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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:
7
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
8
Replay Rating:
4
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 2/25/17 12:53 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In this month's Fourth Doctor Adventures release, the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward), and K9 (John Leeson) land on a planet looking for a pencil museum, but instead find themselves in the midst of a bitter war. When the enemy turns out not to be the Sontarans (Dan Starkey), the Doctor, Romana, and K9 must work with the Sontarans to try and solve the mystery of this planet, even if that means risking their own lives in the process. The Eternal Battle is an overall average story; it makes interesting use of the Sontarans, and while Cavan Scott's and Mark Wright's script is a bit bland, it still ends up being an enjoyable hour-long Fourth Doctor story.

As with every story, Tom Baker portrays the Doctor here, once again. He sounds older, as usual, but there's a quality to his voice that is instantly recognizable as the Doctor, a small twinkle-like thing in his voice. Baker hasn't lost his performance as the Doctor, even if his voice is a older and more gravelly. Lalla Ward portrays the second incarnation of Romana here; one minor complaint that I've found from watching several Fourth Doctor/Romana II Classic stories lately is that Ward has lost some of the charm she once had when she was younger. While Baker is able to portray his character with the same charm he had when younger, Ward sounds older, both in voice, and in demeanor. There was always a joyous feeling to her performance, whereas here Ward tends to sound much more weary. It works very well with her appearances in Gallifrey, but it means her performance feels a bit off here. Finally for the main cast is John Leeson, who sounds pitch perfect as always. Leeson has a smaller role here, but he eats up his lines a spits them out well. Leeson is excellent with his comedic timing, and I don't think that's given enough credit. It's certainly due to the writers that he's so funny, but it wouldn't be half as funny if Leeson didn't have excellent timing.

The guest cast here is a smaller affair, with only three actors. The most notable was Dan Starkey, voicing several Sontarans, most notably Field Major Lenk. Starkey is a fantastic choice to play the Sontarans anyway, and his work at Big Finish is great, as usual. I liked that he was able to give Lenk a bit more than just the standard soldier "for the Glory of the Sontaran Empire!" routine, as it enhanced his performance. Also part of the cast was Jane Slavin as the commander of the human side of the war, Captain Nina Albiston. Slavin had a small role, appearing at the end of the first part, and having only about 15 minutes or so of screen time, but she did an admirable job here. It was a somewhat bland, battle-hardened female soldier performance, but she did a great job near the end with her death scene. Rounding out the guest cast is Big Finish anything-actor John Banks, portraying a couple of roles here. Both of his roles were small, but Banks did a fine job, especially with his role as Trooper Varn.

Writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright delivered a solid, interesting script, though it was a touch too bland at times. I found that the plot itself was very similar to similar war zone stories that Big Finish has done before, like last year's The Paradox Planet/The Legacy of Death and The Eternity Cage, and it dragged at times. However, the addition of the Sontarans were a smart move, especially given the enemy. Even though it's a theme that's been touched upon quite a few times, notably with Strax in the New Series, I quite liked the idea that an alien menace that could revive the dead was the scariest thing to a fleet of Sontarans. It was an interesting touch, and elevated this story a bit more than I was expecting because of it. In particular, I thought that the Lenk's character was very well written, especially for a Sontaran, who tend to be very similar across stories. Scott and Wright, as I said above, gave him an extra layer beyond the normal mold of a Sontaran which, combined with Starkey's great performance, really elevated the character.

