Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, October 21, 2021

79. Russell T. Davies on Audio - Damaged Goods


We review the Big Finish novel adaptation of Russell T. Davies 1996 Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novel "Damaged Goods". 

Plus, we take a trip down the rabbit hole and make our usual audio recommendations. 


Philip recommends Pieces of Eighth (An exceptional "British" podcast)

Dwayne recommends Sapphire and Steel - Remember Me by John Dorney and Daisy Chain by Joseph Lidster. 



Theme music by The Jackpot Golden Boys | http://www.jackpotgoldenboys.com/

Email: sirensofaudio@gmail.com

Website: https://www.sirensofaudio.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/audiosirens

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sirensofaudio


Clips and music are copyright BBC and Big Finish. No infringement is intended.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

63. Jago & Litefoot 8 | Randomoids IV - The Phantom Selectortron plus Big Finish From The Beginning Ep. 2

It's that time of the month again where we dive into some stories that the Big Finish Randomoid Selectortron selected for us. This time it's Jago & Litefoot Series 8

We'll also have a chat about some of the latest Big Finish releases from May and June 2021. 

Plus, as an introduction to this episode, we share episode 2 of our new flashcast, Big Finish From The Beginning, with Rob from The Doctor Who Show. 

We end with our latest audio recommendations. 

Next time.... Katy Manning is our special guest.

The Sirens of Audio on YouTube

Theme music by The Jackpot Golden Boys

Email: sirensofaudio@gmail.com

Website: sirensofaudio.com

Twitter: @AudioSirens

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/sirensofaudio/

Clips and music are copyright BBC and Big Finish. No infringement is intended.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

60. SADIE MILLER - The Return of Sarah Jane Smith

Our special guest is Sadie Miller, who is now recreating the character of Sarah Jane Smith for Big Finish. Sadie speaks about growing up with two actors for parents, her career so far and how she has come to be cast in the role made famous and universally loved by her late mother, Elisabeth Sladen. 

In a change for the podcast, Philip and Dwayne's latest journey down the rabbit hole see them speaking about some of their guilty pleasures when it comes to the TV series. 

Recommendations

Philip recommends Dalek by Robert Shearman read by Nicholas Briggs (Audiobook)

Dwayne recommends The Doomsday Contract by John Lloyd adapted by Nev Fountain (Big Finish Lost Stories)


Dwayne Bunney on Twitter

The Sirens of Audio on YouTube

Theme music by The Jackpot Golden Boys

Email: sirensofaudio@gmail.com

Website: sirensofaudio.com

Twitter: @AudioSirens

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/sirensofaudio/

Clips and music are copyright BBC and Big Finish. No infringement is intended.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

REVIEW | The Spectre of Lanyon Moor - Ranked "2" in Radio Times Top 5 Colin Baker Audio Stories

 The Spectre of Lanyon Moore by Nicholas Pegg

Directed by Nicholas Pegg

Music and Sound Design by Alistair Lock

Recorded February 2000. Released June 2000.

Starring Colin Baker and Maggie Stables

Guest Starring Nicholas Courtney, James Bolam, Barnaby Edwards, Helen Goldwyn, Susan Jameson, Toby Longworth, Nicholas Pegg



There is something quintessentially Doctor Who when it comes to creepy English villages, mystical powers and dark forces from the dawn of time. The Spectre of Lanyon Moor pulls out every trick in the Doctor Who book but does it so well you can hardly notice its homage to many, many previous Doctor Who shows.

It is clear that Nicholas Pegg is a fan of the show and he dips into so many moments from the past but combines them in such a way that you can’t but smile. Alien creature trapped on earth in opening minutes from City of Death. Strange goings on at an ancient burial site from Daemons. Creepy aristocracy member with library from Terror of the Zygons. Alien menace in the dark from Image of the Fendahl. English village from everywhere. And even an ending that crosses between Battlefield hero moment and the final scenes from Death to the Daleks. And every character except the Doctor and companions dead by the final scene like Pyramid of Mars, Horror of Rock and others. 

One of joys of the story is the first proper meeting between the sixth Doctor and the Brigadier. Although this in part should have been a momentous thing it is actually played right down and the two of them just get on easily from the beginning. It is such a natural meeting with open trust from the beginning that it would be easy to forget that this is a new partnership. 

Nicholas Courtney returns for the first time as the Brigadier for Big Finish and he falls into the role immediately. Like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes, Courtney is in straight back into the role and grabbing all the best lines. His nonchalant approach to the Doctor throws the Doctor slightly which is so charming to hear. His connection with Evelyn is also charming.

Maggie Stables is once again superb as Doctor Evelyn Smythe. In only her second appearance you can see what a perfect foil for the Doctor Evelyn is. Although its hard for her to be running down corridors she won’t be ignored, is given important work to do and can do a good smash and escape when needed. Colin and Maggie play off each other brilliantly and every scene they do together is a joy.

Colin continues to shine and is really the perfect Doctor. The great tragedy is he was never given stories like this to do, words like this to say and scenes like this to play in the TV series. Colin’s Doctor is compassionate, wise, righteously angry, moral, just, with a great sense of playfulness and concern for his friends. Had Colin received this level of writing and care during his TV run, there is a chance he could have been the longest serving Doctor.

The rest of the cast are excellent as well. Susan Jameson makes a great villain who goes from crazy dog owner, to just crazy to crazy dogs food. James Bolam starts being very trustworthy and yet slowly things change. And nice to hear Helen Goldwyn making her Big Finish debut playing a number of roles that would have been nothing in themselves but Helen gives all of her characters real depth, even if they only have a scene or two.

