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The Reich Falls Again

What:The Architects of History (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 23 July 2019
Rating:   7

I find Steve Lyons to be a better novelist than script writer. The novel form works for him because he can give his ideas room to breathe. In this audio drama, though, too many things happen too quickly, making much of the story a rather standard base under siege tale. That is too bad, because it could have been much more. The idea is that Klein, having successfully stolen the Doctor's TARDIS, has gotten exactly what she wanted. She is able to nip back in time, re-write history, prevent disasters, and allow the glorious 1000 year Reich to be real. But, there is something niggling at the back of her mind, something is just not quite right about it all. So, it's off to the moonbase in 2044 (exactly a century after her little adventure at Colditz) to interview the prisoner, aka The Doctor, one more time. Unfortunately for her, she doesn't know which Doctor from which time line this is. That is a brilliant setup. The possibilities for following the story of Klein's repeated attempts to undo her mistakes while the web of time becomes undone strand by strand would have been such a great story. Instead, Lyons has opted for plan B, which is that one of the alternate Doctors has made a desperate plan to use the Selacians (one of Lyons' creations from his novels) to attack the moonbase using time technology that the Doctor gave them, so that the Doctor can decommission Klein's TARDIS and remove Klein from time. Unfortunately, this Doctor can only guess at what the other Doctor had planned, so things go very wrong indeed. As base under siege stories go, it's not bad. It's just that Lyons left behind the more interesting story to pursue this one.



A Very Good Story

What:Survival of the Fittest (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 23 July 2019
Rating:   8

Doctor 7 has now encumbered himself with Klein. He tries to show her the wonders of the universe, to get her out of her limited view of the Reich as the pinnacle of everything. Part 1 is Klein telling her story, so we get the rundown of how she got to Colditz castle. Then, it's on to the main story. This one is really quite good. It is pretty much straight science fiction, which is unusual for Doctor Who yet works well. The Doctor and Klein encounter a species of intelligent giant insects, a kind of cross between termites and bees. This colony, however, has been devastated by human opportunists, using poison. The situation turns the tables on Klein, who, to her surprise, finds herself defending the weak against the strong. Tracey Childs pulls this off brilliantly. The story provides a great way for the listener to explore the life and culture of this insect race, and Jonathan Clements shows some guts in allowing the story to slow down so that the listener gets the full effect of this culture, which is what is needed to make Klein's self-revelations convincing.



An absolute dilight

What:The Collection: Season 10 (BBC classic series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 20 July 2019
Rating:   10

Yes, there is a considerable improvement in picture and sound quality. Honestly the colour of the show has never looked more wonderful and rich. Yes, this may not be quite as awesome as the sublime Spearhead from Space Blu Ray release, but considering studio camera work is renowned for being hard to produce in HD it doesn't half look stunning still. In fact if anything its all the studio scenes that look the most clear and beautiful in these sets strangely. Not a blip at all. It just thoroughly enhances your enjoyment of the stories of Season 10. And this season was a really strong one, story wise too and brilliant to see them get a loving restoration. Honestly these stories have never ever looked so beautiful. And the bucketload of extras you receive is superb.

The Three Doctors was a wonderful tenth birthday special story that succeeded in brilliantly bringing back Pat and William together with Jon for a very memorable and enjoyable romp together with Doctor Who brilliant villain Stephen Thorne!
Carnival of Monsters was one of Robert Holmes classiest and most imaginative stories of all and the Drashigs were superbly realised. I don't even give a toss about how sometimes the bad CSO lets the show down because it was a budgeted show and it was always awesome no matter how wonky the effects were!
Frontier in Space is brilliant space opera, the show's finest ever stab at that type of story in my opinion. Some superb model work shots and the Draconians and Ogrons are fabulous monsters and aliens indeed. And the poignant last performance of Roger Delgado is just so bittersweet but wonderful.
Planet of the Daleks is Terry Nation's greatest hits presented in a wonderful comic strip styling. Love all the characters and the daleks are back in force and the Ice Volcano is a well realised and brilliant idea.
The Green Death is a lovely and extremely strong goodbye to one of the best companions ever in the show. It also has powerhouse performances and the Giant Maggots are sublimely realised and look so damn realistic. And Jo's goodbye is very moving and touchingly done indeed.

