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User Rating:
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8
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Reviewed By: TheBigChurroReview Date: 3/27/17 7:08 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

A pretty underrated story in my opinion, a fun run around story with 4 and the Cybermen. Not the greatest Cyber story or even Doctor Who story but it is a fun way to finish season 12 after the grim gem the previous story was :P Only nitpicks I have are the Cybermen act to robotic as opposed to cold logic computers that were human, and some of the vogan stuff was a bit meh, otherwise a enjoyable watch and should not be overlooked :)
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
5
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 3/26/17 3:35 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In Zaltys, the final story of this year's Fifth Doctor trilogy, the TARDIS's flight is interrupted by a powerful psychic attack. With Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) missing, the Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) land on the planet Zaltys, and encounter a group of people searching the planet for resources. But the destruction of the planet is coming soon, and an ancient enemy of the Doctor is behind the destruction. Will the Doctor be able to stop the destruction of Zaltys and defeat his enemies, while ensuring everyone makes it out alive? Zaltys was a rather interesting story; much improved from the previous month's story, it had a strong cast and an interesting, tragic story by Matthew J. Elliott.

Zaltys stars Peter Davison as the fifth incarnation of the Doctor, the often-exasperated, always kind incarnation of the Doctor. Davison is on rare form here in this story; often his companions are the ones who stand out most in these stories, a testament to their characters, but here, Davison outshines all three of his companions. Davison seemed to really enjoy inhabiting the role here in this story, as his acting sounded a bit better than it normally does. I don't know if he just liked the script, or he was excited to be recording with all three members of his original TARDIS crew, but his performance had a little extra oomph to it throughout. His Doctor here is a man caught between a desire to save his companions and a desire to do the right thing; I quite liked how Davison was able to portray the gentleman characteristics of his Doctor in such a calm and reassuring way. He has quite a few scenes where he stands out, but I particularly liked the scene where he was saving Talia's (Carol Sloman) life and casually chatting with the other two Custodians of Zaltys.

The companions take more of a back seat here in this story, with the exception of Janet Fielding's Tegan Jovanka. Tegan is actually a bit grating in this story to start, but she's much improved by the end of the story, especially her final scene. I disliked how her character was insulting Adric quite a bit; it didn't come off as their normal ribbing, but more as Tegan really being kind of cruel towards Adric. But Fielding herself was a delight throughout; I particularly liked her final scene with the crushing realization that Lusca had sacrificed herself to save Tegan and Adric. Matthew Waterhouse as Adric took on more of a supporting role in this story, giving a strong supporting performance to the Custodians of Zaltys, and acting well alongside Sutton in the final third of the story. Sarah Sutton did an alright job as Nyssa, though she was once again stuck with the Doctor and Adric, which is usually not a winning combination, as she tends to blend in with the wallpaper in those situations.

The guest cast was comprised of three main performances; Sean Barrett as Perrault, Niamh Cusack as Clarimonde, and Philip Franks as Gevaudan. All three were uncommonly excellent additions to the cast for this story, and it's hard to pick out who did the best job here. Barrett was excellent as Perrault, the aged leader of the Custodians of Zaltys, a group tasked with protecting the planet from the impending destruction. Perrault was portrayed very well, with a sort of calm, worldly demeanor, making his betrayal of Zaltys to Clarimonde and her vampires all the more surprising. I'll admit that I was convinced that it was Gevaudan who had betrayed the planet up until the fourth part of the story, which is a testament to Barrett's performance here. Cusack was also quite excellent as Clarimonde, leader of the vampires aiming to take over the people of Zaltys. Vampires are often one-dimensional characters; brooding, seductive, and sadistic. Cusack does all this, but managed to really sell the absolute hell out of the sadistic part of her character. You get the impression that Cusack really wanted to be in this role in the story, and no other role. Rounding out the excellent core of the guest cast is Franks' Gevaudan. I quite liked how Franks portrayed Gevaudan, as someone very calm and collected, not really beholden to his past, up until the end, and somewhat odd. His performance set him up to be the villain of the story, and yet, he is revealed to be one of the heroes here. It was a very steady performance, an excellent building block for other actors to shine when acting alongside.

