Sunday 11 July 2021

Articles Issue 93 - Our Last Issue - Everything Changes


Issue 93

Contents Guide


Everything Changes – Our Last Editor’s Note


The David Richardson Interview

by Tony J Fyler

 Torchwood Reviews

The Five People You Kill in Middlesborough

By Tony J Fyler

 Who Reviews

A Town Called Mercy

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways

 By Matthew Rabjohns

Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel

The Beast Below

Victory of the Daleks

By Tony J Fyler

Articles Everything Changes - Extended Editor's Note by Djak Forrest


Extended Editor’s Note 

One of the reasons I set up Project: Torchwood was that it gave me a platform to air my Torchwood stories, plus, it also gave me the opportunity of talking to the many people I’ve loved watching on the telly of both Who and Torchwood, and find out all about their characters, their roles in the past, and future projects, plus, learning all about the ‘behind the scenes’ roles that go into making a programme such as Torchwood and Doctor Who. 

Project: Torchwood began in 2013 and I’m still amazed that 8 years on we’re still here, but it’s harder now to produce a full magazine full of exciting articles, because with both Torchwood and Doctor Who somewhat absent from our screens, its left us with a bit of a quandary, what do we do now? 

Then out of the blue, in the early hours on 18th June and a 90-minute ride in the back of a screaming ambulance all the way to the Acute Heart Hospital in East Kilbride, the decision was abundantly clear. I had to call time on our little Project. 

Eight years! We’ve interviewed a ton of people. People from Torchwood like Eve Myles, John & Carole Barrowman, Gareth David-Lloyd, Sharon Morgan, Justin Walters, Chris Wilson, Julie Barclay, Nathan Sussex, Daniele Favilli, Dillon Casey, Alex Harries, Kevin McCurdy, Gareth Potter, Ffion Wilkins, Scott Handcock, Maxine Evans, Mark Morris, Guy Adams, AK Benedict, Sarah Pinborough, David Llewellyn, Joseph Lidster, Anthony Lewis and let’s not forget Murray Melvin and the lovely Eve Pearce to name but a few. 

From Doctor Who there’s been Claire Pritchard-Jones, Nicholas Briggs, Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg, Connor Calland, Ian Reddington, Ian Hanmore, Simon Fisher-Becker, Ray Holman, George Mann, Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett, Cavan Scott, Colum Samson-Regan and Douglas Mackinnon, again to name but a few. 

I had hoped to have continued with the blogzine till maybe we’d reached our 100th edition, but aside from a huge abundance of Big Finish reviews, which could see us busy till the sun explodes, I would probably need to retitle the website Project: Big Finish. 

“It’s been good though, hasn’t it? All of us. All of it. Everything we did.” to Tony “You were brilliant.” to Matt “And you were brilliant.” to Tiziana “And you were brilliant.


I didn’t think I had a problem with stress, if I’m honest. I had a good decent paying job, plenty of exercise, I ate fairly healthily, I didn’t eat a lot of take outs. I am a non-smoker and I don’t drink.  I felt I could handle pretty much everything I was working on, but having said that, my new baking project was keeping me busy on the two days I was off (weekends), which meant that I was working 7 days straight, and I was at the allotment before I was heading to work, and was up with the lark and in bed by 11pm and I was spinning more plates than I could physically keep up in the air, and as a good friend pointed out, not only was I burning the candle at both ends, I was also burning it right through the middle. 

The four days in hospital gave me time to reflect on the things that were causing the major stress issues, and aside from the life changing operations that were bearing heavily on my mind from the moment I got up to the time I went to bed, the website was also pushing my stress levels too. I had no time to write my stories. I was constantly thinking of the next article, what the title of the next cover would be, who we could interview for the next or following month and the questions that would need to be asked. I wouldn’t have minded if this was my actual proper job, because I think it would have been a great job to have, paid an’ all, but this was a hobby, but it was beginning to become more of a chore, and less fun…

Sometimes when things begin like that, it’s time to step away, and I’ve been feeling a need to do this for a while but never quite knew how to do it without breaking a few hearts, (mostly my own). 

After a few days of mourning these losses, and believe me, I hit a numbing low point, the stress involved, lifted, and I feel a lot better having accepted that things have to change. 

So this, boys and girls, is our Final Issue… 

It’s hard to let it go. It’s been my ‘baby’ for such a long time, and in much the same way as I’m going to feel in about six weeks’ time when I see my son off to pastures new, as he finally leaves the nest, as it were, I’m saying goodbye to Project: Torchwood. 

It’s been great though, hasn’t it?  We’ve forged great friendships. Made great connections. Great contacts. People we will never forget, nor would want to. I’ve extended my friends group. I succeeded in doing what I aimed to do with the Project, and not many can say that. Of course, there are still those who I wish I’d been able to chat with and share their stories on the site, but as Jason Arnopp said, after I replied to him on his Confessions Booth email,

   "Well, the good thing about a blogzine is it will remain in cyberspace forever, and you can pick it up again, as and when you like. :)” 

So as much as I say it’s the final Issue, who can say what may happen in the future. For now though, I want to concentrate on my sci fi stories, the ones I want to see published. The ones, that for some reason I put so many distractions in the way of them, that I couldn’t reach them for such a long time. 

