Star Wars – The Aftermath of ‘The Last Jedi’

Following the release of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, the Star Wars fanbase fractured as many fans labelled this film the worst that the franchise had ever seen. Whilst there were and are many Star Wars fans who will defend the film and the direction that Disney is taking the franchise, it is now undeniable that Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm will go down as one of the most controversial events in the history of modern science fiction. Since the eradication of the original Legends canon, the new lore that Disney has introduced has seen the entire plot of the post-Return of the Jedi era of Star Wars reworked from a hopeful and steady continuation of the adventures of Luke, Han and Leia to a tragic dissolution of the Jedi Order, the New Republic and the marriage between Han and Leia – a decision that has definitely rubbed many fans the wrong way. Gone are fan favourites like Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade Skywalker, and Jacen and Jaina Solo, and even some characters from the expanded universe that had nothing to do with the post-ROTJ era at all, such as Darth Revan and Bastila Shan from the KOTOR series. The question remains – was all of this loss from the vast and diverse Star Wars canon worth it for what Disney has given us since?

Before we answer that question, it is important to note two things – first, anyone who wishes can still experience Star Wars Legends in all its glory, as the rebranding of the original canon into Legends has been accompanied with re-releases of the novels featuring the ‘Legends’ brand, and Disney have no desire to wipe the original canon of Star Wars from the face of the planet as many of the old comics and games are still available to buy at retailers. Secondly, the new story that Disney has written is just that – a story. Regardless of how one might feel towards The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Star Wars has always inspired children and the new films have continued to do just that, meaning that their existence can never be truly written off as a waste of time and effort despite negative fan reaction to the more recent Disney Star Wars products.

Yet the issue remains – Disney’s Star Wars is controversial among fans, and it cannot be denied that specific aspects of the brand such the Star Wars video games have suffered a decline in quality under Disney’s rule – or rather, EA’s rule, since Disney licensed Star Wars games exclusively to the controversial publisher – with titles like the new Star Wars: Battlefront and it’s sequel being poorly received due to EA’s blatant attempts at money-grabbing. Microtransactions, a system that essentially amounts to luck-based gambling with real money in video games that was introduced to mobile games but has since spread to all corners of the gaming world, were one of the main issues with the new EA Star Wars games – gone are the days of open sandboxes, diverse heroes and characters and dozens of playable maps, now much of the content in EA’s Star Wars games are locked behind paywalls. This obvious drain on the ‘soul’ of Star Wars may seem ironic considering George Lucas has always treated the franchise as a mass-marketable cash-cow, but something about the apparent lack of respect for the franchise, its history, and the great games that came before have had many fans up in arms demanding that EA lose their exclusive rights to make Star Wars games to allow other, more passion-driven developers to take the helm.

Moving back to the cinematic side of the Star Wars franchise, so far Disney have released four Star Wars movies since 2015 – that’s one each year – and for many the Star Wars ‘burnout’ is a pressing problem. Fans of Star Wars are used to waiting for their movies – there were 3 years between each of the movies in the original trilogy, that were released between 1977 and 1983, and a gap of 16 years between the original trilogy and the prequels, which also released 3 years apart from each other. Under Disney’s rule, each main Star Wars film releases two years apart, with the year in between being filled by an ‘anthology’ film (more on those later) meaning that the once sporadic and highly anticipated release of a Star Wars film has been reduced to a yearly event in a transparent attempt by Disney to turn Star Wars into a bloated cinematic universe akin to the Marvel movie franchise. Whilst a cinematic universe suits the vast cast of characters that Marvel has under its belt after 50 years, the ultimate irony is that this marketing strategy would only have worked for Disney had they kept the original expanded universe intact – Revan: A Star Wars Story would only work if the pre-established continuity of Darth Revan still existed, which in the new canon, it doesn’t. Hardcore fans can take solace in the fact that, by eliminating the original canon, Disney have seriously shot themselves in the foot.

Oddly, however, the two ‘anthology’ movies that have been released by Disney have been excellent – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a fantastically made love letter to A New Hope that doesn’t blatantly rip off its plot like The Force Awakens did, and Solo: A Star Wars Story is surprisingly good despite the fact that it’s poor performance at the box office. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the relative quality of the ‘anthology’ movies only serves to frustrate fans who wish that the same care and attention had been put into The Last Jedi, as Rian Johnson’s incongruous attempts to make his mark on the franchise in the middle of a three-act trilogy have made the future of the sequel trilogy uncertain. Fans knew where they stood with J.J. Abram’s new interpretation of Star Wars, but Rian Johnson seemed to go out of his way to subvert viewer’s expectations with The Last Jedi to the extent that the film tries too hard to be not what J.J. Abrams would have done, sabotaging many of J.J.’s open-ended plot threads like Supreme Leader Snoke, Rey’s parentage and Luke’s character arc to such an extent that The Last Jedi is a deflating and thoroughly disappointing follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. 