It is an absolute joy to watch the Behind the Sofa segments with Katy Manning, Richie Franklin and John Levene because they exude love for the show and this just totally hooks you and you just love watching these brilliant new extras. Behind the Sofa is an awesome conceptual thing that I just love most, and never more so than when sitting watching Katy, John and Rich wax lyrical on how much they love the show!

All the other rare archive stuff too is amazing. Its wonderful seeing Jon on old news reports and the new feature length documentary of the Third Doctor era maybe just could have had a few more clips from the series as this one for once just felt a tad boring, and nothing anyone said in the documentary was anything I hadn't heard on countless documentaries before. But the Panopticon snippets are totally brilliant!

Keeping up with the Joneses though is my favourite extra of all. Its lovely watching Stewart Bevan and Katy revisit all the people and locations from the The Green Death. Katy seems so sweet and bubbly that the joy she exudes is infectious indeed. Its a delightful little drama and worth buying the set for this alone, let alone all the wonderful other titbits and excerpts from the archives!

The Season Ten Blu Ray set is an unequivocal success story. Its such a tribute to the people who made this season for television back in 1973. I think Jon Pertwee would have been proud of this set himself. Oh how I miss that oh so awesome moral James Bond-esque Doctor so much to this day!



The Worst of 6's First Season

What:The Mark of the Rani (Target novelisation)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 16 July 2019
Rating:   1

Judging by what they wrote and how they wrote for Doctor Who, Pip and Jane Baker viewed the program as a children's show. Everything is pitched to the 10-year-old. The original brief for The Mark of the Rani was to give The Master a companion, like The Doctor has a companion. Instead, the Bakers opted to create their own rogue Time Lord and then spend the rest of the story never missing an opportunity to say how great she is while belittling the other two Time Lords in the story. In their novelization, there is far too much obvious foreshadowing of the "little did he know that" variety, and quite a bit of ham-fisted exposition, even if it all comes in small doses. Even at only 135 pages, this was tough to read.



Klein Returns

What:A Thousand Tiny Wings (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Saturday 13 July 2019
Rating:   7

This story is a kind of closet drama (with a few outdoor scenes) with political philosophy thrown in. Set in an isolated farmhouse in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising (mid 1950s), the story is designed to test the contentions between democracy and fascism, with colonialism as the test case. A small group of women are isolated, hiding from the Kenyans who are seeking freedom from British colonial rule through violent overthrow. Mrs. O'Donnel, the grand matron, is an old-time colonialist with a German husband and fascist ideas, who believes that the natives need the strong hand of European guidance. The other women are primarily scared and precious. And then there is Dr. Elizabeth Klein, who has come to Africa after hiding out in South America so she can test a theory and try to get her world back (listen to Colditz for the back story). Then, The Doctor just appears. This leads to much back and forth between Klein and The Doctor about the relative strength of their values. Add to this a strange alien presence and one gets an odd story for Doctor Who. It's the first of a trilogy, so we wait to see how The Doctor and Klein fair as a TARDIS team, so to speak.



Interesting, but Predictable

What:Kingdom of Silver (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 12 July 2019
Rating:   7

A steampunk society with a medieval political organization has found some strange, ancient artifacts on an island. They call the site "The Heart." The Doctor arrives and connects with a pair of android agents from the Orion War (the war between humans and androids featured in other Big Finish audios) who are searching for Cyberman technology. The plot unfolds mostly as predicted - The Cybermen are reactivating, ready to convert any and all. The Doctor has to fight both the Cybermen and the political upheavals of this culture to prevent the complete takeover of the world. There is also the subplot of how the androids are becoming more human-like. This is a three plus one set, so after the main three-part story, there is a one-part follow-up in which we learn of the fate of the androids after this adventure.



Horror in Space

What:The Death Collectors (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 4 July 2019
Rating:   6

This is one of the sets that have 1 3-part story and 1 1-part story. Both have the same writer, and the second is a sort-of sequel to the first. Solo Doctor 7 follows a distress call to a space station dedicated to researching a mysterious disease called "Decay." The station is aligned with some beings called Dar Traders, who exist on the brink of death and who "trade," though we do not know what they trade, for people's deaths. Problems with this one for me are that the writer has not really worked out the properties of either Decay or the Dar Traders all the way through, which means that they tend to be whatever is needed at the moment to serve the plot. The 1-parter is a timey-wimey story in which The Doctor and couple of princesses are trapped in a time-loop that is gradually getting chaotic. The lesson seems to be "tell your little sister she's pretty." Writer Sheargold apparently likes his extra-dimensional beings that poke into our universe. As with The Death Collectors, these elements feel like lazy writing to allow whatever the writer wants to happen rather than to work out the logic of the initial idea.