They say, everything happens for a reason, and maybe the ‘heart attack’ was one of those. Obviously, I’d have preferred if that hadn’t have happened quite as severely but clearly all the other signs were oblivious to me. 

I’d like to take this opportunity now to thank my writing team, with whose contributions to this site have made PT all that more worthwhile. 

To Tony, who has been with us since 2014, and whose articles engage you from the first words he ever writes. He has you till the end of the article, and already you’re begging for more. Let’s not forget the four-part article about The Master in A Villain for all Seasons way back at the start of his time with us.   

Tony’s take on the Big Finish Reviews have made me yearn for a bigger bank account so I can purchase as many Torchwood and indeed Who audios, since I’ve now made space for an entire season of them. 

When he’s not writing for us though, you can find him on these exciting sites too. Do please keep following him, especially in a non stalkerish fashion over on Twitter @FylerWrites. 

Warped Factor 

Mass Movement

Exciting Stuff 

Matthew Rabjohns joined us in 2019 and it was his love of Jodie Whittaker, that shone through when he talked about her in his episode reviews, and his sci fi Who stories were as powerful as his passion for the 13th Doctor. Matt is a massive fan of the Classic Who when he’s not gushing over the 13th, and his reviews of these episodes have been as welcoming as reading Tony’s Big Finish. 

Two massive geeks of Who, anything you need to know, I’m certain both could tell you, without having to do a massive hunt across the internet.   

Matt has many Who and Classic television fan pages on Facebook if you fancy checking these out and joining in with the banter. Here are just a few of those pages, with links beside his main popular ones to date.

Kingdom of Silver: A Cyberman Fangroup

I am the Master and You will Obey Me; A Master Fangroup 

If there are any Who sites out there who would like another Who writer to join them, I’d definitely recommend Matthew – just check out his reviews on our site, if you don’t believe me. 

Over the years we’ve had quite a few people create wonderful covers for us, from Mickie Newton-Carline at the start of our little blog, to Andrew Creak who has moved on to bigger and better projects, namely as Locations Marshall for BBC’s His Dark Materials drama (2019) along with It’s My Shout Locations Runner in 2018. 

Sharon Seymour produced great covers for us before stepping down and handing over the baton to Andrew. Over the years a good many friends with knowledge of PaintShop apps and others have created wonderful designs for us, including SF Cambridge, Nikki Forrest, myself (although not as brilliant), and Christopher Fain. 

TizianaDF is a massive, and I mean this when I say it, MASSIVE fan of Torchwood and indeed of the stars themselves, and agreed, without much persuasion to create covers for us – and has proven to be a real asset to our blogzine. What I love about Tiziana, is I don’t really have to explain what I need, because as a fan of Torchwood, she knows exactly what I’m looking for. 

As well as designing pages for our blogzine, TizianaDF can be found on her Redbubble site creating images for her Page. You can find them here and already I’ve earmarked a few things I’d like in my room in due course. 

I mean, who doesn’t want a Torchwood face mask, even if restrictions will bring an end to wearing them in public soon??? 

You can also find Tiziana on Twitter, give her a follow. 

Andrew Allen writes our Sarah Jane Adventure Reviews over on the Beyond the TARDIS page, in between writing his own Who novel and working at his day job. You can find him over on Twitter under the name @my_grayne plus you can find more about this talented man over on his website

I wish him all the best of luck with his Who novels which will be available directly from the publisher Candy Jar Books, or you can find them in Waterstones or Amazon around October of this year. 

Jeffrey Zyra, who wrote a lot of the Who reviews as soon as they broadcast during the 11th era, stepped away from writing for the blog, but always helps to promote the site and for that we owe a huge debt of thanks to. Jeff used to run the Gallifreyan Gazette from his website but now runs it from his Facebook Page of the same name, you can also still catch up with him on Twitter @TheCricketingDr 

Christopher Fain was our own Owen Harper for a good few years and produced many articles, reviews, and some thumping great stories which involved Jack and Ianto, Sherlock and Mycroft, and a host of other characters that worked within the story, and even now, reading them back, I find I’ve for whatever reason, forgotten some passages of the story – as you do when you rewatch a tv programme and discover something new that you hadn’t seen before, or had forgotten about, or that something made sense, that hadn’t before. That lightbulb moment! 

Blogs are hard things at times to put articles together on a full time basis, and as I’ve discovered, it’s not something everyone can do, and even I’ve fallen foul of this myself. Sometimes, all I’ve managed to complete is the editor’s note, quickly scribbled down at the end of the upload. 

When you write such great stories, as Chris does, it’s difficult sometimes to fully submerse yourself in them, when you know you’ve a ton of other things to write, such as a few reviews, or trying to juggle home life, work life and everything else that you’re doing, and so it was inevitable that eventually Chris would need to step back from writing for us to concentrate on his own stories for publication.

We hope that Iron and Brass becomes available for publication soon, as I really do miss reading his work. 

You can find Chris on Twitter using this title @christofain 

Aside from my unfinished Mitchell story (which might get a finish at some point in the not-too-distant future – or in the distant future – who can say), we had some great stories coming from a host of new writers to the site. 

S. Florence introduced us to a character that we’d last seen on Doctor Who Planet of the Dead, but created such a back story for her, that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was indeed the same character. Lady Christina de Souza sounds very much like Lara Croft but with a barmy host of characters who live and work within her manor and the banter between her and any Doctor who happens along, create much laughter and merriment when you read them. I’ve totally enjoyed reading her Lady C stories, and you know, you can find them on Facebook by using this link, either copied and pasted, or clicked on here: 

I also wanted to share this note of thanks from S. Florence. “Thankyou for allowing us to publish our story to your website, we hope your readers will continue following us and the story as the new adventures unfold.” 

In another Doctor Who, story idea, Lady Mayhurst introduced us to Stories of the Nightmare Child, which I have to say, completely blew my socks off, and I was begging to read more and more of this. 

Lady Mayhurst posted this to my chat box the other evening as I gathered up my info for this rather hefty Editor’s Note this month. 

“I would like to thank Djak for publishing my Doctor Who story and if anyone would like to continue reading, the Facebook link is”   

I can’t end this here without thanking the two stalwarts of our early days, when we started a chat group discussing what we’d be setting up in the spring of 2013. Mickie Newton-Carline and John Bond began this Project with me. Mickie’s knowledge on how to set up a website, even on Blogger was a blessing because I hadn’t a clue. Her step by step guide was invaluable. Not only a graphic artist, Mickie also wrote articles, including the entire Gadgets & Gizmo’s page, which was her ‘baby’ completely, even her mum Pat joined us for some articles, when we covered the 1950s Torchwood story involving a plane that fell through the rift. 

Mickie has now moved on to pastures new, creating her own projects but looks in from time to time and occasionally posts up on Twitter.  

John was the perfect Ninth Doctor lookalike and he performed as this character throughout his time on our Locations Guide, until he too was unable to continue due to offline projects. 

So now it comes to you guys. You the readers, our supporters of our wonderful little Project. Thank you. Thank you for the contributions. The joining in with competitions, the banter on Twitter and Facebook. The sharing of projects of your own. Your Daleks and your other character builds. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You guys most definitely ROCK! 

This is our final Issue, but who can say what the future might hold. Maybe in a few years’ time we’ll come back with brand new stories and articles, but for now, it’s time to recover and plan a new destination. 

Take care, stay safe and look after each other.

 Bye for now




Interviews The David Richardson Interview with Tony Fyler


Expanding Fictional Universes into Audio. 

Big Finish Productions has long been a prime player in expanding the universes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and a whole range of other shows in audio drama. Tony Fyler spoke to the company’s Senior Producer, David Richardson, about what it takes to successfully expand those worlds. 

Where does the spark come from in terms of expanding a TV universe into audio? Are you always looking for places in the story where expansions could happen? Places where expansions could be profitable? Or is it usually a case of “I would really like to hear what happened to…”? 

David: I’d say, without exception, the spark always comes from the original TV episodes. The characters that have been given their own spin-off ranges have earned them because their TV stories suggested a life before the Doctor arrived, and also suggested they have a life after he left. 

That’s true of Jago and Litefoot, and the Counter-Measures team, and also Lady Christina and The Paternoster Gang. I have to say we never, ever start with a conversation that goes ‘What can we do that will make lots of money?’ I can’t recall a single pitch that started that way. It always begins with excitement, the chat about ‘We’ve got this idea and it’s really got us excited’. We’re fans of Doctor Who and Torchwood ourselves, so if it’s an idea that turns our heads, that gets us excited, then that’s usually a good sign. 

In a business where creativity and profitability both have their place, where’s the breakdown for you, and which is the leader – the satisfaction of creativity or the knowledge that an expansion of a universe will sell (while of course making loads of fans happy!)? 

David: Every series must pay for itself - absolutely it must cover its costs, and earn its place in the catalogue. But we are firm believers that creativity brings success - that quality work will find an audience. Over the 14 years that I’ve been working here, whenever we announce a spin-off there’s always someone on social media who sighs and says ‘A spin-off too far’. 

I saw it levelled against Jago and Litefoot all those years ago, and that series has become one of our most enduring hits! I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a spin-off too far in this modern age of multiple series linked storytelling. Story, characters, dialogue rule - that’s what matters. 

What’s your favourite expansion of a universe Big Finish has done so far? What makes them your favourite? 

David: As Nicholas Courtney used to say, ‘The one I’m working with at the time.’ I always thought he was being diplomatic but actually, I can see that, as you gravitate from one series or group of actors to another, at that moment they become your favourite. But I do have a very powerful affection for Jago and Litefoot, because the pairing of Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin was just beautiful. Every day working with them was a day well spent - we just laughed, all the time. We got the work done, and the recordings were brilliant, but every moment between every take was just filled with banter and kind spirits and joy. I sit here talking about it with a smile on my face and tears welling in my eyes - I was just so lucky to be a part of it. 

Without necessarily giving away spoilers (though you should naturally feel entirely free if you like…), is there a universe you haven’t got to expand yet, but really hope to in the future? Do you have a list, and if so, what’s on it that you can safely tell us about? 

David: There are always ideas, things I’ve got on my list of things I’d love to do - and I know a lot of the other producers feel the same. Scott Handcock has pitched some smashing, exciting things which I hope one day might happen - they’re a series I would love to just sit and listen to myself. So I can’t give more details, but there are always ideas floating around. 

What’s the process like between having an idea for a new universe expansion and getting it into studio? Do you commission writers to write scripts on spec if you either need to acquire the rights or persuade key actors? Or is the legal side all nailed in place before the writers start writing? 

David: The process pretty much follows this pattern:
1: You have the idea, which the producer discusses with the script editor, and it’s written into a pitch.
2: That pitch is presented to Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nick Briggs. If they like it, then it’s green lit and a budget is agreed.
3: The producer and the script editor then discuss writers, who are given a brief (which can sometimes be quite prescriptive) and asked to pitch story ideas.
4: Story ideas, once agreed with the producer and script editor, then go to Nick Briggs for his comments and can be reworked from there. They then go to the BBC for approval. Once everything is signed off, we start working on scripts.

Thinking in particular of things like the Ninth Doctor Adventures – Christopher Eccleston’s always been an actor motivated by great scriptwriting (and has mentioned Nick Briggs’ writing as a big draw), so were there scripts in place before he signed on to the project, or did you need to convince him on board and then knock his socks off with scripts?

David: Conversations with Chris were ongoing for some time, and we did reach a stage where he asked to see a script. Nick wrote some example pages, which if I recall rightly were the first 40 pages or so of Ravagers, episode one. 

Chris loved it, and we were away.

Hand on heart, I have absolutely loved working with Chris. I’m just so blown away by his energy and passion for what he does - and the kindness with which he treats those around him. Those 12 recording days were some of the happiest, and he threw himself into every script and was always, always full of praise for the efforts of our writing team. 

Similarly, when getting the daughters of famous companion actresses on board (Sadie Miller, Daisy Ashford, etc), do you get scripts written to persuade them in, or does Big Finish’s reputation do a lot of that work for you?

David: We didn’t present scripts to Sadie and Daisy - but they have worked with us before in other roles, so knew Big Finish and the people well. It was a difficult decision to recast those roles, made easy when Sadie and Daisy came on board. 

You have quite a pool of familiar writers you know can deliver at Big Finish, but you’re also frequently bringing in new talents. At what point do names get attached to stories? Is it a case of “I’d really like to hear a River Song story written by [to pick a name at random] Lizbeth Myles, or a Lady Christina story by Sarah Grochala,” or do you get as far as outlines and briefs before thinking of who could do interesting things with them?

David: It’s usually down to availability. People get busy. I mean, I want to work with Lisa McMullin on EVERYTHING, but her TV career is really taking off, and there are only so many scripts she can take on. The same goes across the board. Obviously, some writers are a better fit for some series - writers with great comedy talents are a natural for Missy; writers with strong dramatic flair fit well into Stranded. But there’s huge crossover as well. Someone like Roy Gill can really do anything you throw at him. We’re lucky to have them all. 

Is there ever a set-in-stone idea of what you want to achieve from a universe expansion, beyond the telling of good stories, or is that the be-all and the end-all – to tell good stories with the particular characters you’re expanding? After all, Big Finish is credited with ‘rehabilitating’ the Sixth Doctor after his on-screen mellowing wasn’t given the time to mature. Is that sort of thing part of the goal for some ranges – to broaden people’s perception of characters over time – or is it more a case of plotting out the arc of three or four boxsets in a range at a time and seeing the journey on which they take you before deciding what’s next for the characters? 

David: I don’t think that our agenda is that set-in-stone. We work ahead a bit - for example, I was pitching the story world for Stranded when we were about halfway through the previous Eighth Doctor series, Ravenous. We needed to know where we were going. But it’s always down to telling good stories, and being in an interesting storytelling world. 

And you never know if people are going to buy into it. The basic idea with Stranded was to start with Doctor Who with much of what makes the series Doctor Who taken out. It was my idea, and then I spent months in turmoil because I was terrified people might not buy into that. And yet it became a huge hit, because it was something different. And we got an Audie Award for it - a massively prestigious award. But it had great scripts and such an amazing cast - how could it fail? 

What excites you most about starting a new universe expansion?

David: Those first few weeks, when you are all throwing ideas around and all the creative voices in the team add into the mix, and it snowballs into something wonderful… that’s just so brilliant. I’m a great believer in team working. Everyone should have a voice.

For example, on The Paternoster Gang, I know the three leads are really invested in it and have their own ideas, so every series starts with a meeting where Neve, Catrin and Dan throw ideas out there. And lots of them get used - it’s a really rewarding process.

Forgive me this one – my writing pals at Project Torchwood wanted me to ask “How do you get such great writers all the time?” and also “Is there ever any chance of fan writers working for Big Finish?” – which I think means besides the Paul Spragg competition, is there a potential pathway for ‘fan’ writers to becoming Big Finish writers? 

And also, I guess, how does it work in terms of writers for particular universes? Are there writers that you instantly know you can go to for, say, a Third Doctor story that will take that range forward, or writers who can always be relied on to turn out a cracking Torchwood? Any strict rhyme or reason, or, as you have a good range of writers at your disposal, does it come down to an instinct of who will do well within a particular universe, or with a particular story brief?

David: It’s a good question. We have an ongoing dilemma in that we always need new writers because we’re so busy, but because we’re so busy we have limited time to develop new writers. And ‘develop’ is the key word here - all scripts can go through many rewrites and changes and tweaks, which is a time-consuming process and the writers work closely with our brilliant script editors. 

So someone relatively new to the audio writing can take a lot of the script editor’s time. So we have to limit the intake of fresh writing talent - and we seek that out ourselves. We just don’t have the infrastructure in place to have a formal free submissions system.