There is much, much more I could wax lyrical about this story but suffice to say it deserved to be in the top 5 of the Radio Times Poll and is well worth a listen.


Philip Edney


Monday, May 24, 2021

REVIEW | The Juggernauts - Ranked "3" in Radio Times Top 5 Colin Baker Audio Stories

 The Juggernauts by Scott Alan Woodard


Directed by Gary Russell

Music and Sound Design by Steve Foxon


Recorded April 2004. Released February 2005.


Starring Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford


Guest Starring Terry Molloy, Nicholas Briggs, Peter Forbes, Paul Grunert, Julia Houghton, Bindya Solanki, Klaus White


Third place in the Radio Times poll is another Dalek story. As with the Davison top 5 two Dalek stories make the top 5 with Colin Baker, continuing to show that the Daleks have not lost any popularity with the general public.  

The Juggernauts was written by American writer Scott Alan Woodard who accepted the commission from Gary Russell with a huge shopping list – Colin, Bonnie, Davros, Daleks and Mechanoids. But even with this huge list, the story effortlessly combines all these iconic figures. And who wouldn’t want to play in that sandpit?

Although the plot does retread some familiar themes from some televised stories, this allows the audience to pick up quickly on cues and also allows the plot to move more swiftly. There are enough twists to keep engaging the listener and some stellar performances.

The Juggernauts well demonstrates the vision John Nathan-Turner had when he developed the character of Melanie Bush to become the 6th Doctor’s companion. This is only their second play together but the characters just spark and show a great deal of emotional intelligence with each other – even though they are separated for a large part of the story. Colin and Bonnie both show how talented they are having very strong scenes with the guest cast, showing a real depth they weren’t able to show on television. It is both great to see and sad to realise what could have been and what a lost  opportunity there was when Colin was removed. Together Colin’s Doctor is kinder and more considerate and Melanie is wiser and more independent. She is certainly not the screamer she was made into on TV.

Terry Molloy is a joy to have back behind the microphone. His first visit to Big Finish was also playing opposite Colin in the excellent story Davros. In that story they demonstrated what a powerful double act they were that is repeated well in Juggernauts. His initial scenes with Bonnie, which are friendly and jovial, before she discovers who he is, show just how talented he is as a voice artist. The fact that we can like him so much and then turn it so we hate him is very powerful. With every Davros story you are waiting for the one on one scene between Davros and the Doctor and Juggernaut does not disappoint. This confrontation is powerful as would be expected, but ultimately it is Melanie who wins out.

As always Nicholas Briggs does an excellent job with the Daleks, though his range is stretched by also performing the mechanoids. Props also to sound designer, Steve Foxon would have played a very large role in realising the mechanoid voices. But no amount of sound design can work without the prowess of the actor bringing the required performance.

The Juggernauts explores some deep themes of loss, love and the right to survive. It has suspense, action and a bit of horror. All up it is a great story to listen to.


Philip Edney

Sunday, May 23, 2021

REVIEW | Static - Ranked "4" in Radio Times Top 5 Colin Baker Audio Stories

 Static by Jonathan Morris


Directed by Jamie Anderson

Music by Joe Kraemer

Sound Design by Joe Kraemer and Josh Arakellan

Script Editing by Alan Barnes


Recorded June 2017. Released December 2017.


Starring Colin Baker, Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood

Guest Starring Scott Chambers, Chris Dale, David Graham, Pippa Nixon, Brian Protheroe and Jo Woodcock



The most recently released story of the Colin Baker top 5 is Static by Jonathan Morris. Released three and a half years ago, it is a scary tale of dead bodies that go bump in the night and the mist and the voices the lurk in the static. It is a story that spans decades and yet takes place all at the same time. It’s a look at what would happen if you could bring back the dead.

Jonathan Morris is certainly one of Big Finish’s most prolific writers. With over one hundred stories in his catalogue spanning all the way back to Bloodtide, his stories have been inventive and diverse. He has written across every Big Finish range, for every Doctor and for many different pairings of Doctor and Companion. He has written a number of successful Colin Baker stories, especially with Flip. Many of his stories can show a dark sense of humour or like this story, create fear in uncertainty. He manages to twist something that we all experience every day - static - and make it an object of fear – the place where the enemy lurks.

Static is a more modern tale than the other stories in the top 5 and so Baker is equally supported in the story telling by Miranda Raison and Lisa Greenwood his two companions Mrs Constance Clarke and Flip. Although the Doctor has greater knowledge than his companions, he is very much equal with them in terms of narrative and key moments in the story. This does not make Bakers acting any less and he has some very powerful scenes in the last episode as he decides he is not going to allow what has happened continue to be. He also makes some morally questionable decisions and perhaps justifies them a bit too easily.

Flip is the easy to relate to character in the piece. She quickly befriends the other young members of the story and through her we see the backstory to what is occurring. We feel the sympathy for the situation that she feels but also her suspicion and distrust. Lisa Greenwood creates a very relaxed character in Flip which is in contrast to when she first began as a companion as she took a while to define who she was. But over the years, and particularly with her friendship with Constance, the character has begun to shine and from an initially spiky surface is now the heart and warmth of the crew.

