Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Black and White Tardis Trilogy - Seventh Doctor -

The Seventh Doctor is played by Sylvester McCoy. He was the Doctor from 1987-1996, though his final television season was in 1989 when Doctor Who was cancelled. He evolved from a comical figure to a mysterious manipulator over his three short seasons and some of the novels. Now he's back on Audio! It is said that he has among the most non-TV media stories of any Doctor. His main companion from the end of his first season is Ace a girl from the 1980s. In the trilogy today we also get three audio only companions in Hex, Lysandra and Sally.

The Black and White Tardis Trilogy is the conclusion of a few different storylines that have been running in the Doctor Who audios:

White Tardis Stoires
The Angel of Scutari, Project Destiny, A Death in the Family, Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge

Black Tardis Stories
Robophobia, The Doomsday Quatrain, House of Blue Fire, Project Nirvana

You don't need to listen to these stories, but it might help especially with Black and White as well as Gods and Monsters.

Protect and Survive (2012) By: Jonathan Morris

The Tardis beings sounding its cloister bell, but the Doctor is nowhere to be found. Ace and Hex, the Doctor's companions, land their white Tardis in a field on, what appears to be, earth. They soon meet Albert and Peggy Marsden who relate that they're in the north of England on November 9th 1989 and the world stands on the brink of World War III. Soon the klaxons sound and the bomb is dropped, but wait, no nuclear warheads were ever dropped on London!

I've already reviewed Mary's Story and The Curse of Davros by Jonathan Morris and this is above and beyond both of those stories. This is an alternative history Cold War story with the Late 80s Doctor Who cast. What a brilliant idea. I think the first two episodes of this serial are nearly perfect in setting the stakes and the pain that Ace and Hex go through in this. A weaker writer would have cut that time down, but the tension and buildup are crucial. In the end of part two and the beginning of part three that threw in some things I though were going to ruin the story, they didn't! The twists straight through to part three were exciting and earned!

Our Heroes
Ace is a sassy girl from the 1980s with unshakeable faith in the Doctor and boy is it tested in this adventure. She and Hex play off each other perfectly.

Hex is a nurse from 2021. He has traveled with the Doctor for awhile, but is beginning to get tired of his tricks. Hex finds himself in a harsh world and his faith is shaken to its its breaking point. Even his friendship with Ace is tested.

Mortal Observers
Albert and Peggy Marsden are a lovely couple whose plight is unfortunate. You really get to feel for what they go through.

Godlike Observer
The Seventh Doctor acts mostly though recordings and flashbacks in this story, but it really serves to draw the mystery around him and his enemy. The Doctor also appears to wield an incredible amount of power in this tale, but it isn't really that off putting. He's used with subtlety and to great effect.

Demonic Foes
The Elder Gods are a force I can''t delve too deeply into. Suffice to say, they work effectively and I look forward to more of them.

Desolate Atmosphere
The isolated countryside during the eve of World War III is everything . The 80s feel is palpable and the dread is awesome. This story serves up genuine terror especially when you consider that something like this could still happen today.

In the End
By the end I knew what was going to happen, but I didn't care. It is a great end to a great story. I almost feel that this is too good a start to the trilogy as it is difficult to top this start.

This may not be the best story to dive into, but with a little working knowledge of the Seventh Doctor you can easily enjoy this. It is also the only one of the trilogy that stands mostly alone. It gets very dark, but it is not without its moments of levity. This is among the best 'Doctor-lite' stories and it really gives you a great feeling for both Ace and Hex. If you're a fan of Cold War alternate history or the Seventh Doctor or Ace you owe it to yourself to check this out.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Black and White (2012) By: Matt Fitton

Ace and Hex enter the Black Tardis to find two soldiers, Lysandra and Sally, already inside. Ace and Hex have fought against Lysandra in the past. However; it turns out the Doctor has recruited the four of them to face the Elder Gods. By hitting the fast return switch on the Tardis they find themselves drawn to the time of Beowulf. Why was the Doctor in that time and how does it relate to the reading of the mythical hero?

This story is split across two times with large sections shown in flash back. It is an ambitious narrative, but it only partially pays off. The core story isn't really big enough to deserve all the pomp and circumstance this tries to give it. It mostly boils down to a filler 80s Who story with some forced tension and a twist ending.

Our Heroes
Ace spends her time getting into trouble and arguing with Lysandra. I don't really know why I found this entertaining. Maybe it was the fact that both arguing with enough snark and sense that it was actually entertaining.

