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Review of Attack of the Cybermen by TillyTheTill

Attack Of The Cybermen is a story whose reputation precedes it. I've seen plenty of people hail it as a masterpiece, and an equal and opposite amount of people who treat watching it it like stepping in dog poo on the street. So what do I think?

Ehhhhhh I don't know.

Look. I like it. But I also don't? I can never make up my mind on if I like it because of the dark elements in it, or because bits of it are so hilariously strange that they classify as “so bad it's good”. Alright, let's try and make a coherent thread out of this.

For one, let's address the elephant in the room. We know Paula Moore/Woolsley didn't write it. So who did? Everyone has debated til the cows came home about whether or not it's Eric Saward, Ian Levine or John Nathan-Turner. In my mind, it's very obviously Eric Saward. For a start, it has his trademark dark storytelling, hilariously overcomplicated dialogue ('Sawardese') and things that happen purely for the sake of ✨ d r a m a ✨. This is very clearly an Eric Saward script.

This story is memorable for a couple of reasons: one, it's violent as all hell, and two, Peri's outfits. Let's start with the latter then get to the former.

As a cosplayer, Peri's outfits are iconic. They're instantly recognisable, easy to source and easy to wear. Instant classics. However, from a story point of view... yeah no, no amount of justification is going to be able to explain her costume in Part 1 of this story. With other companions you could kind of maybe see what they were trying to go for - Leela's jumps out at me in this regard given she's from a culture and a planet where her kind dress like this for ease of combat and tradition. At least that makes sense to her background and her character, I suppose. Peri, on the other hand, doesn't have much of a reason to be running around in skimpy outfits other than the infamous “for the dads” reasoning. Eugh. At least she's given a more reasonable jumpsuit in Part 2, which leads to the humorous relevation that the Cybermen must have dressed her in it given they knew Telos would be too cold for her Part 1 getup. That'll always be funny to me.

Right, so let's talk violence. Doctor Who, especially Classic Who, is known for it. And while I think a healthy dose of fighting in a Who story is a good thing, Attack Of The Cybermen kinda goes a bit overboard with it. Death after death after death. Brutal depictions of cyber-conversion. Lytton's hands being squeezed until they're bleeding rapidly as he screams in pain. The Doctor casually run-and-gunning the Cybermen in the big punchup at the end. Say what you will about the drowning scene in The Deadly Assassin, but Attack takes the notion of “Let's do violence!” and turns it up to 11. I remember reading somewhere that Attack has a higher body count than Terminator. While I'm not entirely sure how true that is, I can certainly believe it. This story is so goddamn gory, it's almost painful to watch. As I've said before, I love me a dark story, but not one that just revels in making the audience uncomfortable.

That's kinda my main problem with Attack. It doesn't know what kind of story is wants to be. Is it a “return of Lytton” adventure that explores how underhanded and shady his operations are? Is it a gruesome return to form for the Cybermen, taking them back to their macabre and experimental roots, dabbling in body horror? Is it your typical Six and Peri story where they argue and can't get along? All of these things happen, yes, but there's no through line, so to speak. What's connecting them, save for the trademark bizarre dialogue choices? Not much, if I'm honest.

As a series opener, Attack has the task of reminding our audience where we were when we left the Doctor and their companion and possibly introduce new audience members to how the show works. It fails at both of these. Is it a story that is at the very least entertaining? Yeah. Very entertaining, even funny at times. Is it also a confused and muddled mess that isn't sure what it wants to be so just throws everything at the wall and hope something sticks? Also yes.

I have to give a shoutout to Matthew Robinson's direction. The story might be all over the place, but his co-ordination with the lighting crew, cameramen and set designers is top-notch. He's made the most of an otherwise confusing mess. The actors deserve credit as well. They're really trying to make this hodgepodge work, and for the most part - I'd argue - they succeed. The music's really good, too. That's the problem, you see. The more negative thoughts and confusion about this thing cloud my judgement of the piece, which makes it really difficult for me to make a fair judgement of the piece. It's hard to know what to say about something I can't make my mind up on, and I wish I could come up with something much more conclusive to say.

Bottom-line, I'd have done it differently. That's really all I can say on the matter.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of No Man’s Land by deltaandthebannermen

No Man’s Land is the Doctor Who story which is relatively unique in its setting – a pure historical set during the Great War. There are stories with Weeping Angels and Daleks infiltrating this time period but setting the Doctor and his companions down in the middle of this terrible conflict and just allowed them to experience it as was is far more unusual.

Admittedly, No Man’s Land does still have the slightest of sci-fi twists but overall, the Doctor, Ace and Hex have to fight against the horrors of humanity. There were many parts of this where I could see it working as a Young Indiana Jones story, particularly their investigations around the hospital and when Ace and Hex head out to an abandoned church in No Man’s Land.

From the outset, things seem a little awry at the military hospital. A letter has been received announcing the arrival of the Doctor and two associates. This gives the TARDIS crew an immediate in road and a compulsion to investigate the mystery not only of the letter, but also of the murder it predicts.

Even without the letter, things don’t seem right. The soldiers are regularly subjected to the ‘Hate Room’ where they are more or less brainwashed into becoming killing machines. What’s bizarre is that nobody seems to be questioning this rehabilitation tactic, not even the Doctor initially – and that’s with Hex being subjected to the room. If there’s one criticism I’d level at the story it’s that obviously odd or suspicious occurrences go almost without comment. Hex, for example, goes missing for quite a while (he’s being held captive in the Hate Room’ and yet the Doctor and Ace don’t seem to be actively searching for him. The hospital can’t be so big that they couldn’t do a quick sweep to find out where he’s got to.

When the Doctor does eventually find Hex, very little is made of the fact that he has been subjected to the process or why Sergeant Wood put him there.

Aside from this, though, the story rattles along at a good pace with the focus, initially, being on the predicted murder, and then shifting to the machinations of Lieutenant Colonel Brook and what’s really going on at the hospital.

There’s also some interesting examination of the role of soldiers and the idea of cowardice. I remember, many, many years ago, watching a schools serial called ‘How We Used to Live’ based around the First World War. One aspect which has stuck with me all these years was a character being sent a white feather as a sign of cowardice for not enlisting in the armed forces. It’s a horrible example of society guilting people into put themselves up for death and yet here, in No Man’s Land, we see how soldiers were constantly battling not just the enemy, but prejudice in their own ranks either for perceived cowardice or unentitled privilege.

Listening to No Man’s Land has highlighted something which has been bugging me about Sophie Aldred. I recently listened to the ‘Hector trilogy’ (Nucleus of the Swarm, Mask of Tragedy and Signs and Wonders). Weird creative decisions about Hex/Hector’s character development aside, one frustrating aspect of those audios is Sophie Aldred’s sudden change of performance style for Ace. In stories like No Man’s Land, it’s clear Ace has matured and Aldred’s acting is spot on. In the Hector trilogy, though, Aldred has become very shouty, Ace seems to have regressed into a teenager again and, strangest of all, she sounds more and more like a boy. Aldred, a few years ago, did a series for CBeebies called Tree Fu Tom. In that, she provided the voice for the main character – a boy called Tom who shrinks down and hangs out with fairy folk. What seems, oddly, to be happening is that Ace is turning into Tree Fu Tom. More and more, her voice acting seems closer and closer to that performance than it does to those from No Man’s Land (and Gods and Monsters, although there are hints of Tree Fu Tom breaking through, even there).

Listening to No Man’s Land highlighted the change in Aldred’s performance to me and it’s frustrating that directors of the audios don’t seem to be noticing this weird shift in her performance. Aldred can be amazing as Ace, particularly in the run of stories from The Harvest through to Gods and Monsters, but it’s just not working after that (and I haven’t heard great things about her performance in the more recent audios teaming her up with Mel again – all of which are supposed to occur after her travels with Hex).

No Man’s Land is also a good vehicle for Philip Olivier’s Hex, a companion I’ve had trouble with in previous audios for this marathon. Here, he is great, and bounces well off Ace and the Doctor. Sylvester McCoy also gives a good turn as the Doctor without too much of the ‘angry’ acting and more of the ‘quiet menace’ that he’s much better at.

The guest cast are good, although due to it all being male a few of the soldiers are a little difficult to distinguish at certain points of the story. Leading them, as Brook, is Black Orchid and Ghost Light alumni Michaael Cochrane, who is brilliant as a man able to charm and intimidate in equal measure, turning on a sixpence as the situation demands it.

Historically, this story hits many of the same beats as previous WW1 set stories, but with specific focus on the hospital and No Man’s Land itself. The overall mystery does have a slightly sci-fi reveal (in that the people Brook works for are hinted as being the Forge, which – signficantly – ties in to Hex’s tragic family background). But this reveal is a minor tag at the end of the story, almost an afterthought, and the main thrust retains its historical focus.

No Man’s Land is a bit of a forgotten gem and a Big Finish audio worth seeking out as a good example of Doctor Who doing ‘history’ and of the 7th/Ace/Hex TARDIS team.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Dot and Bubble by mikeyatesapologist

the stakes just didnt feel real at all, great foreshadowing though!

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of No Man’s Land by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#089. No Man’s Land ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

It genuinely surprises me how little focus the First World War seems to get in fiction. Speaking as someone who spent a lot of their childhood staying up far too late playing first-person shooters, the games industry has only very recently stepped further back in time to showcase the conflict with Kaiser Wilhelm II.

There had never been a conflict quite like the Great War, with many soldiers suffering from what was once known as Shell Shock, and hoping to be injured enough to go back home. But things are a lot more sinister at Charnage Hospital, as the TARDIS team are about to find out…

◆ Publisher’s Summary

It is 1917 and the Doctor, Hex and Ace find themselves in a military hospital in northern France. But the terrifying, relentless brutality of the Great War that wages only a few miles away is the least of their concerns.

The travellers become metaphysical detectives when the Doctor receives orders to investigate a murder. A murder that has yet to be committed...

Who will be the victim? Who will be the murderer? What is the real purpose of the Hate Room? Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the simmering hate and anger at Charnage hospital erupts into a frenzy of violence?

◆ The Seventh Doctor

This is the last review I’m writing for this TARDIS team for quite a while, and what a way to end my Seventh Doctor marathon. ‘No Man’s Land’ sees Sylvester McCoy slipping into investigative territory, as he grills the other characters on the murder yet to happen. It’s a marvellous performance.

The Doctor doesn’t appear to have a pulse, because of some sort of emergency shutdown system Time Lords have. He tells Private Taylor that a soldier without a moral compass to guide him is one of the most frightening things in the world. He’s faced more firing squads than Brook has had lukewarm dinners. The Doctor found a letter in Brook’s office that confirmed his worst suspicions… that the Forge was behind everything that happened at Charnage Hospital!

◆ Ace

‘No Man’s Land’ is yet another opportunity for Sophie Aldred to deliver a brilliant performance, despite getting the least amount to do out of our three protagonists.

Ace isn’t sure if it was a shell or a mine that got them, but she didn’t hang around to check… she was to busy flying through the air! She did First World War poetry at school; Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

◆ Hex

Following on from his masterful performance in ‘The Settling’, Philip Olivier continues to flourish as a performer. He gets some of the strongest material in ‘No Man’s Land’ and really does it justice.

Hex didn’t just do the poetry at school, he learnt the facts of World War One; four years, eight million people killed. It’s clear that the atrocities he saw at Drogheda are still weighing heavily on his mind. There are guys younger than him out there in the trenches, thousands of them will never get home. He couldn’t do what they’re doing. Hex isn’t on anyone’s side, which merits him being called a coward by Sergeant Wood… who proceeds to leave him in the Hate Room overnight! He has no idea what happened to his mother, because his dad never talked about it (he’s gonna have quite the shock come ‘Project: Destiny’).

◆ Story Recap

After nearly being blown to kingdom come by artillery fire, the TARDIS team regain consciousness inside a military hospital in northern France, where they receive orders to investigate a murder that hasn’t happened yet. Unfortunately, this is the least of their worries.

Charnage Hospital is filled with battle-scared troops, suffering from both physical and mental afflictions, but someone is attempting to turn them into the ultimate killers. The Hate Room is specially designed to heighten the soldiers emotional response, to make them single-minded and obsessed with eliminating the Boche.

The Doctor’s day is about to get a whole lot worse though, when he discovers who the true masterminds of this immoral experiment are.

