Saturday, 31 December 2016


As I sit in my kitchen at the end of a pretty darned awful year politcally - where all the old certainties have been swept aside in a wave of right wing populist, inward looking, short sighted and dangerous elections - it is easy to despair it really is but if we do then the right wingers have won. Anyhow off the soap box and on to happier things.

2016 was a remarkable year for Big Finish they achieved both quality and quantity of releases, with some of this years cream of the crop being amongst the best releases that the company have ever, well, released for want of a better word. I came to begin reviewing Big Finish in October 2013 with the intention of just reviewing their Doctor Who releases for Planet Mondas - I am now a bona fide aficionado of their whole Universe from Doctor Who to Dorian Gray taking in all things between.

So as I sit in my kitchen with my cup of Tetley Red Bush, listening to Kate Bush (bit of an unintended synchronicity there!) I bring you The Blog Finish Awards 2016:

Doctor Who - Best Main Range Release:

The Nominations are:

209 - Aquitaine

Review HERE

210 - The Peterloo Massacre

Review HERE

211 - And You Will Obey Me

Review HERE

And the Winner is - The Peterloo Masscare - what else could it be, one of THE best releases Big Finish have given us in the main range and proof (if it were needed) that the pure historical is alive and well.

Doctor Who - best Non Main Range release

The Nominations are:

Doom Coalition 3

Review HERE

A Full Life

Review HERE

Cold Fusion

Review HERE

And the winner is Cold Fusion - a story I had almost forgotten but an absolute classic of intrigue, interplay between Doctors and secrets of the Old Time on Gallifrey. "Always leave them wanting more" and Big Finish have whetted my appetite for further exploration of Patience and her story.

Best Doctor Who "Spin Off"

The Nominations are:

Jago & Litefoot Series 12

Review HERE

Torchwood - Made You Look

Review HERE

The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 3 - The Unbound Universe

Review HERE

And the winner is - Torchwood - Made You Look. THE best Torchwood release so far, utterly compelling from beginning to end, Eve Myles is wonderful and plays Gwen in ways I really didnt expect, the story is claustrophobic and unnerving and stayed with me a long time.

Best Drama Box Set

The Nominations are:

The Prisoner Volume 01

Review HERE

The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes

Review HERE

The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 5

Review HERE

And the winner is - The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 5 - Scott Handcock has crafted a work of art for the ages in his reinterpretation of Gray as an immortal anti-hero. And as his story comes to an end Gray loses none of his bravado, in fact his demise enhances the legend.

Outstanding Release of the Year

One last award, the release that for me is the pinnacle of Big Finish' output in 2016 - its a story that I have already nominated, and surprisingly it didnt win its category - because it is much bigger than a "non main range release" this release touched my soul and did the almost impossible, it redeemed Adric as a companion and made me want to know more about him than we were given on TV. Joseph Lidster & Matthew Waterhouse take a bow as I award "A Full Life" the Blog Finish release of the year award - its only £2.99 it will enrich your life, it will change the way you think about Adric, and if you are a big softy like me it will make you cry. Lots. you can buy it here you will be glad you did.


And they are back! After the "pilot" episode earlier this year “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” (review HERE)  the Counter Measures team are back together for a series of off beat espionage adventures, but this time in glorious 16mm film with  a funky rather than a jazzy soundtrack, because we have arrived in the 1970’s.

For those of you that have not heard “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” this review contains significant spoilers so I suggest listening to it first? You can buy it HERE - all caught up? Marvellous. So Sir Toby Kinsella ISN'T dead, in fact he is thriving with his team back together from their apparent deaths in the original Counter Measures - they have a new base in the Post Office Tower, but apart from the change of decade, the change of setting and the change of incidental music it is pretty much business as usual for the Counter Measures team.

The emphasis in this box set is slightly different from the previous 1960’s based Counter Measures, there is no over arching plot, the episodes are stand alone and this works both for and against the set as we shall see. The series is split in to four stories:

  1. Nothing to See Here by Guy Adams

Group Captain Gilmore (Simon Williams) goes undercover with a gang of bank robbers who seem to have perfected the power of invisibility, but the device that is being used is far more clever than an invisibility cloak and far more dangerous to the user. The device makes those around not notice that you are there until you interact, it also makes the user forget who they are and lose their sense of self. A tense beginning to the set and an examination of what it means to be the person that you are. Can a decent man like Ian be influenced by a machine to forget who he is to the extent that he does awful things? And if so what of those with weaker wills and weaker senses of self - could this technology be exploited for more than just robberies and be used on the population? Luckily we have Sir Toby (Hugh Ross) Rachel (Pamela Salem) & Alison (Karen Gledhill) on our side.

2. Troubled Waters by Ian Potter

This is my favourite episode of the set, its creepy, its claustrophobic, it plays on paranoia of confined spaces and thematically it follows on from the first episode as the sense of self of our heroes is attacked. The team are sent to investigate a crashed Nuclear submarine that recently went off grid. The crew are missing, the whole sub is deserted apart from one lone survivor from an experiment into psychic soldiers. What follows is the team being manipulated to act against their nature - Sir Toby taken back to when he was at public school, Ian as a gunner in the RAF, Rachel being dominated by an over bearing mother, Alison given the chance to be a mother - using these phobias and desires to manipulate the team in to giving up the nuclear secrets of the Submarine, Its tense and its a difficult listen and it really does make use of the stand alone nature of the stories to tell the best story it possibly can in the time it is given. Bravo.

