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AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: FTN reviews Big Finish’s four new Doctor Who releases for this month

May 17th, 2013 by Owen Quinn Comments

Spaceport Fear
Starring Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford

Mel and the Doctor find themselves on a spaceport that has been cut off from the rest of the universe , resulting in the creation of a society where the Economy fights the Business. They have their own language somewhat similar to that used by the Kangs in Paradise Towers. Vending machines are now artifacts which are kept in the dark. And murder is on the agenda at every corner. All this is overseen by Elder Bones who claims to be their guardian against the Wailer. It is a society of customs of coming of age which echoes Logan’s Run but things, as always, are not what they seem. The Doctor and Mel arrive there and are caught in events where something dark will protect its secrets no matter what the cost. And it doesn’t help that the spaceport changes shape around them on arrival.

This is a lovely story which wouldn’t have been out of place in the JNT era. Baker is as strong as ever and Bonnie Langford proves how much of a raw deal she really did receive by poor writing in the series. Her shock that Fergie and Andrew’s marriage didn’t last is a nice nod to the era this story could have been broadcast in. And she and Colin bounce off each other brilliantly. It’s great that Bonnie manages yet again to prove she would have been a classic companion if given the right material.

Colin’s Doctor is so much more relaxed than his TV persona, yet retains the usual fun arrogance: “Madame, I am always first class!” he protests at being labelled economy class before claiming he is in a class of his own. Why are sliding doors seen to be portals of doom? Why does the wall breath when Summer falls? And why will Summer only begin when strangers arrive? And how will their arrival bring about the release of the Wailer? In this,the 50th year, this is a great way to past an hour and a half. A good mystery with a twist you’ll not see coming. Nice one.

Elrad Must Die
Starring Peter Davison and Janet Fielding

I have to say the fifth Doctor’s time travelling team are a favourite of mine. On screen, Turlough, Tegan and Nyssa were together for two stories but Big Finish reunited them a while ago to bring a new set of stories featuring them all set between the stories Mawdryn Undead and Terminus which saw Nyssa depart. It’s given all of them room to develop and breath new life into the characters and this time they are about to face an enemy that the Doctor thought long gone.

Sarah Jane Smith left at the end of the Hand of Fear where she and the fourth Doctor fought the crystalline warlord, Eldrad, who fell into an abyss thought to be gone forever. However he’s back and in the hands of writer Marc Platt, the man who has written many great Who stories, it’s a welcome return.

Eldrad was a silicon-based life form that was blown apart and scattered across the galaxy as stone remnants, something not thought of in the original story. That means that there are many chances out there for Eldrad to regenerate himself and begin again.

And that’s exactly what happens. But does it work?

Yes it does, surprisingly, as Platt has a great way of taking established lore and giving it a jolt as he did with the Cybermen in Spare Parts. I can’t really fault anything here as Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Mark Strickson show just why they are a popular team. Turlough is the focus here and there is a lovely exchange between him and Nyssa at the beginning where they talk about life forms begin forced together and having to get on and how Turlough is always at the end of someone poking him with a big stick. Doesn’t he realize you should never say these things when dead birds riddled by crystal quartz litter rock pools on a radioactive beach with nasty sand which the authorities are trying to run them off. Oh and there’s the small business of planes and boats disappearing in the area with nothing ever recovered. Then there’s a trapped whale and the fact drinks in the bar are poisoned with quartz crystals, the same crystals that form Eldrad’s DNA. Sometimes it’s better to run back to the Tardis.

Turlough takes centre stage as he meets an old school friend, Charlie Gibbs who can’t believe he hasn’t aged and Strickson gives Turlough new levels as we are at a time where he is still finding himself in the Tardis crew. He distrusts Charlie Gibbs completely. Where Charlie goes trouble always follows. And that’s exactly what happens as the past comes back to haunt both the Doctor and Turlough. And in a neat twist, Turlough meets another of his own species, a Trion, in the same position as him and has a plan that involves his fellow Trion. This is an entertaining story and I have a feeling that Eldrad will be back. An infinite enemy for the team that can literally infect dozens of people at once creating an army of Eldrads is a chilling concept.

Davison is excellent as the Doctor, sensing a mystery and bouncing in fearlessly but recoiling when he realizes what and who he is up against. I love a returning enemy and when it’s done as well as this, I applaud it. A great addition to the fifth Doctor’s mythos.

The Justice Of Jalxar
Starring Tom Baker and Christopher Benjamin

I do love a story set in Victorian London,the fog, the dark side of society, Jack the Ripper, daaawn the apple and pairs, me old kipper with a cup of rosy lee, Get ooouuut my pub! Love it. The Talons of Weng Chiang with the fourth Doctor and Leela (giant rats, don’t you know?) and the recent televised eleventh Doctor story the Crimson Horror both took these elements to create classics and here we go again as the fourth Doctor and Romana, version one, the late Mary Tamm, land on the fog-filled streets where something is murdering people, leaving them unidentifiable but cooked. The city is stalked by the Pugilist who is killing criminals and low lives. He is invincible, can see into their souls and the trail will take the time travellers to the heart of the criminal underworld and the mystery is most definitely afoot. In Weng Chiang we met Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot, the chalk and cheese of the East End who now have their own spin-off series on Big Finish. They have travelled with the sixth Doctor and been stranded in the swinging sixties and here we go again as they team up with the fourth Doctor to solve the mystery. What is nice is that the Doctor actively seeks them out to help as he and Romana are investigating a mystery of their own and the dialogue is bloody brilliant.

Tom is on sparkling form, name dropping at every opportunity and once again leaving you wondering where the Doctor begins and Tom Baker ends. Mary Tamm shows how much her Romana has evolved in these new stories as she is more relaxed and happy being part of the Doctor’s mad lifestyle which will nicely evolve into her second incarnation’s bubbly personality. The way she handles being mugged in the street is just Romana one all over and I did get a pang of regret that we will never get to hear any future stories with her. A nice nod there as well as one to their meeting the sixth.

The story is sharp and very entertaining. You really get the sense that the cast are having a ball in this one.

The Doctor and friends get sucked right into the adventure and you will find yourself swept up along with them. And in this 50th year, what more could you ask for?

And to sum up this story I can quote the Doctor. “I do so love this time period, don’t you?” Yes Doctor, I most definitely do.

War Against The Laan
Starring Tom Baker and Mary Tamm

This is the second part of the story started in Sands of Life. Again we have the season 16 team of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (the late Mary Tamm). The Laan are a species that resemble manatees that are poised to wipe out Earth to save their unborn.

The stakes are never higher as the only one with a psychic connection to them,Romana,can’t make them see sense. The Doctor meanwhile must face Cuthbert, played by Cold War and Time After Time’s David Warner. Cuthbert has caused all this and stands as a villain you can believe in. He and the Doctor battle in a room while the world goes to hell outside and this works as there is no point all sorts of apocalyptic drama which may leave the listener a bit bemused. This war will only be solved between Cuthbert and the Doctor and to be honest I wasn’t sure how they were going to resolve this one.

Warner is brilliant as always. He makes such a good villain, his voice is silkily menacing and you can feel the tension as he spars with the Doctor. Baker is as equally good and here he is frustrated as you believe he will fail this time. Given Warner was vaunted to take the role at one point, you’re sort of glad he didn’t. He’s a great actor who makes you want to listen to these audio plays and a great foil for the Doctor,especially one as overpowering as the fourth.

As I said in another review, these also give Mary Tamm the opportunity to break the ice maiden label and bring new depths to her on screen character. By giving her her own storyline and piece of the action,we get to see yet another part of her journey as she encounters a new species that she would never have if she had remained on Gallifrey. What I like is that her mind is being opened up to possibilities and she sees why the Doctor loves this time travelling life style so much.

Nicholas Briggs wrote this one and I have to say it again. Why is this man not writing for the series? Mind games aplenty. Like this a lot.

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Husband, dad and Ireland's hardest working author, Owen Quinn is currently knee deep in The Time Warriors, arguably the biggest sci-fi epic ever to come out of Ireland. He has an unhealthy interest in Doctor Who, classic TV and Star Wars, he also hangs around with the Emerald Garrison far toooo much. Is it any wonder he fits in at FTN so well? Find Owen at the