While views on both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi differ across the far-reaching spectrum of the Star Wars fanbase, the most obvious conclusion is that the former is superior to the latter. Whilst The Force Awakens stuck to the basic plot of A New Hope almost beat-for-beat, it was in keeping with the spirit of Star Wars and was generally better received than its sequel, which divided the fanbase on release and has received ratings lower than The Phantom Menace in several rankings. The question remains – what can Disney do to resolve this problem and help re-unify the Star Wars fanbase? Clearly everything hinges on Episode IX – amid rumours that Disney are delaying all other Star Wars projects, it seems that the follow up to The Last Jedi will have a lot to prove. Getting J.J. Abrams back as director was a good choice, but it may be too little too late as many Star Wars fans are considering boycotting Episode IX entirely. Clearly, therefore, Disney should consider the fan-favourite suggestions of a standalone Obi-Wan movie starring Ewan McGregor, set between Episodes III and IV, as Obi-Wan himself represents a well-liked character in the franchise who is more deserving of a spinoff than a significantly more minor character like Boba Fett. Outside of the movies, Disney should consider re-canonising many of the now ‘Legends’ games and stories – characters like Revan who existed thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars saga deserve a comeback in the new canon. EA should pay closer attention to Star Wars games that succeeded in the past, focusing specifically on why fans loved them so much, and how EA can emulate the more fun-loving and less money-grabbing feel of 2000s Star Wars games.

It would seem, therefore, that in the aftermath of Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and the release of The Last Jedi, the future of the Star Wars franchise is uncertain. However, provided Disney, EA and Lucasfilm learn from their more recent mistakes and aim to improve their handling of the Star Wars franchise in the future, it may yet not be too late to restore the brand to its former glory.

 

Doctor Who – Top Ten Classic Who Cyberman Stories

The early 1960s saw the genesis of ‘spare-part’ surgery with the development of gigantic heart-lung machines and research into the possibility of replacing amputated limbs with prosthetics controlled by wiring the nerve endings into the machine for a quicker response. Intrigued by the potential of these developments, Dr. Kit Pedler, the unofficial scientific advisor for Doctor Who at the time, asked his wife, who was also a doctor, about what would happen if someone had so many prostheses that they could no longer distinguish themselves from the machine – this idea would later go on to form the basis for the monster featured in The Tenth Planet, an episode he wrote with Gerry Davis. What Kit Pedler created went on to become one of the most iconic and enduring aspects of Doctor Who’s rich cast of creatures, and the Cybermen were born. Since their creation, the bio-mechanical monsters have menaced the Doctor on dozens of occasions throughout both the Classic and Modern incarnations of the show, and at over 50 years old the Cybermen have a wealth of history. To explore how effectively Dr. Pedler’s vision has been translated on screen, these are the Top Ten Cybermen Stories from Classic Who specifically. For this list the primary focus will be how effectively each episode presents the Cybermen as a threat but also how competently the nature of Cyber-conversion and its impact is depicted.

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10 – Revenge of the Cybermen

Ranking the lowest out of all the Classic Who Cyberman stories is Revenge of the Cybermen, the Fourth Doctor’s only outing with the tin men from Mondas. This episode features what is possibly the weakest depiction of the Cybermen to date – gone are the sinister electronic voices and the cold, emotionless line delivery, and this robs the Cybermen of one of their most threatening attributes. The voices are not the only thing that seems to have changed either, as the Cybermen in this story seem to act out of character – their body language, the Cyberleader implying that Cybermen have some form of ‘morality’ when not at war, and even the title: ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’. How can emotionless machine creatures want revenge? Ultimately, this episode holds the dubious honour of being the joint-worst story in the otherwise excellent Season 12, the other joint-worst being The Sontaran Experiment. The only real saving grace for either of these stories is how good the TARDIS team for Season 12 is.

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9 – The Wheel in Space

Fans of Patrick Troughton’s era long for the missing parts of The Wheel in Space to be recovered, or at the very least animated, as the only way to watch this story at the moment is to buy the Doctor Who – Lost in Time DVD (an excellent investment regardless). The fact that 4 out of the 6 episodes are missing means that only the most die-hard of Second Doctor fans will have any interest in this story until an animated reconstruction is released, which is a shame considering this episode features the debut of Zoe Heriot, one of the most popular companions in the history of the show. At six parts long, however, The Wheel in Space in its completed form falls victim to the age-old issue with Classic Doctor Who – bad pacing – with the only real upside being that the depiction of the Cybermen in this story is strong. Whilst their voices have changed from early Second Doctor stories, the effect is still menacing and suitably inhuman, and the surviving two parts of this story have some excellent scenes with the Cybermen, particularly Part Six.

