magnificent. Baker always gives 110% but I love it when he is handed material that is worthy of his efforts. One of the best of the year: 9/10

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Return of Doctor Mysterio written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ed Bazalgette


This story in a nutshell: The Doctor wanders into a superhero movie to see what help he can offer…



Indefinable: I think this title has never been more appropriate. Capaldi’s Doctor has shown more development (or alteration) than practically any other Doctor since Tom Baker progressed from a brooding alien to a madcap Uncle to a haunted spectre of death in the seventies. Capaldi’s first season saw the show take a daring approach, to make the Doctor as distant and as unlikable as Colin Baker was in the 80s. Some fans enjoyed the approach, making the Doctor much darker and less approachable and having to work to get close to him. I certainly did. However, it’s probable that the casual audience were less keen and the gradual softening of the 12th Doctor has been a work in progress ever since the beginning of series nine. I didn’t enjoy some of the obvious quirks that were foisted upon the character (whether they were at Capaldi’s insistence or not) such as the sonic shades and the electric guitar. In my own words, it came across as an old man having something of a midlife crisis. However it is clear that Capaldi has the ability to turn on quite a charm offensive in quite a beguiling way…and I think Moffat finally got the mix just about right in The Husbands of River Song last Christmas. The Doctor was light on his feet, snappy with a one liner, charmingly one step ahead and seemed to be having a whale of a time. Interestingly we didn’t need a companion gushing about the wonders of time travel to get across the delight of travelling through time and space. That feeling of an adventurer who is at peace with himself and his place in the universe is extended here and the Doctor quite charmingly steps into a superhero tale to hold the protagonists hand from childhood who to adulthood. The Doctor is happy to stand back and let another man’s story play out. I’ve heard criticism that the Doctor seems out of place and is side-lined but that is quite a deliberate move. He is the outsider in this environment and that offers a new perspective on the character, not somebody who is trying to hog the limelight and show off (stand up latter day 11th Doctor) but someone who gently pushes the story on by truly living up to his name; a teacher, a friend and a mentor. I thought it worked very well and the small inclusion of a timeywimeyness with the Doctor popping up throughout Grant’s life added some depth to their relationship. The Doctor has always enjoyed an appealing relationship with children so it came as no surprise to me that the opening scenes had a suffuse glow about them. What surprised me the most was the very un-Doctor Who cut to the high school and Grant as a teenager rising to the occasion at the sight of Lucy and the Doctor offering advice. Doctor Who doesn’t often dish out erection metaphors (although those sonic screwdrivers are getting bigger over time) and rather than coming across as something lurid it feels innocent and sweet. Some might say that it isn’t the job of the Doctor to interfere in the domestic lives of people but this story does a good job of balancing his usual role (saving the universe from irritating nasties) and letting him help bring two people together. Simon still says that Capaldi is not one of his favourites and it saddens me to think that that might be a popular opinion because he automatically adds a touch of class to any episode he appears in and is probably the strongest actor to take on the role since it returned in 2005. He does everything that is asked of him to a very high standard. This isn’t stirring material for the actor, it’s comforting, hug-your-loved-ones-its-Christmas material. I’d take this over his unbalanced reign of terror on Gallifrey in Hell Bent any day of the week. Who cares if we don’t know why the Doctor is hanging outside of the window and setting traps, let’s just accept that he’s in the middle of an adventure and at the start of another at the same time. It wasn’t a problem in Blink. There’s few Doctor’s that would make an authentic Santa substitute and even fewer that would find the idea so amusing. The Doctor sipping pop, his legs hanging through the railings and talking to Grant about his adolescence, made me chuckle. Is this really the same Doctor who stepped out of the TARDIS in Deep Breath? There’s somebody worse at love in the universe than the Doctor, apparently. Even the Doctor realises this is less about the usual alien takeover guff and deals with all that and gives Lucy and Grant time to realise their future is together. How he calls in UNIT and deactivates the villains gun so half-heartedly at the climax reveals just how bothered he is by this latest threat to the world. I love his madness in the spacecraft, deciding the most unpredictable thing he can do is set their plan into motion and hope that Grant is paying attention on Terra Firma and isn’t distracted by a pretty girl. Nardole is right, when this Doctor smiles it means something is quite amiss. The final shot of him blazing eyed and heading off into the universe tops off a glorious performance from Capaldi.

Baldy: I don’t object to Nardole, in fact I though Matt Lucas did a nice job in underplaying the character nicely throughout and proving to be a sweet observer of the action in this story. But that is rather my problem – I don’t get why he is here. He doesn’t add anything to the story, we know absolutely nothing about his background and he has turned up again with the barest explanation as to how he and the Doctor met again after Husbands. He’s an enigma. One that I am sure it will be worth exploring further down the line in season 10 but for right now I find him a bit of an anomaly. His ‘You are completely out of your mind!’ was delivered to perfection, though. And how he appeared from the wreckage of the spaceship, Mainwaring askew, was very funny.

Sparkling Dialogue: I’m not really a fan of the one liner, especially not the Moffat one liner which is often drowning in self-assurance and smugness. Something was different in Mysterio, I found myself chuckling along with the characters. It’s because much of the humour is character based and it isn’t forced, it’s gently unassuming.