The best tip for anyone who wants to write Doctor Who is to keep writing and writing and writing. 

And I think the best Doctor Who writers don’t just want to write Doctor Who - they want to write all sorts of things, but Doctor Who is an important part of that. Get as much experience and set your sights as wide as you can. It’s a big audio industry out there, and there’s a lot to learn. 

Are there any universe expansions that are now officially never coming back? Any more Jenny on the way?* Second set of New Earth stories? Dan Dare? Similarly, any one-offs possibly in mind for future series? Shilling and Sixpence or the like? Im guessing any plans for future Lives of Captain Jack releases are pretty much in abeyance right now? 

(*We asked, just before a second set of Jenny adventures was announced(!)) 

David: I mean, Jago and Litefoot is now sadly over, because we lost dear Trevor Baxter. We reached a very good ending with Counter-Measures, and my feeling at the minute is Id hate to undermine that ending by making more. But never say never. 

With Big Finish being the biggest player in the expanded universe of quite a few fandoms now, and with so many projects and universes on the go at different stages at any given time, is it ever tough to keep up with where each universe is in its story when you’re building the next instalment for it?

David: Not really - I just ask Matt Fitton! The man is a Big Finish encyclopaedia! 

What are the biggest challenges you face when expanding a universe? How you decide on a tone that takes a universe forward, while still being recognisably similar to what the fans have loved about a universe before?

David: I’m not sure that retaining the tone is a challenge, really - that’s part of the joy of it. Finding the authenticity in any range is in our DNA - it’s what drives us. I’d say the biggest challenge for me is always confronting my own nerves - just making sure that everyone has a good time, because that then infuses the production. 

If I’m working with Alex Kingston for the first time, say, I want her to have such a great time that she will come back for more. When Christopher Eccleston steps through the door, I want him to feel ‘Hey, this is a lot of fun.’ Those are the things I worry about - the people. 

This one’s not a question, just an opportunity taken to say thank you, for all the universes that have improved fans lives – my life – immeasurably. I first came into Big Finish fandom by ‘taking a chance’ on Spare Parts (nothing like coming in on a high!). It’s been brilliant so far, and I’ve no doubt it will continue expanding universes – and minds – for decades to come. Thanks, David – and thanks to all who make it happen.

David: Ah, that’s lovely - thanks so much. Seriously, we’re so lucky to do what we do. And I’m so grateful to Nick Briggs who plucked me out of an unhappy job 14 years ago and offered me this role at Big Finish. We really make a lot of this stuff for ourselves and hope that other people like it - so the fact you do means a lot!

Reviews The Five People You Kill in Middlesbrough by Tony J Fyler


Tony’s…not going to Middlesbrough. 

Spoiler: if you’re a fan of Doctor Who or Torchwood who complains that the show is too busy pushing a woke agenda, and that you don’t like it when it gets all political – switch off this audio immediately. It’s not for you. 

But then, if you’re one of those fans, Doctor Who since practically the dawn of Jon Pertwee hasn’t been for you, so how you’re still here is a mystery. 

But this Torchwood story, more than most Doctor Who or Torchwood, is in your face political. 

It’s also in your face relevant, with a staggeringly incompetent government and a cloud of death that can kill on contact (in this case, the result of a crashed spaceship in Middlesbrough, rather than, say, a pandemic virus). Also in this audio, a dithering, worse-than-useless Leader of the Opposition, too terrified to annoy anyone to actually do anything (though with an unfortunate tendency to find themselves accidentally supporting extreme right-wing events with gifts of jam (ahem!). The operator of a billion-pound health app that doesn’t actually work? Yep, she’s here too. A government spin doctor who breaks the rules he himself sets (complete with mention of getting his eyes tested)? Check. Demented radio ‘truther’ who believes in the New World Order of ‘banking powers’ being behind all the ‘lies’ about a Middlesbrough incident? Yep, we have one of those too. 

The Five People You Kill In Middlesbrough is a phenomenally brave Torchwood story to release in the current climate. But if for instance you’re a fan of verifiable reality and virology, and not a fan of political idiocy, chicanery, and apathy, conspiracy theories, antisemitism or the staggering human gullibility that has cost huge numbers of lives in our real world, you’ll probably love it. 

I absolutely love it. Which tells you where I stand on a whole lot of issues. 

The weird thing about this release, if anything, is that it exists at all. Pitching Yvonne Hartman against more or less the whole modern British world takes her beyond any prior Torchwood world or timeline – even the world of the ‘New Torchwood’ box sets, Aliens Among Us and God Among Us. Trying to fit it into any real Torchwood chronology is probably a mistake. It’s more or less an unashamed cri de coeur on behalf of the rational in an increasingly insane world, and an example of what someone who had the power and opportunity of Torchwood behind them could do if they existed in our world and had frankly had enough of it all. 

Another slightly odd note of course is that Yvonne Hartman in TV Torchwood – and largely in the subsequent audios – has some practically 19th century views on ‘making Britain great again,’ and cares for ‘the people’ in a more or less abstract, ‘they should be protected for now, if all else fails’ way, rather than with any particular warmth or emotional engagement. 