The rest of the guest cast was strong as well. Rebecca Root led the rest of the guest cast with a solid performance as Sable, someone who came to Zaltys looking for any resources the planet may hold, but who's soon caught up in the conflict on Zaltys. Root portrayed Sable as a pretty standard greedy character, but she had an infectious charisma in the role that made her stand out quite a bit, commanding scenes alongside Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan in the final part of the story. Alix Wilton Regan also stared, in a dual role as Lusca, the Amphisbane alien who helped Tegan escape Clarimonde's vampires, and Siobhan, Sable's assistant. Her role as Siobhan was very small, but her role as Lusca was a bit larger, and I quite liked her in that role; her anger towards Sable for threatening Tegan at the very end set up an excellent moment for Fielding moments later, helped by Wilton Regan's strong performance. Rounding out the cast is Carol Sloman, voicing Talia, the third member of the Custodians of Zaltys, and the computer on Zaltys. Both of her roles were rather small, as she was out of action as Talia for much of the story, and the computer was only used once or twice throughout, but she left an impression with her xenophobic role of Talia, especially towards the end of the story.

Matthew J. Elliott's script for this story was the real highlight of the story. Apart from crafting several characters with extremely odd, difficult-to-pronounce names, Elliott created an engaging script, with a fantastic conflict, a smart use of the characters he had, and some really fine character moments throughout. The central conflict of this story is rather simple; a group of people are tasked with saving a planet from impending destruction, only the planet's destruction is a lie, and there is a traitor among this group. What Elliott did to make this story interesting is he introduced an excellent behind-the-scenes villain with the vampires, making the conflict both personal and of a larger scale, simultaneously. The Doctor now has to deal with an ancient enemy of his AND the more immediate concern of a horde of vampires, aiming to take over a planet of frozen aliens. It was smart of Elliott to use the vampires, as it covered for the shortcomings with Perrault's villainy, while introducing a dangerous, competent villain here. I also quite liked how Elliot decided not to try and give each of the TARDIS crew equal time; often these trilogies work best when they focus on one character per story, but Elliott took a different approach and decided that some characters just didn't need the screen time here, and he instead used what he had to great effect. The choice to give the Doctor and Tegan a larger role, while giving Nyssa and Adric a much smaller role, stands in contrast to the previous story, and gives the story more room to breathe. Rather than focusing on five or more different plots, the story is able to focus on two or three intertwined stories to great effect. If I have any criticism of the story, it's that the ending felt rather too neat; Gevaudan was able to stop the vampires very well, while Sable was stopped in a rather gruesome way, and the planet of Zaltys was saved. It felt a little too neat that Gevaudan would be able to use Nyssa's burgeoning psychic powers to defeat all the vampires; I wish there had been more of a struggle here, but it's a minor nitpick.

Overall, Zaltys was an engaging story. The biggest triumph here is writer Matthew J Elliott's choice to focus on the story rather than giving each member of the TARDIS crew an equal part in the story. It allowed the story to just be the story, rather than trying to shoehorn in equal bits of time for Davison, Waterhouse, Sutton, and Fielding. Combined with his strong, interesting script, some well-developed characters, and a series of great performances by the cast, the final story of 2017's Fifth Doctor trilogy was an enjoyable experience. Davison was the highlight of this story, delivering a strong performance, buoyed by the strong writing Elliott gave him, as were the villains of this story. The Fifth Doctor has generally been somewhat inconsistent, quality-wise at Big Finish, but over the last few years, Big Finish has been absolutely knocking it out of the park with his stories; this story continues that trend, with a strong, engaging story, rich, well-developed villains, and several great performances by the guest cast.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
4
Plot Rating:
3
Acting Rating:
5
Replay Rating:
1
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 3/26/17 3:34 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In The Silent Scream, March 2017's Fourth Doctor Adventures release, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) arrive in 1920s Hollywood, to meet a favorite actor of the Doctor's Loretta Waldorf (Pamela Salem). But Loretta is scared for her life, as she has been called to perform in the cursed talkie, Fires of Fate. Silent movie actors have been lined up around the block to film it, but each and every one of them loses their voice when they film it. It's up to the Doctor and Romana to unravel this mystery; but will they fall victim to the Silent Scream as well? The Silent Scream, the first Fourth Doctor Adventures script by writer James Goss, is a thoroughly average affair. The acting was alright throughout, with Tom Baker and guest star Andrée Bernard standing out, and the writing was occasionally clever, but it lacked depth to the story and the rest of the cast, a problem that plagues much of the Fourth Doctor Adventures range.

