As ever, the way time slips away shocks me. It’s thirty years since Colin Baker made his debut as the Sixth Doctor, the bullish, theatrical and quintessentially Eighties incarnation of the Time Lord: all scrunched blond frizz and tartan.
Baker’s two seasons as the Doctor are probably my least favourite at present: the series was in a terrible rut, desperate to impress a cult US audience; presented as two-part 45m stories that were garishly designed; with thin, irritating electronic music and a fractious, wrong-headed Doctor/ companion relationship.
Big Finish’s audio plays have done much rehabilitate the Doctor Who Was Fired- giving him a more avuncular persona with a number of foils, from genteel Evelyn Smythe; an increasingly wry Peri; golly-gosh Charley; the Eastenders refugee Flip and Bonnie Langford’s Mel. The Sixie adventure I’ve just listened to was released this time last year.
The Seeds of War: Unfortunately, this is a rather dull space opera set in the aftermath of a war between Earth and its colonies and the Infinite Warriors of the Eminence: a mysterious, gaseous entity from the end of time. Aside from a David Cameron joke, this is a predictable tale of disaster and heroism that serves as a sequel to an as-yet-unreleased Fourth Doctor story. Time-frickin’-wimey!
The leads are good enough but everyone simply seems to be going through the motions. The Eminence is a suitable villain for audio since it’s basically a sinister but Gareth Roberts made cloud-villains somewhat comic in The English Way of Death and Bang-Bang-A-Boom. (2/5 Talmars)
BF’s Dr. Who strand will be fifteen years old in July and it’s sounding a bit tired to me.
In Mastermind, Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso (from Tales From the Vault) return as Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato, UNIT personnel guarding an archive of alien artefacts and one prisoner- you can guess who. The guards interview the Gallifreyan jackanapes in an homage to Silence of the Lambs.
Since the renegade Time Lord narrates his misadventures on Earth from mafia godfather to Howard Hughes-style recluse, the audio feels overlong and predictable. Of course the Master hypnotises his guards and escapes. It’s also unclear how this cadaverous version (confusingly the suave and bearded Delgado master on the audiobook of Harvest of Time) relates to the incarnation heard in this next adventure:
Dark Eyes 2: the first box set in this series won an award but for me it was an overlong Dalek adventure from Nicholas Briggs. It did however revitalise the grieving Eighth Doctor and set him up with a new companion: WWI nurse Molly. The sequel also features Daleks and sees the return of Liv Chenka from Briggs’ Robophobia and the fruity, bald incarnation of The Master from UNIT:Dominion.
While the fey but frightening Master’s scheme is rather gruesome (it involves eye surgery), the most interesting episode sees the Infinite Warriors return in an Alien-type scenario on a spaceship. However, the individual episodes don’t quite feel part of a whole. Liv Chenka isn’t all that interesting, frankly, and the Doctor is overshadowed by the Eminence and the Dalek Time Controller. Again, Molly is the best thing in it – feisty, direct and down-to-Earth. (3/5 Talmars)
I’m undecided whether I want to hear the Eminence’s first/third appearance in the consistently underwhelming Fourth Doctor Adventures. DW is being better served in comics form.
Dead Man’s Hand: in 2004, BF announced that comics writer John Ostrander (Suicide Squad, Manhunter, Grimjack etc.) had written a Seventh Doctor/Ace/Hex audio. Some internet sources suggest it was a Wild Bill Hickock story. Tony Lee’s IDW serial of the same name features an undead Hickock. Here though, the Eleventh Doctor ( he really is; let’s not be silly) and Clara also meet Calamity Jane and a morose Oscar Wilde in Deadwood. Wilde has to defend the Earth in the Eighth Doctor’s old clothes: an in-joke on two levels, since that outfit was a fancy dress Hickock costume anyway.
It’s a chapter too long and the Twelve Doctors scene is gratutitous especially since some likenesses are a bit off throughout the book. However, it’s a entertaining read if not dissimilar to A Town Called Mercy on tv.(4/5 Talmars)
Coming soon : Batman 66
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