Latest from Big Finish

Gosh, the last time I did a roundup of Big Finish audios was September. My travels in October and November, and then catching up afterwards, mean that once again my intention of writing them up individually is breached rather than observed. Anyway, this is what I’ve been listening to lately, in continuity order rather than release order; juts finished in time for this month’s releases, I hope.

I read the Moris Fahi’s scripts for the unbroadcast stories Farewell Great Macedon and The Yellow Arc of Fragrance when they came out a year ago, and really liked them; Big Finish, faced with the difficulty of doing them for audio now that William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill are unable to contribute, have gone for an extended Companion Chronicle type format, with William Russell and Carole Ann Ford reprising the characters of Ian and Susan, also taking on various other incidental characters, joined by John Dorney as Alexander the Great for the first story and by Dorney and Helen Goldwyn for the second. As I said on reading them, they are both very sad stories which would have been unlikely to make it to the screen i 1964; but they are excellent pieces, and though each of the seven episodes (six for Macedon and one for Fragrance) extends well beyond the usual 25 minutes, they are well worth it. In particular, I was able to form a much better idea of the characters in Alexander’s entourage thanks to Russell and Ford’s performance than I could from simply reading the script. Strongly recommended for First Doctor fans in particular but really for anyone; these are good stories in their own right.

The Invasion of E-Space is a Companion Chronicle told by Lalla Ward’s Romana II, with herself, the Doctor and Adric preventing, well, an invasion of E-Space. A decent enough story which however doesn’t fit all that well with the established continuity of the E-Space trilogy.

A Town Called Fortune is yet another Wild West story – I think we’ve had three or four audio tales with that setting in the last couple of years – but a good one, with Richard Cordery playing Sam the sheriff, and Maggie Stables playing her own character Evelyn, and the Sixth Doctor, and everyone else as well. It’s interesting in that the only sfnal element in the story is the Doctor’s own presence. Stables is excellent and it’s a good tale of revenge and confusion, written by Paul Sutton.

For Doctor Who’s 45th anniversary two years ago, Big Finish released four single-episode stories collectively called Forty-Five, of which the last and best was The Word Lord by Steven Hall. A Death In The Family picks up on the cliff-hanger of the end of Project: Destiny and packs in mases and masses of different stories, including the Word Lord’s verbal duelling with Ace, the Seventh Doctor disappearing and reappearing in his own timeline, and the ultimate fate of Evelyn Smythe. It’s not a play that will make much sense to those unfamiliar with the Big finish continuity, but excellent for those of us who are.

I’ve been impressed more often than not with various authors’ attempts to link Doctor Who with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos (most of which, come to thin of it, feature the Seventh Doctor), and I liked Marty Ross’s Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge too; one of the key characters is the peculiar patient C.P. Doveday, who writes down his weird fantasies and sometimes gets them published; but there is much more going on in Alaska than one might think. Excellent riffs on various pieces of Lovecraftiana, though perhaps a bit less emphasis on the Doctor, Ace and Hex than usual.

The current season of Eighth Doctor stories got off to a bit of a duff start with a new and not terribly engaging companion, Tamsin Drewe played by Nikki Wardley. Somehow in Jonathan Morris’s two-parter Deimos/The Resurrection of Mars it catches fire, with the return of Sheridan Smith’s Lucie Miller and Graeme Garden as the Meddling Monk, and various agonising about Ice Warriors and the fate of planets and whether or not the Doctor can or should take responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Oddly enough it’s McGann who sometimes doesn’t sound quite sure if he should be taking it seriously, but everyone else (including especially a guest performance from Tracey-Ann Obermann) is excellent.

I was underwhelmed by An Earthly Child, released earlier a year ago, which brought Paul McGann together with Carole Ann Ford as Susan and McGann’s son Jake playing Susan’s son Alex. Relative Dimensions, also by Marc Platt, seemed to me to work a little better because it was trying less hard. I am not a huge fan of McGann’s Doctor, but this time he seemed to me to nail the character of the moody, neurotic, somewhat needy Time Lord who is trying to do a little bit of good. I wasn’t wild about the plot – the idea of pets taking over the Tardis has been done before, and done better; and I’m not convinced by the younger McGann. But as a story about the Eightht Doctor I thought it worked well.

So, of these, I heartily recommend the First Doctor Box Set to pretty much anyone who knows what Doctor Who is, and A Death in the Family and Deimos/The Resurrection of Mars for those who are familiar with the respective continuities.

One thought on “Latest from Big Finish

  1. Certainly he didn’t mean to say that the EU was like the Third Reich, but the structure of his analogy seems to cast it in that role, which is one reason why I think it was unwise. It’s very hard to draw a cordon sanitaire between the aspects of an analogy you want people to focus on and those you’d rather they ignored, as many a hapless politician has discovered.

    That was a matter of mere clumsiness, however. My main objection to his words is contained in my first comment. I find it very hard to read Sikorski’s remark, especially given the “crispness” with which it was reportedly delivered, other as an implied rebuke for some historical betrayal of Poland by Britain in 1939. But there was no such betrayal (quite the reverse). What should and could Britain have done for Poland in 1939 that it did not do? (Conversely, if he wants to judge countries today by their behaviour in 1939, then why is he advocating a German-led Europe? There are some very strange double-standards being applied here.)

    If, however, Sikorski is merely complaining that Britain was not omnipotent either then or now, then – yeah. (And where were the Poles when we needed them in 1066?)

    Please note that my objections are not necessarily to his political position (though I don’t share it) but to this specific remark.

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