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

A Welcome Return to the Ninth Doctor's Adventures

In one of the most anticipated releases of the year, Christopher Eccleston returns to Doctor Who in the role that brought the ongoing story to the small screen back in 2005. 

And boy, what a welcome distraction this is, considering the current climate in fandom right now. 

Speculation was rife when it was first announced as to when this might be set in the Ninth Doctor's timeline. Would it be set before Rose? Would Billie Piper be returning as well? 

It became known early on that Rose would not be featured in the set. So now, with the release of Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Ravagers, we enter a whole new era of unexplored Ninth Doctor stories, under the pen of Big Finish's Creative Director, Nicholas Briggs. 

There are three stories in the set and it features new companion Nova (Camilla Beeput) and mystery character Audrey (Jayne McKenna). 

On returning to the role, Christopher Eccelston said, “I've really enjoyed playing the Doctor again. As I've always said, he was always a joy to play. Somebody with that amount of optimism, enthusiasm and brains and heart – two hearts! It's not something you get to do often.” 

On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails...

Now, the Doctor must fight back to discover what could have caused everything to go so badly wrong. His journey takes him via Piccadilly Circus in 1959, Belgium 1815 and far flung future worlds where machine intelligences regard sentient life as mere biofuel.

Where does the mysterious old-timer Audrey fit in? Is the alien beverage Charganzi safe to drink? And is there really anything the Doctor can do to stop the entire universe from being devoured?

The cast is completed by Jamie Parker (1917, Valkyrie), Dan Starkey (The Paternoster Gang, Jago & Litefoot & Strax), Anjella Mackintosh (The Eleven, Timeslip), Ben Lee (Holmes & Watson), and Clare Corbett (Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter).

Producer David Richardson said: “To think, sixteen years ago the Ninth Doctor reached out, grabbed Rose Tyler by the hand and told her to run off into new adventures. And now he’s back, grabbing us all by the hand and leading us off to whole new worlds, new friends and new foes. It’s Saturday teatime 2005 all over again… and it’s wonderful to have him back.”

Doctor Who: The Ravagers is available now from

57. PAUL SPRAGG - His First Interview

In this special episode, Dwayne shares the recording of an interview he conducted with the late Paul Spragg in London on 7th April 2011. 

*DISCLAIMER While mention is made of "The Paul Spragg Short Trip Opportunity" during this podcast, as at the time of publication, it has not been officially announced by Big Finish for 2021.

Music: In A Big Country by December


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, May 6, 2021

Details Revealed | The Eleven and the Sixth Doctor Set To Collide

Six versus Eleven!

Story and cast details are today revealed for this one-off series, in which the Doctor is pushed to his very limits when facing off against one of his own kind. 

The scene is set for the ultimate Time Lord showdown, as Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor faces Mark Bonnar’s the Eleven in three brand-new full-cast Doctor Who audio adventures, due for release in September 2021. 

First introduced as an adversary in the Eighth Doctor’s Doom Coalition series, the deranged, murderous Time Lord, the Eleven, retains the personalities of his previous regenerations and uses them to create chaos across galaxies.

As previously announced, Miranda Raison returns as the Doctor’s companion, Mrs Constance Clarke, and Lucy Gaskell makes her Big Finish debut as mutant alien and companion to the Eleven, Miskavel.

Doctor Who – The Sixth Doctor Adventures: The Eleven is available to pre-order now from

The three terrifying tales are as follows:

One for All by Lizzie Hopley

The people of Molaruss are in two minds – quite literally! A world of duo-minds inside single bodies offers a unique opportunity to the Eleven, and his new wife, the mutant alien Miskavel. 

Meanwhile the Doctor and Constance discover a derelict TARDIS, but are they walking into a trap?

The Murder of Oliver Akkron by Nigel Fairs

The Global President of Molaruss has been assassinated. The authorities believe they have the killer in custody – but which of his personalities did the deed? 

The truth will emerge in the recollections of a madman – but there is more than one side to every story…

Elevation by Chris Chapman

Molaruss has a new ruler: the wise and benevolent Eleven - alongside his loving consort Miskavel – his many minds guiding every aspect of successful government. 

But the Eleven has a plan to elevate his people to a new level of consciousness. And he cannot resist inviting the Doctor and Constance to witness his ultimate triumph…

The cast for this box set is completed by Glen McCready (Missy, Callan), Simon Slater (The Bill, Sherlock Holmes), Anjella Mackintosh (The Ninth Doctor Adventures, Counter-Measures), Annabelle Dowler (The Diary of River Song, The Robots), and Big Finish newcomers Luke Barton and Eva Savage. 

Of the Eleven, Colin Baker said: “As a Time Lord, he’s a fascinating character – yes, he’s got one or two nice elevenths, but he’s also got a couple of really unpleasant ones. When the Doctor encounters him, he has to deal with a man who makes other villains look quite calm!”

“Mark Bonnar is terrific, playing eleven characters, sometimes in one scene, all talking to each other and remembering which is which. Actors love that kind of thing. In this box set, everyone is having a great time and it’s been lovely listening to them – they've done it superbly!”

Miranda Raison added: “This was really, really fun – it's a gift for any actor. Mark was amazing, playing such an extraordinary character – I kept on thinking it was somebody else! He'd come in and say something, then come in as somebody else and I'd realise that it was still him.”

“Constance and the Doctor are quite a good foil for each other. They've got quite a similar sensibility but, at the same time, she finds him chaotic. The going-backwards-and-forwards-in-time and the “let’s see how it goes!” attitude is not how her mathematical mind works, and yet they do work well together!”


Duration: 180 minutes approx. 

Released: September 2021, exclusively from the Big Finish website.

Director: Ken Bentley

Producer: David Richardson

Script Editor: Matt Fitton

Written by: Lizzie Hopley, Nigel Fairs, Chris Chapman

Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery

56. SOPHIE ALDRED - "Wicked!"

We are joined by the delightful Sophie Aldred to chat about her career, her time in Doctor Who on TV, her role in fan productions, reprising Ace for Big Finish audios and the recent release of her audiobook version of Doctor Who: At Childhood's End. 

Thanks Sophie, it was a pleasure speaking with you.

We played clips from the following stories:

Doctor Who: The Fearmonger

Doctor Who: Colditz (Guest starring David Tennant)

Doctor Who: Protect and Survive

Doctor Who: Nightshade (Full Cast Novel Adaptation)

Doctor Who: At Childhood's End (Audiobook)

Philip recommends Doctor Who: At Childhood's End (Audiobook)

Dwayne recommends The Lone Centurion Volume 1 (Big Finish Productions)

Dwayne's background artwork by Jeff Goddard

Subscribe to The Sirens of Audio on YouTube

Theme music by The Jackpot Golden Boys



Twitter: @AudioSirens


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