Saturday, 31 December 2016


As I sit in my kitchen at the end of a pretty darned awful year politcally - where all the old certainties have been swept aside in a wave of right wing populist, inward looking, short sighted and dangerous elections - it is easy to despair it really is but if we do then the right wingers have won. Anyhow off the soap box and on to happier things.

2016 was a remarkable year for Big Finish they achieved both quality and quantity of releases, with some of this years cream of the crop being amongst the best releases that the company have ever, well, released for want of a better word. I came to begin reviewing Big Finish in October 2013 with the intention of just reviewing their Doctor Who releases for Planet Mondas - I am now a bona fide aficionado of their whole Universe from Doctor Who to Dorian Gray taking in all things between.

So as I sit in my kitchen with my cup of Tetley Red Bush, listening to Kate Bush (bit of an unintended synchronicity there!) I bring you The Blog Finish Awards 2016:

Doctor Who - Best Main Range Release:

The Nominations are:

209 - Aquitaine

Review HERE

210 - The Peterloo Massacre

Review HERE

211 - And You Will Obey Me

Review HERE

And the Winner is - The Peterloo Masscare - what else could it be, one of THE best releases Big Finish have given us in the main range and proof (if it were needed) that the pure historical is alive and well.

Doctor Who - best Non Main Range release

The Nominations are:

Doom Coalition 3

Review HERE

A Full Life

Review HERE

Cold Fusion

Review HERE

And the winner is Cold Fusion - a story I had almost forgotten but an absolute classic of intrigue, interplay between Doctors and secrets of the Old Time on Gallifrey. "Always leave them wanting more" and Big Finish have whetted my appetite for further exploration of Patience and her story.

Best Doctor Who "Spin Off"

The Nominations are:

Jago & Litefoot Series 12

Review HERE

Torchwood - Made You Look

Review HERE

The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 3 - The Unbound Universe

Review HERE

And the winner is - Torchwood - Made You Look. THE best Torchwood release so far, utterly compelling from beginning to end, Eve Myles is wonderful and plays Gwen in ways I really didnt expect, the story is claustrophobic and unnerving and stayed with me a long time.

Best Drama Box Set

The Nominations are:

The Prisoner Volume 01

Review HERE

The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes

Review HERE

The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 5

Review HERE

And the winner is - The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 5 - Scott Handcock has crafted a work of art for the ages in his reinterpretation of Gray as an immortal anti-hero. And as his story comes to an end Gray loses none of his bravado, in fact his demise enhances the legend.

Outstanding Release of the Year

One last award, the release that for me is the pinnacle of Big Finish' output in 2016 - its a story that I have already nominated, and surprisingly it didnt win its category - because it is much bigger than a "non main range release" this release touched my soul and did the almost impossible, it redeemed Adric as a companion and made me want to know more about him than we were given on TV. Joseph Lidster & Matthew Waterhouse take a bow as I award "A Full Life" the Blog Finish release of the year award - its only £2.99 it will enrich your life, it will change the way you think about Adric, and if you are a big softy like me it will make you cry. Lots. you can buy it here you will be glad you did.


And they are back! After the "pilot" episode earlier this year “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” (review HERE)  the Counter Measures team are back together for a series of off beat espionage adventures, but this time in glorious 16mm film with  a funky rather than a jazzy soundtrack, because we have arrived in the 1970’s.

For those of you that have not heard “Who Killed Toby Kinsella?” this review contains significant spoilers so I suggest listening to it first? You can buy it HERE - all caught up? Marvellous. So Sir Toby Kinsella ISN'T dead, in fact he is thriving with his team back together from their apparent deaths in the original Counter Measures - they have a new base in the Post Office Tower, but apart from the change of decade, the change of setting and the change of incidental music it is pretty much business as usual for the Counter Measures team.

