Saturday, 7 November 2020

Articles Welcome to Issue 86: WATNOW: MD: End of the Road

 


Contents Guide

 Articles

Where Are They Now: MD: End of the Road Cast?

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/articles-where-are-they-now-end-of-road.html

 Beyond The TARDIS

His Dark Materials Review

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/beyond-tardis-his-dark-materials-by-dj.html

By DJ Forrest

 Big Finish Reviews+

Last of the Cybermen

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/big-finish-reviews-last-of-cybermen-by.html

Planet of the Rani

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/big-finish-reviews-planet-of-rani-by.html

The Entropy Plague

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/big-finish-reviews-entropy-plague-by.html

The Secret History

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/big-finish-reviews-secret-history-by.html

We Are The Daleks

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/big-finish-reviews-we-are-daleks-by.html

By Tony J Fyler

 Fans Fiction

Stories of the Nightmare Child: Chapter 4

Antipathy

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/fans-fiction-stories-of-nightmare-child.html

By Lady Mayhurst

 Who Reviews

Asylum of the Daleks

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-asylum-of-daleks-by-sf.html

Curse of the Black Spot

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-curse-of-black-spot-by-sf.html

By SF Cambridge

Enlightenment

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-enlightenment-by-matt.html

Planet of the Spiders

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-planet-of-spiders-by-matt.html

Robot

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-robot-by-matt-rabjohns.html

The Horns of Nimon

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/who-reviews-horns-of-nimon-by-matt.html

By Matt Rabjohns

 The Whoniverse Round-Up

November 2020

Sad Farewells

https://projecttorchwood.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-whoniverse-round-up-november-2020.html

 

Editor’s Note 

So many events put on hold this year, we’re not entirely certain that Christmas is going to be a happy one this year, either. Fingers crossed though. We have had reports of trouble in Lapland and it’s quite unlikely that Santa is going to put in an appearance if travel restrictions are still in place. Might have to send Jack out for a bit of Ho-Ho-Ho-ing…possibly. 

Anyhoo, there’s every chance, if everyone behaves, and follows the rules, we could be pulling crackers with more than just ourselves…perhaps! 

This month sadly robbed us of two, if not three people from the acting world, with two of those voicing characters for Who & Torchwood. Visit our Whoniverse Round Up to read our short entry regarding Sessions and Palmer. 

Our team have been busy with reviews this month, and I can tell you, you’ll need a flask of warm beverage to work your way through them. From Who to Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials - you’re being spoiled this November. 

If you love a bit of fiction, and let’s face it, with the world going crazy at the moment, we all want to lose ourselves in a good read, then head on over to our Fans Fiction page to catch up with Lady Mayhurst’s fourth chapter of her Stories of the Nightmare Child. I love them so much. So much detail and you only wish they could be broadcast on the telly, or voiced in an audio drama.

Check out Antipathy. Also, why not give her a follow, on Facebook Page – link here https://www.facebook.com/storiesofthenightmarechild 

A big thank you to my team, for all their wonderful reviews, to Tiziana for her fantastic front cover and to Lady Mayhurst for her, as ever enchanting story. 

Try and stay positive, people, in this ever increasingly crazy world, and we’ll see you back here in December. 

Remember, if you would like to write for us a review of Who books, or writers who have written for Who but also have books from a different genre that you’ve read, or are reading, then do please get in touch. 

Welcome to Issue 86 – WATNOW: MD: End of the Road.

Djak

 

 

 

 

Articles Where Are They Now - End of the Road Cast? by DJ Forrest

 


End of the Road saw Jack and Gwen, with Rex and Esther at the Colasanto ranch, when not only did Jack meet Angelo again, but witnessed the end of the Colasanto family go up in smoke.

Bad CIA met the Good CIA, but the pressure of the Three Families, spelt the end for Rex's boss, and he too met his maker, along with Olivia and another CIA agent. 

When Jack realised what had kept Angelo alive for this amount of time, he knew, he had to get that item as far away from the CIA and the Families as possible. Only as he escapes with Rex and Esther’s help, winds up getting critically injured after being shot in the stomach, and the episode ends with Jack slipping into unconsciousness in the back of the stolen SUV, driven by Esther Drummond. 

This episode also saw Oswald Danes discover that a new Category was passing through Congress, Category Zero, just made for people like him. He might have been popular for television, but nobody could trust him again, around young children, especially girls. When Kitzinger points this out, he lashes out at her, and steals her laptop. 

Gwen is deported by the CIA after standing up to Shapiro and heads back to Wales and her family. 

"It's not like the old days of Torchwood. I mean, we knew what we were fighting there. But this? This is like the whole world is changing and we're just so tiny." Gwen Cooper 

  

John de Lancie 


'Allen Shapiro' 

"Dying of old age can now be considered a crime. Something happened here, and we are going to search this place for every last bit of information. And nobody is going to leave until we know exactly what happened. So you can stay just where you are, Captain."