Doctor Who Goes Lovecraft

What:Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 26 June 2019
Rating:   7

Pretty much all one needs to know about this is that we get Doctor 7, Ace, and Hex stuck in a Lovecraft story. It's the late 1930s, and an island off the coast of Alaska has sprung up from nowhere some few years before. On the island is a lunatic asylum meant mostly to look after one man: C.P. Doveday, one-time writer of weird fiction for popular magazines. However, the island has a secret vault in a secret cave that can be opened only by a secret key. Throw in one mad millionaire with Nazi sympathies and one mad psychiatrist with ambitions of discovery, and you get access to the hibernation chamber of ancient, evil aliens. The story is fine as it goes, if one doesn't look too much under the hood (bonnet for you Brits).



What is Expected

What:The Eighth Doctor: The Time War 1 (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 11 June 2019
Rating:   7

Big Finish is now dedicated to chronicling the Time War, with The War Doctor, The War Master, new stories in the Gallifrey series, and more. Now we take our first look at Doctor 8 in the Time War. Mostly, he's trying to avoid it, but gets sucked in any way. Because the backdrop is war, this box set is mostly about the Doctor in various war stories we already know. "The Starship of Theseus" is a refugee story with the added dimension that the Time War is affecting reality so that circumstances are repeatedly changing. "Echoes of War" has the Doctor and friends trying to hide from the Daleks on an isolated jungle planet. Again, there are some funny things with time going on. "The Conscript" sees The Doctor and friends captured by Ollistra. The friends are sent off for evaluation and investigation, while The Doctor gets sent to boot camp, where makes an appropriate mockery of the whole thing. It is mostly a typical recruits in training story. "One Life" reveals the secret weapon that has been bouncing around throughout the set. The Doctor is surprised that nobody is all that interested in him. This box set has a strong plot line throughout, so that each story is really a part of the longer story rather than a standalone episode. The whole has an unfortunate "reset button / it didn't really happen" ending, a trick I never much liked because it makes everything that happened before pointless. As usual, the cast is excellent, as is the sound production.



A Bit Disappointing

What:The Lost Stories: The Children of Seth (Lost Stories audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 30 May 2019
Rating:   7

Given the origins of this adventure as a Christopher Bailey script, I guess I was hoping for something a bit more philosophically substantial than it is. There is some playing around with the concepts of probabilities, but this never gets fully integrated into the main story, remaining as a tantalizing tit bit. The story itself has Doctor 5, Tegan, and Nyssa responding to a call for help (maybe?) that takes them to a future society in the midst of social collapse and a coup d'etat by the conniving head minister. The demented, old Autarch, May He Live Forever (David Warner), cannot keep control any more and wants to cede power while retaining his own prestige. His estranged consort (Honor Blackman) desperately tries to change his mind, but cannot get past Minister Byzan (Adrian Lukis) to see him. Byzan is illegally using androids (against a law he himself made) to help him stir up fear using a made-up demon named Seth to rile public sentiment into accepting a war and martial law. There is quite a bit of court intrigue in the whole thing, with some analogs to mythology of the kind that Bailey used in Kinda and Snakedance. This one is probably best listened to twice to get the full sense of the relationships of all the characters to each other and to their society.



Zombies from the Sea

What:Grave Matter (BBC Past Doctor book)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 30 May 2019
Rating:   7

Justin Richards is usually willing to take a risk or two with his Doctor Who novels, to step out of formula in enough places to make it interesting. Grave Matter starts as if it were going to be something different, then falls back into formula and doesn't leave it. Doctor 6 and Peri arrive on a small island off the British coast. For the first 70 or so pages, they seem to be a pair searching for an adventure. They keep looking for something wrong only to find that it is all perfectly normal. I found this part quite amusing and hoped that the novel would retain this off-kilter method. Then, the first zombie arrives and after that the novel settles into predictability. The resolution rests on a last-minute miracle cure that defies all the laws of biochemistry, mostly because Richards has by that time written himself into a corner and this is the only way out. So, entertaining first act, but disappointing ending, that would be the summation of this novel.



