Review By jolyon 11/23/14 4:47 am
There is something fun about coming to The Crimes of Thomas Brewster with the benefit of hindsight. The story is packed with companions. This is Evelyn's first trilogy. This is the Doctor meeting Menzies out of sequence. This is our first encounter with Philippa. This is the return of fifth Doctor companion Thomas Brewster. And just when you think it can't get any busier, David Troughton pops up. The listener is awash with familiar voices.
The story is as much fun as the cast, with plenty of mistaken identity and wondering who knows what about whom. The villains are deliciously sensible, the plan has dastardly consequences for humanity and goodness, the last episode may have you gasping a couple of times before the closing theme comes in.
The sixth Doctor now has lots of friends, is at home in contemporary London and shows what he can be like given storylines that offer some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. Worth coming back to again.
Review By jolyon 9/13/14 3:19 am
My spoiler-free warning to you is not to rate this story until you have listened to the whole box, as this story improves with the context that is provided later.
I am not persuaded that you need to have heard Robophobia to get to grips with the character Liv Chenka. Nicola Walker is an extraordinary actress, one of the best in the business at the moment, and to find her stepping into a companion role in Doctor Who is wonderful for Big Finish and for Paul McGann's Doctor.
A straightforward story of rebels trying to defeat the Daleks, with support from the Doctor, whilst he considers whether the human cost is worth the price of winning the day. I make is sound fairly bland; it isn't. McGann and Walker bring something so very special to the last ten minutes of this play.
So really, listen to the whole box, then come back to this one again. It will be worth it.
Review By jolyon 9/13/14 2:32 am
Fans of the first Doctor, be prepared for Carole Ann Ford's Susan being put through some harrowing scenes. She may have proved herself capable of the emotional work during the eighth Doctor's fourth series, but this is young Susan faced with a number of unpleasant situations. It all comes about because Smith creates a backstory for the Voord that turns them into a villain you would welcome back time and again. Although there is reference to The Keys of Marinus, you certainly don't need to have seen it to follow what is going on here.
William Russell is as reliable as ever turning in performances as both Ian and the Doctor, but this release is enhanced by having the larger supporting cast, turning it into a full cast play with added narration. The narration works well, switching between Ford and Russell regularly and more of Barbara's involvement is through narration, rather than Ford's performance. In particular, the story benefits from the narration as it reaches the end of part four, making the final confrontations all the more exciting.
Once again Big Finish have introduced a range that I never knew I wanted. With this amount of care taken, this should be a welcome addition to both the regular fans and those coming to the first Doctor for the first time. More in this style, please.
Review By jolyon 7/9/14 1:22 pm
In theory, this adventure should work well. It has a strong cast that put in good performances. I wonder if Geoffrey Beevers draws attention to the problem with this story in his interview on the extras. He comments that there have been times where writers have given the Master really interesting things to do, in 'Master' and in 'Mastermind'. This story is more standard storytelling - which is great, but it's not going to get 10/10. I may have missed the explanation as to how the Master came up with this completely bonkers plan in the first place. Frankly, his plan here is so mad, it is up there with some of the Anthony Ainley incarnation plots, which is a plus in my book!
Louise Jameson gets some moving material to play with again. She delivers the goods, as you would expect, but there is something that left me feeling cold come the conclusion - it wouldn't be fair to say that it's the fourth Doctor himself, but knowing that I love both the Master and Leela in this story, my mild indifference may be towards Tom Baker's performance.
Certainly a release I will want to reassess in the future. I also look forward to seeing others review this, to see if they can put their finger on where this doesn't seem to work.
Review By jolyon 6/8/14 10:31 am
Judges opens with a pre-credit sequence that fans of the TV series have been waiting for: Greg, Jenny and Abby are back. In just a few sentences the relationships are clearly established and as the episode progresses it is simple to work out where in the first series this is set. The story has parallels with a number of the television episodes that look at how you police a community that has no law.
In my eyes, the strongest episodes of the TV series are those that look at how we would deal with death in a society that has just seen so much life lost. I thought that 'Exodus' touched on this in a hard fashion, but in 'Judges' shots are fired in anger, the body count continues to grow and not all of my favourite characters make it safely to the end credits - this is so very Terry Nation. Everybody is given a clear motive for behaving in the way that they do - Adrian Lukis plays a blinder as James Gillison. Once again, the listener is drained, but must know what happens next...
Review By jolyon 6/7/14 7:12 am
Straight gritty adult drama. Voices you may love in other ranges are given devastating material to perform. The cast give this everything. Louise Jameson and Terry Molloy both offer opportunities to shed a tear before bedtime. No spoilers here, just a note to say that the production team have a lot of respect for the original series, as you would expect from Big Finish. Nothing about this provides comfortable listening, but I want to carry on with it, and I want to hear more. I just wouldn't want to think about the choices they have to make, or what I would do in their position.
The interview extras also provide some beautiful supporting comment. A mature release.
Review By jolyon 5/31/14 3:09 pm
It's funny how the order you listen to these adventures can have an impact on how you assess them. Only yesterday I was reviewing 'Survival of the Fittest' with a plot made possible by highlighting the importance of the TARDIS to make communication with aliens possible. What was once a 'Time Lord gift' is crucial to this story as well, but used in a very different but equally clever way to forward the plot. The conceit of the Criminal Code provides enough material to get to the midpoint, allowing for an action-packed second episode.
Lisa Bowerman is great as Bernice and she is given a good story to tell. The framing device for telling the story works perfectly.
Review By jolyon 5/31/14 3:24 am
Goodness me this little three-parter is something very special.
We have a Doctor and Klein who have travelled far and wide, allowing her to have mellowed. The tensions become a grudging respect as she finds that she learns from him. Then we have the TARDIS, a focus for Klein's interest and central to this production as the device that allows the humans to communicate with the aliens. We have the aliens, like bees in a hive, communicating by scent, with a capacity to engage with what they see in total honesty but an instinct that kicks in when the fear and anger become too much. We have the humans, a sort of Glitz and Dibber, who bring humour, humanity and dishonesty into the mix.
Klein's journey here is glorious. From mellow time traveller, she learns about the insect culture, becomes our viewpoint character against the humans and we support her, even though she delights in being able to play the authority figure again. But, like the insects, when it all becomes too much - the anger of having been manipulated by the Doctor again - her instinct kicks in and she is as base as the warriors of the hive.
If you can be moved by the death of a butterfly, horrified by the impact humanity can have on a hive, intrigued by a fresh take on what insects might say if they could speak to us, and delighted by a tidy calm performance from Sylvester McCoy, this is the story for you. Incredible world-building.
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