 ‘You’re kind of wet’ ‘I prefer mild mannered’ That line made me laugh on both watches.
‘Mrs Lombard, there are some situations that are just too stupid to be allowed to continue.’
‘You’re jealous of you!’ ‘Technically she’s jealous of her!’
'I flooded downstairs with Pokemon.’

The Good:

·         I have heard complaints that the episode looks cheap, with specific mentions of the general cheapness of the show since they moved on from The Mill. It’s nonsense. No part of this episode looks as though expense has been spared, in fact I was quite in awe at times at just how visually spectacular the show has become. Whilst it lacked the flash bang wallop action set pieces of a superhero movie (and I would never expect anything like that from Doctor Who), it is astonishing just how well New York is realised despite the production team never setting foot there. There were a multitude of vertiginous shots of the New York skyline that made me feel a little giddy, especially that incredible pan up the Ariel and looking down on New York from above. It’s delirious.
·         I have to confess that I am not the biggest fan of superhero movies but weirdly that might have increased my enjoyment of Mysterio. The episode had nothing spectacular to live up to for me and I thought the approach of playing out what is effectively a different genre to anything Doctor Who has ever been before was quite novel. There were lots of cute touches that I liked; the introduction to the episode through the panel of a comic strip, the comic book wallpaper in the young Grant’s room, the Doctor points out the absurdity to many a superhero cliché including how ridiculous the double identity plot is and why the regular Joe’s who are infected with radiation don’t happen to puke and die, Lucy mistaking the baby monitor for a bat signal app, neither Simon nor I guessed that Grant would wind up being the nanny to Lucy’s baby…when if this story was to pay homage to Superman he had to be a part of her life somehow as a regular guy, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Grant dashing off to save people from burning buildings and emerging with the baby in the apartment a second later, the biggest cliché of all – the glasses – turn out to be a lovely device, allowing for several catch your breath moments and reversals when it looks like Grant is going to be bold and reveal his identity to Lucy. My favourite thing was how because this is a superhero movie we have been pre-conditioned to accept the impossible. The climax features a man holding a baby monitor and spaceship. Under any other circumstances we would be decrying that that is ridiculous and the single most embarrassing thing that has ever happened in Doctor Who. Because of his choice of homage, Moffat has bypassed any complaints you might make about the implausibility of the story. I thought that was delicious.
·         Grant being a superhero and a nanny. It’s cute, it riffs on gender identification and it means there are lots of lovely gags that make your heart sing with the baby. I had yearnings for Sarah Jane Smith with Lucy a busy reporter sniffing out her own story and discovering the Doctor along the way. When the Ghost whisks in and snatches Lucy away he’s dragging the audience away from the naff Doctor Who story and into the romance/superhero one. It’s that point where the narrative makes up its mind what it wants to focus on. Lucy is smart and observant and takes all the information she needs from the questions she asks. Very Sarah Jane Smith. Lucy putting Grant’s superhero costume on (his glasses) was just lovely.
·         I can’t decide whether Mr Huffle is a nice, quirky notion or an idea that quickly out stays its welcome. Either way, he’s responsible for the one sincerely emotional beat in the story that made me catch my breath. Lucy grabs him tight when the Doctor says he is okay at the climax and she tortured the toy to prove that she knows he is lying. It’s nicely set up and it reveals a depth to their relationship. I like how he pops up in shock when the Doctor informs Lucy of the aliens’ plan for worldwide colonisation too. I wonder if Mr Huffle has a more important role to play in this story than Nardole, he certainly made me feel more. He’s a part of the TARDIS crew now, let’s see what other surprises he can provide.

The Bad: The ridiculous throwaway reason that Grant is granted super powers. As played it makes logical sense that grant would think that the crystal is medicine but it’s still pretty naff – a gemstone that when ingested gives you everything that you want? It’s almost as fairy-tale as the Doctor existing just because Amy Pond says so. Brains with eyes? Was anybody else thinking Morphoton brains? There was absolutely nothing original about the nature of the invaders, their plot to scare the world and their desire to take over those in power. Aliens of London/World War Three played this out much better because despite the domestic element of Rose coming home and the comedy aliens (I still love the Slitheen) it was structured like a traditional Doctor Who adventure and it was focussed on it’s scenario. The alien invasion takeover is the Doctor Who aspect of Mysterio but it feels like it is intruding on the more personal story taking place between Lucy and Grant. It feels like an intruder, there because it has to be rather than because it needs to be. A threat was needed, one is conjured up but let’s not pretend that the banal nature of aliens taking over by popping their brains into human shells and dropping a spaceship on New York is anything special. Strangely enough it is the most Doctor Who-y moments where I felt creative fatigue from Moffat. The effect of the head tearing open is fantastically achieved but beyond that these aliens didn’t managed to distinguish themselves at all. I get the point of the split screen sequence, cutting the action up like a comic book but I don’t think it is particularly imaginatively realised or effective. It feels kind of half arsed, just there to add a (unsuccessful) visual quirk. Not even the cut to the baby adds any charm to the sequence.

The Shallow Bit: Justin Chatwin con glasses. Hot.