3. The Phoenix Strain by Christopher Hatherall

This is a bit of an oddball story, almost tongue in cheek - it an homage in part to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and to all those 1970’s films about animals going crazy like “Night of the Lepus” and “Piraña”. London is being plagued by attacks from killer birds and the grieving fiancee of a former pupil of Rachel’s could hold the answer. But what is the answer? Surely the powers that be would not be developing biological warfare to use against their own population? Sir Toby crosses swords with Lord Henry Balfour (David Rintoul) in his quest to expose the truth and stop the killer birds. As I said, an odd story, quite camp and tongue in cheek and tonally very different from the first two of the set - more brutal and graphically violent, yet sillier in an odd sort of way.

4 A Gamble With Time by John Dorney

Now THAT Mr Dorney is a cheeky title! A Gamble With Time was the original title of the Doctor Who story that eventually became City of Death. This story does not feature Mona Lisa’s Jagaroth or John Cleese - it features a very clever (actually not so clever) confidence trick played out against the backdrop of Monte Carlo glamour and casinos. Gus Kalworowsky (Tam Williams) has alien tech to sell, he has alien tech that allows him to travel in time and he proves his point to Lady Suzanne Clare (Carolyn Seymour) by apparently travelling in time and taking her casino to the cleaners on the blackjack tables. Lady Clare is an international arms dealer and a nasty piece of work who is au fait with alien tech and wants the time travel device. What follows is a 1970’s style take on Hustle as con follows con and a new enemy in Lady Clare is set up for future sets.

A mixed bag of stories, from tense claustrophobia, to camp to con tricks - this is a New series in a new decade playing with possibilities and finishing on a hook that I hope will be followed up in Series 2. A funky and flared trouser take on the “Spy-Fi” genre and a very promising start 8/10.


What is it with The Doctor & Christmas? as far back as 1965 he was getting it wrong all Z-Cars & Keystone Cops style and in more modern times he has fought off invasions and even succumbed to a regeneration on Xmas day. Yes indeed Xmas is not a good time to be The Doctor, which is a shame as he seems to love it.

In this month's festive Short Trips release we see the Doctor in his Seventh Incarnation throw off his melancholy machiavellian personality and seemingly go back to his season 24 joie de vivre as he takes Bernice Summerfield to a planet that does Christmas properly. A planet where all talk of it is banned until the festival approaches and then the denizens go all out - snowmen, present, mulled wine, mince pies, carols the whole kit and caboodle - so surely THIS time, on a Christmas planet things cant go wrong. Can they?

Oh yes they can, and as narrator Lisa Bowerman narrates the plot from the point of view of Bernice we see that Bernice has an awful decision to make. To save the Doctor she must forget The Doctor forever, she must retain no memory of him at all because on the Christmas planet a terrible trap has been set, and to know of the Doctor is to want to destroy The Doctor….

What begins as a bit of bright and breezy Christmas whimsy descends very quickly into The Doctor and Bernice running for their lives and from a force that has been hunting the Doctor from one end of time to the other, a force that has become patient, a force that has hidden in the population of the Christmas planet just waiting for him to arrive.

Lisa Bowerman captures the breathless, breakneck speed of the situation that Bernice and The Doctor find themselves in, she also provides the framing narration where Bernice discusses her situation with a robo therapist and as the plot develops the two threads become nicely interwoven and provide a very satisfying pay off.

Like pretty much every Doctor Who Christmas special this is lightweight throwaway stuff, not groundbreaking or a classic - but Lisa Bowerman instills a sense of fun and urgency to the 35 minutes of the stories length and it is always a treat to have a Bernice centred story.

As Christmassy as a mince pie and a glass of port as this is I hope that The Doctor odes get a perfect Xmas one day! 7/10.


Why don't I remember this one so well? I read the novel in the 1990's and have vague recollections of Five meeting Roz Forrester at a railway station, but apart from that zero, zilch, nothing. Which in a way is good as I came to this release fresh with no expectations of what it would be like. And what is it like? well, thats really really difficult to say - its complex, its involved, it harks to the ancient past of Gallifrey, it has lots and lots of Virgin era continuity regarding Time Lords being born from looms and yet it is still completely and utterly a Fifth Doctor story. It sounds like a Fifth Doctor story, the incidental music is definitely Fifth Doctory - but this is a Fifth Doctor story run through the blender of Virgin’s take on Doctor Who - a brave and bold take on the Universe of Doctor Who, a story so good that one Doctor just isn't enough, this one has two Doctor’s AND it has The Doctor’s Wife (or maybe not). Those of you expecting a 1990’s appearance from River Song are going to be disappointed - the “wife” in question here is someone for more complex and far more significant than even her of the magnificent hair……

