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185. Moonflesh

One wouldn't normally expect to find elephants, gorillas and rhinoceroses roaming free in Suffolk in the year 1911. One wouldn't normally expect to find an extra-dimensional police box at the same time/space location either. Two aliens, named the Doctor and Nyssa, exit said box, only to find themselves pursued by a hungry lioness – for they've landed in the private hunting grounds of the famous e... (more)

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Review By NewWorldreviews 4/15/14 10:58 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
Assassin In The Limelight may have been four years in the waiting back in 2008, but considering that Medicinal Purposes isn't the most well appriciated release ever, it was probably worth the gestating time. And while Assassin In The Limelight won't be winning any awards or topping any favourite Doctor Who story lists, it is still a good listen that's worth a couple of hours to enjoy it. In fact, I'd say it has grown upon me since I first listened to, to the point where I'd called it a good story with a terrific cast and a strongly diverse bunch of characters.

Robert Ross' story has a much stronger focus than Medicinal Purposes (I can't say that much about Pier Pressure, since I haven't heard it), and it allows the characterisation to flourish. Medicinal Purposes moved all over the place, it's twisty plot started to move in different directions as it plowed on in it's final episode. However, this story has a much stronger focus, making sure that it's plot is coherent and strong. It definatly helps the story to feel like it wasn't just made up as Ross was going along. There are some really neat twists, especially the twist as to the real monster involved. Every element that makes up this story is carefully balanced to make it's twists all the more surprising. When you go back and listen to it again, you can hear all the little twists that make up the most intresting parts of the plot, especially considering that some of them are so subtle that you wouldn't notice. Actor slips and subtle uses of sound design make a relisten all the more worthy.

The cast of this one is really strong, especially Leslie Phillips as Knox. I have a feeling that a lot more of Phillips has been put into the role than was in Medicinal Purposes. Here, he's much more of a loveable rogue than a outright villain and that's much more intresting than they way he was played in Medicinal Purposes. The rest of the cast are also brilliant, especially there accents. Big Finish can sometimes slip up with accents (yes Minuet In Hell, I'm looking at you!), but in this story, these accents are excellently performed, with then all being realistic and distinct. You are always aware who is speaking, which, especially in the audio medium, can be of great assistance. However, there not comedy or cheesy either, which is of great value. Barnaby Edwards also makes sure that he gets his cast to perform in a way so the comedy of the piece shines through, but doesn't make the drama or tension any less involving. And final plaudits must go to Martin Montague, who creates a really involving world.

In fact, the only thing that's let this audio down is the admitly rushed ending. But that's one niggle in an audio that may not be the greatest thing in the world, but it's a good listen that may make you chuckle along the way.
Review By NewWorldreviews 4/14/14 11:02 am
3 out of 4 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
The Haunting Of Thomas Brewster was my first Big Finish audio, so considering that I'm still subscribed today to pretty much every Doctor Who range, it must have worked. One thing that immediately makes this release stand out to others in the main range is centring it around one guest character. And while Thomas would become a short-term companion to both The fifth and sixth Doctors, at this point no one knew that. So the novel idea of having the first episode centered around someone other than The Doctor or his companions makes this story stands out as something very different and original.

Jonathan Morris is, in my personal view, one of the greatest Who writers to work outside the television show itself. He has a great handle on the Who format, and knows how to construct a plot with great ideas, convincing characters and stunning twists. Obviously, he helped by the high standards of Big Finish production, so even when his stuff isn't quite as good as it's usually is, there's still something salvageable. But in this case, Morris story is so good that if these elements were off-kilter, it still wouldn't affect the story too much. His plotting is so thorough and complicated, so much so that it almost out Moffs Steven Moffat for his time twisting plot. He manages to keep his plot moving, and the final episode raps up all the plot threads that the story (and particularly episode 1) starts in a nicely satisfactory fashion, which is more difficult than it seems. The plot is complex, but it manages to be self explanatory, so you won't need to have to spend your nights scratching your head trying to figure it out. One problem with this story, however, is that the final episode's solutions can sometimes descend into technobabble. While it's not a major complaint, it's a shame that it's occasionally impossible to figure out what The Doctor and Nyssa are going on about. However, it's only one small complaint that doesn't detract from the story.