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8 – Silver Nemesis

Having already been the focus of on article on how it might just be a hidden classic, it may seem odd that Silver Nemesis doesn’t rank very highly on this list – that is primarily due to the fact that most of the Cybermen episodes are just really good, but also the fact that the actual depiction of the Cybermen themselves in this episode is lackluster. To be fair, the Cyberleader does get some great lines, particularly when he is scheming with his lieutenant or manipulating the brick-headed Nazis in this story, and there is a fantastic quip about the human condition of madness, but this story suffers from having too much going on in the story and as a result the Cybermen are not given the attention that they perhaps deserved. Considering the fact that this was the next Cyberman episode after Attack of the Cybermen, an episode that delves into the more gruesome aspects of Cyber-conversion, Silver Nemesis uses its Cybermen as fodder for various other plot developments and is a classic example of episodes that include the Cybermen but don’t go to any lengths to actually add more to their mythos or character.

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7 – The Tenth Planet

The original Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet was a difficult episode to place in this ranking. On the one hand, it does a stellar job of introducing the Cybermen and what they are (or were) to the audience, but this episode was also the final adventure for William Hartnell, and the events leading up to his regeneration take the spotlight later in the story. The Cybermen themselves are imposing and utterly inhuman, yet they retain some of their former humanity, such as the human hands and the vaguely human-like heads, which is an excellent design choice. However, the plot essentially confines the Cybermen to one room, pacing up and down, which allows for some excellent dialogue between the Cybermen and the Doctor but doesn’t really allow for a depiction of their true power, aside from a few scenes in the snow in which they attack guards. Still, as this is the first appearance of the Cybermen and the first regeneration story, The Tenth Planet is still an enduring classic.

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6 – The Five Doctors

Whilst the Cybermen aren’t the primary focus of this story by any means, they do feature as one of the prominent adversaries present in Gallifrey’s Death Zone. It is interesting that the Cybermen get more screentime in this story than the Dalek does, although they may have been more to do with how shabby the Dalek props were looking at this point in Doctor Who’s production. Regardless, the Cybermen are a notable threat in this story and they nearly succeed in blowing up the TARDIS, before they are all wiped out by the Raston Warrior Robot. The scene in which the Cybermen are destroyed has been cited as one of the many examples of the Cybermen undergoing ‘forced villain decay’ throughout the 80s era of Doctor Who, a phenomenon which seemed to lessen their impact as time went on. Nonetheless, The Five Doctors is a fantastic episode and the Cybermen are perhaps the most prominently featured recurring villain in the story apart from the Master, making it a somewhat-honorary Cyberman story.

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5 – The Moonbase

Another Second Doctor Cyberman episode that his fallen victim to missing episodes, The Moonbase is definitely one of the strongest Cyberman stories in Classic Who, and thanks to the fact that the missing two episodes have been animated, the entire serial can now be enjoyed in all its glory. This episode is particularly notable as it features the first re-appearance of the Cybermen since their debut in The Tenth Planet, and with that came their first radical redesign – signifying that they had adapted since their initial encounter with the Doctor, and were now a more deadly threat. Gone are the human-like hands and vaguely humanoid face, and as if to ram home how inhuman these new Cybermen are, this was also the first time they were presented without individual names, further alienating them from their human roots and making them seem more like robotic monstrosities than ever before. As icing on the cake is the fantastic scene of the Cybermen marching across the surface of the Moon to attack the Moonbase, which is exactly the kind of show of power that the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet needed.

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3 – The Invasion

The final Second Doctor Cyberman story, The Invasion, is somewhat unique in that it is an eight-part story with four episodes missing, making it a 50/50 split of genuine and animated episodes. Interestingly, the drawings for the animation and the general art style has a distinct visual flair, something that is not often found in animated episodes as they are usually created on as limited budget as possible with little room for finesse. That said, the animation itself is rather clunky, but even that cannot diminish the impact that the Cybermen themselves have in this story. Arguably one of their most menacing outings, the Cybermen use stealth, infiltration and carefully-laid plans to instigate a total invasion of London, which leads to some iconic and enduring images akin to the likes of The Dalek Invasion of Earth – the shot of the Cybermen marching down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral is perhaps one of their most iconic stills of the Classic era, and it is chilling to see the Cybermen emerging from the depths of the London sewers and occupying familiar streets and landmarks.