But where to start? There is rather a lot to this story as I have said, but a very rewarding one, we have the Fifth Doctor, The Seventh Doctor, Companions Chris Cwej (Travis Oliver) Roz Forrester (Yasmin Bannerman), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Tegan (Janet Fielding) we also have a large supporting cast lead by the mysterious Time Lord “Patience” (Christine Kavanagh). The story has an air of desperation and a race against time the sort of “muddling through” we got in the Fifth Doctor’s era on TV - BUT it also features the Virgin version of the Seventh Doctor so plays out as a machiavellian conspiracy with every move planned meticulously, but when you are plotting against your own past can things really be so straightforward? But what of the plots and the machinations? On a frozen planet the Fifth Doctor fresh from his regeneration arrives with Adric, Nyssa and Tegan and is soon caught up in events involving the sightings of “ghosts” - as he and Adric investigate, Nyssa & Tegan book in to a hotel where a n obviously fake Australian calling himself “Bruce Jovanka” arouses Tegan’s curiosity. At the same time The Seventh Doctor is investigating dangerous energy experiments conducted by the Earth Empire and the scene is set for the two most unlike incarnations of The Doctor to meet, breathless enthusiasm, decency and honour are about to collide with cold scheming. And then there is “Patience”.

Patience - its not often I get cold shivers with Doctor Who any more, but the scenes of mental contact between Five and Patience did just that. “Patience” (in quotes as it isn't her real name in the same way as “The Doctor” isn't our heroes real name) through her fragmented memories gives us a vision of her past on ancient Gallifrey, she is from the old time, she was born of the gene looms, had 13 children and her husband? Oh now that is complicated, but it may have been “The Other” who was possibly a past incarnation of The Doctor. But there is most definitely a connection, the Fifth Doctor displays an emotion and an intimacy with “Patience” that is completely absent in his interaction with other characters, Tegan is embarrassed when he sees Five place his hand on "Patience" thigh - mild stuff for those of us used to his intimacy with River, but groundbreaking in the 1990’s. And through Five & “Patience” interaction we gain vital information about the ancient times on Gallifrey and learn how “Patience” arrived on the Ice Planet. I have chills even thinking about it and long time fans will do too because these glimpses of ancient times give us a huge amount of backstory for The Doctor, not enough to ruin the mystery, but enough to leave us wanting more. A lot more.

As for the rest of the story companions of Five & Seven meet up and go through various ordeals involving the Earth Empire and the Order of Adjudicators the ruling “Scientifica” and a bunch of terorrists (or freedom fighters) who want to end their rule. And then there are the Ferutu - a species from an alternative Universe where Magic is real. In this Universe they are the Lords of Time and do not agree with non intervention, they help weaker races and use their almost infinite power to maintain an harmonious universe - surely that cannot be a bad thing? A universe where Daleks and Vampires are confined to the fringes, where peace, harmony, wisdom and compassion are the way of life? But at what price? AND THEN there is the meeting of Five and Seven - two more different incarnation of the same Time Lord you could not envisage, each with if not contempt, then a healthy disdain for each other and their methods. AND THEN it is all linked in to Day of The Doctor and that really is the feather in the cap :-)

Saying I enjoyed this is a bit of an understatement, saying I welled up with tears is not. Because I did. After witnessing “The Return of Doctor Mysterio" on TV last night and being completely left cold and disengaged, Cold Fusion was the tonic I needed, a classic for the ages, without a doubt the best of all the multi Doctor stories and a strong contender for Doctor Who release of the year. The Ferutu tells Five that this is not the last time he will meet Patience, as I recall the novels didn't follow this up - can I ask Big Finish to take this dangling plot thread and make it magnificent? Because this release was wonderful and very much “My" Who from “My” era made real by Big Finish. Magnificent, truly magnificent.


And we are back in the 1990's. Not the barren decade that some would have you believe, but a melting pot of creativity, thinking the unthinkable, writing the unfilmable and paving the way for the 2005 Doctor Who renaissance. Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, we return once again to the worlds of the Virgin New Adventures, and what a wonderful world it was. Contrary to our old friend "received fan opinion” these were heady times - Who was being written by those who genuinely cared, but more than this these were writers with genuine vision - Paul Cornell, RTD, David A McIntee, Jim Mortimore, Andy Lane - all pioneers who saw no Who on TV as an opportunity and not an ending. In Love and War Paul Cornell gifted us Professor Bernice Summerfield - bust just like the TV show this book series evolved and new companions were needed to give the range a new direction - it fell to series stalwart Andy lane to introduce two new companions Chris Cwej & Roz Forrester in the novel Original Sin - and now twenty one years later Big Finish have brought the story to life.

So what is Original Sin, and why is it so important? On the surface this is a hard boiled sci-fi adventure, quite typical of the epic scale future history style of the time. It has The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) at his mysterious manipulative best truly he is Times Champion here, casually striding through the story with a confidence bordering on arrogance - he is truly charmed. It has Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) making wise cracks and in complete synchronicity with The Doctor - for them both the events of Human Nature (the novel) have only just happened so their bond has deepened due to the traumatic events that they both suffered. It also introduces Chris & Roz. Chronologically that is, we first experienced them in the May 2015 adaptation of Damaged Goods (review here) in the forms of Yasmin Bannerman (Roz) & Travis Oliver (Chris) - but here we meet them at the beginning - Roz is an experienced cynical Adjudicator (think Judge as in Dredd) and Chris is her Squire and is a lot less jaded. They are sworn to uphold the law in Spaceport 5 Over-city (the UK to you and me) their world view and their whole way of life is about to be shaken up when their ordered life as part of the machinery of the expanding Earth Empire is in a head on collision with the world of the Doctor, because the Earth is defending in to chaos, and where there is chaos there is always the Oncoming Storm, there is always The Doctor.