The emphasis in this box set is slightly different from the previous 1960’s based Counter Measures, there is no over arching plot, the episodes are stand alone and this works both for and against the set as we shall see. The series is split in to four stories:

  1. Nothing to See Here by Guy Adams

Group Captain Gilmore (Simon Williams) goes undercover with a gang of bank robbers who seem to have perfected the power of invisibility, but the device that is being used is far more clever than an invisibility cloak and far more dangerous to the user. The device makes those around not notice that you are there until you interact, it also makes the user forget who they are and lose their sense of self. A tense beginning to the set and an examination of what it means to be the person that you are. Can a decent man like Ian be influenced by a machine to forget who he is to the extent that he does awful things? And if so what of those with weaker wills and weaker senses of self - could this technology be exploited for more than just robberies and be used on the population? Luckily we have Sir Toby (Hugh Ross) Rachel (Pamela Salem) & Alison (Karen Gledhill) on our side.

2. Troubled Waters by Ian Potter

This is my favourite episode of the set, its creepy, its claustrophobic, it plays on paranoia of confined spaces and thematically it follows on from the first episode as the sense of self of our heroes is attacked. The team are sent to investigate a crashed Nuclear submarine that recently went off grid. The crew are missing, the whole sub is deserted apart from one lone survivor from an experiment into psychic soldiers. What follows is the team being manipulated to act against their nature - Sir Toby taken back to when he was at public school, Ian as a gunner in the RAF, Rachel being dominated by an over bearing mother, Alison given the chance to be a mother - using these phobias and desires to manipulate the team in to giving up the nuclear secrets of the Submarine, Its tense and its a difficult listen and it really does make use of the stand alone nature of the stories to tell the best story it possibly can in the time it is given. Bravo.

3. The Phoenix Strain by Christopher Hatherall

This is a bit of an oddball story, almost tongue in cheek - it an homage in part to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and to all those 1970’s films about animals going crazy like “Night of the Lepus” and “PiraƱa”. London is being plagued by attacks from killer birds and the grieving fiancee of a former pupil of Rachel’s could hold the answer. But what is the answer? Surely the powers that be would not be developing biological warfare to use against their own population? Sir Toby crosses swords with Lord Henry Balfour (David Rintoul) in his quest to expose the truth and stop the killer birds. As I said, an odd story, quite camp and tongue in cheek and tonally very different from the first two of the set - more brutal and graphically violent, yet sillier in an odd sort of way.

4 A Gamble With Time by John Dorney

Now THAT Mr Dorney is a cheeky title! A Gamble With Time was the original title of the Doctor Who story that eventually became City of Death. This story does not feature Mona Lisa’s Jagaroth or John Cleese - it features a very clever (actually not so clever) confidence trick played out against the backdrop of Monte Carlo glamour and casinos. Gus Kalworowsky (Tam Williams) has alien tech to sell, he has alien tech that allows him to travel in time and he proves his point to Lady Suzanne Clare (Carolyn Seymour) by apparently travelling in time and taking her casino to the cleaners on the blackjack tables. Lady Clare is an international arms dealer and a nasty piece of work who is au fait with alien tech and wants the time travel device. What follows is a 1970’s style take on Hustle as con follows con and a new enemy in Lady Clare is set up for future sets.

A mixed bag of stories, from tense claustrophobia, to camp to con tricks - this is a New series in a new decade playing with possibilities and finishing on a hook that I hope will be followed up in Series 2. A funky and flared trouser take on the “Spy-Fi” genre and a very promising start 8/10.


What is it with The Doctor & Christmas? as far back as 1965 he was getting it wrong all Z-Cars & Keystone Cops style and in more modern times he has fought off invasions and even succumbed to a regeneration on Xmas day. Yes indeed Xmas is not a good time to be The Doctor, which is a shame as he seems to love it.

In this month's festive Short Trips release we see the Doctor in his Seventh Incarnation throw off his melancholy machiavellian personality and seemingly go back to his season 24 joie de vivre as he takes Bernice Summerfield to a planet that does Christmas properly. A planet where all talk of it is banned until the festival approaches and then the denizens go all out - snowmen, present, mulled wine, mince pies, carols the whole kit and caboodle - so surely THIS time, on a Christmas planet things cant go wrong. Can they?

