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A superb Sontaran Story

What:The Eternal Battle (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Monday 22 May 2017
Rating:   10

This is a very good story indeed. Mark and Cavan have woven a tale with some very good and forceful moral food for thought. And everyone's favourite potato heads are back and mean as ever. But here is yet another Big Finish story that explores new angles with the inhabitants of Sontar. The sound design and directing in this story are first class and really give this war story the bite and gravitas it truly deserves.

Tom Baker is again on sterling form as the Doctor, and gets to be his moral best when trying to save the day yet again from a mad computer. In fact this story actually does make you feel more than just loathing for the war clones for once. As even they are faced with a situation that no sontaran would call an honour to face. Its really really strong writing and Dan Starkey does his magic again as the Sontaran leader. He is such a great sontaran, and able to make these sontarans the classic warrior clones and not just the lovable stupid wally Strax from the new series!

Lalla Ward again is effortlessly brilliant as Romana too. And John Leeson again doesn't get given the worst of the story as he isn't damaged like season eighteen TV stories did with him far too often. Its great to hear the season eighteen team back and appearing in such great new stories.

Nick Briggs is to be commended as ever too for his amazing direction, he always knows how to get the best from all the actors involved. And its great yet again to hear Jane Slavin again in a story. I am so looking forward to when she becomes the Fourth Doctor's companion in 2019!

The Eternal Battle is in turns scary, bleak and overall extremely satisfying as a war story with a very good moral undertone that doesn't come over as too over the top but will make you stop and think at the total uselessness of war and its effects on people. Cavan and Mark deserve top points for this very very strong Doctor Who adventure. Thanks for writing this guys, its a winner!



Another Jago and Litefoot hit!!!!!!!!!!!

What:The Beast of Kravenos (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Monday 22 May 2017
Rating:   10

Justin Richards may not be the worlds greatest writer in the universe, but what he does is always solid and reliably enjoyable, and The Beast of Kravenos is no exception at all.

I was waiting for the day we'd get stories set in Tom's final season from Big Finish and here at last is the beginning of a whole series of stories set in that era of season eighteen brilliant series! To hear the Peter Howell arrangement with Tom again is magic for a die hard Whovian like me.

Tom is excellent yet again in this story, and he gets to be at turns delightfully playful and a tiny bit devious so much as to annoy Romana a little bit, who is as ever, perfectly played by Lalla Ward who never seems to age in the slightest. And its great to have K9 in a story without him being disabled for once.

But the real selling point for the Beast of Kravenos is yet again the wonderful return of those gentlemen Victoriana Jago and Litefoot. Trevor Baxter and Chris Benjamin are always and ever scene stealers as the brilliant characters created by the late great Robert Holmes. They dominate the scenes they are in and make every single story sparkle. Its hard to believe that both men are still so keen about characters created over fourty years ago now. But its wonderful and magical and The Beast of Kravenos is all the stronger for it.

This is a wonderful beginning to the sixth run of Tom Baker fourth Doctor adventures, and it only gets better and better from here on in too. This is a real love letter to the late eighties and a thorough pleasure from beginning to end. There is liberal and charming humour and some great scares too. Ed Stoppard too impresses as the misguided villain of the piece.

There is nothing not to love about the Beast of Kravenos. Its pure classic eighties Who at its best!



Poor animation

What:Underworld (BBC classic series DVD)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Saturday 20 May 2017
Rating:   1

The story itself is rubbish, and they rely on the blue screen too much. It's 90 minutes of walking around poorly computer animated caves. Absolute rubbish, that one is.



May Fovorite Classic!

What:The Tomb of the Cybermen (BBC classic series DVD)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Saturday 20 May 2017
Rating:   10

Hands down, my favorite classic episode! Never a dull moment, never a dull character, and no dull story. The story was great, the effects were awesome. The characters were so well rounded. Action scenes were very good, and the ending made it all the more better! Classic Troughton, classic episode!



Not good

What:Series 9: Part 2 (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   3

The only really good episode is "Heaven Sent", and even though that episode was immensely awesome it wasn't enough to pull it higher in my vote.



Some good ones...

What:The Complete Eighth Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   5

There were some good episodes "Flatline", "Mummy on the Orient Express", but then again the bad episodes kind of took over this series "The Caretaker", "Kill the Moon", "Black Water".



Pretty Good

What:The Complete Seventh Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   7

The episodes in here don't get enough credit as they deserve. The Rings Akhaten was awesome, the snowmen were brilliant! The Angels take manhatten was so heart wrenching. It was an interesting watch



One of the Best

What:The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete First Series (Miscellaneous DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   9

This first season started the Sarah Jane Series, and set it up beautifully! The episodes are great and have that feel of Doctor Who!



