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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.



Absolute awesomeness personified!

What:The Syndicate Master Plan: Volume 1 (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   10

I am a huge fan of Jane Slavin. She has done some brilliant work for Doctor Who before on Big Finish for several years before someone had the inspired notion to make her a companion! She is awesome. But a warning: this review contains some serious spoilers!

I am so delighted that Tom Baker came back to the role of the Doctor for Big Finish, and its been so delightful hearing him spar with all his old friends. But the chance for a new companion had to be done properly. And thank goodness Big Finish did do it properly with this set.

Firstly they wonderfully let Andrew Smith introduce the character of Ann Kelso in The Sinestran Kill. Which also features the delightful Frank Skinner as a DCI too! And this story is a brilliant intro to the character of Ann. Jane steps into the role as if she'd already been playing it for years. And the Sinestrans make for a very strong alien menace and this first story comes over like a Sweeney meets Die Hard kinda action fest! Its a sublime intro to a great character.

Planet of the Drashigs is an awesome follow on to Carnival of Monsters. And this time we have THREE types of the screaming outsized caterpillars to deal with! And along with that we have the wonderful Fenella Woolgar adding absolutely the icing on the cake on what is wonderfully rather like a Jurassic Park outting meets Doctor Who! Whilst some may say this doesnt seem all that original, this story to me still is brilliant, and has a great pace and John Leeson also joins the fun and he just adds to an already brilliant mix.

The Enchantress of Numbers is one of those wonderful stories where you have to pay attention, or else plot elements could seem a little confusing. But no, this story is very cleverly plotted and has a superb sound design and Tom and Jane just make it unmissable. This has the featuring of yet another historical figure, and again the Big Finish team see that the actress does the part full and superb justice. The lady this time being one Ada Lovelace. This story is definitely the most serious and bendy wendy of this first half of the Syndicate Master Plan set, but it is a very very strong story indeed.

The False Guardian for me was a true treat to end the first set on. Not only is this story bonkers and delightful, and full of what seemed to me total echoes of Douglas Adams but it also has John Shrapnel, who has long been another of my favourite actors. And its great to see him in a funny role for once, and he certainly delivers the goods as the False Guardian! But this story is a really zany and actually very amusing effort from Guy Adams. Hes long since shaping up to be another favourite Big Finish writer for me.

I couldnt have been more pleased with this set if I tried. Ann Kelso makes a brilliant and wonderful entry...and yet there are some wonderful darker moments that bring on a sense of foreboding....and Jane is absolutely the right choice for the new companion. Shes just totally awesome and this set just wetted my appetite for more of the Syndicate!!!!!

Yes, Big Finish have done it again!




Ovation is the New Shada

What:Shada (Miscellaneous book)
By:Earle DL Foster, Invercargill, New Zealand
Date:Wednesday 15 May 2019
Rating:   10

What you are now perusing online is the methodically and harmoniously conceived summarisation of what the like-minded reader would doubtlessly classify as the most indispensable publication ever crafted within the currently functional universe (hence this individual's attempted homage to the original writer of the hitherto original epic story. Not that the most modernistic writer of the aforementioned hasn't produced a first-grade effortless homage to the aforesaid original writer, either).

The person known as Mr Gareth Roberts has majestically and magically compacted literally countless eons of history, creative production, and now successfully fulfilled ambition into what the invaluable right-thinking bibliophile would most likely recognize as a page-turning triumphant tribute towards a true galactic event. Formerly ravaged by an incalculable meteorite incursion of socioeconomic magnitude, this event has eventually achieved an absolutely astronomical rebirth.



The Whole is Better Than the Parts

What:The War Master: Only the Good (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 15 May 2019
Rating:   8

An interesting concept this time. We get the obverse of Doctor Who. The Master, now inextricably pulled into the Time War, must try to do what The Doctor would try to do - end the war. Smartly, Big Finish has made this not an imposition, but rather a logical conclusion that The Master comes to on his own. Thus, the producers have realized that The Master is not simply maniac who like killing, but rather, from his own perspective, a pragmatist. "Only the Good," then, proceeds in parallel fashion Doctor Who. First up is "Beneath the Viscoid," with The Master on his own, separated from his TARDIS, and pretending to be The Doctor. It provides many opportunities for the audience to hear both how The Master is similar to The Doctor, but also significantly different, mostly in how he goes about achieving what in a typical Doctor Who story would appear to be honorable goals. Next is "The Good Master," with The Master again pretending to be a doctor, a surgeon this time. We find out how, when circumstances suit him, The Master can actually do much good - saving lives, providing hope, giving sound advice. And all the while, he is still The Master, still the schemer, still mostly after protecting himself. At the end of this one, The Master picks up a companion, Cole, who, like Charlie Pollard, is alive when he should be dead. The parallels mount. "The Sky Man" is Master-lite, focusing mostly on Cole. The Master allows Cole to try to save a world, while The Master watches from a discreet distance, always appearing strangely benevolent even when not being helpful. Cole's desperation and failure serves two functions - the audience sees the universe as The Master sees it, that "saving worlds" is a fool's game causing more harm than good; and that The Master, unlike The Doctor most of the time, really does have a plan and really is kind to his companion only because it suits him to be so. This is my favorite of the four stories from a pure story point of view. Last is "The Heavenly Paradigm," where The Master's plan is finally revealed and we get The Master in full Master mode. Each story by itself is good and enjoyable, but each on its own does not feel brilliant. The best aspect of the set is how the stories are put together, how the hidden plot underneath it all ties the set into a single entity. Derek Jacobi is, of course, brilliant, switching from charm to menace so quickly one hardly sees it happening. He brings a fullness to the character that was missing from the Big Finish attempt to psychologize The Master in "Master." Here, with Jacobi's help, the audience really does get to see the universe as The Master sees it, and to understand why he acts as he does. Jonny Green is great as Cole, convincingly showing us that he is naïve, but not stupid. All in all, well worth the listen.



The Ultraviolence

What:Burning Heart (Missing Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 12 May 2019
Rating:   6

"Burning Heart" was a difficult read for me. Doctor 6 and Peri arrive on a colony world, a satellite of a larger world, in which the multicultural society is breaking down. The society is run by the Church of Adjudication - government, police, and official religion rolled into one. The church has been taken over by essentially a psychopath who is instigating increasingly harsh rules. Against them are the group known as "White Fire," run by another psychopath, a "humans first" nazi-like organization. Caught in between are the downtrodden non-humans, who are gradually rising up against both oppressors. And influencing it all, ratcheting up the hate, is an intelligence located in the main planet's equivalent of Jupiter's red spot, which has taken over the church's main computer and taken over bodies of various human and non-human people to "feed" it. The situation, which is never fully clarified in the book, gives Stone essentially a closed thunderdome of all out violence, which Stone gleefully throws himself into with vivid, gory, obscene-language laden abandon. The Doctor and Peri get split for most of the novel, with The Doctor out of the main action for so much of the novel one begins to wonder whether this is a Doctor Who novel at all. Stone also, in my view, mis-writes Doctor 6 as too irritating and seemingly uncaring. The end of the novel is somewhat similar to that of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy," where The Doctor just apparently "knows" what is going on, but how he knows what is going on never gets clarified. Stone does know how to write a good sentence, how to keep the action moving, and to avoid absurdly over-the-top plot twists.



Another Ice Warrior Story

What:Deimos (Eighth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 7 May 2019
Rating:   7

Deimos has the usual elements of an Ice Warrior story. A bunch of frozen Ice Warriors are foolishly unfrozen. They choose to find some kind of ionizer or other device to terraform somewhere, Earth-colonized Mars in this case, to restore their home planet. The story has some great character performances, but otherwise does not escape from pro forma story.



BBC America DVD-only

What:Shada (BBC classic series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 7 May 2019
Rating:   10

The 10 stars are for the actual animation and story. I give 1 star for the US DVD release. Where WE have NO Blu-ray. (We might get it in Tom Baker: Complete Season Six, Season 17)
But come on, I regret owning the DVD now! Sure we the 2003 "sequel" animated webcast with the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann. But that's the only thing different to the UK DVD. Other than WE DON'T GET A BLU-RAY. So, if you're in North America, don't buy the classic animated releases that have Blu-ray (or even Steelbook Blu-ray) releases in the UK. They're region free (and they are for a reason). The Steelbooks are the ones that region-free, the standards are Region B locked. Needless to say, I'm getting them instead.



The Blossoming Greatness of Solomons

What:The Secret in Vault 13 (BBC new series novel)
By:Earle DL Foster, Invercargill, New Zealand
Date:Sunday 5 May 2019
Rating:   8

The official introductory novelisation of the somewhat revolutionary Thirteenth Doctor and her newest trio of companions can be overall classified as an updated and renovated "Key to Time" series of universal protecting explorations. The tyrannical Black Guardian has been replaced by equally monstrous and hybridized plant-like warmongers, and the precious individual segments are now three specialized keys (an intriguing twist being one hidden in plain sight!)
The entertainingly well-structured daisy chain of narratives planted and carefully nurtured amongst these pages more than justifies the creative decision to expand the companion seed bank, as Mr Solomons accordingly grants each of them (Ryan, Yaz, and Graham) equal opportunities to both artistically and courageously shine in the adoring sunlight.
A promising cultivation and harvesting towards an altogether bumper crop of literary adventures which will assuredly compliment the televised instalments, as Season 12 progresses from here (and maybe to infinity?)



Mostly a Crossover Story

What:Return of the Daleks (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 3 May 2019
Rating:   7

Return of the Daleks is mostly here to cement a link between the Doctor Who series and the Dalek war series. As such, there is much less of The Doctor's presence than is typical. This is a "return" story in a number of ways. Mainly, it is a return to the Doctor 3 story "Planet of the Daleks." This is kept well hidden until about halfway through the story. The Doctor is visiting a planet where he pretty much knows what will happen to make sure that it happens in the right way. This involves pushing along two people who supposedly work for the Daleks, but are secretly stirring up rebellion against the Daleks. As such, this is much more their story than The Doctor's. So, not much happens outside the parameters of the basic premises, and the story proceeds pretty much as one expects it to.



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