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:

mutant-phase-e1528990833828.jpg

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.

invaders-from-mars.jpg

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.

 

seasons-of-fear.jpg

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.

embrace-the-darkness.jpg

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!

See more:

 

 

Doctor Who Book Review – Illegal Alien

Illegal Alien was among the first of the BBC Past Doctor Who Adventures novels which ran from 1997-2005 and actually began life as a potential TV story for Season 26 and later the unmade ‘Season 27’ which would have aired had the BBC not cancelled the show in 1989. Written by Mike Tucker, a visual effects assistant on Classic Who and model unit supervisor for NuWho, and script editor Robert Perry, this book is essentially a direct novelisation of the script for the unmade TV story, and is therefore split into four parts. With the end of each part being equatable to the cliffhangers seen in the TV show, a nice addition.

The book features the Seventh Doctor and Ace facing off against the Cybermen in Britain in World War II, a concept that works really well and can draw off several Nazi-related themes in a similar fashion to the TV story Victory of the Daleks does with the Daleks and Churchill. But for the first few chapters, the book reads almost like a detective story – the first-person narration of detective Cody McBride makes this story read like a Noir in some places, making it even more of a shame that this was never adapted for television.

illegal-alien-2.jpg

The version of the Cybermen that are intended to be represented in this novel is unclear – the original cover depicts a Cybermen from The Wheel in Space, whereas the republished version from The Monster Collection in the 2010s features a Cybus-Industries Cyberman, as seen from 2006’s Rise of the Cybermen. However, the descriptions in the novel as well as the era it was set in would suggest that the Cybermen are a more upgraded version of the kind seen in Silver Nemesis. Interestingly, this book depicts Cybermats, the entire cyber-conversion process and the concept of a critically damaged Cyberman scavenging humans for parts long before NuWho did. If this episode had ever been produced, it would have required a monumental budget.

The setting of the Second World War also allows for some interesting character development for Ace, who encounters Nazis in the flesh having already fostered a growing hatred of them since her best friend from her childhood was murdered by Neo-Nazis, showing a continuation of her character arc from Season 26. Ace also spends the majority of this book separated from the Doctor, and figures out what is going on independently, showing a wealth of character development since Remembrance of the Daleks.

monstercollection.jpg

As previously mentioned, this novel was recently made a part of The Monster Collection series, which also included re-releases of Tenth Doctor novels like String of the Zygons and Prisoner of the Daleks, and reviews of those novels will follow.

Overall, Illegal Alien is a great read with some truly memorable characters and a story that gives us a unique insight into what the unmade ‘Season 27’ would have been like. Undoubtedly, had this story been made, it would have been one of the most ambitious Doctor Who stories to date.

 

How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises, in this case I will be focusing on a specific New Series Dalek two-parter in a similar fashion to my previous installment. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

The divisive Series 3 two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks took some truly great sci-fi concepts and executed them in the style of a B-Movie. The episode is infamous for several reasons – the song-and-dance routine, the strangely phallic face of the Human-Dalek Hybrid, and the premature destruction of three-quarters of the Cult of Skaro. Considering that their last appearance had been in Series 2’s Doomsday, an episode that was not only hard-hitting emotionally but also featured the first instance of individual Daleks escaping at the end, presumably to get revenge on the Doctor at a later date. Overall, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks had a lot to live up to and, despite its potential, it just didn’t stand up to previous Dalek stories in the revival. So, to begin:

evolution-of-the-daleks-3.jpg

Do more with the concept of the ‘Cult of Skaro’, and the character of Dalek Sec

By far the most interesting aspect of this two-parter is the individual Daleks themselves, and tragically the episode does little to capitalize on their uniqueness as characters. The concept of having a secret order of specific Daleks that have the adaptability and intelligence to scheme beyond the capacity of an ordinary Dalek is interesting enough, but to have this small number of Daleks used as antagonists throughout multiple seasons is an even more interesting idea. For one, it would eliminate the problem that the early NuWho series’ had with Daleks apparently finding more and more inconceivable ways of surviving the Time War, as having a tiny number of survivors reappear as recurring villains is better than having to come up with a different excuse as to why Daleks are around each series. Unfortunately, Evolution of the Daleks in particular does away with this concept a little too early, killing three out of the four Cult members in their second story.

