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"What do you do for an encore, Doctor?"
"I win." - Harrison Chace and The Doctor (The Seeds Of Doom)


The New Doctor Who Adventures

on audio

REVIEWS



This page is dedicated to the latest chapter in the ongoing saga that
is Doctor Who, now taken into a new medium. Not all that new, of course,
since there has been audio Who almost as long as there had been visual Who.
But this is the first time that the BBC has authorised a full series
featuring all the surviving Doctors.

It is March, and it is that time of the month again. The time when the latest audio Who is added to the review board below. A little later than planned, we are proud to present The Marian Conspiracy


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THE SIRENS OF TIME

Finally Doctor Who is back - and, unsurprisingly, it is brought back
with a collection of Doctors. In this case the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh
incarnations.

Gary Russell, Nick Briggs and Stephen Cole made a very wise decision when
they decided to give each of the three Doctors a seperate episode each,
before bringing them all together for the final episode. It gave the
perfect opportunity to show the strengths and weaknesses of each era of
Doctor Who. If it weren't for the theme music, I would say that they
captured each era perfectly, but the theme music from the '60s somewhat
limited that effect.

Episode one, starring Sylvester McCoy, firmly places The Sirens Of Time
straight after the events of the Virgin novel Lungbarrow, with the
seventh Doctor interupted by the Sirens, while on his way to Skaro. For
the record I honestly think Sylvester needs to work on his performance.
At times I could quite easily visualize the Doctor on the unnamed planet,
but more often than not, I found it very hard to do so. A common problem
with the Audio Adventures In Time And Space for The Professor and Ace.
At least then he wasn't really playing the Doctor so he had a good excuse,
but this time there is no excuse. I'm hoping that in the future, when the
Doctor is teamed up with Ace once again, his performance will be improved.

Episode two, starring Peter Davison, is perfect. Every character clicks,
of particular note is Davison himself, and Mark Gatiss as the sub captain.
Every single scene was so easy to visualize I felt I could almost be
watching it on TV. The fifth Doctor does get it bad throughout this
story, being shot at, beaten up, and spraining his ankle in episode four.
But Peter Davison recaptures the role perfectly. By far the best
installment in the whole story.

Episode three, starring Colin Baker, is set directly after the Doctor
returned Mel to his future, therefore placing it before the Virgin novel
Time Of Your Life. Colin's performance as the Doctor is perfect, and
it is great to have him back. His ego and arrogance shines through,
but at the same time he displays his natural charm.

The fourth episode is a curious one. As much as it was good to have
McCoy, Davison and Baker together, I'm not sure if it really gelled. To
be true, McCoy and Baker make a good team, with Davison being the most
adult and most in control. But I can't help feeling that a lot of the
scenes needed to go through a little more rehearsal to be polished off.

As a whole though, I think it worked. I liked it a lot, but I am not
too sure about the Gallifrey setting, which flatly contradicts
Lungbarrow. But then again, since the Time Lords were beaten so easily
maybe it was set on a Gallifrey in the future just before the War with the
Enemy, as mentioned in the BBC EDA novels.

A good start to the new series, but it is was nothing compared to what
was to come, and that was...

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PHANTASMAGORIA

So far, I have listened to this story three times, and I only got it
yesterday (01/10/1999). It is an amazing piece of Doctor Who, and no
doubt a pure joy for Mark Gatiss, a fan who has finally got Peter Davison
to star in his own script.

I am somewhat overwhelmed at how good Phantasmagoria is. I expected a
classy script, because Mark Gatiss has proven through his novels that he
is a high quality writer, and I know from The Roundheads (BBC novel)
and Republica (BBV audio) that Mr Gatiss has a particular interest in
this period of history. But after the minor success of Sirens... I
expected more of the same. I was very wrong.

The performances are spot on, of special note are David Ryall (Nik
Valentine), Steve Wickham (Samuel Holywell), Julia Dalkin (Hannah Fry)
and, of course, Mark Gatiss as Jasper Jeake. Gatiss proves that not only
is he a fine writer, but also a fine actor. For me, Jeake stole every
scene he was in, unless Davison was involved in it too. Once again Peter
Davison recaptures his hey day as the Doctor, being perfect season
twenty-one. Despite no visual reference in this story, I can see every
mannerism of the fith Doctor displayed, from the opening moments in the
TARDIS with Turlough, up to his last line about snap - recapturing his
performance in The Awakening perfectly. The Doctor, in his fifth
incarnation, is so at home in psuedo-historical stories.

The only let down in the cast was Mark Strickson as Turlough. At first
it seemed he had forgotten what made Turlough tick, although as the story
progresses so does the character. By my third listening I could truely
visualize Turlough in every scene, even his opening scene, which I couldn't
stand at first.