Tom Baker once again reprises his role as the Fourth Doctor here in this story. Baker is on rare form here, which is no small feat considering much of his role here was him making gurgling noises and the odd single word. But his performance here was delightful; Baker hasn't lost the charm that he had in the role, and age has mellowed the poor qualities he once exhibited in the role. He still inhabits the delightfully alien character with all the charms and obfuscations he had in the 1970s, but with none of the arrogance he had at that time as well. I particularly liked his scene with Andrée Bernard as the Doctor was jokingly filmed by Lulu, as he was able to exhibit all of the excellent qualities of his Doctor there; the ability to be funny and joking around in an enjoyable way, followed by his 180 turn to be deadly serious. Lalla Ward also reprises her role as Romana in this story. While she's great acting the role of Romana that she's played in the Gallifrey series with Big Finish, her performance as Romana alongside the Fourth Doctor is somewhat lacking. While she is still a delightful actor, Ward is missing the warmth and charm of the role she played in S17 and S18, replacing it with haughtiness. Sometimes, that works, such as The Trouble with Drax, where it was used to great comedic effect. But S17 and S18 Romana is often joyous, and is very seldom serious.

The guest cast is led by three major actors. First up is Alec Newman as the villainous Dr. Julius, a surgeon who removes the voices of silent movie stars to "preserve" them for all eternity, in the form of shadow-like creatures. Newman wasn't given the most interesting villainous role on the planet, but he did well with what he was given. I was particularly impressed with his American accent which, while still not perfect, was certainly one of the best Big Finish has had. Pamela Salem also guest starred in this story, in a large role as Loretta Waldorf, a former silent movie star called to do Fires of Fate, the cursed film at the center of the Silent Scream. Salem does a fine job here here as the older actress Loretta Waldorf, though it's not the most interesting performance she's given with Big Finish. Rounding out the main guest cast is Andrée Bernard as Lulu Hammerstein, the owner of Hammerstein studios, who encounters the Doctor throughout the story. Bernard is the highlight of the guest cast, delivering a strong performance alongside Baker, who she shares an excellent chemistry with.

First time Fourth Doctor Adventures writer James Goss delivered a fairly underwhelming script here. I feel like Goss almost had an interesting story going into the second half, but he instead let the story peter out into mediocrity, rather than try to write something a little more challenging, but rewarding. To start with the good, I quite liked the characterization of the Doctor in this story. Goss, having never written for the Fourth Doctor, did a fantastic job capturing the tone of the character well, and really helped to bring out something special in Baker's performance. I also quite liked the concept of his story, and the execution of it was fine, if a little too safe, in my opinion. The idea of a person kidnapping stars to "preserve" them isn't exactly a new concept, but Goss added a little twist in that Dr. Julius was stealing the stars' voices, to preserve them that way. It was an interesting concept, and I found the execution to be enjoyable, if bland. My biggest issue with this story, and really many of the Fourth Doctor Adventures is that Goss wrote this story too safe, by writing it as a Fourth Doctor story first and foremost. This seems silly considering the title of the range, but in the first half, the Doctor loses his voice, which is a part of one of his greatest weapons: his words. I thought the story would shift to Romana discovering the way to stop Dr. Julius with the second half of the story, but instead, it was yet again the Doctor finding a way to be dead clever and save the day by himself. One of my biggest issues with the Fourth Doctor Adventures range is that it is a vehicle for Tom Baker, and Tom Baker alone. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the Doctor doesn't travel alone, and often the writing does the companions a disservice by pushing them to the side. Goss could've made this story about Romana saving the day by saving the Doctor, taking the lead and all that. But instead, Goss played it very safe, and had the Doctor think of something clever to do, and a snappy quip to throw out.

The final thing I'd like to mention is the fantastic cover art for this release. Made by Anthony Lamb, the first thing that pops out at me from the cover is the use of the film strip for story and cast information, which really makes this story feel rather special. I also quite like the bold, Hollywood-poster style cover used here, with the cracked old-timey background; the little lightning bolt-esque cuts in the cover, the discarded film reel below, and the creepy shadow-like creatures all make for a rather striking, interesting cover. Lamb has done some great work this series with the covers for the Fourth Doctor Adventures, designing new, interesting, and bold covers for these stories, and shaking up the rather stale covers used often by Big Finish.

