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The Ninth Doctor Chronicles

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From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
8
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 5/17/17 5:47 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In the final story of the Ninth Doctor Chronicles, the Doctor and Rose visit the Powell Estate for a spot of laundry, only to find that Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) has become a successful entrepreneur. Selling the "Glubby Glub" to members of the Powell Estate, Jackie is trying her best to give Rose the life she deserves. But Jackie is unwittingly at the center of an alien invasion, and she's not having anything about the Doctor and Rose's concerns. Will the Doctor and Rose have to come into conflict with Jackie, or will Jackie snap out and realize what's going on? Retail Therapy, by James Goss, is a fun little story, and one that does a lot to give Coduri's Jackie depth. Featuring an excellent performance by Camille Coduri, and a solid script by James Goss, this final story ends up as the highlight of this set.

Camille Coduri is the real star of this story, once again portraying Jackie Tyler, mother of Rose. Coduri hasn't lost any of the charm that made her so fun in Series 1; hearing her in this story, it's as if she never even left the role. She's pitch perfect at all the right moments; she's unintentionally hilarious throughout, she's savage towards the Doctor, and most importantly, she knows how to command the scene and the attention. Her finest moment comes at the end, as she laughs at the idea that the Doctor took her "betrayal" seriously, and how she knew exactly what was going on throughout the story. Whether by nature of being with Coduri, or just comfort in the role, Briggs sounds most at home here in this story. Much of the load of this story was taken by his narration, rather than his impression of the Ninth Doctor, which helped him out immensely. Again, I'm consistently impressed that he's able to create a slew of guest characters, and make each of them sound and feel unique. While his Ninth Doctor impression was a consistent issue throughout, his other work, including his very assured narration, really highlighted these stories.

The plot of this final story has some similarities to Partners in Crime, but with some distinctive changes. James Goss does a really good job of putting this story together, mixing in an interesting plot with some excellent character work for Jackie. By far, the best part of this story was Goss' excellent work with the character of Jackie. In the original show, she's generally a bit of a vapid, shallow person who just wants some easy money and a husband. But in this audio, she's all that, but with an added depth. She's wary of the Doctor, and she desperately wants her daughter to end her association with him, because she's so worried for Rose. There's a lovely little scene where Jackie pulls the Doctor and Rose aside, and explains how she wants Rose to have the life that she deserves, not the life that the Doctor is giving to her. She also describes her fear every time she hears the grinding of the TARDIS, because she worries that it will be the Doctor coming to tell Jackie that Rose is gone, in a rather poignant moment. But the character work, while certainly the strongest part of the story, isn't the only good thing about this story. The plot itself, while a bit standard, was an interesting, fun premise, not least of all Jackie's revelation at the end that she knew what was going on the entire time, and she was doing it to try and get in with the Glubby Glub people. But more than that, the idea that Jackie was the villain of the story, ostensibly, was a fascinating choice, and made for a really interesting story in the end.

The last thing I'd like to make note of is the very slight soundtrack, done by Ioan Morris and Rhys Downing. It's not present throughout most of these stories, really only appearing in short little segments a few times throughout the story. It serves the purpose of these stories well, as it's not intrusive or anything, but I do wish that they'd been featured a little bit more. There was a lot of dead space throughout these stories, that a little bit of music could have enhanced just a bit.

Overall, the closing story of the Ninth Doctor Chronicles is a delight to listen to. Highlighted here is an excellent performance by Jackie Tyler who, through some excellent writing by James Goss, is able to give a strong, sensitive performance throughout, which stands as the highlight of this entire set. Even Briggs sounded better than he has in the previous three stories. Mixed together with a strong script from James Goss, this story really pops, and closes the set on a strong note.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
5
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
4
Replay Rating:
1
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 5/17/17 5:47 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In Scott Handcock's The Other Side, the penultimate story of this release, Rose has invited Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley) onto the TARDIS to go home, something the Doctor isn't too happy about. But when a temporal tsunami strikes, and the TARDIS crew ends up separated through time. The Doctor and Rose must place their faith in a stranger, and Adam will have to be fantastic, if he hopes to see Rose and the Doctor again. I feel that this story was a bit of a lost opportunity. With Adam, a companion who essentially failed the test to become a companion, you could've had an interesting story examining the failure of Adam to act to save the Doctor and Rose. Instead, we have a rather cheery, contradictory story featuring Adam in his first trip in the TARDIS, where he ends up as a companion. Well acted, but disappointingly written in that respect, the story is nonetheless an interesting little horror story, written by one of Big Finish's masters of horror.