Admittedly, the character arc for Dalek Sec in this story is spectacular, and the execution is fairly effective as well (apart from the phallic protrusions on the Hybrid’s chin, but the less said about that the better). Having Sec sacrifice himself at the end to save the Doctor illustrates just how far a bit of Human DNA can go in rehabilitating a Dalek, even one as committed to the cause as Sec, and his hybridization and subsequent struggle with gaining human emotions is both an interesting concept for a Dalek story and a great spanner to throw into the works of the hierarchy of the Cult. The problem is that, upon killing Sec, Evolution of the Daleks disposes of Daleks Thay and Jast as well, in a pointless firefight that ultimately solves nothing, when realistically these two Daleks should have escaped with Dalek Caan as their characters had barely been developed when they were unceremoniously killed off.

evolution-of-the-daleks-5.jpg

Do more with the supporting characters

Although Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks constantly reminds the audience that it is set in New York, with the presence of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Hooverville serving to ground the audience in both the location and the time period, unfortunately the supporting cast of this episode are given strangely little to do in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, the only real purpose that Martha, Tallulah, Lazlo and Frank serve in the final episode is discovering the the Daleks have attached Dalekanium to the Empire State Building, and this discovery is ultimately pointless as the Doctor fails to remove it in time anyway. Daleks In Manhattan manages to give its supporting cast a little more to do, but overall following the death of Solomon the Doctor assumes all the main narrative roles in this story, which is odd considering usually Dalek stories rely primarily on the companion to figure things out whilst the Doctor strikes up an ideological debate with his foes.

Unfortunately, at the crucial point at which this might have been useful, the Doctor totally fails to engage with the potential of the Dalek Sec Hybrid. It should be noted that, upon the death of the Hybrid, it is truly unclear whether or not the Doctor actually trusted him at all – he does refer to Sec as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, but in typical fashion the Tenth Doctor seems to be totally indifferent to the destruction of this opportunity to recreate the Dalek race from the ground up, instead being seemingly more focused on berating the Daleks for their lack of foresight rather than genuinely grieving the reformed Sec.

evolution-of-the-daleks-2.jpg

Rework the Dalek’s plan so that it makes sense

Clearly whoever scripted this episode had no idea how genetics actually work, or how DNA and life relate to each other in the real world. As many fans will already know, Doctor Who has always been about suspending disbelief for the sake of narrative enjoyment, but in the case of Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks this actually hurts the story as the suspension of disbelief is simply unnecessary. The Daleks would surely have the know-how  to create Human-Dalek hybrids even with primitive technology, but the logic of ’emptying’ human bodies to be ‘filled’ with Dalek DNA is about the stupidest way of presenting this concept. Why not just have the Daleks growing the new Hybrid soldiers in tanks, and requiring the lightning strike to bring them to life? Or, heck, just have the lightning strike be there to power their Emergency Temporal Shift to escape to the future – the Daleks could have just revisited the concept of Robomen and indoctrinated Humans into doing their bidding rather than using the seemingly redundant Pig Slaves.

Overall, most of what makes Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks is the mishandling of the Daleks themselves as the main villain – it would be easy to tweak this story to save the Cult of Skaro storyline whilst still keeping its emotional impact, and circumventing some of the stranger concepts in favor of more familiar Dalek concepts would make this story more popular with Dalek fans.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Three

Continuing from my previous articles on both my First Impressions of Big Finish, the Best of Big Finish, Part One and the Best of Big Finish, Part Two I now present the next phase in my review series of the Doctor Who audios. In a similar fashion to my review of the Two Masters Trilogy, I have decided to review some newer Big Finish releases available as both digital downloads and in CD format from the Big Finish website. So to begin:

last-of-the-cybermen-e1528672804893.jpg

Last of the Cybermen

This audio is actually the second part of a loose ‘Locum Doctors Trilogy’, which consists of the previous story The Defectors which sees the Seventh Doctor meet Jo Grant, and the next story The Secret History which has the Fifth Doctor meet Steven and Vicki. Slotting in the middle is Last of the Cybermen in which the Sixth Doctor meets Jamie and Zoe and fights against the Cybermen in the final battle between the Telosian Cybermen and Humanity, and its scale is pretty epic. The characters are likeable and interesting, and Jamie and Zoe pair really well with the Sixth Doctor and it would be great if these two could appear in the monthly range more often.

The story plays on elements from various classic Cyberman stories as well as borrowing a few NuWho ideas to round the whole thing off, whilst also managing to define itself as a brand new story. Previous Big Finish Cyberman stories like Spare Parts and Sword of Orion describe the Cyber-conversion process in detail but Last of the Cybermen depicts Cyber-production on a huge scale, as the Cybermen churn out hundreds of soldiers an hour to battle the human onslaught, and it’s gripping.

we-are-the-daleks.jpg

We Are The Daleks

What is the only race in existence that is more evil than the Daleks? Easy, economically liberal Conservatives. And this audio demonstrates what could happen if the Tories and the Daleks had ever decided to team up in the late 1980s, although some may say that events would have just played out as normal. Regardless, We Are The Daleks is a great romp that is intended as a ‘jumping-on point’ for newer listeners to the main range, and thus consists of a well-rounded self-contained story with few outside references or requirements, and this definitely helps it as a standalone story.

What also benefits We Are The Daleks, like the earlier audio The Juggernauts, is the redeemed companion Mel who in this audio appears alongside the Seventh Doctor. Even for those who have seen very few televised Mel stories her reputation as a fairly shallow and ‘screamy’ companion is pervasive, yet the Big Finish audios do wonders for redeeming her character, making her a stronger character and giving her a more direct role in the story. Like The Juggernauts, We Are The Daleks shows Mel going undercover and expertly blending into a top-of-the-range work environment using her exceptional skill at coding, and with these two audios alone she is quickly becoming one of my favourite audio companions which shows just how effective the audios are at redeeming missed potential from the show…

order-of-the-daleks.jpg

Order of the Daleks

The cover of this audio alone is eye-catching enough, and although the concept of a ‘stained glass Dalek’ may seem odd at first, the context of the story justifies their presence – having crashed on a primitive planet with limited technology, the Daleks have infiltrated an order of Monks known as the ‘Brotherhood of the Black Petal’, teaching them how to construct rudimentary casings for them out of stained glass and lead. The Sixth Doctor and a Galactic Census team arrive to investigate signs of alien interference in a medieval society, and chaos ensues. On the surface, Order of the Daleks is a fairly standard Dalek story, but the concepts it utilises in the narrative context make it stand out, as Daleks that are both unarmed and vulnerable make an interesting twist on the standard formula for Dalek stories.

Another interesting aspect to this story is the relatively new audio-only Sixth Doctor companion Constance Clarke, who appeared initially in The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, an audio anthology that depicts the lead-up to the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration. Constance originates from the Second World War, originally working as a leading WREN before encountering the Doctor, and in this story she faces the Daleks for the first time and proves her mettle against the Doctor’s ultimate foe. The supporting cast also brings this story to life, as there are a fair few memorable characters with distinctive voice acting and some great moments between the Monks and the Daleks as well as some intrigue within the Brotherhood, as all is not as it seems on the seemingly idyllic world of Strellin…

energy-of-the-daleks.jpg

Energy of the Daleks

Last on the list is the fourth installment of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, a six-part series that saw the return of Tom Baker to the role of the Fourth Doctor for the first time in decades. Energy of the Daleks features the Fourth Doctor and companion Leela facing off against – you guessed it – the Daleks, and for the most part Energy of the Daleks follows the ‘standard’ Dalek story formula. The real draw for this story is Tom Baker, as hearing him face off against the Daleks again after so many years is a real treat. What makes this all the better is that, despite having one of the longest tenures of all the Doctors, the Fourth Doctor only fought the Daleks twice – once in Genesis of the Daleks, which was a definite classic but was mostly focused around the Kaled/Thal conflict and the introduction of Davros rather than being a true Dalek story, and Destiny of the Daleks, which is a universally poor story. Energy of the Daleks therefore gives the Fourth Doctor a chance to really shine in a battle against the Daleks in a way that his TV tenure (for whatever reason) denied him.

Another peculiar thing about Energy of the Daleks is its length – unlike all of the other Big Finish audios I have previously reviewed, this and all other Fourth Doctor Adventures stories use a single-disc format of around one hour, as opposed to the two-disc 4×25 minute format of the Main Range. This makes Energy of the Daleks more similar in length and feel to a NuWho story, meaning that the pacing is much faster and thus this audio is probably more accessible to those NuWho fans who aren’t sure of how to get into Big Finish.

So that’s the end of Part 3 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!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho companions (2005-2017)

NuWho has been on the air for some time now, and has accumulated quite a sizeable array of companions to its name, spanning several eras. Time to rank them all!