Decent Episodes

What:Series 9: Part 1 (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   7

This contains very decent episodes. Witches familiar, Under the Lake, Before the Flood. Really good ones. There are some let down episodes "The woman who lived" but that does not bring down the DVD. I personally don't see any good episodes (besides Heaven Sent) in the 2nd part of series 9 which is why I prefer this DVD. Hope that helps!



Very good

What:The Complete Fourth Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Jared Harr, St. Marys, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 May 2017
Rating:   9

This was a very good season containing some of my favorite all time doctor who episodes "Midnight", "Turn Left, "Stolen Earth", "Journey's End". Some weak points honestly but not many.



Macqueen Makes a Great Master

What:Vampire of the Mind (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 15 May 2017
Rating:   7

Vampire of the Mind gives Doctor 6 a different type of story to work in. Basically, this is a typical Doctor 3 kind of story, earthbound with The Doctor chasing down The Master, who is up to no good, but we just are not quite sure what it is. Particularly interesting is that this Doctor has not yet met the Master. There are references to Doctor 3 adventures strewn about, including several denied calls for UNIT to come in. One thing bringing the story down somewhat is its pace. Not much happens in the first two parts, and the second two parts consist of several capture and escape scenes. There is quite a bit of witty banter, especially between The Doctor and The Master. Alex Macqueen gets his performance spot on, confident, persuasive, alternately charming and menacing. This one is a good, but not great story.



Very Troughton Era

What:The Lost Stories: The Rosemariners (Lost Stories audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 15 May 2017
Rating:   7

The Rosemariners was a story following the monster of the week formula for Troughton-era Who. This story has the 1960s feel throughout. The basic idea is that an alien space station has called on a human scientific research station for help. However, the alien leader is acting very suspiciously. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arrive to meet the scientist who will be helping the aliens. Of course, the alien leader is not quite what he seems and has nefarious plans. Typical of stories at during this era of Doctor Who, the good guys are clearly good, the bad guys clearly bad, the science is seriously off track, and many events happen for convenience of the plot rather than for situational logic. David Warner is great, as always, playing the professor. Frazer Hines still does a marvelous Doctor 2. Nostalgia pervades the whole production.



Interesting Semi-Sequel

What:Dark Eyes 2 (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 7 May 2017
Rating:   7

Though the title Dark Eyes 2 suggests more of the same, another romp through the universe with a smart-mouthed Irish woman being chased by Daleks, the set is nothing of the kind. The Daleks are here, for one of the four episodes, with a cameo return at the end. The smart-mouthed Irish woman is back, but for 3 of the 4 episodes. The structure of this one, though, is an entirely different type of romp from the first. Instead of The Chase being the model for the story, Dark Eyes 2 is structured much more like a New Who season, with an intricate back-and-forth of timey-wimey storytelling. Part 1 The Traitor sees the return of Liv Chenka from Robophobia, now doing her part on a planet under Dalek occupation. The Doctor arrives and at the end seemingly gives in to the Daleks' wishes. Part 2 The White Room takes us to earlier in The Doctor's life, where he meets Molly O'Sullivan again, still taking care of his house, and runs across a time virus and a particularly smarmy physician. The story seemingly has no connection to Part 1. The Doctor and Molly take off and head into Part 3 Time's Horizon. Here is Liv Chenka again, sometime after the events of The Traitor, now on an expedition to the end of the universe. There is not a clear reason for her to be there. She remembers The Doctor and what he did on Nixyce VII, but he has not done those things yet. She no longer trusts The Doctor because of what he has done/has yet to do. Here we meet the villain of the whole thing for the first time - The Eminence. Events in this far future lead The Doctor to take Molly and Liv back to the 1970s for Part 4 Eyes of the Master. Here, the Master is posing as an optometrist giving miracle cures for select patients, but really turning them into potential Infinite Warriors for The Eminence. Or is he? The end of the story takes us back to the beginning where The Doctor takes off for Nixyce VII to do his bit there. We get an open-ended conclusion to set us up for Dark Eyes 3.

Dark Eyes 2, as one can tell, is a kind of grab bag of bits from Dark Eyes 1 and fan-pleasing surprises. It is another chapter in Big Finish's effort to swing Doctor 8 away from traditional Who and into New Who, preparing him for The War Doctor and Doctor 9. Alex Macqueen is great as The Master; I prefer his portrayal to both John Simm's and Michelle Gomez's. His brand of happy, cheeky menace with just a bit of stylish camp seems a logical derivation of the Delgado Master. The Eminence, on the other hand, is one of the most uninteresting villains so far concocted. They/It have/has no convincing rationale for wanting to take over the universe and no desire to do anything else. The whole undead army thing has been done several times already. Compared to The Eminence, Daleks are emotionally deep. The whole combined story suffers a bit from middle-part syndrome, where it seems to work mostly to carry over certain ideas and set up for the rest of the story.