The cast in this one are exceptional, especially the much-maligned John Pickard. Certainly his performances have been of a variable quality during his trilogies, but in this inaugural story, there's nothing wrong with his performance. He's pretty much is the main performer in episode 1 and he manages to do what some might struggle with: carry off sections of narrations convincly. And he manages to do so perfectly well. It's intresting to note that Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are kept very much to sidelines, and that's no complaint - keeping them to the sidelines is actually a neat idea to give characters like Brewster and Robert McIntosh the limelight. Both Leslie Ash and Christian Coulson also make good performers, really managing to give the story aural variation and a touch of real class. However, one large complaint I do have is that we never really get a sense of Thomas becoming the new companion. Instead, they drop a red herring with Christian Coulson's character, who has more scenes with Peter than Pickard's does. It's a bit of pity that he snuffs it at the end, as it would have been intresting to revisit his character, considering what happens at the end. However, Brewster's relationship with The Doctor remains at the end of the story rather indistinct, so we won't really know what sort of relationship the pair will have.

In all honesty though, this is one of those audios that is really, really good. The plot is intresting, that characters are well conceived, the direction is really strong and the sound design creates that distinct atmosphere. Apart from the couple of negatives I previously mentioned (and the sometimes inconsistent music), this is a really strong outing for The fifth Doctor/Nyssa/Brewster team.
Review By NewWorldreviews 4/13/14 3:53 pm
2 out of 5 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
Medicinal Purposes is one of those of audios that never seems to get recognition, despite the fact that it has some particularly good elements. It's actually quite an enjoyable little piece, self contained and admitly small scale, but not every story can deal with alien invasions and the destruction of the universe. The atmosphere conjured up by this story gives it it's distinct flavour, and, while yes, it maybe slow going, but the period details and distinct flavour of the story give it it's rustic charm. However, one thing that really does let this story is it's plot. It's trying to do what The Aztecs was doing in 1964, but without the idea that the companion is trying to change history. At times it just seem like a dry rehashing of the facts of what happened, rather than an actual story.

The plot starts out as an intresting mystery that sees a change in history that The Doctor and Evelyn have to fix, but then starts to twist into something more percuilar. I think that Robert Ross would have better cutting the sci-fi elements of the plot, but I suppose that if that had been done, we would have had to loose the wonderful Dr Robert Knox, elegantly played by Leslie Phillips. The twist that he has a TARDIS all of his own is a brave choice, especially considering that inevitable comparisons between Knox and 60's foe The Meddling Monk would have been drawn. However, Leslie Phillips is a wonderful actor, and manages to make the part all his own. In fact, I couldn't imagine another actor playing the part. However, most of these sci-fi ideas just aren't needed, rather it would have been better to present the story as a historical, or at least remove the alien parts of the plot and instead trying to just show Knox messing with history, rather than working for someone else. The second half therefore turns into a tawdry runaround which is just going 'oh no, Mary's going to die!' The fist half was rather more intresting, with a moral debate about the work of Burke and Hare, but the the second half just sufferes from the sci-fi elements of the plot. The idea that the events in Edinburgh have been pre-planned is a rather silly one and the whole second half twists upon itself. The answers that we get just aren't good enough to justify 130 minutes of audio drama.

The cast in this one do bring it up a little more, espcially the aforementioned Leslie Phillips. Some have been critical of David Tennant's performance in the past few years, but frankly it's not actually that bad. It's quite difficult to play characters with a mental disorder, so give Tennant some due. He does, in actual fact, does it quite well, and Glenna Morrison is excellent as his friend, Mary. She does seem quite a tortured character, and Glenna is an excellent actress. Tom Farrelly and Kevin O'Leary make up the classic Burke/Hare duo, and there both admitly the steriotypically Irish thugs that you would expect, but there not really the main characters. There just window dressing for a much grander storyline. Gary Russell doesn't try to do anything exceptional with his direction, neither David Darlington's music and sound design, instead just trying to give us a generally average production. And that's not bad, it's just not very inspiring.

Sadly, this is a story that is let down by it's poor plot rather than any other fault. It meanders too much and never really gives us any strong answers. The rest of the elements are all strong, but without a plot to hold them together, they just fade away into the Scots mist.
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