Saturday, December 13, 2014

Big Finish Audio Drama Capsule Reviews: Singularity, Medicinal Purposes, Faith Stealer, Juggernauts, the Game

I'm doing a lot of database work now, so, since I'm not talking to people on the phone all day, I can listen to my music player for hours every work day.

I've been listening to Big Finish's Doctor Who audio dramas. I make no bones about the fact that I like them more than NuWho. I grabbed a bunch at random, and listened to them without knowing anything about what I'd be getting. That approach really worked, because it gave me what I really liked about Classic Who. It seemed like anything could happen in a story, and NuWho, while having vastly higher production values, is very formulaic in its storytelling. It never surprises me the way the old show could.

Singularity: This is a story I never would have selected deliberately. The Fifth Doctor (meh) and Turlough (ugh). However, it wound up being very engaging. When I listen to Fifth Doctor stories at all, they tend to be the ones with Nyssa as the sole companion. She's as near a peer to him as anyone besides Romana, and I really like what Sarah Sutton brings to the story. This story is set in near-future Russia, with everyone doing their best Boris and Natasha "Must Catch Moose and Squirrel" accents. The Somnus foundation is pulling some kind of Yithian Mind switch with abducted humans, swapping out their minds for their cohorts at the end of the universe.

I found myself liking Turlough much more than I ever did during his TV run. I recall the Doctor said that he enjoyed having Turlough as a companion because he never knew what Turlough was thinking. I confess that this is the core of a lot of the appeal. Turlough is cowardly and amoral, but he does the right thing in spite of himself in this outing, and it was interesting seeing what he would do.

Rating: 3/5

Medicinal Purposes: Evelyn Smythe was absolutely the kind of foil the famously prickly Sixth Doctor needed. When he snipes at Peri, who shrinks from his abuse, he just comes across as a bully. When he snipes at Evelyn, she snipes right back, and it's more like banter. Maggie Stables was wonderful in the role, and I was sorry to hear of her passing.

This was an odd one. The Doctor and Evelynwind up in Edinburgh in 1827, when Burke and Hare were engaged in their body snatching. David Tennant, who would eventually be the Tenth Doctor, plays Daft Jamie. The Doctor takes an instant liking to him because his name and nationality remind him of his former companion, Jamie McCrimmon.

Also, this is all kinds of awesome.

Evelyn: We're in a Scottish Graveyard.
The Doctor: Very Good. It is indeed a Scottish graveyard.
Evelyn: Thanks for the compliment. I didn't think your best pal Daft Jamie and your fancy woman were auditioning for Macbeth.
The Doctor: "The Scottish Play", please.

At first, the Doctor is somewhat sympathetic to Burke and Hare, because their graverobbing and murders advanced medical knowledge. I suppose a time traveler can take the long view like that. It turns out there are some time travel shenanigans going on. Robert Knox, the doctor for whom Burke and Hare were acquiring specimens, is actually a human with a second-hand TARDIS, and he's replaying the events of their spree over and over again, and even selling the Burke role to the high bidders in his audience. I thought that was a neat and distinctly Doctor Who twist.

The story concludes with the Doctor dropping Jamie off right before his murder at the hands of Burke and Hare, which was  bit bleak.

Rating: 5/5

Faith Stealer: It's an Eighth Doctor story with Charlotte and C'rizz. I'm sure India Fisher is a lovely person in real life, but the more I listen to stories with Charley, the less I like her. It had some interesting concepts, like the Multihaven, and the pray-o-mats that could have come directly out of Lord of Light. The Church of Serendipity ("Whoops be praised") was fun too, but mostly it was not bad, but not very inspired, either.

Rating: 2/5

The Juggernauts: A Sixth Doctor story with Mel and Davros. Davros is always a fun villain. In the beginning of the story, the Doctor and Mel are separated. Mel takes a job on a colony world doing some computer programming for a guy in a motorized wheelchair. He's obviously Davros. (Yeah, Davros is on the cover, too, but I didn't have that in front of me when I was listening to it.) Meanwhile, the Doctor has been captured by the Daleks, and they have tied him up, though I can't imagine how they did that with their whisks and plungers. They send him on a mission to investigate what Davros is up to.

The story had a wealth of details that really made it pop. The minor characters were distinct and memorable. Davros has hacked the implants that everyone on the colony uses, which is how he's pulling off his deception. He's building anti-Dalek  robots using salvaged Mechanoid shells (which was an awesome bit of continuity porn)  and the biological components of dead colonists. Davros is consistently amazing, offering to upgrade the Daleks who have come to execute him with the components he was adding to his ant-Dalek machines. When his plan is revealed, and the home office is horrified by the fact that he's using dead bodies for his research, he practically, and clinically suggests that they employ the mandatory organ donation laws for more material.

Rating: 4/5

The Game: Boy, I don't even know what the fuck this was. The Fith Doctor lands on a planet with Nyssa, hoping to meet the famed negotiator, Lord Carlisle. The planet is in the midst of a civil war, in the form of Naxy, a gladiatorial arena sport. The whole thing plays like a screed against football written by someone who really, really hates football. Listen, I don't care for football. So I don't watch it. I don't record audio dramas about how much it sucks.

Nyssa finds a document entitled "Conditions for covertly extending hostilities" amongst the Lord Carlisle's stuff.  Wayne's World did that too, but they didn't expect us to take it seriously. That's just a red herring, because the real culprit is his assistant, who is being manipulated by the gangster who is introduced in the third act, by way of his mind control pheromones.

It had one or two decent ideas, such as teams profiting from the marketing of their rival's merchandise. If a team is doing well, then their rival's reap the rewards and have more money to spend on new recruits. There's a bit of a B plot, with Lord Carlisle, the famous peace negotiator, actually being an empty suit. He experienced his encounter with the Doctor in the opposite order that the Doctor did, something seldom employed in the show (I recall reading that the TARDIS has failsafes that ensures that its operators encounter people in the proper sequence), and the Doctor was responsible for his successes at negotiation.

They can't all be winners.

Rating: 1/5


  1. Poem to The Doctor

    I do not like thee, Dr. Who.
    As to why--couldn't tell you.
    But this I know, because it's true:
    I do not like thee, Dr. Who.

    1. I'm more fond of the original series than I am of the reboot, but a lot of that is nostalgia. My daughter expressed interest in watching the show, and I had to confront the fact that a great deal of it is pretty terrible.

      The main strength that it has is that it's had hundreds of writers over its half-century of existence, and there is something in there to appeal to just about everybody. That's also its weakness, because the whole thing is a massive, sprawling mess.