◆ The Daily Hate

‘No Man’s Land’ appears to have a really mixed reputation amongst the fandom, which genuinely shocked me. I understand that slow-burning adventures aren’t for everyone, but anyone who has read my reviews will know that they hold a special place in my heart.

This whole story revolves around an event carried out at the hospital known as “the Daily Hate” - the Lieutenant-Colonel likes to remind the troops of who the enemy are to keep them focused, listening to recordings of racist propaganda whilst they are forced to fire blank rounds at dummies dressed up like German soldiers. The idea being that he can turn them into killers fuelled on nothing but hatred; a battalion of well-trained berserker troops to clear out the enemy. It’s brainwashing in a nut-shell.

Hex claims that the soldiers who have went through the Hate Room end up no better than the Cybermen, but I think that it would be more accurate to compare them to Daleks – all emotions suppressed or eradicated, all barn pure hatred! It’s a really interesting idea, and Martin Day executes it really well.

◆ Unhinged Experiments

This entire operation is being supervised by the hospital’s commanding officer, and he is a brilliant bad guy. Lieutenant-Colonel Brook is an incredibly driven soldier and clearly quite patriotic. He’s incredibly manipulative too, taking full advantage of the death of Private Taylor’s friend to rile him up, to make him even more angry at what the Germans are doing to their side in the war.

Towards the end of the story, Brook even admits that he’s making it up as he goes along; testing the psyches of his soldiers to see which ones crack under pressure and which hold up. Ladies and gentlemen, what a total head-case!

It is worth mentioning that Brook’s entire operation at this military field hospital was set up by the Forge. Hardcore BigFinish fans will be aware that Hex is in fact the son of Cassie Schofield. She was a friend to the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, who sadly got infected with the Twilight virus whilst working at the Dusk Casino. Before she could be cured, she was shot dead by the Forge’s enigmatic leader; Nimrod. The choice to have the Forge be responsible for the events of this story makes it feel like we’re on the edge of a story arc. Pretty soon, Hex is going to find out the truth of what happened to his mother… and how the Doctor was there to witness it!

◆ Sound Design

A field hospital only a few miles away from the front lines, where psychological experiments are being carried out by a member of the Forge. Simon Robinson does an astoundingly good job with the sound design for this release, with the Hate Room being a particular highlight.

We open the adventure with soldiers chanting “Die! Die! Die!” as they take part in the Morning Hate, before opening fire on the dummy soldiers. Crackling music from the turn of the century plays on Brook’s phonograph. We get a proper glimpse of the Hate Room when it’s being shown to Captain Dudgeon; soldiers all angrily declaring how they’ll kill the Bosch, whilst a recording of Hindenburg plays in the background. Private Taylor clicks away at his military grade typewriter, writing a letter to his girl back home. Buzzing electrodes, as Hex is subjected to torture inside the Hate Room. Rain pours down, as Ace and Hex squelch through the muddy wastes of no man’s land. A biplane flies over no man’s land, whilst soldiers take pot shots at both it and the Doctor’s companions. A shattering window, as the Doctor and Private Taylor leap out of Brook’s first floor office. The rumbling engine of a Triumph motorbike, as the Doctor and Taylor flee Charnage Hospital.

◆ Music

Simon Robinson is also handling the score for ‘No Man’s Land’, which is wildly different to any of his previous compositions. Harsh and industrial, this really shouldn’t work as well as it does.

I’m reminded of ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’, another adventure with an incredibly odd score that actually works really well.

◆ Conclusion

Each German death brings us one step closer to finishing this business off!”

‘No Man’s Land’ is going to be my last Seventh Doctor review for a while, because I’ve been marathoning his adventures for over a month now and don’t want to get burnt out, but what a tremendous story to end my marathon on.

The idea of mental conditioning has already been explored in my absolute favourite Seventh Doctor story, ‘Red’ by Stewart Sheargold, but this adventure offers a really fun take on the topic. You literally have the main villain subjecting injured soldiers to recordings of British civilians being murdered whilst German officials chant orders, all to increase their hatred for the enemy and turn them into single-minded homicidal nut-cases.

Speaking of our main villain, Michael Cochrane is absolutely the highlight of ‘No Man’s Land’. Lieutenant-Colonel Brook can seem quite sane and patriotic one moment, and become a ranting and raving lunatic the next… but he has you hanging on his every word.

I’d also like to do something I rarely-if-ever do in these reviews, and draw your attention to the covert artwork for this story. This burnt orange image is absolutely gorgeous, and McCoy looks royally miffed too.

‘No Man’s Land’ certainly seems a lot more divisive than I first thought it would be, but I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of The Settling by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#082. The Settling ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

We’re moving onto a double bill of excellent stories now, beginning with a pure historical from one of my favourite writers. I’ve often been a proud supporter of the pure historical genre, because the best of them always manage to keep you entertained whilst also teaching you something.

But some of the Doctor’s companions can’t simply observe, they see the horrifying truth and barbarism of history and feel like they need to intervene. Whether that be a history teacher from Coal Hill trying to stop an Aztec sacrifice… or a nurse from St Gart’s Hospital wanting to minimise casualties during one of the worst atrocities in Irish history.

◆ Publisher’s Summary

Note to Sir Arthur Aston, governor of the town of Drogheda, 10 September 1649.

"Sir, Having brought the army belonging to the Parliament of England before this place, to reduce it to obedience, to the end effusion of blood may be prevented, I thought fit to summon you to deliver the same into my hands to their use.

If this be refused, you will have no cause to blame me.

I expect your answer and rest your servant.

O. Cromwell."

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Despite this being only their fifth story together, this TARDIS team is already acting like a tightly nit family. Their interactions with each other are brilliant, and it’s genuinely just a lot of fun to hear them in action. Sylvester McCoy seems to have a lot of fun playing midwife in ‘The Settling’, and his performance is top-notch.

The Doctor used to take on the universe single-handed, real ego-trip stuff (small man’s complex according to Ace). The minute he realises where and when they’ve landed, he wants nothing more than to get back in the TARDIS and leave. His bedside manner when looking after Mary is brilliant, being a perfect listener and not judging her in the slightest. The Doctor’s voice quivers with regret and sadness when he finds Ace, finds out that she ignored his order and fought alongside the Irish. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he finds himself having to deliver Mary’s baby during the Sack of Wexford (he really rises to the occasion though, making an excellent midwife).

◆ Ace

Sophie Aldred absolutely excels in ‘The Settling’, putting on a fabulous performance worthy of Guerrier’s incredible writing.

Ace climbed the snowy mountain in the TARDIS once before. She used to hide in the mountain range when she would have arguments with the Doctor, back in her teens. She cannot believe that the Doctor would have brought them to Drogheda on purpose, but then recalls when he took her to face her own demons at Gabriel Chase. Ace thinks that the TARDIS latches onto hotspots in history; events so big that they effect the vortex, that's why they always end up where stuff is happening. First thing she learnt was to never listen to the Doctor (that sounds like a fast way to get killed). She claims that the captain of Cleopatra’s guard was a friend of a friend; best swordsmen she ever met, and he taught her fencing (he also made a mean fig casserole). Ace sees Hex like a little brother.

◆ Hex

‘The Settling’ is absolutely Philip Olivier’s story. This is some incredibly powerful material, and it would have been so easy to fluff the lines, but he ends up delivering one of his finest performances!

Hex refuses to leave Drogheda because it wouldn’t be right, and it’s clear he wants to help the locals. He isn’t that religious, but seeing a church on fire is just wrong. You hear “thousands dead” and you think you understand it, but being there… it’s nothing like you see on the news; bodies everywhere and guts all over the streets. Hex is a nurse, and he cannot understand why everyone thinks that’s something to laugh at. Listening to Cromwell’s attempts to justify his conquest of Ireland, he is utterly defiant and disgusted – whatever he says, he can’t make it right. You cannot justify wholesale slaughter on moral grounds! It’s been a joke since he joined the TARDIS that “Oh my God!” is basically Hex’s catchphrase, but it backfires on him when he says it in front of Cromwell… who beats him up and sentences him to death as a blasphemer!

◆ Story Recap

1649, Ireland. The Roundheads have laid siege to the small coastal town of Drogheda, with three-thousand Irish Royalists being killed, wounded or captured during the massacre. That’s not even taking into account the hundreds of civilian casualties.

The TARDIS crew arrive and soon find themselves flung into the chaos – with the Doctor acting as a midwife to a pregnant Irish widower named Mary, and Ace joining the fight against the Roundheads.

Hex finds himself captured and brought before Oliver Cromwell, the man responsible for this historical atrocity. He’s still relatively new to time travel, and thinks he can help the Lord Protector settle Ireland more peacefully… but Hex is about to learn that difficult age old lesson of realising you cannot make a real difference to history.

◆ Historical Atrocities

‘The Settling’ is easily one of my favourite pure historicals of all time, and I’d argue that it’s greater than even Evelyn’s debut adventure (bet that remark will annoy some people).

I have a huge amount of respect for the writers who will dive into not only historical events, but the genuine tragedies of the past. I decided to do a bit of research on the Siege of Drogheda before writing this review, and it’s understandable why it’s classed as one of the worst atrocities in Irish history; casualties stretching into the thousands, as Cromwell bombarded the town’s medieval curtain walls with cannon fire. He reportedly saw his fallen Roundhead troops at the breaches in the walls and ordered his surviving forces to leave nobody in the town left alive. In the man’s own words - “In the heat of the action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town… and, that night they put to the sword about two thousand men.” - the Roundheads even murdered the Irish Royalists who had surrendered at Drogheda (their commander was reported beaten to death with his own wooden leg).

What you’ve got to remember when listening to something like ‘The Settling’ is that history isn’t always adventures to the Wild West, or Barbara being chased around by Nero in a scene reminiscent of Benny Hill. History is very rarely pleasant, and modern society is built on the backs of the dead… Christ, that got depressing!

◆ Sound Design

The Siege of Drogheda is a wall of noise, as Cromwell’s loyalist forces begin massacring those trying to defend the town, and those who are just innocent bystanders. David Darlington has done a fab job at bringing this historical tragedy to life.

Howling winds in the TARDIS mountain range. Gunfire, shouting and clashing swords dominate the siege, whilst rain falls onto the bloody battlefield. Squelching mud underfoot. People crying in Drogheda following the battle, mourning the dead bodies strewn about their town. The TARDIS console room is in the process of being redecorated, according to Ace, so the ambient sounds have now switched to those of ‘The TV Movie’. Mary’s baby cries following the birth.

◆ Music

David Darlington is also behind the score for ‘The Settling’, and it is absolutely stunning. Traditional Irish music that fully embraces the setting of this adventure, the use of the violin in particular here was breathtaking.

When the fighting is in full swing, the score reflects the chaos of the massacre that is about to unfold. Then you have moments like when the Doctor finds Ace injured on the battlefield during part two, where the music becomes really soft yet dramatic. Genuinely one of my favourite scores of any BigFinish play.

◆ Conclusion

I spent the best part of today keeping her alive!”

Pure historical adventures have always been some of my favourites, but some of the best always add an element of humanity to the drama, often by plunging the TARDIS team right into the heart of a tragedy. In the case of this story, it’s the Siege of Drogheda in 1649.

‘The Settling’ is easily one of my favourite stories Simon Guerrier has ever written for this franchise (which is shocking given how much love his spin-off series, ‘Graceless’, constantly gets from me).

You could also call this story a modern day equivalent of ‘The Aztecs’ because it teaches Hex the same lesson that Barbara learnt all those years ago; time doesn’t care about all the little people. You push time one way, and it will push back.

The performances in this adventure are all top tier, but Clive Mantle steals the show with his portrayal of Oliver Cromwell (attempting to justify his massacre by citing it as God’s will – in a manner not too dissimilar to the way Queen Mary tried to justify burning thousands of Protestants in ‘The Marian Conspiracy’). Philip Olivier also deserves truck-loads of praise for his handling of the material too; this was most definitely Hex’s story.

If you’ve not listened to ‘The Settling’, then you are sorely missing out on pure historical excellence.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Night Thoughts by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#079. Night Thoughts ~ 9/10

◆ An Introduction

Long before BigFinish launched their highly successful range ‘The Lost Stories’, an unmade television script was actually submitted to this range. Obviously a few changes had to be made to accommodate the audio medium, and also because everyone’s favourite Liverpudlian had just joined this TARDIS team, but it’s a story that is still fondly talked about seventeen years later.