Comic Strip brilliance in Audio

What:Jenny: The Doctor's Daughter (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 29 May 2019
Rating:   10

Why did the TV series just do a single episode with Georgia as Jenny? Couldn't they see the potential of her character? She had such promise and yet since then on screen she has been all but totally forgotten and forsaken. And I don't like this very much.

Thank the Good Lord that Big Finish have had the sense to create a series of her own adventures, at least they can see potential and capitalize upon it. And that they do so in this set with such ease and style is so awesome to behold. This is rather like a set of comic strips in audio form!

And then another great addition for story one of this set is Stuart Milligan as the slimy salamander froggy Garundel. A brillant actor and a really enjoyable and funny part. An intergalactic con man and his lackies who actually have a bit of backstory of their own too which is really good. To hear Stuart bouncing off Georgia is delightful.

Planet of the Ood then has the brilliant Ood back again, this being their first appearance in audio. I love the Ood, their being one of the very few new series aliens who have worked extremely well on screen. This story for them is fun and fast paced.

Neon Reign is very very straight and easy to comprehend. it is overtly complicated and because of that the story is all the more enjoyable and the characters are all very well formed and the story flows nicely to a great conclusion.

Zero Space ends the set on a high. And it also has a great little cameo that I wont give away so you can find it out for yourselves if you wanna give this box set a try. Which I would heartily recommend as this set is packed with brilliant sound design, brilliant characters, brilliant humour and is very well paced and each story has its own flavour and they all encapsulate the firm promise inherent in Jenny, the Doctor's daughter.

And Georgia Tennant has to be praised for her energy and enthusiasm, it rings from this whole set. One can only hope the next series is as good as this one was! This was was one hell of a way to start a series. This is a definite ten out of ten from me!



Sometimes good fun is all you need

What:Lady Christina: Series One (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 29 May 2019
Rating:   10

Michelle Ryan on screen in Planet of the Dead had a character called Lady Christina De Souza, she was feisty, cheeky and above all else a rather nifty cat burglar. And she did it with some style though. But one was unsure of whether or not she could be the lead in her own spin off. But I persuaded myself to get this set on the thought that I might be pleasantly surprised. And for once I was hugely surprised by just how much I loved the set!

Michelle here is given much better fore than with the Planet of the Dead episode to me which was rather a big waste of time and a bit dull for my liking, another reason why I was initially turning over whether to get this set or not. But this set is just above all else really good plain fun. Its got some awesome sound design yet again, which is the norm for Big Finish of course. Its also greatly amusing to see the way the stories pan out and what tricks Christina has up her sleeve to keep herself from getting into too much trouble. She also as a character is presented as having a great sense of humour.

The banter and fun feeling between her and Sam Bishop is possibly the most rewarding segment of the set. Its so funny to see Sam always trying to ensnare the lady and failing spectacularly! Its rather like an audio version of Catch the Pigeon! No matter how hard he tries his quarry always gets away! I love shows with this kind of theme when the escapee has at least a bit of heart and isn't just an out and out criminal.

Also the inclusion of Jacqueline King is inspired. I loved her as Donna's mum on screen and she doesn't disappoint here. Its also nice to see her give some nice comment on her daughter too for once, sad she never could quite do this on screen!

IT TAKES A THIEF starts things off in brilliant high octane style.
SKIN DEEP has a touch of macabre horror to it and its a very good character piece.
PORTRAIT OF A LADY brings back an old villain with a twist very well indeed.
DEATH ON THE MILE has to have the slitheen, and even they are better here than they ever were on TV!!!!

So yes, I was in the end very very glad to get this set. It is really really good fun and so entertaining!!



Definitely a Part 1 story

What:The Sands of Life (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 23 May 2019
Rating:   7

This is one of the least standalone series for Big Finish. It takes us to a setup the next story. As such, it is hard to make a proper judgment of this. It is certainly a Doctor 4 story in many ways, and thankfully there is not too much off the cuff silliness. However, it also has a Doctor 3 feel in its environmental message and anti-corporate sentiments. David Warner is great, as usual. The previous reviewer of this is also right to say that Mary Tamm really gets something to do here, and performs quite well. Even so, there are things to quibble about. For instance, why do the creatures have to be "the" Laan? It would make more sense for them to say that they are "Laan" in the same way that English speakers say they are "human." The soldiers, especially the American general, are just too pig headed and aggressive to be believable. On the whole, the story is an effective setup for what comes next.



