Sunday, 31 July 2016

CLASSIC DOCTORS, NEW MONSTERS VOLUME 01

The punctuation is a bit wrong in the title “Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume 01” is the title but it should be punctuated differently in my opinion, but I will come back to this a bit later on.
 This is the first really overt mixture of “old Who”and “new Who” that Big finish have done – and why not (to quote Barry Norman) – when The Doctor meets The Weeping Angels, The Sycorax and the Judoon in the TV series when he is in his Tenth (or Eleventh depending on how you class John Hurt) incarnation he is aware of them and has definitely had encounters with them previously – and this box set tells part of that story. We have Five with the Weeping Angels, Six with the Judoon, Seven with the Sycorax and Eight with the new series incarnation of the Sontarans, complete with “Sontar -HAH!” chants, but even though the stories feature new monsters, the stories really do retain a classic era feeling, the Davison era story feels Davison, the Colin story really only could be a Colin story, the writers are respectful to the Doctor’s they are writing for whilst obviously relishing the new toys they have been given to play with. They fit into their respective eras like they have always been there – well time CAN be rewritten you know :-)
 So four very different stories all showcasing the strengths of their respective era’s and we begin with Doctor number Five…..
 1.1 Fallen Angels by Phil Mulryne
 I will now commit sacrilege. I was never that fussed on “Blink”. There, I have said it. I just didn’t see the fuss was all about. Moving statues, all that “timey-wimey” nonsense and not much of The Doctor – really not my cup of Earl Grey. So I wasn’t really looking forward to this one that much. How wrong can a man be??? Very wrong as it turns out as this one is a definite copper bottomed classic. Up there with THE classics of the classic era, this story can hold its head up high. Peter Davison is fast becoming my Doctor of choice in the Big Finish range – I never really got him on TV, but this years run of main range stories have really showcased his talents and Fallen Angels carries on this welcome trend. Now then. Weeping Angels, a VERY visual monster. Well….. yes. How could they work on audio?? They shouldn’t but they really do, this is a roller coaster ride. From the pre-credits sequence to the workshop of Michelangelo (Matthew Kelly) to the Sistine Chapel, to the catacombs beneath the Vatican, the pace never really lets up. The plot involves a secret priesthood named “The Cult of the three Angels” worshipping the Weeping Angels and using Michelangelo to “rescue” them from blocks of marble that they have become encased in. It also has a rather clever “timey-wimey” plot involving honeymooning couple Joel (Sacha Dhawan) & Gabby (Diane Morgan) being zapped back in time to 1500’s Italy. It also has a very clever in joke for fans of Blink towards the end that had me laughing out loud. A fantastic opening story.
 1.2 Judoon in Chains  by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris
 Judoon, monosyllabic, authoritarian, literal creatures. Not a poetic bone in their body or so you would think. Old Sixie has always been the most verbose and poetic of the Doctor’s, so who better to feature in a tale of Courtroom grandstanding, victorian carnival’s and a very special Judoon who has found his sensitive side? The Judoon in question is Captain Kybo (Nicholas Briggs) and we meet him on trial in Victorian England for desertion from his regiment with his advocate none other than The Sixth Doctor, and he has a story to tell…..
Told as a Dickensian nightmare and with a slight feeling of David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” we see victorian values at their most abhorrent as Kybo is taken in by Circus owner Jonathan Jaggers Esq (Trevor Cooper) and used as an attraction in a freak show. Kybo really is the most interesting Judoon, his translator is broken yet he learns english, he writes poetry, he sees things in shades of grey rather than black and white and is an incredibly sympathetic character brought to life beautifully by Nick Briggs. The story also sees a conspiracy and cover up by a greedy corporation and a new beginning for a platoon of enlightened Judoon.
 1.3 Harvest of the Sycorax by James Goss
 Where the first two stories are set in the past, this one is in the far far future. And it is a very bleak future. The populace are controlled by designer viruses and designer mood enhancing chemicals. We meet the hero of the story Zanzibar Hashtag (Nisha Nayar) on a space station that has been invaded by The Sycorax, there is a vault on the station and The Sycorax will seemingly stop at nothing to get it open. Into this chaos arrives the chaotic Seventh Doctor, and then things really start to get interesting. The Sycorax are using blood control to make the denizens of the station do their will, but this time they have managed to procure some Time-Lord blood and are able to control The Doctor. This is the most light hearted story of the group, in fact i cannot really place where in Seven’s time line  this occurs, he is not as manipulative as his later person abut not as comedic as his season 24 persona. It also has a very very funny lead Sycorax played by Giles Watling who reminds me very much of Tim the Enchanter in Monty Python’s Holy Grail film, he gives hysterical speeches in a clipped high pitched voice, he also informs is that Sycorax “rock” quite often. A bit of an oddball of a story, but there really is nothing wrong with that.
 1.4 The Sontaran Ordeal by Andrew Smith
 And this brings us almost up to date. Many many years after his TV Movie appearance, Eight is involved in the early stages of the Time War, railing against the Time Lords and what they have become he arrives on the planet Drakkis – a planet devastated when the Time War entered real time and scarred it backwards and forwards in time forever.
Add to this mix an exiled Sontaran called Jask (Dan Starkey of “Hello Girl” fame), a Paladin named Sarana Teel (Jossette Simon) and a story that goes right to the heart of the Sontaran concept of honour and what it means to Jask. These are very much New Series Sontarans, complete with chants and the inflections of speech that their TV counterparts have, in fact General Stenk is played by Christopher Ryan (of “Mike the Cool Person” fame) who played a similar role on TV. At its heart this really is a story about honour and duty and doing the right thing for the right reasons whatever the consequences. It also goes some way with its denouement to explain why Eight became sick of the time war and what it was doing to him, how he couldn’t help people because of the perception of Time Lords, and why he needed to die and become the War Doctor. A story of hope and also a story of despair.
 At the beginning of this review, a very long time ago, I commented on punctuation – “Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume 01” may be grammatically correct and also the name of the box set, I prefer this “Classic – Doctors! New Monsters!” because that REALLY does what it says on the tin. Its a classic (especially the first two stories) it features Doctors and New Monsters AND it enhances the characteristics of these monsters adding new layers to the mythos of the creatures whilst remaining completely rooted in each Doctor’s era. A Blinking, Stomping, Rocking, “HAH” – Ing classic set 10/10.