Result: This is less of a superhero movie and more a collection of the elements that make up a superhero movie. It’s also less of a Doctor Who episode but more a collection of elements that make up a Doctor Who episode. The two don’t mesh together entirely well and plot wise you’re looking at a bit of a car crash of a story with some underdeveloped ideas. What salvages the story and lifts it surprisingly high in places is the amount of heart on display, the fun kisses to the genre it is aping, the stylish visuals and the character work, which whilst never aspiring to anything substantial is warmly written and brought to the screen by the cast. In other words, the precise opposite of what Steven Moffat usually delivers, light on plot and ideas and heavy on character and sentimentality. I really enjoyed the love triangle between Lucy, Grant and the Ghost and the cute humour that arose from the situation. There really haven’t been scenes like this in Doctor Who before…because these scenes aren’t really Doctor Who. They’re the New Adventures of Superman, but I rather liked that show and the bizarre love triangle that played out (until they married off Lois and Clark, that was a disaster). Justin Chatwin and Charity Wakefield deliver charming performances and you’re rooting for them all the way, even if their eventual smooch is predictable. It’s the gentlest kind of romance, so chaste and innocent there’s only one hint of sexual tension but that’s why it’s so enjoyable for all the family to watch. You know, at Christmas. There were moments where the direction worked a doozy (the vibrant way New York is brought to life, the honesty of the intimate character moments) and there were times where it felt a little sloppy (the pointless split screen sequence, the Doctor on the live camera, the pedestrian nature of how the aliens were presented). I’ve seen better Christmas specials (The Christmas Invasion, The Snowmen, Last Christmas) and I’ve seen far worse (The Next Doctor, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Time of the Doctor), this was a middling adventure but a kiss and a cuddle of a character tale. Against the odds, The Return of Doctor Mysterio was very enjoyable. It left me with a warm feeling in my stomach…although that might have been the Disaronno too: 7/10

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Absolute Power written and directed by Jamie Anderson

What's it about: Two thousand years ago, all civilisation on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig. While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce's diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they'll learn that ancient Teymah's secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands...

Softer Six: Despite being over 900 years old he does still have his occasional childish moments and when a Brudvahkian yak wound up spitting on Constance he couldn't help but have a good giggle. The Doctor has been working on a mobile device that is an extension of the TARDIS' telepathic circuitry for centuries. It allows you to feel the empathy for another but he cannot recall why he built it now for love nor money, it was a few regenerations back. The Doctor and his companion arriving can go one of two ways; he's accused of being a stranger and suspected of whatever trouble is going on or he is mistaken for somebody else and 'expected.' I'm glad this is the latter because it avoids all the clichés of the more familiar former approach. It's precisely why Russell T. Davies invented the psychic paper, to avoid the predictability of the Doctor having the finger pointed at him as soon as he arrives. Listen to the Doctor and Constance listening to the Yce propaganda video, its a small but vital demonstration of their easy chemistry at this point in their travels. Apparently he has as acccute a sense of directional hearing as a bat with Sat Nav. Always been one for modesty, Sixie. He enjoys a little corporate hospitality every now and again. Colin Baker is always at his best when he gets to raise up on his moral high horse. The destruction of Teymahrian civilisation, how the Ninexie representative worked his way through one host after another and subsequently wiped out their race in doing so, appals him. Tens of millions of them destroyed to ensure the procreation of a scientifically advanced species. Can you imagine his anger?

Constant Companion: When she's angry with him it is most definitely Mrs Clarke. She's admits she doesn't know the Doctor all that well and they have only been travelling together for a little time. She's certainly not been with him long enough so the wonder of the universe is lost on her. She steps out of the TARDIS in awe, not simply declaring not a dreary old planet. There were enough eighties companions like that on the TV. An artefact with an undiscovered language, exactly the sort of thing that a cryptographer from the Second World War can get her teeth into. As a wartime gal, Mrs Clarke was used to cutbacks and finds the set on Teymah more than a little extravagant. I love that the Doctor speaks very highly of Mrs Clarke's abilities, professionally. She really should have paid more attention to that escapology course at Blecthley...but then she had no idea she was going to be roaming around the universe and having mad adventures. She cannot handle male attention and shies away from it dramatically. Maybe she doesn't know him that well but Constance has absolute faith that he will turn up and save her when she is in a spot. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This is genocide on the most obscene and monstrous scale!'

Great Ideas: Emotional trauma is what claiming compensation is all about so it does surprise that that is taken to the nth degree in the future. Landing on the site of an AELE - an Anomalous Extinction Level Event - is a nice, juicy dramatic idea. You can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to find out by the end of the story. Doctor Who loves a mystery and this is one that is ready to be solved. When did any good come of poking around in mysterious spheres that are discovered on alien worlds? When will people learn to leave these sorts of things alone? I love how Anderson runs through some of the SF clichés when a character suggests what the sphere might be. There have been a fair few spheres in Doctor Who before and it's nice to see he is aware of that. After The Impossible Planet, Under the Lake and now Absolute Power I'm starting to wonder if the TARDIS wasn't fitted with a comprehensive list of languages of the universe to translate. Mind you, after all the planets that they have visited were the translation circuits have worked, this is just an aberration. An ancient God that derived his power from a special cylindrical object? You should never listen to rumour but sometimes it can't be helped. Electromitosis is the generation of electricity in order to reproduce. 3000 years ago a member of the Ninexie landed in a colonisation pod landed on Teymah. An attempted invasion and interstellar war led to led to a dramatic increase in immigration, spreading their reach into the universe. Their method of colonisation requires a certain level of technological sophistication and so he had to use the Teymahrians as hosts to advance their scientific development. Irresponsible but a sound survival instinct. The Genocide Squad sound like a terrifying prospect.

