House of Cards
Starring Anneke Wills & Frazer Hines
I wasn’t really interested in the Companion Chronicles when I heard they were being released but that all changed when I listened to Fraser Hines in the Jigsaw War.
This range gives old companions the chance to expand on their characters and it’s always a delight when we get a companion team-up, especially when their Doctor is no longer with us. But with the talented Fraser Hines at the helm,we not only get to run with Jamie McCrimmon but he does a fantastic, and eerily perfect, impersonation of Patrick Troughton.
In House of Cards, Jamie and fellow traveller Polly (Anneke Wills) land in a casino where as always things are not what they seem. Casinos are always a good place for stories. They are filled with hundreds of people with a story to tell, eyes in the sky trusting no-one, shifty men in suits standing in the background ready to pounce and rigged tables draining the already poverty stricken.
Of course, this being Doctor Who, we have snake-headed monsters, robot dogs that you would put down and secrets in the shadows. We recently interviewed Anneke Wills for this site and the Time Warriors and she is a legend. She takes centre stage and what is lovely is that she rises above the stereotypical character she played in the sixties. This story is tight, logical and gives her the chance to shine. Not that Fraser Hines is neglected in any way but this feels like a real partnership between them as all friends should be. They are two people out of time, facing things they never imagined and doing the best they can.
This is a fun story with sinister overtones and I so wish we could see this one on television. the entire civilization here feels real and the vocalisations are great. It feels different and mysterious. Poor Polly and Jamie seem like innocent lambs walking into a nest of vipers, literally. I’m a sucker for snake monsters and given this is a casino, usually filled with real snakes of a different sort, it’s a nice metaphor. I enjoyed this a lot. My only worry is, are Big finish going to do something that I don’t like? Keep this quality up guys.
The Sands Of Life
Tom Baker & David Warner
Do you know what is guaranteed to get me excited? David Warner in a pair of sunglasses.
No,swear to God, I’m not a nut (well…), but ever since I watched him play Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, he’s been a favourite of mine. And here he is on the cover of Sands of Life, towering over the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Mary Tamm) and K9 (John Leeson) in a desert full of giant… Cybermats? No,these are a new creature altogether, and their importance is revealed in this story which ends on a cliffhanger that will take you into War of the Laan.
Warner has played an alternate Doctor for Big Finish, as as well as the Professor in the recent Ice Warrior TV story Cold War, and here he is back to doing what I love him for; being a villain. He plays Cuthbert, a man who is the head of a huge conglomeration on a future Earth when a race of aliens, the Laan, arrive the day the new President takes office. He wants power and money and the more the merrier. And the time travellers are blamed as being part of it, especially when Romana finds she is telepathically linked to the aliens.
What does Cuthbert know that the Doctor doesn’t? Why is Romana suddenly the planet’s only chance? What are the Laan after? Space dwelling manatees seem hardly the most threatening of monsters, but they are and they will be every bit as vicious as the Daleks. Earth is on the brink of war, the President is not coping well and things are grim. Warner is a real challenge to Tom Baker in the vocal department and I was expecting him to become the Master. There’s something about that voice that thrills and gives Baker what he always did best; battle monsters that wear a human face.
This could easily be an episode. Once again, Big Finish have delivered.
Vienna: The Shadowbox
Starring: Chase Masterson
First introduced in Shadowheart, Vienna is a lethal bounty hunter who never lets anyone hear her name and live. Now she is back in her own spin-off for Big Finish played by Deep Space 9’s Leeta, Chase Masterson.
In DS9, Leeta was a Dabo girl, gentle and kind, but in one episode we met her alternate universe self, all tight catsuit, arrogant and not a lady you want to cross and that’s what I’m picturing when I hear her as Vienna.
What I’m liking about Big Finish is that they have the freedom to give potential classic characters their own series such as Jago and Litefoot and the Gallifrey series.
Vienna is ruthless and sort of a sexed up version of Boba Fett. She takes no prisoners and having such an evil immoral character opens up nice story possibilities and an exploration of why she is what she is and the consequences of that.
The Memory Box of the title will be a solid part of her future. And we get a nice bonus of lovelorn policeman Andy from Torchwood as played by Tom Price as a brand new character. You would never have thought these two would make a good combination but they do. I’m a huge fan of PC Andy anyway so it’s a delight to hear him again, sort of.
When one of the richest men in the galaxy is found dead and everyone has an alibi, then suspicion falls on Vienna. Written by Jonathan Morris, it’s a fast paced, layered introduction story which actually works well. There are a couple of times I had to go back and relisten to make sure I heard what I heard, but Chase does a great job and this series could actually be a long-running one. A female anti hero/heroine is long overdue so give this a go. You will enjoy it.