Shapiro was the new CIA boss who took no crap from anyone and definitely took a major dislike to Gwen Cooper. Insisting that she was shipped back to Wales as soon as possible. 

Lancie is well known in Sci fi, as the character 'Q' in Star Trek franchise, from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as well as Lower Decks. 

Since Torchwood, where his character appeared in End of the Road, The Gathering and The Blood Line, De Lancie has been not only an actor, but a music performer in Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony documentary, singing, "Let's Go and Meet the Bronies." in 2012. Lancie was also executive producer of  this documentary. And "Three's a Crowd" episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series singing "Glass of Water" in 2014. 

As an actor, he voiced the character William Miles for the video game Assassin's Creed: Revelations in 2011, returning as the same character in 2012 for the third instalment of the franchise. He played Dr. Frank Miller in Cloned: The Recreator Chronicles a year later, and voiced Professor Fitz Quadwrangle for Quantum Conundrum video game in 2012. He was the voice of Pewterschmidt Industries Executive for Family Guy in the same year and the voice of Q for Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff in 2014. He played General Robert Lansdale for CSI in this year too. Later in 2014 played Edward Feinberg in The Mentalist, and Discord for Pony Meets World. Played Galisti in Star Trek Continues in 2017. 

More video games: Was voice of Eli for Elite: Dangerous in 2014, Alarak in Heroes of the Storm in 2015, following that up with Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, again as Alarak. Voiced Discord in My Little Pony, Twilight's Kingdom Storybook App in 2015. Was Human Emperor for Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars in 2016, returning as Alarak in Starcraft II: Nova Covert Ops also in this year. Was uncredited as Vydhar and Morphael voices in World of Warcraft: Legion in 2016. 

Was the voice of Brainiac in Justice League Action tv series in 2017 for two episodes. Voiced Geist for XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. Voiced Mr. Olsen in Olaf's Frozen Adventure short also in this year. Voiced Mr Freeze in #TheLateBatsby film short in 2018. Voiced Discord in My Little Pony: Best Gift Ever in 2018, returned to voice Mr Freeze for #TheLateBatsby for DC Super Hero Girls: Super Shorts in 2019. 


Voiced Discord for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series for 23 episodes from 2011 - 2019. Voiced The Wizard for Popup Dungeon video game in 2020. Was the voice of Q for Veritas episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks series. 

Has completed filming for Hypnotized. No date on its release or the character Lancie plays. 

 

Megan Duffy

'Claire'

 "Mister Danes. My name is Claire. Or whatever you want it to be. Now, I did have to adopt a dress code in order to get through hotel security. You know how that is. But I have clothes in my bag if you'd like. Schoolgirl outfit maybe?" 

Duffy played the prostitute who was called to Oswald Danes' room, not for sex, but to have dinner with  him. She turns him down informing him that as a celebrity he is worshipped like a god but as a man, he is still hated for what he did to Suzie Cabina. 

Duffy is not just an actress but has also worked as a Director for video shorts Smoke Season: Hello in 2017, Nine to five , a Behind the Scenes of Fear Initiative in 2018 and Embrace your Inner Monster and Monsters Trick or Treat in 2019. Was producer for Turn it Up video short in 2011, Seeing Green short in 2018, and the two Monster videos mentioned as Director in 2019, which she was also casting director for also.

 


As actress, since Torchwood role, played Lucie in Maniac in 2012, Manda in Camp Takota in 2014. Piper for one episode of Dating Pains and Lila Jackson in School of Ballet also in 2014. Played Melissa in Fun Size Horror: Volume Two in 2015. Played Mandy in Holidays in 2016. Played Marie Somers in Monsterland in that year also, along with Megan in Pretty Vacant mini series for one episode. Played Suzy in All the Creatures were Stirring in 2018. Played Nina in This is Our Christmas also in this year. In 2019, played Erica in The Affair for 3 episodes. Played Andie in Juke Box Hero in 2020 and currently in post production plays Jane Frazier in The Reenactment.

 

 Constance Wu

 

'Shawnie' 

"So, my name is Shawnie Yamaguchi and I'm on that internship from Harrigan Knights PR, and they said you are so busy and overworked and I figured, well, you know, learn from the best."

 Wu was the CIA agent assigned to Kitzinger as a PA. Kitzinger was unaware of her government credentials. Unfortunately for Shawnie, someone else was. 

Wu is not only an actress but Writer, composer, producer and director for the short film My Mother is Not a Fish in 2013, she also worked as a music supervisor for the film.

She is also a producer for Mr Malcolm's List which is in pre-production. 

From 2015 - 2020 was performer of many songs for Fresh Off the Boat series for 14 episodes, although uncredited it seems for many of them. Wu also played Jessica Huang for 116 episodes during this same year. 