So, the Murder rate is rising on Earth, the adjudicator secular dismisses it as all the murders have been solved - but to Chris Cwej something just does not add up, and this is the tip of a very rotten iceberg at the heart of the Earth Empire - why are the powers that be so keen to cover this up - what does the deranged Professor Pryce (Jot Davies) know about the dangerous icaron particles that the Doctor has detected? why is the process of “body beppling” (literally transforming your body into something else for fashions sake - when we first meet Chris he looks like a Teddy Bear!) so popular and is it linked to the spate of murders? and at the heart of it all is a villain from the far and distant past, someone who has been waiting a very very long time for the Doctor to arrive, and he really isn't the man he once was?

Its a big story and a lot happens - there is a palpable sense of the epic and of a threat and of society unravelling. And then there is the villain of the piece - he is all knowing, he is everywhere - and in this version of the story he is frustratingly unnamed, but being Who fans I am sure you can work out who he is meant to be. For all its future history, Mega Cities, lies and revelation, for all the changes that Chris & Roz go through in the two hours of the story - the ending somehow feels earned - the characters have suffered for the plot, Chris and Roz have proved their worth and earned their place aboard the TARDIS. However my favourite scene occurs at the beginning of episode two, its a short chilling scene where The Doctor & Professor Pryce discuss the morality of killing and when it can be justified - it made my blood run cold, especially when the conversation is revisited later in the story. Even after the events of Human Nature - Seven was in a dark place at this point in his life - his personal morality was something that could be reimagined to fit a particular set of circumstances - he was an ambiguous character, and never ever more dangerous, ancient or terrible. THIS was MY Doctor - and I mourned his loss when the TV movie came around and a golden era of creativity ended. Big Finish have made a dream come true in adapting the 1990’s stories for a wider audience - and while Original Sin isn't my favourite of the New Adventures in still deserves 9/10 for being brave enough to exist in the first place. Now then Big Finish, hows about Lungbarrow…..


I really hope I don't come over all "Mary Whitehouse" in this review, because that is not who I am at all. Violence has its place in stories, it really does - I never understood her problem with the Hinchcliffe era (but then again she inadvertently created the Williams era so bonus points there). What am I doing! I am almost giving backhanded compliments to one of the most destructive forces in the history of TV. But I have a point to make.
You see The Sontarans is two things - thing one - it is a very Hartnell era quest/chase/race against time story in which our heroes team up with some other character to overcome an enemy - think The Daleks and you wont be too far off for the overall structure. Thing two - it is very violent. Not cartoon violent, but violent in an upsetting way, not to give too much away but at the end of part three and beginning of part four there are some torture scenes that are out of character for the Hartnell era and cross the line as to the type of thing that the character of the Doctor would find acceptable and also the audience would find acceptable. Its a bit too much. Apart from those scenes this is a rip roaring boys own adventure and goes something like this….

On a flower covered moon between two gas giants The First Doctor, Steven (Peter Purves) & Sara (Jean Marsh) hope for some much needed rest and recuperation from their battles with The Daleks. No such luck as The Doctor is about to encounter one of his greatest enemies for the first time - this is the first meeting between The Doctor & the Sontarans. Sara Kingdom already knows about the Sontarans, in fact the period they have arrived in is ancient history for her - and as The Doctor & his friends team up with the Space Security Service team sent to disable the Sontaran space canon and protect the space lanes Sara finds herself in a position normally inhabited by the Doctor and cannot let any future history slip out.

What follows is a pretty standard “quest” story for the most part - our heroes are separated from the TARDIS and need it back, peril, bravery & betrayal - helping the indigenous population - you get the picture but it is elevated beyond this by the performances of the cast - especially Peter Purves in THOSE scenes which I alluded to earlier, this is definitely Doctor Who and not Game of Thrones, so as out of place as the torture scenes are Peter Purves sells them utterly as both Steven and The Doctor. His performance as Hartnell is stunning, never better and completely convincing I SAW Hartnell during this story, not just someone else reading his part - and boy is The Doctor wily in this one, using the Sontarans fixation with war and honour against them, his verbal sparring with the Sontaran commander (Dan Starkey) is sublime and pure First Doctor. The rest of the guest cast give it their all too - Jemma Churchill as Captain Papas providing grace under pressure and the stoic Corporal Gage (John Banks) keeping calm and carrying on as if he has a different mission to the others.

