Big Finish review-The Tenth Doctor Adventures:Technophobia

For the past year Big Finish has released a number of audios connected to the modern series of Doctor Who, with the likes of Torchwood, The Churchill years , The War Doctor and The diaries of River Song. However, this is probably the most highly anticipated audio of 2016. Not only does it see the return of the extremely popular David Tennant, as the Tenth Doctor. It sees the return of fan favourite Catherine Tate, as Donna Noble. It also marks the first time Big Finish have been allowed to use a Doctor from ‘Nu-Who’.

Technophobia by Matt Fitton

It’s 2010 and The Doctor and Donna are in London to visit the Technology Museum. Things don’t go to plan and the TARDIS duo quickly find themselves in the thick of it.

Exhibits are attacking visitors, and  people across London are running scared of technology. The most brilliant mind in the UK, can no longer work a pencil. Below the streets of London, the Koggnossenti are plotting and waiting, poised to attack.

Long-time Big Finish writer, Matt Fitton has done it again. This is another outstanding audio from him. It must have been a daunting prospect, to pen the first new story for Tennant and Tate, and he bought his A-game.

Of the three, this is the most remiescent of the Russell T Davies era. Technophobia has the essence, wit, style and emotional substance of Series 4. But rather than try to sound like an episode from that era, Big Finish have found a way to take everything that worked in 2008 and craft it into their own vision.

Fitton also manages to subvert the “technology going wrong” genre. You think the story is going one way, when it goes an unexpected route. This has engaging supporting characters, witty dialogue and a captivating story. Fitton perfectly manages to capture the relationship between the Doctor and Donna.

Review:Torchwood-Zone 10 

One of the many things Big Finish excel at, is exploring characters that were some what underserved on the original show. In my mind, Toshiko Sato was one such character. She was my favourite, but I always felt there was more to tell. Luckily, Big Finish have given her a solo adventure with ‘Zone 10’. She’s free from the Hub and more importantly, the rest of the team.

Toshiko has been investigating a strange phenomenon, known as “The Pulse”. The pulse is a radio signal that has stumped scientists for over four decades. The Russians blame the Americans, the Americans blame the Russians. But up until now, nobody has been able to decipher it.

The pulse leads Tosh to Russia, where she teams up with Maxim Ivanov (Krystian Godlewski) of the KVI, Russia’s version of Torchwood. Together they enter the restricted region ‘Zone 10’.

This is an excellently written drama, David Llewyn has managed to further explore Toshiko, without undermining the way she was portrayed on TV.  It’s a bleak, but powerful and gripping drama. Full of gut-wrenching emotional moments.

The performances and direction and strong, the soundscape is amazing. Naoko Mori is clearly having a blast being back in Toshiko’s shoes, it’s like she has never been away.

Doctor Who: The Churchill Years

Reprising his performances during Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who, Ian McNiece is back as Winston Churchill. Big Finish’s new box set departs from their well-honed format of unmediated aural adventures, with McNiece narrating as well as performing in each episode. The narration does cover a few bits that I felt it shouldn’t, notably an action sequence in the first story and the introduction of a famous historical figure in the third. I mention this to balance what I think has been a refreshing experience and a success overall.

Churchill’s narration includes recounting the words and actions of the first three new series Doctors. This has the brilliant effect of bringing the Christopher Eccleston Doctor to Big Finish, complete with the Ninth Doctor signature tune. As The Doctor changes, the title music changes. Across the stories one can spot the different speech patterns of each Doctor, even as related (and occasionally imitated) by McNiece.

There’s still plenty of full-cast audio action aboard, moved along nicely by the ‘companions’ of Churchill. As his new secretary, Hetty Warner (Emily Atack) leads many scenes apart from Winston and works well with both her employer and The Doctor. Kazran Sardick (Danny Horn) returns from Dr Who’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and provides good contrast to the 20th century way in which Churchill reacts to being dropped into Roman Britain. In the final piece, another supporting artist from a Matt Smith Christmas special returns, Holly Earl As Lily Arwell. She looks after Winston at a particularly action-packed point in his twilight years.