Doesn't Fulfill Its Premise

What:The Diary of River Song: Series Two (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 22 May 2019
Rating:   6

The second Diary of River Song series finds River meeting Doctors 7 & 6. It's save Earth time once again. The series starts with The Unknown by Guy Adams. This is one of those reality is all ajumble stories in which "anything" can happen, so nothing really matters. River is for some unknown reason on a ship fitted out with protection against time anomalies headed toward a mystery planet. This ship, the planet, and the TARDIS (again, what is it doing there?) all "crash," causing reality to wibble and wobble. River gets where she is going and now has a mystery to solve. That takes us to Five Twenty-Nine, the best of this series. In the near future on an isolated island off the English coast, "something" is going to happen that will destroy the Earth. River meets an older couple and their synthetic daughter and faces the doom with them hoping that this will somehow giver her a clue as to what happened to Earth in the future. It's a nice, intimate drama made sad by the fact that the listener knows what the end will be. River's one clue takes her to the far future and a mysterious corporation that creates dreams for the rich and dying in World Enough and Time. Here, River meets Doctor 6. The story seems to be here mostly to make Doctor 6 look like a bombastic idiot. The last story takes River to the great storm of 1703, when she meets writer Daniel Defoe and both Doctors 7&6. It seems that the Doctors and River are each individually working on the same problem. We get the big reveal of the villain and more River is smarter than the Doctor stuff. The point seems to be that The Doctor is a complete bumbling fool and can't survive without River to save him from his mistakes. You can probably tell by now that I find this line of thinking uncompelling.



Mostly enjoyable

What:The Myth Makers (BBC classic series audio)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   8

but loses its value without the visuals.



The pinnacle of the historicals!

What:The Crusade (BBC classic series audio)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   10

I love the interaction of King Richard and the companions and The Doctor. Incredible!



Not so good, but an enjoyable listen

What:The Reign of Terror (BBC classic series audio)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   6

6.5/10
from 3/5 review.



absolutely great

What:Marco Polo (BBC classic series audio)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   10

and I wished it was recovered



This actually jolted me at the very end!

What:The Syndicate Master Plan: Volume 2 (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   10

After the superb build up of the first half of this special Syndicate Masterplan set, I was just keen as mustard to listen to the second half. And as youd expect it didn't disappoint at all. Big Finish have definitely made series 8 of the Fourth Doctor adventures very very distinctive indeed.

Time's Assassin builds on the bonkers aspects of the first half of the story and if anything adds a new layer of delicious stupidly funny stuff to proceedings. This is not the out and out totally serious adventure. This is like a gung ho adventure youd read in a comic. But there are most certainly some very dark moments if you pay attention. And one that was very surprising and unexpected indeed but it was a good and interesting surprise, not a bad one.

Fever Island has us get the chance to hear Tom Baker in baddie mode, and its an absolute delight. He sounds like the leader of the Mysterons! And I just find this highly amusing. Indeed this story again doesnt overtly take itself too seriously, although there are some very good scenes aplenty. This really isnt just a funny set at all, but it does have more than the usual amount of ripe and funny moments though. Jonathan Barnes has woven a really enjoyable tale that is solidly entertaining and didnt let me down at all. But its the Baddie Tom Baker that is this episode's best segment. Tom is delightful!!

And then N was chuffed to see Joh Dorney be given the task of closing this brilliant series of eight stories with a very fine two disc four parter. The Perfect Prisoners actually is a lot more serious than the last three adventures in the set, and does have plenty of grim moments. And it also has superb characters. And to say the least our Ann Kelso turns out to be more than I thought she was going to be. It was a very good cliffhanger to Part 2 of this lasts tory in particular, and I like how the impact of this cliffhanger is left open at the end of the story and there is still a little mystery left with Ann's character.

And throughout all of it Jane has been thoroughly impressive indeed.Together with Tom Baker and John Leeson its just Doctor Who perfection and I for one am glad I had this set for my 33rd Birthday. Man Big Finish are just so amazing and their work just seems to keep getting better and better. So strap yourself in and get ready for a brilliant and epic journey indeed. Everything about this set is just wonderful.



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