#10 – Rose

Yep, Rose is at the bottom. Those who have read previous articles on my site will know that I am not exactly Rose’s biggest fan, and this is mostly due to her erratic and unpredictable behavior – be it laughing and giggling after having just witnessed someone being brutally murdered in Tooth and Claw, or being a total bitch to Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion, or having a go at Elton for upsetting her mum in Love and Monsters when she herself basically ruined a year of her mum’s life by disappearing and not bothering to tell her. What is frustrating is that this character gets special treatment in the Russell tenure, with basically the entire arc of the era being based around one character – she even got to come back after being gone for a season and a half. So yes, Rose is right at the bottom for just shoddy character development.

#9 – Clara

In a similar vein to my dislike of Rose, Clara stole the show a bit too much when she finally came along. In fact, even before she came along – Jenna Coleman played two distinct versions of Clara before appearing permanently as the genuine article, and this sparked the retch-inducing ‘impossible girl’ storyline that was essentially a more contrived storyline than the whole Bad Wolf thing. The only reason why Clara ranks higher than Rose is that she became slightly less insufferable during her time with the Twelfth Doctor – although she continued to try and take over the show, even getting her face in the title sequence at the end of Series 8 instead of the Doctor’s – the Twelfth Doctor bounced off her better character-wise, and Clara gained more of a personality in Series 8 and 9 compared to the ‘Impossible Girl’ arc that basically carried her through Series 7. Once her character began to emerge, she is really good in some episodes, and once Moffat had got out of his Cbeebies phase Clara was able to meet the more serious and darker aspects that the show took on leading into Capaldi’s era, even having a particularly fantastic death scene in Face the Raven. Although she gets a copped-out immortal lesbian time-travelling spinoff show at the end of Hell Bent she still has to eventually go back and die, which is a pretty dark concept if you think about it.

#8 – River Song

I can genuinely appreciate what Steven Moffat was trying to do with River – the notion of a fellow time-traveller that is encountered out of order and married to the Doctor is a great idea in theory, but the execution was less than spectacular – because her appearance in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead was so good as a standalone idea for an episode, people were almost disappointed when her return was announced just one series later. Overall, although River herself was a strong character played excellently by Alex Kingston who also had great chemistry with Matt Smith, her reveal was ultimately a bit of a let down and although she is the Doctor’s wife it is strange that so much emphasis was placed on revealing her ‘secret identity’ only for it to turn out that she is the daughter of the current companions. Despite all this, her departure in The Husbands of River Song is still a defining moment in the Twelfth Doctor’s characterisation change for Series 10 so River can ultimately be thanked for inadvertently influencing the best series of the revival.

#7 – Mickey

Poor Mickey. The strange thing about this character is that he was a genuinely good person – he cared deeply for Rose, he was loyal to his friends and was pretty brave by the end of the show, yet for some reason that defies explanation the Doctor just really seems to dislike Mickey at first, probably because Russell had it in his head from the beginning that the Doctor would fall in love with Rose, but what reason is given for the Doctor’s disdain for Mickey? All Mickey did was get captured by the Autons and then be understandably shaken when the whole thing was over, and yet Rose totally abandons him. Throughout the series Mickey jumps from our universe to a parallel universe and back again, again a symptom of the writers not really knowing what to do with him, and eventually ends up with Martha in an unfortunate ‘match the spares’ situation of the ilk of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the eighth Harry Potter film. Ultimately, Mickey’s best qualities are apparent in Series 2, in which he joins the TARDIS team and spends time fighting Cybermen in a parallel universe, eventually becoming a badass.

#6 – Amy and Rory

Although their era spiraled further and further into the nonsense that was Series 7, Amy and Rory are a standout because their relationship gave the show a whole different dynamic that almost makes every episode seem like a continuation of the same story, just framed differently against the backdrop of traveling through time and space. Amy may be bitchy at times and Rory takes a while to find his feet as a character (similarly to Mickey, in many respects) but once he becomes the Roman he becomes one of the most likeable characters on the show. Their best episodes include Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, The Impossible Planet/The Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Doctor’s Wife and A Good Man Goes To War so there is a fairly strong selection there alone, and whilst it could be argued that their combined character was irrecoverably ruined  by the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks they at least got a good send off in Angel’s Take Manhattan.

#5 – Donna

As companions go, Donna is definitely going to be among the best-remembered in years to come, possibly even on the same level as companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, in that they all take a very unique perspective on the companion role. In Donna’s case that is the role of a loudmouth with an attitude but who has a heart of gold and, in many ways, is very like the Doctor in some ways. Considering the recent trend that started with the Eighth Doctor TV Movie in which the Doctor has a more romantic relationship with his companion, Donna was a refreshing change as it was made clear from the start that she and the Doctor had absolutely no romantic feelings for each other. This makes episodes in Donna’s era seem more concise and better trimmed, as time isn’t spent on a half-baked romance story in every single episode like in the Rose era.

#4 – Nardole

An ex-criminal cyborg from the future, Nardole is primarily used for comic relief in his initial appearances but the fantastic Series 10 molds him into a well-defined character in his own right, who was an unexpected fan-favourite at the time, who is expected to return at some point in the future. His great relationship with both Bill and the Twelfth Doctor made his inevitable departure all the more tragic, particularly with the manner in which it was carried out – essentially, he was doomed to protect the Mondasian children from endless waves of ever-adapting Cybermen with no hope of escape, which is a pretty dark way to go. Thankfully, we do eventually learn that Nardole survived for years and was eventually inducted into the Testimony system, so Nardole fans can rest easy.

#3 – Captain Jack

Who doesn’t love Captain Jack? Apart from being the first representation of an LGBT character on-screen, (not counting Ace because, although intended, that aspect of her character was never directly addressed by anyone on-screen), Captain Jack is unique among the majority of other NuWho companions as he does not originate from modern-day London, instead originating from the 51st century. As such he is more clued up on the various alien races and technology. The best thing about Jack’s character is that he bounces really well off basically any other character, and is one of the few characters in Russell’s era that I believe is due a temporary return, as he worked so well with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and I see no reason why he couldn’t work really well with the Thirteenth Doctor.

#2 – Martha

If there is another companion from Russell’s era that is deserving of a return, it’s Martha. Despite her time in the TARDIS being somewhat overshadowed by her romantic feelings for the Doctor, these didn’t get in the way of her character development or story involvement half as much as Rose’s romantic backstory with the Doctor did, and Series 3 gives Martha a chance to shine in some fantastic episodes like The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Human Nature/Family of Blood, Utopia and Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, in the latter of which she proves her mettle by saving the world and the Doctor from certain destruction. Her departure, on her own terms, sets her above her contemporaries – particularly Donna and Rose – and her comeback in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky allowed Freema Aygeman to return to her original character Adeola Oshodi’s defining trait of being a human controlled by an evil invasion force.

#1 – Bill

The personification of wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm, Bill is one of the cornerstones of the masterpiece that is Series 10. Her relationship with the Twelfth Doctor was totally unique and hearkened back to the ‘Professor/Student’ relationship that Ace had with the Seventh Doctor, although in Bill’s case this is taken a tad more literally, as the Doctor takes on a tutor role both in the real-world, marking Bill’s assignments and teaching her in classes, and also on their adventures. Bill’s reputation as a companion who flaunts her sexuality is, in my opinion, undeserved – although Bill does mention the fact that she is gay in numerous episodes, often this is in response to things other characters insinuate, and even the seemingly random remark she makes to the Doctor before they part ways in The Doctor Falls about liking girls is obviously because the Twelfth Doctor appears so oblivious that they probably hadn’t even talked about it before. Ultimately, Bill is one of the most likeable companions in NuWho and Pearl Mackie does a fantastic job of bringing the character to life.

So that concludes my list ranking the NuWho companions, 2005-2017. 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!

 

 

Doctor Who – Big Finish – The Two Masters Trilogy Review

This might be a bit of a jump forward in time from my previous Big Finish audio reviews, all of which have been focused on their earlier works between 1999-2007, whereas these three audios come from 2016. So what is the reason for this sudden leap? The honest answer is, I’ve been so excited to listen to these audios that I thought the minute I finished the final part of The Two Masters then I would start my review right away before moving on to the next audio on my list, Energy of the Daleks. So without further ado, we start the review of this trilogy at the beginning – sort of.

And You Will Obey Me

and-you-will-obey-me.jpg

Listening to this audio so soon after Master was interesting in that they share a somewhat similar premise – the decayed (or, as we should probably refer to him now, the burnt) incarnation of the Master played by Geoffrey Beevers is trapped on Earth and shows signs of displaying acts of mercy, although this audio does come with a few twists and turns that eventually prove that this and Master are in fact nothing alike. The plot introduces several concepts and characters that play into the wider ‘Two Masters trilogy’ overarching plotline, which in this case involves the cripsy Beevers Master being hunted by intergalactic bounty hunters and crashing his TARDIS in Hexford 1984, only to apparently live out a humble and meagre existence before dying of natural causes and being buried in an unmarked grave in 2016. Naturally, upon hearing this, the Doctor knows that something is very wrong.

Similarly to Master, the Doctor is initially hopeful that the Master may have experienced a sudden change of heart, but in this case the truth is far more complicated and focuses on not only the Master but 4 of his associates, a group of children who initially find him and are influenced by his hypnotic power. The interactions between the Master and his saviours is interesting, and Geoffrey Beevers is as good as always as playing a sinister yet oddly charming character. Overall, And You Will Obey Me serves as both an intriguing standalone adventure as well as a great introduction to the ‘Two Masters trilogy’.

Vampire of the Mind

vampire-of-the-mind.jpg

This audio served as my first introduction to the incarnation of the Master played by Alex Macqueen, and needless to say he did not disappoint. This incarnation is far more jovial then some of his predecessors, and in a way bridges the gap between the ‘classic’ Masters and the initial ‘NuWho’ interpretation of the character realised by John Simm. Usually paired with the Eighth Doctor, this incarnation appears here in a rare example of him facing another Doctor incarnation, in this case, the Sixth Doctor played by Colin Baker. For those who do not rate Baker’s incarnation very highly compared to other Doctors, prepare to have that preconception utterly smashed by his appearance in Big Finish audios – it is the view of many that the Sixth Doctor is the best of all the Doctors audio-wise, and Vampire of the Mind is a great example of a strong and energetic performance from Colin Baker that really brings this audio to life.

In terms of plot and execution, however, Vampire of the Mind is perhaps the weakest of the ‘Two Masters trilogy’ as it lacks the obvious appeal of its successor or the intriguing character interactions of its predecessor. Also, the plot itself is somewhat strung-together – the Master’s plan seems to change somewhat as the story progresses, and even when all the pieces in play are revealed it can be difficult to figure out what the Master’s game was from the beginning. Nonetheless, Vampire of the Mind is a great listen, particularly for those who are interested in the Macqueen incarnation but don’t want to have to listen to all 16 instalments of the Dark Eyes series just yet.

The Two Masters

the two masters

And now for the climactic finale, that ties together the loose ends and cliffhanging plot developments of the previous two instalments and delivers a great 2-hour long multi-Master story that kicks off right into the action and gives some great dialogue between the two incarnations. Essentially, its everything you could ask for from a multi-Master story, particularly since at this point there had never been any others, since World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls wouldn’t air until just over a year later.

The best thing about The Two Masters is how it parallels with multi-Doctor stories that we have seen in the past. Since this story includes two Masters, one might assume that they are working together to achieve some greater goal – the two Masters do team up at one point, but for the majority of the first half the two are at bitter war with each other across time and space, a fascinating concept of a bitter rivalry between two incarnations of the same Time Lord that has never been previously explored.

The Two Masters also contains a few plot twists of its own that explain and explore various plot threads and concepts from both And You Will Obey Me and Vampire of the Mind – although it is not absolutely necessary to listen to these two before listening to The Two Masters, it does help to understand the finer points of the story since both previous stories explain what each incarnation of the Master was doing immediately prior to meeting each other, and how their actions in the previous stories connect and flow into the main story of The Two Masters.

Another fantastic element to this story is Sylvester McCoy, who was the perfect choice of Doctor to facilitate a multi-Master story as only the Seventh Doctor could possess the Machiavellian levels of scheming to out-plot two versions of the Master at once, and Sylvester McCoy plays the devious trickster very well, and particularly here. The only real shame is that he appears here without either companions Mel or Ace, instead taking on a temporary companion for this story.

Overall, the Two Masters trilogy is definitely worth a listen, particularly for those interested in the character of the Master, the idea of multi-incarnation adventures, fans of Beevers or Macqueen or just fans of 80s-themed Big Finish audios in general, as it effectively increases the tension and stakes throughout and offers a unique angle on the Master’s incarnations and history.

So that’s my review of the Two Masters trilogy, 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!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

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:

juggernaut

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.

master-audio.jpg

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.

the-harvest.jpg

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.

marian.jpg

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!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here: