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, 28 December 2013


I hated "The Time of the Doctor" Christmas special almost as much as "Journey to the Centre of the Tardis" which I bitched about in my intro to The Wrong Doctors. A lot of emotional weight was put on a character we're just getting to know: Clara. Celebration of the Eleventh Doctor rounded down to him summarizing himself and trying to sound witty. Then, of course, there was the stupid amount of time spent on his impending "death" when the episode before already revealed the Twelfth Doctor. Not to mention that the Clara that got spread throughout the Doctor's timeline shouldn't exist anymore. That last point shares some similarity with today's subject. I'm heading back early in the Big Finish range to their 25th release. This is the start of Klein's storyline with the Seventh Doctor and Ace arriving in Germany (this story is pre-Hex).
Colditz (2001) By: Steve Lyons

The Board Game
The Doctor and Ace arrive in the courtyard of a castle and are soon shot at by guards. The Doctor is shot, and he and Ace are captured. They find they are in Colditz Castle, a prison for high risk captives, in Nazi Germany. While Ace is threatened by the menacing Officer Kurtz, the other officers tend to the Doctor and try to get him to reveal his secrets. Soon, someone from high command arrives to help extract the secrets, but this Dr. Elizabeth Klein knows far too much about the Doctor.

Colditz Castle is something that fans in the UK might already know about, but here in the U.S. it is largely unknown outside WWII buffs. Ace mentions she played the board game and there have been a few films and a TV series featuring Colditz. Anyway,this audio deals with quite a few great things. The Seventh Doctor's scheming comes into focus when Klein gets one step ahead of him. Meanwhile, Ace faces a no-win situation and must figure out new ways to deal with her problems.

Our Hero
The Seventh Doctor shows almost too much brilliance and deduction in realizing who Klein really is. This isn't a bad thing since the Doctor should always be ahead of the plot, but it borders on prescience in this episode. This is a minor quibble since his back and forth with Klein is one of the best parts of the episode.

Ace begins the episode with her usual boisterous teen self, but comes away quite a bit different. She is threatened with physical and sexual violence; plus, she faces death death several times throughout the story. Her iconic optimism and cheek sharply contrast with the grim reality around her.

Imprisoned Observers
Flying Officer Gower is a senior British Officer imprisoned in Colditz. He has a working relationship with Commander Schäfer that allows him to get supplies and even get some of his men out. He and Schafer are close to being friends, but Ace's demands put their friendship to the test.

Commander Hauptmann Schäfer is a commander in his base who's just trying to do his job. He's a likeable Nazi! On a character level he's similar to many characters in Doctor Who that do their best to survive in their own corrupt systems; however, this is really brought home by his association with an organization as infamous as the Nazis.

Villainous Foes
Officer Kurtz is a malicious man who loves his country and would do anything to get higher up. He practically salivates over Ace, which is enough to make your skin crawl. He is the stereotypical every-Nazi that is required in most period dramas.

Elizabeth Klein is a Nazi higher up who knows a little too much about the Doctor. I won't spoil her backstory here, but I don't think I'll have a choice moving forward. It's a good story that should only get better with more fleshing out.

Another Prison Atmosphere
This prison is much more lax than the one in Prisoners of Fate and is much more literal in its imprisonment aspect. The grounds are well laid out, but the security is more lax.

In the End
A fate worse than death forces Ace to reevaluate herself. Even the Doctor must reassess his cavalier attitude.

Klein's strange backstory creates a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered later. The fact that not all the Nazis were stereoscopically evil men puts this story above many war tales. It has a somewhat generic lesson about the dangers of time travel, though there are much more interesting ideas in the Klein-Doctor relationship. This Seventh Doctor story works so well that it's no wonder they brought Klein back. Hopefully the rest of her stories will be this good.

It's only $3 at Big Finish!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

It's A Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas! Last year, I reviewed my favorite Christmas film. This year I shift gears and focus on Frank Capra's classic:

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) is a Christmas classic rivaled only by Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street in holiday television airtime.

On Christmas Eve, many denizens of the town of Bedford Falls pray for one man: George Bailey. In the heavens, several stars speak to one another about this incident and summon Clarence to prevent him from committing suicide. First, Clarence is given an overview of George's life. George longs to travel and go to college, but life has other plans for him.