In the first returning role of the set, Bruno Langley once again plays Adam, the failed companion of the Ninth Doctor. It's hard to judge someone when it's been nearly 13 years since they first portrayed the role, but Langley sounds a bit more mature here, compared to his last appearance in The Long Game. The age takes away some of the insecurity that Langley had back in 2005, but his performance is nonetheless strong. He doesn't really get to straddle the line between good and bad as much, as that's not the purpose of the story really. Nicholas Briggs once again returns as narrator, bit character actor, and the Ninth Doctor. It's still not a good impression, but I noticed it less here. That may be because it's a smaller role in this story, and so Briggs doesn't get as much of a chance to talk throughout. But I also think that, for better or for worse, I'm used to it now.

Scott Handcock's script was a bit of a dull affair. It certainly had it's moments; leave it to Scott Handcock to come up with a creepy story and villain. But while the story itself was a solid story, it just didn't feel like it lived up to its potential, or even its description. The things that worked were Handcock's excellent script, barring the wasted potential of Adam. Handcock is excellent at crafting funny yet dark scripts, something he does here. The script is filled with little funny moments, like Rose's flustered actions when the Doctor asks her to call Adam, to the quieter moments, such as where the Doctor tells Rose he waited 28 years to see her. Both are equally strong parts of Handcock's script. Another strong part was the villain of the story, the Bygone Hoard. A villain that slowly comes forward through time, that can displace the current timeline is an ingenious creation, and one that Handcock breathes life into. I was disappointed at how little time we got with them, as most of the plot focused on Rose and Adam rescuing the Doctor. But what we got was a creepy villain I'd have loved to see in Big Finish's War Doctor series. The one downside of this script was really Handcock's characterization of Adam. In this story, he's really just like every other companion: a relatively ordinary person, who ends up being fantastic. But Adam isn't a normal companion like that; Adam is a companion who failed to show the Doctor something promising. It was a let down, especially given the description of the story, to see a standard companion introduction story (the second of this set, mind you). I wish Handcock had gone for something a little more ambitious, rather than just writing a very plain story for Adam.

The last thing I'd like to mention is Joe Meiner's work on the sound design, particularly in this episode. It's subtle and slight, but it's on greater display here in this story than the previous two, because there's an almost constant background noise. From the jazzy soundtrack of Rose's 1920s adventures, to the background noise of the cinema in 2012, it all adds up to become a really atmospheric song. More than anything, Meiners did a great job with this story, as the sound of it just feels unsettling at times. It enhances the creepy nature of the story a lot, and makes this a much more enjoyable story.

Overall, The Other Side was a perfectly fine story, but given the guest star of this story was Adam, it feels somewhat like a missed opportunity. Rather than Handcock exploring an interesting angle with Adam, he decided to instead make a rather ordinary companion introduction story. Which is fine, because it was an enjoyable introduction story. But it felt like a let down quite honestly, even given the good performances by the cast, and the great villain and plot that Handcock created.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
9
Acting Rating:
8
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 5/17/17 5:45 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In The Window on the Moor, the second story of the Ninth Doctor Chronicles, Emily Brontë (Laura Riseborough) has been having strange visions of strange soldiers and a glass city, helped by a window to another world. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Rose Tyler arrive in an abandoned glass city in the midst of an unusual civil war. Worlds are about to collide, and the universe may not survive, unless the Doctor and Rose can save everyone and everything, even if they have to make some hard sacrifices. The Window on the Moor, the latest entry into the canon of stories featuring the Doctor meeting a famous historical writer (The Unicorn and the Wasp, The Shakespeare Code, etc.), is an enjoyable romp. Featuring a strong dual performance by Laura Riseborough, and a strong script by Una McCormack, this script stands out compared to the first story. While it gets a little confusing at times, and Briggs' impression of the Ninth Doctor is still jarring, I found myself enjoying this story a lot more.