But there is of course one thing that absolutely gets Yvonne Hartman’s goat, and that’s inefficiency. Throughout The Five People You Kill In Middlesbrough, she advocates tirelessly for a simple solution. The so-called Icarus Protocol – nice work in the naming department, there – would prevent any alien devastation from, say, a crashed spaceship – from affecting (or indeed, infecting) anywhere else beyond a given boundary. But the Secretary of State for Defence, Alfie Scott (Tim Bentinck giving us his ‘bluff northerner’ – in a performance very close to his ‘Tommy’ of Torchwood One, again suggesting Middlesbrough is not to be taken as part of any previous Torchwood chronology) has ‘received other science, and we’re following that science’- which amounts to little more than building a ring road. Even when it emerges that the Defence Secretary’s other pet project, a missile program, may have been responsible for shooting down the ship that devastated Middlesbrough in the first place, and that the ambassador of the aliens in question has a plan that could easily undo the devastating damage of the crash, Yvonne can’t make those in government listen to her, can’t make them give enough of a toss about human beings to put aside their self-interest. 

When it comes to cordoning off the rest of the country and the world from the disaster hotspot, she runs into crisis manager Mo Simister (Sara Powell), who costs the public billions of poundsworth of tax revenue for a particle tracking phone app that simply doesn’t and never could work, and who pays a specialist in red carpets to establish a cordon. With her, it’s not that Yvonne gets further, particularly, but she does plague the ever-living daylights out of her, using Torchwood tech to try and make Mo see sense. 

We won’t spoiler you with the details of whether she succeeds. We’ll just refer you back to the title of the release… 

With short-sighted political guru Caspar Beacham (only the actual Dennis Law, popping his Big Finish cherry, and appearing to have a good deal of fun doing everything but driving to Barnard Castle), Yvonne is more fundamentalist, essentially tricking him into breaking his own rules in full view of the public, and letting the world’s media know that people should evacuate from London in a big hurry, because after all, when the rats are leaving, it’s time to pack a bag and drive into gridlock. 

And with Lancelyn Green, the ‘banking interests’ truther who describes himself as ‘The Lance Of Truth,’ we get the only real hint that The Five People You Kill In Middlesbrough fits into any kind of Torchwood chronology, because Yvonne uses a piece of alien tech that is the subject of a previous release, The Crown, by Jonathan Barnes. 

Without spoiling it for you if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s an interesting dip-back into previous Torchwood audio, and ultimately, if it existed, it would be too tempting to use on fact-averse, fact-perverse bloviating spokespeople for the absurd, because if you argue with them, you just become ‘part of the plot,’ and their audience believe everything they say – to the collective harm of the whole society. The Torchwood solution is intensely cruel – but also more effective than anything available to us in the real world. 

Sure, Yvonne’s way impacts the whole ‘freedom of speech’ thing, but she’s convinced it’s for the betterment of society as a whole after some of Lance’s listeners die, marching confidently into the cloud of Middlesbrough-death because they believe his proclamations that the Middlesbrough crash is a hoax designed to keep people controlled. 

Overall, The Five People You Kill In Middlesbrough will be a cathartic experience for lots of people frustrated by the catastrophic, deadly folly of some leading western governments. If, like many people, you’re convinced that there are bacteria in a deep ocean trench that could handle a national or international disaster better than the government you have, you’ll find yourself identifying with Yvonne’s frustration as she comes up against ineptitude, self-interest, graft, lies, idiocy and utter contempt for human life. 

For anyone who thinks science-fiction shouldn’t come close to real-world politics – less cathartic, more irritating. That’s probably a criticism Big Finish is anticipating, because the piece itself is said to be written by… Yvonne Hartman. Mm-hmm. 

In which case, all hail, Ms Hartman. You did your duty, for queen, country, and rationality.

Sure, a handful of people had to die. The world kinda got better as a result though, so, no harm, no foul, just possibly the best Big Finish of 2021 so far. There’s been some absolutely breath-taking drama from Big Finish in 2021 of course, but if you need the kind of catharsis of a world-class truth-telling stand-up comedian to shake out some of your fury at the world in which we live, The Five People You Kill In Middlesbrough is going to ring every bell you have.

Who Reviews A Town Called Mercy by Matt Rabjohns


I have long shied away from reviewing any of the Eleventh Doctor's era. Not because Matt Smith is a bad Doctor, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. But I just find the story writing and scripting of most of his era a real muddle and sometimes totally incomprehensible. The Matt Smith era could have been so much better for me. But I will re-iterate it is not Matt that is the problem in any way shape or form. 

Matt is an absolutely sublime Doctor. Let's state it from the start. I think he is a wonderous mix of Patrick Troughton and yet also he seems eternally old, despite Matt's being the youngest ever actor to take on the role of the Doctor. He also is rather like Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout in that he never ever is still. Especially his hands are usually a blur and hard to keep up with. But it is in his Doctor's nature where we see his age. He can be very calculating and highly devious, whilst those who mistake his youthful looks mistake that for immaturity soon find out to their cost that he is anything but childish. The Eleventh Doctor in many ways also has some traits of the Seventh Doctor, in that he is sometimes unknowable. Matt manages to make this blend of old and young seem easy and he certainly shows there is no need to fear such a young actor taking on the role of the Doctor. It's just quite a shame that his era suffers from a lamentable amount of storytelling that I fail to conceive or comprehend. 

But just every now and then we thankfully do get a merciful reprieve (forgive the pun!) in the form of an excellent story. And in almost every respect A Town Called Mercy is a superb story. It is coherently written for a start so I have no problems in figuring what the story is all about. It has some superb characterisation and direction and the setting is authentic wild west style country and the perfect backdrop for a bit of sci fi tinged western. It's of note that the TV show has seldom ever approached the wild west setting for a story backdrop, only once in the classic era with William Hartnell did we have The Gunfighters, and that was it until this story. The Gunfighters succeeded as a western for me, and so does A Town Called Mercy. 

Perhaps the only niggle with this story is the age-old theme of the companions being all but forgotten in the scripting. Karen Gillan's Amy does get one golden moment when she reproaches the angered Doctor for the way he is treating Kahler Jex. In this scene she palpably reminds him that he is no good alone, as his actions when he has been alone for a while show the darker and more callous edge of his character. But aside from this excellent scene, Karen Gillan and particularly the criminally wasted Arthur Darvill are just not present in the story at all, which is a real shame as I love Arthur Darvill's Rory. The companions frequently suffer from shortage of decent storyline because the story sometimes tends to focus more on the Doctor. This is a niggle that permeates plenty of classic and modern era stories. But with the little they do get given Karen and Arthur cope well and are no less than engaging all the way through this story. 

Adrian Scarborough as Kahler Jex: he is the character. The man is absolutely stunning as the alien Doctor with a dark secret that the Doctor soon brings to light. That he so doggedly loathes his past and seeks to atone for it in many ways highlights exactly the same aspect of the Doctor. Sometimes he does things he lives to regret. Maybe in Kahler Jex we see a mirror to the Doctor and this is what he does not like. Matt and Adrian's scenes together are all electric and brilliantly charged. These two men know how to deliver palpable and memorable scenes. This is the spice of the whole story. How we deal with our pasts and our mistakes and how we learn from them and make good. 

Ben Browder's Sheriff Isaac is extremely sympathetic. One is really saddened when he chooses to give his life to save the Doctor and the townsfolk. He is likeable, and thankfully not portrayed as an idiot like so many western police folk often are, or at least it seems so much to me. The Sheriff is a decent and law-abiding man, and this is excellent to see. It leaves a lump in the throat when he throws himself in front of the Gunslinger's weapon and dies a hero. 

Andrew Brooke as the Gunslinger looks formidable: a superb piece of art in his look and his apparel. You respect the Gunslinger as a palpable threat. He reminds one a bit of the Terminators from the film series of the same name. But The Gunslinger has a merciful side which slowly the Doctor is able to utilize when he brings about the final peace between him and Kahler Jex. That the script takes the delightful notion of turning the threat into a defender is a spark of genius to finish the episode.  with. The final shots of the Gunslinger guarding the townsfolk of Mercy is a brilliant and effective climax to a highly enjoyable story indeed. 

There are also several moments of good humour throughout the episode too.  The Doctor's talking to the horse being particularly funny. But the humour doesn't override the darker elements of the story. But in the end, this is basically a sci fi tinged classic western with all the tropes that work so well with that genre. A Town Called Mercy is a rare jewel of the Matt Smith era. It's plot isn't overburdened with subplots. The action is slick and believable. The scripting is very strong and I do believe it is Toby Whithouse's finest story for the show. And Saul Metzstein is the perfect director, he gets the most out of all the cast to add to the success of the episode. I would rank this story in my top five Matt Smith episodes of all time. 

The only other slight annoyance is the shortness of the single 45-minute episode format. The story is great, but over far too soon. I seem to think this of quite a lot of the modern era. 45 minutes really isn't ample enough time to make the most of a story. It's like you take a few breaths and the story is over already. But for the time it lasts at least I can say this story is far more enjoyable than most stories around it. 

So, with the Gunslinger now protecting the future of the town, I think we can safely assume the town will hopefully no longer be threatened by cyborgs with secrets. Will we ever hear from Mercy again? Let's just wait and see.... 

Who Reviews Bad Wolf/ Parting of the Ways by Matt Rabjohns


When it comes to reviewing the Christopher Eccleston era of the show, and era that was sadly all too brief on screen, I find myself in something of a quandary.  Now I will stress that I think Chris was the absolute perfect choice of talented and brilliant actor to bring back the show to a modern audience in 2005. Honestly Chris was absolutely incredible in the role right from the first minute of Rose. I loved his wounded soldier Doctor, the broken man in recovery after the time war. He perfectly gave the performance of a shattered man, seeking for hope. But what I sadly never took to was Billie Piper as Rose. To me she was far too common, antagonistic and just not my cup of tea as a character. Therefore, the entirety of Chris's era for me is seldom a place I return to, to watch because I just have no time for Rose at all. 

But I don't want to spend an entire review being negative. I will just also add that I am not the world's biggest fan of Captain Jack as played by John Barrowman either. I could do without his character easily too. 

But let’s move onto the story itself. Bad Wolf begins with a flourish. As the Doctor finds he's been separated from his companions and he stirs to find he is in the Big Brother House of the future. There he meets Lynda Moss, Lynda with a Y. Played absolutely brilliantly by Jo Joyner. Honestly, I would love to have seen far more from Jo Joyner. For me as a one-time companion for Chris's Doctor she succeeds in all the ways that Billie fails for me. I love her character, she is kind, decent, asks relevant questions and for a while is totally loyal to the Doctor, which for me is so wonderful to see. Jo and Chris share some beautiful scenes together that when it came to her extermination by the Daleks I was totally gutted. Lynda with a Y could have done with a lot more time to get to know her. But instead, she joins the pantheon of "could have been a companion" actors and actresses, and I for one am chagrined by that no end. 