A reversed Christmas Carol about a poor man who's done the right thing all his life gets supernatural help on Christmas Eve. The film covers George's life in key moments; most of which involve the happiest days of his life turning sour or his dreams being delayed by duty. The moral is that a good life will be rewarded with great friends and family. This film also introduced the idea that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

Our Hero
George Bailey has only ever longed to see the world, but after his father passes away, finds himself trapped in his tiny hometown. George is bound partially by duty to his father's memory, but more by his conscience regarding the very real possibility that he can make his town better. The best part is that George is no saint. He's a bit of a do-gooder, but has his dark moments. The most compelling of which comes at the film's climax, right before he contemplates suicide. In fact, much of the third act involves the character being run ragged.

Enriched Observers
Mary Hatch is a childhood friend of George's. She's spunky and charming and a great match for George. The film provides enough doubt about them ending up together that the audience winds up rooting for them when they get stubborn. There is one small issue in the film: how does George never being born affect Mary's eyesight? In the alternate universe where George was never born, Mary is a spinster who work at a library and wears glasses, perhaps eyestrain?

Uncle Billy Bailey is the nutty uncle with a heart of gold. After George's father dies and George takes over the family's savings and loan, he keeps his absent minded uncle on as a clerk. His uncle is largely on the periphery and his nuttiness is only shown. He keeps several strange animals, including a raven in the office.

Clarence is the guardian angel, second class, who is sent to prevent George's suicide. He's humble, if bumbling, and is willing to take quite a lot of punishment to save George. He also wants to get his wings, but that almost seems unnecessary in the light of his selflessness.

Greedy Foe
Mr. Potter will do anything to make a quick buck. He's out to wring the town for every dime its worth. He's a more realistic scrooge. An unrelenting money grubber who'll do anything to get ahead. Definitely a banker for the modern era.

Old-Fashioned Atmosphere
George and Mary's song, "Buffalo Gals," has not aged well. It is played at least three times throughout the film and gets incredibly annoying by the end. It doesn't help that Jimmy Stewart is not a great singer. The city is a great representation of small town America. From the Great Depression to World War II, the film covers some legendary periods in American history without really explaining the larger events since everyone at the tome knew them. Kids today should watch this for the history lesson alone.

In the End
A Christmas Miracle shows George his life's true worth.

This film is definitely a product of its time. Over two thirds of the film is devoted to showing George's life leading up to Clarence's intervention. This may be a bit long for some viewers: just watching the ups and downs of a man's life. In a modern film that would probably be twenty to thirty minutes of a three hour run time at most. However, there is a great spattering of humor and darkness to keep people interested through the start. Once Clarence pushes George into the alternate timeline, the film speeds up to almost breakneck speed. The story stands as a testament to the ability for one man to build a town through good deeds. This Christmas classic has a few errors, some questionable choices and some older pacing, but it remains necessary Christmas viewing.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Prisoners of Fate

The conclusion of this section comes from one of my favorite authors: Jonathan Morris. This involves several plot threads from an earlier adventure that I haven't covered yet. I'll be going back to try and avoid missing background in the audios starting with the next trilogy, but this one will have to wait.
Prisoners of Fate (2013) By: Jonathan Morris

The Tardis is forced out of its journey and lands near a prison. The Fifth Doctor, Teagan, Turlough, and Nyssa find that the world is controlled by a "chronoscope" that predicts criminal acts with perfect accuracy. Teagan is pulled aside by one of the workers who reveals that he is Nyssa's son, all grown up.

Doctor Who does Minority Report! And goes so much deeper than that. The imprisonment theme is masterfully worked into being unable to change time. Paradoxes, which are often swept under the rug, are worked into an intelligent scheme and built up with emotional relevance.

Our Heroes
Nyssa finally gets a worthwhile story and it is one hell of one. This story has Nyssa wandering into her own future. As such, she makes it part of her present and cannot go back without creating a destructive paradox. Nyssa breaks out of the shadows and challenges the Doctor in her own right. As the smartest member of the Tardis, it is fantastic to see her toss all logic aside and go with her gut.

The Fifth Doctor is not in the loop for a great deal of this story, but unlike, Eldrad Must Die!, he keeps up with, and even passes those around him, in realizing what is really going on. This episode highlights the Doctor's imperfection without making him look stupid, and that is reason enough to listen to this one.

Turlough and Teagan get the short end of the stick this time around, but that's what happens with three companions. They are relegated to pawns of the Chronoscope and plot movers. Turlough does some incredibly stupid things, but they're somewhat forgivable.