But I cannot get those torture scenes out of my head - they bother me, and that is probably a good thing, as violence should never be normalised, and I should be taken out of my comfort zone once in a while - the purpose of art is to challenge and this did challenge me - a difficult but a rewarding listen and “Peter Purves - he gives good Hartnell!” (if I see that on t-shirt I know where it has come from ) a challenging 7/10.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


Parting is such sweet sorrow as a wordsmith much greater than I could ever dream of being once wrote - and this story begins with an ending. Of sorts. Ladies and gentlemen we are at the finale of the 2016 Main Range releases, we have arrived at release 220 “Quicksilver” and to quote Bobby Ball “its a little belter”. So where to begin? well at the beginning of course and I said earlier Quicksilver begins with an ending, or at least an attempt at an ending….

Long time Big Finish listeners will remember that at the end of the last release “Absolute Power” (review HERE) Mrs Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) decided that she had had enough of her travels with Old Sixie and wanted to go home, back to World War 2, back to Bletchley Park and back to her husband Henry - but when The Doctor drops her back off at her London home one autumn morning Mrs Clarke is in for a rather upsetting surprise, because Mrs Clarks discovers to her horror that her husband Henry is lost in action, presumed dead. This first episode is a wonderful character piece between Mrs Clarke & Old Sixie - what is not said is as heartfelt and as poignant as the words that pass between them - Mrs Clarke’s stiff upper lip begins to wobble and Miranda Raison opens up another level to this most multi faceted of companions -and that dear readers is only the beginning because Matt Fitton has thrown the kitchen sink at this one, want to know more? Of course you do.

The tragic news for Mrs Clarke is only the beginning, only one of a series of events that will lead to an alien war being wrought in Vienna of 1948, a startling discovery and the return of a much missed companion - yes on top of everything else this release heralds the return of one Phillipa Jackson, or simply Flip to her friends (Lisa Greenwood) last seen floating towards the earth a few years ago, but not very pleased to have been transported on her wedding day to 1948 Vienna. There is a classic scene where Mrs Clarke and Flip meet, neither knows of the others history with The Doctor - and suddenly realisation dawns on both of them, you can visualise the looks on their faces - and what a pairing these two make, separated in time by 70 years or so and in class by a yawning chasm - but they are a kindred spirt - the Doctor really does pick his companions well.

And what of the rest of the plot? its very difficult without spoiling as there are a fair few surprises as characters motivations are made apparent and the threat of the aliens chasing lost alien warlord Kinvar (Joel Fry) is played out - and what of the Quicksilver of the title? Well its a plot device that sets up the whole chain of events and is also used very cleverly in the resolution. Old Sixie shows his moral crusading side by giving grandstanding speeches about Communism & McCarthyism whilst all along being the cleverest person by far in the proceedings, one step ahead at least of the tangled web that the Quicksilver device has created, and Mrs Clarke? what can I say about Miranda Raison that I have not already said? she continues to imbue Mrs Clarke with layer upon layer, adding vulnerability and compassion to the already heady mix of character traits and the tease of further adventures to come with Old Sixie and Flip is real “punch the air” territory.

Quicksilver is another fantastic release and gets the mix of character drama, cold war thriller and alien war blockbuster just right, its a something for everyone story, but mostly, underneath it all, when you strip back the alien devices, Russians, warlords, aliens and post war Vienna tailors shops - this is a story of Mrs Clarke realising that her place is with Old Sixie - and long may she be there 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson


This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:
Those classified operations concerned a top-secret military project code-named ‘Quicksilver’. A project based in Vienna. A project with alien connections.
But bombed-out Vienna is not what it was before the war – with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. It's not the time nor the place for a happy reunion. As Constance Clarke is about to discover...
And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!
Written By: Matt Fitton
Directed By: Jamie Anderson


Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Lisa Greenwood(Flip Jackson), Matthew Cottle (Henry Clarke), Joel Fry (Kinvar/Rogers), Oliver Cotton (Major Callahan), Kate Kennedy (Ana), Robbie Stevens (Boyarov/Vilal General).  Other parts portrayed by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


You sort of know where you are with Colin Baker releases - dependable, classy and following a certain formula. As Meat Loaf once sang “two out of three aint bad” as yes this release is dependable, yes it most definitely is classy but formula? Nah - throw that one out of the window. This is the most un-Colin like Colin story in a very long time. In fact it feels more like RTD meets the Hinchcliffe era with Old SIxie’s charm and verbosity thrown in for good measure.

Yes indeed, this one is breath of fresh air - after last months slightly disappointing Dalek story this is much more like it - but what is “it” I hear you ask, well dear reader “it” in this case is the first of December 2016’s Old Sixie & Mrs Clarke releases, hold on to your hats for the rollercoaster ride that is “Absolute Power”

Set on the Planet Teymah, the Doctor and Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) are mistaken for inspectors and granted all access to Lyam Yce (Paul Reynolds) archaeological dig. Ice wants to find out why the ancient civilisation of Teymah became extinct and his dig has discovered a huge sphere which cannot be opened, there are also some ancient inscriptions that the TARDIS cannot translate does it sound familiar so far? This story screams ancient evil, it screams of bases well and truly under siege and a huge body count, it screams blockbuster - and do you know it delivers on all counts - think “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” and you will be on the right track to the fell of this story. The stakes are really high, the universe is in danger. Come on, a whole planet made extinct by an ancient enemy and that enemy using all its guile and cunning to resurrect itself - we are on to a winner.

There is a palpable sense of time running out throughout the story - Mrs Clarke and the Doctor are separated at the beginning of the story & Mrs Clarke really does shine bright in this one - she is a code breaker from Bletchley Park and she uses the skills developed there to break codes, translate inscriptions and keep everyones spirits up with her Blitz spirit. Miranda Raison is just wonderful, she is up there with the great companions and just suits Old SIxie - she takes no nonsense and insists that their relationship is formal, insisting on being referred to as Mrs Clarke - she keeps Old Sixie on his toes, she questions hime and whilst not his intellectual equal is intelligent and capable and a million miles away from the screaming ankle twisting companions of the TV series.

And Colin Baker - oh Colin, he is magnificent here, but when isn't he? Given lots of meaty moral outrage, lots of clever dialogue and wordplay - he seems in his element, his energy and enthusiasm for the script is apparent - he seems reenergised by Mrs Clarke’s companionship and changed by her, the bombast is still there but it is tempered with a respect that we have only ever really seen for Evelyn Smith previously.

And so the story unfolds - there are betrayals, revelations, it also very cleverly does not play out how the listener might expect and despite everything there is something of hope after all the destruction wrought on Teymah and all the lives needlessly lost in the pursuit of Absolute Power for one man. A strong entry in to the main range, and a very different take on a Sixth Doctor story - its amazing that after all these years Old Sixie is still being given new things to do and new facets of his character are being drawn out. An absolutely powerful 9/10.

Written By Ed Watkinson


This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.
Two thousand years ago, all civilisation on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig.
While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce's diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they'll learn that ancient Teymah's secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands...
Written By: Jamie Anderson
Directed By: Jamie Anderson


Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Paul Reynolds(Lyam Yce), Jenny Bede (Florrie/Medical Doctor), Arian Nik (Ammar Elkady), Neil Edmond (Professor Aryan Wyke/Mine Worker), Gary Martin (Kohrbal), Esther Hall(Pheenan). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs


In this 50th anniversary year of Dark Shadows we have been treated to a 50th anniversary special and tow short story anthologies, the second of these is “Haunting Memories” and it is what I will be talking about shortly.

If you are not aware of Dark Shadows, it was a daily soap opera shown in the USA from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s - it always had a gothic sort of “Rebecca” feel to it, very downbeat and gloomy as we were introduced to the Collins family and their crumbling stately home Collinwood - and then it steps up a gear when Barnabas Collins the Vampire is introduced - from that point stories slip back and forth in time, even in to parallel universes and it truly becomes “cult”.

Big Finish have picked up the reigns of this long abandoned but fondly remembered piece of Americana and have produced a top quality range with more to come in 2017, but thats the future - lets go back to Haunting Memories….

Four short stories very much in the style of the Doctor Who “Short Trips” range where an actor from the TV series narrates a short interlude of a story an almost insignificant incident that has ramifications for the characters involved - and here we are lucky that Big FInish have chosen four of the most interesting characters in the Dark Shadows universe - Josette, Trask, Angelique & Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard and four pivotal moments in their lives, we begin with Josette.

Hell Wind by Marcy Robin

A hurricane is in the process of devastating the island where the young Josette Du Res lives - sometimes a natural phenomenon can bring much more misery and despair than a supernatural one - and the effects of this particular storm will blight Josette’s life and change it forever. Its a claustrophobic beginning to the set and is set a long time before the main events of Dark Shadows so might not seem relevant to a casual listener, but to the seasoned veteran who knows Josette’s history this is a pivotal moment.

Communion by Adam Usden

I always liked the Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacey), well, liked isn't really the right word - I found his character fascinating. here he plays Reverend Elias Trask, father to Gregory Trask as he dispenses his own unique brand of self righteous “goodness” throughout the American Civil War. Here Trask rescues a prostitute from her place of work and is pursued by her owner, his son Gregory is shot in the chest and they are forced to hide out in a church - as Trask prays to his God for aid and redemption, something altogether different answers his prayers. Another pivotal moment for a Dark Shadows character - this is the moment that the Dark Lord enters the history of the Trask family, there is a feeling of inevitability from Trask’s prayer at the beginning to the repeated prayer at the end - fatalistic and inevitable, a fall from grace of the highest order, a triumph of arrogance and hypocrisy personified, my highlight of the set.

The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker

Not one but Lara Parker can play Angelique Bouchard, and really no one can write for Angelique like Lara Parker can. She knows Angelique, she has symbiosis with the character - she has played her for so long and written novels about her and truly inhabits Angelique, so who else to write the Angelique story & play Angelique but Lara Parker.
When Angelique hears ghosts on the beach crying for their loved ones lost at sea she feels sympathy with them, when they promise to restore Barnabas Collins love for her in return for her restoring their lost loves lives it is a bargain too good to resist.
Its a “be careful what you wish for” story that is quite continuity heavy, we need to know who Barnabas is, who Nicolas Blair is and why Angelique is a ghost - a story that again will reward long time listeners but may leave the uninitiated slightly lost.

A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham

When Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard returns to Collinsport she sees a man she recognises, the old love of her life Victor, but he has not changed, he has not aged in all the years that have passed since they were young lovers. What follows is a downward spiral of confession, revelations and almost a catharsis and an acceptance of what has been. We get a harrowing insight into the life of Elizabeth before she was a Collins and the life that she could have had with Victor had circumstances been different. This story really embodies the bleak melancholy that embodied the early episodes of Dark Shadows, I listened in black and white if you know what I mean - the whole episode has a noir feel and a feeling of regret that should not really have resurfaced.

Four very different tales with a very definite linking theme - Haunting Memories is a very apt title for the set because memories are very powerful things and can consume you - a backward looking set focussed on nostalgia, and nostalgia does not always leave a warm glow, sometimes it leaves a gaping hole. 8/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson


This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.
Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…
Hell Wind by Marcy Robin
A young Josette Du Pres is terrified for her life as a deadly hurricane smashes into the island of Martinique. She rushes for shelter but she’s not the only one fighting to survive…
Communion by Adam Usden
1861 and War rages across America. The preacher Elias Trask and his young son Gregory, are hiding from men who wish to kill them. But something else is already in their hiding place…
The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker
The warlock Nicholas Blair has transformed the witch Angelique into a vampire to serve him. Her love for Barnabas Collins, though, will never die…
A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is returning to her home town of Collinsport. But on the train, she is stunned to see the young man who was once the love of her life. Could he also have returned to the town that once tore them apart?
Written By: Marcy Robin, Adam Usden, Lara Parker, Kay Stonham
Directed By: Darren Gross


Kathryn Leigh Scott, Jerry Lacy, Lara Parker & Marie Wallace

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Man Who Wasn't There

As the old poem goes “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't there.He wasn't there again today,I wish, I wish he'd go away…” It conjures images of a creepy supernatural story, probably reinforced by memories of Sapphire and Steel - but this story is altogether a different kettle of fish, completely different - almost cruel in its construction but with a glimmer of good from all the heartache and circular chasing of tails - because this is the story of Charlotte Pollard (India Fisher) companion to the eighth Doctor and self styled Edwardian Adventuress and her quest to meet her hero Pieter Monmarche, Victorian explorer, pioneer and inspiration to generations. Charley is a devotee of his diaries and read them cover to cover time and again when she was a child, so she KNOWS where he will be at a particular point in time and The Doctor very obligingly takes al downwards to her to meet him - but like Godot, he doesn't turn up. Neither does he show when he was meant to be lecturing in Khartoum, or in New York or well, anywhere - in fact he has gone completely missing from time and space and his disappearance has caused a fundamental change in the future history of the Earth causing the Time Lords to get involved.

So where is Monmarche? will Charley ever meet her idol? The trail to find him seems to be a wild goose chase, they meet people who have met him, or claim to have met him - a lecturer trading off Monmarche’s legacy, his secretary who is making a living selling Monmarche memorabilia but never the genuine article. The whole story in fact is a gigantic puzzle box - remember the film The Usual Suspects? its that level of intrigue to find a missing link that hold the story together, and then when they find that link and work it out and finally find Monmarche……

A giant puzzle, a spiral to an inevitability that we almost know from the beginning and don't want to admit to ourselves, a sadness of a hero with feet of clay based on foundations of smoke - and a future saved by belief in the same.

India Fisher is an engaging narrator - from the “jolly hockey sticks” portrayal at the beginning to the sad and dawning realisation at the end this is her journey down the spiral in pursuit of an impossible ideal.

Another strong entry in to the Short Trips canon, a story that will stay with the listener long after the end credits have rolled and a story that demands multiple listens to appreciate the subtlety of the story telling - a pioneering 9/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson


Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.
Release #23 is an Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard story.
Charley Pollard's innocent request to meet a historical hero seems the easiest thing for a friend with a time and space machine to make happen. But as Charley and the Doctor seek out the Victorian explorer, they uncover a sinister scheme to unravel Earth's future by affecting its past. But where in its history was the deed done? And is it already too late to put right?
Producer Michael Stevens
Script Editor Jacqueline Rayner
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Ian Atkins
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman


India Fisher (Narrator)

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Avengers - Steed & Mrs Peel Volume 2

In an England that never really existed is a retirement home, and in that retirement home is a man - an old debonair man with a twinkle in his eye and a carnation in his lapel - this is where John Steed spends his twilight years with other characters from a slightly off kilter world - Roger Moore's Bond, the Graham Williams era Tom Baker & the Adam West Batman, they while away their days reminiscing about times that were far too outlandish to have really happened, and as the stories get more and more outlandish Steed reaches for his the telephone, dials a number and waits, eventually the call is answered, an elderly lady with a cut glass voice and a hint of irony says "hello Steed”, Steed replies “Mrs Peel, were needed” - later Mrs Peel visits the retirement home, no longer in a cat suit, but elegantly elderly and she and Steed regale the other inhabitants of this not quite real retirement home in the never was real England to four tales of when they left the TV for the comic strip medium……

Or at least thats how I see it - I love the word that The Avengers exists in, or to put it more accurately I love the world that seasons 4, 5 & 6 of tThe Avengers exist in - a slightly skewed technicolour version of ours where villains are madcap, where the heroes are debonair, dashing and delightful and where the plots are completely bonkers - and its this sense of the zany and surreal slightly out of focus technicolour wonderland that Big Finish have captured so splendidly - the Steed and Peel in this box set ARE the Steed & Peel of the TV series (even if they are played by different actors) they are the characters we know and love - dry humour, wry smiles, fashion, food, fast cars, insane villains and a sense of the groovy - its all there and it is spread very nicely over four stories:

2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky

Completely “Avengers” from beginning to end - impossible robberies, creepy children, a creepier toymaker and an admirer for Mrs Peel - bankers from the “were needed” to the tag scene at the end, it falls from the audio into the listeners ears and transports you back to the zany era in which it was set. Poulet and Wadham as Peel & Steed have oodles of chemistry and attack each scene with tongue, if not firmly in cheek then most definitely heading in that direction. Wonderful stuff.

2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard

I love the character names in The Avengers, this has a Professor Verbatim and a Mr Partridge - lovely. It is also the tale of a mad Professor who was spurned and laughed at on a chat show and is getting revenge by making animals go all aggressive with his “antagoniser” and wreaking his revenge on those who laughed at him. In any other series this would be a step too far, in The Avengers this is par for the course - thrill as Mrs Peel is nearly fed to Pirañas - wow as our heroes climb trees to escape a herd of rampaging cows - its one of those stories that really feels at home in Avenger-land - outlandish, over the top and fabulous.

2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton

Steed is a famous hat wearer - it was only a matter of time before someone tried to see him off with a killer hat wasn't it? Throw in to this a Princess from the fictional country of Varania on a Royal visit, a spurned lover and a henchman with the wonderful name “Tom Bowler” and you have a kooky crazy Avengers classic.

2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney

Remember the TV episode "The Superlative Seven” ? well this is a similar sort of romp - Steed and Peel go to a marvellous party where you don't know the host, but he knows you - and are almost immediately involved in a plot to kill them by the not so “Secret Six” a team of Super Villains - outnumbered six to two Steed and Peel have to survive a rather unpleasant weekend in the country - and with the lure of a rather well stocked wine cellar they really do need to survive, because it really would be bad form to let all that vintage go to waste :-)

As Avengers stories go these are just fab and the “feel” is just right - close your eyes and you can see Steed & Peel, you know what the villains look like and can imagine the best  (and worst) character actors of the time playing them and chewing the scenery until there is nothing left - this is The Avengers that everyone remembers all condensed on to four shiny CD’s or a fibre delivered download - but regardless of the format the debonair, wry, bonkers, sophisticated adventure of Steed & Peel are timeless. And in that England that never really existed, in the retirement home for the off kilter, tea is being cleared away, Mrs Peel kisses Steed on the forehead as he dozes off and whispers 9/10 Steed, and I hope we can tell some more stories to you and your friends very soon.

Written by Ed Watkinson


This title was released in November 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until December 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.
Recreations of the comic strip adventures of Steed and Mrs Peel which appeared in Diana magazine in 1966 and 1967:
2.1 Playtime is Over by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky
Steed gets toyed with, Emma has an admirer.
A series of impossible robberies have plagued London. Called in to investigate, Steed and Peel find themselves up against some very deadly children. Or do they?
2.2 The Antagoniser by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard
Steed catches a bite, Emma is a little cowed.
Several noted scientists have died in unusual circumstances, and Steed and Peel find themselves up against a deadly weapon. But who is behind it? Does an old TV broadcast hold the answer?
2.3: The Mad Hatter by Matt Fitton
Steed charms a princess, Emma buys a hat
When Princess Helga of Varania comes to England, all the nation is charmed. Well, nearly all. A dastardly assassination plot is being prepared and only Steed and Peel can stop it. Who wants to be a milliner?
2.4: The Secret Six by John Dorney
Steed hits a boundary, Emma shall go to the ball
When an invitation to a fancy dress party leads to murder, Steed and Peel face the fight of their lives. The world’s six deadliest criminals want them dead – and will stop at nothing to make sure of it!
Written By: Paul Morris, Simon Barnard, Matt Fitton, Robert Khan, Tom Salinsky, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley


Julian Wadham (John Steed), Olivia Poulet (Emma Peel), Lizzie Roper (Black Heart/Miss Fellowes), Michael Keane (Jorgo), Kiruna Stamell (Girlie), Andrew Wincott (Tiny Tony/Lord Beauville), John Banks (Teddy/Taxi driver), Richard Earl (Dr Verbatim/Fairground Worker), Michael Lumsden (Gruber/Klein/Window Cleaner/Agent), Paul Kemp (Partridge/Porter), Eve Webster (Nurse/Elaine Veer/Matron/Parrot), Maggie Service (Princess Helga/Assistant), Paul Chahidi (Mad Hatter/Driver/Policeman), John Voce (Tom Bowler), Terry Molloy (Inspector Corduroy), Ozzie Yue (Chang-Tu), George Asprey (Nick the Knifeman/Karloff), Jonathan Tafler (Ice-cold Alex/Lord Tweezle), Anita Booth (Ma the Mink/Olga)
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs