Stories:
2506
Members:
743
Submitted Reviews:
6222
Reviewers:
292
Reviews By Drew Vogel
# Reviews:
179
# Ratings:
361
Avg Rating:
8

Latest Community Reviews

From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 9/25/17 7:04 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

I just happened to look over my previous scores for the Gallifrey series, and I've noticed that I've given every single release so far a 7 out of 10 (which, on my scale, means "fine; neither good nor bad") except for "Spirit", which got a 9. This story was written by Stephen Cole, who wrote "Spirit", but I'm afraid it's right back down to a 7.

I give it that score because, while there's nothing glaringly wrong with it, the story is really kind of rambling series of events lack in structure and cohesion. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. I may be judging the story too harshly just because I'd prefer a more episodic structure as opposed to the highly serialized approach we see here. I think the serial structure can be extremely effective when it works, but it's not easy to pull off. Rather than telling a strong story with a beginning, middle, and end, this episode is mostly middle.

And worst of all, it gets Leela badly wrong. It's easy to confuse ignorance for stupidity, but the "Gallifrey" series has done mostly a pretty good job making clear that Leela is not stupid. She may not have the education or the technical expertise of a Time Lord, but she's not dumb. She's at her best when she's coping with her blindness, but she really comes across as dumb in this script (the "dog" virus?!), and she's not dumb.

Also, in light of my frequent complaints that "Gallifrey" is not political, I had to chuckle at the opening scene with Romana and Gerber. He pleads with her to make a political argument to the people in order to drum up support for her presidency, but she ridicules him. This series was never very political, but now it's anti-political. And that's a bizarre choice to make in a story about a democratically-elected president being deposed by a tyrannical despot. And yet, somehow, the tyrannical Pandora is linked in the script to anarchy. Pandora is the antithesis of anarchy!

But it's not bad. It certainly moves things forward in various ways, and ends on a nice bit of foreboding. It just doesn't feel like a story to me. It's just another CD's worth of plot, picking up from the previous installment and leaving us off at the next one, without any real identity of its own.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 9/18/17 6:25 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

I rarely notice the music unless its especially prominent. It's one of my blind-spots, so to speak. Whether it's TV, movies, or Big Finish audios, the music usually just slips by underneath the level of conscious awareness. I hear it, of course, and it manipulates my emotions. I just rarely notice it.

In the case of "The Settling", the music is one of the most memorable things about it. And that's saying something, because "The Settling" is an outstanding story with much to recommend it. But the music deserves special notice, I think. There's something terribly relentless and oppressive about those drums. They manage to convey something of the hopeless inevitability that infects the whole story. I don't think I'm going out on a limb to suggest that helplessness in the face of history is one of the prominent themes of the story, and the music really helps sell that. You hear those drums and you just know that terrible things are going to happen, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. There's an argument to be made that Hex was responsible, to a certain extent, for much of what happened. But I think it's more interesting see it all as a kind of fateful inevitability.

All right, so it's bleak, it's grim, and it's heavy, but it's also outstanding (and there are a few moments of warmth and even comedy along the way). Much credit must go the writer, of course, for delivering such a powerful script, but let me start with the actors. The core of this story is the relationship between Cromwell and Hex, which means Philip Olivier and Clive Mantle do most of the heavy lifting. Sophie Aldred, too, especially in the quiet, reflective scenes that make up the story's framing device. But mainly Olivier and Mantle, and they're just wonderful together. I've like Hex ever since "The Harvest". I thought he was a great character right from the start, and a great addition to the Doctor/Ace team. But this is the first time that Olivier has really impressed me. His performances have always been solid, more or less, but this is the first story since "The Harvest" that really made demands of him, and he absolutely shines.

But we mustn't forget the script. Guerrier does a fine job of introducing Cromwell in the first episode. He plays on Cromwell's reputation as a monster, only then to present a nuanced, complex character, who manages even to be sympathetic. It's not so much that Guerrier's Cromwell is not a monster, but that he's not merely a monster. He has a defensible point-of-view, and Guerrier's script allows him to present it. By the end of the story, neither Ace nor Hex quite knows what to make of him. I think that's the reaction Guerrier was trying to get out of the audience, and if so, it certainly worked in my case.

