Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Worlds Of Big Finish

If I have one fault, (actually I have many), it’s that I tend to over-think things; follow this if you dare reader! …
In Jago and Litefoot Series 7, Sherlock Holmes is undeniably a fictional character; Messers H & L meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is persuaded to write more stories; with me so far? Anyhow, The Doctor is a real character in the worlds of Jago and Litefoot, Talons, S4, Justice of Jalxar, they interact and have adventures together. Now, if Sherlock Holmes is fictional in Jago & Litefoot & the Doctor is real in Jago and Litefoot, how on earth is Sherlock Holmes real in Doctor Who? Glad I got that off my chest, answers on a tweet to @CouncillorEd.
So my preamble brings me to The Worlds of Big Finish – an epic story spanning aeons, told in six acts, each with a Big Finish hero taking the main role. From a galactic archive in the far future to Victorian London to the roaring 20’s, to modern London to Mars, to the planet Sisyphus 9 – it never lets up. This is Big Finish does The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Avengers Assemble – however, this is far far superior to either of these Hollywood offerings for two big reasons – and these should be the considerations for any writer – Number 1: The Characters, and Number 2: The Plot.
So the characters, and what a line up; all related in one way or another to the Doctor, so a genuine genre, spanning, franchise crossing spin off . Abby and Zara from Graceless, Sherlock Holmes, Dorian Gray, Iris Wildthyme, Vienna Salvatori and Bernice Summerfield – could be a crowded list, but they way the story is told is far far cleverer than this – really really clever indeed, in fact there is only a couple of cross overs with characters meeting (Dorian meets Holmes and Vienna meets Bernice) but all the stories are linked by a book, the most important book in creation called The History of Earth Vol 36,279 by Kronos Vad. The device of the book is not just a hook to hang the story on, it’s central to driving the plot onwards.
The epic begins with the Graceless Girls Abby and Zara visiting the Archive (think The Library in Doctor Who) to see an old friend, only they arrive thousands of years too late. People are being killed off due to a cult of “Gomegogue”, it is linked to a book – the book – The History of Earth, which Abby and Zara take back in time for safe keeping, leading to the Holmes adventure, which leads to the Dorian except, which leads to Iris, to Vienna and finally Bernice.
I feel like I should stop now, as I will utterly ruin the story for anyone by giving anything else away – but I can talk about the characters, so well drawn, so rounded. Abby and Zara first appeared in the Fifth Doctor Key 2 Time story, they are flirtatious, feisty and clever. Holmes is played by the fab Nick Briggs – it was my first experience of this version of Holmes and what an interpretation; an older, more world weary take on the great man, semi retired to keep bees, his mind is still as keen as it was but he no longer has the tenacity to pursue a case to the end he once had. I look forward to hearing more from Mr Briggs as Holmes – bought a few of the episodes in the promotion last week, and we have All Consuming Fire to come later this year – Holmes and the Doctor, now that is a crossover!
Alexander Vlahos is a revelation as Dorian Gray; this was my particular favourite section of the epic – dark and mysterious, Vlahos is a seductive, arrogant, braggart as Gray – a true “anti hero” but utterly compelling and (curse you big finish, my wallet hates you!!!) I have purchased the remainder of the Dorian Gray range based on this section alone.
What can you say about the lovely Katy Manning as Iris Wildthyme – as mad as a box of frogs, an intergalactic bag lady with a twinkle in her eye and a gin in her hand! This is the lightest in the series, and a good bit of well-earned comic relief after the first three doom laden episodes (Katy, I am not ignoring Iris in the buying of episodes, already had them).
Vienna Salvatori Bounty Hunter is sassy, sexy and tough as old boots, Chase Masterson plays her as a tough, no nonsense, businesslike, you would not mess with this lady, her section reminded me very much of an episode of Hustle, all casino’s, mob bosses, crosses and double crosses, again (curse you big finish, my overdraft will be growing by the second!!!) I have indulged in some of Vienna’s episodes.
Finally the one and only Bernice Summerfield – the greatest companion of the Doctor we didn’t see on TV; drunk, sarcastic, witty, stupendously intelligent (and holder of the Edward Watkinson chair of Archaeology at Dellah Univeristy, I will have you know!), her story brings all the threads together – the book, the “Gomegogue”, the prophecies – there are so many real “ahhhh” and “ooooh” & “oh that’s what that was!” moments, it’s brilliantly written, paced, edited, acted, and scored – the story is bigger than the sum of its parts – its a true epic that I wish we could see the like of on the BBC in their Doctor Who episodes.
Should you buy it? Absolutely yes, but be prepared to dip in to the worlds of all the other characters as well, get in touch with your bank and extend your overdraft – a great jumping on point for newcomers to the extended world spun-off from Doctor Who.
An epic and engaging 10/10.