Audio Landscape: Shuttles landing and flying overhead, the Doctor working on a fizzing console in the TARDIS, the eerie atmosphere on Teymah, breaking into the sphere, power leaping from the sphere, a dust storm whipping up, a busy an bustling hospitality, the Doctor scribbling, a beeping bomb, a ship punching off into space, water rushing, laser fire,

Musical Cues: I immediately had the sense that the music was being composed by somebody different, it had a freshness and vibrancy to it that screamed of an original voice to Big Finish. That was a smart move on Jamie Anderson, to give his first main range adventure a unique style. The dramatic moments have a real sense of pace of the mystery of the planet that was abandoned is captured with haunting beauty. It's quite melodramatic in parts but to me that feels very traditionally Doctor Who. Too many of the main range scores have tried to feel like movie soundtracks in the last few years, forgetting that the show wasn't epically emotional all the time.

Isn't it Odd: A fellow reviewer sparked a moment of anger in me recently and it made me think about the whole nature of Doctor Who and what different people seek from it. His reviews are ones that I admire and follow religiously. We don't always agree but considering we are different people with different tastes that is only to be expected. His reviews are briefer than mine, more incisive, more decisive and generally far more intelligently written. However his sense of disbelief that somebody could look at the main range in the current state it is in and find it not only enjoyable, but exactly the sort of Doctor Who they seek out, was palpable. It stems from Big Finish rather smugly placing their positive reviews on their website to encourage others to buy them. As a marketing device, it's gold. These are word that have been written in praise of these stories and so to wave a flag towards them whilst trying to sell them is a smart move. However if you read all the review quotes that have been placed at the stop of all the stories you'll could possibly be under the impression that every one of them is an instant classic, with no quality variance whatsoever. My problem with the reviewers reaction to this is the incredulity that a cliché ridden nostalgia fuelled range might what somebody could hold up and champion. And why not? There's plenty about the main range that I am not satisfied with but I completely understand why somebody might listen to Order of the Daleks and think it ticks all the right boxes and tickles their fancies. It's horses for courses. We all like different things. I'm absolutely serious when I give The Chase and Time and the Rani 9/10 because they both give such pleasure. The series is the same, I didn't get a great deal of enjoyment overall from the Matt Smith era...but I'm finding the Capaldi era much more to my tastes. Interest is such relative thing, a personal thing. And that's what I've always promoted on this blog. My personal interest. I'm not speaking for fandom but my only personal reaction to the show. It's why I'm attacked occasionally with some scathing comments, because people have such different tastes to mine. My point is...let's enjoy what we enjoy (or not) and leave everybody else to their devices. Doctor Who is a personal love, and we all get different things from it. If am rewarded with innovation and intelligence there will be somebody else berating the fact that the story isn't Doctor Whoey enough for them. It's the name of the game. If you like the main range right now, good for you. It's fine to express personal dissatisfaction, but  questioning why others get enjoyment from something doesn't sit too well with me.

Florrie was played so sickly sweet that I had her pegged as being up to no good from the start. There's a little too much technobabble for me in the last episode.

Result: That was...really rather fun. I don't think there was one part of this story that wasn't a Doctor Who cliché of some sort or another; the mystery of an abandoned civilisation, a strange sphere found in the ruins, an unknown language, possession,  centuries old war having consequences on the present, genocidal revenge, a society unnaturally advanced. However how the story was presented, so pacy and dramatic, they all get a new lease of life. It's like Doctor Who tropes being stuffed into a firework, lighting the fuse and watching them explode in the sky in colourful patterns. I was carried along by the thrust of the story, the energy of the actors and Jamie Anderson's superb understanding of how to get the most drama out of any given situation. He really is quite a find this year. The regulars carry a lot of the story and I'm pleased to reveal that the sixth Doctor and Constance continue to impress. Baker and Raison work together very well, although I have to say I am excited for the shake up in the next release, simply for the amusing culture clash I think it will bring. The use of a fresh musician worked very well for me too. Music is very important to an audio adventure, sound is all they have to generate an atmosphere and Joe Kraemer is a fresh and original new talent to the range. I was carried lightly through the more traditional moments ideas thanks to Kraemer's exciting and mysterious score. If the main range was to bubble along popping out conventional stories, I would much rather it was something as snap crackle and pop as Absolute Power rather than some of the examples we have suffered in the past couple of years. Is this the sort of story that I think the main range should be using as a template for future adventures? Dramatically, yes. Do I want a little more innovation and originality in my Doctor Who? Yes too. Anderson clearly has a fine understanding of the show and of audio drama in general. I think he's going to write and direct an absolute classic at some point. Absolute Power isn't that. But it will colourfully kiss you all over with Doctor Whoness and when it's as effortlessly enjoyable as this it's best to just lie back and enjoy it. Take of that metaphor what you will: 7/10

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Order of the Daleks written by Mike Tucker and directed by Jamie Anderson

What's it about: In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send... Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke (AWOL) have only just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren't the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilised world in the galaxy!

