Audio Review: Doctor Who – Big Finish titles for June 2012

June is the last month of we will have three full cast Doctor Who audios from Big Finish for a bit, as the first season of the 4th Doctor adventures come to an end, and the second season (alongside Mary Tamm, as Romana) doesn’t start until January 2013.

Sadly it will be the last time Mary Tamm will appear in a Big Finish production, as the lovely actress passed away this week.

Big Finish has already announced a third series of Fourth Doctor Audios, again along side Leela (Louis Jameson) which will be released in late 13/early 2014.

I am not sure how many listeners Big Finish may have gained in the last 5 years as the current Doctor Who series has skyrocketed in popularity. If you are only familiar with the Doctor because you think Bow Ties are cool, and you have seen bits of the original series, but can’t get into it for it’s incredibly “low-fi” production values, check out Big Finish. I especially recommend the Fourth and Eighth Doctor adventures.

Now on to June’s releases.

The Oseidon Adventure is the finale of season 1 of Big Finish’s first run of stories featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor, and it’s a strong wrap up to a solid run of 6 stories (not including the two “lost stories” which were not included with the subscription run of 6 one hour stories. Picking up from the moment where the last story ended, the Doctor and Leela are up against the Master (Geoffrey Beevers) whose plans may be just to clever for his own good, and we get to meet the Master’s accomplices, the Kraals.

Ambitious, with a complex plot, and superbly acted all around, this is a great example of Big Finish when it succeeds at recreating the feeling of classic Doctor Who. This story could very easily been a TV episode in the 70′s (had the show had the sort of financial backing it has today) while not shunning fans who may only know the show from it’s current incarnation.

On thing that these most of these stories did was remind me of when I discovered Doctor Who in 1983, with my first story being Robots of Death. As an American nerd who grew up on a steady diet of Star Wars movies and Star Trek re-runs, the discovery of Doctor Who was a whole new world, The Fourth Doctor and Leela were my first Doctor/Companion.

I think the only draw back is that this is the last Fourth Doctor audio until 2013. But as a plus, that means maybe I can use the money I would have used on more Fourth Doctor audios for something else I can get all geeky about.

My Rating – A

Speaking of Season 15, the latest 5th Doctor audio, The Butcher of Brisbane is a sequel to the 15th Season finale, The Talons of Weng Chiang. It’s a risky move, considering just how popular the original Fourth Doctor story is, even to this day. It still places very high in fan polls. I suppose technically the story is a prequel, as it looks at the origins Magnus Greel (Angus Wright) the Butcher of Brisbane himself.

Marc Platt, who wrote the classic series story Ghost Light, as well as the Big Finish audios Spare Parts and An Earthly Child among others, has never shied away from ambitious stories. Here Platt has acknowledged the  bits of information from the televised story had given us about Greel’s background, but he doesn’t let continuity get in the way of telling a good (nay, great) story.

Like in his previous Big Finish stories, Platt knows how to get the best use of his regular cast, and I can only imagine how much the actors enjoy the chtaracter development that Platt includes for them.   I found out more about Turlough (Mark Strickson) in his audio adventures than we ever did about him during the his televised run in the TARDIS, and Nyssa’s (Sarah Sutton) emotional journey is far beyond what any companion ever got before the days of Rose and Amy.

The story walks the tricky pretzel of wibbley wobbley time travel issues in a way that would make Steven Moffat proud, (better so, even) and keeps the listener engaged, while not confused.  This story is not to be missed.

My Rating A-

You can get the first episode of the this story for free, by downloading the Big Finish Podcast, here)

 

Power Play wraps up June’s Big Finish’s releases and is part of their Lost Story range.   The Sixth Doctor and Peri find themselves caught between dirty interstellar cops and nuclear annihilation of the Earth.

This story is much more plot than character driven, the Doctor himself even seem to be more passively along for the ride, there to help explain the various plot elements and technological and scientific ephemera that make the story work.  Peri is very much her television version here, not quite as smooth or settled into her role as time traveler as she is in some of the better audios that she’s been in, which is a shame, because I have really grown to appreciate the mature Peri (…Ish, and Year of the Pig come to mind)

Of course the highlight of this story is Victoria Waterfield’s (Deborah Watling) appearance.   Victoria of course was a companion of the 2nd Doctor from the mid 19th century, who left the Doctor and Jamie in the mid 20th century (Back in 1968, during the series’ 5th season.)

As always with Big Finish, the cast is strong, but I just didn’t feel the story really delivered on it’s potential.  I feel that some of the “lost stories” were lost for a reason.  This one,  the premise is strong, but it lacks something in the execution. I can understand why this story might have been shelved,  featuring a former companion, I see it easily getting sidelined for the Robert Holmes’ scripted appearance of Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines in The Two Doctors.   

Perhaps this is a sign that the Lost Story Range. at least the 80′s version is winding down. Several of the upcoming stories in the range feature the first two Doctors, starring many of the surviving cast members of the era. William Russell and Frazier Hines do fine impressions of the First and Second Doctor, respectively.

Rating B-

The first episode of the next Lost Story, The First Sontarans, featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri, is also available for a free download as part of Big Finish’s podcast series. (I’ll be reviewing the whole Audio soon)

About David Vandervliet

Once, King of all these lands, but now I am just an aging nerd. I enjoy talking about my favorite things to geek about, and hopefully I say something to make you think a little too. My favorite things include: Comics, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Science, Astronomy, Math, Music, theatre, movies, writing, baseball, college football (Go Blue!)
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