Tuesday, 1 August 2017

SHORT TRIPS - FLASHPOINT

So there I was on Thursday night about to write my review of Flashpoint when Kitchen disaster took place, or more accurately Kitchen clearance took place, no table, no chair, no place to write my review in my usual Kitchen haven – the Men from Magnet are imminent and nothing will ever be the same again.
In a strange turn of events I sit hear on Sunday 16 July and the world of Doctor Who has just had the single biggest change in its 54 year history – Jodie Whittaker has been announced as Doctor Who number 13, and the show will never be the same again – a brave and bold move, a strong female role model, a hero to a whole new generation, wonderful times to be a fan and I cannot wait to join her on her adventures.
Jodie Whittaker may be the first female Doctor, but the series has had its fair share of strong female role models and Big Finish has had its hand in creating one of the very best – stand up Sheridan Smith as the magnificent and irreplaceable Lucie Miller, the lass from Blackpool and companion to the eighth Doctor over four magnificent series and now she is back to read this months Short Trips release “Flashpoint” and Lucie gets to shine as this release is what in TV terms would be called a “Doctor Lite” story, that is The Doctor is not in it for the majority of the story and this time it is up to Lucie to be the hero, but can she? Can she be The Doctor? Can she protect a little boy from cruel heartless gangsters who want him dead – when it comes down to it how far will she go to do the right thing?
Tense and dramatic and squeezing a lot in to its 35 minute running time – Lucie Miller can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with Jo Grant, Sarah Jane, Romana, Rose Tyler, Donna Noble & Bill Potts as all time great companions – she is out of her depth, she is frightened, she is disorientated but she still keeps her sense of right and wrong, she puts the life of a complete stranger before her own safety, sh basically does what the Doctor would do, difference being he is 900 year old Time-lord who can regenerate, she is an ordinary girl from Blackpool to whom death means death.
16 July 2017 will always be remembered for the day Doctor Who became female, but Flashpoint celebrates the proud history of strong female characters that came before 13 and Lucie Miller is one of the strongest and one of the best and Flashpoint showcases her perfectly 10/10.

4th Doctor 6.7 - The Movellan Grave

I have decided to rename series six of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Well not quite the series but the season it is ostensibly set in. It may have the theme music of season 18 but thematically it feels a lot more like a progression of season 17, so from now on (in my mind at least) this is set in Season 17.5. Glad I got that off my chest :-)
So Season 17.5 continues with The Movellan Grave, and more a-typical a Doctor Who story you could not wish for. It just feels EXACTLY like Who used to feel back in the 1970’s. Doctor and Romana discover something is not quite right, go and investigate, ingratiate themselves with the people involved, discover what is going on and have an adventure. This story follows that pattern almost to the letter, but do you know it does it with total panache and style that it feels fresh and new and exciting. It actually has a “New Who” feel about it as it is pacy whilst retaining the charm of season 17.5. It also does what 1970’s Who did very well and “borrows” or plunders or pays homage to sci-fi of the big screen, in this case Terminator 2, there is a scene in episode two that…. – but I get ahead of myself.
Yes Terminator 2, albeit Terminator 2 on a BBC budget (even on audio) and as I have not mentioned it already (although the title may give it away) it features the most Disco aliens ever to feature in Doctor Who – The Movellan’s.
You see a Movellan power pack has been found in an archaeological dig and this draws The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) to the scene where they meet archaeologists Carrie Pierce (Camilla Power) and Robin Lyon (John Banks) who are very sceptical when The Doctor and Romana explain the power packs extra terrestrial origins, but soon there is a buried Movellan spaceship uncovered, and a Movellan secret weapon in the war against the Daleks, a mutant, augmented Movellan called Chenek (Chris Jarman) – an unstoppable force created to be the ultimate warrior and coming back to episode two he does a mean T-1000 chasing down Tom et al in a land-rover which brings back memories of the on foot chase after the motorbike n Terminator 2.
Its very exciting stuff but not all adventure, explosions and chases, underneath the window dressing this is a morality tale about the ethics of war and of methods used to develop weapons of mass destruction. And it also has spangly disco robots as well.
This was a story I was expecting to be a bit of a filler, the calm before the end of season two parter but it is nothing of the sort, it is a breath of fresh air and a complete redrawing of the rules on telling a more traditional Who story without breaking what makes stories of the era so special. Judgement day on this release gives a favourable verdict of 9/10.

227 - THE HIGH PRICE OF PARKING

Now don’t all run away when I say the next line. Promise you wont? You all trust me don’t you? – OK here I go “Season 24”……..
Tumbleweed. People walking away, disdain from my fellow Whovians – that is the legacy of said season 24, it doesn’t get much love, and it is easy to see why – garish stories with really broad (to say the least) turns from the largely light entertainment guest cast, a Doctor who hadn’t really found his feet and in Bonnie Langford the least popular companion since Adric – so why would Big Finish do an homage to it? Well maybe it wasnt intentional, but this months main range release “The High Price of Parking” feels just that – or more accurately feels like season 24 with 30 years of hindsight. If you want to know more and haven’t yet quit at the mere mention of said season, please read on….
OK  - So I have mentioned Season 24 more than is really healthy to do, but more specifically this one reminds me of Paradise Towers. It reminds me of Paradise Towers a lot, which is no bad thing as Paradise Towers is a bit of an overlooked gem (my resignation from Who fandom is in the post :-) ) no really, it is – the basic story is sound, “some” of the execution is good, the ideas are excellent on paper, it was just hampered by the production values of the time. And Richard Briers. But close your eyes and The High Price of Parking is all there, shot on video in Television Centre, overly lit, hopelessly over ambitious and not really coming off that well. But on audio it is in a grimy, run down, poorly lit, litter strewn planet sized car park – and that is the joy of audio because the pictures are in your head. I know its a cliche, but its true.
The High Price of Parking has The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) on their way to the Dashrah, a planet of exceptional beauty – but to get there they have to park the TARDIS on the planetoid known as Parking, which is basically a planet sized park and ride, complete with overly officious parking Wardens, this being Doctor Who though it is in no way as simple as a trip to a universal beauty spot – they get arrested by the wardens, led by the deliciously oily Kempton (Hywel Morgan) and the far more reasonable Cowley (Gabrielle Glaister of Blackadder “Bob” fame) and are accused of being “Free Parkers” – not that that means what you might think, that they have tried to avoid paying their parking fee, no the Free Parkers are a tribe who want Parking to be an independent planet. Yes tribes, a planet sized car park has indigenous tribes descended from those who just couldn’t find their vehicles and have gone native through the generations and have built their own cultures based on the rituals of Parking – think Kangs or the tribe of the free or the Sevateem and you wont be too far from the truth. And then there is Seraphim (Kate Duchene) a robotic voice that has set herself up as a God operating from Parkings oldest and lowest levels with a plan for universal domination. Stir well and cook on gas mark 1987 and we have a bit of a classic brewing. Seriously.
This story distills the elements of several of the tropes that make up a Doctor Who story and make something altogether better than the sum of their parts – it can sometimes feel like a bit of a greatest hits compilation, but one as carefully selected as this by a writer that really knows his Who and structured so well, trading the fine line between drama, camp and panto – with actors able to give a “turn” and chew the scenery because the tone of the story allows it and the leads on top form, McCoy being the Doctor he really wanted to be in 1987, Langford playing Mel as she should always been played and Aldred giving her best bolshy shouty Ace with attitude. Not a lot more to say but go out and buy this one, close your eyes (not if you are driving listening to it) and alternate your thoughts about how it WOULD have looked in 1987 and how it SHOULD have looked, definitely a story that hasn’t out stayed its allocated parking time – 9/10.

TORCHWOOD - THE OFFICE OF NEVER WAS

We’ve all seen them but perhaps not noticed them, large glass and chrome monoliths, or drab grey concrete buildings lacking joy and empathy, bland corporate logos above the shining glass doors, staff packed in like battery hens as they try to “push the envelope” or provide “boots on the ground” – I am talking about office buildings – faceless corporate almost entity’s in themselves and an unavoidable part of our landscape. Pressure cooker culture with impossible ideals to meet, homes of one upmanship and targets and “dress down Friday  and staff nights out that no one really wants to go on. It was pretty inevitable that Torchwood would investigate one of these, and in this months release this is just what Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) does. He doesn’t particularly want to, it is Friday night after all and he does have The Apprentice to watch, but investigate he does and for Ianto Jones this is a Friday night like no other, this is a Friday night where just once he should have gone home and watched The Apprentice, because the Office building that he is investigating seems to have been waiting for him….
There is something inherently creepy about deserted buildings, and even more creepy about deserted buildings that still seem to have a function – this one looks and feels like an office, but there is no one around, and Ianto is locked in. You can feel the tension and the building paranoia as Ianto explores his prison and discovers that perhaps this is a prison built specifically for him – but why? Why has he been lured here, and WHO is the girl that he meets (Bethan Rose Young) who claims to be in charge of security but cannot remember her name – can he trust her? Will he ever get to see this weeks (or any other weeks for that matter) episode of The Apprentice?
This story goes right to the heart of what Torchwood are and what they do, it deals with the consequences of those actions almost like no other story before it and lays Ianto’s soul bare – Ianto always was the softer side of Torchwood, this explores how he deals with the contradictions in his job and how those contradictions can devastate the lives of those who Torchwood sometimes only think of as all in a days work.
The special features for this story describe it as inspired by The Avengers episode “The Joker” and I can definitely see that – claustrophobic, dangerous and unpredictable and trending upwards (to use the vernacular of the Office) 8/10.