Sunday, December 28, 2014

Big Finish Doctor Who Capsule Reviews: Robophobia, Curse of Davros, Her Final Flight, Scaredy Cat, Army of Death

Robophobia: When I saw the title, I immediately thought that it sounded like a sequel to the 4th Doctor story, The Robots of Death. And I was right!

It's a 7th Doctor story, which I usually enjoy, taking place several months after the events of the first one. Unfortunately, it plays like a parody of a 7th Doctor story, with McCoy tweely gliding between set pieces and dropping an enigmatic clue to his unwitting pawns in order to steer them into discovering what he already knows.

He's actually called out on this at one point, where one character essentially says, "We've got a bunch of murders going on here, he knows who the murderer is, but he's just giving us these riddles instead of a straight answer." But then the act ends, and the Doctor never does give them their straight answer.

The robots made for interesting characters, and I thought their depiction was loyal to the original. In addition, the sound work was especially good. Big Finish always produces a quality product, but this one added a number of details that elevated it above even their normal high standards. Two things that stood out for me were McCoy being strangled by a robot in the teaser. Sylvester McCoy has a distinctive voices, and his squawks were noticeably his. The other was a two-note failure beep when files failed to copy from a computer. It was a tiny little thing, but it aided in the immersion.

Unfortunately, the sounds don't offset my main complaint. The Doctor's actions are needlessly Byzantine, to the detriment of the crew of the Sandminer. This issue is brought up, but sidelined almost immediately.

Rating: 3/5.

Curse of Davros: Listening this made me realize just how much I like Davros as a villain.  I can take Davros seriously in a way I can't with other adversaries. Yeah, he's going to be foiled by the end of the episode, probably by Daleks turning on him, and occasionally by his own overreach, but he generally manages to come up with something better than Underpants Gnomes level of plotting. He's really the only villain in the show who's the least bit practical.

As much as I like the Master, he's ultimately just the classy, high end version of the Doctor Who megalomaniac, which are a dime a dozen. Davros makes plans that would have succeeded, if not for that meddling Doctor, whereas the Master is almost self-foiling at this point.

We open with Rose Tyler Flip Jackson rescuing a delirious Doctor from the wreckage of a Dalek ship. The Daleks are infiltrating local government in order to catch the Doctor. This struck me as a touch odd, as the usual Dalek modus operandi of indiscriminately committing genocide against the local population would probably have a higher rate of success.

Rose Flip tells her boyfriend not to alert the authorities, because they'll want to dissect the Doctor. That struck me as a wee bit ridiculous, seeing as he's been extremely cozy with the highest echelons of the British government for forty years, but it turns out to be the correct. When Mickey whatever the fuck the boyfriend's name is tells the authorities that the Dcotor is around, they thank him, and then swap a Dalek's mind into his body, because they've already had their brains swapped with Dalek brains.

I'm kind of dumb, but I figured it out at this point that Davros and the Doctor had their minds switched. I then started the story over again, and I really appreciated some of the details they included, like Davros in the Doctor's body exclaiming, "I can walk?!" while being supported on his way out from the crashed ship.

I probably did figure it out slightly ahead of schedule, because the Doctor modifies Rose's Flip's phone to serve as a beacon to the Daleks, and then left it on a bus where the Daleks would find it and hone in on it, and kill everyone nearby.

I did have the passing thought that I might have been wrong, that this was really the Doctor in his own body. After all, the Sixth Doctor has been a bit of a shit. He strangles his companions, casually commits genocide and more recently, delivered a developmentally disabled boy to his murder. Writers can be as lazy as anyone else, and if they had a story to tell the depended on version of the Doctor prior to later character development, well, it wouldn't be the first time a character had undergone a reversion.

It's a solid adventure after the reveal, with a couple memorable lines. ("You think I'm going to blurt out my plans just like that? That's the sort of thing you'd do, Davros") However, Flip is horrible. She would sink a weaker story. She has every trait I hated about Rose,  right down to the detail of kissing her boring boyfriend right before taking off with the Doctor.

Rating: 5/5

Her Final Flight:This story opened with a pre-credits teaser that seemed promising, but after the Doctor crash-lands on an alien planet, a woman's voice begins expositing at him. He says "I recognize that voice!" So did I. It was Nicola Bryant. I turned it off.

I can occasionally stomach Peri in small doses, but it looked like she would be delivering large amounts of exposition here. Her American accent makes Miranda Raison's sound like Hugh Laurie's.

Rating: 1/5.

Scaredy Cat: Whatever else I say about the Big Finish Audio stories, they really feel like Doctor Who. This one is kind of bad, but it's bad in a specifically Doctor Who way, so I can't dismiss it out of hand. The Eighth Doctor, Charley and C'rizz land on a planet and have a bit of an adventure.

One of the things I bring up with some regularity is the fact that Doctor Who isn't really science fiction as much as it is fantasy with the veneer of science fiction, and occasionally it veers into outright technophobia. The Doctor encounters some scientists working on a project, but it's the kind of thing that man was not meant to know, but the Doctor is all like, "Stop researching this thing to which you've dedicated your life. It's bad." without providing any specifics as to why. He's right, of course, but he never gives a reason as to why they should listen.

Also prominent is his rather annoying quirk where he implies something, his companion chimes in to complete what the Doctor seemed to be implying, and the Doctor answers, "Well, not exactly..." t's not the worst thing ever, but he does it enough to be annoying.

The Doctor is also unintentionally hilarious. He's talking about cultural transmission, about how some birds learned how to open milk bottles, and how this knowledge spread amongst the population. The birds were the Eurasian blue tits, and the revelation comes as "Blue tits. Blue tits. Blue tits. Blue tits! C'rizz, blue tits! Blue tits, C'rizz!"

Rating: 3/5.

Army of Death: This is is apparently one of several Eighth Doctor stories with MARY SHELLY as a companion. They replaced the awful Eighth Doctor theme with a remix that was marginally less awful. I'm not sure if I like the idea of Shelly as a companion, because it seems to imply that she never could have written what she did on her own, that they were all inspired by her adventures with the Doctor, which, if the exposition is to be believed, were all conspicuously Gothic in one way or another. It's Timelash all over again, though at least this time they had the good sense not to give it a title that was an anagram for "Lame Shit".

I actually do kind of like that title. It's kind of lazy and boring and vague, but it's unquestionably a Doctor Who title. I liked this story. It really felt like Doctor Who. Mary appeals to me a lot more than Charley did, and the plot was complicated and fun. One detail I liked is when Mary was taken into ruins that Doctor believed to be radioactive, he acquires some anti-radiation meds to give her. It turns out that ruins weren't radioactive at all, but he gives her the meds anyway, "Just in case."

It wasn't the best Doctor Who story I've ever heard, but it was fun, and the ending wasn't telegraphed from the beginning. Also, that cover art is pretty cool.

Rating: 3/5

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