Oh yes they can, and as narrator Lisa Bowerman narrates the plot from the point of view of Bernice we see that Bernice has an awful decision to make. To save the Doctor she must forget The Doctor forever, she must retain no memory of him at all because on the Christmas planet a terrible trap has been set, and to know of the Doctor is to want to destroy The Doctor….

What begins as a bit of bright and breezy Christmas whimsy descends very quickly into The Doctor and Bernice running for their lives and from a force that has been hunting the Doctor from one end of time to the other, a force that has become patient, a force that has hidden in the population of the Christmas planet just waiting for him to arrive.

Lisa Bowerman captures the breathless, breakneck speed of the situation that Bernice and The Doctor find themselves in, she also provides the framing narration where Bernice discusses her situation with a robo therapist and as the plot develops the two threads become nicely interwoven and provide a very satisfying pay off.

Like pretty much every Doctor Who Christmas special this is lightweight throwaway stuff, not groundbreaking or a classic - but Lisa Bowerman instills a sense of fun and urgency to the 35 minutes of the stories length and it is always a treat to have a Bernice centred story.

As Christmassy as a mince pie and a glass of port as this is I hope that The Doctor odes get a perfect Xmas one day! 7/10.


Why don't I remember this one so well? I read the novel in the 1990's and have vague recollections of Five meeting Roz Forrester at a railway station, but apart from that zero, zilch, nothing. Which in a way is good as I came to this release fresh with no expectations of what it would be like. And what is it like? well, thats really really difficult to say - its complex, its involved, it harks to the ancient past of Gallifrey, it has lots and lots of Virgin era continuity regarding Time Lords being born from looms and yet it is still completely and utterly a Fifth Doctor story. It sounds like a Fifth Doctor story, the incidental music is definitely Fifth Doctory - but this is a Fifth Doctor story run through the blender of Virgin’s take on Doctor Who - a brave and bold take on the Universe of Doctor Who, a story so good that one Doctor just isn't enough, this one has two Doctor’s AND it has The Doctor’s Wife (or maybe not). Those of you expecting a 1990’s appearance from River Song are going to be disappointed - the “wife” in question here is someone for more complex and far more significant than even her of the magnificent hair……

But where to start? There is rather a lot to this story as I have said, but a very rewarding one, we have the Fifth Doctor, The Seventh Doctor, Companions Chris Cwej (Travis Oliver) Roz Forrester (Yasmin Bannerman), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & Tegan (Janet Fielding) we also have a large supporting cast lead by the mysterious Time Lord “Patience” (Christine Kavanagh). The story has an air of desperation and a race against time the sort of “muddling through” we got in the Fifth Doctor’s era on TV - BUT it also features the Virgin version of the Seventh Doctor so plays out as a machiavellian conspiracy with every move planned meticulously, but when you are plotting against your own past can things really be so straightforward? But what of the plots and the machinations? On a frozen planet the Fifth Doctor fresh from his regeneration arrives with Adric, Nyssa and Tegan and is soon caught up in events involving the sightings of “ghosts” - as he and Adric investigate, Nyssa & Tegan book in to a hotel where a n obviously fake Australian calling himself “Bruce Jovanka” arouses Tegan’s curiosity. At the same time The Seventh Doctor is investigating dangerous energy experiments conducted by the Earth Empire and the scene is set for the two most unlike incarnations of The Doctor to meet, breathless enthusiasm, decency and honour are about to collide with cold scheming. And then there is “Patience”.

Patience - its not often I get cold shivers with Doctor Who any more, but the scenes of mental contact between Five and Patience did just that. “Patience” (in quotes as it isn't her real name in the same way as “The Doctor” isn't our heroes real name) through her fragmented memories gives us a vision of her past on ancient Gallifrey, she is from the old time, she was born of the gene looms, had 13 children and her husband? Oh now that is complicated, but it may have been “The Other” who was possibly a past incarnation of The Doctor. But there is most definitely a connection, the Fifth Doctor displays an emotion and an intimacy with “Patience” that is completely absent in his interaction with other characters, Tegan is embarrassed when he sees Five place his hand on "Patience" thigh - mild stuff for those of us used to his intimacy with River, but groundbreaking in the 1990’s. And through Five & “Patience” interaction we gain vital information about the ancient times on Gallifrey and learn how “Patience” arrived on the Ice Planet. I have chills even thinking about it and long time fans will do too because these glimpses of ancient times give us a huge amount of backstory for The Doctor, not enough to ruin the mystery, but enough to leave us wanting more. A lot more.