Martha Cope is also an absolute revelation as the poor wired up Controller of Satellite 5. She is absolutely superb in her channelling of an enslaved human being on the edge of insanity. You instantly feel sorry for her and her performance is riveting in the extreme. I absolutely love how she gives her life in betrayal of the Daleks and dies a hero. Her death scene marks one of the highlights of the Eccleston era. But even saying my love for this character again, I still have some annoyance that again she meets with death when we could have seen so much more from her. Mind you I should be glad that in a series that would go on to be obsessed with characters never truly dying then a few characters actually properly dying is a breath of fresh air. 

It is also highly amusing to have both Davina McCall and Anne Robinson, contributing voices to the Davina droid and Anne Droid. Anne particularly is still the same old battle-axe made to be rude character she always was on the Weakest Link. Although to be true they could have done with making her a bit ruder. She does seem a bit tame in terms of her insults in this two-part epic. But the murderous way it appears she kills contestants is stark and well directed. And as the realisation of the deadly edge to the game dawns on Rose, then these scenes are superb and very tension packed. Rose must play for her life and I will admit Billie gives some good fearful acting when she realises, she is the weakest link in the final round. That she must have a showdown with Paterson Joseph's character of Rodrick is a good point to mention too in that Rodrick is a totally self-centred and loathsome human being. The way he dismisses Rose as a non-contender and delights in his win marks him as a nasty little piece of work. That he doesn't get his prize is amusing! 

I can't really say much about the involvement of Trinee and Suzannah bots too as I don't know a great deal about the pair or their own programme. but just in Doctor Who story terms they are characterised with a good dose of macabre humour. But I am sure the scene of John Barrowman nude before a defabricater is totally unnecessary and not needed. I don't get anything from it except I don't like this tasteless scene at all. 

The Daleks of this story are totally ruthless and black hearted though. This is one thing I will give this story credit for. The Daleks here are not to be trifled with at all. There is no comedy as the Dalek army boards the satellite. These daleks are truly a force to be reckoned with. However, I am not sure if the realisation of the Emperor Dalek here works. Nick Brigg's voice is superb for the master of all Dalek Mutants. But the prop itself looks more cute than ugly and thus really doesn't engender much fear in me at all. But the bloodthirsty way the Daleks kill in The Parting of the Ways has an epic feel of dread and doom that the new era has actually seldom ever done before or since. There is a total atmosphere of oppressive claustrophobia that makes the story far more interesting than it otherwise would have been. The faction of gameplayers stranded in outer space in the satellite is incredibly done. You truly feel so very stressed with them. The CGI in this story for once also is not too bad. The scenes of thousands of daleks spilling from their war ships is a scene we could never have had in the classic era. 

There is also a bucketload of emotion in store as Rose is sent back to earth to save her from the Doctor's final showdown with the Daleks. That she tries so doggedly to re-join him must be counted in her characters credit here. Though I still find it hard to like her, here she does act more like a decent person and not just a common idiot so I would say this is one of her best moments because just for a few minutes she is not annoying and even I hope she does get back to the Doctor. Although the final climax of her ripping open the TARDIS console and the vortex energy filling her is a bit akin to waving a magic wand. How easily then the Emperor and his minions are dealt with by dispersal feels like a damp squib ending to what was before then a gripping yarn indeed. 

Chris is also at his absolute apex in this story. Particular the scene of when he informs the Daleks that he has no plan, but simply states "Yeah, and doesn't that just scare you to death!?" is an absolute die-hard classic Doctor Who moment. I was absolutely sold on his Doctor already, but here was the scene when I said oh I wish this man would stay for far longer than the time he did. Then there is a second superb scene, where the Doctor before the Emperor states he'd rather be a coward any day than a butcher. These are absolutely defining moments of his Doctor's moral strength. It is so brilliant to see the war wounded time lord show he is sick of killing and this gives Chris one heck of a swansong all in all. 

And then we come to the moment. The devastatingly short era of the Ninth Doctor is so bittersweet and Chris felt he could only commit to one season on screen. This for me was so sad because, excuse the pun, I thought his portrayal of the Doctor was fantastic. He brought back the Time Lord with such style and elan. He ensured the show could live in the modern era. And so, to see him depart from the role after just one season is so disheartening. Whilst I am delighted to see David Tennant come aboard for a new era, the shock at the too brief stint the Ninth Doctor had was memorable for his sublime display of acting. I was absolutely overjoyed when I heard Big Finish had finally persuaded Chris to come back to the role for their Ninth Doctor adventures. It rather begs that old time but assuredly true remark: He's back and it's about ruddy time! 

Bad Wolf/ Parting of the Ways is overall a very fitting tribute to Christopher Eccleston. Doctor Who was resurrected by Russell T Davies, but they had to get the right man for the role. Fortunately, they truly did. Chris was amazing, and he deserves to be remembered for the excellent new Doctor he brought to our screens so very well back in the mists of time in 2005. We fans should never do anything but offer him heartfelt gratitude and thanks.