Four more BF plays

Frozen Time revives the Ice Warriors for the first time in ages, and also the Seventh Doctor who appears to have been frozen in with a consignment of criminal Martians only to be unfrozen in a somewhat amnesiac state. The idea of the amnesiac Doctor is just as annoying when it is Seven compared to Eight, and the plot is really a retread of the original Ice Warriors story, but the cast is stellar – Bond girl Maryam d’Abo plays a French scientist, Nicholas Calf plays Lord Barset, doomed and deluded leader of the expedition. Some great scenes here, and generally good stuff.

In Son of the Dragon, the Fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem end up in a straight historical story where they are the only sfnal elements, encountering the real Dracula (played by James Purefoy) and his brother Radu the Handsome (played with rather more authority by Douglas Hodge). There is always a problem with the pure historical stories (which Erimem has more than her fair share of – see also The Church and the Crown, The Council of Nicæa, The Veiled Leopard and arguably The Kingmaker which is at least as historical as The Romans) in that they have to decide if they are going for entertainment or being didactic. Steve Lyons here has gone more on the didactic, sticking almost too close to what is known of the historical record, with the entertainment provided by the usual companions-getting-separated larks, and Erimem being prepared to meet her fate, which makes this one of his less gripping efforts. Poor Nicola Bryant in particular gets some lousy material to work with as Peri, but Caroline Morris, obviously preparing for her exit, is good as ever. I will have been among the few listeners who winced at the mispronunciations of Târgovişte and the Argeş river.

100 BC is another pure historical play: the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn get all mixed up with whether or not they have accidentally-on-purpose prevented Julius Cæsar’s parents from conceiving him in the year of the title. It’s essentially a one-joke story, and a good joke too, but perhaps stretched a little bit.

Rob Shearman picks up some of the ideas from his own Jubilee and reworks them in My Own Private Mozart, in which John Sessions plays millions of (well, half a dozen) clones of Mozart including the original. Again a one-joke story, but less funny.

Joe Lidster’s Bedtime Story has a shape-shifting alien working through the centuries to get its revenge on a human family, and the Doctor trying to break the spell. It has the typical Lidster success of little moments of horror with his equally typical failure of overall plot implausibilities.

Paul Cornell’s The 100 Days of the Doctor has the Doctor fighting off an intelligent virus which will kill him in, well, 100 days, and visiting various other parts of his own Big Finish continuity to try and prevent his own death. Very fannish, but nicely done.

Robert Glenister was brought in as Selateen in The Caves of Androzani to help kill off Peter Davison, and here he is brought in to help dispose of Conrad Westmaas as C’rizz. Given that C’rizz is a reformed psychopathic killer reptilian, we always knew what the end was likely to be, and indeed the story is rather better on the Doctor/Charley relationship, where she accuses him of reminiscing about how things were better before C’rizz joined them (though in my humble opinion, if this is the Doctor’s view, he is right). Still, C’rizz manages to go out with a bang.

Since C’rizz is now gone, I should write up my general impressions of his 14 appearances (all with the Eighth Doctor and Charley). To be honest, they are a bit patchy. Part of this is because the whole narrative goes down a blind universe at the very beginning; and what is probably the best of the C’rizz stories, The Natural History of Fear, depends rather crucially on the listener having built up an affection for the character which I really hadn’t managed to do at that stage (it is only C’rizz’s second story, and arguably not even that). The others I particularly liked were The Twilight Kingdom, Caerdroia, Terror Firma and Time Works. There are some real turkeys as well, which I won’t embarrass by naming here except to point out that The Next Life is the only misfire I have yet encountered from the pen of Alan Barnes. Not C’rizz’s fault, and certainly not Conrad Westmaas’s, but the concetration on weird bendings of time and space as opposed to, you know, plot and character which seemes to have typified Big finish’s approach to the Eighth Doctor did not do him any favours.

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