As for the rest of the story companions of Five & Seven meet up and go through various ordeals involving the Earth Empire and the Order of Adjudicators the ruling “Scientifica” and a bunch of terorrists (or freedom fighters) who want to end their rule. And then there are the Ferutu - a species from an alternative Universe where Magic is real. In this Universe they are the Lords of Time and do not agree with non intervention, they help weaker races and use their almost infinite power to maintain an harmonious universe - surely that cannot be a bad thing? A universe where Daleks and Vampires are confined to the fringes, where peace, harmony, wisdom and compassion are the way of life? But at what price? AND THEN there is the meeting of Five and Seven - two more different incarnation of the same Time Lord you could not envisage, each with if not contempt, then a healthy disdain for each other and their methods. AND THEN it is all linked in to Day of The Doctor and that really is the feather in the cap :-)

Saying I enjoyed this is a bit of an understatement, saying I welled up with tears is not. Because I did. After witnessing “The Return of Doctor Mysterio" on TV last night and being completely left cold and disengaged, Cold Fusion was the tonic I needed, a classic for the ages, without a doubt the best of all the multi Doctor stories and a strong contender for Doctor Who release of the year. The Ferutu tells Five that this is not the last time he will meet Patience, as I recall the novels didn't follow this up - can I ask Big Finish to take this dangling plot thread and make it magnificent? Because this release was wonderful and very much “My" Who from “My” era made real by Big Finish. Magnificent, truly magnificent.


And we are back in the 1990's. Not the barren decade that some would have you believe, but a melting pot of creativity, thinking the unthinkable, writing the unfilmable and paving the way for the 2005 Doctor Who renaissance. Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, we return once again to the worlds of the Virgin New Adventures, and what a wonderful world it was. Contrary to our old friend "received fan opinion” these were heady times - Who was being written by those who genuinely cared, but more than this these were writers with genuine vision - Paul Cornell, RTD, David A McIntee, Jim Mortimore, Andy Lane - all pioneers who saw no Who on TV as an opportunity and not an ending. In Love and War Paul Cornell gifted us Professor Bernice Summerfield - bust just like the TV show this book series evolved and new companions were needed to give the range a new direction - it fell to series stalwart Andy lane to introduce two new companions Chris Cwej & Roz Forrester in the novel Original Sin - and now twenty one years later Big Finish have brought the story to life.

So what is Original Sin, and why is it so important? On the surface this is a hard boiled sci-fi adventure, quite typical of the epic scale future history style of the time. It has The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) at his mysterious manipulative best truly he is Times Champion here, casually striding through the story with a confidence bordering on arrogance - he is truly charmed. It has Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) making wise cracks and in complete synchronicity with The Doctor - for them both the events of Human Nature (the novel) have only just happened so their bond has deepened due to the traumatic events that they both suffered. It also introduces Chris & Roz. Chronologically that is, we first experienced them in the May 2015 adaptation of Damaged Goods (review here) in the forms of Yasmin Bannerman (Roz) & Travis Oliver (Chris) - but here we meet them at the beginning - Roz is an experienced cynical Adjudicator (think Judge as in Dredd) and Chris is her Squire and is a lot less jaded. They are sworn to uphold the law in Spaceport 5 Over-city (the UK to you and me) their world view and their whole way of life is about to be shaken up when their ordered life as part of the machinery of the expanding Earth Empire is in a head on collision with the world of the Doctor, because the Earth is defending in to chaos, and where there is chaos there is always the Oncoming Storm, there is always The Doctor.

