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Reviews By TCar96
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From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: TCar96Review Date: 10/24/17 9:51 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Staggeringly enjoyable stuff.

In the Ghosts of Gralstead my one substantive complaint was how derivative many aspects of the serial were and how much of a patchwork it felt. I assumed this was to allow for a safe landing - after all, Nick Briggs always talks about stock plots allow for greater characterisation and make for better introductions. My assumptions (for once) were mostly correct.

Medieval Britain is a period rarely traversed by Classic Who or New Who. When tackled by New Who it's so weak as to not even register as pastiche (Sherwood?) and often when tackled by Classic Who, base under siege stories take those rich centuries and boil them down to dungeons and baddies - The Visitation & the Time Warrior being good examples exploring the Restoration and the middle ages. Alternatively, they're just bad (Kings Demons?). I remember a Peter Davison Big Finish set a century earlier dealing with the Princes in the Tower, and it just leads me to wonder why Classic Who was never able to tackle something that ought to have been so easy for the BBC and fit the studio format so well!

Regardless, it leads to a refreshing environ with plenty of rich, almost panto pastiche in the typically Hinchcliffe vein. Catholics on the rack; ducking stools galore; dastardly puritanical Protestants and Greensleevesesque motifs. It's as 'researched' or grounded in Elizabethan history as Weng-Chiang is grounded in latter Victorian history - that is to say a heightened, half-winking artifice for our characters to muck about in.

And muck about they do! Like Gralstead Tom and Louise sparkle - Tom's voice in particular seems remarkably close to television performances, much more than the prior serial. The Eliza Doolittle dynamic is expanded upon; the Doctor's placed into plenty of hilarious and pithy little situations that for whatever reason, only Tom Baker seems right for.

Personally I didn't find the antagonist derivative whatsoever, without spoiling, this is again typically Hinchcliffian in that the villain is an alien with pretty clear objectives (and a unique conceit) that's been misinterpreted by superstition. Science being indistinguishable from magic, yadder yadder. In their battles and intrigues we have a witch hunt in a Merry English village; tense cat and mouse in priest holes; a ghost story in a country estate; Elizabethan politicking in London; high concept sci-fi dimension hopping and a sail into the heart of the Spanish Armada - providing an absolutely stellar cliffhanger!

My one tiny tiny gripe is that the many threads culminating in part 4 did so in a way that felt a little disparate. There were a lot of emotional gear changes in quite a compressed bit of run-time. Perhaps a second listen will change this - and I'll certainly be listening again. I often binge on Doctor Who across mediums before getting exhausted after a few months, then I have a period of recovery (!) before ramping up again. This is one of those audios that remind me why I love the show so much and why Big Finish are so valuable. One reviewer states this is how Doctor Who should've been upon its return. Could not agree more. I remember reading of an animated Doctor Who project that never got off the ground. If the calibre of this boxset (10 episodes all in all) was maintained for the duration of one animated television series, I'd gladly exchange it for a good 85% of the televised Who we've had on BBC One for the last 5 years.

By a clear mile the most impressive boxset I've yet purchased from Big Finish. Stonkingly enjoyable and will be buying the next few Hinchcliffe productions asap.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: TCar96Review Date: 10/23/17 8:12 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

I feel angry with myself for having had this in my downloads for months and not getting round to it - a superb serial and in my view what the FDA range ought to have pursued. After finishing season 2 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, I stopped purchasing them, given their price and short running time - not only making them poor value in my view relative to other ranges, but forcing them to adopt an EDA / RTD punchy pace.

I've always believed the 4th Doctor to be incompatible with Doctor Who at its most frantic. My favourite memories, serials and scenes with Tom Baker tend to be character driven, loose (albeit strong) plots that allow one of the most interest portrayals of the Doctor to interact with some of the shows most interesting companions.

It was with real joy therefore I listened to this three hour story with the Doctor and Leela gallivanting around Victorian London. Whilst effort is made to emphasise the staging of the piece after the Crimean War but before the prelude to the Diamond Jubille & pompous apogee (Talons of Weng Chiang) - it's essentially retreading well worn and well loved boards.

This prevents top marks from me, but also guarantees a very very strong outing! It's not wholly derivative as elements from outside of the Hinchcliffe era are transplanted in, and by the end of serial we've visited a rich and broad range of locations and cultures, spending time with characters from across the social spectrum. That said, it's hard not to see patchwork Doctor Who. Splitting up the six serials with a trip away from the house reminded me of Seeds of Death. Victoriana reminded me of Talons and Ghost Light, the latter also echoing through the antagonist. Furthermore, the plot ultimately depends on a macguffin that skirts New Who territory of vague omniscient power (skirts being the operative word).

Of course, aping the best Doctor Who serials is not much of a critique, especially when it's done with aplomb! The cast are excellent and sound design is super. For a first outing, it's justifiably safe and takes elements from Hichcliffe and Platt that work, are beloved and fine tunes them. I can't wait to start the Devil's Armada.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: TCar96Review Date: 7/6/17 7:57 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Spoilers throughout.

With the exception of Series 1 and 5, I've found every finale to be a damp squib - throwing away a superb build up with a sentimental break across the finish line. What a treat to add Series 10's finale to that list.

