|Reviews for Doctor Who Unbound: Sympathy for the Devil:|
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|By:||David Layton, Los Angeles, United States|
|Date:||Thursday 18 August 2011|
|Rating: || 8|
The second of the Unbound series is a real winner. What if the Doctor had never been the UNIT adviser? Well, we find a discredited Lethbridge-Stewart running a pub in Hong Kong on the eve of the handover to China. The situation allows Jonathan Clements to rewrite three classic "Doctor Who" adventures: Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, and Mind of Evil. The Doctor, now stranded by the Time Lords and forced to regenerate, draws the unwilling Brigadier into a story involving a crashed Chinese plane with oddly advanced technology and a missing scientist. UNIT is on the scene, but this is not the friendly UNIT of the past. Rather, this is another military arm of the British government run by an arrogant, impatient oaf played brilliantly by David Tennant. Eventually, the Master turns up, and we get a nicely handled battle of wits between him and the Doctor. David Warner is excellent as the Doctor, understated and determined, but suave and charming as well. This story reminded me of why I like "Doctor Who" in the first place.
|Excellent "What If" Story|
Back in 2003, Big Finish Productions got an idea for a way to celebrate forty years of Doctor Who. The idea was to do a series of "what if" stories. These stories would be so outside the normal universe of stories that the only way to described would be Doctor Who Unbound. This story is the second story of the Doctor Who Unbound series and its "what if" is "what if the third Doctor hadn't been science advisor to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT)?"
The story opens in 1997, the night before the UK is to hand over Hong Kong to China. A blue police box suddenly appears and a man pops out of it. And he soon realizes he's in the wrong place - or rather the wrong time. His name: the Doctor. Soon he finds an old ally now discredited after years of disasters and alien invasions. His name: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Their reunion is interrupted by the crashing of a highly advanced Chinese stealth plane. As UNIT attempts to recover the plane and its passenger, the Doctor soon realizes he is facing an old enemy with evil plans of his own.
David Warner plays an alternate third Doctor (replacing the late Jon Pertwee). Warner's Doctor is terrific, even though the Doctor is in a daze for most of the story due to his regeneration. Nicholas Courtney (reprising his role of the Brigadier from the TV series) gets a chance to play a very different version of the Brigadier. This Brigadier is a man who has been let down and feels like he has failed in life, but it only takes a bit of prompting from the Doctor to convince him otherwise. Warner and Courtney have excellent chemistry and it's not surprising that the two have gotten another story together in the new Unbound story Masters Of War.
The story's villain is all too instantly recognizable, scheming and killing here, threatening and cowering there, and generally causing as much damage and disaster as possible. Having said that, I'll let you the listener figure out who the villain is. Needless to say who'll figure it out very quickly (at least I did).
The supporting characters fare very well too, with a highlight being Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood. Brimmicombe-Wood is a fantastic foil for the Brigadier as he, for example, shows no respect to the inhabitants of the Monastery, he is largely insensitive towards the way events have affected civilians, and he really cements the listener's dislike by referring to the Brigadier simply as "Lethbridge". As an interesting note on the actor who plays the Colonel, does the name David Tennant mean anything to you?
The story is terrific, taking many elements from the Pertwee/UNIT era stories. These include a list of UNIT"s failures under the Brigadier (The Auton invasions of Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons were dealt with by the "plastic purges", which caused a shortage; Captain Mike Yates took a UNIT team back into the past with several nuclear warheads to prevent the Silurians from awakening, and half of present-day London suddenly became a crater; the "Probe 7 fiasco" lead to a line of radioactive craters across America; lives were lost whenever UNIT provided security at a peace conference) and the main part of the story centers around a very strong plot element from The Mind of Evil. The ending is interesting and leaves the door open to the sequel story, Masters Of War.
Overall then, Sympathy For The Devil is a very strong story for Big Finish, and a great contribution to the Unbound range. The script sparkles and shows just how much flexibility there is with the format of basing a script around a question. In many ways, the question is more "What if the Doctor was too late?" than "What if the Doctor had never been UNIT's scientific advisor?" but both are covered very well. In short, this is a fine example of Big Finish at work.
|Great story no matter what universe|
|By:||Siskoid, Moncton, NB|
|Date:||Saturday 15 October 2005|
|Rating: || 9|
Though David Warner's Doctor is perhaps not all that distinctive, he quickly makes the role his own, and you accept him totally in it. What really works well here is the story, which might have worked with any Doctor, unbound or not.
The Hong Kong setting is well used and unsettling. The retake on The Mind of Evil doesn't really cover the same ground and, again, is well used. The villain has some reasonmable scenes and is defeated smartly. It's all quite engaging and well constructed.
Nicholas Courtney as an older Brigadier who never had the Doctor's help with UNIT makes one of his best appearances on audio, and there's a fun double-act between him and the new UNIT leader (who's a hoot!) played by David Tennant. It's through these guys that we get references to the ol' UNIT stories and how they were changed by the Doctor's absence, and these are natural enough that they stimulate the imagination without stopping the story.
Overall: Though not as "unbound" as some of the other stories in this series, it's a great little thriller that is begging for a sequel (and now it seems it will get one).