Since Torchwood, has played Kimi Hu in Watching TV with Red Chinese in 2012, Middle Ages in the same year, played Melanie in Best Friends Forever, and played Prudence Yu for Browsers, another short, where she also performed the songs "My Life" and "Goin' Viral". 

In 2013, played Wendy Chen for Covert Affairs series, before playing Kym in Deadly Revenge.

In 2014, voiced Amanda for Spooked for 3 episodes. Played Mikiko Kobiyashi in High Moon and in Franklin & Bash which seems to be THE TV series where many of the TW Miracle Day cast seem to have appeared in over the years, played Caroline Chilton for one episode.

In 2015 played Pepsi Lamarr in Children's Hospital and Amy Chang in Royal Pains a year later. Played Captain Jane Lee in Dimension 404 in 2017 and was the voice of the Mayor in The Lego Ninjago Movie.

 


Played Kathy for 13 episodes of Eastsiders series from 2012 - 2017. Appeared in the video short as herself in Jay Z: Family Feud ft Beyoncé also in 2017. 

In 2019, played Destiny in Hustlers. 

In 2020 appears in a video short called Thanks Nurses. Provides the voice of Mom in Wish Dragon, in this year, and plays Sara in Low Budget Ethnic Movie which is in post-production. Also plays Grace in I Was a Simple Man also in post-production and appears in Mr Malcolm's List which is in pre-production. 

 

David DeSantos

 ‘Agent Baylor’ 

"Rex Matheson was his division, sir. He feels personally responsible."

 

Agent Baylor was part of the CIA team but unsure if he was part of Friedkin's crowd or Shapiro's team. 

DeSantos is not just an actor, but also an executive producer for Closure (short) in 2016, producer for 7 episodes of This Is Why I'm Single in 2012. Writer for the same 7 episodes of This is Why I'm Single, and adr loop group for Friends with Kids in 2011. 

Since Torchwood, has been the voice of the News Announcer in Beyond, (short) in 2011. Voiced Demon Void Lord for video game World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria in 2012. Played Tyler for 7 episodes of This Is Why I'm Single also in 2012. Played Cervantes in Literally Dysfunctional in 2014 for 3 episodes. Played Officer Tony Haskey for 1 episode of Switched at Birth in 2014. 

Played Carlos in two episodes of Ray Donovan series in 2014 before playing Mike Blasquez in When the Game Stands Tall, followed by Days of Our Lives as Carlo for 1 episode. He played an Orderly and Travis Harmon in 7 episodes of General Hospital from 2004 - 2014. 

In 2015 played Spatch in Banshee for 1 episode. Played George Reyes for one episode of Castle. Voiced Tap in Battlefield: Hardline video game. Played Stanley Hoff for 2 episodes of The Red Road, and was the Maitre'd in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.

 


In 2016 played Agent Ramon Martinez for the TV Movie, The Cheerleader Murders. Had roles in a series of short films such as Closure, Checkmate Trailer and Architects of Crime before playing Jack in Cruel Intentions TV movie. 

In 2017 played Tom Kirkbride for Love on the Vines. Played Tommy in the TV series Famous in Love. Played two more characters in two film shorts, before voicing El Guapo in Elena of Avalor for one episode. 

In 2018 played Tim Belding for 4 episodes of SEAL Team series. Played Matt Cates for Brand New Old Love. Played Robert Plager for 1 episode of The Good Doctor and from 2018 - 2019 for 3 episodes played Detective Elijah Vestri for The Rookie series. 

Moving towards the end of DeSantos credits thus far. He played Holden Gaines for NCIS: New Orleans for 1 episode in 2019. Played Peter Diaz for All Rise in 2020, one episode he was uncredited for. From 2019 - 2020 played Agent Dennis Livengood for 9 episodes of Animal Kingdom. 

Currently in post-production, DeSantos voices the character of Dr Vasquez in Night, Night.

  

Nayo Wallace


 'Wilson'

"Ten hours ago Rex made a phone call to the brother of Dr Vera Juarez expressing his condolences. We've been tracking his phone ever since." 

Wilson was part of Friedkin's team who was later arrested by Shapiro's team and sent to wait in the car with her boss and Olivia Colasanto. We know how that ended, don't we? 

Wallace also worked as a motioon capture performer in 2012 for Binary Domain video game as Rachael Townsend, of which she also voiced. In 2014 worked as first assistant director for A Life, Taken (film short). 

As an actress, since Torchwood, Wallace has voiced characters and Pedestrian's for Saints Row: The Third video game in 2011. Played Nora Boothe in CSI: NY for one episode also in 2011. Played Lisa Hornby in Southland in 2012 for 1 episode. 

In 2012, played Stacy in Shameless. Voiced Harpy in Dragon's Dogma video game. Played Janita in Dark Tourist. Played Balek, Sandy in Least Among Saints, and played a Political Analyst #1 in NCIS: Los Angeles. Also in 2012 voiced Harmony Bear and Love-a-Lot Bear for 26 episodes of CareBears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot series. 

In 2013 voiced Harmony Bear for the Care Bears: Totally Sweet Adventures video, returning in 2016 to voice Harmony Bear for Care Bears and Cousins series. 

In 2017 played a Doctor for the episode M.I.A in NCIS. Played FBI Agent Ryerson for 1 episode of The Young and the Restless. Played Estella in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2018. Voiced Stumper in one episode of Enchantimals: Tales from Everwilde series. 

In 2019 played Dorri and Izzy for 12 episodes of Crazy Bitches. Played Stacy in The Rooky for one episode, and has just completed Stain, playing Jean. 

 

Beyond The TARDIS His Dark Materials by DJ Forrest

 


Written by Philip Pullman and adapted for television by Jack Thorne, His Dark Materials was to go deeper into the characters and much further on than The Golden Compass ever accomplished. 

It has a soundtrack on par with Game of Thrones and even The Crown, and a cast of such magnitude in the television world that there is no room for failure. Such a brilliant performance from young Dafne Keen who plays young Lyra Belacqua, who discovers more than the truth of who her parents are but what they want to achieve in life, and how they go about it. 

The series explores the lives of the people in the story. The Gyptians, and especially Ma Costa, whose young son had been taken by the Gobblers and had been separated from his daemon. It explored his story in more detail, because at the end of the initial film, I hadn't realised what happened to him. This series explored that ending, thoroughly. 

But it wasn't just those in Lyra's world, there was another child, Will from our world who was equally as important, and Carlo Boreal played by Ariyon Bakare who was in a desperate search to find him, because of letters he was sent from his missing presumed dead, father, played by Andrew Scott. 

The Magisterium, who Carlo Boreal worked for, were far more sinister than the original film portrayed. It seemed a very religious organisation, that didn't like new ideas or new inventions and frowned upon the work of Lord Asriel, played by James McAvoy. To be fair, his character role of Asriel was perhaps stronger than the limited version by Daniel Craig in The Golden Compass. There was a darkness with McAvoy that perhaps wasn't there with Bond star Craig, and for that, I'm almost grateful. 

Yet, it was Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter who stole the show. Her performance as Lyra's mother was outstanding. She can carry a crazy role like Coulter and add a darker, more twisted soul than Kidman ever could in The Golden Compass, and I'm not being harsh when I say that. Kidman herself can play some real cruel and memorable characters, but Ruth has that almost Woman in Black feel to Coulter. That scream of rage on the other side of the door, with Lyra screaming on the other. Oh my god! Sent shivers down my spine. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Lee Scoresby, and as much as my favourite (at the time) was gravel drawled Sam Elliott, I have to say, that Miranda explores his character in much more depth than the film ever did. 

There are some noticeable differences between the film and the series, however, in the way that The Golden Compass was quick to pace out the film, with action and sequences, and for those of us who hadn't then read the books, and for some of us who still haven't yet, assumed that everything was fine, but as the series shows us, there were some areas that were extended, and some sequences that had been used for another scene and for another part of the story. Such as the narrow icy bridge that Lyra crosses, which in the film was the journey to the shed hiding Billy Costa. The film also didn't explore Billy's future in the way that the series had. It wasn't explored that Billy had a brother, so I fully enjoyed the series that explored the Gyptians and their fight against the Magisterium. 

Lord Asriel's betrayal however, to his daughter, that was probably the hardest part of the story, and so full of emotion. The girl who looks up to the man who she assumes is first her Uncle and then her Dad, and is then horrified to learn of his deed against young Roger Parslow, that was only ever touched upon in the final credits of The Golden Compass. 

But there's a new part of this story that wasn't in the film. What happens beyond Lyra's world? The cut between worlds, where some people are able to step between them as if stepping into another room, such as Carlo in his pursuit for the letters left by Will's Dad, who disappeared, presumed dead after an arctic expedition. You know yourself, that if you're going to use Andrew Scott in a small news excerpt, that you're going to see a lot more of him at a later date. 

Series 2 explores Will's World, who we're introduced to in Series 1. A young teenage boy who is looking after his Mum, who suffers from extreme anxieties, especially those surrounding her husband and people who would want to find out what happened to him. 

The interesting thing regarding this entire series, is the amount of cast from Doctor Who. For much of the episode regarding Roger, I was certain I'd seen him before, and in much the same way as the original Roger from the film had been in Torchwood, Lewin Lloyd had been in Doctor Who, and after getting all excited after seeing Nina Sosanya as Will's mother, it was more of an I-Spy game of Who Else Has Been in Who?

It's been a brilliant first series, so I'm looking forward to this second one. What else can we do these days but settle in front of the tellybox with some decent materials to watch.

Big Finish Reviews+ Last of the Cybermen by Tony J Fyler

 


Tony stares vacantly into space for two hours. 

Last of the Cybermen packs a lot of promise into its title. Then it adds the attraction of reuniting Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor with Second Doctor companions Jamie and Zoe (they were together as a team in Legend of the Cybermen, which is about as close as Big Finish has ever come to an acid trip outside of some of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures). The question is whether it can ever hope to deliver on the potential it promises. 

So does it? 

Welllll, sort of, yes. It does it in a very time-twisting, causality-corrupting, and for at least an episode why-should-I-care sort of way, but ultimately, you look back on the time spent listening to it and think ‘Hmm. Interesting,’ rather than, as is very much the potential of a piece that stacks its own odds so high, ‘Well, that was a waste of time, wasn’t it, boys and girls?’ 

The story is set just before The War Games – unusually for a Big Finish story, it’s very specific in when it’s set – and the whole ‘Locum Doctor’ thing of later Doctors suddenly being zapped into the place of their earlier incarnations is given very little in the way of plot development, it’s just zap! There you are, deal with it. But once the Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Zoe settle in together, the dynamic is rather fun – Jamie being relentlessly suspicious of the mad-coated bloke in the blond perm until at least episode three, while Zoe accepts almost immediately that this is the Doctor, just not their familiar version. It’s a dynamic resonant of Ben and Polly when the First Doctor became the Second, which is rather sweet as homages go. 

There’s a thread running through the story that, were it made for TV, would have fans weeping, in much the same way as Attack of the Cybermen did, because you really have to know your Who to get the point of some of the plot, which pitches the Cybermen somewhere between The Invasion and Revenge of the Cybermen (even, rather cheekily, throwing in a reason why Revenge Cybermen and their subsequent eighties evolutions were quite so ‘flippant,’ ‘emotional’ and wanting ‘revenge’ in the first place. Very, very cheeky, Alan Barnes. We salute such cheek at Project Torchwood!). The thread brings in a missing cyber-fleet that’s been sitting in hyperspace for ten years waiting for instructions, a bit of the Cyber-war – you get to ‘see’ a Glitter Gun, as mentioned in Revenge of the Cybermen, and even, via a bit of time-twisting, to experience the final attack on Telos that defeated the Cybermen, leaving them, to quote Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, ‘just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking around the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.’ It also brings in Zoe’s backstory, her youth and schooling, Cyber-Planners, from everything from The Invasion to Nightmare In Silver, and the Brotherhood of Logicians that gave rise to Kaftan and Klieg from Tomb of the Cybermen. It’s very reference-rich, this story – and that’s before we start getting into the business of rewriting the timelines, which by episode four requires you to actively listen with your brow furrowed, and ideally a sheet of paper in front of you to keep straight what the hell is going on. 

All of this with a fairly small cast, and at least a first episode that appears to go nowhere near any of it – although you do get a friendly northern Cyberman, a couple of zombie Cybermen and Cybermats by the maintenance shaftfull to contend with. Besides Colin Baker, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, you have just three other people in this story, which is almost insane given the scope that’s delivered. From a tight first part, by the end of part four, you’re looking at skyfulls of Cyberships, a Cyber-SuperController (another neat allusion making him seem a bit on the chubby side because he’s – ahem – ‘so full of sensors,’ which would explain Michael Kilgariff’s chunky CyberController in Attack of the Cybermen), twisted dimensions, the potential extermination of life on Earth and Telos and maybe, just maybe, the intervention of the Time Lords. That such a scope is rendered with so small a cast is positively breathtaking, but the question really is whether the effort is worth it. 

I had to listen to Last of the Cybermen three times to decide that overall, it was. That’s because this is not an audio to attempt casually, while you do something else. This demands your attention like a proper, go-out-at-night-and-sit-in-the-dark play (Remember them?). But if you give it that respect, rather than trying to absorb it by aural osmosis while you do the ironing, or drive from A-B, Last of the Cybermen is actually a thing of many complex joys for the dedicated Who fan. The imagery it conjures is impressive, the performances ranging from the simple (Nicholas Farrell as Captain Frank, a ‘Tally Bally Ho’ space captain and veteran of the Cyber-wars), to the classic (Lucy Liemann as Zennox sounding as though she could be lifted straight from the black and white era of single-minded, blinkered leaders), to the delightful – Baker plays the ‘modern,’ more mellow Sixth Doctor here, and it’s absolutely right; his more explosive original would have taken up too much of the oxygen you need to move the play along. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury give solid renditions of their respective companions – not perhaps as one-note as the TV versions demanded of them, but effective in convincing the audience that these people were special enough to be friends of the Doctor’s. 

Ultimately, Last of the Cybermen is one worth listening to – but you need to take the time out of your busy schedule to fully engage with it if it’s not to slide by you and leave you upside-down and confused as hell. 

Give it the time and the attention it deserves, and it’s a Colin Baker classic.

 

Big Finish Reviews+ Planet of the Rani by Tony J Fyler

 


Tony never sleeps. 

The return of the Rani to the universe of Doctor Who was a cause for joy, even though it was mixed with sadness at the death of the wonder that was Kate O’Mara, leading the character to a regeneration played by Siobhan Redmond. 