Laura Riseborough takes on the role of Emily Brontë for this story. Portraying historical figures is always a challenge compared to playing an original character, but Riseborough does an excellent job here, becoming a highlight of this story. Her performance as both Emily Brontë and Ada, the lookalike to Emily Brontë from another dimension, is extremely strong. She's able to portray the fiery passion of Emily in once scene, and is then able to turn on a dime to portray the more sensitive, reserved Ada. It's a strong performance by Riseborough, and one of the highlights of the set. Briggs' work narrating and portraying several bit characters is still strong. It's impressive what the man is able to do, because he's able to give life to each and every character, and makes them sound unique. However, his impression of the Ninth Doctor is still a jarring impression, as every time I hear it, it snaps me out of the story. I've found it a bit difficult to concentrate because of the impression. I really wish Briggs had stuck with trying to capture the feel and do a subtler performance, rather than trying to do a dead-on impression of Eccleston, because the results are just not that good.

The story itself was a strong entry by writer Una McCormack. Featuring a delightfully written historical character, an interesting, if sometimes confusing, plot about alternate dimensions and family feuds. McCormack was able to reign in the confusing and disparate aspects of her script to create something quite interesting, and arguably the best Ninth Doctor story from Big Finish yet. The catalyst of this story, the mist that allowed travel from this glass city dimension to the real world was an extremely interesting concept created by McCormack. I quite liked how it was used, both in the glass city dimension, how it was a means of escape, and a desire for Julius, as well as how it was a place for Emily Brontë to escape from her life, and draw inspiration. It was a fascinating concept, made all the better by the Doctor's refusal to allow the technology to continue existing after Julius, Alexandro, and his men disappear into another dimension. Beyond the strong story, McCormack delivered a dead funny script, filled with little references and, as with Cavan Scott's script, absolutely nailing the charm of the Ninth Doctor. Lines like the Doctor thinking the hulking, brutish solider is fantastic, and Rose's line about not having read Wuthering Heights, but knowing it from the Kate Bush song were fun little lines that really added a certain charm to the script that was missing in the opening story. The script was filled with cheeky little lines like that, and it made for a funny script, for a rather serious story. And while McCormack's script was a bit too ambitious at times, and the constant changes in scene became a bit jarring at times, the overall product was a strong, enjoyable story.

Overall, The Window on the Moor was an extremely enjoyable story. With a strong guest star in Laura Riseborough, a mostly strong performance by Nicholas Briggs (except where it counted with his impression of the Ninth Doctor), and a funny, complicated, and enjoyable script by Una McCormack, this story really stands out, much more so than the opening story. It had a fascinating, complicated sci-fi plot, an enjoyable driving plot with the civil war between uncle and nephew, and a fun appearance by Emily Brontë, this story really had a lot going for it. McCormack was juggling a lot of balls with this story, and she managed to successfully catch them all, and it makes for one of the more enjoyable stories I've heard so far.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
5
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
5
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 5/17/17 5:44 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In the opening story of Big Finish's first Ninth Doctor story, Adriana Jardsel (Clair Wyatt) has come to the peaceful planet Galen, to cover the diplomatic talks between two warring races. But a chance encounter with a stranger known as 'The Doctor' marks the start of a series of strange, tragic events on Galen. Adriana and this mysterious Doctor must work to save the planet, and maybe even the universe as well. The Bleeding Heart starts off the Ninth Doctor Chronicles with a decidedly average. The story features a good performance by Clair Wyatt, and a varied performance by Nicholas Briggs, while the script by Cavan Scott isn't the most inspired Ninth Doctor story on the planet. Rather similar to Rose, but with obvious changes, it serves as a solid, though unadventurous opening story to the Ninth Doctor's tenure at Big Finish.

Clair Wyatt takes the lead in this story, playing Adriana Jarsdel, a news reporter sent to cover the peace talks on Galen, who quickly finds herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure with the Doctor. Wyatt takes on the role of "companion du jour" well, giving an enjoyable, strong performance throughout the release. Her scene where she first meets the Doctor stands out to me as my favorite scene, as she comes across as very confident in her acting alongside Briggs. She handles the more emotional moments well enough, such as finding out her companion has died, driven insane, or her sacrifice at the end of the story, but they come across as a little too forced for my liking. The man of the hour, Big Finish executive producer Nicholas Briggs takes on a wider role here, playing narrator and voice of a variety of bit characters, as well as taking on the role of the Ninth Doctor at times. Briggs is best when he's not portraying the Ninth Doctor in this story; he has a very sure and steady narration style, and the wide variety of semi-nameless characters he plays in this story come alive very well throughout the story. But his impression of the Ninth Doctor sticks out like a sore thumb throughout the story. Briggs, who did a decent impression in Night of the Whisper, seems to have exaggerated his performance too much; the end result comes off as less Christopher Eccleston, and more Goofy with a Northern accent.

Cavan Scott's script is a bit too similar to Rose at times, but that serves it well usually, giving new listeners a rather familiar story to start off, even if it is a bit unadventurous. The biggest strength of Scott's script is the rather interesting gimmick of the planet Galen. It's been done a few times before, a peaceful place not being all that it seems, but Scott makes it his own by introducing elements of the Time War into his story. I really liked how Scott built up the eventual revelation at the end of the story, with various characters seemingly driven insane by grief, attacking other characters. It felt a little obvious what was coming, though I enjoyed the explanation more than I thought I would. I also really liked the characterization of the Ninth Doctor in here, as a man overcompensating for the horrific tragedy he thinks he just delivered to his own people. His care for Adriana at times, both in making sure she's okay following the death of Stan, and after he forces her to stop taking her psychic dampening pills, is very much in line with a lot of the Ninth Doctor's era. Scott did a wonderful job bringing that aspect to audio, and it's something I hope we see in the other stories. While these aspects of the script were positives overall, I found the script's derivative nature much more mixed, personally. While I think it was a smart move to open the set with a story very similar to Rose, I think it made of a disappointing opening story. There are several similarities (companion meeting the Doctor through a chance encounter and slowly being swept up in the adventure), though it's also very similar to many other companion introduction stories. Yet, I couldn't help but feel that the story just didn't really have anything going for it most of the time. The ending was strong, even if the death of Adriana felt shoehorned in to give a reason why the Ninth Doctor didn't have a companion to start, but other than that, it felt like a decidedly average story, start to finish.

Tom Webster provided the cover art for this release. It's a fairly simple cover, featuring the Ninth Doctor with Camille Coduri and Bruno Langley in character, with various effects. It's not the most inspired cover on the planet, but it has bits I find interesting overall, like the "previews" of the story on the Ninth Doctor's jacket, and the background with a dying planet. I'm not complaining about it, but I'm curious why Big Finish didn't put Eccleston's face in shadow, like they do for the Third Doctor Adventures; at some point, they said that for Doctors where they have someone else taking on the role of that Doctor, they want to obscure the face a bit, to make it distinct from that body of work. I think Big Finish gets away with it because they make it very clear it doesn't feature Eccleston at all, but I find it an interesting choice nonetheless.

Overall, The Bleeding Heart is an average story through and through. Featuring an enjoyable enough performance by Clair Wyatt, and, when he's not portraying the Ninth Doctor, a solid, varied performance by Nicholas Briggs; Briggs' impression of the Ninth Doctor leaves something to be desired, especially considering the strong work he did for Night of the Whisper. Cavan Scott's script is a relatively solid affair, though it never rises beyond playing it safe. It's derivative of Rose and other companion introduction stories, and while it captures the character of the Ninth Doctor well, it failed to really grip me as I was listening to it. Overall, it's a thoroughly average start to the set, though there's nothing wrong with playing it safe to start.

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