Standard Doctor Who

What:Fiesta of the Damned (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 24 April 2017
Rating:   7

In this second adventure with the Doctor - Ace - Mel team, we visit Spain during the Spanish Civil War. A bombing raid uncovers an ancient alien device that converts all living things on a planet and starts turning people into Gothic demon monsters. Apart from the setting, not much is new here. The Doctor gets it wrong, then gets it right. The companions spend most of the story separated on their own little adventures. The story is surprisingly talky for the first two parts. We get some OK Spanish accents. The best thing going here is the Ace-Mel combination. They work very well together, and do much to tone down Doctor 7's darker side.



Gatiss and Genre Culture

What:Nightshade (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Saturday 22 April 2017
Rating:   7

"Nightshade" is an audio adaptation of the novel by Mark Gatiss. The story takes place in a small Yorkshire village where the retired actor who once played Professor Nightshade on TV now lives and where a new space research station has been built on top of the remains of an old castle and quarry with a spooky history. Something is invading people's dreams and recreating their fears. The Doctor and Ace arrive and The Doctor tells Ace over breakfast that he wants to retire. Much of part one, then, revolves around repeated incentives for The Doctor to get involved and The Doctor's agonizing quandary that if he does get involved, then he cannot retire. Professor Nightshade is not meant to represent Doctor Who as much as it is Professor Quatermass. The story of "Nightshade" has very much the sensibility of a Quatermass adventure. It is all part of Mark Gatiss's love affair with genre media of any sort. And typical of Gatiss's writing, there are many winks and nods to fans of the things he is a fan of. It's not deep.



Treading Old Ground

What:The Crimes of Thomas Brewster (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Saturday 22 April 2017
Rating:   7

The Big Finish people really like Thomas Brewster. I'm not sure why. I don't find him all that interesting a character. Nevertheless, here we go. To continue the Big Finish nostalgia piece, we get the return of DI Menzies. To add some complication to the story, Menzies has already met The Doctor, but he has not yet met her. The story starts in medias res with The Doctor and Evelyn being menaced by some giant robot insects shooting lasers from their noses. The Doctor is mistaken for some person calling himself "The Doctor" and running a crime gang of pensioners and teachers. The story hinges on Brewster's doing what he has done before, which is try to be The Doctor. He assumes The Doctor's name, his clothing affectations, and tries to save an alien world by using time technology. Of course, he is pretty much a failure at this because his means are not The Doctor's means. The story has some entertaining parts, such as David Troughton's turn as the gangster boss Gallagher, and DI Menzies' snappy sarcasm. The story itself is rather routine and overplays the nostalgia factor.



What a wonderful send off for A Legend!!

What:The War Doctor: Casualties of War (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 19 April 2017
Rating:   10

It is with more than just a twinge of sadness that one comes to review Big Finish's final box set in the sublime War Doctor series. With the passing of one of the finest actors ever, in the late great Sir John Hurt, the whole of the acting profession is a distinctly colder place without the man who was once the Elephant Man and Quentin Crisp and a crewman on Alien, and to all fans of Doctor Who, the War Doctor.
The War Doctor as a character has been ground into the dirt by the effects of the Time War. He has recanted his name, and can be severely rude and distant. But despite the burden of all the universes on his shoulders, we still can glimpse the man who wants no more than to help the oppressed and tend to the sick. And Sir John was the perfect choice to become the Doctor. His whole incarnation is one of bone weary tiredness, but also fierce determination in the face of overwhelming odds. His acting as ever, is intense and moving and really makes you feel for his Doctor!
The final set of the War Doctor has a plethora of hugely enjoyable moments. The true feel of futile and costly war is at the forefront of these astounding tales. The final arc begins with the battle intense PRETTY LIES by Guy Adams, which is a totally down to the nail exploration of the full horrors of war. One is instantly driven to route for the safety of the population of Beltox, and the dramatic tension and build up to a harrowing finale is so well achieved by all involved in this superb first story. Guys script is full of drama and terror and yet isn’t heavy handed or repetitive at all.
And then we are taken on to hear the return of Leela, as ever superbly portrayed by the wonderful Louise Jameson. This reviewer always has been a great fan of any female character who is shown to be capable of looking after herself! But here Leela is known as THE LADY OF OBSIDIAN, and it’s a joy to hear her in scenes with John Hurt. One strongly gets the feeling that she works just as well with John as she did with Tom Baker all those years ago. And throw in a reliably devious Cardinal Illustrator, played to perfection by the wonderful Jackie Pearce, then you’re bound to get a story to remember. Andrew Smith has surely risen from the lowly seventeen year old who wrote Full Circle to a reliable and robust pair of hands that Big Finish have utilised so well.
And from then we come to the thrilling conclusion of this immense saga. THE ENIGMA DIMENSION by the ever reliable and gifted dalek voice maestro himself, Nick Briggs, is good and appealing and unforgettable grandiose as a finale. But this reviewer is so saddened by the War Doctors extreme self loathing. And this story has him thinking he may even be the worst warrior in all of Gallifrey history. To this reviewer, he is far too hard on himself. Thrown into any war no one can emerge from it without being forever changed. And the War Doctors despair and grief is palpable throughout the whole of this epic and unforgettable saga.
The sound design and direction are also spot on and highly polished and one is breath taken at the scope and the scale of these stories, considering they are only in the audio format! But these stories have maintained a cinematic and massive scale that makes them an indelible contribution to Who lore. Together with the ever present threat of the insanely evil Daleks all these elements blend together to make a splendid banquet.
So, from the building up of his character on The Day of the Doctor to his immediately awesome induction into the Big Finish universe with ONLY THE MONSTROUS, and rising to the sublime CASUALTIES OF WAR, this is a set of twelve adventures any Doctor Who fan can relish and enjoy as a showcase of just what made Sir John Hurt an absolutely formidable Doctor. We may well be very saddened by his tragic parting, but at least we can remember him fondly in this incredible series that has certainly captivated this reviewer! Sir John will never be forgotten.