Constance continues to be a rock in all situations. Her loyalty to the Doctor is unquestionable, being willing to die to achieve what he asks. As she and the Doctor return in time and into a Second World War setting, she is able to bring to the fore all her knowledge of protocol and behaviour to assist the Doctor to achieve his outcomes. Miranda Raison is an amazing actress and a stunning coup for Big Finish to get to work for them. It is to her credit that a character who could played by others come across as cold is someone we learn to care deeply about.

Jamie Anderson has pulled together a strong cast to play all the supporting roles. Voices are both modern for the recent times but also the correct RP for back during war times. David and Pippa make a convincing couple that are obviously struggling through grief. And Pippa and Jo make a strong sisterly connection. Scott Chambers is excellent in his role creating both fear and compassion depending on the circumstance.

Ultimately, Static is such an effective story because it blindsides the audience in the final episode. From the direction it appeared to be going for most of the story is suddenly veers left and heads you in a very different direction. It is only the fast thinking of the Doctor that saves the day – which is as it is meant to be.

Static would not have been in my list of the top 5 Colin Baker stories, but it has been good to go back and listen again and realise it is indeed a very worth while candidate due to its complexity, its ability to raise emotions and its use of time. If you are after a creepy story and a time old mystery, Static is a great place to start.


Philip Edney

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

REVIEW | The Mutant Phase - Ranked "1" in Radio Times Top 5 Davison Audio Stories

The Mutant Phase by Nicholas Briggs


Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Music and Sound Design by Nicholas Briggs 


Recorded September 2000.  Released December 2000.


Starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton


Guest Starring Christopher Blake, Nicholas Briggs, Mark Gatiss, Alistair Lock, Jared Morgan, Andrew Ryan, Sarah Wakefield



And so finally we come to the winning audio of the Radio Times Poll for the 5th Doctor. This is the audio that beat all other Peter Davison stories to be crowned at number 1. For many people, this seemed like a bit of a strange choice. For Big Finish fans, received wisdom is that Spare Parts is the number one story. But this poll was much broader in scope and reached a lot more people than just the Big Finish fans.  So what is it about The Mutant Phase that led to it winning the number one spot?


Firstly, and most importantly, it is a terrific story. Nicholas Briggs has pulled out all the stops for this adventure and flips the listener backwards and forwards in time using various means. The characters are well drawn and there is a great twist with one of the characters which although flagged for the listener the complications that happen for him towards the end are both serious and comical.


The second reason this audio is a hit is it is the Daleks. This is only the third Dalek story that was produced by Big Finish and it was the first story to feature Peter Davison. It is also the first time that Nyssa encounters the Daleks so there is a lot of interest as she discovers how ruthless they can be. And although this is an original Dalek story it is also a prequel to The Dalek Invasion of Earth. So here we have Daleks who are yet to encounter the Doctor or the TARDIS and know nothing of the threat the Doctor can be. This creates a bit of nostalgia for the lover of the television show.


Another reason why this is brilliant is Nicholas Briggs. No one has greater passion or love for the Daleks than Nick and that shines forth in this production. And all the more so because the stamp of Briggs is on every part of the story. As writer, director, composer, sound designer, is there nothing this man can’t do? So, for some fans who get jealous this can be a drawback. For people who love one powerful vision driving through a story that is what they get here. The music cues are very Briggsy as are a lot of the plotting themes that come up. But the reality is that they work and you can see the embryo forming that indicates where a lot of Nick's writing will develop from this point.


Ultimately, this story won the poll because of Peter Davison. People were voting on the best Davison story and what has happened is people have voted on the best Davision. In this performance we see a master class in acting. Davison nails every emotion, every bit of timing, every joke perfectly. He uses silence powerfully so that we can feel the confusion in the Doctor’s mind. He uses humour to unsettle and provoke. Confusion, trepidation and anger are also part of his vocabulary. This story allows Davison to shine across all levels of his acting ability.


The Mutant Phase is a great Doctor Who audio. It tells a fast pace story, across the lightyears and the centuries. It introduces us to a range of interesting characters and the Doctor and Nyssa work perfectly in sync. Well worth a re-listen to see why the majority of those voting in the poll chose this as number one.


Philip Edney

Sunday, May 16, 2021

REVIEW | Alien Heart / Dalek Soul - Ranked "2" in Radio Times Top 5 Davison Audio Stories

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole 

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams


Directed by Ken Bentley

Music and Sound Design by Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios & Lauren Yason @ FoxYason Studios

Script Editor was Alan Barnes

Released April 2017

Starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton

Guest Starring Nicholas Briggs, Geoffrey Newland, Vineeta Rishi, Alex Tregear and Eve Webster



Number two in the Radio Times poll is not one but two stories from two very accomplished writers. Alien Heart/Dalek Soul are two separate and yet strongly linked tales that push the Doctor and Nyssa to new levels.

When Big Finish started producing audios I was very in line with fandom who felt that a Doctor Who story should be four episodes long with the three cliff hangers. Over the twenty or more years of listening though, the structure of what television and how story telling works have changed. The stories I enjoy most have become the 50 minute stories that are contained in the box sets, often with an overarching theme, in a style that more closely resembles the look and feel of the show since it came back in 2005.

On the whole the main range has maintained the original pattern of four episode adventures, though along the way there have been attempts at different forms of story telling. The three episode story with a one part story was trialed for a while. But here we have two, two episode stories and they work magnificently.

