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Ends One Series, Starts Another

What:The Resurrection of Mars (Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 11 February 2020
Rating:   7

The various strands of this season of the 8th Doctor adventures come together in this story, which is also pretty much a "part two" of "Deimos." Much of this story is designed as a challenge to the Doctor's morality. In particular, the questions comes up about the value of life in raw terms - are all lives of equal worth? How many would one sacrifice if it meant saving many more? There are a few rabbits out of hats moments late in the story that subvert this line of thinking to some extent. Much of the technology has too many magical properties. Still, it is a solid adventure.



Time Meddling

What:The Secret History (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 10 February 2020
Rating:   7

This ends a trilogy that has been going backwards from the Doctor's perspective - Doc 7, then Doc 6, now Doc 5. In each case, he finds himself taken out of his normal time line and placed in an earlier time line with companions from his earlier self. Someone has been messing with The Doctor's History, but who, and why? (Part of the answer is in the Doctor 8 episode "Lucie Miller." Holy tie-ins, Batman). Here, we get Doctor 5 inserted into Doctor 1 time, in Italy and the late Roman Empire. The adventure takes us to Constantinople, where something strange is happening with Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora. It is nice to hear Vickie and Steven together again. Generally, it is a good but not overly ambitious ending to the trilogy.



Interesting

What:Protect and Survive (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 10 February 2020
Rating:   7

This story begins a trilogy, but that does not become fully apparent until part four. For the first three parts, it is an intriguing exercise with Ace and Hex separated from the Doctor and the TARDIS, and apparently trapped in a virtual reality prison. Thus, we get a very small cast for most of it, and plenty of discussion among characters. It appears that the Big Finish people have decided to amp up the whiny side of Hex, which I find a bit annoying. Another thing bringing the rating down for me is that this all has something to do with the "elder gods." The problem here is that there is no way to make such beings meaningful as characters. In this one, it amounts to some deep-voice shouting in the way that small children imagine really powerful bad guys to sound. It seems silly rather than powerful and scary. The first three episodes, though, are very good and the story is well worth listening to for those.



Going Meta

What:The Fourth Wall (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 4 February 2020
Rating:   7

The Fourth Wall is interesting, with many funny lines, and a heck of a lot of violence. Basically, a new hightech form of TV creates a "reality bubble" in which the story takes place. Within that bubble, events are "real," no matter how preposterously they have been scripted. New companion Flip gets unwittingly trapped in the bubble and Doctor 6 tries to get her out. There are some big surprise turns early in the story. I don't think that overall this one quite balances the humor with the killing, so that once the slaughter really begins, the humor often feels out of place or belittling. The Doctor also gets a little too preachy at the end. But, there are some cracking ideas and actors get great chances to go far over the top and at the same time make fun of that fact.



Season 18, a great season

What:The Collection: Season 18 (The Collection Blu-ray box sets)
By:Trixie Fox, El Paso, United States
Date:Sunday 2 February 2020
Rating:   10

The Leisure Hive, an underrated story that's a great opener to the JNT era.
Meglos, a extraordinary story featuring the final appearance of Jacqueline Hill in Doctor Who. RIP
Full Circle, the opener to the E-Space trilogy is amazing
State of Decay, a great vampire story written by the amazing Terrance Dicks. RIP
Warriors' Gate, a great finale to the E-Space trilogy and the final appearance of Romana & K-9
The Keeper of Traken, a great story re-introducing the Master
Logopolis, a great send-off for Tom Baker

As always the extras on the Blu-ray seasons are superb!



Season 19, a really great season

What:The Collection: Season 19 (The Collection Blu-ray box sets)
By:Trixie Fox, El Paso, United States
Date:Sunday 2 February 2020
Rating:   10

Castrovalva, a great opener for the Fifth Doctor
Four to Doomsday, a great story that is really underrated
Kinda, a great introduction to the Mara
The Visitation, a great story featuring the Terileptils
Black Orchid, a great murder mystery story
Earthshock, an amazing Cyberman story
Time-Flight, an underrated, flawed gem

The extras on this Blu-ray release are as great as the 1982 season.