So, the Murder rate is rising on Earth, the adjudicator secular dismisses it as all the murders have been solved - but to Chris Cwej something just does not add up, and this is the tip of a very rotten iceberg at the heart of the Earth Empire - why are the powers that be so keen to cover this up - what does the deranged Professor Pryce (Jot Davies) know about the dangerous icaron particles that the Doctor has detected? why is the process of “body beppling” (literally transforming your body into something else for fashions sake - when we first meet Chris he looks like a Teddy Bear!) so popular and is it linked to the spate of murders? and at the heart of it all is a villain from the far and distant past, someone who has been waiting a very very long time for the Doctor to arrive, and he really isn't the man he once was?

Its a big story and a lot happens - there is a palpable sense of the epic and of a threat and of society unravelling. And then there is the villain of the piece - he is all knowing, he is everywhere - and in this version of the story he is frustratingly unnamed, but being Who fans I am sure you can work out who he is meant to be. For all its future history, Mega Cities, lies and revelation, for all the changes that Chris & Roz go through in the two hours of the story - the ending somehow feels earned - the characters have suffered for the plot, Chris and Roz have proved their worth and earned their place aboard the TARDIS. However my favourite scene occurs at the beginning of episode two, its a short chilling scene where The Doctor & Professor Pryce discuss the morality of killing and when it can be justified - it made my blood run cold, especially when the conversation is revisited later in the story. Even after the events of Human Nature - Seven was in a dark place at this point in his life - his personal morality was something that could be reimagined to fit a particular set of circumstances - he was an ambiguous character, and never ever more dangerous, ancient or terrible. THIS was MY Doctor - and I mourned his loss when the TV movie came around and a golden era of creativity ended. Big Finish have made a dream come true in adapting the 1990’s stories for a wider audience - and while Original Sin isn't my favourite of the New Adventures in still deserves 9/10 for being brave enough to exist in the first place. Now then Big Finish, hows about Lungbarrow…..


I really hope I don't come over all "Mary Whitehouse" in this review, because that is not who I am at all. Violence has its place in stories, it really does - I never understood her problem with the Hinchcliffe era (but then again she inadvertently created the Williams era so bonus points there). What am I doing! I am almost giving backhanded compliments to one of the most destructive forces in the history of TV. But I have a point to make.
You see The Sontarans is two things - thing one - it is a very Hartnell era quest/chase/race against time story in which our heroes team up with some other character to overcome an enemy - think The Daleks and you wont be too far off for the overall structure. Thing two - it is very violent. Not cartoon violent, but violent in an upsetting way, not to give too much away but at the end of part three and beginning of part four there are some torture scenes that are out of character for the Hartnell era and cross the line as to the type of thing that the character of the Doctor would find acceptable and also the audience would find acceptable. Its a bit too much. Apart from those scenes this is a rip roaring boys own adventure and goes something like this….

On a flower covered moon between two gas giants The First Doctor, Steven (Peter Purves) & Sara (Jean Marsh) hope for some much needed rest and recuperation from their battles with The Daleks. No such luck as The Doctor is about to encounter one of his greatest enemies for the first time - this is the first meeting between The Doctor & the Sontarans. Sara Kingdom already knows about the Sontarans, in fact the period they have arrived in is ancient history for her - and as The Doctor & his friends team up with the Space Security Service team sent to disable the Sontaran space canon and protect the space lanes Sara finds herself in a position normally inhabited by the Doctor and cannot let any future history slip out.

What follows is a pretty standard “quest” story for the most part - our heroes are separated from the TARDIS and need it back, peril, bravery & betrayal - helping the indigenous population - you get the picture but it is elevated beyond this by the performances of the cast - especially Peter Purves in THOSE scenes which I alluded to earlier, this is definitely Doctor Who and not Game of Thrones, so as out of place as the torture scenes are Peter Purves sells them utterly as both Steven and The Doctor. His performance as Hartnell is stunning, never better and completely convincing I SAW Hartnell during this story, not just someone else reading his part - and boy is The Doctor wily in this one, using the Sontarans fixation with war and honour against them, his verbal sparring with the Sontaran commander (Dan Starkey) is sublime and pure First Doctor. The rest of the guest cast give it their all too - Jemma Churchill as Captain Papas providing grace under pressure and the stoic Corporal Gage (John Banks) keeping calm and carrying on as if he has a different mission to the others.