Softer Six: 'Until someone has loved an animal a part of ones soul remains unawakened...' quotes the sixth Doctor in typical theatrical style. I've said it a million times before but this character is simply made for audio. He bursts forth from the TARDIS ready for the next adventure with such vibrancy and gusto and I cannot help but get swept up in his wake. The planet Strellin is well known in the galaxy for its peace and tranquillity - you have to wonder why the Doctor chooses to take his companions to these universal paradise planets given his adventures usually devolve into a mayhem and murder. Does he have a desire to rid the universe of beauty spots? Something of an expert when it comes to visiting pre-Space Age civilisations, apparently. Despite the fact that it pours out of his very pores, he cries out against any suggestion that he is arrogant. His bark is worse than his bite and it's important to remember that because sometimes his bark is terrifying. In the face of Daleks with the equivalent of bayonets the Doctor is more facetious than ever by playing up to their impotence. Remember when the New Adventures had the Doctor taking a dose of mind altering drugs to save the day and fandom went up in arms about it? It says something about how the series as a whole has shifted that the Doctor does exactly that in this story and nobody will bat an eyelid. After destroying worlds, falling in love and killing people...what's a little hallucinogenic drug between friends? The Doctor almost manages to wrestle the Abbot's mind back from the Black Dalek by sheet force of will.

Constant Companion: She's a beautiful woman and even in her conservative wartime clothing might prove a little much for the Monks. The only reason she is prepared to wrap up in a cloak is because it is a shade autumnal (although it provides another striking image on the cover). I liked that fact that Constance finds out about the Daleks before the Doctor, although it has to be said she makes very little observation about them aside from not understanding at all what they are. Constance will act on her own volition rather than waiting for the Doctor's permission. I wanted to criticise the story for failing to do anything interesting with Constance out of the 'generic companion' mould until she took it upon herself to stab a Dalek mutant with a screwdriver. That's definitely novel. I like how she and the Doctor are treated as equals, she doesn't suffer his pomposity and he respect her. There's no degree of him talking down to her in the way he can with his younger companions (Peri, Flip). Travelling with the Doctor is starting to make Constance feel invincible, she's dashing into situations without evaluating the dangers. The Doctor has come to rely on Mrs Clarke, one of his constant companions.

Standout Performance: Whoever was responsible for bringing Colin Baker and John Savident together deserves a medal. If you've seen the entire run of Blake's 7 you'll know that these two actors are responsible for two of the most outrageously over the top and amusing guest characters that the show ever produced. Within the confines of a Doctor Who story they are both reined in a little but it is still a battle to see who can steal each scene. Their chemistry is a joy and the two characters butt heads with spectacularly, proving you don't have to get on to work together successfully. I haven't seen Colin Baker have to fight for scene space this badly since The One Doctor.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'What are they going to do...prod me to death?'
'Scuttle my shuttle?'
'Murder! Committed by men of peace!'

Great Ideas: The Brotherhood of the Black Petal are renowned for their work with stained glass. Trust Big Finish to dare to explore such a beautiful artistic field when they deal with a purely aural medium. It does give them the opportunity to produce the most striking cover in many, many a year though. It's magnificent. But to have a character who has taken a vow of silence in a setting that is known for it's magnificent beauty does rather feel as though it is pointing out the fact that we are lacking images. A crashed spaceship with aliens working night and day to try and escape from Stellin...who could they possibly be? The Daleks have no qualms about introducing higher technology to a primitive civilisation if it means advancing their plans. Morality was hardly a strong point of there's. There was never any distress, the signal was sent out merely to lure some poor innocent space traveller onto the rocks so they can salvage their craft. The Monk's donate what blood they can but they need fresh victims... to feed Dalek mutants that are being kept alive inside animal carcasses. What a repulsive idea. Daleks without guns is not an original idea but it is still an interesting one, forced into using their wits. The Daleks that have crash landed on Strellin are part of a battle fleet involved in the invasion of the planet Kantra. An elite squad and part of the Emperor's Guard. Smart enough to escape a crash on a primitive planet without technology and still manage salvage what help they can from a society without technology. If your only help is a group of Monks, have them construct (beautiful) stained glass cases for you. Daleks who are able to project their conscience into the minds of people? That would make for a formidably destructive army. Tucker enjoys putting some grisly images out there, knowing full well that we can't see them. A Dalek mutant screaming and squelching his way up a saucer exhaust pipe is really nasty. The Monks consume the extract of the Dream flower which allows them to become one with nature - a notorious hallucinogenic substance. Before the Daleks came they lived in perfect harmony with nature but now they have spoilt that. By using their blood to grow stronger they have become one with the perfect mind, perverting it. Trust the Daleks to take hold of something pure like a religious order and turn them to hate and murder.

Audio Landscape: Chanting, a scream in the distance, Brandylak's grazing, gates rumbling open, screaming hordes, alarm, screaming mutants, Volteen screaming in the distance, birdsong, crackling flames.

Isn't it Odd: Certain writers you expect big things from, others you are a little kinder to when it comes to their work. Tucker has never been a favourite of mine because I am more of a fan of substantial Doctor Who stories. He favours traditional, simple narratives, concentrating on the adventure rather than providing truly meaty characterisation or thematic depth. That's not necessarily criticism because his stories are usually very well paced, exciting and full of big, bold imagery. You cannot say he first episode of Order of the Daleks is packed with substance, it's a relatively simple set up that leads to a humdinger of a cliffhanger. Compare it to, say, the first episode of Jubilee or The Curse of Davros (other Colin Baker Dalek stories) and this is pretty shallow stuff, but it's rather engaging because of it. In a time of overly complicated stories are the works of Mike Tucker and Justin Richards (lets call them the Kings of Trad) shining through because they return to a tried and tested formula of old? The first episode is a whopping 33 minutes long but it skips by amiably enough.

Standout Scene: I really enjoyed the end of episode two because it not only proves that the Doctor's hunch was erroneous but it also does something novel with the Daleks, giving an actor the chance to play the role without any modulation. Robbie Stevens is excellent and really sells the moment. I had goosepimples.

Result: Often there is something rewarding about being patient. It takes Order of the Daleks some time to get to he good stuff but it is taking it's time for a reason, lulling you into a false sense of security before hitting you with some really unpleasant ideas. Power of the Daleks couldn't have been brought out at a more fortuitous time because that also sees the Daleks trapped and powerless, using their wits and manipulation techniques to exploit the local population into making them strong again. I love it when they are forced to use their intelligence rather than simply blasting away, it makes them a force to be reckoned with intellectually rather than just another faceless monster. Tucker has introduced enough elements to his story to keep it ticking over for its four episodes; the stained glass Daleks, the mental exercise in Dalek survival, the mutants being incubated in animal carcasses, the religious revolution. You're not going to be blown away by anything truly original because the Daleks have been explored to death across several mediums but by taking a visual approach on audio Tucker has at least tried something novel. And the ideas this story contains are good ones, enjoyably presented. Just as the striking cover suggests, this is a mix of a medieval setting with science fiction elements which gives it a hybrid genre that is hard to pinpoint. I rather liked that. Order of the Daleks isn't going to be anybody's favourite story but it skips along with some nasty concepts, features some sterling performances and lovely direction. For a range that is being criticised for losing its way this an rock solid Doctor Who adventure with the added bonus of featuring Colin Baker. He skips from he TARDIS with such gusto and drags me through the adventure in his wake. I recognise that I'm biased but I will automatically give this story an extra mark for his engaging presence: 8/10

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Judoon in Chains written by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: The Sixth Doctor is no stranger to courtroom drama, but faces a very different challenge when he prepares to defend a most unusual Judoon. After an environmental clearance mission goes wrong, Captain Kybo of the Nineteenth Judoon Interplanetary Force is stranded in Victorian England, bound in chains, an exhibit in a circus show. But he has allies: Eliza Jenkins – known to audiences as ‘Thomasina Thumb’ – and the larger-than-life ‘clown’ in the colourful coat. Uncovering a trail of injustice and corruption, the Doctor and Kybo soon find themselves on trial for their lives…

Softer Six: A showman by the look of him, he proudly declares himself Tybo's defence council and you can almost hear him clutching his lapels arrogantly at the judge. People may not think much of Trial of a Time Lord (I don't think they're right but that's probably my issue, not theirs) but it certainly bought something passionate out in Colin Baker. An actor and a character who was on trial for his life. The natural theatrical nature of Baker meant that it was a very comfortable setting for him and that puts us in very good stead for Judoon in Chains. Meeting a theatrical impresario (although one with scarce as much flair as Henry Gordon Jago) makes me think that Colin Baker's Doctor would fit that sort of role; brash, arrogant and colourful. He is offered the job of 'Interpretor cum Clown', the Very Colourful Voice of Kybo because he understands the Judoon language. He's not over fond of courtrooms but he'll overlook that for the greater good. Hearing the sixth Doctor talking about the Shadow Proclamation gave me chills.

Gruff Officer: The Doctor assumes the worst of the Judoon and is surprised to find he has wound up with one with manners. In fact Kybo is unique in many respects. Being treated as a sideshow freak, Kybo the Rhinoceros Man is a massive indignity to him but he bears the insult well. It's worth the admission price just to hear a Judoon quoting Burns and admitting that he loves something as artistic as poetry because there is nothing comparable in his society. His own poetry is both very funny and very sweet, an ode to a beautifully craggy and horny Judoon. The story of how Kybo discovered the concept of beauty is delightful, his mind opening for the first time. He talks of crying for the first time.

Standout Performance: I would recognise Dr Eleanor Harcourt from Bang Bang a Boom a mile away. Kudos to Nicholas Briggs, a much undervalued performer in the Doctor Who world who has given a vast array of monster voices over the past decade. Half of the battle is the voice with the monsters and he's been consisting innovative in providing chilling, memorable examples. Here he gets the opportunity to do some serious acting once more, like he does with the best of his Dalek stories (the opportunities that the television story Dalek gave him were extraordinary, really showing his talent). Kybo is such a fun character and I was extremely drawn to him. For Briggs to get his voice so gruff and yet gentle must have been painful on the old larynx. A massive round of applause for the torture on his vocal chords, it was worth it.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This planet is a present for my daughters 16th birthday!' How the other half live...
'I said we should have hired Ogrons...'
The only story to dare to get away with the expression 'horny headed friend.'
'You win some, you lose some. Hey ho.'
'A Judoon commune on the Moon?'

Great Ideas: Trust the Judoon to be as subtle as ever and moving the courtroom to somewhere more convenient. I love the framing device that this story hangs upon, setting up a courtroom drama and heading in to listen to the actual events informs us that something bad is going to happen. Morris and Barnard do not inform us of exactly what which adds suspense to the tale. Judoonese is the language of the Judoon. The Doctor considers the Judoon a rather simple species with exceptionally small brains that you could pick up in a teaspoon, hence their uninflected monosyllabic tongue. A sentience with no physical form, existing in all nature. They can be seen with humanoid eyes unless they emerge in one dimensional form. In a surface of a river or in the reflection of a pocket watch. The Iyesha sent out a distress call when Kybo's ship was attacked, saving his life twice over. They needed to communicate their plight to the rest of the universe, using Kybo as a whistleblower. They are the reason his mind has been opened and his artistic side has flourished. The universe has a population problem, planets exhaust their natural resources and then they die and the populace moves on to other worlds. That's where Genesis Corp come in, they make planets habitable for their clients. They can terraform in any way you like...for the right price. Everywhere has some kind of life but it isn't always the kind of life that humanoid races might recognise.

Audio Landscape: The thunderous footsteps of the Judoon, a shocked and entertained courtroom audience, Judoon assimilating language, thunder, lightning, rain, a very blowy hull breach, footsteps on a gantry, explosion, birds in a forest, a fairground jingle,

Isn't it Odd: Isn't there some kind of ruling that forbids a participant in the crime to stand for defence council of the accused?

Standout Scene: The Doctor is baffled how the Genesis Corp continued with their plans to terraform Iyesha when the intelligent species sent out a cry for help to stop. He's not shy of calling that behaviour murder and points the finger at the man accountable. Pleasingly he exposes him and his blasé attitude towards like to the shareholders effectively bringing him down. Justice wins just how it should be.

Result: Immediately this feels like a more natural fit for a classic Doctor than the Weeping Angels did for Peter Davison's Doctor. Fallen Angels felt like a classic Doctor in a NuWho adventure whereas the Judoon are just the sort of clod-hopping, unsubtle races that classic Who would use to hold a mirror up to humanity. I can imagine them stomping about an eighties adventure (think the Sontarans in The Two Doctors or the Cybermen in any eighties story) and the trial setting makes this uniquely suited to the sixth Doctor. As a result this crosses the bridge between old and new far more smoothly. What strikes me as odd is how I perceived this audio was going to be, a piece of fluff featuring an awful lot of legal waffle and posturing. There is a little of that but this is actually a very sweet and personable character drama too, concentrating on the relationship between two equally gruff protagonists (the Doctor and Kybo). It's fascinating to watch them interact, a boisterous Time Lord and a crotchety Judoon and watching as they practically cancel out each others combative traits and wind up exploring a much more gentle and respectful relationship. By the end of the story I rather fancied Kybo hopping in the TARDIS with the Doctor and doing a round of the galaxy but I guess that could never work because contemporary Earth stories would mean he would have to wear some kind of holographic filter at all times. Just like The End of the Line for the sixth Doctor's Last Adventure box set, Morris and Barnard understand precisely what makes the sixth Doctor tick and characterise him charmingly. The plot starts well and promises a great deal of drama but it doesn't really follow through on that promise (very like Trial of a Time Lord then) but it does hold up several tasty ideas along the way. I especially like the moral tone the story takes at the climax, the Doctor taking on a profit making corporation that is terraforming without ethics. Judoon in Chains is a fresh look at a two dimensional foe and pleasing because of it. It's not what I expected and is all the more enjoyable for it: 8/10

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Fallen Angels written by Phil Mulryne and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: 2015: When sightseers Joel and Gabby Finch encounter a strange man in Edwardian cricketing garb in the Sistine Chapel, their honeymoon suddenly takes a terrifying turn. 1511: Michelangelo is commissioned to create some very special sculptures by a mysterious sect. But as he carves, angels seem to emerge fully-formed from the rock. Almost as if they are alive… From Michelangelo’s workshop to the catacombs of Rome, the Fifth Doctor must keep his wits about him and his eyes wide open as he confronts the Weeping Angels.

An English Adventurer: Hat, door, rescue...that pretty much sums up the fifth Doctor very nicely. He always seemed to be spotting something on the scanner and dashing out of the door to save someone. A biege blur I think I described him as once. I was probably being derogatory but in hindsight it's not an inaccurate description. He finds if you act like you should be allowed in somewhere that you generally are. Actually that method has worked out quite well for all the Doctors. He's been at Heathrow recently, which sets this story near Time-Flight. The Doctor thinks that it is quite difficult to understand a general overview of time travel but if Dodo can get her head around it, anyone can. We've had enough lectures about fixed points in time for the fifth Doctor to get away with a throwaway 'and all that...' and we get the message that the Angels manipulation with time is important. When people are trying to kill hi he usually likes to know why. As his current companions will tell you, there are a manifest of reasons. The Doctor's method of covering his eyes and looking so he can see where the Angels are moving to is insanely dangerous...and very exciting.

Standout Performance: Matthew Kelly is not a name that you hear much these days but he was a formative part of my childhood hosting shows such as You Bet and Stars in Their Eyes. He brings a robust gruffness to Michelangelo, exactly the right sort of attitude and strength that you would imagine from one of the most famous artists this planet has ever produced. He's not somebody I would like to meet in a dark alley in a bad mood.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You wont get a signal in 1511 and even if you do just think of the roaming charges!'
'I'm just not really used to people doing this sort of thing around me' says the Doctor about two people kissing in a wonderful dig at how domestic the show has become in it's latest incarnation.

Great Ideas: Immediately this feels like a descendent of Blink with the fifth Doctor's involvement discussed in the first scene before he has even arrived. Moffat's timey wimeyness (still brings me out in hives) is all pervading before the story has even begun. I'm not a religious man but I always figure that Michelangelo had some kind of divine intervention when he painted the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was a paradoxical leak from the future from the mouth a bloke called Joel. Italian artists are disappearing from history, vanishing from he established time stream, the glories of their art lost. A Weeping Angel is a creature that is quantum locked into position while it is being observed, just in case you're one of those strange people that has never seen Blink before. The Weeping Angel fell to Earth in pre-history. It wasn't planned, it was trapped in the sediment that eventually became marble in a quarry. It must have been in absolute torment for a millennia. It would have gone insane and would be looking for the richest meal of artron energy ever to get its strength back. Angels trapped in Venetian mirrors, beguiled by their own reflection - a glorious image.

Audio Landscape: The Angel attacks are very well executed, with some dramatic musical stings to point out when the creature is attacking. Crowd scene, chipping at stone, constructing a scaffolding, footsteps, flames crackling,

Isn't it Odd: A classic series adventure with a new series length is an odd beast, but it works very well for this adventure. Unless you were really daft then surely you would realise that you were standing in 1511? The co-incidence of Joel landing in the workshop of an artist he admires so much stretches credulity. It would be like the Angels sending me back in time and winding up in Terrance Dicks' office in the BBC in 1972. The Angels where the very definition of the law of diminishing returns, every time they appeared I feel they lost a little more of their original impact. The trouble with retuning to successful one-off monster is that you have to innovate them and the Angels were perfectly conceived in the first place. Eventually you wind up with something as crass and obvious as the Statue of Liberty marching across the City gnashing her teeth. The two stories I feel have utilised them the best since Blink are Touched By An Angel, an extremely strong BBC novel by Jonathan Morris and this audio. In both cases the author is working overtime to make the creatures work in a new format. Come Time of the Doctor and Hell Bent the Angels are featuring in stories as cameos. It's a pretty inexcusable waste of a great monster. Joel and Gabby are nicely played but don't standout like the best of the new series characters - they interact well with the Doctor but I certainly wouldn't be putting them up for companion material.

Standout Scene: Michelangelo literally tears down the scaffolding in the climax...after a 70 foot fall the Angels climb out of the wreckage and keep on coming.

Result: 'The most humane psychopaths in the universe...' The big question on everybody's lips is how do you tell a story about a purely visual monster in an audio format. Apparently by thinking about the nature of these creatures very carefully and constructing a clever story around them. With some clever description, jumpy sound effects and creepy music you can conjure up the essence of The Weeping Angels without ever having to see them. It's quite the challenge and not the sort that Big Finish - that I feel has been playing it safe in many ways lately- is keen to take. It's nice to see some balls. Then this is the work of Barnaby Edwards and he's by and large my favourite Big Finish director. If I was going to hand a difficult task like this to anybody, Edwards would be my choice. He injects a zest into the most lifeless of scripts (not that this is lifeless by any means) and assembles the most impressive of guest casts. He seems to have all the best actors in his little black book. Michelangelo carving out a statue of an Angel is an impressively bold image and a one line pitch that probably sold David Richardson on the idea of an Angel story. Peter Davison seems very home in what is essentially a new series adventure and the whole cast is clearly getting a thrill out of telling an Angel story. There's a zippy pace to the piece that reveals just how arduous some of those main range adventures can be. Perhaps there is an argument for two or three episode adventures for 5, 6, 7 and 8. Phil Mulryne is a new voice to Big Finish but if this script is anything to go by this wont be the last we hear of him. I was genuinely pleased that my first Big Finish review in a while was something this effortlessly enjoyable to listen to. Fallen Angels isn't the most standout of adventures but it does what it does extremely well indeed: 8/10

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Chocolate Company - Special Offer!



I realise this is a different sort of post from the norm but my friend has a superb online business selling luxury chocolate and has handed me a special introductory offer to new customers that read my website. I want to be able to advertise for him just this once because I am a very satisfied customer myself (he arranged the favours for my wedding) but also because I believe in his product.

Take a look guys - his website is  http://thechocolateco.com/ and you can have 10% off any order you purchase if you use the discount code WHO10%

He sells all of the UK brands of Lindt but many of the rare US flavours too that generally aren't available in this country. It's the perfect time to buy for Christmas and the gift sets are a real treat. Check it out, you wont regret it.