Reprising his performances during Matt Smith’s era of Doctor Who, IanMc Niece 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.
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.
Following the success of Big Finish’s dramatisation of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, writer Jonathan Barnes (The Somnambulist, The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes) and producer/director Scott Handcock (The Confessions of Dorian Gray) have reunited to bring another classic gothic horror to life on audio.
Mark Gatiss will star as Count Dracula, in a brand new full-cast dramatisation of famous Bram Stoker creation.
“It’s a part I’ve always wanted to play, I’ve been rehearsing for forty-eight years. You may be able to tell that in the relish and bloodied glee in which I approach this role!”
Scott Handcock added:
We started talking about tackling Dracula not long after finishing work on Frankenstein and I always knew I wanted Mark to be my Count. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint. From the instant the project was mooted, through to recording and beyond, he’s been nothing short of incredibly enthusiastic. He has such a distinctive voice, and brings a real sense of dread and brooding menace to proceedings.
Mark Gatiss is well-known horror aficionado, whom hosted the brilliant ‘A History of horror’ series, for the BBC. He brought touches of his passion in to projects such as The Leauge of gentleman, Sherlock and of course his work on Doctor Who, both the main show and Big Finish.
Joining Mark Gatiss for this production are Deirdre Mullins (Man Down, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and Joseph Kloska (Pete Versus Life) as Mina and Jonathan Harker; Nigel Betts (You, Me & Them, Boy Meets Girl) as Abraham Van Helsing; Rupert Young (Merlin, The White Queen) as John Seward; and David Menkin (Zero Dark Thirty, Thunderbirds Are Go) as Quincey P. Morris.
Also lending their vocal talents are Alex Jordan as Arthur Holmwood; Rosanna Miles as Lucy Westenra; Ian Hallard as Renfield; Elizabeth Morton as Mary Westenra; Edward Petherbridge as Mr Swales; and Katy Manning as Sister Agatha.
Dracula will be released in May 2016 – 119 years after the story’s original publication – spanning three hours on three CDs, with a bonus fourth CD comprising interviews with the cast and crew, plus a suite of James Dunlop’s score for the production. The four-disc set is available to pre-order now at a discounted price of £20 (CD) or £15 (download).
I can’t wait.
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.
The wonderful wizard of Oz, can be putshased via Amazon.
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.
In which Martyn and Gerrod review the first of the new Torchwood range, by Big Finish.
*The review contains mild spoilers*
Next episode includes interviews with Verne Troyer, Ray Panthanki and Adeel Akhtar.
The podcast can be accessed via different places, including Audioboom, Tunein, Miro, Stiticher, Blubrry, Player fm and Itunes.
Martyn – @BadWilf
Gerrod – @Nerdthro_P
Pete – @BeeblePete
Terror of the Sontarans concludes the trilogy of main range stories for the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford).
The adventure takes place on a mining facility, which is now acting as a Sontaran research base. The Doctor and Mel are responding to a distress beacon and have arrived to find the base seemingly empty. Deep down in the depths of the facility, they stumble across the original crew, whom are being held prisoner.
Something is picking the crew off one-by-one and even the Sontarans are running scared.
I’ll admit, I am one of the Doctor Who fans that doesn’t like how the Sontarans have been handled on the TV series recently. But, with this the writers have found an intriguing balance between the seriousness of the classic Sontarans and the silliness of modern Sontarans and the end result is a perfect blend of the two ideologies.
Bonnie Langford and Sylvester McCoy are flawless here, they sound exactly the same as they did in the 80’s, at times it’s as if they’ve just finished recording an episode for the BBC and entered the recording booth for Big Finish.
Langford really suffered on the TV series, but Big Finish have given her some solid material, that really allows her to shine. She is fast becoming my favourite Big Finish companion.
The direction is also spot-on, by the ever-reliable Ken Bentley.
Big Finish have been consistently good this year, I can’t wait for 2016.
Torchwood returns on audio form today and, Big Finish are ready. To celebrate the release of Torchwood: The Conspiracy they’ve released the new theme on soundcloud.
The man behind the new theme is BAFTA-nominated composer, Blair Mowat.
Blair recently worked with Murray Gold on shows such as Doctor Who and Life Story, and also composed the opening theme for The Doctor Who Fan Show.
“I’ve always been a fan of Torchwood and have been a fan of Doctor Who from before I could even speak. So I know this world very well. I was also delighted to be asked to do a new arrangement of the theme. I spoke with Murray to make sure I was very reverential to his brilliant original, whilst being sure to give it my own twist. The incidental music is also very much in the tonal world of Torchwood that Murray and Ben created together, whilst still allowing room for us to explore new musical ideas and motifs. So expect chugga chugga strings, reversed effects and guitars aplenty. Oh and that biddle biddle thing, or is it takka takka? Anyway that Torchwood noise…don’t worry it’s in there!”
Producer James Goss said:
“We’re so lucky to have Blair. He’s incredibly, unbelievably busy, but has approached the whole project with such enthusiasm. He’s assembled both a tribute act to the original series and a score that’s properly exciting in its own right. The results are something really special.”
I love it, it’s reminiscent and respectful to the original Murray Gold theme, yet completely new and fresh.