◆ Publisher’s Summary

'I warn you, things could get very nasty here before they get better.'

A remote Scottish mansion. Five bickering academics are haunted by ghosts from their past. Reluctantly they offer shelter to the Doctor and his companions Ace and Hex.

Hex, already troubled by a vivid nightmare, is further disturbed by the nighttime appearance of a whistling, hooded apparition.

Ace tries to befriend the young housemaid, Sue. Sue knows secrets. She knows why the academics have assembled here, and she knows why they are all so afraid. But Sue's lips are sealed, preferring to communicate through her disturbing toy, Happy the Rabbit.

And then the killing begins. Gruesome deaths that lead the Doctor and his friends to discover the grisly truth behind the academics' plans, and – as the ghosts of the past become ghosts of the present – to recognise that sometimes death can be preferable to life.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

After two rather experimental adventures, we get to hear this TARDIS team working together in much more conventional surroundings. Sylvester McCoy has really settled into the audio medium by this point, and he’s really connecting with his two companions too. His performance in ‘Night Thoughts’ honestly took my breath away.

The Doctor’s discipline is mainly that of macro cosmology, but he dabbles in other fields. He’s a traveller who likes to experience and observe, and yet he finds the more things change, the more they stay the same. He doesn’t think much of Major Dickens (“One of them has cancer… cancer of the soul”).

◆ Ace

‘Night Thoughts’ features a brilliant performance from Sophie Aldred, who is thankfully out of that weird “Just McShane” storyline!

Ace starts the story by falling head-first into a freezing cold lake, and is understandably in shock. She can remember her mum crying for days when her gran died, she was only three, but the memory is sort of burned onto her mind. Over the years, she has been through a lot with the Doctor, and is convinced she should have been able to handle what she saw at the bottom of the lake.

◆ Hex

Following the experimental madness of both ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘LIVE 34’, we finally get to hear Philip Olivier in a more conventional adventure, and his performance in ‘Night Thoughts’ is genuinely marvellous.

Hex isn’t one for dreams, or reading too much into them, but he had an extremely vivid nightmare last night – there was a kid’s toy on an operating table, and a man named Hartley being forced to operate on it. He’s trained as a staff nurse. The poor bloke gets the shock of his life when looking for a midnight snack, completely forgetting that Dickens put Hartley’s body in the chest freezer! Hex tells Sue that they have something in common, never knowing their mothers. He was brought up by his gran, though he thought she was his mam until he was six – he’s on Sue’s wavelength, and sweetly gives her a bear hug.

◆ Story Recap

1996, Gravonax Island. A group of university professors are carrying out experiments to send a message through time, when they are interrupted by the arrival of a woman named Maude, and her two daughters, seeking shelter from a dreadful storm. The academics welcome them with open arms, but one of the daughters, Edie, soon went blind. Major Dickens soon diagnosed her with Gravonax Poisoning… a terminal disease.

To avoid painful suffocation, the academics carried out what they call “compassionate euthanasia”, and buried her somewhere on the island. Stricken with grief, Maude later committed suicide by drowning herself in the nearby lake. It was presumed her younger daughter died with her.

2006, Gravonax Island. The Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive to find the same group of university professors hunkered down at Sibley Hall… and then a spate of murders and suicides start, before the horrifying truth is finally revealed.

They discover that Dickens misdiagnosed Edie, and she was only suffering from a simple eye infection. But he had an ulterior motive this entire time, wanting to use the temporal experiments to resurrect Edie. All he wanted was to be famous for bringing someone back to life, which would certainly impress his old comrades back in the armed forces.

◆ Memories of Hinchcliffe

‘Night Thoughts’ is another incredibly dark story for this TARDIS team, but perhaps in a more traditional sense. The location of Sibley Hall feels like it could easily have been written for the Hinchcliffe era, with an unknown killer roaming round in the dark with a dodgy recording of the Doctor’s voice, a bunch of hypodermic needles and a spoon to gouge out people’s eyes! I think it’s fair to say that this story isn’t afraid to be gruesome with its imagery.

◆ The Orphan

My favourite aspect of ‘Night Thoughts’ is honestly the plot involving Sue, who later turns out to be Maude’s younger daughter. She’s spent her entire life in care, and now finds herself in the exact place her mam and sister perished. She’s emotionally damaged and vulnerable, and much praise should be given to Lizzie Hopley for her performance in the role.

To think that the person playing Sue would go on to write my all-time favourite BigFinish release (‘Sonny’).

◆ Military Intelligence: Contradiction of Terms

If there is one downside to ‘Night Thoughts’, then it would have to be the character of Major Dickens. Whilst he is very clearly meant to be an unhinged and militaristic psychopath, I found him incredibly one dimensional.

Martin Day would create a similar character for a story coming up called ‘No Man’s Land’, and I definitely think Lieutenant-Colonel Brook is a more convincing army head-case than the Major.

◆ Sound Design

We conclude ‘Night Thoughts’ by discussing its post-production, and this is where the adventure really comes to life. I can clearly picture Sibley Hall in my mind as this grand-old Gothic structure, isolated on this lonely island, surrounded by leafless and barren trees forming shapes in the night. Gareth Jenkins deserves so much credit for creating a really haunting atmosphere with his sound design.

A bleeping heart monitor and the pumping of a ventilator, as Major Dickens forces the academics to operate. Stormy weather batters the island, and owls howl in the night wind. A crackling radio broadcast inside of Sibley Hall. Thrashing water, as Ace falls into the lake! A rewinding tape recorder, as the killer captures the Doctor’s voice. Heavy breathing from the killer in the cellar, right before they murder Joe Hartley… whistling to the tune of Oranges and Lemons as they leave. The crackling of a roaring fireplace. An old-fashioned bear trap clamps shut, narrowly missing Ace’s legs! The taxidermied bear falls onto the Bursar with a thud… killing her instantly. Major Dickens has his eyes removed in gruesome fashion at the end of the story.

◆ Music

The other half of ERS Studios is handling the score for ‘Night Thoughts’, and I must commend Andy Hardwick for his excellent use of the piano here. It really builds upon the excellent atmosphere brought about by the writing and sound design. Oddly enough, it also reminded me a lot of Ben Bartlett’s music for one of my favourite television series, Vera.

◆ Conclusion

Mother dead! Father gone! We think your sister’s drowned!”

A military man gave a terminal diagnosis to a girl who only had an eye infection, all so he had a corpse to use in his deranged experiments. Major Dickens thinks he can resurrect Edie, but time is a force of nature that you can rarely change.

‘Night Thoughts’ is yet another dark story, and I can definitely see why it was rejected by JNT (you’d never have gotten away with doing a story this gruesome on television).

This TARDIS team has really hit its stride now, operating like a well-oiled machine, and Edward Young clearly has a great understanding of the characters. Whilst I wish Dickens was less of a cackling villain and had a bit more depth to him, this is still a really enjoyable slice of horror Who. I’m now also petrified of taxidermied bears.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of LIVE 34 by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#074. LIVE 34 ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

BigFinish had a reputation for doing some really experimental stories during the Gary Russell era, but I feel like their imaginative streak has sadly been worn down ever since he left the company back in 2006; the experimental flame is now kept alive, primarily, by the Torchwood audios.

Out of all those adventures to play with the format and do something truly imaginative, I think it’s fair to say that this is the most well-known and revered.

Sit back and relax, the news programme is about to begin… and nothing will ever be the same again on Colony 34!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

"You're listening to LIVE 34."

"LIVE 34 | News on the hour every hour | LIVE 34 | Broadcasting to Colony 34 all day every day | LIVE 34 | Constantly updated every minute of every hour | LIVE 34| Sport, weather, business, local news, interplanetary affairs | LIVE 34 | Live, independent, accurate, comprehensive | LIVE 34 – all news, all day, every day | LIVE 34..."

"Reports are coming in of an explosion..."

"On the line now is the leader of the FDP..."

"The President is about to begin his address..."

"We can see bodies in the wreckage..."

◆ The Seventh Doctor

‘LIVE 34’ is among the greatest scripts ever written for BigFinish, and I am absolutely euphoric that Sylvester McCoy gave one of his best performances for this adventure. Kudos McCoy, you done amazingly here!

The Doctor is totally opposed to any action which leads to the loss of life. If he could speak to those responsible for the bombings, he would remind them that blowing things up is not the answer (at least not in this case). He understands their frustration, but there are better and more subtle ways of achieving their goal than big bangs. He also believes that they are risking playing into the hands of the government and being blamed for things they didn’t do. The Doctor condemns Jaeger and his government as an abhorrence; they sicken him!

◆ Ace

Interestingly, Sophie Aldred doesn’t appear until the second episode of ‘LIVE 34’, but she instantly captures your attention as the rebel queen of Colony 34. Fantastic performance!

Ace is a better title than Rebel Queen. She’s had several names, but it’s the one she has decided she likes the best; it’s her name (and thus ends the “Just McShane” story arc). She hasn’t killed anyone, and neither have any of her friends, because they’re trying to stop the killing!

◆ Hex

Unfortunately, ‘LIVE 34’ doesn’t really feature our TARDIS newbie that much – with Olivier being absent until the third episode – but his charming Liverpudlian tones are a welcome addition. He puts on a brilliant show in this story.

Hex kicks off episode three by chowing down on some chips and gravy, claiming that it’s a delicacy where he comes from (well I’m hungry now). Some people do die, but it’s part of his job as a paramedic. As long as he can say he did everything he could, that’s the important thing. Hex became a paramedic because of his gran; his dad worked on the docks and got made redundant, losing what he thought would be a job for life… so he took his gran’s advice to get a job that would always be in demand, and thought medicine would be a pretty safe bet. He trained as a nurse, and now he’s a paramedic.

◆ Story Recap

Arriving on Colony 34, our dynamic trio quickly discover that this world is home to the worst corruption, fraud, oppression and murder imaginable. After being settled, it was realised by the government that there were fewer natural resources than originally thought, and the planet was soon plunged into an energy crisis. It would be an understatement to say that public confidence in the government was at an all time low.

Premier Leo Jaeger has been postponing elections on 34 for over half a decade, by any means necessary – staging fake terrorist attacks, having rogue elements disappeared and abusing the emergency powers act to ban all unsanctioned gatherings. But now he can’t postpone the election any longer, not if he wants to persuade his people that the fuel crisis is a fake… and he even has the perfect scapegoat for all the government’s illegal activities; the newly formed Freedom & Democracy Party.

With the Doctor taking charge of the FDP, Ace becoming a so-called warrior queen to the people of the slums, and Hex doing some snooping as a paramedic, the trio hope to get enough information to bring down the corrupt Jaeger Administration… but nothing can prepare them for the truth of what is happening on Colony 34.

◆ Power, Corruption & Lies

‘LIVE 34’ continues the trend of BigFinish nailing their experimental adventures by having the entire narrative framed as a series of news broadcasts, reporting on Colony 34’s corruption.

Speaking of corruption, the titular news station actually gets corrupted itself as the story goes on – with investigative reporter Ryan Wareing being murdered by government officials after exposing the squalor and poverty in the slums, but it’s made to look like a suicide. The station’s shareholders all end up withdrawing from the corporation by the end of the third episode, leading to it being picked up by the state, which means this once independent news outlet becomes another mouth piece for the Jaeger Administration propaganda machine!

James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown have came up with a really interesting framing device, and one that is perfectly executed. It’s sometimes quite frightening how realistic the broadcasts seem!

Impartiality within the news is a topic that does keep getting attention here in the UK, with the BBC being accused of political bias on several occasions in the last few years. This is an incredibly clever story, because it’s one that will always be relevant – journalism is absolutely rife with corruption, and it likely always will be. It really is a sad fact of life.

◆ Sound Design

David Darlington deserves heaps of praise for the work he has done on this story, fleshing out Colony 34 as a sad and dangerous world, where the government has absolute control, and will stamp you out if you get in the way! The sound design here is absolutely phenomenal.

Static as a radio is tuned into the news broadcasts. The emergency services close in on the site of the explosion in District F, their sirens blaring as flames crackle amidst the rubble. Clicking cameras from members of the press observing Jaeger’s speech. A massive explosion at a vehicle manufacturing factory causes car alarms to set off streets away from the blast. Screaming bystanders can be heard as another part of the factory crumbles and crushes people already trapped under the rubble. Shouting members of the public at an FDP rally. Barking stray dogs wander through the slums, all the while water trickles through the open sewer. The rumbling of an old fashioned motorbike, used by Ryan Wareing to escape government security. Chaos erupts at an FDP rally in District J, as a gunman attempts to assassinate the Doctor! Rain pours down onto a plastic tent protecting an excavation site at the hospital. People sing and dance, celebrating Jaeger’s electoral victory and chanting pro-Jaeger slogans. After the Doctor exposes the truth about Premier Jaeger, the crowds turn nasty and begin rioting… before beating him for all that he has done!

◆ Music

David Darlington is also providing the score for ‘LIVE 34’, which is strangely absent. This story is made all the more realistic and harrowing by its complete lack of incidental music, aside from the incredibly catchy jingle that accompanies the news broadcasts.

◆ Conclusion

Otherwise it stops being news and simply becomes propaganda!”

Following in the footsteps of ‘The Fearmonger’, the Seventh Doctor is gifted yet another magnificent political adventure… albeit with a much darker tone this time. Colony 34 is home to some of the worst corruption imaginable, and we get to hear its despotic government overthrown by the Doctor, Ace and Hex.

‘LIVE 34’ is another of BigFinish’s incredible experimental adventures, and I just love the idea of framing the narrative in a series of news broadcasts. It adds some real grit to this story of political uprising, this tale of bodies being burnt to solve an energy crisis… did I mention that this was a really dark script?

I’m going to leave you all with a controversial statement, that also happens to be about the highest praise I can give to a story. I genuinely think that this is a better adventure than ‘The Chimes of Midnight’.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Dreamtime by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#067. Dreamtime ~ 8/10

◆ An Introduction

And you thought my review of ‘The Rapture’ was controversial? You ain’t seen nothing yet! This is one of the lowest ranked monthly adventures, and I can kinda see why – it’s steeped in mysticism and is quite experimental. Simon A Forward’s scripts do tend to rub you lot the wrong way, don’t they? But after my review of ‘The Sandman’ went down like a lead balloon, I’m expecting an overall worse reaction to this one. All I ask is for a little bit of your time.

The majority of the reviews online for this story are negative, and I want to show a different perspective. I wholeheartedly believe there is a great little story here. Kick back, relax, and follow me into the Dreaming…

◆ Publisher’s Summary

The Dreamtime is living Time. The Dreaming is living myth.

A city travels the stars, inhabited by stone ghosts. At its heart, an ancient remembrance of Earth. Mythical creatures stalk the streets and alien visitors have come in search of trade. But there is nothing to trade. There is only fear. And death. And the stone ghosts.

For Hex's first trip in the TARDIS, it's about the strangest place he could have imagined. Weird and very far from wonderful. Adjustment to his new life could prove tough. But he will have to adjust and do more, just to stay alive, and Ace will have to be his guide through this lost city of shadows and predatory dreams. And the Doctor is the first to go missing.

The Doctor has crossed into the Dreamtime.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy puts in a very calming and relaxed performance for ‘Dreamtime’, and it works really well.

The Doctor doesn’t really get much to do here, except for talking to Baiame.

◆ “Just McShane”

‘Dreamtime’ sees Sophie Aldred continue to shine, with another great performance.

“McShane” thinks that having all of space staring down at them, between the buildings of Uluru City, makes her really feel like a part of the universe. She tells our TARDIS newbie that you soon get used to certain death if you’re around the Doctor long enough.

◆ Hex

‘Dreamtime’ is the first trip in the TARDIS for Philip Olivier, and he puts in a marvellous performance. He’s really proving himself to be a welcome addition to this team.

Hex expected to see the stars zipping past him, like in Star Trek. Breathtaking isn’t his favourite word when there is only a forcefield between him and deep space. Why is it, wherever he goes with the Doctor and “McShane”, he ends up getting shot at? Hex believes that having a medical career has taught him to laugh in the face of adversity. If he lives to be a veteran at TARDIS travel, he thinks it’ll be a miracle!

◆ Story Recap

The Doctor, “McShane” and Hex find themselves on an asteroid floating through deep space. They soon find a city filled with ghostly stone statues, whose faces are contorted into screams. Stranger than that, however, is the appearance of famed Australian landmark Uluru on the horizon.

It soon transpires that these are really people, turned to stone by an event known as the Dreaming. As demonic creatures from Aboriginal myth take the Doctor into the Dreaming, “McShane”, Hex and a Galyari trading party are left to fend for themselves… in an increasingly hostile landscape.

◆ The Dreaming

This is a script that absolutely demands you have some background knowledge when it comes to Australian Aboriginal mythology and culture. If you don’t, then you’ll likely finish this story thinking you’ve just spent two hours in a coma (and that’s exactly how I felt the first time I listened to it)! To give you all a helping hand, I’m going to go over some of the mythos you need to know and try to break it down for you.

The titular Dreamtime, also known as the Dreaming, is a concept that is difficult to explain in terms of non-Aboriginal cultures, but is often described as an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, and rules for interacting with the environment. From what I can gather, it’s also seen as a term used by the Aboriginals for a point in the distant past when the land was inhabited by ancestral figures – said figures would often have heroic proportions or supernatural abilities. They aren’t to be mistaken for gods though; whilst these ancestors are revered, they are not worshipped and had no control over the material world.

In the context of this story, the second of those explanations is definitely what I’d recommend keeping at the centre of your mind. To the people of Uluru City, the Dreaming is almost like a location outside of normal space-time that acts as a gateway into the past. It’s also a place, however, that you can become trapped in (hence the screaming stone statues dotted about the cityscape).

I also really like that the Dreaming is home to some quite hostile creatures, such as the savage Bunyip. In actual Aboriginal mythology, the term Bunyip seems to represent a variety of “devil spirits” - some claim that they are amphibious creatures that inhabit waterholes, resembling seals or swimming dogs. Others claim that the Bunyip are long-necked and spindly with tiny heads. There is one thing you cannot deny about this story, and it’s that Simon A Forward absolutely did his research before writing the script!

◆ Sound Design

I’ve been trying to think of the perfect way to describe Foxon’s sound design in this story for a while now, but I definitely think trippy is the correct term. When we step foot into the Dreaming, it’s gorgeously weird.

Rioting breaks out around Uluru City; shots are fired and tear gas seeps into the air, as Whitten attempts to subdue the Aboriginal people. The ground around Uluru shakes, as the whole sandstone formation lifts up from the planet’s surface. A Galyari trading ship lands in the midst of the dessicated urban landscape. The low hum of an electric buggy is accompanied by warning shots from the Dream Commanders. Listen to the savage chuntering of the Bunyip, like packs of angry and wild wolves. The Dreaming is an extremely strange landscape; people crying and screaming as a clock ticks away in surround sound. The part three cliffhanger is really tense; with water flooding out of Uluru, and “McShane” nearly drowning! Cracking stone statues, as the Doctor reverses the effects of the Dreaming.

◆ Music

Steve Foxon is also behind the score for ‘Dreamtime’, and it saddens me that this appears to be the only early score of his that isn’t available on his SoundCloud.

It’s an absolutely stunning piece that wears its Aboriginal influences proudly on its sleeve, featuring didgeridoos and bullroarers. Speaking as someone who spent most of the 2020 lockdown listening to old vinyl records, I must make the comparison between this score and the excellent Kate Bush track The Dreaming.

◆ Conclusion

You have crossed the Dreamtime…”

Convoluted to the nth degree, but I genuinely cannot help but love it. ‘Dreamtime’ takes the concepts of Australian Aboriginal mythology and catapults it into deep space, making for a truly unique and different adventure.

This is, of course, Hex’s first trip in the TARDIS, and many will criticise Forward’s story for being too abstract and experimental for such an occasion, and I partly agree. It can be quite difficult to follow along at times, but Hex gets to prove himself in a hostile environment where he is thrown into the deep end; just him and “McShane” trying to survive whilst the Doctor is trapped in the Dreaming.

I can absolutely understand why so many people take issue with ‘Dreamtime’ – I thought it was an incomprehensible nightmare the first time I listened to it – but I really respect Simon A Forward for pushing the boat out and doing something so out there and unique. No matter your opinion on the writing for this story, you cannot deny that Steve Foxon’s music was immaculate!

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of The Harvest by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#058. The Harvest ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

Body horror is a genre that I’m not always keen on, because it’s very easy for writers to lose the horror aspect all together and create a nonsensical blood-bath (which is part of the reason I cannot stand your typical American slasher films). Where the creators of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre failed, Dan Abnett absolutely succeeds.

They thought the flesh was weak, that science would save them, but a small faction appears to have had a change of heart. Sinister goings on at a hospital in the heart of London, and the introduction of one of my favourite companions.

Let the Harvest commence!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

On the morning of October 12th, 2021 Hex woke up. He was expecting to go to work at St Gart's in London as normal and, that evening, have a great time in the bar of the White Rabbit, celebrating his 23rd birthday.

But after his ex-flatmate is wheeled into A&E following a bike accident, and the strange young woman from Human Resources tries to chat him up and an eight-foot tall guy in a Merc tries to run him down, Hex realises things are not going quite as he expected.

Then in a Shoreditch car park he meets the enigmatic Doctor who explains that he's an extra-terrestrial investigator and something very strange is going on up on the thirty-first floor of St Garts.

Therefore, aided and abetted by the Doctor and his other new friend 'Just McShane', Hex decides to investigate. Trouble is, everything that goes on at the hospital is being observed and noted by the occupants of the thirty-first floor. Occupants who are none too pleased that people are poking their noses into business that doesn't concern them. Occupants who will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that no one discovers the truth.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

‘The Harvest’ was one of the first BigFinish plays I listened to, way back in 2017, and it’s always been one of my absolute favourites – which is why I got it signed by two out of the three regulars at ComicCon Scotland Aberdeen this year. Sylvester McCoy delivers a top-notch performance in this adventure, and it’s fair to say that this is the beginning of a new golden age for the Seventh Doctor on audio.

The Doctor claims that explaining his TARDIS requires a two hour lecture with flip-charts and slides. Very few things in space and time tend to make sense, and he finds that shouting about them doesn’t help. He knows that it’s always harder when things get personal, and urges Hex not to remember his friend as just another person used by the Cybermen. Although he is ashamed to admit it, it’s the Doctor’s own fault that the Cybermen survived in the first place (nice reference to ‘Spare Parts’). Confronted with a flat-lining Cyber-Leader, he just walks away and leaves him to die! That’s cold, even for the Doctor.

◆ “Just McShane”

When Sophie Aldred signed my copy of ‘The Harvest’ at ComicCon, she spoke very highly of it (she told me that she’d made the mistake of listening to it at midnight when she first got her CD copy, and scared herself witless with it). Her performance in this adventure is absolutely top tier.

“McShane” believes that on the list of things in this universe that are going to kill her, sugar is a long way down. She’s been working in human resources for three weeks now, and Hex doesn’t know anyone who knows her real name. “McShane” finds that, where the dimensions of the TARDIS are concerned, the initial open-mouthed shock fades after an hour or so. It’s replaced by an uncomfortable nagging sense of the uncanny which never quite goes away, but that’s a lot easier to cope with in the long run than the slacked-mouth gibbering. The work she does with the Doctor isn’t always this cloak and dagger; it’s been anorak and baseball bat a few times, panama hat and jelly-baby, but usually it’s your basic shambling horror and nasty pongs. If it gets all eye-stalks and sink plungers, she tells Hex to warn her and they’ll run like hell!

◆ Hex

I’ve so been looking forward to writing this review, because ‘The Harvest’ introduces us to the wonderful Philip Olivier. He instantly makes an amazing first impression on the audience, as the charming Scouse nurse. It’s a brilliant performance, and I cannot wait to dive head first into the rest of his adventures too!

It’s not like Hex to go faint at the sight of blood, look up “strong stomach” and there is usually a picture of him, but it’s the first time since he started working A&E that someone he knows has been carted in. He believes that, sometimes, there isn’t a bright side. Hex tries to convince himself that the TARDIS is just some birthday gag, but proceeds to have a mental breakdown when he realises that’s far from the case. He got involved with the Doctor and “McShane” the moment a great big freak of nature in a Mercedes tried to run him over! Hex has been considering a change of career after everything that’s happened. He hasn’t got the slightest clue what he’s getting into, but steps aboard the TARDIS anyway. Welcome aboard Mr Hex!

◆ Story Recap

The Doctor and “McShane” are investigating St Gart’s Hospital, because they have reason to believe someone there is conducting dangerous experiments with alien technology. It’s here that they cross paths with a friendly A&E nurse named Thomas Hector Schofield – Hex, to his friends.

Something strange is going on in the top levels of the hospital tower; corpses are seemingly going missing from the morgue, and Dr Farrer is operating on some very special patients in nano-surgery.

Organs are being harvested for a medical atrocity, sanctioned by the Euro-Combine, to fulfil a bargain with their alien benefactors.

◆ Will Made Flesh

‘The Harvest’ has always been one of my favourite stories with the Seventh Doctor, for a variety of reasons. Chief amongst those reasons is that it does something really unique with one of the show’s most popular villains.

C-Programme was set up after a faction of Cybermen crash landed in the Pyrenees. They began trading their cyber-technology, expertise and knowledge with the Euro-Combine in exchange for organic bodies. With these advanced cybernetics at their disposal, Europe could create astronauts with no need of life-support, thus giving their space programme a monumental advantage.

The Cybermen are nearly as old as the show itself, so I really commend Dan Abnett for doing something so different with them – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a writer do a reverse-conversion plot. It also makes the humanised Cybermen very unique, because for the first time, the tyrants of logic have the ability to lie.

◆ Sensitive Scouse Nurse

It’s time now to talk about the Doctor’s new friend from Liverpool, and I’m not talking about John Bishop! The decision to introduce Hex is one I wholeheartedly approve of, because the guy is just so utterly charming.

Given how long “McShane” has been travelling in the TARDIS at this point, it’s fair to say that she’s become desensitised to a lot of the horrors and wonders that one can witness when travelling across the width and breadth of time and space. Whilst she was left utterly horrified by Kurtz’s death at Colditz Castle, she is generally more accustomed to life among the stars. Putting her alongside a newbie turns her into a bit of a mentor figure, and it’s a great dynamic that will be built on throughout Hex’s early stories.

Hex is a medical professional, someone gentle and with a heart of gold… which is going to make things very difficult when he realises that the Doctor knew his mother, and that he was there when Cassie Schofield was murdered at the hands of Nimrod!

◆ Sound Design

This is an ultra-modern audio landscape, but it’s really strange to think that this story is now set three years in the past. St Gart’s is clearly a highly advanced hospital, so I can only assume that this must be set in a universe where the government actually care about giving the NHS the funding they rightly deserve.

Bustling traffic in the centre of London, with Big Ben chiming nearby. The artificial voice of System, as Dr Farrer receives an update on his special patients. Scissors cut through surgical packing, allowing Subject One to see the entire capital through his hospital window on the thirty-first floor. The Atrium of St Gart’s is a hive of activity, with medical staff and guests going about their day. A bleeping emergency alarm, as System gives a diagnoses on a mangled bike courier in A&E. The puffing of a ventilator accompanies the bleeping of an ECG monitor. The White Rabbit is full to bursting for Hex’s birthday celebrations. A Mercedes tries to run-down “McShane” and Hex, before the two make a swift getaway on a moped. An extremely loud but harmless explosion sends the Atrium into utter chaos! The grinding of mechanical blades, as Dr Farrer prepares to have “McShane” and Mathias harvested. The blades of the auto-surgeon dig into the neck of a Cyber-human… decapitating him in the process! The Cyber-humans go completely mad; taking arms and gunning down innocent people in the hospital Atrium! The Cyber-Leader is left to slowly flat-line in his bed.

◆ Music

David Darlington is also behind the score for ‘The Harvest’, and I absolutely adore it! There is no other way to describe it than “techno”. It wont be everyone’s cup of tea, but those people are just plain wrong.

◆ Conclusion

The flesh is weak, isn’t it?”

I remember the day my copy of ‘The Harvest’ arrived from eBay, and I practically wore the CDs out listening to it over and over again. It was one of my first BigFinish adventures, and it’s still one of the best.

A group of Cybermen want to regain their humanity, so have brokered a deal with the Euro-Combine to achieve that goal; they get cybernetic technology for their space programme, the Cybermen get organic bodies in return. I don’t think I’ve heard any writer try to do a reverse-conversion storyline, but Dan Abnett does a splendid job with this script.

McCoy and Aldred are acting their socks off, and they work so well with the latest member of the TARDIS family. I absolutely adore Philip Olivier, and he got the best possible debut outing.

‘The Harvest’ has really stood the test of time, and remains one of the greatest Cybermen stories BigFinish have ever created.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of The Rapture by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#036. The Rapture ~ 9/10

◆ An Introduction

Oh boy, I cannot wait to lose all the credibility I have as a reviewer… assuming I had any credibility to begin with. Described by many as one of the worst things BigFinish have ever released, I genuinely adore this adventure, and I hope to change your mind on it too by the end of this review. Rave culture isn’t my sort of thing, though I do like the great clubbing tunes Dead or Alive put out in the late 1990s. Put on your dancing shoes, grab the cocktails, because we’re heading to Ibiza!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

Ibiza, 1997, and thousands of young people are acting like mindless zombies.

Which is to be expected. Ibiza, the island of dance music, sex, drugs and alcohol, is the ultimate hedonistic paradise.

God has sent help from on high to save the sinners of Ibiza. He has sent His angels to save their souls.

Which would be simple enough if these souls didn't include an alien time-traveller working in a bar, a woman who disappeared in 1987, a young man carrying a photograph of a girl he's never met and an Irish girl who doesn't even know who she is anymore.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy delivers quite a calming, yet fantastic, performance in ‘The Rapture’.

The Doctor makes a habit of saving people’s lives more than once. He apparently fought alongside Gustavo’s father in the Spanish Civil War. He goes on to mention Franco, Mussolini and then Hitler, and the rise of fascism… but soon remembers the hell his companion has just been through at Colditz and decides to shut up! In his many, many years of experience, people claiming to be angels tend to be the opposite.

◆ “Just McShane”

‘The Rapture’ sees Sophie Aldred deliver a brilliant performance, and there is a moment with her that genuinely made me teary-eyed.

“McShane” asks for one normal night back in London; one night without monsters or evils from the dawn of time, one night without the Professor and Ace, and she can’t even have that. Kurtz’s death was one of the worst things she’s ever seen, and she’s sick of all the fighting and dying (she even recalls seeing the Krill devouring Madame Salvadori above Duchamp 331). She’s not a superhero, and she needs some time off to relax. “McShane” never mentioned the name Ace to Liam because it’s in the past, so she’s understandably rattled when he uses it. When she read the letter from her father and began sobbing, it was genuinely so heart-breaking – realising how different her life could have been if she knew she had a brother; Colditz, Fenric, none of it had to happen.

◆ Story Recap

Following the horrors she witnessed at Colditz Castle, “McShane” has decided that she wants to go somewhere normal for a bit of downtime, a holiday where she wont be running from power-mad fascists, angry Krill or Daleks.

The TARDIS arrives at the party capital of the world in the late 1990s, and she is quickly drawn to the famed Rapture night-club. Unfortunately, this is going to be anything but a holiday.

The brothers in charge of the Rapture claim to be angels, but they’re really trying to drug their punters, in the hopes that they can be sent to fight in a war on their home planet. In other words, this is a militaristic recruitment drive. If that wasn’t enough, “McShane” is about to discover a brother she never knew existed!

◆ Clubbing Conscription

I think it’s fair to say that ‘The Rapture’ has a pretty bad reputation amongst fans – he inspired me to write these reviews, but you need only read Doc Oho’s review to see just how much people do not like this adventure. I’ve honestly never gotten the hate for it, though I am incredibly biased towards anything written by Joe Lidster.

Gabriel and Jude are literally conscripting people through the power of rave culture. It’s such a ridiculously barmy and fun idea, and it’s balanced out quite nicely by the more emotionally traumatic B Plot involving “McShane”.

You can actually draw a lot of parallels between this adventure and the ‘Warriors of Kudlak’, the way that Gabriel and Jude turn their night-club punters into unwilling soldiers is not that different to what the Uvodni were doing with Combat 3000!

◆ The Sibling She Never Knew…

Joseph Lidster also decides to drop a bombshell on us in ‘The Rapture’, so let’s talk a little bit about Liam. Born to Audrey Dudman and Harry McShane sometime in 1974, Liam was four years younger than his sister. Not long after his birth, Audrey was found having an affair, so Harry took him and fled Perivale… leading to Dorothy McShane being raised as an only child (she was only a toddler at the time, so had barely any recollection of being anything but an only child).

In 1993, Harry had a heart attack and told his son everything. Liam went looking for his sister but found out she’d vanished years earlier, and returned to the hospital only to find that his father had passed away.

Four years later, and he’s finally reunited with his sister. The meeting between “McShane” and Liam is definitely a bit soap-opera, but the moment “McShane” read the letter from her long-dead father broke my heart. Not only is it massively traumatising to realise that she has a long-lost younger brother, but it just gives her even more reason to despise her vile mother. If it wasn’t for Audrey’s lies, her life could have turned out so differently. It’s really sad that this story is the only time Liam appeared, because he could have been a great anchor for “McShane”; a reason to stay alive, and a reason to come home.

◆ Sound Design

The dance capital of the world, where you’re never far from the music or the Mediterranean waves. Mortimore’s sound design here is utterly immaculate!

Static from a radio being tuned into DJ Tony Blackburn’s Ibiza broadcast. Trance music playing on the radio station merges into a groovy club-mix of the Doctor Who theme tune. The party island is filled with cheering revellers; rave music spilling out from the nearby clubs whilst the waves lap gently against the shore. Listen to all the partying punters go eerily silent, as the angel dust works its magic… leaving just the hypnotic beat of the music in the air. The second part ends in a really memorable way, with Kat out of her mind on angel dust, hallucinating that she is flying with Gabriel. The rumbling of an old fishing boat. As Gabriel goes completely mad, he makes a dance track out of someone’s dying screams! The glass DJ booth shatters… causing Gabriel and Gustavo to fall to their deaths. The post-credits sequence made me chuckle; as two office temps receive an email containing one of Gabriel’s hypnotic tunes… an email that the entire office block soon receives!

◆ Music

The score for ‘The Rapture’ is being handled by Jim Mortimore, Jane Elphinstone, Simon Robinson & Feel. I don’t care if you vehemently despise Lidster’s writing for this adventure, you cannot deny that the music absolutely slaps! It perfectly captures the rave culture of the late 1990s that dominated night-clubs around the world, and nowhere more than Ibiza.

◆ Conclusion

Spread the truth and love of the lord, and play those kicking tunes!”

A night club ran by aliens, where the punters are drugged with “angel dust” each time they step onto the dance-floor. Gabriel and Jude’s people are fighting a war, and the unlucky hedonists vibing to Livin’ Joy and Robert Miles are being hypnotised to become the perfect soldiers!

‘The Rapture’ was the first time Joseph Lidster had written anything for this franchise, and it’s very different from the rest of his catalogue (said catalogue consisting mainly of stories that will make you sob like a baby, or genuinely so frightened that you have to sleep with the lights on)!

The twist involving “McShane’s” brother is probably the only thing I’m unsure of. He is introduced in this adventure and essentially serves to make “McShane’s” backstory seem even more tragic than it already was! He definitely would’ve had more impact had he appeared in more adventures, possibly even become a regular companion alongside his sister… but then again, Philip Olivier’s introduction is right on the horizon.

The music is, of course, the highlight of this entire release. For what it’s worth, ‘The Rapture’ is my guilty pleasure adventure. The twist is the kind of thing you’d expect from a soap opera, but the main idea surrounding the titular night-club is excellent. I highly recommend you give this one another chance if you’re one of the people that vehemently dislikes it.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Colditz by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#025. Colditz ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

I’m absolutely fascinated by stories set during World War II, especially those that teach me about a place or event I had little knowledge of: it’s time to dive into one of the greatest early Seventh Doctor plays.

Surrounded by fellow prisoners of war in the infamous Colditz Castle, getting away alive will be the least of the Doctor’s concerns… especially when confronted with a walking, talking Wolfenstein paradox!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

October 1944: As World War II draws towards its conclusion, a Nazi defeat begins to seem almost inevitable. But that might be about to change...

Two intruders are captured in the grounds of Colditz Castle, the most secure POW camp in Germany. At first, the guards think they're dealing with British spies. But the strangers arrived in an advanced travelling machine, the like of which they've never seen before.

With this TARDIS in their hands, the Third Reich might triumph after all.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy delivers one of his best performances in ‘Colditz’.

The Doctor expects that interrogation, threats and torture have already been lined up for him by the camp Commandant. He takes great pleasure in frightening Schäfer, who has clearly realised that he’s an alien. He can get out of anything, according to Ace; he can pick locks, distract people with slight of hand, or just bluff his way out of a situation. The Doctor knows that in the wrong hands, his TARDIS is an extremely dangerous weapon, but he’ll give it up if the alternative is seeing Ace shot dead! When discussing paradoxes with Klein, he informs her that you cannot just dismiss history… because it’s more fragile than she could ever imagine.

◆ Ace

‘Colditz’ gives Sophie Aldred a lot of excellent material to work with, and she more than rises to the occasion here.

Ace feels safer than usual already; if the Doctor doesn’t know where they are, then she can’t be walking into one of his big master plans. The main reason she knows about the various escape routes at Colditz is because she’s played the board game. Her real name is Dorothy, but if Tim repeats that she’ll bray him! Following the events of this adventure, Ace wants some time off to think about things, without anybody trying to kill her. She also decides that it’s time to grow up, and decides to ditch her nickname… it’s just McShane now.

◆ Story Recap

Colditz Castle gained international infamy during World War II for its use as a Nazi prisoner of war camp. Often known as the “escaper’s prison” due to the fact its inmates had often made repeated escape attempts from other POW camps, it was believed to be the most secure prison in Germany at the time.

The Doctor and Ace arrive slap-bang in the middle of the castle grounds during 1944, and soon end up joining the large number of Allied detainees. Whilst Ace garners the unwelcome attention of the vile Feldwebel Kurtz, the Doctor comes face to face with a loyal servant of the Reich… a time traveller who claims to have come to Colditz from 1965, in the Doctor’s own TARDIS!

◆ The Oldest Paradox in the Book

There are some BigFinish releases where I just get a major boost of dopamine from reviewing them, and that is most definitely the case with ‘Colditz’. What starts out as seemingly another sublime pure-historical adventure, soon strays into the path of alternate history and the oldest paradox in the book. That is reason alone to kick off this section of the review by discussing one of the greatest creations in BigFinish history – Elizabeth Klein.

The idea of the Nazis somehow gaining a last-minute advantage and winning the Second World War has been present in the world of fiction for donkeys years! Whether your point of reference is the work of Phillip K Dick (The Man in the High Castle) or the critically acclaimed Wolfenstein franchise, you have likely encountered this idea on your travels before.

Klein makes her presence known towards the end of the first part; a fervent believer in National Socialism and the benefits of fascism in general. The Seventh Doctor is the incarnation most likely to be in control of a situation, most likely to be pulling the strings, but Klein sweeps into Colditz and immediately feels like she has an advantage over him. She’s an incredible force of nature, utterly ruthless and in control.

In her timeline, Ace accidentally left her CD Walkman behind at Colditz Castle, which allowed the Third Reich to reverse engineer its laser technology. That technological edge catapulted them to an unprecedented victory, and helped them to win the race against America to create the first atomic bomb. A timeline that the Doctor managed to avert in this adventure. By the end of ‘Colditz’, Klein has become a refugee in our reality… and it’s only a matter of time before she crosses paths with the Doctor again!

Klein is such a phenomenally interesting character, and Tracey Childs does an incredible job at bringing her to life. I absolutely cannot wait to dive into the trilogy where she returns, because it genuinely features what I consider to be the greatest Seventh Doctor adventure of all time (‘The Architects of History’).

◆ Sound Design

Anybody who has read my reviews of the early ‘Bernice Summerfield’ range will be aware that Toby Richards and Emily Baker have gained a fair bit of notoriety. I use this saying a lot, but their sound design is genuinely enough to make me take an orbital sander to my eardrums! So imagine how shocked I was to hear that they did an absolutely excellent job with ‘Colditz’. The titular POW camp is brought to life with a really high degree of quality, and I was genuinely very impressed.

Floodlights wink into life as Nazi soldiers storm the castle’s courtyard, their heavy boots marching in unison on the stone ground. Gunfire, as Feldwebel Kurtz shoots the Doctor in the shoulder. Modern dance music blasts out of Ace’s CD Walkman. A piercing siren acts as a morning chorus for the inmates of Colditz Castle. Allied prisoners chat amongst themselves in the castle’s courtyard, with one even playing a harmonica. Clanking cutlery and crockery in the prison canteen. Klein fires her pistol at a fleeing Doctor. Kurtz and a pack of dogs chase after Ace and Gower, as they make their escape attempt. The ending of this story is extremely gruesome; Kurtz is ripped apart as the TARDIS dematerialises, with only half of him aboard!

◆ Music

Richards and Baker are also handling the score for ‘Colditz’. They make excellent use of hard-hitting drum beats, which almost act like an analogy for the jack-boot of Nazi oppression. It’s an extremely well composed piece of music.

◆ Conclusion

It’s never worth it Klein. There’s no excuse for genocide!”

The Doctor and Ace get stuck at one of history’s most infamous prisoner of war camps, only to be confronted by a woman who claims to be from the future… a future where the Third Reich lead a new golden age following their victory in the Second World War.

‘Colditz’ starts out like any other superbly written BigFinish pure historical, before veering into the realm of alternate history. Like the Doctor says in this adventure; it’s the oldest paradox in the book. What if the Nazis won the war? But more importantly, how can this horrifying fascist future be averted?

Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred both deliver some superb performances, and a pre-Tenth Doctor David Tennant does a fantastic job as the utterly vile Feldwebel Kurtz. However, it’s Tracey Childs who steals the show here as Klein.

‘Colditz’ is one of the best written stories the Seventh Doctor has ever received, and that is a hill I’d happily die on.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Dust Breeding by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#021. Dust Breeding ~ 6/10

◆ An Introduction

It can sometimes take me a couple of days to get a review written, which can be quite the pain in the rear end when you desperately crave being the first reviewer on new releases. But I’ve started to realise that if I get writer’s block, the best thing to do is just take a day to compose my thoughts… which is what I did with ‘Dust Breeding’.

The BigFinish debut of a villain as iconic as the Master should be really damn good.

The key word here is “should”.

Oh dear.

◆ Publisher’s Summary

On 19th century Earth artist Edvard Munch hears an infinite scream pass through nature. Centuries later his painting of that scream hangs in a gallery on the barren dust world Duchamp 331.

Why is there a colony of artists on a planet that is little more than a glorified garage? What is the event that the passengers of the huge, opulent pleasure cruiser 'Gallery' are hoping to see? And what is hidden in the crates that litter the cargo hold?

The Doctor's diary indicates that the painting is about to be destroyed in 'mysterious circumstances', and when he and Ace arrive on Duchamp 331, those circumstances are well underway.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

‘Dust Breeding’ is the second time Mike Tucker has written a script for this incarnation, and McCoy once more puts in a really nice performance.

The Doctor has a playroom in the TARDIS that is filled with various priceless works of art, including a Terileptil sculpture and a copy of the Mona Lisa (not the one with “this is a fake” written on it in felt tip, that one is in the Louvre). I love the idea of him rescuing famed works of art, minutes before they are set to be destroyed.

◆ Ace

The dialogue for Ace in ‘Dust Breeding’ feels a little bit forced, and it honestly feels like Sophie Aldred only took one look at the script the night before. Also not a fan of the weird screaming that she does at the beginning of part two (I don’t know how many of you have seen the video of the news anchor falling out of a vat of grapes, but that’s what the screaming sounds like).

Ace doesn’t run from anything.

◆ Bev Tarrant

Louise Faulkner gets substantially more to do in ‘Dust Breeding’. The fact she didn’t join this TARDIS team full time was a massive missed opportunity (but this range’s loss is Professor Summerfield’s gain).

Bev believes that whenever she crosses paths with the Doctor, someone is always trying to kill her.

◆ Story Recap

The planet Duchamp 331 is a desolate hell hole where people come to refuel their spaceships, and not much else. Though it does contain an isolated artist’s colony, which is why the Doctor has dragged Ace here. He’s been “liberating” famous pieces of art across time and space, before they are set to be destroyed or damaged.

Duchamp 331 in the 26th century is the last known location of The Scream by Edvard Munch; a painting about to vanish in mysterious circumstances… and one containing a sentient, unstoppable super-weapon made of pure mental energy.

Meanwhile, the Master is aboard the pleasure cruiser Gallery, with a group of six extremely powerful biological, fish-faced super-weapons. Suffice to say, a pretty colossal battle is about to ensue.

◆ And You Will Obey Him…

‘Dust Breeding’ is an adventure I’ve wanted to review for a while, due to the fact it’s historically important to BigFinish’s long and awesome legacy; it’s the first time they had the Master appear in an adventure.

Anthony Ainley had been invited to reprise his role, but BigFinish were unable to reach a suitable deal with him, so Mike Tucker decided to do something quite clever. He made it so that the Warp Core (mental super-weapon) was so powerful that it stripped the Tremas Body from the Master, and returned him to his barbecued form.

Some people may be sad that we didn’t get to hear Ainley back in action, but I’m so grateful that Geoffrey Beevers got to step back into the role – he is such an incredible performer, with a gorgeously soothing yet creepy voice. I can say with absolute clarity that he is the best part of ‘Dust Breeding’, and it’s easy to see why BigFinish keep asking him back (I can’t wait to review ‘Master’).

◆ Artists in Isolation

I’d like to move onto the topic of location. Duchamp 331 has this melancholic feeling to it; a world of pure dust which is completely hostile (a Dalek saucer landed there and got stuck, so you can now hear the screams of the genocidal pepper pots beneath the surface). It’s a really bleak place.

It’s pretty much just a fuelling station, though there is the Outhouse. The idea of an isolated artist’s colony on a hostile planet is an immensely fun one, so much so that BigFinish would revisit it in a brilliant Third Doctor script called ‘The Gulf’. Sadly, I don’t think the concept was used to the best of its potential here.

◆ The Eccentric Salvadori

I want to talk about my biggest issue with ‘Dust Breeding’. The acting is really inconsistent. On one side of the coin, Beevers is absolutely nailing his BigFinish debut, whilst McCoy and Faulkner are proving that we were utterly robbed of more adventures featuring the Doctor and Bev Tarrant.

On the other side of the coin… “KLEMP! KLEMP!” I genuinely don’t even know where to begin with the performance Caroline John delivered. This is a woman who literally played one of my all-time favourite companions (Liz Shaw) so I’m completely baffled by the sheer atrociousness of her playing the eccentric Madame Salvadori. The accent feels like a mash-up of Swiss, German, Danish and Icelandic… and it just comes out sounding terrible. I never wanna hear “KLEMP! KLEMP!” for as long as I live, or I may just remove my eardrums with an orbital sander!

I’ve already been over Sophie Aldred’s poor performance in this play, so I wont waste any more time on that.

◆ Sound Design

A desolate and dusty world… which is more than a little hostile. Gareth Jenkins has created a great soundscape for Duchamp 331.

A blaring alarm sounds, as Refuelling Station B sends a distress call to Duchamp Control, attempting to warn them of the dangers of the dust. Wild winds batter the surface of this dry planet; the screams of trapped Daleks carried through the air. A band plays classical music aboard the Starship Gallery, as Salvadori addresses her crowd of buyers. The warbling Warp Core begins its psychic “communion” with Ace. As the Master reactivates the dormant Krill, they begin snarling and growling with much ferocity.

◆ Music

Russell Stone is behind the score for ‘Dust Breeding’. This is a composer who has all but vanished from BigFinish, but he created some of the best music back in the day. Duchamp 331 is meant to be this backwater planet where, according to Guthrie, you are sent to die. There are moments where the score becomes this sedate and melancholic piece, and it’s so beautifully fitting for the locale.

◆ Conclusion

Did you even bother to ask who I might be, where I came from?”

Aside from some really nice post-production work and a few decent performances, ‘Dust Breeding’ is an adventure that is beset with problems.

The pacing is slower than a pensioner with a fractured ankle, thus making the whole outing drag on. The plot involving the Master and the Krill feels completely incidental to the one involving the Doctor and the Warp Core (which makes zero sense, since the Krill are literally on the artwork). Oh, and don’t even get me started on some of the acting in this release! Most of the cast did a decent job, with Beevers, McCoy and Faulkner really excelling. Sophie Aldred, on the other hand, completely dropped the ball! As for Caroline John as Salvadori… dear lord, the accent was abysmal!

Mike Tucker did a really good job with his last story for this TARDIS team, but ‘Dust Breeding’ really fell flat. It’s a damn shame too, since this was the Master’s BigFinish debut.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of The Genocide Machine by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#007. The Genocide Machine ~ 9/10

◆ An Introduction

I think it’s fair to say that BigFinish’s early attempts to create Dalek stories were pretty inconsistent. I’m sure many of you will have seen my review of ‘The Apocalypse Element’, where I claimed that listening to it was about as enjoyable as being held hostage by a band of Somalian pirates! Mike Tucker had the privileged job of writing the genocidal pepper-pots initial audio adventure. And you know what? It isn’t half bad!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

The library on Kar-Charrat is one of the wonders of the Universe. It is also hidden from all but a few select species. The Doctor and Ace discover that the librarians have found a new way of storing data – a wetworks facility – but the machine has attracted unwanted attention, and the Doctor soon finds himself pitted against his oldest and deadliest enemies – the Daleks!

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Sylvester McCoy puts in a really solid performance for ‘The Genocide Machine’.

The Doctor doesn’t get much time to sort the TARDIS library out. He starts every fifty years or so, but always forgets how he’s organising things; sometimes it’s by author, sometimes it’s by planet… he might organise it by colour next time. He’s always preferred Kar-Charrat to the Matrix; there’s a lot to be said for old-fashioned books. The Doctor has encountered wet-works facilities before, but the size of the one on Kar-Charrat astonishes him (most of them can only handle a few gigabytes of information, but this one must contain all knowledge in the universe)! Upon discovering the truth of the wet-works facility, he is absolutely disgusted that Elgin could imprison the native Kar-Charratans in a device he compares to a gulag.

◆ Ace

‘The Genocide Machine’ sees Sophie Aldred deliver another great performance.

Ace thinks the advantage of a time machine is that you don’t have to be late with your library books. She also claims that everybody has nicked a library book at some point (I can attest to that – when I was back in primary school, I may have forgotten to return a copy of the Tenth Doctor novel ‘Autonomy’). She is utterly dumbfounded that the Kar-Charrat library isn’t open to the public, and that the librarians don’t want anyone to touch their books.

◆ Bev Tarrant

‘The Genocide Machine’ also introduces us to the amazingly talented Louise Faulkner. She makes a really good first impression here as art thief Bev. It’s also worth mentioning that the character would go on to be a key-player in the ‘Bernice Summerfield’ range.

Bev instantly establishes herself as a no-nonsense team leader, the sort of person who believes it’s her way or the highway. She paid good money for her team to act like a professional salvage crew, not a bunch of sweaty, whinging oiks!

◆ Story Recap

Hoping to return some long overdue library books, the Doctor and Ace find themselves on the rainforest world of Kar-Charrat, where a library displaced in time has a data storage system that could rival that of the Matrix on Gallifrey.

The Daleks have caught wind of the aqueous data storage system (more commonly known as a wet-works facility) and have been in cryogenic hibernation on the planet for centuries… biding their time and waiting for a time sensitive to arrive and give them access.

The Daleks want to download all the data from the facility into one of their own species. With knowledge like that, universal domination would be more than achievable!

◆ Liquid-state Drives

I think it’s fair to say that ‘The Genocide Machine’ is nothing ground-breaking, but it’s definitely a fun little Dalek romp. The vast majority of listeners will take one look at the title for this play and assume it’s referring to the Daleks, but it actually refers to the wet-works facility… because the water inside of it is sentient!

The librarians literally committed genocide so that they could use the souls of native Kar-Charratans as solid-state drives in a computer (or should that be liquid-state?) and that’s actually so gruesome. The thought of a wet-works facility does make me scratch my head from a real world perspective though, because I was always taught not to douse my electronics in vast amounts of water… that’s how you end up electrocuting yourself and getting frizzier hair than Bonnie Tyler!

◆ Future Art Thief

Before I begin chatting about this adventure’s sound design, I’d just like to thank Mike Tucker for creating one of the best characters this franchise has seen. I’m a massive fan of the ‘Bernice Summerfield’ range, and Bev Tarrant has become a real force of nature there by Series Seven (I’d recommend listening to ‘Summer of Love’ if you want to hear how much she’s changed over the years). Louise Faulkner is a true credit to BigFinish, and I would love to hear her character return some day soon.

◆ Sound Design

The gorgeous rainforest landscape of Kar-Charrat is brought to life with much style by Briggsy.

Water trickles from the dense trees, as Bev and her salvage team squelch across the rainforest floor. Buzzing bugs accompany the mechanical joints of a salvage robot, as Bev’s team attempt to steal the famed ziggurat. As the stone door of the ziggurat grinds open, a Special Weapons Dalek emerges and begins firing (eliminating nearly the entire salvage team in the process). Given that this was the genocidal pepper-pots first appearance with BigFinish, it’s not surprising that their voices are a lot more rough around the edges. The warbling of Kar-Charrat Phantoms; their voices are relaxingly whispery and sibilant. The bubbling of the Kar-Charrat wet-works facility. Freela birds shriek, as they fly above Ace and Bev in the rainforest. That familiar electronic heartbeat fills the interior of the Dalek’s ship. A bleeping ECG monitor in the library’s medical bay. Screaming librarians, as the Daleks begin their assault; death rays firing in rapid succession of each other. The booming voice of the Dalek Emperor, as it transmits orders to its troops on Kar-Charrat. The second Dalek to be imbued with all the wet-works knowledge glitches when it speaks, as thought it’s on the verge of a complete mental breakdown! A sentient waterfall floods the circuitry of Ace’s Dalek duplicate.

◆ Music

Nicholas Briggs is also behind the score for ‘The Genocide Machine’. Considering I’m in a pretty good mood, I can forgive the fact this story has some pretty average music. It’s nothing bad, it just does nothing to stand out.

◆ Conclusion

You could acquire the wisdom of a million years from a billion worlds in the time it would take to read a bus ticket!”

A temporally displaced library could be the key to giving the Daleks universal domination… but the wet-works facility is built on lies, and dark secrets kept by the librarians.

‘The Genocide Machine’ wont be setting the literary world ablaze, but I can’t deny that I had a really fun time listening to it. There are no massive continuity shattering events, no moments of huge and dramatic character development, but I don’t mind that. Mike Tucker was told to write a fun Dalek adventure, and he absolutely met the brief.

McCoy and Aldred continue to work well with each other, and I must mention for the umpteenth time that this story introduced us to the brilliant Bev Tarrant. To conclude, it’s a really fun way to kill two hours.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of The Fearmonger by PalindromeRose

Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures

#005. The Fearmonger ~ 10/10

◆ An Introduction

I’ve recently returned from ComicCon Scotland NE, which was held on the outskirts of the Granite City (Aberdeen). I got to meet Sophie Aldred for the first time, and what a genuinely amazing human being she is. It was at that point I realised how much I’ve neglected the Seventh Doctor’s audio adventures, so it’s time to change that.

A right-wing political nutter is rabbiting on about how bad political correctness is, and she’s rapidly gaining attention… is this Doctor Who, or a caricature of the vile simpletons currently in power at Downing Street?

◆ Publisher’s Summary

One would-be assassin is in a mental ward. Another's on the run. Their intended victim is stirring up the mobs. Terrorists are planning a strike of their own. A talk-radio host is loving every minute of it. A Whitehall insider whispers about a mysterious UN operative, with a hidden agenda. Everyone's got someone they want to be afraid of. It'll only take a little push for the situation to erupt – and something is doing the pushing. But you can trust the Doctor to put things right. Can't you?

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Despite being one of the earliest plays he did for BigFinish, ‘The Fearmonger’ sees Sylvester McCoy on top form.

When asked what kind of moron he is by Thompson, the Doctor claims that he’s the kind that knows what to look for. He thinks that “Captain Righteous” is a very silly name; just like whacko and “Euro-nazi”. He tries his damnedest to psychoanalyse Mick Thompson, live on air… but the bigoted radio host decides to blast an advert for his new book instead! The Doctor thinks that Harper is a human-sized problem, and that humanity doesn’t need him to take care of her. He delivers this really great speech too – things do change, not completely and never all at once, but things do change. He tells Walter that human is a relative term, and that his relatives are rather odd. The Doctor has tackled many revolutions out in space, against fascists, capitalists, insects and mad computers! He’s always hated hospitals, because there are too many doctors who think they know everything. According to Ace, the Doctor is the right kind of scary.

◆ Ace

‘The Fearmonger’ features a tremendous performance from Sophie Aldred.

Ace can make sure her word is good because she’s got the Doctor’s word, and she believes in him. After hearing some of Harper’s vile policies at the rally, she wonders why they are actually trying to save her. She tries to talk Karadjic down, but it goes badly wrong… and she ends up being shot in the shoulder!

◆ Inconsistent No.7

I remember reading somewhere that Jonathan Blum actually had a huge amount of issues writing this adventure, so much so that it got delayed and Stephen Cole had to create a filler script in less than a week (at least we know why ‘The Land of the Dead’ was so utterly dreadful).

A lot of people will probably agree with me when I say that the Seventh Doctor has had one of the most inconsistent runs with BigFinish, due to the fact he often gets lumbered with some genuinely dreadful writing, but ‘The Fearmonger’ honestly shows him at his best.

◆ The Right Wing

I’ve written that many reviews now that I worry I’m going to sound like a stuck record, but political stories can so often be dry and bland affairs. It’s nothing short of astonishing then that this twenty-three year old audio play is still politically relevant today.

The New Britannia Party is basically this franchise taking a jab at the British National Party… who are quite honestly some of the most idiotic and vile human beings in the country. I’m sure you’ve all met the kind of people who would vote for the BNP; those who believe that this country should have been on the side of the Axis in WW2, the sort of people who go into a pub on a Sunday and claim they will only drink “proper British beer in a proper British pub”. The kind of people who would probably, no definitely, kick the living daylights out of someone like me (neurodivergent, gay and a femboy). Suffice to say, the BNP and their supporters are some of the most horrific people you could ever encounter, and their disgusting views belong in the dustbin of history.

You might then think that Sherilyn Harper (played brilliantly by the late Jacqueline Pearce) is based upon said party’s leader at the time. Looking at this story from a more modern perspective though… she’s pretty much Katy Hopkins. For those of you who are completely unaware of said person, count yourselves very lucky! Google defines her as a “media personality”, but that would require her to have any sort of personality to begin with. No, Hopkins is a walking sound box who spouts right-wing garbage and often contradicts herself, thus making herself look an even bigger prat (look at the interview she did with Phil and Holly about naming your offspring after places).

Throughout ‘The Fearmonger’, Harper is just this vile career politician who is clearly out for herself – a mix of Katie Hopkins, Nick Griffiths, and Vivienne Rook from ‘Years and Years’. She’s a really effective villain because of how thoroughly unlikeable she is!

◆ Fear Itself

I’d like to move onto the titular entity in this adventure, which is a really good concept. There were rumours of an ancient alien civilisation who created several psychic entities, each one personifying an emotion such as fear, compassion, pride and anger, to incite group emotions and thus unite their people. When said civilisation collapsed, the entities all set off across the cosmos… with the Fearmonger making itself known in the volatile political climate of an early 00s United Kingdom.

With a politician like Harper stirring up the hive with all of her claims of “stolen jobs” and other right-wing rhetoric, her followers are becoming scared. Meanwhile, those who oppose her are plotting to have her assassinated! And the threat of crazed gunmen on the loose is bound to make everyone a lot more jumpy and a lot more frightened. Not only is the titular psychic entity a great idea in itself, but it’s found a perfect storm to sit in; the period right before an election… where all the political whackos come out to play!

◆ Sound Design

Alistair Lock does a tremendous job at making a contemporary audio landscape (well, contemporary for the year 2000). Political rallies and an entity roaming around the capital. This is really well done.

Crowds of New Britannia supporters cheer for Sherilyn Harper, as she makes her address at the rally. Gunfire, as Stephen attempts to assassinate her. The fizzing of the Fearmonger entity, as it closes in on Stephen. The jingle for Mick Thompson’s radio show is incredibly cheesy. A bustling London cafe, with chatting punters and clicking cutlery. Paul’s phone hacking machine bleeps away like a dial-up modem on steroids. A ticking-time bomb beneath the rally, counting down to a very large explosion! Unknown forces armed with laser weaponry fire into the crowd. The Doctor tinkers with Paul’s tools and workbench, attempting to create a forcefield. Cawing seagulls and flowing water can be heard from the Isle of Dogs. Rioting erupts all across the capital, with angry mobs shouting at the world, chucking rocks at cars and property.

◆ Music

The score for ‘The Fearmonger’ is also being handled by Alistair Lock, and it’s a very tense and minimalistic piece. It works marvellously with the nail-biting atmosphere of a lot of the scenes (like when Walter is attempting to blow the New Britannia rally to kingdom come)! In some ways, the music here actually reminds me of an instrumental track David Bowie made called All Saints.

◆ Conclusion

But we know what the problems are, and we know who they are!”

I mentioned earlier on in this review that the Seventh Doctor’s audio adventures are very hit or miss, but this is a prime example of hitting a perfect bullseye!

McCoy and Aldred both deliver top tier performances that feel like they could have been recorded during their time together on TV (they both sound so energised and ready to spring into action).

As for the story – a career politician intent on scaring the population into believing her right-wing rhetoric, and an entity with the power to amplify those feelings to the nth degree. It takes a talented writer to create a really interesting political adventure. It takes a phenomenal writer to create a political adventure that will still be relevant two decades later. It’s a real shame Jonathan Blum never wrote any more full cast adventures for BigFinish, because ‘The Fearmonger’ was excellent.

Review created on 17-06-24

Review of Doctor Who: Dalek by WhoPotterVian

An excellent Target novelisation of the original episode. Robert Shearman's writing offers a deep exploration of the characters featured within the original script, giving us a greater understanding of their backstory and motivations. This is a Target novel that improves on the already perfect pre-existing episode, and offers new layers for fans to explore.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of All Flesh is Grass by WhoPotterVian

This book is exactly what I wanted from it and more.

Big, blockbuster Who in novel form. The Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctor interactions are just as fun as you'd imagine, whilst also sticking true to their characters, and their individual experiences. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors, for example, understandably act different to the idea of saving Gallifrey in the Dark Times than the Eighth Doctor, who is unaware of what the Ninth and Tenth Doctors believed had happened to their home planet.

The Dalek action as ever is thrilling, and Brian The Ood proves once again to be a fantastic addition to the Whoniverse. Get that character on TV please!



Review created on 16-06-24

Review of The Knight, The Fool and The Dead by WhoPotterVian

This is a sprawling epic of a story, as the Doctor essentially takes on 'Death' (or the Kotturuh, the race who represent the concept of 'Death' as a being in the Whoniverse).

An exciting story from start to finish. Brian The Ood is a highly entertaining side character, and it's nice to see the Time Lord Victorious stuff from The Waters Of Mars expanded upon.

The cliffhanger is also a nice tease for the second book. I'm not sure if it was deliberate, but it felt reminiscent of the old RTD cliffhangers that would lead into the Christmas Specials.



Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Doctor Who: Rose by WhoPotterVian

A perfect retelling of the TV story; it strikes just the right balance of familiarity and new additions. I particularly loved the living statues sequence added into the story; I thought that was a really novel idea to explore with the Autons.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Night of the Whisper by WhoPotterVian

This audiobook story is a really strong and effective take on the superhero genre. It does a great job of capturing the essence of what a 'Doctor Who does superheroes' story looks like, which is something Return of Doctor Mysterio would later repeat in 2007.


The story concerns the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack visiting a planet called 'New Vegas', where a superhero vigilante known only as the 'Whisper' is targeting criminal gangs and fighting them to bring justice to the city. In order to get to the bottom of who the Whisper is, the Doctor poses as a police inspector, Rose a fast food waitress and Jack a reporter.


There are so many fun nods here to superheroes such as Batman and Superman, with the Whisper's HQ described as being like 'Wayne Manor', and the newspaper Captain Jack works at being called the 'Daily Galaxy' (a futuristic take on the Daily Planet). I also loved the Series 1 references, such as the Kronkburger and 'Bad Wolf'.


Briggs' Captain Jack impression is terrible though. He doesn't really do a very good job at capturing the character's essence.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Time Lord Immemorial by WhoPotterVian

This is the first Christopher Eccleston audio I have listened to, and I prefer his Doctor here. On TV, I felt he was too serious, which made sense narratively given that he had just survived the Time War, but it didn't make his Doctor much fun. Here, however, there's more of a lightness to his incarnation, as he is not burdened by the Time War. Christopher Eccleston is also a lot of fun alongside David Warner's incarnation, with the pair developing a great rapport.

The story itself is an exciting listen,  concerning the multiverse falling apart due to the sands of time running out, and a God known as the Time Lord Immemorial. It feels like a curious mix of a 2005 story and a classic series adventure, with the Time Lord Immemorial feeling similar to other Time Lord Gods such as Omega.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Resolution by PexLives

It’s actually properly really good, but I have several really low hanging criticisms, which unfortunately is a theme for the Chibnall era. Mainly, I think the way UNIT was written out is frustrating, the wi-fi cutaway is extremely cringe and I get secondhand embarrassment watching it, and I also think this episode reinforces the black absent father stereotype.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Hunter’s Moon by deltaandthebannermen

Hunter’s Moon, by Paul Finch, is a novel which seems to predict a genre of story which becaming quite prevalent a few years after it’s publication in 2011.

It’s, basically, the 11th Doctor, Rory and Amy dropped into The Running Man but without the ‘gameshow’ trappings and actually with more elements familiar, now in 2023, from other films and TV series most notable The Purge series, The Hunt, Escape Room and Squid Game. It’s about a group of innocent people being kidnapped and forced to run for their lives whilst being chased by wealthy businessmen intent on killing them for sport.

It’s an unusual sub-genre of horror for Doctor Who to be based on as, really, it’s a terrifying concept.

Rory ends up in the ‘game’ after losing a bet in an alien casino. Amy goes undercover as a ‘hostess’ and the Doctor as a mercenary who joins the hunt. A family from Earth also find themselves kidnapped and dropped into the game and are the heart of this tale.

For me, this novel was very much a game of two halves. The hunt is thrilling and Rory, in particular, gets lots to do. Amy is sidelined a little but still gets to do a bit of sneaking around and standing up to the bad guys. The Doctor is a terrible mercenary but his ‘transmat gun’ is a fun idea as it allows him to look like he’s exterminating people when in actuality he’s transporting them back to the planet (the game occurs on an abandoned moon).

I really enjoyed the hunt scenes. Unfortunately the aliens behind the hunt – the Torodon – aren’t particularly engaging. They have a plethora of silly names and it became increasingly difficult to tell them apart. They also spend some of the book vying for power and double crossing each other which meant I completely lost track of who was who.

The Doctor being old friends with the planet’s chief of police is a oft-used trope but is actually played quite well with the chief being both unwilling and unable to help the Doctor because of the corruption in their society and because he doesn’t consider the Doctor the most reliable of people either.

Thankfully, Finch chooses to centre his guest cast of ‘people the Doctor needs to save’ around a human family (rather than adding even more alien names into the mix). Harry, Dora and Sophie Mossop are a dysfunctional family dealing with unemployment, depression and teenage rebellion who are broken down and built back up by their experience in the game. Harry, a washed up policeman redeems himself quite spectacularly and the dynamic of all three is something I can easily see as a reflection of the TV series and is the part of this story which best emulates the modern series.

A rather thrilling climax atop a transmitter tower and a clever denouement with a powerful magnetic field seeded earlier in the book actually make this a satisfying read even with the frustrations I had identifying the various alien baddies.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of A Tourist Invasion by CommanderBayban

I do not, nor have I ever, understood what this story was supposed to be about.

Reading the two stories Colin wrote for the yearbooks, his early 1990s self certainly had a predilection for parentheses!

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Doctor Who: Marco Polo by IceAgeComing

I'm not going to review the overall story here; but instead where I think the novel differs from the TV version of the story (as far as we can tell). I enjoyed that version a lot; but I think the novel overall falls short.

The improvements are that it does a very good job at making this adventure feel a lot larger - the narrative gives timescales; and things like giving bigger description of distances and even the meals that the travellers eat helps to add to the scale of this story (even if I wonder how authentic they'd be to that period of China). The story already stands out on TV for being this big adventure across Asia without the TARDIS being available; the context of it clearly lasting several months I think adds to the scenes where the TARDIS crew try to escape. The scenes with the Doctor and Kublai in the book also feel more sensible than those in the TV because of the fact that they had more time.

However there are a couple of areas where I think this story falls short. The characterisation of the Doctor feels off - it almost feels like Lucarotti is writing for a much more modern version of the Doctor than an early First Doctor so certain elements (like him being so keen to help out Marco at points; or even his not accepting the key back in the final chapter because he lost the Backgammon game) feel very weird for the context of the story. Indeed it also hurts Ian's role in the story - as the Doctor takes a large portion of his role in the novelisation and that feels like a negative. The ending also comes across less well - rather than Tegana committing suicide because his regicide attempt was foiled, he's instead killed by Ling-Tau who plays a much greater role in the novel becoming Ping Cho's fiancé by the end; and rather than a hurried escape its a more formal thing which I think doesn't make as much sense.

Overall though I think this is a decent read - although the negatives detract from this a lot more than the positives add.

Review created on 16-06-24

Review of Marco Polo by IceAgeComing

So an immediate caveat - this story contains many examples of yellow face and that is not acceptable through modern eyes - or indeed in general. This is not the worst example of it (mostly because time passed after this story) but it is worth noting. For this review I watched the Loose Cannon reconstruction and also listened to the soundtrack release - which is an interesting combination to get as full a picture as possible from a completely lost story with no official release.

I'm a fan of true historicals - and indeed in the first few series of Doctor Who I'd strongly argue that the best stories are the true historicals over the sci-fi elements that are often a lot more pondering. Marco Polo in particular stands out as unlike most stories its explicitly set over a fairly prolonged period of several months with big gaps in the middle as Marco Polo's retinue (including the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan) passes from the Himalayas to Beijing. I think this is a big advantage - considering that we're fresh out of a trio of quite compressed opening stories and moving towards a different dynamic amongst the main cast (where the Doctor is more obviously one of the good guys, and not as morally ambiguous as the opening set of stories suggest) really helps that - there's an element of solidarity build up amongst the TARDIS crew at simply trying to escape.

While we cannot fully judge the visual elements of this story the tele snaps and photos make this look really impressive considering the budget of the show - and I think that's an element common with a lot of the early historicals (perhaps helped by being able to borrow more set pieces from other places). Of the missing stories its one of the ones that I most want to see video evidence of simply to see how the settings were conveyed on screen.

The story is also enjoyable - seven parters can drag and while this was not free from filler there was plenty here. The fact that the story moves locations a lot really helps this feel big - the desperation of the Doctor and others as they approach Shang-Tu where their chance to escape will vanish; Marco's increasing annoyance at his unexpected companions (and, somewhat notably, the first time that word is used to describe the Doctor's companions); and Tegana's schemes increasingly coming out - first appearing as a superstitious person before his real aim (representing Nogai against Kublai) becomes clear. The seven parts don't really drag in this - although there are a few moments where it feels like they filled screen time with either another failed escape in the TARDIS or Ian talking to Marco about them escaping. The climax works really well - Ian (imprisoned again after not convincing Ling-Tau of Tegana's intentions) manages to get Marco to intervene in Tegana's regicide attempt; and then Marco lets the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan escape because of that act. It is very rushed and abrupt but I think works in the context of the story.

The disadvantages are the points where the script gets reductive with the 'escape get caught' stuff that Doctor Who at its worst is very bad at - although there are worse offenders here. Overall though this is a very fun story - and well worth seeking out.

Review created on 16-06-24
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