Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Romance Of Crime

How does a story become that much sought after thing “a classic”? What separates The Talons of Weng Chiang, City of Death, Human Nature, Inferno, The Curse of Fenric, Fathers Day and The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords from their contemporaries? What makes them stand out? What makes the general viewing public remember “the one with the maggots” but not “the one with the giant ants”? I wish I could answer the question, it would put me up among the gods of Who writing. If only you could distill and bottle that certain “something” that beautiful coming together of the elements that raises a story from enjoyable to timeless.
Back in the 1990′s one man managed to do this; that man was Gareth Roberts – and this month Big Finish are giving us the best antidote for post Christmas blues that money can buy – audio adaptations of Gareth’s classic season 17 pastiches.
Ahhh, season 17 – Tom at his madcap buffooning best, Lalla Ward, haughty, sexy and playful with a mind like a razor, the not Leeson K9, Douglas Adams, Graham Williams, Daleks, Scaroth, Erato, Mandrels, Nimon – SHADA! And also Gareth Roberts.
Roberts novels were fully formed pastiches of season 17, the essence of this most magical classic era season dripped off the pages, it was like Roberts had been possessed by the ghosts of Williams and Adams – and now dear reader, you can hear these stories brought to life.
The first of these is “The Romance of Crime” – everything in the production oozes class; Tom is silly, Lalla is haughty, Leeson sounds like Brierly – he really does- his voice has been treated somehow – it’s so authentic.
The adventure takes place on penal colony The Rock of Judgement where criminals are executed by particle dissemination, but as our heroes find out, the dead sometimes do not stay dead.
So far, so season 17 – but there’s more, a female villain, Zais is resurrected due to the vanity of artist to the condemned, Miranda Raison plays her with a camp glee, that is so in keeping with the era, it’s almost a parody. Marcus Garvey plays Frank Spiggot (even the name is funny) a hapless investigator who seems to care more about being reunited with “Angie and the kids” than solving the case. Michael Troughton plays court artist Menlove Stokes who’s ambition far outstrips his talent, but he gets some great one liners – and the AND THEN, just when you think it can’t get any better, Zais accomplices Charles & Edward Nisbett turn up accompanied by The Ogrons.
You know how Moffat made Sontarans brilliant with Strax? Roberts has gone one better with the Ogrons, they are hilarious! There is a great scene with Tom offering a jelly baby to one, another with Lalla commanding them to let her enter the Nisbett’s ship, and another where Nisbett tries to explain to an Ogrons that everyone hates him and his brother, and another….. You get the idea, it’s real laugh out loud funny.
Tom gets all the best lines, going from loopy wise cracking bohemian to serious scientist on the fly, he has never been better (apart from maybe in actual season 17).  This really is something special. I could go on and on and on about how good this is and it is; it’s Talons Good, it’s Blink good, it’s City of Death good, it’s Romance of Crime good.
If I could score it higher than a 10 I would, I have been listening to big finish for 15 years, and this is one of the very very best and it would be a crime to give this any less than 10/10.