Audio Review: Sherlock Holmes – The Fiends of New York City

Review by Ian McArdell


The latest outing for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, The Fiends of New York City, takes place in the stifling summer of 1901. Surprisingly, despite its title, it has very little to do with New York and instead, rather more to do with the new power behind London’s criminal underclass; The Seamstress of Peckham Rye.

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Review: The Companion Chronicles – The Second Doctor (Vol 3)

Review by Jacob Licklider


The Companion Chronicles have the distinction of being the second longest and consistently running Doctor Who range at Big Finish Productions. They began in 2007 and released several single releases to 2014 before switching to yearly boxsets between 2015 and 2019. A box set was announced for release in June 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Second Doctor: Volume Three was plagued with production delays, finally having production finish in late 2021 for release in 2022. Among this rumours spread that the Companion Chronicles would be ending with this volume which have not yet been confirmed, though there is some contradictory evidence of actors mentioning recording a release which hasn’t been announced while higher ups mentioning that this would be the final installment in the range.If this truly is to be the final release of the range (and I truly hope it isn’t) it is a stellar release for the range to go out on, finding creative ways to explore the entirety of the Second Doctor’s era and not limit itself to the Companion Chronicles’ two-hander format as it’s rumoured Big Finish will be taking the range towards a more full cast approach if it is to continue.

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Review: The First Doctor Adventures – The Outlaws

Review by Jacob Licklider


With each of the Big Finish Doctor Who ranges moving to box sets it means that yearly listeners will be getting sets with the First and Second Doctors, both of whom have been limited in recent years. Nicholas Briggs has emphasised the desire to make this a fresh start by using new TARDIS teams, exploring new eras, and going against the grain of the previous Early Adventures and Companion Chronicles in stopping the tradition of previous companion actors also voicing the Doctor and recasting both the First and Second Doctors. Michael Troughton will be taking over the role of the Second Doctor (already previewed in The Annihilators), however, instead of continuing with David Bradley as the exclusive First Doctor, a complete recast with Stephen Noonan taking the role was announced with The Outlaws and The Miniaturist (collected under the title The Outlaws). This marketing decision makes it a little confusing to discuss the story vs the collection so this review will be discussing elements of both overall without heavy spoilers. This set also expands upon a previously unused portion of the First Doctor’s timeline set immediately after The Savages so the companion is Dodo Chaplet, here reprised by Lauren Cornelius, which makes an interesting dynamic as here Big Finish have created a pitch to writers to combine two versions of her character. Dodo being a character who was written differently in essentially every serial, Big Finish have given Cornelius a mix of her portrayal in The Massacre and The Gunfighters which makes her proactive and takes away the British RP allowing a slightly toned down version of the accent Jackie Lane used in The Massacre. There is only one plot point which has Dodo falling for the Monk’s story about trying to be Robin Hood in The Outlaws.

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Review: Doctor Of War – Genesis

Review by Jacob Licklider


The Unbound range essentially started as a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who by introducing six alternate universe takes on the Doctor and Doctor Who based around questions like “What if the Doctor never left Gallifrey?” or “What if the Doctor was exiled to Earth in the 1990s?”. This allowed different actors and actresses to take on the role of the Doctor, but after the initial six release run there weren’t any new Unbound Doctors introduced, two more releases in 2005 and 2008 before the David Warner Doctor was paired with Bernice Summerfield. So, imagine the surprise when it was announced that the range would be revived for two box sets using a new Unbound Doctor, the Doctor of War, played by Colin Baker, in a timeline that diverges during Genesis of the Daleks for two box sets, Genesis and Destiny (named after the Tom Baker Dalek serials).full

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Review: The Fourth Doctor Adventures – Solo

Review by Jacob Licklider


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Audio Review: Space 1999 Volume 2 – Earthbound

Review by Ian McArdell


Earthbound is the second volume of regular adventures for Big Finish’s reimagining of Space: 1999. Striking a happy balance between old and new, it provides an original character-based adventure, plus a smart re-working of a television which turns it into a high-stakes two-parter.


Mooncatcher

First up, writer Marc Platt provides an original episode. It begins with the first child being born on Moonbase Alpha. While most are thrilled, Paul Morrow is concerned about the age gap between the baby and the next youngest person on the base. As Commissioner Simmons comments, they’re no longer a base and now a colony.

Celebrations are disrupted by a transmission, which is soon followed by many others. Despite the fact that they sound like either a plea for help or a warning, Morrow and Professor Bergman are keen to investigate – a mission agreed to despite Commander Koenig’s misgivings.

What follows is a story of delusions and dreams, one which explores the backstories of both Morrow and Bergman as they find themselves pulled into the heart of the mysterious ‘Delta One’ object. It’s also a cautionary tale for Professor Bergman’s boundless curiosity as their discovery comes to endanger the whole base.

This story is a terrific showcase for Glen McCready as the unlucky-in-love Paul Morrow, with Big Finish stalwart Jane Slavin guesting as his fiancé Jeanette. Plus, of course, the delightful enthusiast that is Clive Hayward’s Professor Victor Bergman.


Earthbound / Journey’s End

Earthbound adapts the television episode of the same title, expanding it across two episodes, with the second part named Journey’s End.

While on the television series, Commissioner Simmons was purely a guest role for Roy Dotrice, who played the character in two episodes, on audio the role has been expanded. Timothy Bentinck’s superb iteration of the character has been a thorn in the side of Koenig and his crew, with events leading to this story.

Using all his political acumen, Simmons effectively stages a coup – demanding, with the base’s armed security personnel on his side, that the whole population of Alpha should consider his assertion that their mission should focus on getting back to Earth, rather than on looking for a new home among the stars. In order to diffuse the situation, Koenig agrees to put the question to a vote.

Despite all the logical arguments to the contrary, such as whether the Earth survived the Moon’s departure, the impossibility of creating a faster-than-light drive and the strain it would put on an already stretched crew, Simmons proceeds to run rings around Koenig, Dr Russell and Professor Bergman. Playing on a heady mix of cryogenics and hope, he (narrowly) wins the argument.

The Brexit parallels are writ large here, unsubtly but in entertaining fashion, by writers Iain Meadows (who is also the sound designer) and Nicholas Briggs (who also directs and script edits). Weeks in, the lack of delivery of Simmons’ promises become a problem for his followers; the ‘sunlight uplands’ for Alpha include accusations and threats of physical violence. It’s into this environment that a Kaldosian ship arrives, bound for Earth and with the potential to take someone with them.

With a developed sub-plot beefing up Dr Russell’s connection with the Kaldosian Captain Zantor (Barnaby Kay), terrific head-to-heads between Simmons and Koenig, this is an impressive reimagining of Earthbound. It cleverly plays with the expectations for those familiar with the television series, but in a way that I imagine is not at all off-putting for those coming to it fresh.


In Summary

In another satisfying boxset, the audio version of Space: 1999 again benefits from the pacer treatment that this modern adaptation provides; the 1970s show could be glacial at times. As ever, Iain Meadow’s sound design in on point to evoke the feel of the series and Joe Kraemer provides an absorbing score. Heightened emotions form an essential component too (longing looks are a tough sell on audio) as the attraction between John Koenig (Mark Bonnar) and Helena Russell (Maria Teresa Creasey) is tackled head on.

Given where the story concludes, it seems certain there are plans for more. While I’m being deliberately circumspect to preserve the surprises, the decisions taken here open up the story in interesting ways so I really hope so.

If you haven’t jumped on board yet, now’s the time – this Moon is really going places!


Space:1999 Volume 2: Earthbound is available on CD and download from Big Finish.
Order on CD from Forbidden Planet

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Review: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Old Friends

Review by Jacob Licklider


This has been a review that I’ve let percolate in my mind for a few days. The first season of The Ninth Doctor Adventures has come to a close in a perfect parallel to Series 1 and building from genuinely humble beginnings. It is also quite difficult to discuss as it’s serving as a prequel to Series 1, ending with Old Friends implying a lead into Rose. This along with Lost Warriors, and to a lesser extent Respond to All Calls, have been an examination of the Ninth Doctor’s trauma along with other characters he meets on his lonely travels. Old Friends is a contemplative box set with two stories, a single hour long episode and one two episode serial, both parallels to Boom Town and Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways. This has been a long time coming and is honestly an odd box set to review, because it’s a box set that almost blind sided me with what it was doing and how things ended up the way they were. The covers of the sets have been mimicking the four individual releases of Series 1, from blue to red to green to purple for the finale. This ended up being an interesting example of priming listeners for what exactly to expect with these sets.

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Review: Doctor Who Third Doctor Adventures – The Annihilators

Review by Jacob Licklider


 

2022 is a year of change for Big Finish. We are already a month into the year and the switch to box sets has meant that there is a new format for every range, with a majority of the previous box sets decreasing to three CDs instead of four. To bring the Third Doctor into the new box set era, Nicholas Briggs pens and directs ‘The Annihilators’, Big Finish’s first seven-part story and Briggs’ tribute to Season 7. This is how it was initially announced complete with dummy cover, until it was revealed that Michael Troughton, son of Patrick Troughton, would appear as the Second Doctor with Frazer Hines reprising his role as Jamie McCrimmon. This, while understandable as to why it is integrated into the story, does mean that the second half of the story where Briggs admirably pulls off a story style switch which makes it feel like a completely different story instead of just a different direction. Jamie and the Doctor end up on a mission although it’s not quite clear if it’s for the Time Lords, but considering how Doctor Who expanded universe material likes to make it for the Time Lords that’s probably what’s being done here. There wasn’t an intention to cross the timelines, and it is explicit that the Third Doctor has had his memories altered in some way, and the story ends in a way that we are dealing with timelines in flux, but the sheer different nature makes this more akin to The Daleks where the second half could be a completely different story.

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Review: Doctor Who – Peladon

Review by Jacob Licklider


The 1963-1989 run of Doctor Who is fascinating in the fact that in the 160 serials (including The TV Movie in 1996), there are few stories that are direct sequels to previous stories, much less sequels within the same production team. Generally the closest you would get are stories like Attack of the Cybermen doing a sequel to The Tenth Planet and Attack of the Cybermen over a decade after the prequel’s release or Snakedance to Kinda and Mindwarp to Vengeance on Varos essentially being extensions of the themes of the previous story, but doing its own thing. The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon are an oddity as they both share the same setting, several of the characters, and feel like a natural extension of the same story. Peladon being the setting of both is a big factor in why the two stories feel so connected, the sets are the same and it feels like the planet is evolving and changing. The Curse of Peladon aired as the second story from Season 9 beginning at the end of January 1972, so as it is the 50th anniversary of Episode One while I am writing this, Big Finish Productions are celebrating with Peladon, a four story box set revisiting the planet throughout its history as well as continue the spirit of Peladon stories in reflecting the politics of the real world using allegory for a stark contrast of the good and bad of today’s world.

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Review: Charlotte Pollard – The Further Adventuress

Review by Jacob Licklider


My first Big Finish Audio Drama was Storm Warning, it was 2014, and Big Finish had at some point previously put the first fifty main range on sale for $2.99. Charlotte Pollard was my first companion and now, twenty years later, Big Finish are releasing Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress to commemorate India Fisher’s Charley Pollard and taking the Eighth Doctor back to his early days. Paul McGann is clearly having a blast in all four stories, giving life to an Eighth Doctor unblemished by the loss of friends or the Time War, something which we haven’t seen since Big Finish revisited the Lucie Miller era in 2019. Whenever they decide to revisit this version of the Eighth Doctor, McGann breathes a new life into the character and reuniting him with India Fisher helps the nostalgia of that era bleed into the tone of each of the stories. None of the stories are particularly dark or disturbing, they all at least reference the arc of the time that Charley Pollard should have been killed on the R-101, but most importantly they allow two friends a chance to perform together for the first time in nearly a decade since the 50th Anniversary in The Light at the End.

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