Overall, The Eternal Battle was a solid, if average story. The performances of the main cast were fine, and the guest cast was lead by Dan Starkey, who gave a great performance. Writers Scott and Wright delivered a solid, interesting script that at times relied too heavily on the "TARDIS lands in a war zone" trope but at other times was an interesting character piece for the Sontarans. Add everything together, and you end up with a pretty interesting story with some good character work, and a surprisingly enjoyable Fourth Doctor and Sontaran story.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: mwelljesterReview Date: 1/24/17 9:01 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

A Sublime Superb 4th Doctor story set in Victorian England.
5*****Star Recommended.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
3
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 1/18/17 10:14 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

In the first story of 2017 run of Fourth Doctor Adventures, the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana II (Lalla Ward), and K9 (John Leeson) have traveled to Victorian London on the trail of massive, anachronistic energy spikes. Meanwhile, a crime spree is baffling the police, with the mysterious "Knave" breaking in and stealing valuable items, all without being caught. The Doctor and Romana team up with their old friends Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) and Professor George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) to stop this "Knave" character. But they are about to get far more involved than they planned... The Beast of Kravenos was a solid opening story to this year's run of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. It didn't really stand out too much, but it was a rather fun opening story, and any excuse to get the Victorian investigators Jago and Litefoot into the studio is good enough for me.

Tom Baker is the Doctor here while Lalla Ward is the companion Romana II. Both did a good job in their roles; I thought Ward stood out a bit more in her performance, as she was given most of the subtle and exasperated humor in this story. John Leeson also did a fine job as K9. I always love hearing K9 in stories set during historical periods, because it gives him a whole new range of humor apart from "The Doctor is wrong", and he's usually a small highlight of those stories. Here is no exception, as he gets a great role in the very beginning of the story, and has several witty asides throughout the story.

The guest cast is mostly filled with members of the Jago & Litefoot range, with Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter back as the titular heroes Jago and Litefoot, respectively. I found them to be very fun here, with Jago given a slightly larger role throughout the story. I particularly liked Benjamin's chemistry with Baker throughout the story, as I felt they worked well together. Baxter did a great job as well; I particularly enjoyed the scene right at the start of the second episode, though I found that his scenes with Ward tended to drag a bit too much. Also returning from Jago & Litefoot is Conrad Asquith as Inspector Quick, in a smaller role. Asquith didn't leave too much of an impression in this story, and I suspect it was basically a cameo role. Rounding out the guest cast is Ed Stoppard as Sir Nicholas Asquin. Stoppard did a perfectly fine job with a rather uninteresting character, giving him a bit life more than just standard guest star, but he still never really managed to stand out. However, a line right before the end seems to imply that Sir Nicholas will return in a future Jago and Litefoot story, so I will reserve full judgment until then.

Justin Richards delivered a perfectly fine, if generally uninspired story. The story of a villain using alien technology to commit a crime spree has been done more times than I can count, but the format can be shaken up a bit. However, I think, apart from the welcome addition of Jago and Litefoot to the mix, it didn't really have anything terribly interesting going for it. The story arc was rather cookie cutter, with a mysterious, bland villain and a meandering, standard Fourth Doctor plot line. It was perfectly fine, and did the job set out for it well, don't get me wrong; I just wish Richards had tried to rise above more than just perfectly fine with the story. One final thing to note with this story is that this really felt like a backdoor pilot for the next series of Jago & Litefoot. It seems like Asquin was being set up to return in the Jago & Litefoot, Series 13 and, with the incidental music being basically identical to the Jago & Litefoot theme music, it seems like Richards wasn't so much writing a Fourth Doctor story, but a Jago & Litefoot story featuring the Doctor. That's more just an observation, rather than a compliment or criticism.

I also just wanted to note one little thing about the music. The first is that this is one of the first times I've noticed Big Finish using the Season 18 theme (apart from A Full Life) and certainly the first time it's been used in the Fourth Doctor Adventures. The change in theme music is a nice little change, and I'm happy to see they reflected the change on the cover, by changing the story info banner to match the Season 18 opening credits.

Overall, The Beast of Kravenos was a perfectly fine story, even if it was a bit bland. The cast did a good job, with stars Ward, Leeson, and Benjamin all standing out a bit more than the others in this story, and writer Justin Richards delivered a perfectly fine script. It does have its share of issues, namely the overall bland nature of the story, from the bland plot all the way to the bland villain. But it was a fine, enjoyable start to the sixth series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, and that's all I can ask for.

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