The Rani Elite, her first story, was originally written with O’Mara in mind, and tweaked for Redmond to introduce a few strands of different characterization into the role. This slightly strange duality was evident throughout, and the whole script made more sense if you heard O’Mara’s incarnation performing the lines in your mind than it did if you listened to Redmond’s in your ears. 

Now she’s back for a second outing, and the first thing you need to know is that the character has had time to gel a little more, Marc Platt’s script for Planet of the Rani seeming more tailored to Redmond’s particular take on the amoral scientist than Justin Richards’ Rani Elite had the chance to be. 

The story takes us on some ninety years in the Rani’s personal timeline, and sees the Sixth Doctor and Wren Constance Clarke beginning to travel together in earnest after the end of Criss Cross. The Rani’s been in prison all that time, but hardly what you might call idle – there’s a Sea Devils vibe about the idea of the Rani being in prison in the first place, and that’s exploited here, with Redmond’s Rani majoring more in charm than a sneer, and doing a reasonable line in girlish eye-batting innocent acting when the situation calls for it too. The trick that needs to be pulled off there, in terms of making the Rani charming, is one of balance – charming people can certainly be amoral, but to work in drama, it has to be shown. Platt takes a good stab at this here, playing on the same string as Missy’s recent ‘No, I’ve not turned good!’ – her escape from imprisonment is shocking and horrible, or at least it is in theory. In practice, we hardly see enough of the situation to invest emotion in the people who are used, and killed, to gain the Rani her freedom, so the mention of a high body-count feels distant and remote, something that happens on paper and out of earshot, so we don’t particularly feel the outrage of it. A good stab then, but not an especially effective one. That doesn’t particularly feel like a fault to lay at Platt’s door though – but oddly, at Ken Bentley’s, director of many Big Finish stories, including this one. One audio effect to give us the voices of the people used by the Rani could have delivered that chill we need to feel when a monstrously amoral act is committed, and it feels missing from this story, along with its impact. 

The impact gets better as the story unfolds though – there’s something irresistibly, oddly familiar about listening to a story where a Time Lady with a Scottish accent and a distinctly English companion of the Doctor are whisked off on an adventure of their own, as they are here, and it’ll make you want to watch The Witch’s Familiar again. While Redmond’s Rani is more analytical than Gomez’s Missy, the bite of superiority does land here and there, with the Rani telling Constance to forget about the Doctor ‘if you want to survive,’ and dismissing the Earthling’s certainties as ‘laughable.’ Perhaps most of all though as the story builds, we see the impact of the Rani, and her refusal to countenance anything as tiresome and messy as free will on her planet. Oh yes, Platt fulfills a long-term fan-fiction dream, and takes us to Miasimia Goria, the planet whose people she was trying to save from the results of a failed experiment when we first met her in The Mark of the Rani. There’s a good deal of Platt’s inventive madness at play in the building of Miasimia Goria – stone forests, elegant metal cockroach-suits (he himself notes a certain similarity to the Daleks in the concept), and perhaps most creepily a kind of ‘people-forest’ too, a kind of Terracotta Army of the Rani’s ravaged, sleep-deprived vegetative victims. That said, overall, it’s difficult to measure up to the imagination of fans who’ve had thirty years to ponder what Miasimia Goria could be like, and overall, there’s a sense of some wild window dressing around a fairly standard Peladonian construct – a ruler, a couple of advisors, and the great unwashed. 

Honestly though, any disappointment with Miasimia Goria only sinks in after you’ve finished Planet of the Rani, because while you’re listening to it, the pace is relentless – it’s a hundred minutes that really feels like fifty at the most, because the pacing and the story-threading is efficient, not to say relentless. The temptation to make the more charming Rani into a slightly sad disappointed mother-figure raises its head, but thankfully – so, so thankfully – Platt strangles that idea, if not at birth then certainly before the end of Planet of the Rani. 

Overall, Planet of the Rani works and delivers to expectations, allowing us a glimpse of the Rani’s pet world, and showing us what being a pet world of the Rani’s turns you into. Constance gets a chance to stretch herself as a citizen of the universe, giving as good as she gets with the Rani, befriending the leader who’s taken the Rani’s place while she’s been absent, and generally doing the traditional companion thing of interposing her own values between people and harm. The Sixth Doctor probably has stronger, deeper stories, but Colin Baker brings a vigour and a breathless, running-about-the-place energy to proceedings that helps pump up the pace. Siobhan Redmond really does begin to carve herself a niche as the Second Rani here, different from the O’Mara version in lots of ways, but still driven by the adamantine core of scientific determination that is key to the character. 

If you felt a little deflated after The Rani Elite, wondering when the real Rani would show up, you’ll enjoy Planet of the Rani a lot more as Redmond flexes her characterization muscles. If you loved The Rani Elite, you’ll love Planet even more, for the same reasons. If you want a headline or an encapsulation of the whole, that’s easy: Happy days are here again – the Rani’s back, with a whole new interesting personality. 

Big Finish Reviews+ The Entropy Plague by Tony J Fyler

 


It’s later than you think, says Tony. 

‘It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. 

It is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known.’ 

Sydney Carton, Dickens’ hero in A Tale of Two Cities, is often held up as a paragon of self-sacrifice for a greater cause, but god, he must have been a pain in the bum at parties. The Entropy Plague is, in a way, like being trapped for two hours in a party with a whole boatload of Cartons. It’s also phenomenally difficult to review without giving away a massive CVE of a spoiler for a fact which runs through the whole story. 

Let’s say this. The Entropy Plague is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about: entropy, the central force that distinguishes E-Space stories from most N-Space stories, both affecting everything in its normal, if here accelerated, fashion, and also transferred as a plague in a game of ‘Fall-Apart Touch’. The main monsters aren’t really monsters, any more than the Mummy in Mummy On The Orient Express was, and indeed, they bear a striking audio resemblance to that dangly-bandaged unfortunate, inasmuch as you really don’t want to let ‘The Sandmen’ touch you. Think plague-infected zombies and you’re most of the way there. So far, so not that original, to be fair. 

On the planet Apollyon, people from all over E-Space are gathering for a New Orleans, Day of the Dead-style party while the last of their universe burns or turns to dust. 

Of course, there are the plague-zombies, but hey, we’re all about to die anyway, so they never really achieve much in the way of scares. They’re just an additional irritant on the day the universe ends. 

Meanwhile, a man named Pallister, played with haughty implacability by Robert Duncan, seems to have a plan – even, perhaps a way out of the desolation of the universe. He’s found the last remaining CVE in E-Space on Apollyon, and he has a way of keeping it open long enough to get a refugee ship out. Hooray for Pallister, saviour of the universe! Except the way he has is gruesome in the extreme, and it frames the moral dilemma at the heart of the story: greater love hath no man than he should lay down his life for his friends, sure – but who do you choose to be the man doing the laying down? 

Of course, this is where the whole Sydney Carton thing comes in – and it divides the Tardis crew right down the middle, with the Doctor’s god complex making him almost eager to step into the breach and be stranded forever in the pocket universe, and Nyssa – good girl, always-helpful, self-sacrificing Nyssa, almost challenging him to an arm-wrestle for the honour of being thrown into the steampunk piece of kit that can not only get a ship out of E-Space but also stabilize the universe for a few hundred years, rather than the few hundred minutes it seems to have left. It would of course render listening to the story entirely pointless to tell you if either of them succeeds in their tug-o’-self-sacrifice or whether another, MacGuffiny solution is found, but the differing views of the two ‘good’ characters and the two more realistic ones, Tegan and Turlough, is deliciously comic to listen to. In particular, all credit to Mark Strickson for delivering Turlough’s arch-rationalist lines in this story like the only sane person in a suicide squad. In fact, for those who never really appreciated Turlough on screen, this story has enough from him to make the almost unthinkable happen – you might start to like him. Just a bit. 

Maybe. 

If you’re any kind of Nyssa fan, you’re absolutely going to have to listen to this one too, as it’s as close as either the TV show or Big Finish have ever coming to delivering a personality profile of her character. As a final act for an audio E-Space trilogy, there’s a certain inevitable slightness to the storytelling – the main dilemma is revealed fairly quickly, and the moral maze rather dissipates when you have a boatload of volunteers to put their neck in the entropy noose. The entropy plague itself is pretty much an irrelevance, except inasmuch as it highlights the state of the universe we’re dealing with, and the single line that ties this story back to Warrior’s Gate is all very well but never gets a second reference to build it into something. Writer Jonathan Morris delivers probably the most outright E-Space-flavoured of the three E-Space stories of the Fifth Doctor trilogy of which it’s a part. That said, The Entropy Plague’s big spoilerific story element means it’s one that you’ll almost have to listen to if anything going forward with the Fifth Doctor’s Tardis is going to make any sort of sense, and it does deliver a viable ‘return to N-Space’ plotline, so on at least two of its crucial levels, as well as in terms of characterization for Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa, it delivers its goods. While having paid full price for The Entropy Plague feels like a little bit of a swizz, it’s undoubtedly one to listen to before you pay out for any future Fifth Doctor releases. Will you go back to The Entropy Plague for a second listen any time soon? No, probably not. But you really will have difficulty with everything that subsequently happens in the Fifth Doctor’s timeline until you get this one under your belt.

 

 

Big Finish Reviews+ The Secret History by Tony J Fyler

 


Tony reads between the lines. 

Spoiler Alert! 