Lysandra Aristedes is a military character from a secret organization called the forge. She's part of a series I have no interest in because if there's anything I hate more than witches in my Doctor Who, it's vampires. That aside, the character has a part to play, mostly as a foil to Ace. She is by far the least interesting of the group though.

Hector 'Hex' Schofield is fresh off the harrowing experiences from Protect and Survive. This episode sees him deal with all his issues from that episode. As such, he doesn't do much except a great deal of soul searching and sparking up a romance with Sally.

Sally Morgan is a former officer who falls under the Doctor's employ. She's bright and much less strict than Lysandra. We get caught up on her backstory and even get a romance between her and Hex. Sadly, like Hex, that's about all we get.

Beowulf should have gotten more time in this story. There is a wonderful arc in this somewhere that that strips away all the aliens shit and... oh wait, that's the actual Beowulf story. Huh. Beowulf does have some great moments that are removed from the legend, but they don't come until near the end.

Well Intentioned Observer
The Seventh Doctor is once again shown only in flashback. Aside from the fact that he seems somewhat incompetent during part of this, I think he put on a very typical Seventh Doctor performance.

Silly Foe
Garundel is not the savage and brutal beast from the Beowulf story. He's a short and sarcastic frogman. He would have been a good villain for a less significant and more comedic story. Here he just seems disappointing and annoying.

Nordic Atmosphere
The feel of locations comes across well and doesn't get lost in the jumbled storyline.

In the End
I liked the end more than the whole rest of the story. It gives Beowulf the service the rest of the story didn't and has some nice character closure.On its own the twist would have pissed me off, but Protect and Survive really earned it, so I'll let it slide. Oh, but the last line 'hook' was unnecessary and should have been stricken.

Not the follow-up I was expecting. There are a few surprising moments, but this is definitely just the middle part of a trilogy. It wasn't exactly bad, but it wasn't very good either. I'd say skip it, but it is the necessary middle section of this trilogy. So, enjoy the character interaction and don't expect much from the plot.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Gods and Monsters (2012) By: Mike Maddox and Alan Barnes

The elder god Fenric and the Doctor play chess for all of reality. With Ace, Hex, Lysandra, Sally and others as pieces on a flat chessboard world.

This is probably the most ambitious of all the audios I've listened to. It is actually a bit confusing at the start, but understandable in the long run. It builds to a truly epic conclusion that I wish would have been tied into Black and White more. The villains have some loose tie backs to previous episodes which aren't exactly needed to understand it, but help quite a bit.

Our Heroes
The Seventh Doctor is back on the main playing field and doing his best to outwit beings far more powerful than himself. This allows for some nice moments for the Doctor to show his cunning.

Ace really gets to cut lose in this adventure showing the spunky young adventuress I've come to love. The ending is where this audio really hits home though.

Hex doesn't really seem to do a lot while doing a lot for the plot overall. There are some key things for him mentioned from past episodes, but I'm not sure they do anything but recall some foreshadowing.

Lysandra Aristedes runs around a lot, but I'm not sure it serves to do much. During chapter two she gets a flash-forward of herself and Sally that ties into her time at the forge, but it didn't serve to do that much in the story really. I thought she was kind of a waste, but I don't really like her storyline to begin with, so take that into consideration.

Sally should have had more time with Hex and less with Lysandra. She gets some great moments at he end, unfortunately up until then it's just running away from hemovores and flashbacking with Lysandra.

Previous Observer
Peggy Marsden returns mostly to provide continuity and a sense of eeriness. In that she succeeds.

Ancient Foe
Fenric is an elder god who was defeat by the Doctor in the classic episode Curse of Fenric. It has been awhile since I've seen that episode, but the story does a nice job of reintroducing him. I got a good sense of their longstanding rivalry.

The chessboard and castle were well realized and the music lent itself well to the story.

In the End
They even branch off of the chess theme and compare the gods' competitions to tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. If the second and third episodes had been more like the fourth, this would have gotten a much higher score. The end is appropriately climactic with a post credits cliffhanger that I though it earned.

This episode serves to launch the next set of episodes which are due out next year. The post credits cliffhanger got me excited for the future of these Seventh Doctor stories. As a whole, I'd recommend watching the Curse of Fenric and listening to the prior audios before this one. It is a solid episode, but not a great one. A good end to the trilogy and an interesting set up for future episodes.
Buy it here from Big Finish!

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