Important Observers
Galen aka Adric is Nyssa's son who believes, due to Nyssa's de-aging in The Emerald Tiger, that she's a Nyssa from before he was born. Galen lets his emotion overwhelm his intellect and becomes almost unlikeable as a result. Fortunately, his decisions are understandable.

Timely Foes
Sibor has been using the Chonoscope torule her tiny piece of the galaxy, but she has greater designs. The more disappointing of the two foes has her place in the story. Meglomaniacal villainy has its place and this story uses it effectively.

The Chronoscope is an awesome villain that has never been done before. Its identity can't be revealed without serious spoilers, but this villain is long overdue.

Imprisoned Atmosphere
The prison is fairly bland, but it is a prison. It's the music in the story that really ties together the heavy themes, complex plot, and emotional weight. All three cliffhangers in this story are taught with suspense and

In the End
Talk about a dramatic ending. There are no simple answers and the ending is no cop out.

A climactic tale that is so far from Eldrad Must Die! that the mention of it in this tale is a little jarring. Jonathan Morris provides a tale as awesome, if not a bit more so, than The Emerald Tiger. There are a few minor things that Sibor and significantly Turlough do that are silly but forgivable. This tale needs quite a bit of knowledge from previous audios and Nyssa's swansong Classic Episode: Terminus. However, the payoff is definitely worth it. Listen to this one; it is intense.

Check it out at Big Finish!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Lady of Mercia

The Fifth Doctor and crew return for a semi-historical adventure.
The Lady of Mercia (2013) By: Paul Magrs

In 1983, students protest the defunding of the Humanities department. The Fifth Doctor, Turlough, Teagan, and Nyssa are mistaken for visiting professors and invited to a conference on ancient warrior queens. The Doctor sets Teagan up as a visiting Australian professor after a snarky comment. While hobnobbing, Teagan and Turlough see one of the professors stealing an ancient sword. They track it back to a lab where the professor puts it into the machine. Soon, Teagan and the Professor are in Aethelfrid's castle in 918.

This story is a delightful romp through time. Unlike the last one, this adventure has a great cast of supporting characters that are essential to the plot. The idea of a time machine being built in 1983 seems a bit preposterous, but Back to the Future is set in 1985, so maybe not.

Our Heroes
Dr. Teagan Jovanka? Now that's funny! Almost as funny as Sister Teagan. To be fair, this is a great Teagan tale. She's taken under the wing of a warrior queen and actually develops a snarky rapport with her. This mother-daughter relationship softens Teagan and even forces her to do some courageous things in defense of the warrior queen.

The Fifth Doctor has brought the Tardis team to 1983 specifically to deal with the time machine. He gets distracted by Dr. Bleak's party. For any other Doctor hobnobbing with historians would seem out of character, but it is quite natural for the Fifth. His reluctance to show Dr. Stone his time machine is a bit paranoid. Does he think she's going to get ideas?

Turlough may have gotten some during this adventure. That's saying quite a bit as he doesn't do much but brawl with a student and help repair the 1983 time machine.

Nyssa has very little to do this time around. She follows and assists the Doctor...

Crucial Observers
Dr. Phillipa Stone is the inventor of the 1983 time machine. She is hiding something incredibly unsurprising from her husband, and it's not the time machine. That aspect of their relationship strains credulity a bit, but a historian would definitely stay with a physicist if they were inventing a time machine.

Dr. John Bleak is a historian who's been secretly funneling money into his wife's time machine. He then commits the incredibly stupid act of stealing a sword and getting himself set back in time. He's a bumbling coward whose cowardice borders on pessimism some of the time, but he never gets irritating.

Princess Aelfwynn gets a ride forward in time and the results are unfortunately as one might think. She slashes her way and and attacks some students. The doctor talking her down and her realization of her place in history are some of the finest bits of the story, though.

Queen Aethelfrid is a warrior queen who believes in the righteousness of her cause. She's at the end of her life and sees

Tumultuous Atmosphere
Between protesting students in 1983 and warring states in 918, there is quite a bit to listen to. The setting of each time is distinctive and rich, so the travel between the two flows well.

In the End
The moral of this story is somewhat similar to the Aztecs. The doctor must maintain the timeline while saving Teagan and Dr. Bleak.