The Secret History has a cover. Seriously, if you’ve heard a range of Big Finish stories before you come to this, and the chances are you will have, don’t look at the cover of this one – it gives you a visual detail and a name that will slot together nicely and ruin some good ‘It’s not me, honest’ voice-work on the part of an actor in this story, and give you the main villain not only of this release but of the three ‘locum Doctors’ stories, of which this is the finale. So – order with your eyes closed, download with just one eye watching the progress bar or slip your CD from its cover with your hand over the front. 

Done that? Good. Now prepare yourself. The final of the three ‘locum Doctor’ stories promises to be a highly exciting meet-up between the callow Fifth Doctor and Steven and Vicki, who are used to the white-haired and rather more commanding old First Doctor. What’s more, it’s a proper old historical adventure in the Marco Polo or Aztecs vein – the Tardis left behind in one part of the ancient world (Ravenna), while the Tardis crew beggar about in Constantinople, consorting with emperors, generals, and classical writers. It’s a good old-fashioned historical romp. 

Except of course, it isn’t – because there are alien shenanigans at work, swapping Doctors about within their own timestreams. That whole plotline is deliciously, excitingly played here – it’s probably not too much to reveal that the Doctor has crossed paths with quite a few villains with a penchant for getting involved in local affairs, disguising themselves as natives to the time or place, but this one feels particularly right, and their reasons for doing what they do are spot-on, both in terms of the petard on which they hoist the Fifth Doctor, (who in a significant out-of-character moment, suggests giving modern antibiotics to victims of the Justinian plague), and in their ultimate devious plan, which has wound its way through the three locum Doctors stories, but which, to be fair, you pretty much need this episode to explain to you, and add lots of value to the previous two stories. 

That ultimate devious plan, by the way? You may well think you’ve seen something fairly similar concocted on screen in the not hugely distant past, by another clever enemy that likes to mess with people. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but there’s even a kind of Impossible Girl in here, played by the slightly posh acting wonderment that is Lysette Anthony. 

So – old-fashioned treks across large portions of the eastern world, emperors, generals, Impossible Girls, sneaky alien timestream-muckers-up, giant floating stone Medusa heads –

Wait, did I mention the giant floating stone Medusa heads? OK, well, there’s a pair of giant floating stone Medusa heads in here too. Annnnnd why not? You know damn well if Donald Cotton could have had the budget for giant floating stone Medusa heads in The Romans, they’d have been in it. As it happens, they’re quite important in the ultimate resolution of the plot, so there’s a tip for you – keep your ears on the giant floating stone Medusa heads.

Where the fusion between the tone of the First Doctor period and the tone of the absolutely bang-up-to-date, never-mind-Peter-Davison-try-Matt-Smith show becomes a stroke of genius is what happens when the devious alien messer-about of timelines actually wins. What follows is half-pastiche, half differentiation of the difference between the Doctor and the villain – a difference which has never been entirely, one hundred percent evident, but becomes so here with a clarity that ultimately resolves the plot. It’s a great resolution to a seemingly impossible situation, and looked at one way, this story’s scope, and the scope of the locum Doctors mini-series overall, should elevate the central villain to the A-List where they have never truly been before, despite being a firm favourite among discerning fans.

There’s every temptation to take The Secret History too seriously, but writer Eddie Robson and director Barnaby Edwards don’t want you to get away with that – certainly the spirit of Donald Cotton’s Who farces, The Myth Makers and The Romans particularly, is alive and well here, but the only thing that allows good farce to still be a believable adventure story is believable characterisation, and Big Finish have skimped on neither story nor character. There’s actually not a single badly written, or even slightly written character in this story, Giles Watling as General Belisarius and Tony Millan as his lawyer Procopius being extra special fun as a kind of historical odd couple, suffering each other because their fates fare better together. Tim Wallers as the Emperor Justinian and Sarah Woodward as his languid yet waspish queen Theodora are another fine double act, and Tony Millan does extra-special double duty, giving a wholly different characterisation as Yazid the positively diseased hippodrome team-runner for a few good horse dung jokes at Steven’s expense, but also rather more than that in that we care what happens to him as much as any of the others. Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien as Steven and Vicki are of course old hands together, but here they do something quite important – they highlight the periodicity of First Doctor stories. Whereas in most Big Finish stories, the trick has been to make their characters and situations realistic, deep and believable, here they dial it back the other way slightly to show not just the characters as they would have been, but also to present 1960s Who as a world of its own, for 80s Doctor Davison to stroll around in. 

The Secret History is pretty much fun no matter what you’re looking for – traditional First Doctor adventuring in the ancient world, with a chunk of learning melted through; Fifth Doctor style being curious about things and finding alien skulduggery behind the tapestries; ultra-modern timeline-twisting plotlines or gentle historical farce. The story works without feeling like it’s had to be whipped into peculiar shapes – a particular triumph to pull off with a First Doctor-style historical trek – and it’s enjoyable throughout every minute of its running time. 

The only thing that’s massively, massively wrong with it is the spoilerific cover. Manage to avoid that, and this is pure class from beginning to end.