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6. The Marian Conspiracy

Rating Votes
10
30%
59
9
28%
55
8
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54
7
9%
18
6
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9
5
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4
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Average Rating
8.7
Votes
197
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User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
9
Effects Rating:
10
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Reviewed By: NewWorldreviewsReview Date: 8/6/17 8:37 pm
6 out of 6 found this review helpful.

To say that The Marian Conspiracy is one of the most important releases Big Finish have ever put out would be an understatement: not only was it the first story to feature a new, audio-only companion, but also was the company's first step to redeeming the Sixth Doctor in the eyes of the fanbase, and was also the first pure-historical Doctor Who story since 1982. And it's testament to the hard work from all involved that The Marian Conspiracy is a fantastic release that still stands tall with the best Big Finish audios.

Of course, The Marian Conspiracy introduced us to Evelyn Smythe, who was possibly the most radical Doctor Who companion to date. I mean, a chocolate-cake loving university professor in her mid-50's would never work, would it? But, of course, with Jacqueline Rayner's fantastic writing and Maggie Stables' exquisite performance, of course it was going to work. Evelyn is fantastic here: doing all the usual things companions do, but with a very different twist to usual. And her relationship with Colin Baker is lovely. From the moment the pair meet in episode one, you know you're in for a great time with these two, and that's exactly what happens. They are amazing together, and it's no wonder that, even today, they are still one of the most popular Doctor/companion parings.

The plot itself, it can be argued, is fairly unoriginal and standard for Doctor Who, but when it's told as compelling as this, I think it's hard to argue. Taking Queen Mary as a focus for the story is a fantastic idea, and I'm glad that writer Jacqueline Rayner chose to make her a fully-fleshed out character as opposed to a one-note cackling villain. The story is gripping enough, and the characterisation is superb, with everyone given a clear morality and viewpoint on the situation. That's something the historical stories did very well: the characters are interesting and well rounded, which is very much the case here. The acting is fantastic, particularly from Anah Ruddin as the Queen herself. Combined with some stellar sound design and music from Alistair Lock, the end result is a very sumptuous production that launches the Sixth Doctor into a new era with an amazing first story.

The Marian Conspiracy is definitely a classic from the early days of Big Finish, and one of their strongest ever productions.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: Drew VogelReview Date: 3/19/17 2:27 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Quite an enjoyable historical romp, but the lighthearted tone doesn't really match the rather grim subject matter. As a vehicle for introducing a new companion, it's an unmitigated success. With the benefit of hindsight, long-time listeners may notice that Evelyn Smythe wasn't entirely fully-formed in her debut outing, but first-time listeners should find nothing to complain about. She's an ideal foil for the sixth Doctor, a delightful character, and Maggie Stables owns the role from her very first scene. My only serious complaint is the way the script tiptoes around the real problem: religion. If people weren't willing to kill and die over meaningless theology (the world's first fan fiction), none of this nastiness would have been necessary. The script presents this grim reality unflinchingly, but the Doctor is far too politic in his reluctance to call it what it is: primitive barbarism.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
9
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: dtomReview Date: 2/4/17 8:19 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

When Doctor Who was first devised it was meant to fulfil an educational purpose. To this end, every alternative story was supposed to explore historical events. Several of those historical serials were critically acclaimed, and Marco Polo is hailed as a lost classic. However, it became increasingly clear that the science fiction stories were more popular and following The Highlander(1966). The purely historic tale was replaced by pseudo-histories. Historic settings with sci-fi elements. Only one other purely historic serial was ever produced. The 1982 two-parter Black Orchid.

Given that, it was something of a risk to schedule a pure historical so early the ranges own brief history. To do so while introducing a brand new Big Finish exclusive companion for their least popular Doctor might have been a bridge too far. Instead we get an absolute belter of a story.
In a serial of first, Jacqueline Rayner, became the first female audio adventure writer, and the first not to have penned a Doctor Who novel prior to this.

The adventure sees the Doctor team up with a history professor to explore the reasons behind her disappearing ancestral tree during the Tudor era. The professor is Dr Evelyn Smythe, played brilliantly by Maggie Stables. Maggie’s last BF outing was less successful, but here she is utterly captivating in every scene. She almost out shines Baker’s Doctor. Almost. Here her very presence seems to lift him to another level. The interplay between them is a fantastic listen. It’s so good your disappointed that events split them apart.

However, the supporting cast make a great contribution Sean Jackson (George Crow)and Jez Fielder (William Leaf) are excellent as the misguided henchmen. Nicholas Pegg is wonderfully creepy as ‘villain’ of the piece. Jo Castleton has a relatively slight role but plays her part well. Anah Ruddin is very good as ‘bloody’ Queen Mary. Her is a difficult job. She needs to make us feel sympathy for a figure with a degree of historical notoriety, and she does so with aplomb.

The soundscape is very good and the incidental score enhances both the drama and the period. Of course, it’s not flawless. Not the least the glaring paradox that is the central premise of the whole plotline. However, I said this before. This is Doctor Who, the central premise of almost all its plots are absurd.

This is the first classic story from Big Finishes range. It’s a great jumping in point for any 6th Doctor fans. £2.99 is great value if you haven’t tried it. If you have you’ve probably already listen a good few times. If not it’s high time you went back to. The only downside for me being the overwhelming urge to eat chocolate cake.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: templetongateReview Date: 1/7/17 10:29 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

This is the story that fixed the Sixth. In one go it softened him, humanised him, even made his pomp and humour accessible. It's an emotional foundation for stories that became enjoyably complicated and led by meandering path to Sixie's final adventure. Great stuff.

Evelyn is the trick. An intellectual equal to the Doctor, ahead in emotional smarts, and a lovely equivalent in the acting stakes. The Maggie-Colin partnership gave Big Finish several years of impetus that hold up very well today. Things are simpler and perhaps more clumsy in terms of soundscape and story-telling, but today's stories wouldn't be anything like as smart and knowing without this success.

Try watching a couple of Colin's TV episodes and you will feel bludgeoned by a character waiting to mature into what we have here.

Hugely recommended to new listeners of all ages.