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3. Excelis Decays

When the Doctor last visited the city of Excelis, its citizens were about to enter an age of enlightenment and reason. But some centuries later, he discovers a vicious totalitarian regime at war with the rest of Artaris, living off the efforts of a drugged and broken underclass.

Who is the mysterious Lord Sutton, and what hold does he have over the ruling classes? What are the Meat... (more)

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Rated 10/10 on 7/20/14 4:29 am
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Latest Reviews

Review By PaulaPenguin 2/19/14 2:48 pm
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.
7
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
I am slightly torn about this release and having listened to Love and War a few times now, I'm still not entirely sure how to rate it. It's certainly different from the usual Big Finish output, which, to an extent, is probably the point of this adaptation.

First of all, I have to admit that I've never read any of the NAs and I didn't know anything about Love and War except that it is the introductory story for Bernice Summerfield. Consequently, I didn't have any preconceptions as to what this adaptation would or should be like, but I'm not entirely convinced this is a good thing in this particular case.

The problem, for me, was that I felt the entire time like I was running in order to catch up with the plot - but never quite getting there. In the end everything more or less falls into place, and I have to say, the story worked a lot better the second and third time I listened to it - Love and War is a release that definitely benefits from a repeat listen. But even now there are some elements I can not entirely grasp or put into place.

The weird thing is, I didn't have any trouble following what was actually happening and who everybody was - in fact, both the plot and the characters are memorable and well-defined. But throughout the adventure I felt like there is something I was missing, something I should already know about, probably from some of the previous novels, and this feeling made for a rather peculiar listening experience.

Maybe it is more detailed in the original, maybe events are slowly unfolding over a longer period of time, I don't know, but one of the main aspects of Love and War, the relationship between Ace and Jan, seems completely implausible here. The way they talk about trusting each other and about wanting to get married after only a couple of days together doesn't ring true at all. I'm not sure how old Ace is suppossed to be at this point in her timeline, but even allowing for teenage infatuation, this is a bit too much for it to be in any way believable. But then Ace is portrayed as fairly immature and shouty throughout the story. Her behaviour might actually be in character for NA-Ace, but if so, I definitely prefer Big Finish-Ace by a very long chalk.

In addition, the terrible kissing sound effects really didn't help to sell the relationship to the listener. Normally I would probably not even notice this, but it's such a pivotal scene and it just sounds completely fake. Apart from this however, the sound design is absolutely superb. The musical cues are beautiful and very effectively help to distinguish between the different realities and memory sequences easily. And Gary Russell gets to show what a brilliant director he is, weaving all the parts together in an expert fashion.

Despite my earlier criticisms however, there is still a lot to like about this release, first and foremost Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield. She really is an outstanding character from the start and she immediately has a great rapport with the Doctor. She is intelligent, independent and fun. She has a strong moral compass and there are already hints to an intriguing personal background. And Lisa Bowerman plays the character perfectly. This probably isn't surprising, given she has been doing this for years now, but she really got me hooked on Benny immediately.

The overall tone and themes are more adult compared to the majority of Big Finish audios. Admittedly, this isn't something I normally go out of my way to look for in a story, but here it worked extremely well and gave an interesting edge to all the supporting characters. Christopher in particular really stands out as a sympathetic and well-rounded personality. But all the others are memorable aswell and everybody in the cast manages to bring this diverse group of people to life beautifully.

Overall I found this story rather enjoyable to listen to. It offers a intriguing glimpse of a slightly different version of Doctor Who and serves as a great introduction to the character of Bernice Summerfield. If Love and War is a typical example of a NA story, I wouldn't be opposed to Big Finish adapting more of those novels.
Review By MTL 7/10/13 2:28 am
2 out of 4 found this review helpful.
5
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
I'm sure that Love and War is a great book but it doesn't translate well to audio. The production itself is as good as any other BF play - a decent plot, interesting characters, fascinating development for the Doctor and Ace, and a fabulous soundscape. However, none of this is allowed to be enjoyed as the story is forced to rush long and compress any drama into as short as space a time as possible. There is this permanant sense that something is missing from the scenes and that I should be more invested than I am.

It's dissapointing because there is a really good audio adpatation in there somewhere but it needs a longer running time. If you drift off for too long, you'll be completely lost. A decent attempt but since this is not their first attempt at adapting the NAs (it is in fact where they started as a company), it is a strangely dissapointing experience. It doesn't work as an audio play in its own right - it's far too rushed and needs to let its ideas and characters develop more. Without reading the novel, at times I felt a bit lost about the itnricate parts of the story such as Ace and Jans relationship.

Saying that, it did make me want to track down the original novel, so definitely not a total waste of time.
Review By PaulaPenguin 3/29/13 10:12 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
10
This is simply hilarious, a highly entertaining and brilliantly executed riff on the film noir genre. There's a wealth of funny commentary, comic one-liners and a number of curious plot twists, so the tale never gets boring or predictable. The Doctor's presence in the story is slightly different from what I would have expected, but somehow it works really well and just adds to the fun of it all. Colin Baker sounds like he's having a whale of a time and Robert Jezek is of course absolutely perfect as Frobisher.
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