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole kicks off the set with a mystery. A range of planets have been destroyed and what is to become with the next in line. The Doctor and Nyssa arrive to try and work out what has happened. Separating the Doctor and companion is a staple of Doctor Who but never before has a companion been forced apart on the backs of thousands of stampeding spiders. Now on separate planets the Doctor and Nyssa must work apart to save a planet of people who know nothing of space travel.

Billed as two separate stories I was not expecting the appearance of the Daleks in the first story. On reflection, it should have been obvious that the race who would be destroying planets needed to be powerful but the clues were leading the audience to believe something different. Mind you the reasoning behind what was going on was even more unusual. Just as you feel the first story is wrapping up it takes a sudden left turn and ends with a cliff-hanger.

Dalek Soul by Guys Adams is brilliant! Not at all what is expected and is able to stretch the acting muscles of both Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. Neither seem to be behaving as you would expect and as the story progresses the gulf between what you would expect and what is happening grows wider and wider. The final reveal is a wonderful twist. 

When I first listened to this story four years ago I remember that I enjoyed it. But with the output of Big Finish being so great this is the first time I have gone back to listen to it again and it really is brilliant. Had it been one of the early releases I probably would have heard it ten times by now like I have with many of those first 50 releases. And if I had done that I think it would have been embedded in my mind as one of the best stories. 

This set of two stories wouldn’t have been what I would have chosen as my Number 2 based on my memory. But having listened again I can see why it is appealing to others. Two tight, fast paced stories. A very dark and foreboding tale. Davison and Sutton acting their socks off and getting to play against type. Excellent direction by Ken Bentley with fabulous, loud sound design. And Daleks! What is it about the Daleks that appeal so much to people almost 60 years after their creation? Well whatever it is, it also helped the Number 1 story get over the line – but that’s for another review.


Philip Edney

Saturday, May 15, 2021

REVIEW | The Lady of Mercia - Ranked "3" in Radio Times Top 5 Davison Audio Stories

 The Lady of Merica by Paul Magrs


Directed by Ken Bentley

Music and Sound Design by Steve Foxon

Script Editor was Alan Barnes


Recorded January 2013. Released May 2013.


Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton


Guest Starring Rachel Atkins, Kieran Bew, Stephen Critchlow, Catherine Grose, Anthony Howell and Abigail Thaw

 


Number three in the Radio Times poll and the second entry for writer Paul Magrs is The Lady of Mercia. Another historical story (kind of) it is certainly not the “pure” historical that The Peterloo Massacre was. Though as well as being similar in being a historical, it is also similar in terms of taking place in the North of England and also in exploring themes of social class and funding.


The Lady of Mercia is a story set in two time zones, though the time travel between the two is not the conventional one you might expect. The TARDIS crew landing at a university in the North in 1983 and pretend to be experts in the Middle Ages as they try and detect a time anomaly. This is created by a scientist who accidently sends Tegan and a colleague back in time. In typical historical romp they meet Queen Æthelfrid and her daughter Princess Ælfwynn and the Princess is then brought back to present time. But the Queen and Princess are due at York to maintain their power. Tegan has no choice but to take the role of Princess and become the Lady of Mercia.

  

The Lady of Mercia is not a complex story, in fact Sarah Sutton said she understood this one, which is a rare thing. But although simple it has a number of elements of suspense and action that allows characters to be developed and to shine. Though some of the romantic elements of the stories and the complexities within couples probably doesn’t have enough time to develop very realistically. 


Though there is coupling a plenty, the most interesting relationship, and the one that develops the deepest is between Tegan and Queen Æthelfrid. This mother / daughter relationship grows throughout the story and so there is genuine sadness and loss when history does what history does and one of these characters meet their preordained fate. This is an excellent performance by Rachel Atkins and would be the first of more than 25 that she would bring to Big Finish. Janet Fielding plays off her perfectly and together there is real truth in their story telling.


Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton pair up for most of the adventure and all the required technobabble plays back and forth very naturally between them. As always there is genuine warmth between these characters and you can see why Nyssa is Davison’s favourite companion for his Doctor. In Big Finish terms this is the old Nyssa who is travelling with Tegan and Turlough again many years after she left the crew after the events on Terminus. But for this story that timeline doesn’t really matter.


Mark Strickson is sadly without much to do. Turlough remains relatively fixed in 1983 not really willing to put himself at risk. He does get some nice scenes to play off Abigall Thaw as Professor Phillipa Stone but neither character is taken as far as they could have been.


A small but impressive impact is made by Stephen Critchlow making his second of over 35 performances. His regular returns as an actor can be understood as you hear him play two very different but distinct characters in the story.


Special mention should be made of both director, Ken Bentley and sound design and music by Steve Foxon. With all the flipping between middle ages and 1983, this could have been extremely confusing, but there is never any doubt at all where we are. Before we hear a character speak we know where the scene is set but the sound design. Sometimes this is very subtle but it always works. There are also some mighty big battles created as well.


Although I wouldn’t count the Lady of Mercia as a classic it does do all it sets out to do and does it very well. Its and entertaining yarn, well acted, heart warming and is pointing you to a very large historical figure that we probably don’t know very well. With an excellent cast and great direction it is well worth a listen and re-listen.


Philip Edney


Thursday, May 13, 2021

REVIEW | The Peterloo Massacre - Ranked "4" in Radio Times Top 5 Davison Audio Stories

The Peterloo Massacre by Paul Magrs


Directed by Jamie Anderson

Music and Sound Design by Nigel Fairs

Script Editor was Alan Barnes


Recorded July 2015. Released March 2016.


Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton

Guest Starring Wayne Forester, Gerard Kearns, Philip Labey, Liz Morgan, Jayne Standing, Robbie Stevens 




Number four in the Radio Times poll at first glance seems an unusual story for so high a position. The Peterloo Massacre is a “pure” historical and places our heroes in a time and place of great danger, except no one really realises what is coming except the Doctor.

Aside from William Hartnell’s Doctor, no other regeneration has had the opportunity, nor fit the bill so well as to play historical stories, as Peter Davison. His charm and innocence lend itself well with blending into history and playing as small a role as possible. His was the first Doctor to get a historical to play on television with Black Orchid since The Highlanders. And never again on the TV show would there be an historical. His Doctor also had had other successful historicals at Big Finish such as Eye of the Scorpion, The Church and the Crown and the Council of Nicaea.

So what is a pure historical? In fan talk it is a story that features no science fiction elements at all – simply the TARDIS used as a device to deliver the Doctor and his companions to the scene and then not used again.

So why do historicals work so well? It’s all about inevitability. With a story set in the future the outcome is unknown. But when a story is grounded in history the events are going to unfold in a certain way and the conclusion can not be escaped.

The other reason that historicals work so well is that they give people a passion for history. Many a period of history has been studied because of Doctor Who. From the Aztecs, to Pompei,  the French Revolution, the Gunfight at the OK Coral to the history of Rosa Parkes.

The Peterloo Massacre in Manchester was something I knew nothing about. But after listening to this story I wanted to do some research and discovered what a major event it was. Paul Magrs has written a very tight script and managed to create from a handful of characters the many voices needed to represent the different points of view that caused the disaster. From the wealthy, the militia, the workers, the protesters. Conflict was inevitable. But the scale of the massacre was truly dreadful to ensure the power and the wealth of the rich.

Paul says of his own story, “It’s a story about terrible unfairness and social injustice. It’s about hope and bravery being trampled into nothing by greed and prejudice, snobbery and hatred. And it’s about how hope can survive such terrible events.”

Director Jamie Anderson has managed to pull together an exceptional cast with very different vocal qualities. In some ways their accents show what role they are destined to play in the approaching drama. Jayne Standing in particular does an excellent job of creating pathos and emotion in her one and only Big Finish outing to date.

The strength of the guest cast allows the regulars to truly shine. Peter Davison gives an outstanding performance. Enthusiastic at first leading to realisation and deep sadness. He knows that he can’t change history but you can hear in his performance the desire to stop the inevitable. Janet Fielding plays the brashness of Tegan to great effect. Her no nonsense character fits in well with the situation and her desire to not allow the course of history to run smooth is clear. Sarah plays the hope of Nyssa with great effect. Strength through gentleness abounds and she reflects that character of the Doctor perfectly. 

Although The Peterloo Massacre would not have occurred to me as being one of Davisons top 5 stories, on re-listen I can understand why so many people enjoy it. It shows social conscience, it allows Peter Davison to inhabit all the of best characteristics of the 5th Doctor, it teachers history, it has a huge action scene and it reminds us there can be a better way. What more could you ask of a Doctor Who story?


Philip Edney

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

REVIEW | Spare Parts - Ranked "5" in Radio Times Top 5 Davison Audio Stories

Spare Parts by Marc Platt


Directed by Gary Russell

Music by Russell Stone

Sound Design by Gareth Jenkins


Recorded March 2002. Released July 2002.


Starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton

Guest Starring Sally Knyvette, Derren Nesbitt, Pamela Bins, Paul Copley, Kathryn Guck, Jim Hartley and Nicholas Briggs as the Cybermen.



Ask any group of Big Finish fans what is the best story Big Finish has released and one that will keep being repeated over and over is Spare Parts. It is so good that it is one of only two stories that Russell T Davies had adapted for new Who when he became show runner, although admittedly, it is barely recognisable in the finished product.


It is no doubt with some surprise that Spare Parts only ranked number five in the 5th Doctor Poll conducted by Radio Times. A travesty? Well, many would argue that fifth place is still a strong finish. Big Finish fans may assess it should have been number one, but are there reasons that the thousands who voted, many of whom are outside the general Big Finish fan circles, didn’t place it number one? 


So firstly, why is it so loved by the Big Finish family?


Well it’s an origin story. It’s Genesis of the Daleks but for Cybermen. It’s what the keen Doctor Who fans always wanted. The story of Mondas and the reason why a race of humans would let themselves become emotionless monsters. This alone makes the story extremely popular.


Mind you it is a story that is told particularly well. Marc Platt who wrote one story for the classic series, Ghostlight, and was one of the few authors who transitioned from classic who, to novels to Big Finish. His writing is always distinctive, slightly kooky, exploring complex themes and often told in convoluted ways. Having written over twenty stories now for Big Finish, this was only his second venture following the successful Loups-Garoux. Marc manages to create an epic story, of a planet slowly surrendering itself to its fate through the eyes of a single family. This family mirror the values, the fears and the destruction of all Mondasians. 


The Hartley family are so effective in conveying the decay of society and brilliantly realised by great, naturalistic acting of Paul Copley as Dad, trying to hold what is left of his family together, Jim Hartley as Frank, headstrong son who is convinced he knows best and Kathryn Guck playing Yvonne who health slowly decays and finally creates one of the saddest scenes in the story. These three characters are the voice pieces of the different elements of the Mondas society showing us their values, their hopes and their fears. The normality of the family is contrasted by the unusual Sisterman Constant as played by Pamela Binns. Every story needs a villain, and Constant provides that role. Though as the story progresses you realise that she is just as deceived and lost as the other poor souls on the planet.