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3 – Attack of the Cybermen

Arguably one of the most controversial episodes of Classic Who to air, Attack of the Cybermen was heavily criticised at the time – those who were inspired by Mary ‘I’m here to spoil the fun’ Whitehouse and her crusade against Doctor Who in the seventies complained that Attack was too violent and scary for children, an idea which seems laughable today. Admittedly, one scene in which the Cybermen torture a man by crushing his hands into bloody pulps would probably have shocked children at the time, but that is rather the point of the show, and in fairness to the production team, Doctor Who was also being criticised at the time for not having the ‘spark’ that it had before, so it seems that everyone was a critic in the 80s. Regardless, Attack holds up particularly well for a Colin Baker story, and there are some truly menacing scenes with the Cybermen, particularly as they use the darkness to hunt workers in sewer tunnels. Another sinister aspect to this episode is that in the background of many scenes in Cyber-control, unfortunate victims of the Cybermen can be seen in conversion booths, and as the episode progresses they are slowly transformed bit by bit into emotionless killers. Overall, Attack does a great job of presenting the body horror aspects to the Cybermen that the show tends to skirt around, such as depicting partly-converted Cybermen desperately trying to escape and also describing in vivid detail the stench of rotting flesh emanating from long-dead Cyber-corpses.

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2 – Earthshock

This episode is most often remembered for its ending – for those who have been living under a rock since the 1980s, this is the episode in which Adric dies, arguably the most prominent death of a character in Doctor Who (and that’s saying something). As a result of this, it is often overlooked that this is actually a fantastic story for the Cybermen specifically, as we see the full extent of their power and influence and there are some great shots that use clever editing to make it seem as though there are far more Cybermen in the episode that the BBC costumes department would allow. Speaking of costumes, the redesigned Cybermen look incredible in this story, and a tiny detail exclusive to this story that adds a really creepy element to the Cyberman design is the transparent lower-jaw of the Cyberleader and some Cybermen, which allows for more expression on the part of the actors inside the suits but also serves as a constant reminder to the audience that the Cybermen were indeed once flesh and blood, and are not simply robots. The fact that the Cybermen are ultimately responsible for the death of Adric has a profound impact on both the character of the Fifth Doctor and how the Doctor views the Cybermen following this encounter generally, which is reflected in Classic Who episodes following this and the Big Finish audios that feature the Cybermen set after this.

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1 – The Tomb of the Cybermen

It was a difficult decision to place this episode above Earthshock and Attack of the Cybermen simply because all three episodes are great in their own way – but ultimately, The Tomb of the Cybermen has to come out on top due to just how well it holds up, even today. Whilst there are some unfortunate drawbacks, such as the questionable characterisation of Toberman and some odd costume choices, overall this story is excellent and is well-deserved of its status as a classic. This episode has a reputation for being one of Classic Who’s scariest episodes, and there are some scenes that are genuinely chilling – the famous example being the sequence in which the Cybermen break out of their tombs, but others include the death of the man who attempts to open the gate and the death of the man in the weapons chamber – both are sudden, graphic and accompanied by a suitably gruesome scream, and the Cyber-tomb around which this all takes place is presented almost like a malevolent entity in itself, making every scene set within its walls convery an air of uncertainty and fear. Even after over 50 years this serial is definitely worth a watch and is among the best Classic Doctor Who serials of all time.

To conclude, it is clear that the best Cyberman episodes in Classic Who are the ones that tackle the issue surrounding the Cybermen head on or depict their power and menace to make them genuinely terrifying.

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Five

In my last Best of Big Finish article I mentioned that I had finished most of the second series of Eighth Doctor audios, and I had only a handful of audios (including the infamous Zagreus) remaining in the Eighth Doctor’s first batch of stories. What makes these audios so fascinating is that, other than the less-than-stellar TV Movie from 1996 and the fantastic but brief Night of the Doctor from 2013, they are the only medium through which fans can experience the Eighth Doctor. Whilst we can all live in hope that one day the BBC will give Paul McGann a spinoff or mini-series of his own, in the meantime the stellar audios that he has been a part of can suffice for fans of McGann. All of these audios can be picked up on the Big Finish website for just £3 each, so they are definitely worth checking out.

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The Time of the Daleks

This audio is essentially a re-imagining of the lost Second Doctor episode The Evil of the Daleks, which is by no means a bad thing – since Evil can no longer be experienced, it makes sense to attempt a remake eventually – but the story is perhaps in places a little too close to Evil. Regardless, McGann and Fisher are brilliant as always, and the Daleks prove to be as menacing as ever.

What truly makes this audio worth the time is the fact that the Daleks quote Shakespeare throughout, something that is unnerving in context but hilarious to listen to, particularly since the plot revolves a fair amount around the Daleks attempting to remove all of Shakespeare from time, but in order to do that they have to learn Shakespeare themselves.

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Neverland

Neverland concludes the story arc involving Charley Pollard and the time-phenomenon that has pursued her and the Doctor since they met, and also leads into Zagreus, making it a fairly important audio in the Eighth Doctor’s early years. The audio features Lalla Ward as Romana II in her first encounter with the Eighth Doctor, and also features some interesting developments on Time Lord society, specifically their early methods of capitol punishment.

All in all, Neverland is essentially the ‘setup’ for the next audio, and given its successors infamous reputation it goes without saying that this audio is an important chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s adventures.

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Zagreus

As strange as it is, I actually quite liked Zagreus. I am aware of this audio’s controversial nature, and its placement as the ‘Marmite’ audio for most fans – they either love it or they hate it. To its credit, Zagreus attempts to do something radically different for a Doctor Who story, and it plays with some really interesting ideas. By far one of the best features of this story is the abundance of classic cast members, everyone from Louise Jameson to Jon Pertwee (the latter as a prerecording taken from a fan production). In a strange twist, however, the entire group of regular cast have been given totally random roles in this story, making it an interesting ride for those who are familiar with them all.

The first of two main weaknesses of Zagreus is the length – in fact, its length is its Achilles heel in many ways, as the second main weakness of Zagreus is the meandering plot – but the story could have been tightened up a lot more as the final product is a whopping four hours long – twice the length of a standard Big Finish production. True to Classic Who form, this means filler galore.

—- WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ZAGREUS TO FOLLOW —-

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Scherzo

This is a strange one. Scherzo is set directly after Zagreus and is the first in the ‘divergent universe’ arc that makes up the second major plot arc in the Eighth Doctor’s era after Charley. After the somewhat hectic and tragic conclusion to Zagreus, the Eighth Doctor and Charley end up in a totally new universe in which time no longer exists, and for most of the audio they cannot see or feel anything but each other – they are totally trapped in a universe in which the only thing that exists is sound.

This audio really showcases what the format of audio stories can do that the televised show could not, and really amps up the horror factor to the extent that this might be the scariest of the Big Finish audios that I have listened to so far, in a strange way. As the only two cast members, Paul McGann and India Fisher do a fantastic job here, and they are quickly becoming one of my favourite Doctor/Companion pairings.

So that concludes my thoughts on the next round of Eighth Doctor audios from Big Finish. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Four

I have been listening to Big Finish for just over two months now, and yet already I have made my way through swathes of episodes by listening to them daily – whilst out and about walking around the park or to the gym, whilst cooking or doing housework, and also during long car journeys. The series has been very rewarding to listen to as a Doctor Who fan and I would thoroughly recommend any who have not already to check out Big Finish on their website. Many of the earlier audios are very cheap for a digital download and the bundles of the first dozen or so stories for each Doctor periodically go on sale so it is really easy to pick them up cheap.

Following on from my Best of Big Finish, Part Three comes the next installment in my Big Finish reviews series, as I make my way through Big Finish’s main range. Unlike most Big Finish audios, most of these require previous episodes for context and understanding, so to begin:

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The Mutant Phase

The first audio on this list is the third in the ‘Dalek Empire’ series, that also includes The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element and the conclusion The Time of the Daleks. Featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa as well as a Dalek Emperor and Thals all attempting to prevent a history-altering mutation in the Dalek genome that could destroy both the Dalek race and the universe. The scope of this episode is larger than any in the Dalek Empire arc so far, and it links quite heavily with the 12-part First Doctor story The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but don’t let that put you off.

The Mutant Phase does a great job of maintaining the high stakes due to the temporal nature of it – usually when Big Finish does a ‘the Daleks invade this planet for this reason’ can get stale over time, but having a story in which the Daleks try to change all of history to rid themselves of a plague is fairly interesting, although there are more twists that make the reasoning by this and the Doctor’s motives more convoluted.

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Invaders from Mars

The fact alone that Simon Pegg is part of the cast tells you that this is going to be a fun one, but Invaders from Mars is a contender for funniest audio I have listened to so far in the series, although I am yet to listen to The Holy Terror. The story partly revolves around the 1938 Halloween radio transmission of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds perfomred by Orson Welles, but some comical twists add to the surreal humour of this story. Likewise, as this is an episode that is perhaps meant to be taken less seriously, there appears to be a higher amount of ‘silly voices’ involved in the production of this audio, and not all of them can be Simon Pegg.

In typical Big Finish style, however, there are some dark elements, and the story is not without its fair share of death – but Invaders from Mars is definitely worth a listen for fans of the Eighth Doctor and Charley, and also for fans of historicals. Interestingly, this audio is written by Mark Gatiss, who would go on to write a lot of stories for the new series including The Unquiet Dead and Empress of Mars, so he clearly has a thing for historicals and episodes with Mars in the title.