Truly Novelized

What:City of Death (Miscellaneous book)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 13 April 2017
Rating:   8

It is probably best that City of Death was not novelized in the Target paperback series, which by that point was mostly Terrance Dicks' repeating the script with a few fillers to make it look like a book. James Goss has done an excellent job of turning one Doctor Who's most beloved stories into a real novel. Using shooting scripts, drafts, and other material, Goss has fleshed out the story, added explanations that give the plot more sense, and still incorporated everyone's favorite lines, in fact nearly all the dialogue of the original TV broadcast. He has adopted a narrative voice similar to Douglas Adams', as expected, but has not gone in for either total imitation or pastiche. The result is fun to read, nostalgic, and generally better than most novels featuring Doctor 4. Though the plot and main characters remain true to the TV broadcast, there are a few notable differences in some of the side characters from the TV version. Duggan, for instance, is big, burly, and overweight, in contrast to Tom Chadbon, a pretty dapper figure in those days. The two art aficionados (John Cleese and Eleanor Bron) become recurring characters moving along in their own little side plot. Kerensky, the Countess, and Hermann are also noticeably different from their TV counterparts. My one complaint about the book is that parts seem to be padding. Nevertheless, there is not too much padding, and the whole is well worth reading.



Another that is probably a 7 1/2

What:The Lost Stories: The Macros (Lost Stories audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 2 April 2017
Rating:   7

The Macros has many interesting ideas, and takes a distinct approach on the Philadelphia Experiment conspiracy. The TARDIS gets trapped in a time conundrum involving the USS Eldridge trapped between dimensions and a micro-universe leaching energy from it. The story at this point moves along as a fairly typical "technical problem" kind of science fiction story, the kind that Doctor Who could successfully do more of. This part of the story works well. What drags down the story to some extent is the travel to the micro-universe, which plops us into a routine "mad dictator" plot, and a not very interesting or compelling one at that. There are also some conceptual problems not worked out, such as that time flows at different rates on board the ship versus in the micro universe. Therefore, it would seem that in the space of a conversation, the entire society of the micro universe would have been and gone. The only time this time difference seems to have relevance is for some artificial aging. So, we have a conceptually intriguing story marred by some clumsy plotting.



Really 7 1/2

What:The Lost Stories: The Song of Megaptera (Lost Stories audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 30 March 2017
Rating:   7

The Song of Megaptera is tough to review because it gets so much right and so much wrong at the same time. The story itself is an ecological parable about saving space whales from rapacious corporate whalers. The Doctor and Peri are both rightfully upset by the proceedings and seek to disrupt the taking of one whale. This, of course, gets them on the wrong side of the ship's captain, a has-been on his last mission and out to prove that the company is making a mistake by retiring him. His "damn the rules" attitude is only barely held in check by a wimpy corporate monitor, eager that the captain does not get the corporation into trouble. There are some witty scenes with the Doctor pretending to be the representative for a non-existent environmental lobby. At this level, the story works reasonably well. However, it would not make 90 minutes of material at that, so there are some complications added that drag down the main story - an alien "native" on board the ship that uses the whales for "religious" purposes, which amount to the same thing as the corporation's mercenary purposes. There is also a freaky hippie commune living inside the great whale. The writers try working these elements into a tight plot, but it still comes off as padding. The program also has a hilarious bit with a delirious Peri. So, pluses and minuses add up to an entertaining if not fully satisfactory story.



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