Star casting goes to Sally Knyvette, best known to Blake’s 7 fans as Jenna Stanis, who plays the creator of the Cybermen, Doctorman Allen. But unlike the evil creator of the Daleks, Davros, Allen is naïve rather than evil. Her desire is to save her race but through her trials and experiments she condemns her people and herself to emotionless slavery and begins to be a scourge on all of the universe.


Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton make the perfect pairing for this adventure. Both this incarnation of the Doctor and Nyssa has such vulnerable sides to their characters and a desire to help, that as options are removed from their hands you see their hopelessness of the growing situation. Nyssa’s closeness to the Hartley family leads her to suffer great grief, especially with the fate of her friend Yvonne. 


And so the Cybermen. Nicholas Briggs brings us another star turn and demonstrates why, when the Cyberman return to the new series of Doctor Who, he is the only one who could bring them back. This time realising the high pitched, sing song Mondasian Cybermen first encountered in the Tenth Planet. He plays various roles that become more menacing and finally take over from the humans who they originally were. But like Tenth Planet, the lead Cyberman still has a name, Zheng, betraying his human roots.


So, there is much to love about this story. But the reason why so many fans love it may also be the reason it didn’t make number one in the poll. It is dark. Very dark. It is more of a political thriller than an action adventure. There are no huge battles and there is no evil villain. And throughout the story is total foreboding. It has a huge downbeat ending, so loved by fans but not so much by the general public. And also Cyberman aren’t Daleks. And when it comes to the battle between Cyberman and Daleks and what people love – Daleks win.


So Spare Parts is number 5 on the list. Does that change how great it is? Or how fans will view it? No way. But it does let a couple of other great stories get noticed that hadn’t been recognised by fans before. For many I think Spare Parts will still be viewed as the best that Davison has to offer.


Philip Edney

Thursday, April 15, 2021

REVIEW | Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 starring David Tennant

In a world still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, television Doctor Who has been cut back and fans who rely on the Beeb for their fix won't be getting a full season this year. 

Big Finish, on the other hand, seem to have gone from strength to strength. Far from reducing their output due to the pandemic, remote home recording has kept actors and production teams running at maximum output. 

Even with their Monthly Range of adventures coming to an end in March, it still feels like Big Finish are focusing yet still increasing their output to hungry fans.

But will the stories meet fan expectations?


If Dalek Universe 1, a new boxset, the first of three, starring the ever popular David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor is anything to go by, your hunger for new Doctor Who is going to be regularly satisfied!

With companions Anya Kingdom, played by Jane Slavin, and Mark Seven played by Tennant's fellow Broadchurch star Joe Sims, the stage is set for an epic adventure for the ages. With nods to the past Tenth Doctor era and the ancient past with many elements from Terry Nations Dalek universe canvas, fans will be salivating for more. 

But what of the casual listener who rarely, if ever, dips into audio?

Although a 3-part set, it would be handy to hear the prequel story, The Dalek Protocol starring Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor with Slavin and Sims. But it's not vital to the enjoyment of Dalek Universe 1. 

Tennant feels as though he has never left the role and writer of the first two episodes, John Dorney, has captured his era perfectly. It's a sentimental banquet for anyone who was watching the show in the mid-noughties. The dialogue is delivered to perfection and it's difficult to believe that this cast was recording remotely from their laundry or clothes cupboards. 

As the mystery unfolds in the first episode, "Buying Time", we are submersed into the mystery of a tenth Doctor thrown into an adventure without his TARDIS, and meeting characters he knows from a much earlier incarnation. We're also introduced to a character played by Mark Gatiss, who has appeared several times in different roles in TV Doctor Who and on audio.

But hold your horses folks. Any belief that you're in for a typical run of the mill story will be dashed as we are treated to a cliff-hanger for the ages that will blow your mind and force you to listen to the second episode immediately. 

"The Wrong Woman" continues on from the previous story, but not in the way you were expecting. If you've had time to recover your wits from the insane cliffhanger, the ride is far from over as you take a timey-wimey roller-coaster ride that doesn't let up until the end. 

Andrew Smith takes writing duties for the third episode, "The House of Kingdom", a fascinating look into some more of Anya's backstory and a return for more of the creations of Terry Nation's universe from the 60's, including the Mechanoids, which always had the potential to be much more than that single episode in 1965. 

Despite the stress of lockdown, Ken Bentley has done a superb job directing this set. I suspect, however, that Ken would say his job was made easy by the extraordinary cast led by Tennant. 

If all the above ingredients were enough to set my imagination ablaze, it was Howard Carter's incredible score and sound design that officially blew my mind! Howard's work was a standout for me in last year's "Return To Skaro", and this set proves his versatility and adaptability when it comes to different ranges and settings. Incredible stuff! 

The main question on my mind after hearing this set? 

How am I going to bear the 3 month wait until the next set is released in July? 

Get Dalek Universe 1 today from bigfinish.com.

Dwayne Bunney

Saturday, January 23, 2021

REVIEW | Torchwood : Coffee by James Goss

While Torchwood follows the action surrounding a small group of people working in a secret base in Cardiff Bay, what about the other people who might live and work in the area?

After all, the rift was responsible for what ultimately led to an awful lot of very loud explosions.

Coffee follows the life of Ianto Jones through the eyes of a Cardiff Bay cafe owner and one of his staff. From a nervous recruit on his first day and following the events of Ianto's time with Torchwood, we see one of our heroes through the eyes of people just like us to discover Ianto is, just like us.

James Goss delivers his trademark expansive storytelling with incredible attention to detail, ensuring that both fans of the TV series and the more casual listener alike will connect with the world of Torchwood like never before.

Gareth David-Lloyd excels, proving again how much this actor cares for his character, even varying his accent depending on where the story is set in his timeline.

This is a worthy start to the Torchwood monthly range for 2021.

You can purchase Torchwood: Coffee directly from the Big Finish website.

Dwayne Bunney

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

REVIEW | The Robots Volume Three

If you enjoy conspiracy, suspense and mounting threats, then The Robots Volume 3 will not disappoint. The Robots is a 12-part series that takes place on Kaldor during a one-year sabbatical from the TARDIS by eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka. She uses this time to catch up with her sister and discovers that her home planet has turned into far more than she ever bargained. 

Once again there are three diverse stories that continue to drive us to what promises to be a massive conclusion in which Liv may only just get away with her life. 

The first story “The Mystery of Sector 13” by Robert Whitelock continues to build on the role the Sons of Kaldor are going to play in the future and for Liv’s sister, Tula, her eyes further opening to the worrying happenings inside the Company. Whitelock is better known for his acting talents within Big Finish but with this script he is able to create a lot of tension. He creates a clever way to knock the confidence out of Liv and Nicola Walker seems to relish in flexing her acting muscles. His use of the Robots is both heroic but also leaves us feeling nervous. 

“Circuit Breaker” by Guy Adams will probably be the fan favourite for those who love the Doctor Who episode this whole world is based on, The Robots of Death. Liv and Tula are not in this episode and the central stage is given to Poul and Toos. David Collings and Pamela Salem reprise their roles brilliantly as they did in one episode from the previous box set. Poul is called in by Toos to investigate a murder and this is going to play out a lot closer to home than either one will want. Guy Adams tells the story in a brilliant way overlaying information and returning back to scenes time and time again, revealing more information each time. And the conclusion is quite shocking and unexpected. At this time we don’t know whether David Collings has recorded any further stories. If he hasn’t this is both a great story to finish with but will be forever frustrating to not see where this was going to lead. 

The final story in the set is “A Matter of Conscience” by Lisa McMullin. This is the most grand and epic story in the set involving huge set pieces, crowds and explosions. Lisa has become a real blessing to the writing team of Big Finish having written a lot of fine stories in a short period of time. In this one she writes engagingly about politics, terrorism and misinformation. She also gets to reintroduce a character from the television show that wasn’t expected. 

It is great to have Louise Jameson given directorial duties again. A sensational actress, Louise is able to turn her own abilities to help the cast extract the most from their lines. The bounce that the characters have off each other and the enjoyment that can be felt is no doubt due to the talents of Louise. This is all the more amazing considering all this was achieved during lockdown. It is great to have a production with female leads, a female director and at least one story by a woman but telling a story that is totally accessible to any gender. There are strong relationships and emotion throughout the story but more than enough bangs and flashes to keep the most die hard people entertained. 

The whole cast are great but the two leads, Nicola Walker and Clare Rushbrook, continue to hold the power in every story. You would swear these two women truly are sisters by the way they interact with each other. Nicola’s dry humour and Clare’s never ending patience and trust contrast beautifully together. Two great actresses playing two great women. 

And finally, the Robots of the title. Each time the Robots speak it creates memories of one of the best stories the fourth Doctor ever had. And throughout the stories they play slightly different roles and are ever more confounding. Are they basic helpers? Are they moral beings? Are they growing in understanding and knowledge? Are they helper or destroyer? Each set of stories creates more questions and builds anticipation of how this is all going to end. Though when it does end, I think that will be the tragedy.

You can purchase The Robots Volume Three directly from the Big Finish website in either download or CD collectors edition.

Philip Edney

Saturday, November 7, 2020

REVIEW | Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - The Modern Prometheus adapted by Jonathan Barnes (Big Finish Classics)

Recently I picked up the actual novel by Mary Shelley and devoured it in a day. This is a novel that screamed for an audio adaptation. 

What I did notice from the book was the ambiguity in relation to the making of the monster. That and other detail I assumed would be in the book, but wasn't, finally explained to me why I had seen so many seemingly conflicting narratives in film and TV versions of the book. 

So how does this audio adaptation stack up?

The Big Finish Classics range made no bones about their desire to adapt stories as close to the original works as possible. This has not always been easy, as their version of H.G. Wells Things To Come demonstrated, though that too is a marvelous adaptation.  

As I was reading the novel, I noticed that I had never in film or TV seen any reference to the travel Victor makes to England, Scotland and Ireland. I was very happy that the audio version includes this section of the novel. 

But how close actually is it? While the novel is a deeply human book, examining the deep tragedy of one man's mistake and his journey into regret and possible redemption, Big Finish have changed the character of Victor Frankenstein into someone quite unlikeable. This however, takes nothing away from the brilliant performance of Arthur Darvill as Victor. 

The relationship between Victor, Elizabeth and Justine has been completely changed for this version and I can't say that I personally like it. While the novel induces a level of sympathy towards Victor in the reader, the audio version casts him as a repulsive and arrogant character whom I kept finding myself wanting to slap. His treatment of both Elizabeth and Justine is deplorable and not in line with the novel at all. 

I don't have an issue with this change in character, but I'm unsure about Big Finish's claim that the story is very close to the novel. It isn't that close. 

Nicholas Briggs' portrayal as the creature is incredibly good. He's up there with Robert de Nero as my favourite version of the creature. However, does the image on the cover of this set really convey the horror expressed by characters within the play? Once again, the novel is ambiguous as to what the creature looks like, but in all honesty, the image on the cover is not as terrifying as I think it could be. 

The scenes between the creature and De Lacey, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Beavers are beautiful. Until, that is, some more characters are given some downright detestable motives that tack in the complete opposite direction to the novel. To say I was shocked by the "cottagers" scenes would be an understatement. 

And speaking of Geoffrey Beavers, his main role as Alphonse Frankenstein is an example of perfect casting. His voice drips like honey into the ears and his final scenes are incredibly beautiful but immensely tragic. 

While the parts of the story set in Scotland and Ireland are there, they don't have the same feel as the novel to me. 

One of the most horrific parts of the story for me is the murder of Clerval in Ireland. Man! That was intense! But, this is a horror story after all.  

So for me, this version doesn't appear to be as faithful to the novel as it claims, but it's still a mighty fine production and a worthy addition to the Frankenstein stable of adaptations. 

Buy Frankenstein directly from the Big Finish website


Dwayne Bunney

Thursday, October 29, 2020

REVIEW | Torchwood: The Three Monkeys by James Goss

Big Finish have tried larger scale Torchwood audio drama, but it's here in the smaller cast plays that it seems to shine. Characters get their moment much more than they ever would if the whole Torchwood team and a large guest cast were featured.

That's part of what makes this month's Torchwood: The Three Monkeys, so special. 

Tom Price and Burn Gorman seem to be having a ball reprising their roles. Lockdown and remote recording has in no way dampened their enthusiasm for the job.

But despite the humour and good rapport between the characters, we still have the dark tragedy of Owen's "living death". We also learn of a massive tragedy within Andy's family.

Writer James Goss handles the human story, the comedy of the "No Activity" style car setting and the ensuing action very well as is common with his writing.

Combined with Lee Binding's very creepy cover art and Scott Handcock's reliable direction, The Three Monkeys is a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Torchwood monthly range.

Buy Torchwood: The Three Monkeys directly from the Big Finish website.


Dwayne Bunney

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

REVIEW | Doctor Who: Daughter of the Gods by David K. Barnes

With so much output from Big Finish to keep up with, it may be easy to overlook some of the little gems that exist.

Take for instance, Daughter of the Gods by David K. Barnes, a first and second Doctor story featuring Jamie and Zoe, as well as Steven Taylor, and revolving around a companion with only a single tv episode plus a clip as a visual reference, Katarina.  

Most of us will know the story of Katarina's demise in The Daleks' Masterplan and credit must go to the "ideas man" of Big Finish, David Richardson, for the basis of this beautiful yet heartbreaking story. 

Creating a multi-Doctor story for an era that we didn't know much about the Doctor could be difficult, but Barnes has done a sensitive job in telling this tale, not only to keep within existing continuity, but he makes the sci-fi and timey-whimey concepts within it easy to understand. 

One of the most popular of the early adventures is "The Dalek Invasion of Winter" also penned by the same author. Barnes has a good handle on the era and it's little wonder he was asked to write this one. 

Each episode of Daughter of the Gods keeps you wondering what will happen next, with a new revelation to be uncovered and explored after each cliffhanger. 

Peter Purves and Fraser Hines are superb as always in their dual roles of both companion and Doctor, taking the listener right back to that era with ease. 

The casting of Ajjaz Awad as Katarina is a masterstroke. Together she and Purves create a relationship between Doctor and companion that would have been a pleasure to see back in the 60's, showing just how warm the first Doctor could truly be. 

This is not just for fans of the audios. I would recommend anyone who is a fan of the 60's era of Doctor Who take a listen to this. 

You will not be disappointed. 

Purchase Doctor Who: Daughter of the Gods directly from the Big Finish website on CD or download. 


Dwayne Bunney

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Review: The Sixth Doctor and Peri - Volume One

Commissioned to celebrate Big Finish’s 20th Anniversary, this set has taken almost two years to be released since recording. It was well worth the wait. 

The Box set format, with four 50 minutes stories, has worked really well for good old Sixie. The stories rocket along at a frenetic pace but manage to throw in a number of unexpected twists and turns along the way. High adventure and low humour abound in the stories and the relationship between the Doctor and the older Peri, now several years after her ordeal on Thorus Beta, works beautifully. This is the TARDIS team the TV show couldn’t get right but once again Big Finish shows how it should be done.

The four authors have all found the voice of the leads perfectly. It is great having Jacqueline Rayner writing a new story, as she always manages to find the heart of a subject and her take on the power of social media with the second story “Like” manages to both make you laugh and yet see the very real danger of a society that only acts by likes and not what is right. She manages to hold a mirror up to society without being preachy. 

The other standout story for me was “Conflict Theory”. The Freudian puns and psychology jokes come thick and fast and writer Nev Fountain, actress Nicola Bryant’s real life partner, spoils Peri with witty dialogue and some great action. 

 Four great stories. Here’s hoping that there are many more boxsets like this to come.

Grab a copy of The Sixth Doctor And Peri: Volume One directly from the Big Finish website.

Philip Edney