Connected timelines with delightful characters make this adventure fantastic. The way the 1983 time machine works may leave a few questions, but it suits the story. There is also plenty of comedy that floats through this story, and it isn't limited to imagining Teagan in funny outfits. This might just be the best Teagan story ever; plus, it's a fantastic Fifth Doctor tale.

Check it out at Big Finish!

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Rush (2013) is a Ron Howard film based on the lives of James Hunt and Niki Lauda

Two formula three drivers meet and spark a rivalry that comes to a head in the 1976 Grand Prix.

Rush deals with how two men can become better through competition. The effect of James Hunt and Niki Lauda on each other is remarkable. Though most of the film focuses on the men, their significant others also have a role to play. James and Niki are treated as individuals and their struggle to deal with their love of racing and its inherent mortality rate.

Our Heroes
James Hunt is an English playboy whose passion is more for the perks than the actual racing. When he first encounters Niki, he thinks of him as just another jerk to beat on the track. However, their interactions cause him to refocus on racing and ultimately question his own reasons for being on the track.

Niki Lauda is an Austrian tactician who believes his only talent is racing. He is uncompromising about becoming the best and initially sees Hunt as just another hurdle. The role of lovable jerk is a difficult one to do right, but Niki certainly makes the cut. Many of his harder-edged moments offer a look into his desperation. He needs to be the best, and Hunt helps him find a reason.

Spousal Observers
Marlene is a socialite who chances upon Niki at a wedding. She accepts his love of of racing, but doesn't want to lose the man she loves. Marlene gives Niki something else to live for besides racing. She is everything he thought he didn't want and is part of what makes the film rise above petty rivalry.

Suzy is a fashion model who falls for the charismatic Hunt. Her effect is less about changing him and more about him failing to appreciate her. Their relationship is a dark look at the problems that the carefree Hunt has.

Racing Atmosphere
The period is reproduced in stunning detail which is expected of a big studio release. The grand prix goes all over the world, and each location is given a unique look and feeling. The crashes are vibrant, but the attention to detail is even more spectacular in the quiet moments. Most especially the scenes for Niki's honeymoon, in the rain, and at the hospital.

In the End
After a surprising (if you don't know the history) ending, Rush ends with some archival footage and a moving voiceover detailing the effect of the rivalry.

Though the film focuses the men, there are several satisfying races. The film is intensely satisfying on an emotional and adrenal level with a variety of amusing characters and heartfelt moments. I'll admit that this, much like Lincoln, is very much my type of film. If you enjoy well made docudramas, check this film out.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Don Jon

I'm a big fan of Joseph Gordon Levitt, so I had to see his new film.

Don Jon (2013) is the writing and directorial debut of Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Jon loves only a few things: his family, his friends, his church, his pad, his body, his girls and his porn. He meets Barbara who he believes he could be in love with; unfortunately, she finds porn disgusting and won't let Jon watch it anymore.

Don Jon is a tremendously funny comedy about the morality of the internet generation. That isn't to say that it goes for broad characterization; in fact, the character are quite unique but portray several qualities that exemplify the modern era.

Our Hero
Jon starts of as a woman-using, porn-loving, muscle-head and gradually matures as his values are tested by those in his life. His best moments are his confessions and his penance, done while working out. These are great laugh-out-loud moments and not the only ones in this film.

Trying Observers
Jon's family is almost stereotypical until the film goes further into them. Jon's father is a a perverted older guy who is extremely set in his ways. Jon's mother is the basic trophy wife who wants to see her son married with a family. Jon's sister texts away the her screen time, but isn't as big a waste as she first seems.

Esther is an older classmate who Jon sees crying before class one day. Their relationship helps Jon to come to terms with the failings of his own ideology. She is delightfully awkward and forthright in the way that only age and emotional turmoil can provide. Her initial characterization seems shallow, but she moves beyond that by the end of the film.

Beautiful Foe
Barbara is the sexy girl of Jon's dreams. She's also a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Unfortunately, she begins trying to micromanage his life and turn him into the man of her dreams. It is unfair to call her a foe, but she is the instigator of Jon's dilemma. She starts of with some reasonable requests but uses sexual favors to procure even those. By the time she moves to crazier things, it is far more difficult for Jon to get away.

Jersey Atmosphere
The locations are distinctive and provide a middle class feeling that could easily be transferred to any suburb. The location work is gorgeous. Each location serves to illuminate the characters who inhabit it.

In the End
The ending is abrupt. The film drops some of the more complex issues in favor of a loose moral. While the moral is a good one, it could leave one looking for more.

Don Jon works as both a comedy and a drama, with crude humor standing alongside some complex moralization. For a first writing and directing effort, this is a great start and makes me look forward to more from Mr. Levitt. He definitely used his star power to get this made and called in a bunch of friends to make it happen. This works in the movie's favor as the fun the cast and crew had making it bleeds through into the film. Also, bonus points for a necessary sex scene as completely un-sexy as it is. Even the nearly explicit porn can be forgiven. Check it out if you want a smarter comedy!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Eldrad Must Die!

Moving on to the next story in the Big Finish Doctor Who Main Range, it's back to the Fifth Doctor and company. They face a villain from the Fourth Doctor's era from the final episode of perennial favorite companion Sarah Jane Smith. The villain, of course, is Eldrad and you'll soon get sick of hearing about him/her.
Eldrad Must Die (2013) By: Marc Platt

The Tardis materializes on a beach, so the Tardis crew decide to have some fun: Teagan and the Doctor head to the water while Turlough and Nyssa go to the tide pools. After Teagan injures her foot on some sharp rocks, they are approached by a marine biologist who berates them about being on the closed beach and scans them for radioactivity. The Doctor soon sees animals with crystals growing from the bodies of animals.

Unlike The Butcher of Brisbane, this story brings back an old villain, but Eldrad has no new plan. They try to make it fresh by mixing it with some of Turlough's backstory. Eldrad's plan relies on all of his enemies being incredibly stupid, and it almost works due to the Fifth Doctor's selective memory loss. The mass of extra characters tries to ground the story on earth, but feels like padding as the first act slogs its way to the Eldrad reveal that was spoiled by the cover.

Our Heroes
The Fifth Doctor has plot amnesia! He blunders around, being really curious about a bunch of things that he's seen before. The Fifth Doctor wanders, tossed by the waves of the plot, before coming up with a plan that's too little too late.

Turlough goes back to square one when an old schoolmate, who also happens to be from Turlough's planet, makes him subject to a new alien being: Mulkris. Thus, Turlough spends most of this audio being a puppet for other forces just like he was during the Black Guardian Trilogy in Classic Who. This story tries to make it out as some sort of turning point, but Turlough learns nothing new. His lack of agency makes his charater incredibly uninteresting. Out of character sections don't build character!

Teagan steals cars and tries to play babysitter to a crazed Turlough. She is far less annoying than usual since she's given things to do. They're mostly illegal, but she makes an effective criminal at least.

Nyssa can talk to animals! I almost forgot about that. She also gets to deal with the B-plot, which is more than she usually gets to do. She is quite at home commanding a military and it'd be great to see it in a more interesting tale.

Useless Observers
Charlie Gibbs is an old schoolmate of Turlough's. He acts as a foil to Turlough and host for Eldrad during the end. It's a shame he has all the gravitas of a bar drunkard.

Kate is a bossy marine biologist who's studying the crystalline growths and radiation. She's taken Teagan's role of being a bossy bitch, which could have easily been cut from the story and made it far better.

Mulkris is Eldrad's executioner who has pursued him with such zeal that she didn't even notice her planet going silent. Mulkris is actually one of the best parts of this adventure, but gets mired with some seriously stupid actions once again due to mind control.

Crystaline Foe
Eldrad has spread himself across the galaxy and awaits his return. Eldrad can influence others except when he's got something better to do. His plan seems doomed to fail from the start, making it unsurprising when his plan fails. Another villain who relies on everyone being stupid. Ugh.

Seaside Atmosphere
The setting is the best part about this story. They really should have just stayed at the beach and had some fun; it would have been far less boring. The animals are surprisingly well represented in this story despite being used only for audience empathy.

In the End
The Doctor does almost nothing while things sort themselves out. Okay, he does something, but he's so behind the plot of the clearly dumb villain that he may as well have done nothing. Eldrad's defeat drags on far longer than it should have.

So much padding, so little time. The Doctor forgetting things he's learned before does not make a great story, nor does the rehash of a few old episodes. Mind control leaves much of the cast as zoned out minions. There is little humor and almost no action in this tale. All that's left is a dull plot. Check out the Classic Doctor Who episodes The Hand of Fear and Mawdryn Undead for the better halves of this tale.

Buy it from Big Finish.