I think it's fair to say that the Doctor takes a bit of a back seat in this story, but he still has a prominent and quite interesting role to play. Putting him in the position of having to deliver a baby was a stroke of genius. There's something deeply incongruous about the seventh Doctor being called upon to do something as ordinary-yet-extraordinary as delivering a baby. After that, having him inspire innovations in medical technology is just a neat little bonus.

Other Recommendations

From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 9/12/17 12:22 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Sad to say, but this is something of a letdown. Overall, the second series of "Sarah Jane Smith" has been stronger than the first. Having one person write the whole thing gave it a much more consistent feel than the first series had. Unfortunately, the series peaked early with "Fatal Consequences", and this final episode is mostly a coda, plus a set-up for a third series which will never happen.

Of course, that's not all the writer's fault. When the BBC decided to make "The Sarah Jane Adventures", that put an indefinite hold on Big Finish's plans for the characters. And then of course Elisabeth Sladen passed away while Series Five of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" was in production. All of that means that this episode ends on a cliffhanger which will never be resolved. And that's not even the worst of it. This whole series has been an elaborate set-up for the sequel to "The Masque of Mandragora". It's not just the unresolved cliffhanger. The whole series is unresolved.

As for this episode, it takes a surprisingly relaxed and low-key aproach, after all the excitement of "Fatal Consequences". Much of the story involves the characters coming to terms with everything that's happened so far. In the meantime, the story gradually builds toward the first private spaceflight that the series has been teasing since the opening moments of "Buried Secrets", but there's not a lot of drama in it. I mean, we all know that something is going to happen when the ship finally launches, and the script tries to drum up some tension, but all the characters are pretty relaxed about it because there's no reason why they shouldn't be.

Unfortunately, this is where the story gets a bit ludicrous. I mean, the idea that the pilot of the spacecraft is a member of the now-defunct Crimson Chapter is pretty hard to swallow. It's also pretty ridiculous that Josh brought a gun on a spaceflight and would actually be dumb enough to use it.

Overall, this final episode isn't bad. All the character stuff in the beginning is actually very good, even if it is lacking in the excitement department. The final act is unfortunately a bit preposterous, but the biggest problem with "Dreamland" is that it's not a satisfying ending because it was never intended to be an ending in the first place.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 9/10/17 1:19 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

This is the story that finally convinced me to stop worrying about continuity. I used to one of those people who was terribly concerned that all of the stories should fit together at least reasonably well, and that it was very important for Big Finish to respect established continuity. After hearing this story, that was simply no longer tenable. After all, "The Caves of Androzani" clearly happens right after "Planet of Fire". There is no gap there. So additional stories featuring the fifth Doctor and Peri were already on shaky ground. But this story has Peri living for two years in the 15th century. There is no way that Peri traveled with the Doctor for well over two years (and counting) between her first and second story. And what about Shakespeare? Are we really supposed to believe that he swapped places with Richard III in 1597? So that guy in "The Shakespeare Code" (set in 1599) was actually Richard III? No. I refuse to believe any of that.

So forget about continuity. It can be useful when it adds dimension to a story, but the moment it gets in the way, just forget about it completely.

I don't even know what else to say about this story. It's extraordinarily good. The comedy is actually funny, and even when you think it should break the illusion (the "press conference", for example), somehow it doesn't. And the comedy is only the beginning. This is a very funny story that doesn't take it self very seriously, and yet it also explores some extremely serious themes. It raises unsettling questions about the Doctor's relationship to history, gives the Doctor an easy way out, and then admits to having given the Doctor an easy way out. The unsettling questions remain.

The plot is complicated, but surprisingly easy to follow (even with events happening "simultaneously" in two different time periods), and one of the great joys of returning to this story is having a chance to puzzle out the intricate little details you may have missed the first time through. And like all the best "Doctor Who" historicals, it leaves you wanting to learn more about the events depicted.

If you wanted to give a non-fan a taste of what a Big Finish "Doctor Who" story is like, or what "Doctor Who" is like in general, this is not the story for that. But if you want an example of just how far the concept can stretch without breaking, this is a perfect story.

Community

?>