After last week's cracking cliffhanger, there's no back peddling. Bill is a Cyberman and there's no James Cordening out! Whilst Bill is certainly not a bona-fide cyberman, there's a rationale beyond 'the power of love' that holds enough weight to suspend disbelief. With Bill struggling to come to terms with her grim reality, the Doctor is forced to attempt to work together with both Masters to defend a plucky band of Mondasians against the cyber hordes, all the while unsure as to whether Missy is really turning over a new leaf...

Like last week, there's not actually much in the way of new ideas. The emotional tool of Cyberising a companion was done in Series 8's finale; the Doctor defending a tiny band of humanoids was done in Matt Smith's swansong; companions being left in limbo for years... well, too many times to mention!

However, just like last week, the character drama that clings to the tried and tested framework works really well. Being exposed to Bill's condition makes for real distress, rather than the comic scenes of Cyber-Danny and Cyber-Brig in Series 8! The Doctor's last stand for strangers isn't anything new, but it's suitably Doctorish.

Of real interest for me was the Masters' dynamic. Finally, freed from pop-culture references, Missy finally struck a chord with me and bounced perfectly off John Simm's staggeringly panto (not in a pejorative sense) performance. The revelation that Missy was genuine, was some really interesting and seismic shift of gears in canon and one I found so interesting as to now find any flaw. Her predecessors response was not only suitably in character, but brought a neat close to the two of them. After causing so much canonical moaning from the likes of myself, this fitting send off, I naively (no doubt wrongly) hope to be final. This has been for me the most interesting and competent stab at the Master in New Who and a really really perfect book end.

Dove tailing my review for World Enough and Time, The Doctor Falls narrowly misses a perfect 10 for it's closing, rather than opening, 10 minutes. Still wrapping my brain around the logic as to how Bill escapes her fate to live on forever as a lesbian water entity, is not a great way to close what I have praised as a pretty consistent and grounded attempt to maturely present a companion departure. The fact that the show can't just chuck out its cast and be done with it is an irritation that has now just become a fact of life.

As to the regeneration, it certainly took one too many contrivances to get the Doctor to be shot by Bill, furthermore his regeneration - triggered by the electrocution early on and deferred? Was a tad problematic. Why the spiteful motivation of not wanting to leave? Unlike 10's exit, there seems to have been no build up or motivation for such a hostile aversion to regeneration.

Tremendous Doctor Who on the whole, just a shame about the last few minutes.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: TCar96Review Date: 7/6/17 7:15 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Complete spoilers ahead.

Why can't we have this every couple of weeks? Because of the first five to ten minutes.

A bizarre opening to a review, but hear me out. For ten minutes I was anxiously dreading World Enough & Time to fall short of the praise. More Curse of the Fatal Death self-referential comedy, quips over concepts and a pre-titles sequence suggesting choppy editing and too-clever-by-half structural devices. What a joy, an absolute joy, to be proven wrong.

Bill is shot - but the real jaw dropper is what happens next, or rather what doesn't happen next... no cop-out. Bill is shot, and the ramifications are followed through to a deliciously melodramatic cliffhanger, one of Doctor Who's best! As soon as the mechanics have taken our characters to their necessary starting point, the episode gets going and goes with aplomb. That's why this episode encapsulates the best and worst of Moffat's writing since the tail end of series 6, and why many like myself have seen a return to form just buried beneath pretension. When the episode becomes a (relatively) straight forward narrative, it excels.

Nothing here is particularly new to fans of Big Finish or even most of New Who: it's essentially Spare Parts with a multi-master story thrown in - with massive kudos to an unashamedly camp performance from Simm worthy of Anthony Ainley. All of this takes place on a spaceship whose time is warped by proximity to a black hole, reminiscent of everything from the Beast Below to Girl in the Fireplace.

I can't emphasise enough that the ideas and concepts behind the episode aren't actually that significant in my opinion, what matters is that it provides a solid framework for brilliant character work. The Cybermen are chilling. Doctor Who is chilling. Legitimately creepy Doctor Who is a whopper of an achievement these days, and it's by a country mile the most sickening in-depth take on conversion ever shown on TV. As I watched Simm chewing the scenery; the Doctor gradually coming to terms with the straight-jacket of time and Bill gradually creep ever closer to conversion, I was laughing out loud with melodramatic glee. The raw satisfaction of seeing the melodrama spiral out of control brought about one of the most edge-of-seat Doctor Who experiences for years, literally years.

The bold direction in which the episode pushes Missy in, is one I found myself surprised to be hooked by. After three seasons and four years of hokey pop-culture references, to see the character taken on an interesting and mature trajectory made me realise what a tragic waste Gomez has been. After the aforementioned ten minutes of blood curdling cringe, I found myself enjoying the presence of Missy and being able to see her as a regeneration of the Master, for the first time.

Direction, cracking. Score, again, cracking, subtle and underplayed.

Overall a staggeringly fun slice of Who, narrowly falling short of a perfect 10 on the basis of the first ten minutes. Like Heaven Sent, I was left feeling really blue as I was after Heaven Sent. Peter Capaldi deserved far more World Enough & Times and Heaven Sents than he received.

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