Friday, January 30, 2015

Once More into the Pepper Pot Breach - Dalek Empire 2

The second series takes the questionable decision of telling the story through flashbacks, I think possibly setting up Dalek Empire 3. But further than that it decides to go for flashbacks within flashbacks at quite a steady procession. It even has the audacity to have the overall framing so far in the future that they get the details of Dalek Empire 1 wrong as they view history.

However, it's probably for the better, because it allows the series to set up some rather nifty cliffhangers, suspense and mystery to proceedings because if it had just carried on as normal it would have been rather so-so, one of the problems Cyberman 1 would suffer greatly from. Though Part 4 does commit the second greatest crime of cliffhangers by not addressing Part 3's until 20 minutes in, mostly spending its time explaining the framing story and setting up “Dalek Empire 3”.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Obey the Daleks! - Dalek Empire

During Capaldi's first season I had a wedding to attend, which also meant two 8-10 hour train journeys. My classic tactic for this year with travel was to push on with Who Audio, but that wasn't really an option, as I'd promised myself I'd stay away from other Doctors until we'd finish the Twelfth's Doctors first tour of duty. So, despite how much Cyberman had put me off the Big Finish mini-series, I decided drag out Dalek Empire, being that it'd take up nearly five hours of my trip.

Initially it seems to be looking at how the 'Dalek Invasion of Earth' took place. Which is particularly obvious thanks to the title of part one being 'Invasion of the Daleks'. It would be quite a clever move too, as we know the Daleks reached Earth, but everything else about that invasion is a complete mystery. However, it is in a totally different timezone, the 42nd century to be exact, but Big Finish do seem to be addressing the fact that 'Dalek Invasion of Earth', the second ever Dalek serial, has the evil pepper pots acting in a very different manner than we saw after that.

There's liberal use of robomen, a process the Daleks didn't bother with for years after 'Invasion' until Moffat brought back the idea for humanised Dalek infiltrators. There's the forced labour camps, which modern day Daleks wouldn't bother with because the can just exterminate.
In many way it's a shame that it doesn't just embrace the Dalek invasion we saw the First Doctor deal with. After all, he only stopped one operation on Earth, there's got to be a lot more to that story.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Big Finale, after the other Big Explosive entry - Zagreus

Zagreus is... is not what I expected. After the epic that was “Sirens of Time” that started Big Finish, I expected their 50th audio drama celebration to match. Especially as they were now bringing in McGann so we had Doctors Five through Eight all together.

Except we don't. We have Eight and the TARDIS mad with Anti-Time power, calling themselves Zagreus with Charley somehow meant to stop them. So the TARDIS guides her, around time and space trying to understand the mystery of the name, with a rather interesting way of presenting those histories.

On one level it's a mid-season episode. A fun diversion taking place almost entirely in the TARDIS, dealing with the repercussions of the explosive finale of “Neverland”, and bathing in Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland.

But at the same time the whole thing is fan-wank at its height. Or it's a celebration of everything Who. Your Mileage might vary on that one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Big Finale? - Neverland

When I talk about the Eighth Doctor, half the time I end up talking about the gap between Classic and New Who. He's the obvious point for that conversation. He's the nebulous Doctor. He exists as part of neither side, having popped up the first time they attempted a relaunch halfway between the two series. In fact what Big Finish as a whole represents is the middle ground, being the one of the main torch bearers during The Wilderness Years.

Usually when I do bring up the gap and audios I tend to talk about how much like New Who the audios were, years before RTD gave us the Ninth Doctor. Or Classic Who... maybe I haven't on that one, but something like 'Whispers of Terror' is very Classic Who.

Neverland is very much the embodiment of both.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Even more Daleks - Time of the Daleks

We're back with the Eighth Doctor as he and Charley arrive in the late-2050s as the Doctor investigates why Charley has no idea who Shakespeare is and discovers an annoying temporal anomaly. And Daleks.

Shakespeare is one of those historical people that seems so obvious for Doctor Who to visit. Which is probably why the show avoided it until the Tenth Doctor and Martha. Yet this one does a much better job because it plays up the tropes of Shakespeare so much more, and is more about a performance than the writer, and only plays that card after it's well and truly built up.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Save the Daleks! - The Mutant Phase

Despite listening to the first two Dalek entries relatively quickly I've been putting “The Mutant Phase” off as long as possible. Not because of Davidson. After I did his closing three stories I felt I could press on with his audio adventures. The reason for the hold up has been his companion. Nyssa is one of those that I have no knowledge of. I've only seen her in “Earthshock”, which she might as well not have been in. I was trying to hold out till I watched the Four/Five regeneration trilogy, and two more on my list that would have taken me up to “Earthshock”.

But I have one goal before Capaldi begins (just to date this). Reach “Zagreus”, which I'm treating as the end of McGann season 1. To do that means listening to “Time of the Daleks”, which I've seen lumped in with “The Genocide Machine”, “The Apocalypse Element” and “The Mutant Phase” as Dalek Empire Season 0.

I'm not entirely sure how relevant that is, except they seem to be Big Finish's first Dalek stories for each Doctor. I first noted that “The Apocalypse Element” had barely anything to do with “The Genocide Machine” except its antagonists, and the same is true of “The Mutant Phase”. I figured it may have been building to something with the epic ending of “The Apocalypse Element”, but “The Mutant Phase” does something else entirely.

Monday, January 05, 2015

A couple of trips with Eight - More Big Finish

Change of tact for this week. Quick review of two different audio serials. One that didn't grab me, and the other that was actually quick itself.

Embrace the Darkness

It's a shame then that after the epicness of “Seasons of Fear”, “Embrace the Darkness” ignores all of that and gives us a mediocre base under siege story.

It does have a decent twist that raises the serial up a couple of notches, but overall this is an immensely missable entry into the Eighth Doctor's adventures. Let's get back to the many mysteries of Charley, or even that trial, or whatever it was, that the Doctor seemed to be involved in.

Not that I have anything against Base Under Seige stories. Doctor Who survives on Base Under Siege, and the Troughton era thrived on them, but this one killed all momentum from the previous serial.

Living Legend

This wasn't on my list of McGann to listen to. It was originally a free giveaway on the Doctor Who Magazine, so entirely skippable. Except for their fifteenth birthday Big Finish have made it free on their site for ever more. Just in time for me to listen to it in the right place.

Of course, “Living Legend” is entirely skippable, and considering my preoccupation with Charley's big storyline, that should be a death knoll for me. But it is fun. I think that's what makes it stand out more than 'Embrace the Darkness'.

If the previous one had come earlier in the run, it's complete disregard of the ongoing plot would have not been as noticeable, and the scariness of the aliens would have shone a little a more. Here, despite it being totally throwaway, the fun McGann and India Fisher are having manage to make it worthwhile. It's only half an hour, but that means the joke actually works, instead of it outstaying it's welcome. I moaned during “Cyberman” that the two mini-series are stretched out, and I think that's part of the problem with “Embrace the Darkness”. It tries to be too long to try and become the standard length of a Who serial.

“Living Legend” on the other hand is a quick shot of fun, and because of that it totally works and does the job it set out to do.