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Latest Doctor Who audios

Last month was a bonanza for us Who audio fans. Not only was there an extra Big Finish release, concluding the story of Charley Pollard, but Tom Baker returned to the role for the first time since 1981 (not counting The Thing We Don't Talk About).

Hornets' Nest 1: The Stuff of Nightmares, by Paul Magrs, brings back the Fourth Doctor in alliance with ex-Captain Mike Yates (who was actually a Third Doctor companion, but never mind), inhabiting a peculiar country house with even more peculiar stuffed animals. I've seen a couple of reviews commenting that it has a lot more talking-book style narration by Yates and the Doctor, and hence much less actual dialogue, than we are used to from Big Finish; myself, I felt that this was being honest to an earlier style of doing things, namely that of Doctor Who and the Pescatons, the first ever Doctor Who audio from the. 1970s; except that The Hornet's Nest, so far, is much much better. And I think it will certainly attract those who enjoy nostalgia for the glory days of Hinchcliffe and Holmes / Letts and Dicks, but are less interested in obtaining new adventures from the John Nathan-Turner era Doctors (let alone Paul McGann). Amazon tells me that the second CD is already winging its way to me; can't wait!

The Prisoner of Peladon, by Mark Wright and Cavan Scott, is the latest in the Big Finish series of Companion Chronicles, although this time the story is told by a non-companion who appeared in only one story in 1972, King Peladon of the eponumous planet (played by David Troughton, son of Patrick, who has also of course appeared in other Who stories both Old and New and recently took on the cloak and dead bird of the Black Guardian for Big Finish). Troughton is, as ever, great, and Nicholas Briggs is, as ever, good as the monsters (Ice Warriors this time, of course). The concept is very interesting - Peladon has taken in large numbers of Ice Warrior refugees after an internal conflict, with the result that Ice Warrior politics spills catastrophically over to the host planet; the Third Doctor arrives to sort things out, of course, but - and this is the bit I really liked - the King gets a brilliant rant about how badly Three behaves to people, to which the Doctor has no answer. Scott and Wright would not have got away with it if Pertwee was still alive, but it gladdened my heart. (This was directed by Nicola Bryant who herself visited Peladon as Peri in a Fifth Doctor audio last year.)

I turned to the next two releases in the main Big Finish sequence, which both came out last weekend, reflecting that the recent Companion Chronicles have often seemed the more sure-footed of the two series. But I changed my mind after listening to Paper Cuts and Blue Forgotten Planet. Marc Platt is a bit hit and miss for me (is he the only writer for Old Who who is still at it?) but Paper Cuts was a real hit. We return to another alien monarchy of the Third Doctor era, Draconia, or rather off Draconia, in the orbiting mausoleum of the Draconian emperors; the Draconian version of chess ("Sazou") is prominent; the Sixth Doctor and Charley (though it isn't really Charley, of course) expose long-hidden dynastic secrets; Platt plays with life and death and crossing between them, and the whole thing is very much up to the standards of his Seventh Doctor TV story, Ghost Light. Big Finish makes the scripts of the stories available to us subscribers after a decent interval, but I have never yet downloaded one - this time I will.

Blue Forgotten Planet by Nicholas Briggs, is India Fisher's swansong as Charley Pollard. Once she hooked up with the Sixth Doctor after her adventures with the Eighth, it was clear that some pretty dramatic resolution was needed, and the stakes were raised a couple of stories ago by the introduction of a fake Charley identical to the real one. Briggs brings back the virus-hunting Viyrans, who he introduced for a series on one-episode stories a while back, for a resolution which barely works in plot terms but pays off very well emotionally and dramatically. Fisher is brilliant as the two versions of Charley - we are rarely in much doubt as to which she is acting. The setting of a devastated post-apocalyptic Earth is superbly portrayed, and the fact that the few surviving sane humans are making nature documentaries (with lovely background music) about their blue, forgotten planet, seems tragic rather than ludicrous. I didn't find it quite as good as Paper Cuts, but it is pretty good. (Unfortunately one of the guest cast, J.J. Field, takes most of the first episode to wake up to the fact that he is supposed to be acting.)

See also review of this by wshaffer and Why Charlotte Pollard Pwns Rose Tyler by persiflage_1.

Meanwhile the one-episode-per-release story The Three Companions continues; John Pickard as Thomas Brewster is finally getting the hang of it, I think.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
strange_complex
Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
I'm looking forward to Hornet's Nest. Out of interest, does it drop any hints about Yates' sexuality? I know this was something that was explored in a couple of the novels.
nwhyte
Oct. 3rd, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
I didn't detect it, but I'm not especially sensitised to it either, so may well have missed it!
steve_mollmann
Oct. 5th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
Not that I'd be pedantic, but it's Hornets' Nest-- note the apostrophe.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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