For you cliffhanger buffs (a nod at my co-author Mark Carlin there) there
are two awesome examples of great Doctor Who cliffhangers in this story.
Episode two and three sport two of the best cliffhangers in the while
36 year history of the series to date.

So, an total triumph for all involved. For the record, this story is
now in my top five fifth Doctor list. Without doubt it has secured my
faith in the continued audio adventures of Doctor Who. Makes me glad to
know that they go monthly from January 2000.

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WHISPERS OF TERROR

Third time lucky? Sirens... was a good start, Pantasmagoria
was an amazing first solo for Big Finish, and this is the third
offering of 1999. Bringing the year to a great close.

An excellent tale, made for audio. Probably the first, but by no
means last, Doctor Who story that would not translate too well into
the visual market. The whole heart of this tale is focused on the aural
wavelength, and there lies its strengths. From Colin Baker's great
recreation of the sixth Doctor to the so called enemy of the piece.

Let me start with the actors. Colin Baker delivers one of his finest
performances to date, playing the Doctor as only he could. Who needs
the loud clothes of the sixth Doctor when you can have the commanding
vocal presence? Kudos go to Baker for this show. A testament to his
acting, since I could visualise him uttering every line, complete with
overbearing theatrical gestures. The relationship between the Doctor
and Peri has gone beyond the petty bickering of their early days, and is
nearing the companionship of the initial episodes of The Trial Of A Time
Lord
, although it still has a little of the sarcastic edge. Which is no
bad thing. The opening scene is great, and brought an instant smile to this
writer's face. Nicola Bryant brings Peri back to life with very little
effort, and yet somehow manages to give her more of a presence in this tale
than she ever had on TV. Perhaps because all we have to go on is her voice,
and no distraction from her physical attributes.

The rest of the cast is equally strong. Peter Miles character (Gantman)is a
classic. Quite a surprise, since I am only used to Miles playing fairly
egotistical characters, yet Gantman won my heart from the beginning.
A touch of arrogance, but much more charm. In fact most of the cast come
across very well, although there was a wee bit of confusion with the female
cast for a while, being that they all sound quite similair. But with further
listening it becomes clear who is who.

The script itself is in the classical Who mode... a script that would
have fit in nicely on TV. But it is the nature of the story that takes it
beyond any physical medium. The whole concept of a life form composed of
soundwaves is an interesting notion. It is also quite freaky in execution.
While laying on my bed at night, listening to this show with my eyes closed,
I found it amazing how creepy the soundwave person could be. The multiple
overlay of voices reminded me somewhat of the scenes set in 'hell' in the
film Event Horizon.

An excellent end to what has been an excellent year for Doctor Who
merchandise.

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THE LAND OF THE DEAD

Now here is a story that I have had problems with from day one. Several
times I had tried to sit down and listen to it, even resorting to my
Whispers... technique of laying on my bed in the evening, allowing the
show to consume me. No such luck. For a while it puzzled me as to why
this was, then it hit me.

One, Stephen Cole evidently rushed this script, something he does tell you
on the sleeve notes. It shows in a big way. Two, this is a story not suited
for the audio medium. Set in Alaska, a very visual place, with very very
visual monsters. It just doesn't work. Despite their best efforts to
provide suitable sound effects for the Permians, the sound engineers just
could not bring this story out of its pit. Only one thing could do that.

The actors.

A good cast is assembled, with Peter Davison once again proving his metal.
He is a scene stealer, but a bloody good one. I would love to hear a story
narrated from the fith Doctor's point of view. Sarah Sutton is a little
hard to pin down, though. As the story goes on she does begin to sound
more like Nyssa, but at the beginning it just doesn't work. I think this is
more to do with Cole's script, though. Making too much of a point of
stressing Nyssa scientific abilities. He seems to forget that Nyssa is
just a young girl, living with the only person she can trust. Maybe it is
just me, but Nyssa never seemed to be like this on screen, or in the novels
come to that.

Niel Roberts and Lucy Campbell pull in with sterling perfomances. And
Christopher Scott's Brett is kind of creepy in places.

Ultimately, though, this is a story trying so hard to be horror, yet fails.
Sorry Stephen but I am not too impressed with this one. A good editor you
may be, but writer.... mmm, another day perhaps.

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THE FEARMONGER

I just love this story. This is the sort of tale that brought me back
to Doctor Who in the late 80s. Brilliant. And what's more, the nature
of the Fearmonger itself is someting tailored for the audio medium.

The script shines through, with great dialogue, and very well drawn
characters. Jacqueline Pearce's Harper reminds me a great deal of Miss
Winters from Robot, although much superior. There is something about the
playoff between Harper and her loyal follower Roderick that reminds me so much
of the playoff between Kara and Vogel in Revelation Of The Daleks...
I wonder if it has anything to do with Hugh Walters who played both Vogel
and Roderick? Tis possible. Mark McDonnell as Walter is great, on the edge
and so close to insanity. And then there is Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.

I didn't like McCoy in Sirens..., but here.... Ah, this is another story.
He recreates the dark Doctor with excellence. Vocally it works, and if
you close your eyes it is not hard to see him wearing his most alien
expression, ala Remembrance... and ...Fenric. Jonathan Blum knew what
he was doing when he wrote this script, giving McCoy the lines that only the
seventh Doctor could really pull off. So much more in character than the
post-season twenty six novels by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry. This has me
hungry for The Genocide Machine in a couple of months. The seventh Doctor
against the Daleks once again...

And Sophie Aldred's Ace is on top form. It's like she has never been away.
Mature, hard, and intelligent. Not the angst ridden teenager of the early
new adventures. This is the way Ace would have become had the series
continued in 1990.

This is so much I could say about this play, but I won't. I could mention
the excellent twist as the show heads full speed to it's conclusion, I could
mention all the subtle continuity... but I won't. All I will say now
is go and out and buy this. You will not be let down.... and by the way, it is Ace McShane...

The best that Big Finish has to offer at this point in time....

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THE MARIAN CONSPIRACY

A few years ago Virgin books noticed that they had quite a big gap to fill
between the end of The Trail Of A Time Lord and the beginning of
Time And The Rani. A gap where the Doctor returned his future companion
Mel to her proper time and place and continued to travel until he met her
properly. This begged the question, what did the Doctor get up to inbetween
Mel and Mel? Well, we now know that he left Mel and met up with Grant
Markham, who he travelled with for a little while before teaming up with
Frobisher. And now it is revealed that after Frobisher the good Doctor met
yet another companion. And not the conventional one, either.
Doctor Evelyn Smythe...

To be honest I do not think this particular drama is about the story, but more
so about the introduction of Evelyn. At least it is for me. The script is
excellent, full of wit and class, with some great one liners from all the
cast. The story is no big wow, though, but it doesn't need to be. It is
just a vehicle to launch the Doctor's latest "missing" companion. And
launch her it does. Despite the preview in the latest issue of Doctor
Who Magazine
I just cannot visualize Evelyn as an old lady with grey hair
and glasses. For some odd reason I have an image of Maggie Stable in a
cardigan. I wonder how much this has to do with the publicity shot of Maggie
Stables shown so much in DWM?

Maggie Stables has to be the best choice for Evenlyn, full of vocal presence.
As for Evelyn herself... I just love this lady (not that she would call
herself a lady, of course). She is so cuddly, reminding me of the lovely
old ladies I often come across. The kind that love to stand around and chat,
sharing their knowledge and experiences over a couple of crumpets and a cup
of cocoa (and does Evelyn love her chocolate?!). Her interaction with
the "common folk" of Tudor England is priceless, especially her reaction to
Reverend Thomas Smith when he refuses her help because she is a woman.
"Because you are upset I will overlook that." Brilliant.
It was a brave move having an older woman to the Doctor's companion for a
change. Even the Doctor cannot say no to her. It is a relationship bound
for classicdom.

As usual Colin Baker is simply excellent, playing a very lovable rogue.
This is the Doctor as he has always wanted to play him, the Doctor we only
on had glimpses of in the last six episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord.
His interaction with Queen Mary is so far removed from the snipey man who
travelled with Peri. The rest of the cast fair well, too, but with such a
rich script it is hard not to.

Highly recommended. More of Evelyn please, Big Finish.

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coming soon, in April...
Dalek Empire: The Genocide Machine


Set sometime during the early New Adventures this story features Sylvester
McCoy as the Doctor, and Sophie Aldred as Ace. Plus, the return of the DALEKS!


...THE 2000 COUNTDOWN...
May: "Red Dawn", starring Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant
June: "The Spectre Of Lanyon Moor", starring Colin Baker, Maggie Stables and Nicholas Courtney
July: "Winter For The Adept", starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton
August: "The Apocolypse Element", starring Colin Baker, Maggie Sables and Lalla Ward
September: "The Fires Of Vulcan", starring Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford
October:
November: "The Holy Terror", starring Colin Baker



All text is the copyright of andie j.p. frankham for Frankarlin Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any material form without the written permission of the copyright owner except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Any authorised act in this respect may lead to legal proceedings, including a civil claim for damages.


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last updated: March 16th 2000
time: 19:11