Right on Target

What:Rose (New Target novelisations)
By:Keeper of Traken, Canberra , Australia
Date:Wednesday 29 January 2020
Rating:   10

This is the best of the new target books. With a great balance of the familiar story, and new pieces, Russell T Davies draws on the best of the old targets. This book is one of the all time best of the great range of target books.



Still Dedicated to Doctor 3 Style

What:The Third Doctor Adventures: Volume Four (Third Doctor Adventures audios)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 27 January 2020
Rating:   8

The fourth of the Third Doctor Adventures box set takes a slightly new turn for this series in that it features two stories that fans would have liked to have seen but did not get the chance. It still follows the format of delivering stories that would easily have fit in the Pertwee era. It also follows the pattern in these new adventures of having one Earth-based and one space-based story. We start with the Earth-based story, "The Rise of the New Humans." It has The Doc and Jo investigating some strange occurrences with unusual deaths, and takes them to a private hospital in the country where experiments on creating superhumans are underway. We meet an old enemy, but not the one we are expecting. "The Tyrants of Logic" takes place on the dying planet of Burnt Salt (which presumably would have been filmed in a quarry), where the Cybermen, having lost their war with the Earth empire, have hatched a desperate plan to renew their numbers. As with the earlier Third Doctor Adventures, what makes this work is Tim Treloar's uncanny impersonation of Jon Pertwee and the great rapport he has with Katy Manning. I like the pacing of these stories, there is time for some character development and genuine dialogue, which is too often lost in the more frantically paced Big Finish productions for other Doctors and the new Who series.



Old Fashioned Master Story

What:The Evil One (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 27 January 2020
Rating:   7

"The Evil One" places Doctor 4 in a Doctor 3 style story with the Master. In this one, The Master (Geoffrey Beevers) has a complicated (as usual) scheme for getting his revenge on the Doctor. This involves using telepathic powers to turn Leela against The Doctor. Some familiar actors from the Baker era are in this cast as well, Gareth Armstrong (Masque of Mandragora) and Michael Keating (The Sunmakers). It is an entertaining story.



A fitting, final series

What:The Collection: Season 26 (The Collection Blu-ray box sets)
By:Trevor Smith, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Date:Sunday 26 January 2020
Rating:   10

A fitting, fantastic final season of Who with four great stories. Looks beautiful in HD and some great new extras. Particularly enjoyed the making of documentary for Fenric.



A fitting, final series

What:The Collection: Season 26 (BBC classic series DVDs/Blu-rays)
By:Trevor Smith, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Date:Sunday 26 January 2020
Rating:   10

A fitting, fantastic final season of Who with four great stories. Looks beautiful in HD and some great new extras. Particularly enjoyed the making of documentary for Fenric.



Almost perfect

What:Warzone / Conversion (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Monday 13 January 2020
Rating:   9

WARZONE/CONVERSION
By Matt Rabjohns​

Whilst Adric may not be many fans favourite companion to have ever graced the show, his death at the time in Earthshock was definitely a palpable moment and very moving moment in the history of the show. We had had deaths of companions before, with Katarina and Sara Kingdom in The Daleks Master Plan, but somehow Adric's death seems to be more vividly remembered.​

The show at the time never dwelt much upon personal or emotional issues as much as they do in the modern era, so with Warzone/Conversion its very good to see Big Finish going into detail with how the Doctor and Nyssa and Tegan cope with the fallout of Earthshock. Do the writers succeed in delivering a memorable follow on to those shocking events? Well, the answer is yes in most respects.​

Firstly the sound production and music are truly authentic to the 80s era of the show. Impeccably so. The bonus interviews are always fun to listen to too. Always great to hear insight right from the actors mouths.​

Warzone and Conversion are written by two different writers (Chris Chapman and Guy Adams) but the stories are directly linked. It is always very annoying though that Big Finish may nor always use the monsters name in the titles, but they always have a picture of them on the front! This at once ruins any mystery the stories may have in my own view. However, if you can get past this annoyance and give the stories a chance they are rather superb overall.​

Warzone begins with the TARDIS team, together with new companion Marc, landing in Warzone. A massive gaming race track full of life threatening obstacles in the best Doctor Who fashion of old. The story has very good pace and develops not quite as ludicrously quickly as most of the modern era show on telly does. The Doctor and his friends at once have to literally run for their lives and become embroiled in the race. And the Doctor soon discovers just what the race is for. The main plot thrust of this story may actually be one of the more simple given to a Big Finish story, but it is all the better for it. It gives the characters a firm background and the acting from all involved in this story is top notch and right on the nail. Two of the best actors in this first story are definitely Pepter Lunkuse as Esma. She interacts well with the Doctor over the course of the two episodes almost enough to make you think she has the potential to become a companion.​

Timothy Blore as Morris works so well paired off with Nyssa. Its good to hear Nyssa being given such a good role within the story. And she seems to strike up a great friendship with Morris so its quite sad and jarring at the riveting climax to part two to have to break apart the bonds that were forming between both Nyssa and Morris and The Doctor and Esma. The warning the Doctor gives to Esma and Morris about being strong willed enough to resist becoming the Cybermen is a brilliant scene.​

Amidst all of this Tegan is not forgotten. The chemistry between her and George Watkin's as Marc is wonderful to listen to. It is quite the fearsome and soul destroying ride that Marc is forced to suffer in this story, and it is only going to get worse in Conversion. ​

Peter Davison is absolutely on his best form within these two stories, but especially in Conversion.​

I will get the only niggle I have with this story out of the way first. The characters of Herb and Creasey just seem a bit too caricatured and clichéd. Though Angela Bruce gives a brilliant performance as Herb the characters are just absolutely nothing new and seem to be rather grafted on to the story rather than written in. Your typical run of the mill space pirates who aren't given anything original to handle. Mind you if you love space pirates then these two girls banter can be very amusing. I'll give them that. But that is where my niggles end.​

The rest of the story is extremely well written. It gives Peter Davison the chance to display a more angry and upset and therefore more rude and unknowable. Its always excellent when actors get to rise above their normal game with an exceptional script, and this script definitely gives Peter the chance to blow our socks off with his titanic performance. ​

And then the delicious treat of once more being able to hear David Banks and Mark Hardy reprise their 80's Cyber roles just steals the show. Here in this story the Cybermen are truly soulless and incredibly nasty with their plans. The prototype conversion they almost succeed in performing on Marc is harrowing and George Watkins copes sublimely well in being totally broken and at his wit's end amidst this horrendous experiment. ​

The emotional impact on all the main crew of the TARDIS is palpable at the stories climax leading to a very unexpected ending. Tegan is truly unsettled and unforgiving of the darker side the Doctor has displayed during this story's run. Even in spite of the fact that against all the odds the Doctor has done his utmost to help Marc return to being as much of a human being as he can. Guy's writing in these final scenes is riveting and heart-breaking for all the main TARDIS team. ​

Conversion is the kind of cyberman story we need to see appearing on the screen in the new modern era televised Doctor Who! To me the serials the modern era have churned out have all rather fallen short of the mark, in that I think they have forgotten the Cybermen aren't robots, they happen to be dehumanized cyborgs! David Banks and Mark Hardy truly work on this fact well in Conversion. ​

The CyberLeader even gets to have a jibe at the Doctor, whom he accuses of being a hypocrite. The Doctor is resistant to murder, yet he destroyed the Cyber Leader in Earthshock. The only thing to offer in the Doctor's defence is that situation was one of acute stress and even a Time Lord is not perfect every day of the universal year. But it does add a gritty edge and bring out a touch of the mystery of who the Doctor truly actually is once more. Vague little titbits like this are scary to hear. Its good to see Peter being given a more Seventh Persona role for once, after all, all the incarnations are still the same man.​

Warzone/Conversion in summation then are two extremely well written stories on the whole. They are a truly stark and belting follow on from the sombre and sad events of Earthshock. I can only hope that Marc can somehow recover from his ordeal. Truly the impact of what the Cybermen can do to people if they get hold of them has never been quite so well portrayed before. This story even beats the Bill Potts conversion of Peter Capaldi's Cyber epic. I would strongly recommend this story as a worthwhile and dark follow on to Earthshock. As two two parters they work extremely well indeed. But be prepared to be stirred by the huge amount of emotional gravitas injected into these episodes.​

Although maybe one other little oddity is that Warzone/Conversion does seem to have forgotten the events of the earlier Big Finish release The Boy That Time Forgot. That story led us to believe that Adric in fact did not die but was left at the beginnings of time and went a little insane. Perhaps this is just forgetfulness although it does make the story's timeline placement rather unfathomable from my perspective, as Nyssa and the Doctor in the Boy story were without Tegan, so that means the story had to be set between the TV stories Time Flight and Arc of Infinity, and then Tegan returned but somehow The Good Doc and Nyssa seem to have lost all memory of the events of the Boy that Time Forgot, so that's just a little strange. But its not a major quibble, and its not as if the show isn't constantly mucking around with its own history and time lines!





Juvenile in Every Way

What:The Ultimate Evil (The Missing Episodes novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 2 January 2020
Rating:   2

This novelization of a script from the scrapped second Colin Baker series fails in many ways. The major problem is that Wally K. Daly seems to think that Doctor Who was a children's show, and so he comes up with a children's show plot with children's show dialogue. The story of two continents on one planet that remain absolutely isolated from each other so as to prevent war might have worked had Daly created logically functioning societies. Instead, we get people who can teleport just by thinking about it, cartoony villains, and "rays" that turn people murderous, hypnotized, or fearful. The writing style for this novelization is likewise aimed squarely at the eight-year-olds.



Tepid Novelization

What:Resurrection of the Daleks (BBC prestige novels)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 22 December 2019
Rating:   5

It took decades to get Eric Saward's two controversial Dalek scripts novelized. With this one, it was not worth the wait. Saward's novelization of his own script is worse than the original. The TV serial was pacey and action-packed enough to cover some fairly gaping holes in the logic of the script. Saward's novelization lacks this pace, mainly through dumbed-down prose. It may be that Saward was given the brief that he had to make the novel acceptable for pre-teens. Saward's answer to this is primarily to use ham-fisted foreshadowing of the "little did he know that..." variety. He occasionally breaks out of the juvenile novel mode with some equally ham-fisted side bars in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Mode." Some of the positive aspects are some deepening of the characters, some explanations of their motivations. This is especially important in giving a rationale for Tegan's departure. The book is a very quick read.



Tepid Novelization

What:Resurrection of the Daleks (New Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 22 December 2019
Rating:   5

It took decades to get Eric Saward's two controversial Dalek scripts novelized. With this one, it was not worth the wait. Saward's novelization of his own script is worse than the original. The TV serial was pacey and action-packed enough to cover some fairly gaping holes in the logic of the script. Saward's novelization lacks this pace, mainly through dumbed-down prose. It may be that Saward was given the brief that he had to make the novel acceptable for pre-teens. Saward's answer to this is primarily to use ham-fisted foreshadowing of the "little did he know that..." variety. He occasionally breaks out of the juvenile novel mode with some equally ham-fisted side bars in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Mode." Some of the positive aspects are some deepening of the characters, some explanations of their motivations. This is especially important in giving a rationale for Tegan's departure. The book is a very quick read.



Surprisingly Good

What:The Nightmare Fair (The Missing Episodes novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 12 December 2019
Rating:   7

This is a novelization of the sole Doctor Who script independently written by controversial former Doctor Who producer Graham Williams. Often criticized for an overly jokey style with too many "let's send up Doctor Who" moments, Williams' story is a welcome relief from these excesses. The script was scheduled to be part of the second season for Doctor Six, which was scrapped. Then producer John Nathan-Turner decided to go a different, and equally controversial, route once the show started up again with the ill-fated "Trial of a Timelord." Williams' "The Nightmare Fair" is evidence that Nathan-Turner should probably have stuck with his original commissions. "The Nightmare Fair" features the return of The Celestial Toymaker, who would have been played by Michael Gough reprising his 1966 role. This time, the Toymaker is making mischief at the fair grounds in Blackpool. It seems small consequences for the Toymaker, but Williams has supplied fairly good reasons for this. This novelization is very readable. Williams writes it as if it were intended to be a novel, and not as a reformatted script. He still uses a humorous approach to much of the writing, but not with too many jokes that stop the flow of the story, and with no out of place poking fun at the show. His writing for Peri is especially good compared to how she had been written in the TV series up to that point. Here, she is more active in the plot, and generally more intelligent, not merely the young woman who gets captured and rescued. There are a few places where the story could be tightened, especially at the beginning with the police, who get one scene and then appear no more, and with a few too many loose ends at the close. In total, however, this is a very entertaining read.



Fairly Standard

What:The Helliax Rift (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 3 December 2019
Rating:   7

Doctor 5 finds himself reuniting with UNIT, but now its commander really doesn't like him at all. The Doctor ends up getting teamed with the UNIT medical officer. All of this is to unravel why UFOs are crashing in one little wooded area next to a high-class rest home. The story is fairly straightforward UNIT fair. The only problem is the instant and constant dislike the commander has for The Doctor. The commander is just too narrow-minded and self-opinionated to be convincing.



Interesting

What:The Many Deaths of Jo Grant (The Companion Chronicles audiobooks)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 3 December 2019
Rating:   7

Katy Manning narrates this story of Jo Grant undergoing multiple scenarios in which she sacrifices herself for The Doctor's sake. There is a certain predictability about the reason for this. Manning does a pretty good imitation Jon Pertwee, though not such a good imitation Nicholas Courtney. This one is entertaining.



Muddled

What:The Time of the Daleks (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 3 December 2019
Rating:   6

Another stage in this Doctor's "season 2" story arc, the story explains why Charlie can't remember Shakespeare. It has to do with a group of Daleks stranded in time trying to rectify the mistake that got them there. It somehow involves the use of mirrors as time machines, as done in The Evil of the Daleks on TV. In the future, Britain is a dictatorship and the dictator is a woman obsessed with being the only person with access to Shakespeare's works. The Daleks oblige her so that they can use the society's time experiment to solve their own problem. Learman, the dictator, is too bizarrely obsessed to be believable. Other elements also do not quite work.



Intriguing

What:The Lure of the Nomad (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 15 November 2019
Rating:   8

If this site used halves, I'd give it a 7 1/2, mostly for what the bad guys turn out to be. The main story itself is very interesting and quite well constructed. Doctor 6 and his new companion Mathew Sharpe are on their way to return Mathew to his proper place in time, but get diverted by a distress call. But wait, there is a little preview bit before hand about an old professor on a colony planet who runs across an artifact that does something to her. How does it relate? We don't find out for a very long time, but when we do, it fits seemlessly into place. The story is another of the kind in which some project, in this case an interplanetary hotel built from a derelict spaceship, gets hijacked by persons unknown for reasons unknown, and now everyone is both in danger and a suspect. The script manages to hold onto its surprises, which are many and startling, until late. The one problem area for me is that the evil race behind it all have a rather daft motivation. If it were not for that, this story would rate much higher with me.



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