The Cosmic Hobo

Thoughts & reviews about the science fiction series Doctor Who.

Archive for the category “eighth doctor”

Audio Review: Scherzo

Doctor Who Big Finish Scherzo“Scherzo” (Big Finish #52)
Written by Robert Shearman
Directed by Gary Russell
Featuring the Doctor and Charley

Although a bit of a disappointment coming from the writer of The Chimes of Midnight, Scherzo at the very least continues to show Paul McGann’s and India Fisher’s excellence in the Big Finish productions. Robert Shearman has obviously written better audios, but Scherzo isn’t completely without merit.

Scherzo is definitely firmly in the “Doctor Who dabbles in horror” section of the mythos, and recalls The Edge of Destruction in that the only cast members are the the Doctor and his companion. It’s not TARDIS centric the way that television story was, but it is a creepy horror story with an unseen enemy. There are some genuinely unsettling moments, but most of the scares come from sudden waves of noise that make you jump. Essentially, cheap thrills.

Luckily, this audio play doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Adding up to a tidy 90 minutes, it might have been pretty bad if it were stretched out any more. It manages to be enjoyable on the strength of the performances, as the team of the Eighth Doctor and Charley is quickly rocketing up my list of favorite TARDIS teams. Being that they only have each other to act against, this would be one of the bigger challenges they have had so far. In the end, Scherzo is not one of the best audio plays Big Finish has produced, but it is solid and worthwhile for McGann and Fisher.

Rating: C

Audio Review: Neverland

“Neverland” (Big Finish #33)
Written by Alan Barnes
Directed by Gary Russell
Featuring the Doctor, Charley, and Romana II

Rating: B

After traveling through space and time for about ten adventures (that we know of) with Charley Pollard, the girl who was supposed to die at the crash of the R101 in the early 20th century, time has finally caught up with the TARDIS team. The Doctor is forced to accept that perhaps the only way to restore time to its own rightful order is to kill Charley and fulfill her unfortunate destiny. The pair go to Gallifrey where Paul McGann’s Doctor must answer for breaking the laws of time to none other than the President of Gallifrey and former Doctor companion Romana.

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the overly Gallifrey-centric stories. Things like “The Deadly Assassin” just don’t appeal to me that much, and before this, I didn’t really have much feeling for anything Gallifrey related outside of the last two episodes of the Patrick Troughton serial “The War Games”. Although this story gets a bit bogged down in wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey towards the end, I actually ended up really enjoying “Neverland”.

The Eighth Doctor and Charley as a pair are one of my favorite TARDIS teams ever, and probably my favorite of the audios (though it may be a tie with the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe). I’m one of the few people who really enjoys the 1996 TV movie, and I’m a big fan of Paul McGann’s interpretation of the Doctor. That being said, I don’t feel like up to this point that McGann’s Doctor had gotten particularly good scripts in the audios. Aside from the really phenomenal “The Chimes of Midnight” and the enjoyable “The Sword of Orion”, I could take or leave the rest of his up to this point. That said, the chemistry between India Fisher and McGann is so strong that it makes even the weaker stories listenable and enjoyable (with the exception of the completely unsalvageable “Invaders from Mars”). Luckily, “Neverland” proves to be a damn good story. Compounding the enjoyability of India Fisher and Paul McGann as a team, Lalla Ward makes a great appearance as one of the cooler Fourth Doctor era companions, Romana (in her second incarnation).

Although there are times in “Neverland” where the plot is a bit hard to follow, and the solution didn’t really register in my head (probably my fault), I really enjoyed the ride in this one. It is a bit odd that this one features two hour-long parts rather than the standard four, the story flies by so it doesn’t bug me. Lalla Ward was phenomenal in “The Apocalypse Element” (featuring the Sixth Doctor) and once again kicks ass and takes names in “Neverland”. The dialogue throughout is strong, and using India Fisher ina double role suits the story’s flow and gives it more gravity. Also quite interesting to see the return of an important Time Lord (not counting Romana and the Doctor), but I won’t spoil it in case there are readers here who haven’t taken a listen. Although not in the same category as “The Chimes of Midnight” or the aforementioned “Spare Parts”, I seriously enjoyed “Neverland” and look forward to getting to the further adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Audio Review: The Chimes of Midnight

“The Chimes of Midnight” (Big Finish #29)
Written by Robert Shearman, directed by Barnaby Edwards
Featuring the Doctor, Charley, and a haunted house

Rating: A+

Audio plays as a medium for Doctor Who are generally at their best when they take best advantage of the way they are telling their story. Horror as a genre is the perfect area for Doctor Who in audio form to dabble in because horror as a genre in any medium is always more scary when you can’t see what you’re being afraid of. When it is left up to your imagination to generate the evil, it is much more affecting. By virtue of audio being just audio, you’re forced to imagine the scary parts in your head, which is actually a positive for the medium in this case rather than a negative.

The Doctor and Charley find themselves in a house that is experiencing a strange sort of time dilation. People who apparently die seem to vanish from everyone’s collective memory, while likewise everything seems connected in a strange and incomprehensible way. The Doctor is particularly confused in this one, and it all starts with a mysterious message in dust from a time passed, or yet to come.

I’ve previously enjoyed the Eighth Doctor in audio form (and in the TV movie, for that matter), but this is really the first excellent audio from his era. After the godawful “Invaders from Mars”, I was so pleased to see that things managed to pick up right away. Both Paul McGann and India Fisher are frankly fantastic in this audio, who are helped in no small part by really excellent writing and solid direction. I’ve never actually been scared by anything in horror, much less Doctor Who horror, but I would say that “The Chimes of Midnight” came closer to it than even television stories like “Blink” that are outstanding but didn’t manage to scare me.

Aside from brilliant acting and perfect atmosphere, one of the things that I think made this audio play better than the rest is that there are actually characters here that are worth liking. There is a subplot involving Charley and one of the workers at the old house that is pretty heartbreaking, with India Fisher totally knocking it out of the park. I feel like I have less interesting things to say when a story succeeds on every level, but audios like this are the reason I am such a fan of Big Finish. If I were to try to convert someone to the audios I would have to pick either this or “Spare Parts”. Being that it was written by the guy responsible for the first actually good episode of the new series (“Dalek”), I expected something at least solid, but I adored it.

Audio Review: Invaders From Mars

“Invaders From Mars” (Big Finish #28)
Written & Directed by Mark Gatiss
Featuring the Doctor, Charley, and bad American accents

Rating: F

“Invaders from Mars” is the perfect example of why I should never get my hopes up about anything when it comes to Doctor Who. I tend to like stuff a lot of people don’t, and when I expect to like something, I am quite disappointed. This was the case with “Invaders from Mars,” which may very well be my least favorite of the Big Finish audios so far.

The idea is great: The Doctor and Charley arrive in New York just in time for Orson Welles’ famous radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. As the story goes, there was mass panic as people tuned in to the radio in the middle of the story and thought the events being described were real. In typical Doctor Who fashion, aliens actually WERE invading, and the Doctor showed up to sort things out.

I’m not a huge fan of Paul McGann as the Doctor but I do like him, and he has a strong chemistry with India Fisher (Charley Pollard), which makes most of their work together listenable on that level alone. Unfortunately, this is pretty much pure shit.

I tend to like stuff set in the 1930s, as I love the “noir” feel of most of the stuff set in that era, but in this case, it fails pretty miserably. The voice acting is here pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever heard; almost all of the American accents are so unbelievable that I think the casting director behind this story should be fired, and then taken out back to be drawn & quartered. How do people who can’t do American accents keep getting roles like this in Doctor Who?

On top of the subpar voicing, the story is just slow. It takes ages to get rolling, and once it reaches its peak, it still isn’t good. I have trouble saying anything nice at all about his story. It fails for me on every possible level. It’s the “The Monster of Peladon” of audios. I even preferred “Minuet in Hell.” It’s a shame Simon Pegg is one of the voices in this… Nobody could have saved this garbage.

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