Monday, 30 November 2015

206 - SHIELD OF THE JÖTUNN

Though they are commonplace in the revived post 2005 series, the “classic” series didn’t really do “blockbusters”. I mean they did, but they were very few and far between. The thing is the set up of the series was different then – a series of serials rather than (mainly) standalone episodes, with a linking theme leading up to the inevitable series finale. Classic Who didn’t really do event TV – in fact the only times I can remember it being an event was when Tom Baker regenerated and when The Five Doctors was broadcast. Things were different back then, not better or worse, just a different style for a different era. But then we have this months release – Shield of the Jotunn – on the one hand it follows the style and format of “classic” Who, it features Old Sixie, is a four part serial yes but (and it is a big but) the scale is huge - Hollywood blockbuster huge, and what starts as Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke looking for a restaurant ends with a battle of the Titans.
So the aforementioned trip to a restaurant doesn’t really go to plan – in fact the Doctor and Mrs Clarke materialise in a Viking burial mound. This is no ordinary Viking burial mound though (as if it would be) in fact it is in Arizona USA (yes you read correctly) in the year 2029. And so begins one of the most tense, frantic and down right action packed Who stories I have ever had the delight to hear. This is Doctor Who with a Michael Bay budget – in my mind it was all being played out on big budget super Hi-Def cameras and I was watching it on IMAX, not on 625 line VT on a 22 inch Panasonic as it would have been in the 1980′s.
The plot is a little bit base under siege and a little bit giant monster battle – think The Thing meets Transformers and you wont be far from the mark. Part one sets up the story and introduces Dr Hugo Macht (Michael J Shannon) and his team Professor Lisa Zetterling (Nell Mooney) & Major Vincent Da Costa (James Caroll Jordan) – Dr Macht has devised a plan to save the world from climate change by cleaning the atmosphere with nanobots, but the discovery of the Shield of the Jotunn puts a huge spanner in his good works as the shield is in fact an alien artefact brought to the USA by the Vikings – and this shield brings with a a whole load of trouble, from killer snow to Frost Giants. It also brings with is a Viking Saga…
Oh the Vikings and their saga – their tale is told by Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) who continues to excel and is fast becoming a classic companion and foil to Old Sixie – she discovers the TARDIS gift for translation and recounts their saga, the narration here being taken over by the Viking leader Herger (also played by James Caroll Jordan) and is an excellent piece of direction as Mrs Clarke’s cut glass voice fades out and is replaced by Herger’s gruff tones and then fades back as we return to the here and now. It’s little touches like this that raise this story, and the story has a very special director you all may have heard of – Louise Jameson makes her Big Finish directorial debut on this release and does not leave the listener wanting. From casting to scene construction, Louise does not miss a beat and crafts writer Ian Edington’s script into a tense, action packed and characterful blockbuster.
So far so epic – and that is only part of the story, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger (literally) and finishes in an explosive denouement; it does not miss a beat, does not put a foot wrong, the cast are uniformly excellent, Colin Baker is exceptional as always – he has a few melancholic speeches to deliver and there are a few scenes where he almost outdoes his successor for manipulation – just listen to the climax of part four – Old Sixie does something almost completely out of character and it is all the more powerful for it.
So three stories in and I am already chomping at the bit for more stories of Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke – a classic TARDIS team, they just go together like, well Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke really.
Overall a saga worth listening to – stunningly written and acted, a brilliant “Season Finale” an exceptional debut for Louise Jameson as director and another classic release from Big Finish.
Overall a blockbusting 10/10.