 

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Seasons of Fear

As far as ‘returning monsters’ go, you don’t really get more obscure than the return of the Nimon to Doctor Who in Seasons of Fear. The Nimon featured in just one episode of Classic Who, and yet still managed to get a return in NuWho in The God Complex (sort of), but that wasn’t before Big Finish had already granted them their glorious return here in a surprisingly standout episode featuring an almost comical relationship that develops between the Doctor and an immortal who serves a legion of Bull-people who want to supersede the Time Lords and become Masters of the universe.

The premise of this story is notable as it uses the time-travel elements of Doctor Who a lot more than most stories might, and the early parts almost give us a new location and time period each episode. The story flows consistently throughout, however, and the development of the character of Sebastian Grayle is both humorous and fascinatingly dark. Overall this is well worth a listen as it provides crucial development for the arc of the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard.

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Embrace the Darkness

When Big Finish does creepy well, it does it really well, and and Embrace the Darkness sums up creepy – its essentially a sinister horror in audio form that also features a helping of sci-fi concepts and great characters and voice acting. The story is a basic ‘base-under-siege’ formula, but the execution makes it notable as the aliens in this are by no means as malevolent as one might expect from a sci-fi horror story.

It cannot be understated how good India Fisher is as a companion, particularly as she is able to bring her audio-only character Charley to life, and her chemistry with Paul McGann makes every audio with the pair acting together a treat.

As this is the third Eighth Doctor story on the list, it is important to note at this point that I am on an Eighth Doctor binge, and my next Big Finish Review will feature the next few Eighth Doctor audios as well as the infamous Zagreus.

So that was my list of the Best of Big Finish, Part Four. If you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Two

Continuing from my previous articles on both my First Impressions of Big Finish and my Best of Big Finish, Part One, I now present the next chapter in my review series of the Doctor Who audios. These are reviewed in the order in which I listened to them, and I find that listening to the Big Finish audios in chronological order eases new listeners into the format, although most of these listed here could probably serve as jumping-on points, particularly since they are all so cheap on the Big Finish website. So, to begin:

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The Juggernauts

This story, for Davros, is a directly prelude to the TV episode Remembrance of the Daleks and goes into the detail of how Davros would come to form the ideas for the Imperial Daleks, as well as the first ‘appearance’ of Davros’ white chair (as seen on the cover). The Juggernauts also features the audio debut of the Mechanoids, former mechanical servants of humanity that debuted in the TV episode The Chase. Interestingly, what makes this story so good as Bonnie Langford as Mel, it really shows how much more maturely her character is being handled by Big Finish than it was by the main show in the 80s. She shows her vast intelligence and adaptability as she successfully establishes herself as a leading member of Davros’s team, and even earns the evil scientists’s respect.

The Juggernauts also demonstrates an important point in the Daleks personal history – Davros is pushed closer and closer to abandoning his creations after their constant mistreatment of him, and this lays the groundwork for the formation of the Imperial Dalek faction, a development that is essential for the plot of Remembrance.

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Master

Master is a masterpiece, thanks primarily to the fantastic voice work of both Sylvester McCoy and Geoffrey Beevers as the Doctor and ‘John Smith’ – a human who was once the Time Lord known as the Master. Knowing nothing of his former life, the Master gets a chance to live out an ordinary, human life for 10 years, and this plot development allows for some reflective conversation between the Doctor and his old friend, even if the latter has no idea who he is. It may seem odd for those who have only seen him on TV, but Geoffrey Beevers is fast becoming my favorite incarnation. True, I am yet to hear any Alex Macqueen, but for that I’d either have to listen to the Dark Eyes series or the Two Masters trilogy, which is a bit further down the line, but so far Beevers has been perfect as an audio-focused incarnation, since his real strength is in the quality of his voice acting and the silky smooth texture of his voice.

In truth, all of the audios with Beevers are a treat, but Master really demonstrates the versatility of him as an actor. He plays off Sylvester McCoy perfectly, and this audio really goes into detail about the backstory of the Doctor and the Master as children on Gallifrey, and is a great listen for lore fanatics.

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The Harvest

Audio-only Seventh Doctor companion Hex makes his debut in this story, making this an essential for listening to other stories in the Hex arc – Enemy of the Daleks being another great one. The wacky music and interesting framing (from Hex’s perspective for the early parts) gives this story unique character. Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy are, as always, brilliant, and they have great chemistry with newcomer Philip Olivier. This story is part of a trilogy, the other installments being The Reaping and The Gathering, both of which loosely link with this story.

This story is a really interesting twist on the classic Cyberman story, with an added element of subterfuge and deception. This story essentially depicts a small group of Cybermen that are prepared to risk everything to survive, even defy their very nature. Voice acting on behalf of William Boyde gives the mysterious ‘Subject One’ great personality, and I almost felt sorry for it initially. Overall, this story is a classic ‘companion introduction’ story that also doubles as a pretty decent Cyberman story. There’s also a really funny bit of dialogue near the start between the Seventh Doctor and the computer that gets me every time.

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The Marian Conspiracy

Going backwards slightly in the Big Finish chronology, The Marian Conspiracy is another companion debut story – this time of Sixth Doctor companion Evelyn Smythe. What makes this story so interesting is that it is a pure historical, meaning there is no alien invasion to thwart, simply the natural progression of human history. The conflict in this story arises from the tumultuous time period in which it is set – during the reign of Queen Mary I. Despite her reputation, this audio presents a more balanced view of things, with the views of both Mary and Elizabeth’s supporters explained in their context. This is a great one for history lovers, particularly since Evelyn gets to utilize her experience as a history teacher in a time period that she specializes in.  Overall, this is a great listen and definitely adds to my collection of good Sixth Doctor stories.

So that’s the end of Part 2 of my Best of Big Finish, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Also, check out the read more tab below for articles related to this one. Thanks for reading!

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Genesis of the Daleks – The Rebirth

Genesis of the Daleks is one of those classic Doctor Who episodes that is often considered to be the best, alongside other popular Tom Baker episodes like The Ark in Space and The Deadly Assassin, and with good reason. Genesis appears at the height of Philip Hinchcliffe’s run on the show, an era defined by its dark imagery and thrilling sci-fi concepts – and if Hinchcliffe’s era is the Golden Age of Classic Who, then Genesis of the Daleks is the crown jewel.

Rarely does a six-part episode make good use of its run-time, with other Dalek six-parters like Planet of the Daleks and The Chase falling victim to pacing issues as the writers padded out the length, but Genesis of the Daleks is a great example of a six-parter done well – it seems as though to cut anything out of Genesis would detract from the story, as opposed to many other six-parters in which it seems entire episodes could be removed with little or no impact on the story. Genesis incorporates the capture-and-escape formula of many other Classic Doctor Who episodes, but spreads the narrative focus across enough elements to maintain the viewer’s interest. Combining this technique with the rich amount of political intrigue and conflicting motivations of each of the main characters creates a story in which the plot propels the audience through a dark and exciting tale of betrayal, obsession, murder, desperation and genocide and managing to keep the tension high throughout all six parts.

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As the name implies, a key element to this episode is the Daleks themselves – and Genesis of the Daleks manages to find the exact balance between keeping the Daleks as the narrative focus without dedicating so much screen-time to them that they become boring. Throughout the episode the ever-present threat of the Daleks looms, and their sporadic appearances early on divulge enough information about their nature to make this episode accessible for newcomers to the show, and this was undoubtedly the intention of Terry Nation – the original creator of the Daleks and writer of this episode. In fact, this episode acts as a sort of ‘reboot’ of the Daleks – it tells the story of their origins that differs from the exposition explaining their origins that we hear in The Daleks written over ten years prior, and the Daleks had gone through several character shifts throughout the 60s – Terry Nation clearly didn’t know what to do with the Daleks initially – they appear less aggressive and overtly evil in their debut, and The Chase portrayed the Daleks as comical buffoons whilst The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Dalek’ Master Plan painted them as more sinister characters, a characterisation which thankfully stuck and contributes greatly to the atmosphere in Genesis of the Daleks.

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Terry Nation seemingly killed the Daleks off for good in The Evil of the Daleks, though they were sheepishly brought back to Doctor Who under Jon Pertwee’s tenure after a disappointing American movie breakthrough. Nation had several misfires in Dalek story quality in the early 1970s – Day of the Daleks was limited by its physical props and quality of effects that was only corrected years later, Planet of the Daleks is a classic example of a four-parter padded out to fill a six-episode runtime, and Death to the Daleks explores interesting ideas but ultimately its reception was lackluster. And so, Genesis of the Daleks explores an idea that, until then, Terry Nation had only briefly explained in passing – the origin of the Daleks, and an explanation of how they came to be. Before Genesis, the original evolution of the Daleks was explained in a comic book – one of the many contributions to the Dalekmania of the 1960s was a range of bizarre and colourful comic books – but Nation was nudged towards writing an episode around the Daleks origins by the producers, since his recent scripts had become rather samey. As a result, by a collaboration between arguably the best showrunner that Doctor Who has had in its run and the man who originally created the Daleks and was responsible for their direction as a character, Genesis of the Daleks was born.

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But a question remained How could a race like the Daleks actually evolve? Genesis answers this question in the most practical way possible – the Daleks did not evolve, they were created. But in establishing this concept, Terry Nation also had to establish the concept of a creator. And thus the character of Davros began to take shape – and he was actualised by the fantastic Michael Wisher, who sadly did not go on to play Davros in later appearances of the character due to filming commitments, but here he shines as a psychotic megalomaniac, hell-bent on achieving his goal whatever the cost may be. The character of Davros was designed to provide a more human angle to the Daleks and a means of conveying their intentions in a way that did not devolve into chants of ‘Exterminate’. And although Davros would go on to draw attention away from the Daleks in subsequent appearances, here he shines as a player in the plot in his own right. His debates with the Doctor about the morality of what he is hoping to achieve are fascinating, and set the scene for continuations of their debate in the future.

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The introduction of Davros is one of this episodes core strengths, but the other supporting characters in this episode cannot be underestimated. Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter are, as always, on point with their representations of Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan. The trio spend most of their time apart in this episode, with Harry assisting the Doctor in his quest to prevent the Daleks from ever having been created, and Sarah Jane simply attempting to survive, first on the harsh war-torn surface of Skaro and then deep within the Thal city. By far one of the best aspects of this episode is the cunning and manipulative Nyder, who serves as Davros’ right hand man, playing double-agent and essentially collaborating with every evil act which Davros commits in this episode – and he even carries out some of these deeds himself. Another particularly interesting character is the young General – we see him arguing with the Doctor early in the episode, convinced of the Kaled superiority, but he also works with the Doctor later in the story – similarly, the scientist Ronson falls victim to Davros’ earlier scheming due to his mercy towards the Doctor and concern over the morality of creating a creature as merciless as a Dalek.

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However, this episode also introduces a moral dilemma that resonates throughout the show well into the New Series. The Doctor is determined to avoid the inevitable choice of having to destroy the Daleks by relying on his ability to persuade or manipulate the Kaled scientists into betraying Davros and changing the Daleks, restoring their positive emotions. But as the options begin to run out, and Davros tightens his grip over the Kaled bunker using any means necessary, the Doctor is eventually faced with a choice – to destroy the Daleks, or to not destroy them. At this point he seems paralysed, unable to decide which is best – in destroying the Daleks before they have a chance to evolve, he becomes like them, and that is something he cannot face.

So those are my thoughts on Genesis of the Daleks, leave a like if you enjoyed and be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us here on WordPress for more content like this!

Also, click the link below to see my collection of Genesis of the Daleks figures:

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Classic Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – 1970s era Daleks

Doctor Who – The New Logo

So the BBC just revealed the new logo for Series 11 of Doctor Who, which stars Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteen Doctor. For many, this new era of Doctor Who represents a time of great change, and with good reason – this has been the biggest ‘reboot’ of Doctor Who since the revival in 2005, seeing a new Doctor, a new showrunner, a new composer, a new TARDIS and now, inevitably, a new logo. And, to quote Jodie herself, it is brilliant.

Like the previous iteration, the BBC have opted for a more minimalist look, as this logo lacks any background like Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker’s ‘diamond’ or Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant’s ‘surfboard’, opting instead for a stark gold design that stands out on its own. Unlike the previous logo, however, the font is thinner and incorporates a ‘strike-through’ motif that was incorporated into its reveal video – the TARDIS cuts through the logo while in flight, perhaps hinting at what we should expect from the new title sequence?

As for the video itself, the brief but eerie take on the theme coupled with the fluctuating sound effect of the TARDIS in flight gives the whole thing an air of mystery, but overall the design foretells a fresh new take on the show’s look under Chibnall which has some fans worried – will this new incarnation of the show we all love be too different? Judging by what we have seen already from leaked set photos and videos, it would appear not – but with a fantastic actress at the helm and a promising set of supporting cast including Bradley Walsh from The Chase, Mandip Gill from Hollyoaks and Tosin Cole from both EastEnders and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, new era looks set to continue where the fantastic Peter Capaldi left off and take the show in new and exciting directions.

Also revealed is a smaller version of the logo, which is similar to the ‘DW’ variant of the previous logo. This will undoubtedly be used for marketing purposes – on toy packaging, decorating the spines of books and audiobooks to come, and perhaps even being integrated into the title sequence somehow.

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Doctor Who is a show that embodies change, and this process is one of many previous re-imaginings of the show’s look. Ultimately, however, what matters is the quality of the show itself – but fans like myself can rest easy knowing that the show is in capable hands. There is some sad news, however, in that longstanding composer for the show, Murray Gold, officially announced that he has left the show, leaving a set of intimidating shoes to fill for any budding BBC composer. Whether they choose a fresh face or a veteran, let’s hope that the new series incorporates subtle nods to the show’s history in its soundtrack whilst also looking to the future with new themes for the Doctor, various companions, and perhaps even the Daleks, although keeping the Dalek themes would be no bad thing.

If you have any thoughts or feelings about the new logo, be sure to leave them in the comments below. Like and Share if you enjoyed this little review of the logo, and be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us here on WordPress for more content like this!