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.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Seeds of War

To end the Sixth Doctor's Mel trilogy we arrive at the third installment:
The Seeds of War (2013) By: Nicholas Briggs and Matt Fitton

A woman and her father struggle to survive and talk of a war in the human colonies. The Sixth Doctor takes Mel to the opening of humanity's tallest freestanding structure: Kalsos Tower. The arrive dressed for dinner and naturally end up in the war zone. They get split up while exploring and a cave-in separates them. Mel runs into a soldier who informs her that the Tower is being demolished.

An impressively contained episode considering they travel between three planets without using the Tardis. The first half is so strong that it makes all the inconsistencies at the end all the more apparent. Three stories are juggled and merge into one, but that's not where things start going wrong. It gets to the very end and just goes stupid, but more on that later. There is also a news broadcast, which serves as propaganda for the residents, but not more than any other news agency parody.

Our Heroes
The Sixth Doctor is not in top form. He gets shafted with being out of character for most of this story, which is its real downfall. When the Sixth Doctor gets his charisma and gravitas taken away from him, it takes much of the fun from the script. It also makes the Doctor feel like more of a non-entity.

Mel is the emotional heart of this story. She develops friendships with the locals and even as something of a romance bloom with Barlow. Unfortunately, she doesn't get much to do aside from that and is almost written out of the action on Earth.

Struggling Observers
Barlow is a soldier for Earth tasked with setting charges to blow Kalsos Tower. He and Mel develop feelings for each other, but the plot conspires to keep them apart.

Sisrella is the other emotional link in the story. She gives us the point of view of the common folk as she and her father try to keep from starving. She gives a solid performance, but has little to do aside from trade barbs with an ex-beau and chat with Mel.

Overblown Foes
The Eminence and the Infinite  are more hyperbole than anything. They have cool names and a legendary history, but definitely don't do much in this story to back it up. Some creepy lurking and lots of whispering. The Eminence has some solid ideas, but bets them all on the heroes' stupidity: smooth.

Wartorn Atmosphere
The collapsing tower and the riot scenes are surprisingly easy to follow. All three locations feel different; something that becomes all the more impressive on audio.

In the End
Doctor allows some stupid deaths to occur due to some bad planning on his part. Also, the Eminence's plan relies on way too many variable, but then again "pride goeth before the fall." There is some genuine heartbreak from Mel over how things end, but it becomes more frustrating given that it concludes with a final retort from the impotent villain.

It's surprising to see that two writers are involved in this one, and I'd be interested to see if it was literally half and half or a collaboration. That being said, the parts mesh nicely; I'd just like to know who to blame.It's a fine Sixth Doctor story, just not up to his audio heights.

Get it from Big Finish!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Spaceport Fear

Happy Thanksgiving! If there's one thing the 50th special got me to do, it was step up my Doctor Who listening, so to continue from The Wrong Doctors:
Spaceport Fear (2013) By: William Gallagher

The Sixth Doctor and Mel land in a strange station. They discover they're in Tanatne Spaceport just as the Tardis is pulled into the station. The spaceport is locked down due to quarantine. Meanwhile, an Economy clan girl called Naysmith tries to complete her coming of age test by stealing food from the Business clan. Things go further awry when the ancient force known as the Wailer is unleashed.

This story utilizes the generation ship idea within the confines of a quarantined spaceport. The Business versus Economy idea is a good one with the class warfare theme being a running undercurrent. There is also a bit of genius involving cell phone games of all things.

Our Heroes
The Sixth Doctor is a font of intelligence and wit. He has never been one to trust in authority or to abide by the status quo, and this episode really gives him some things to work with. As always, the Sixth Doctor is a highlight of the episode, caring for all the spaceport survivors and even the monster.

Mel won't let the Doctor outshine her. She's just as feisty in her protection of the other characters and the Doctor. Unlike the last outing, Mel gets plenty to do and takes custody of the naive Naysmith.

Meek Observers
Naysmith is an idealist who follows the Doctor and Mel in hopes of a brighter future for her people. She's doesn't get the plot reveals for most of the audio, making her seem somewhat slow. She is a bright spot in what could have been a dreary episode, though if there's one thing that Sixth Doctor audios do it's entertain.

Pretty is Naysmith's plus one: read boyfriend. Unlike the compassionate Naysmith, Pretty is a freedom fighter who works to further the cause of his people. The role is a bit played out, but he lends understanding to the other natives.

Enterprising Foes
The Wailer is a terrific monster, though it sounds like "whaler" during the audio. Its wail and the dread is causes between both Economy and Business. It wrecks and devours its way through the episode, though there is more to it than an engine of destruction.

The Director is a villain who hides behind the rituals built since the station's lockdown. He's in it for the slow game; the snail paced game. He never quite made it to menacing, but he gives it a good go.

Airport Atmosphere
The writers really busted out the thesaurus for this one. The play on common airport features is executed with thoughtfulness and the puns are funny. The place comes alive with announcements and blasts. Even the Wailer's vein of destruction comes through load and clear.

In the End
A satisfying ending to a good tale, though the villain's plan does come off as rather stupid.

Some unique ideas mix with a solid sci-fi plot to produce a good episode. The Director is probably the weakest part, since his plan was as brilliant as it should have been. Still, his is a good entry in the series, but not as interesting as the Wrong Doctors. Check it out for more Six.

Get it from Big Finish!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Light at the End

Happy 50th Anniversary Doctor Who! As many of you may have guessed, I am a big fan of the show as well as the audios, and though my recent post (six months ago) regarding last season's quality was a bit dour, I didn't miss the special today, and, naturally, the kind folks at Big Finished have released their own 50th special:
The Light at the End (2013) By: Nicholas Briggs

A man asks his kids if they've seen their mother. As the kids ask simple kid questions, a police box smashes into his roof. Meanwhile the Master plots with another individual to end all the Doctors at once. The Eighth Doctor chats with his companion, Charley Pollard, in the Tardis when a red light begins to flash. When asked what it is, the Doctor reveals that he's never seen it before.

This special celebrates Classic Who for fans who've seen nearly every episode and listened to a good chunk of the audios. An old enemy returns and we get not one, not two, not even five, but eight Doctors all encountering one another. The clips used for the first three Doctors will be recognizable to any fan but are well integrated into the story. The plot is just as zany as any Doctor Who plot with enough charisma to suspend your disbelief and cover up the plot holes. Those who've listened to the Eight Doctor series will also get the surprise appearance of another villain.

Our Doctors
The Fourth Doctor is, as always, overpoweringly clever with an idea and a distraction for all occasions. He remains commanding even when paired with the Eighth Doctor for a majority of the time.

The Fifth Doctor is the cautious pacifist and fills that role nicely. He even manages to seem brainy opposite the Fourth and Sixth Doctors, which isn't something he would have usually been able to accomplish.

The Sixth Doctor is as awesome as ever, sliding naturally into an analytical position. He is largely on his own, though he and the Seventh Doctor do share some time. The pair complement each other surprisingly well.

The Seventh Doctor is the last one to get brought into the story and he appears to do surprisingly little. He allows Ace to do more of the heavy lifting, he is likely a key part of the planning at the end since that is his thing.

The Eighth Doctor is more of a pragmatist. Unfortunately early on in the story he abandons an incapacitated Charley, which was incredibly out of character. He also looks a little weak compared to the Fourth Doctor who he spends the most time with.

Our Compaions
Leela does her thing, threatening and killing her way through the story. Sadly in her interactions with Charley, she comes off as rather harsh and unfeeling.

Nyssa does very little. She asks some questions and helps the Doctor figure things out but mostly acts as an exposition bot for the story. At least it wasn't Teagan.

Peri provides comic relief and she excels in that role. She's there to brighten the day with her naivete.

Ace blows stuff up.

Charley helps the Eighth Doctor figure the first set of things out. She is much better at this than Nyssa, but gets neutralized early and that's kind of a shame.

Withered Foe
The Master, in his zombie-like limbo state, cackles and taunts the Doctor all the way through this adventure. He isn't messing around either with some absolutely horrific acts and a brutal plan. Though parts of his plan are silly, and there is even some self-aware humor involving his evil supervillainish behavior, he does manage to be a serious threat.

Bland Atmosphere
Despite the epic nature of the story and the threat that is ultimately revealed, the setting is bland. A house and a weapons factory are all we get. Even the henchmen have bland Dalekish voices that have all the terror of a roomba. Well, the Tardis has to be grand enough.

In the End
The ending is the kind that I tend to hate, but I'll forgive this one. It is at least sincere and has a great outro for the Doctors.

As a fiftieth special this one certainly doesn't disappoint with a grand plot that allows each of the Doctors to show their strengths. Combine that with some great references to the classic series and some smart cameos, and a great adventure is born. The plot also hinges on something that is common to the show, but often taken for granted and used for comedy, though you'll have to listen to figure that one out. A few minor flaws can't get this adventure down. This is definitely one for classic Doctor Who fans.

Check it out from Big Finish in standard or collector's edition.