Overall, The Silent Scream is a rather average story. Well acted by Tom Baker and Andrée Bernard, and written enjoyable by James Goss, the story nonetheless had some large issues, that are all to common with the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Lalla Ward still acts very different from the way she acted on television back in the 1970s and 1980s, while the rest of the guest cast was rather boring. And while the writing was perfectly fine, I felt that Goss missed out on a really interesting story idea that could've taken the story in a different, and more exciting direction, but instead, the story fell into the trap of being nothing more than a vehicle for Tom Baker to act in. Still, it had it's moments, and I certainly didn't feel like I wasted my time listening to this story, so I'm happy to call it an average, if disappointing story.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 3/26/17 3:33 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One, Professor George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) is addressed the Club For Curious Scientific Men, about a recent adventure he had alongside his old friend Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin). These events will take the listeners from London to Greece, for a series of disparate events that led to the revitalization of their lives. And along the way, Jago and Litefoot run into the old friend who brought them together... an old friend, with a new face. The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One is an incomplete story, but what we're given is still a rather strong story. With a couple surprisingly affecting character moments for Jago and Litefoot as they meet this new Doctor, and an absurd, funny story, narrated excellently by Benjamin and Baxter, The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One comes as a surprise, delivering a strong story, once again marrying Classic Who elements with New Who elements, to great effect.

In a first for the Short Trips range, The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One features two actors narrating for the story. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter reprise the roles they first played forty years (and one month) ago, as Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot, respectively. Benjamin and Baxter are practically Big Finish royalty at this point; part of one of the most successful spin-offs Big Finish has done, Benjamin and Baxter bring their excellent skills to the Short Trips range, and the listeners and Big Finish is all the better for it. Baxter takes the lead in this story as Professor George Litefoot, as he recounts his character's tales in Greece. Jago & Litefoot works so well due to the excellent chemistry and comedic skills between it's two leads, and Baxter plays the straight man so damn well. His skills are on full display here, as he effortlessly coaxes a strong performance out of Benjamin, while simultaneously delivering a strong, grounded performance as Litefoot. Consequently, Benjamin delivers a strong performance as well, though one that's just a smidge smaller than that of his co-star. Benjamin chimes in as Henry Gordon Jago on occasion, interrupting the story of his friend to inject a bit of laughter into the story. Benjamin makes the moments look effortless, like it really is two friends, one giving a lecture, and other interrupting to add his own reminisces about the events, and the story is better for it.

The story itself is presented very atypically from the rest of the Short Trips range, acting more like a Companion Chronicles release in it's execution. Writer Jonathan Barnes wisely chose to let Jago and Litefoot be as characters here in this story; a lesser writer may have asked that Benjamin and Baxter simply do the same thing that most other Short Trips releases do, and simply read off a script, giving a little extra flavor to the story here and there. But Barnes decided to basically write a two-man audio drama here, complete with the sound effects of the hall where the two men are presenting their findings among other places, and the story is really elevated by that fact. On top of delivering a story that was atypical in format, Barnes also delivered a solid, if incomplete script. This is clearly intended to be listened to over the span of one hour; while I like the call backs to some of the Classic era, with a serialized release, I can't help but feel that the story suffers just a little bit for it. However, it's as minor a niggle as one can get, and to be quite honest, the story is (to borrow a phrase from Jago & Litefoot) corks. I quite like how Barnes separated Jago and Litefoot, and had each of them separately encountering the Doctor; Jago at the Regency Theatre with an alien spider infestation, and Litefoot on the shores of Minos, about to be besieged by ghostly gunslingers. Those two scenes actually lead to two of the story's finest moments; the moment that Litefoot realizes the man he's been seeing on Minos is the Doctor is a wonderful bit of acting by Trevor Baxter, supported by a wonderful bit of writing by Barnes. Similarly, the moment when Christopher Benjamin's character figures out the man is the Doctor is another strong moment, more comedic than affecting here, but nonetheless strong. All of this together, mixed with the excellent framing device that Barnes created for this story, lends itself to a story that is extremely enjoyable, even if it is somewhat incomplete.

Overall, The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One, while it is an atypical story, still stands out as one of the best things to come out of the Short Trips range. It was extremely well-acted by the two leads, Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin; Baxter and Benjamin share an excellent chemistry that elevates nearly every story they're a part of. Similarly, writer Jonathan Barnes wrote an excellent script with this release; while it feels understandably incomplete, the story we're given is nonetheless a strong outing for Jago and Litefoot. With an engaging story about Jago and Litefoot apart, but connected, a fantastic framing device, and, of course, two excellent leading performances, The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act One stands out as one of the best things to come out of the Short Trips range. It is a triumph for the range, and an excellent celebration of 40 years of Jago & Litefoot.

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