The first story is the most conventional, with an alien object dropped into wartime Britain. The second shatters that mould as we find Churchill’s Black Dog – his controversial mental issues – woven into the story. In the third, Winston lives amid the subjects of his own historical books and the statesman’s fascination for butterflies is rolled rather surprisingly into the fourth adventure. Additionally, there’s a nice bit of Nick Briggs’ Dalek voice work in this set.

Doctor Who: The Churchill Years brought a delightful, fictionalised Sir Winston into my home over a couple of winter evenings. So pleasant was it that I might just sit down with Churchill’s own writing for just a bit more time with this true-life legend from long ago.

Review-Torchwood:Uncanny valley 

The tale of artificial intelligence is a stablemate of science fiction, but this is the first time the subject matter has been handled so maturely.

The adventure kicks of with Jack unexpectedly arriving at the home of reclusive billionaire/entrepreneur-celebrity, Neil Redmond.

Dubious of Jack’s intention, Richmond distrusts him until the good Captain drops some impossible knowledge. The duo then talk about the events that brought them both to the remote Welsh castle.

Richmond found himself wheelchair bound after being involved in a horrific car crash. A mysterious woman then persuaded him to purchase a company that make “living dolls”. He was then gifted an avatar of himself, which he christened NJ-which would appear at press conferences on his behalf.

Writer David Llewellyn proves again that he can handle Torchwood. this is a mature think piece with non-gratuitous adult moments. In other words, this is Torchwood at its best. It’s quintessential listening.

John Barrowman slips back into Captain Jack’s RAF Greatcoat with ease, he knows this character inside and out. He could do this in his sleep. Special mention must go to Steven Cree (Outlander). He is entirely convincing in his dual roles as Neil and NJ.

I’ve enjoyed each of the Torchwood audios, for different reasons. Each one has scratched a different sort of itch. If you haven’t tried a Big Finish audio before, I recommend jumping on board with this range.

Price: £9.18
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Review-Jago & Litefoot & Strax-The Haunting

Earlier this year Big Finish obtained the rights to use Nu-Who characters. Which means we will soon see classic Doctors battle new monsters, the Fifth Doctor will meet the weeping Angels, the Eighth Doctor will have an adventure with River Song etc.

Fans have long speculated that Jago and Litefoot could conceivably run into the Paternoster Gang. And given the similar nature of their work, it is a lovely thought that the former associates of the Doctor would cross paths. I’m still waiting for a Torchwood/Unit cross over.

We join Jago and Litefoot as they investigate a spate of murders, where the victims brains have been removed. Meanwhile Strax is on the trail of an alien power source, which leads him to the Red Tavern.

The plot is fairly basic and echoes a lot of the Jago and Litefoot range. But what it lacks in plot, it makes up for with fun; a lot of comedy stems form  Strax’s misunderstanding of human gender and Victorian equate, which puts him at odds with gentleman investigators Jago and Litefoot.

The cast are strong and the direction is flawless. This is an enjoyable listen, that will please fans of the Paternoster gang as well as fans of Jago and Litefoot.

Audio review:Criss-Cross

Pete and I had a chat about Doctor Who: Criss Cross, by Big Finish.

Martyn: With over 16 years of audio adventures, the biggest problem with the Doctor Who range used to be ‘where do you start?’

Pete: In a way, everyone jumps into Doctor Who in the middle; there’s a certain joy to discovering the world we’re dropped into, in our own order.

M: It can still seem daunting for new listeners to climb on board the Big Finish train. Recently they’ve decided to play down the continuity of the first 200 and provide a fresh jumping on point for new listeners. The first three focused on the Seventh Doctor and Mel.

P: Return of the Sontarans was really fun; I liked your review.

M: Criss-Cross kicks off a brand new trilogy for the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke. In a very time-wimey way, we met her in The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure.

P: The extras for that mention how Colin Baker needed some convincing to sign his character’s death warrant. But he needn’t have worried; it just left me wanting more. It must have helped him, though, to have a glimpse of the future in there.

M: Written by Matt Fitton, Criss-Cross tells the story of the ‘Wrens’ working at the Bletchley Park codebreaking facility in World War II. They start out dealing with and becoming suspicious of the eccentric ‘Doctor John Smith.’

P: This is super timely, too. There’s a new book by Tessa Dunlop about the women of Bletchley Park, BBC2 have just done a doco on somebody besides Alan Turing and of course there’s the Imitation Game film with Cumberbatch.

M: This one’s a gripping war-time story – suspicion and espionage, with hints of sci-fi thrown in. The characters are spies, double agents, Nazis and code-breakers. Matt Fitton manages to perfectly encapsulate the horrendous situations people in war often found themselves. The period feels authentic and Constance Clarke is very much of her time.

P: They’ve given her an absent husband like Emma Peel had, but perhaps not like that; we’ll see. Mrs Clarke is both a foil and an asset, which is really good for ‘old sixie.’ Miranda Raison pitches it just right; I remember her from Wreck of the Titan. I’m also hoping to see her in A Winter’s Tale, a new live HD theatre project Kenneth Branagh is doing.

M: Colin is at the top of his game here, the chemistry with Miranda Raison is impeccable, it’s up there with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, or Ten and Donna.

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures

The natural impulse for genre fans granted new material, before they’ve even enjoyed it, is to put it on the shelf. Its ability to ‘fit in’ seems so important at first but why would we want exactly what we have? What we get with these Third Doctor Adventures isn’t a lonely replay of a dusty videocassette. It’s the fresh sound of a graduate Doctor.

From Peter Davison to David Tennant we’ve seen our favourite performers return in victory laps on audio that have become regular gigs. The actors don’t sound quite like they did on telly but before long the wonder of the experience takes over. Suddenly we’re not reliving the past; we’re experiencing a special sort of future.

The occasional sibilant ‘s’ of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, the easy confidence, that delightful vocal texture, they’re all there but so is Tim Treloar. The Welsh actor has certainly taken on the southeast England style of Jon Pertwee but most importantly, he’s gone beyond the skill of the impressionist to give us a character that fits right in with the remarkable animal that is this 21st century return to the Pertwee years.

Alongside are Katy Manning as Jo Grant and Richard Frankin as Mike Yates. Having been delighted with their performances as Iris Wildthyme and the retired Captain Yates, it was lovely to hear them cast their voices back a few decades into the characters that made them famous. Of course, we’re getting a graduate Classic Jo and a graduate Classic Yates but this should be no surprise (or worry) to regular listeners to Big Finish audio drama.

Before long, The Doctor is disturbing the room as he upbraids a bureaucrat, Jo is making battle armour out of her faith in him and Yates is, well, getting chances to be more heroic than ever. Big Finish is generous like that. And the gap in the shelf behind me is forgotten completely.

Having dropped five paragraphs on why things shouldn’t slavishly imitate our best loved Pertwee adventures, I must mention that the music is absolutely spot on. Prisoners of the Lake has the musical style of The Sea Devils but with a very welcome melodic quality and Havoc of Empires has a Dudley Simpson style with friendly tones evocative of the Third Doctor’s first serial on TV.

The only true oddity is the narration sprinkled throughout the stories which might have been Big Finish treading carefully, couching Treloar as both narrator and Doctor. They needn’t have bothered but certain action sequences play quite well narrated, whereas in dialogue the characters would have had to illustrate the action for us in odd sorts of ways.

Big Finish know well each era of classic Doctor Who and their output is forward-thinking, waxing creative and progressive in precisely the areas of the old series that we’d like expanded or redressed. The Third Doctor Adventures continue this trend. Roll on, Doctor Treloar!

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures at Big Finish

Check out our other Big Finish reviews.

Review-Big Finish: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 

Following their successful adaptations of genre classics such as Dorian Gray and Frankenstein, Big Finish have now produced an audio adventure based Frank Baum’s The World of Oz.

After a tornado hits her home in Kansas, Dorothy and her dog Toto find themselves in the magical Land of Oz.

The house sets down in Munchkin land and accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East, by landing on her.

Dorothy and Toto then embark on an epic journey to find the only person who can help them return home, the legendary Wizard of Oz.
They quickly make friends with a brainless Scarecrow, a heartless Tin Man and cowardly Lion. Realising they all want to see the Wizard, the group travel together.

Sadly for Dorothy, The Wicked Witch of the West is seeking revenge for the death of her sister.

Frank Baum’s original novel differs greatly from the 1939 MGM musical and, adaptations of either tend to go two ways, they’re either very faithful, or they try to be edgy and new. Marc Platt has opted to faithfully adapted L. Frank Baum’s original novel.

The performances are all top-notch, Ally Doman shines as Dorothy, as do Stuart Milligan as Oz, Rachel Atkins as The Wicked Witch of the West, and Big Finish regular, Dan Starkey as the Monkey Captain.

Oz purists will love this.

Big Finish review-The Yes Men

The Yes Men is the first in a new four part series of full cast audio stories called ‘Early Adventures’. These adventures are focusing on the second Doctor and his various different companions.

Fan favourite Frazer Hines reprises his role as Jamie and also plays The Second Doctor. Anneke Wills acts as narrator as well as reprises her role as Polly.
As Michael Craze sadly passed away in the late nineties, the role of Ben Jackson has been recast with Elliot Chapman.

The story starts with the Doctor wanting to visit his old friend Meg Carvossa, on the Earth colony of New Houston. Shortly after arriving, team TARDIS find that Meg has died in a mysterious way. That’s not the only problem, the helper robots have started acting a bit shifty.

What follows is a suspenseful tale of suspicion and death.

I know a lot of hardcore fans are unhappy with the recasting of pivotal roles, I am not one of them. I want Early era Big Finish stories and this is the only way we’re going to get them.

Elliot Chapman is phenomenal as Ben. It’s as if Michael Craze never left us, Chapman plays the role with the upmost respect for Craze, yet he also manages to make the role his own. The result is mesmerising.
I’m a huge fan of Frazer Hines, so I hate to type this. But, I don’t rate his turn as The Second Doctor. He can do a really decent impression of Patrick Troughton but that doesn’t really work for a 2hr audio play.
Other than that, everything else is up to the high standards we’ve come to expect from Big Finish. The script is solid, the direction is flawless and the music adds to the atmosphere. Stephen Critchlow is excellent as the mono toned Yes Men.

I look forward to hearing what the next set of Early Adventures brings us, but I’m especially intrigued to see what Elliot Chapman does with Ben Jackson.

Episode 143:Torchwood-The Conspiracy 

In which Martyn and Gerrod review the first of the new Torchwood range, by Big Finish.

*The review contains mild spoilers*

Captain Jack Harkness has always had his suspicions about the Committee. And now Wilson is also talking about the Committee. Apparently the world really is under the control of alien lizards. That’s what Wilson says. People have died, disasters have been staged, the suspicious have disappeared.

It’s outrageous.

Only Jack knows that Wilson is right. The Committee has arrived.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Next episode includes interviews with Verne Troyer, Ray Panthanki and Adeel Akhtar.

The podcast can be accessed via different places, including Audioboom, Player fm and Itunes.

Follow the Bad Wilf team:

Martyn – @BadWilf

Pete – @BeeblePete

Gerrod – @gerrod_edward

Also check out the official Bad Wilf Vlog.

Price: £9.18
Was: £9.99