The Stones of Venice is possibly the most confused serial I've listened, or even watched, ever. The time frame makes no sense. Everything about it makes it feel like medieval or renaissance period, with Lords and Dukes, evil cults, and people worried about curses. Except the dialogue specifically states the 23rd century, Venice is finally falling to its fate beneath the waves and the gondoliers are now a race of amphibious men.
I have no problem saying that Italy, or at the very least Venice, resorts back to a more feudal system in the future. But it doesn't hold up to any sort of scrutiny. Early on, the Doctor offers use of his ship to save artwork that is to be abandoned, the curator is confused as all ships have left, and vessels that aren't water-based are beyond him. Calling in helicopters to help evacuate people right down to the last minute would be done today, but in 300 hundred years if you're not out 24 hours before it collapses you're written off? Nonsense.
Then there's the Gondoliers being amphibious. Someone did some genetic experiments to make them more useful? Aliens maybe took over the job? Nope, they evolved that way because they work near water. That's not how science works!
If I was to hazard a guess I think it was written as an historical adventure, changed to the future to explain Venice sinking and the amphibious Gondoliers. I can forgive the latter, if they gave a better in-universe explanation, but the former doesn't need it as the curse that the entire story revolves around explains why Venice is sinking on an exact time frame. It's just a mess of writing.
It gets worse with the characters too. Everyone's stumbling around without a real clue as to what's going on. One of the Gondoliers, Pietro, hypnotises Charley into helping him, stating he's one of the more radical of his people. Yet soon as the hypnotism wears off Charley keeps him around as a friend, and when everything kicks off he's shocked his people are just out and out killing humans to speed things up, and actively helps stop the curse. Something he showed he would do anything to let happen. The character just didn't make any sense. And he's not the only one.
The serial also does the same thing as The Sword of Orion, with the twist about the female character being blindingly obvious, but to Stones of Venice's favour, the Doctor barely meets her, it's everyone else who is oblivious, which I have no problem with.
This is easily the weakest Audio Drama I've listened to yet. At least Cuddlesome and The Genocide Machine were just generic, The Stones of Venice is rubbish.
Pretty brave for the fourth Audio adventure of the Eighth Doctor, Minuet in Hell, being all about him being an amnesiac again, considering he's spent half his TV appearance with that issue, and is one of the many bad marks against the TV Movie.
Here we have a man out to rule America by making a pact with the devil, and as a result has some brain swapping technology that the Doctor is the victim of. What follows is the struggling birth of the US' 51st state, Malebogia (did no one really look at the application and worry it was a bit demonic?) and the various factions that play a part in it.
It's a pretty interesting outing, with the villains actually coming across as quite capable, which is an upshot after The Stone of Venice, even though the Doctor is kept out of the action for three quarters of it. The excuse works, but like I said at the start, it's an interesting avenue to explore after the TV movie.
Unfortunately, the third episode drags a bit. It listens as if it was mostly filler, moving pieces around the chess board for time so Big Finish could reach four parts instead of the three the serial needed. The accents are pretty dreadful, and further confuse as to where we are. The Senator and Becky Lee sound like they're from the most stereotypical South you've ever heard, but other aspects sounded New England, which has absolutely no room for a new state. In fact that whole part of the plot is not necessary because it doesn't come into play, other than our big bad Brigham Dashwood III wants to run for Governor, but that could work anywhere.
And I was left with a bit of confusion as to what the hell was going on with the supernatural in this serial. The demons were explained away as aliens, obviously. But they never address Becky Lee's psychic abilities properly, just her explanation as an old trick her long line of demon hunters developed. But the demons are aliens that only just turned up? Which is a similar explanation given in Pertwee's The Daemons. It just doesn't add up. It's like someone decided to insert a proxy-Buffy here and forgot to explain it properly.
However, we get a wonderful moment with Charley that moves her story nicely along, and now I'm really interested to find out where the story of her being out of time is going.
Despite it all, I quite enjoyed Minuet in Hell. The Doctor is out of it for the majority of the story. Instead we focus upon Charley, the bad guys, a demon hunter, and most pleasing of all, the Brigadier. That said, one of the major complaints I've seen about this is the length of some of the parts. I didn't notice, but then I was on a six hour drive and Minuet in Hell just filled in some of that journey.