But I cannot get those torture scenes out of my head - they bother me, and that is probably a good thing, as violence should never be normalised, and I should be taken out of my comfort zone once in a while - the purpose of art is to challenge and this did challenge me - a difficult but a rewarding listen and “Peter Purves - he gives good Hartnell!” (if I see that on t-shirt I know where it has come from ) a challenging 7/10.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


Parting is such sweet sorrow as a wordsmith much greater than I could ever dream of being once wrote - and this story begins with an ending. Of sorts. Ladies and gentlemen we are at the finale of the 2016 Main Range releases, we have arrived at release 220 “Quicksilver” and to quote Bobby Ball “its a little belter”. So where to begin? well at the beginning of course and I said earlier Quicksilver begins with an ending, or at least an attempt at an ending….

Long time Big Finish listeners will remember that at the end of the last release “Absolute Power” (review HERE) Mrs Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) decided that she had had enough of her travels with Old Sixie and wanted to go home, back to World War 2, back to Bletchley Park and back to her husband Henry - but when The Doctor drops her back off at her London home one autumn morning Mrs Clarke is in for a rather upsetting surprise, because Mrs Clarks discovers to her horror that her husband Henry is lost in action, presumed dead. This first episode is a wonderful character piece between Mrs Clarke & Old Sixie - what is not said is as heartfelt and as poignant as the words that pass between them - Mrs Clarke’s stiff upper lip begins to wobble and Miranda Raison opens up another level to this most multi faceted of companions -and that dear readers is only the beginning because Matt Fitton has thrown the kitchen sink at this one, want to know more? Of course you do.

The tragic news for Mrs Clarke is only the beginning, only one of a series of events that will lead to an alien war being wrought in Vienna of 1948, a startling discovery and the return of a much missed companion - yes on top of everything else this release heralds the return of one Phillipa Jackson, or simply Flip to her friends (Lisa Greenwood) last seen floating towards the earth a few years ago, but not very pleased to have been transported on her wedding day to 1948 Vienna. There is a classic scene where Mrs Clarke and Flip meet, neither knows of the others history with The Doctor - and suddenly realisation dawns on both of them, you can visualise the looks on their faces - and what a pairing these two make, separated in time by 70 years or so and in class by a yawning chasm - but they are a kindred spirt - the Doctor really does pick his companions well.

And what of the rest of the plot? its very difficult without spoiling as there are a fair few surprises as characters motivations are made apparent and the threat of the aliens chasing lost alien warlord Kinvar (Joel Fry) is played out - and what of the Quicksilver of the title? Well its a plot device that sets up the whole chain of events and is also used very cleverly in the resolution. Old Sixie shows his moral crusading side by giving grandstanding speeches about Communism & McCarthyism whilst all along being the cleverest person by far in the proceedings, one step ahead at least of the tangled web that the Quicksilver device has created, and Mrs Clarke? what can I say about Miranda Raison that I have not already said? she continues to imbue Mrs Clarke with layer upon layer, adding vulnerability and compassion to the already heady mix of character traits and the tease of further adventures to come with Old Sixie and Flip is real “punch the air” territory.

Quicksilver is another fantastic release and gets the mix of character drama, cold war thriller and alien war blockbuster just right, its a something for everyone story, but mostly, underneath it all, when you strip back the alien devices, Russians, warlords, aliens and post war Vienna tailors shops - this is a story of Mrs Clarke realising that her place is with Old Sixie - and long may she be there 10/10.

Written by Ed Watkinson


This title was released in December 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:
Those classified operations concerned a top-secret military project code-named ‘Quicksilver’. A project based in Vienna. A project with alien connections.
But bombed-out Vienna is not what it was before the war – with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. It's not the time nor the place for a happy reunion. As Constance Clarke is about to discover...
And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!
Written By: Matt Fitton
Directed By: Jamie Anderson


Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Lisa Greenwood(Flip Jackson), Matthew Cottle (Henry Clarke), Joel Fry (Kinvar/Rogers), Oliver Cotton (Major Callahan), Kate Kennedy (Ana), Robbie Stevens (Boyarov/Vilal General).  Other parts portrayed by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs