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[sticky post] A journal in time and space

It has come to my attention recently that I've been remiss in not putting an explanation for my journal at the front, so I have pinned this post in the hopes that anyone who comes to this journal will see this first.

I have been a lifelong fan of Doctor Who ever since the time when at 5-years-old I watched The Seeds of Doom. Doctor Who immediately replaced Star Trek as my favorite TV series and it has been so ever since. I'm an American and watched Doctor Who on my local PBS station, which meant that within the span of a few years I had seen all of the Doctor Who then available. This included everything from William Hartnell through Colin Baker. It became obvious to me when they showed the Hartnell and Troughton years that something was missing and I did some research and soon discovered that some episodes had been wiped. This started my quest to find the novelizations for all of those stories, which also resulted in me finding and reading a lot of the novelizations for existing stories as well. Eventually, I moved from Florida to South Carolina where they no longer showed Doctor Who. I was ten at that point and it was a struggle to keep my addiction fed.

Thankfully, the VHS releases started coming to America around this time and I soon set up a policy with my parents wherein if I received a good report card we would order one of those stories (nowhere in SC in those days actually carried Doctor Who videos at the store). I also kept up with the novels known as the New Adventures, which started around that time. Those stories carried on from Survival and gave us the continuing story of Doctor Who. However, becoming a teenager meant that by around the time that I turned 14 my interests were divided. I still considered myself a fan of Doctor Who but other than watching my VHS tapes occasionally I didn't really do much with it. Then when I turned 16 the TV movie came out and although it has its problems I credit it with rekindling my love and interest in Doctor Who. After that I bought all of the New Adventures and Missing Adventures and caught up and I stayed caught up with the books until they were cancelled. I also started listening to the audio adventures from Big Finish when those came out.

I was ecstatic when the New Series was announced and couldn't wait to see new Doctor Who. Unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations. In my opinion the quality of story telling was far worse than that of the novels and audios, so I stopped watching that with Journeys End and continued with the novels and audios. Yet once the 50th anniversary came it seemed sad that I wasn't doing anything related to it, so I decided to start this blog. This blog is an attempt to examine Doctor Who on a story by story basis starting with the TV series and the audios from Big Finish. Eventually this may also expand to the novels but those are far more time-consuming to review, so I'll start with this first. These reviews will contain my opionions and observations on these stories, which will hopefully be different from what I term "fan orthodoxy" which you can find in many of the guidebooks. I hope that this will help both long-time fans of the series as well as people who are just beginning to look at the classic series of Doctor Who. To further help that latter group, I've included a final rating and recommendation section to each entry. This will tell them how good the story is and will also tell them where I think that it's something that needs to be watched or listened to or not.

I'm always looking for feedback, so if you have any please let me know.

Each review will have the following format:

Blurb - This is where the synopsis from the back goes.

Format - This tells you what kind of story this is, whether its a TV show, movie, book, or audio drama. It also may give you the style of the adventure such as a companion chronicle, full cast drama, or novel.

Setting - This tells you the time and place of all the action in the story if known.

Continuity - Mentions links to other stories and indicates for past Doctor stories where they happen within the television series and possibly linking to other expanded universe sources.

Canonicity Quotient - This will only appear for Doctor Who expanded universe entries. My order of relevance to canon is Original Series - New Adventures/novels published by Virgin publishing, novels published by BBC books, Big Finish audios, short stories, new series of Doctor Who. This is the section where I discuss how well this story fits in with the rest of Doctor Who weighted per my list above.

Discussion - This is where I give my thoughts on the story. MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! I also put my rating of the story out of 10 points at the bottom.

Recomendation - This is where I give a very brief reason why someone should or should not listen to, watch, or read the story. This will be spoiler free.

Now for a list of the reviews so far:

[TV Series (click to open)]

Season One:
An Unearthly Child (Serial A)
The Daleks (Serial B)
The Edge of Destruction (Serial C)
Marco Polo (Serial D)
The Keys of Marinus (Serial E)
The Aztecs (Serial F)
The Sensorites (Serial G)
The Reign of Terror (Serial H)

Season Two:
Planet of Giants (Serial J)
The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Serial K)
The Rescue (Serial L)
The Romans (Serial M)
The Web Planet (Serial N)
The Crusade (Serial P)
The Space Museum (Serial Q)
The Chase (Serial R)
The Time Meddler (Serial S)

Season Three:
Galaxy Four (Serial T)
Mission to the Unknown (Serial D/C)
The Myth Makers (Serial U)

[Big Finish Audios (click to open]
There are many ways to sort the Big Finish Adventures. I will do this by sorting first by the Big Finish range that the story falls within. I will then sort chronologically by the season of the TV series in which the story falls. In some cases these are guesses and I will be a 'c' next to those stories. The names of either the narrators or the characters involved in the story will be listed in parentheses after the story.

The Companion Chronicles:

Season Zero (Prior to An Unearthly Child):
8.05 The Beginning (Susan)
9.01 The Sleeping Blood (Susan)
5.06 Quinnis (Susan)
8.02 The Alchemists (Susan)

Season One:
3.07 The Transit of Venus (Ian)

Season One-b (Between Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants):
3.01 Here There Be Monsters (Susan)
6.10 The Wanderer (Ian)
7.07 The Flames of Cadiz (Ian, Susan)
7.10 The Library of Alexandria (Ian)

Season Two:
Special The Revenants (Ian)
8.09 Starborn (Vicki)
6.02 The Rocket Men (Ian)
8.08 The Sleeping City (Ian)
9.02 The Unwinding World

Season Two-b (Between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four):
4.07 The Suffering (Steven, Vicki)
1.01 Frostfire (Vicki)
8.03 Upstairs (Vicki, Steven)
9.03 The Founding Fathers (Steven)

Season Three:
6.07 The Anachronauts (Steven, Sara Kingdom)
3.05 Home Truths (Sara Kingdom)
4.01 The Drowned World (Sara Kingdom)
5.01 The Guardian of the Solar System (Sara Kingdom)
5.08 The Perpetual Bond (Steven, Oliver)
5.12 The Cold Equations (Steven, Oliver)
6.05 The First Wave (Steven, Oliver)
2.01 Mother Russia (Steven)
7.05 Return of the Rocket Men (Steven)
8.10 The War to End all Wars (Steven)

Season Four:
3.09 Resistance (Polly)
5.09 The Forbidden Time (Polly, Jamie)
6.08 The Selachian Gambit (Jamie, Polly)
7.08 The House of Cards (Polly, Jamie)

Season Five:
3.02 The Great Space Elevator (Victoria)
4.08 The Emperor of Eternity (Victoria, Jamie)

Season Five-b (Between The Wheel in Space and The Dominators):
1.02 Fear of the Daleks (Zoe)

Season Six:
6.11 The Jigsaw War (Jamie)
4.02 The Glorious Revolution (Jamie)
5.02 Echoes of Grey (Zoe)
6.03 The Memory Cheats (Zoe)
7.02 The Uncertainty Principle (Zoe)
7.11 The Apocalypse Mirror (Jamie, Zoe)
8.12 Second Chances (Zoe)
8.06 The Dying Light (Jamie, Zoe)

Season Six-b (Between The War Games and Spearhead from Space):
2.02 Helicon Prime (Jamie)

Season Seven:
2.03 Old Soldiers (The Brigadier)
4.09 Shadow of the Past (Liz)
7.04 The Last Post (Liz)

Season Seven-b (Between Inferno and Terror of the Autons):
1.03 The Blue Tooth (Liz)
6.09 Binary (Liz)
6.12 The Rings of Ikiria (Mike)

Season Eight:
5.10 The Sentinels of the New Dawn (Liz)

Season Eight-b (Between The Daemons and The Day of the Daleks):
3.03 The Doll of Death (Jo)

Season Nine:
3.10 The Magician's Oath (Mike)
5.03 Find and Replace (Jo)

Season Ten:
Special The Mists of Time (Jo)
6.04 The Many Deaths of Jo Grant (Jo)
7.09 The Scorchies (Jo)
8.04 Ghost in the Machine (Jo)

Season Ten-b (Between The Green Death and The Time Warrior)
4.03 The Prisoner of Peladon (King Peladon)
7.12 Council of War (Benton)

Season Fourteen:
7.06 The Child (Leela)

Season Fourteen-b (Between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock)
2.04 The Catalyst (Leela)

Season Fifteen:
3.04 Empathy Games (Leela)
4.10 The Time Vampire (Leela, K-9)

3.11 The Mahogany Murderers (Jago and Litefoot)
7.01 The Time Museum (Ian)
8.11 The Elixir of Doom (Jo)
9.04 The Locked Room (Steven)

The Lost Stories:

Season One-b:
2.01 Farewell Great Macedon (Ian, Susan)
2.01 The Fragile Gentle Arc of Fragrance (Ian, Susan)
3.07 The Masters of Luxor (Ian, Susan)

Season Two:
The Dark Planet (Ian, Vicki)

Season Six:
2.02 Prison in Space (Jamie, Zoe)
3.08 The Rosemariners (Jamie, Zoe)
4.02 The Queen of Time (Jamie, Zoe)
4.03 Lords of the Red Planet (Jamie Zoe)

Season Eight:
4.04 The Mega (Jo, Mike)

Season Fourteen-b:
Special The Foe from the Future (Fourth Doctor, Leela)

Season Fifteen:
Special The Valley of Death (Fourth Doctor, Leela)

The Destroyers (Sara Kingdom)

Short Trips:

Season One-b (Between Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants):
5.01 Flywheel Revolution (Peter Purves)

Season Two-b (Between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four):
5.09 Etheria (Peter Purves)

The Early Adventures:

Season One-b (Between Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants):
1.01 Domain of the Voord (Susan, Ian)
3.01 The Age of Endurance (Susan, Ian)

Season Two:
3.02 The Fifth Traveller (Vicki, Ian)
1.02 The Doctor's Tale (Vicki, Ian)

Season Two-b (Between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four):
1.03 The Bounty of Ceres (Vicki, Steven)
3.03 The Ravelli Conspiracy (Vicki, Steven)

Season Three:
1.04 An Ordinary Life (Steven, Sara)
3.04 The Sontarans (Steven, Sara)

Destiny of the Doctor:

Season Zero:
01 Hunters of Earth (Susan)

Season Six:
02 Shadow of Death (Jamie)

Season Seven:
03 Vengeance of the Stones (Mike Yates)

The Fourth Doctor Adventures:

Season Fourteen-b:
1.01 Destination: Nerva (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.02 The Renaissance Man (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.03 The Wrath of the Iceni (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.04 Energy of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.05 Trail of the White Worm (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.06 The Oseidon Adventure (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
Special: Night of the Stormcrow (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.01 The King of Sontar (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.02 White Ghosts (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.03 The Crooked Man (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.04 The Evil One (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.05 Last of the Colophon (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.06 Destroy the Infinite (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.07 The Abandoned (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
3.08 Zygon Hunt (Fourth Doctor, Leela)

Philip Hinchcliffe Presents:

Season Fourteen-b:
1.1 The Ghosts of Gralstead (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
1.2 The Devil's Armada (Fourth Doctor, Leela)
2,1 The Genesis Chamber (Fourth Doctor, Leela)

[BBC Audios (click to open]

Season Fifteen-b (Between The Invasion of Time and The Ribos Operation)
Hornet's Nest
1. The Stuff of Nightmares
2. The Dead Shoes
3. The Circus of Doom
4. A Sting in the Tale
5. Hive of Horror

Blurb: The TARDIS arrives on a moon-sized asteroid orbiting two gas giants. With an amazing view, it’s a chance for the Doctor, Steven and Sara to unwind after their recent adventures.

But they quickly find themselves in the midst of battle - on one side: a familiar group of space-suited soldiers - members of the Space Security Service. On the other: strange, squat aliens in body armour.

Surviving the initial hostilities, the Doctor and his friends discover that the SSS squad is on a terrifying mission. With many lives at stake, they have to venture deep inside the asteroid in search of a hideous weapon. But who can they trust in the battle against these Sontarans?

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Peter Purves and Jean Marsh published by Big Finish Productions and released December 2016.

Setting: The unnamed planet of the Nil, c3900 AD.

Continuity: This story takes place between two episodes of The Daleks Masterplan, The Feast of Steven and Volcano and after the other audio adventures set within this gap. Steven mentions being on Mechanus (see The Chase). Steven tells the Doctor that they can't take a platoon of soldiers with them, because it'll be a repeat of the situation with Natalie Lang (see The Anachronauts). Sara remembers her time in 1950's London (see An Ordinary Life).

Canonicity Quotient: The continuity seems very poor in this story. Sara is from the year 4000 when humanity has encountered the Sontarans many times, but the story makes it seem as if she has no idea what one looks like with its helmet off, which makes no sense for a security officer. The Sontarans are shown to be completely ignorant of humanity even though they have encountered them numerous times. They also lack any understanding of civilians and leaving the war, even though this is not an unusual trait among alien species in the Doctor Who universe. The Sontarans claim that the Rutans shapeshift due to technology rather than an inherent biological process. The Doctor doesn't recognize the Sontarans or Rutans despite the fact that both races predate Gallifrey's advent of time travel and had some interaction with the ancient Gallifreyans. The story ends with the Doctor and company wishing to get back into the fight with the Daleks although the Daleks Masterplan has the crew surprised that the Daleks have found them and wanting to avoid them. Oddly, the Doctor doesn't recognize the Sontarans despite the fact that they were at the Armageddon Convention and so was he (see The Empire of Glass).0.50

Discussion: It's very difficult for the Early Adventures to use returning villains, because they're usually constrained by some sort of continuity issue. Yet, the Sontarans presented a unique opportunity. In The Time Warrior, the Doctor is very familiar with their race, implying that he's encountered them at least once in the past. Therefore, it was almost an inevitability that one of The Early Adventures would deal with the Sontarans. They allow the range to use a well established foe of the Doctor without any issue with companions or the Doctor not recognizing them later on. I'd have preferred it if they'd chosen an early gap just to maximize the potential number of Sontaran stories with the first Doctor, but this works out ok.

As usual, I'm not a big fan of Simon Guerrier's continuity. He seems to think that pretty much anything that happens in outer space happens all at the same time. So here we have a story that's clearly set late in the 4th millennium between the fall of the Earth Empire and Sara's time of 4000 where humans are almost completely ignorant of the Sontarans, even though they've been fighting them for centuries. It's also weird that the Sontarans act like they know next to nothing about the humans. Yes, the Sontarans are a military race, but they have to know b this point that that's more or less unusual in the cosmos. Lots of races that they encounter have a civilian population and have people that go from one to the other. Yet, here, the Sontarans can't believe the entire concept regardless of whether or not they know enough about human culture to know that that's normal. It's also annoying that the Doctor acts so completely ignorant of the Sontarans. He's already supposed to have met them at The Armageddon Convention by this point, and it's really unnecessary for Guerrier to insist that the Doctor knows absolutely nothing about them. Yes, it's nice that Sara knows far more about them, putting the shoe on the other foot for once, but having the Doctor remember that he saw a few of them once wouldn't have really changed the narrative. I also don't understand why he included the line about Sara not knowing what a Sontaran looked like with its mask off. Surely in the thousands of years that humanity has been fighting the Sontarans they've been able to find at least once body and surely a security officer like Sara would have been informed of all the different types of alien threats that she might encounter. It's an annoying slight on an otherwise fairly strong story.

What's really great about this one is how implacable the Sontarans are. A lot is made about the invulnerability of Sontarans in other stories, but here they're actually portrayed as invulnerable. They jump down hundreds of meters of volcanic shaft and land in magma and crawl out again. This makes them terrifyingly dangerous. It's also neat that they're studying human psychology with shades of The Sontaran Experiment. Sometimes the Sontarans are portrayed as completely monolithic and unchanging. Here, we're presented with Sontarans that wish to improve by incorporating any trait from another species that will make them better at warfare. This gives them a new dimension that makes them a lot more interesting to hear about. There's also a nice twist where the Doctor saves the lives of the colonists by convincing the Sontarans that the fact that they can't shoot back makes it so unchallenging as to not be worth the effort. I also like that at the end of the day, it's the Doctor who defeats the Sontarans, outsmarting them and leading them to a fairly brutal fate. It's the kind of thing that the first Doctor would have done with reservation, and it's nice to see Guerrier play with that aspect of the character again.

Another really interesting thing that Guerrier added was the fate of Pappas. Sara knows that when humans investigate in a year that they find nothing alive. Yet, there's a whole civilization of Nil on the asteroid. Sara sees that as proof that they must all be wiped out. Gage sees it as hope that they find a way to escape. It's a nice point about point of view with time travel, allowing the gaps in knowledge to work for you instead of against you. It was a neat point, and I was glad to see it used in this story.

Of course, Guerrier's real strength is in characterization rather than plotting. This is also where his continuity shines. I've already mentioned how he gets the Doctor with the right amount of ruthless cunning. There are also some nice moments for Steven. Most writers just mention that Steven was on Mechanus to check a box. For Guerrier it's an important character point, one which the Sontarans latch onto, so that they and we can better understand Steven's character. There's some development of Sara as well, showing that she's changed while traveling with Steven and the Doctor and explaining why she seems so different in episode 8 of The Dalek's Master Plan than she does in the preceding episodes. There's also some nice narration about how Sara so easily slips back into her old life when working with Gage. She enjoys the combat and she works fluidly with a fellow soldier. It's foreshadowing what's to come with her character and helps to highlight the tragedy that even though she may have come a long way with the Doctor and Steven, she's still fundamentally the same person that she has been from the beginning.

One thing that I really want to highlight on this one is how absolutely wonderful the music is. Big Finish typically has good sound design and background music, but this time they've outdone themselves. There's an eerie quality to the music here that helps to highlight the unusual and unexpected element so the story. It gets mixed in with an the powerful beats that represent the implacable Sontaran foe. There's a back and forth between the two musical elements that indicates the mix of the two elements, and it's really quite wonderful to hear. The sounds are also good with various laser blasts, explosions, the sounds of electrocution all standing out.

The performances are also great. I've taken Ken Bentley to task before on the Early Adventures, since it seems to me that his have been average at best. Until now I've only really enjoyed the ones directed by Lisa Bowerman. Yet, even though I wasn't a fan of An Ordinary Life he does seem to have a penchant for directing Steven and Sara stories. The Anachronauts also had some fantastic performances, and he brings out the best in Purves in Kingdom here. Marsh sounds better than she has in years. Although she's obviously aged since 1965 she gives a far more energetic and nuanced performance than she did in An Ordinary Life. Purves still shines, being a master of narration, but also giving great performances as The Doctor and Steven. His Doctor still seems a tad to impish for Hartnell but he's able to give a really varied performance in a voice that's pretty far removed from his own. Of course, he benefits in that his regular voice hasn't aged much, so his Steven sounds really good as well. It's always great to hear these two titans on audio. I'm just worried that with this story being obviously intended to lead directly back into The Daleks Master Plan that Big Finish must know something that we don't, and that this might be the last story that they do with Marsh.

Final Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: A fantastic story, using the Sontarans to great effect and giving them a fantastic first outting with the Doctor. The performances are top notch and the music has never been better. The continuity is pretty awful, which keeps it from getting a perfect score but otherwise it's a pretty gripping yarn. I recommend listening to it.

Doctor Who: Short Trips 5.09 - Etheria

Blurb: Having escaped an ambush by pirates, the Doctor and Vicki are stranded on a strange world, in the shadow of vast rock formations and islands in the sky. The only way home is through the treacherous Etherlands, where the invisible Ether alters the perception of anyone who enters...

Format: Short story audiobook narrated by Peter Purves. Published by Big Finish Productions and released September of 2015.

Setting: The alien world of The Ether in an unknown time.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four. There's no indication of when it takes place with regard to other stories set in the same gap.

Canonicity Quotient: There is nothing in this story that conflicts with established continuity. 1.00

Discussion: Etheria is another short story read by Peter Purves for Big Finish. The Doctor and Vicki are on a search to find the TARDIS and Steven as they wander through the Etherlands. The Ether found in this area acts like a psychotropic drug, causing distortions in perception. It gets so bad that people have to tie themselves to the ground when they're ready to sleep for fear that they may sleepwalk away and get killed. Thankfully, they have a native guide, Thaylar, to guide them through this area, but the Doctor suspects that he may not be what he appears.

There are a lot of great ideas in this story, but it's a shame that they're killed by the glacial pacing. It shouldn't feel like a long slog to go through thirty minutes of story. Just like Wallace's ironically named The Age of Endurance this story really tests the stamina of the person listening to it. I had to re-listen to the story three times just to get what was going on, because I realized that I'd stopped paying attention and was already at the end. It seems almost like the writing tries to create the same sort of mindless apathy as the Ether. If it's by design then it's a clever piece of work, even if it doesn't say much for the enjoyment of the audience.

The thing is at the end, the story doesn't make sense. The listener is wondering the whole time how the Doctor and Vicki made their escape and how they're sure where the TARDIS or Steven are in this vast, psychedelic wilderness. It's explained at the end, with the most ridiculous idea of all. Their guide, Thaylar, is actually Steven, and they're going through a drug addled gauntlet meant to sap their will. While I can believe that with the presence of drugs that the Doctor and Vicki may not recognize Steven, the idea that Steven himself would somehow believe that he's someone else just doesn't make sense. They've altered his senses, not his memories. The resolution when it comes is also swift and unsatisfactory, making the pirates faceless thugs who are easily defeated and apparently left to die. The first Doctor wasn't above a little brutality, but this seems bad even for him.

The sad part is that the production itself is excellent. As usual, Purves delivers a wonderful first Doctor. His performance as Steven is brief, but excellent when it makes its appearance. His presentation as always is superb. This is a man who knows how to do a dramatic reading. It's just to bad that he was given so little to work with in this one. If there's any flaw to his performance it's Vicki. Perhaps Purves has been doing the voice for Dodo for to long, because his Vicki sounds indistinguishable from Dodo, and they are not supposed to have this same accent. It's not awful, but it is very distracting. The music and sounds are minimal, but used to good effect. There's a sequence when the Doctor starts to work out what's going on and the music starts getting a discordant quality that works really well.

Final Rating: 4/10

Recommendation: The cure for insomnia, Etheria will make you wonder how much of it is story and how much of it is really happening to you while you're listening to it. There are some wonderful ideas, but the pacing makes the whole thing incredibly boring and difficult to listen to. I don't recommend listening to it.

Blurb: When the TARDIS lands in a house in Florence, Italy in 1514, it isn't long before the guards of Guiliano de Medici arrest Steven and Vicki. To rescue them, the Doctor has to employ the help of the house's owner - one Niccolo Machiavelli. But can he be completely trusted?

Guiliano confesses to his brother Pope Leo X that he has angered the wealthy family of Ravelli and believes the newcomers may be part of an assassination plot. But when the Doctor arrives an already tricky situation starts to spiral out of control.

As the city rings with plot and counter-plot, betrayal and lies abound. The Doctor and his friends must use all their ingenuity if they're not to be swept away by history.

This conspiracy is about to get complicated...

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien published by Big Finish Productions and released November 2016.

Setting: Florence, Italy, Earth in the summer of 1514 AD.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four and sometime after the audio story, The Bounty of Ceres, but before the novel, The Empire of Glass.

Canonicity Quotient: It's clear in this story that Steven and Vicki have never been to renaissance Italy, so it clearly takes place before The Empire of Glass. However, it seems strange to set a story so close in time and space to that story. Although neither Steven nor Vicki says that they've never been to renaissance Italy in The Empire of Glass, they also don't say that they have, makes this an awkward story to put in. The other issue is that this story asserts that Steven is from the 28th century, when The County of Ceres clearly established that he's from before Vicki's time of the 25th century. It's a huge discrepancy that makes this story hard to reconcile with the existing canon. 0.80

Discussion: A lot of people nowadays don't dip back all of the way in the series to the Hartnell era. Those who do, generally seem to watch An Unearthly Child to see where it all started and then decide that they understand what the show was like back then. Therefore, a general narrative has grown up around the series that Troughton introduced humor to the show. This of course ignores the comedic touches that Hartnell added to his character, which is evident as early as The Daleks. The humor really got ratcheted up when Dennis Spooner joined the series. As a writer, The Reign of Terror combined serious tension and drama with humorous situations. Then, he took over as script editor and the humor became far more overt. It's clear that The Romans was written as a comedy, and The Time Meddler is only slightly more serious. The Ravelli Conspiracy belongs in that august assemblage of stories.

Here's the thing that I absolutely love, there was no hint at all that The Ravelli Conspiracy was going to be anything more than a standard historical. Generally, the expanded universe has taken historicals seriously, with only Gareth Roberts' The Plotters going for an out-and-out pure comedy ala The Romans. The Ravelli Conspiracy seems to fall more in the middle, tonally sharing more in common with The Time Meddler than any other Hartnell stories. There's real danger present, but nothing about this ever seems tense or menacing because the main players all seem "in on the act" and are prevented from ever being truly scary. There's also a parallel between The Doctor's relationship with The Monk and how he interacts with Machiavelli. Both times they're two men that recognize the intelligence of the other and enjoy scoring points against each other. It's fun to watch and the central question of both stories is if the Doctor will give his foil their comeuppance and how that will come about.

One of the interesting byproducts of the story is the examination of something that's central to Doctor Who lore, the overly elaborate plot. Whether it's the Master or just a mad scientist, Doctor Who villains seem to revel in plans that seem raving mad to anyone viewing the story. In The Ravelli Conspiracy that's the point. At one point someone asserts that they've been "quadruple-crossed" and at that point in the story the assertion makes total sense. It's mad, but it's meant to be mad and in such a way that the madness makes sense. Kahn and Salinsky were cognizant of the fact that Machiavelli always craved real power, but never really achieved it. That not only supplies the historical educational element that Hartnell stories are supposed to have, but also gives the dramatic thrust and reason for the story.

The characters are just the right mix to bring about the humor in the story. Machiavelli takes the central stage as the weaver of plots as he schemes to get into a position of power. Mark Frost does a wonderful job in the role, having a velvety voice that seems made for convincing others to do what he says and playing such an over-the-top role so seriously that it can't help but be funny. Equally important is the double act of Jamie Ballard's Guiliano and Robert Hands' Pope Leo X. The two brothers have opposite temperaments with Guiliano being a murderous tyrant with paranoid delusions of plots against his family while the Pope is a hedonist, more interested in the arts and fine dining than in listening to his brother talk about conspiracies. Ballard plays Guiliano with the gusto that a role like that requires, able to unleash the frenzied tirades when they're required. He's capably foiled by his brother. Hands plays the pope with an effete sensibility. Although he disapproves of his brothers' tyrannical nature he acts more like someone who's just bored with hearing the same speech over and over again rather than someone who'd disgusted by brutality. He is quick to point out that his power supersedes' his brother's authority as Captain-General of Florence when it's a matter that effects his own interests, but he doesn't interfere beyond that. His fascination with the TARDIS as a work of art is reminiscent of the famous John Cleese scene from City of Death as he attributes all manor of virtues to its design. It made me laugh because it sounds so much like the kinds of commentary that I hear from art aficionados that seem more about justifying their own interests than in pointing out anything that anyone would actually enjoy in viewing a work. With the two brothers so polarized, many of their interactions become incredibly funny as each undercuts the other and each has plans to make his brother see his point of view.

The regulars are still bringing the same energy to their roles as they were fifty years ago. Honorable mentions goes to Maureen O'Brien this time as Vicki becomes centrally embroiled in the plot. She catches the Pope's sympathies as well as his eye, his brother accusing him of having a "crush". O'Brien plays Vicki with the gusto that she did on TV. This is the same Vicki that tried to poison the Emperor Nero, and Vicki doesn't mind getting embroiled in the center of the plots if she effect a good outcome and find Steven and the Doctor. Although I've never had much time for Vicki, here she's charming, willful, and fun. Peter Purves is still amazing as Steven. Steven doesn't get a very good showing here, but that's typical for the early point in Steven's time on the TARDIS when he was basically a headstrong thug. His Steven doesn't sound all that different from when he did fifty years ago, though, and it's always a joy to hear him play the part. His narration is always top notch as well, his skills as a presenter preparing him for making the straight reading of lines sound interesting. My one issue is with his Doctor. As time moves on he seems to be making the man more impish. While the Hartnell Doctor certainly did have his Yoda-like side, it was one of many facets. When it's time for him to get assertive or serious, Purves' Doctor falls apart. He sounds weak and ineffectual, and it seems to be going further in that direction as time wends on. Hartnell's Doctor could turn on a dime, going from the delightful old scamp to a force of nature, and it always disappoints me that with Purves we only get half of that character recreated.

The cast is rounded out Olivia Poulet's Carla and John Bar's Guard Captain. Carla's a fanatical true believer that the Medici's are a scourge on Florence and will stop at nothing to see them ousted from power. Poulet certainly gives a capable performance. She's fierce, headstrong, and single-minded. Her penchant for talking to people with their full names is reminiscent of Leela and tends to give more weight to her conversation as her dialog sounds more like a series of pronouncements than a discussion. The Guard Captain is a hilarious anachronism. While most everyone in the story speaks a very precise form of English known in British acting circles as "RP", the guard captain speaks with an estuary (lower-class urban English) accent. For a story taking place in England, that accent would be fitting for any kind of a blue-collar role. For this, it automatically makes the guard captain sound funny. Even better, the character seems so put-upon by all the goings-on around him. He worries about escapes from the prisons because of all the forms he may have to fill out, and of course there's the threat of death for letting a prisoner escape. Yet, he's more concerned about the forms than the death. He makes for a lovely diversion and while his accent makes him feel out of place the delivery and writing is so well done that it somehow works.

From the production standpoint, it's Big Finish as always. The music is beautiful. Some have mentioned that it's overused, and that's probably fair, although certainly not as overused as the music on Domain of the Voord. Yet, the faithful reproduction of renaissance era music with the use of harpsichords, harps, viols, flutes, trumpets, and probably a half dozen instruments that I can't identify is wonderful to listen to for its own sake. It also helps add feeling to scenes as the music varies from playful in the light-hearted scenes to elegiac as things get darker and more serious. Thankfully, they do provide a music suite as an extra at the end of the first disc that allows you to enjoy this music. On the sound side Big Finish creates a full reality with sound. There's the clanking of keys, the crash of a wine jug, the footfall of horses, the sounds of a fight and struggle and many more that aid the listener's imagination in creating the world of the play. It's incredibly well done and it makes it a joy to listen to the production.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Reveling in Hartnell's comedic legacy, The Ravelli Conspiracy is a throwback to the days when Dennis Spooner ran the series but falling short of an outright farce. Machiavelli's reputation and legacy are examined, and the series' penchant for overly elaborate plots is poked at in a way that makes the story both fun and informative. Viewed independently, several of the story elements don't work, but the whole thing hangs together because of some fantastic performances, direction, and music elevating the material to a truly fun, comedic romp. I definitely recommend listening to it.

Blurb: The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Vicki and Jospa land the TARDIS on the homeworld of the Arunde. Emerging into the jungle that covers the planet and encountering the strange wildlife dwelling within, the travelers are unaware that the true rulers live high above them in the trees.

The ape-like members of the tribe are in trouble. The last Matriar's nest has been lost to the surface, and the people are hungry... Maybe these strangers may be responsible. And some believe they may be salvation.

The TARDIS crew are about to find themselves in the middle of somebody else's battle. But there's more at stake than even they can know.

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring William Russell and Maureen O'Brien published by Big Finish Productions and released October 2016.

Setting: The unnamed homeworld of the Arunde, time unknown.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Web Planet and The Crusade and prior to the audio stories The Dark Planet and The Rocket Men. Ian refers to the times that Jospa helped them in Byzantium (see Byzantium!), Rome (see The Romans), China (see The Eleventh Tiger), and Vortis (see The Web Planet). Vicki refers to the fact that she's an orphan (see The Rescue). The Doctor muses on being able to visit Susan again (see The Dalek Invasion of Earth).

Canonicity Quotient: Expanding the gap between The Web Planet and The Crusade is problematic, since Barbara doesn't mention this adventure to Saladin. Otherwise this story fits in well with the established canon. 0.98

Discussion: Ok, time for a show of hands here. Who bought into the whole fifth traveler idea? I've got to say that even before I heard the first second of this drama, I had Jospa pegged for a spy of some kind. Of course, having not heard the story, I didn't know anything about the Vividic Empire. I assumed that Jospa was probably one of the apes who was somehow able to make the travelers think that he was one of them. Of course, once the opening sequence showed that they were fleeing Vividus, I immediately clued into the fact that that was who he was working for. It didn't help that he just happened to have a device that he wanted to have the Doctor connect up to the TARDIS to control the ship. There were little things, such as his not knowing when and where Ian and Barbara were from even though Jospa was ostensibly also from Earth. There was also his strong reaction to the Doctor going exploring, which seemed a bit odd.

To Philip Lawrence's credit he tries to do his best to cast doubt on any preconceived suspicions. Big Finish has added companions in the past, even to the first Doctor's era. Lawrence capitalizes on that by ensuring that no details are given about Jospa early in the story. Since this story takes place in a gap between two television stories, it's possible that they picked him up in that same gap and this is only the third adventure that they've had with them. Of course, it all starts crumbling down once someone mentions that he was on Vortis. At that point it's impossible for Jospa to be anything other than an infiltrator into the group, but that doesn't happen until the third episode. It's pretty amazing that Lawrence was able to keep it going for that long.

The Fifth Traveler seems like a mix of Edgar Rice Burroughs, 100,000 BC, and the New Age movement of the sixties. I honestly thought for a moment that Ian was going to say, "Remember, Gark is not stronger than the whole tribe." The Arunde are a neat concept. They're a primitive species of jungle-dwelling telepaths. Lawrence does a good job of trying to think of how these alien apes would perceive life and peppers their language with metaphors that explain the Arunde's world view such as their perception of gravity as "The Ground" reaching up and grabbing things down to it. He's not in the same class as Paul Leonard who seemed so adept at creating aliens that seemed truly alien, but Lawrence at least put me in mind of Leonard.

Less can be said of the Vividic Empire. Science fiction is chock full of oppressive regimes that heavily pollute their own worlds and are bent on conquest. The idea of psychic spies who weave themselves into their targets' minds as an ally is interesting, but the rest is stock b-grade stuff. Still, that isn't such a big deal for a story like this because the Vividic Empire is only around to give some background context. The travelers only spend a few minutes there in the actual production.

Unlike most of the Early Adventures to date, this story doesn't drag. I think a large part of that can be laid at Lisa Bowerman's door. The Bounty of Ceres didn't drag either, and that was the only first Doctor Early Adventure that's been able to keep up its pace. I think that Bowerman just understands how to do a first Doctor story with all its explorations and science discussions while also making it an interesting adventure story. As much as Ken Bentley does a great job with some of the other ranges, I have a feeling that he's not to keen on the Hartnell era and as result his stories are VERY low energy and something of a chore to get through. The one thing that I thought was off from a directorial angle is that Ian and Sharna's conversation seems as if they each understood each other even though moments before they'd just said that they don't understand each other's language.

The plot may not be the most complex to date, but it doesn't need to be. If anything, this story needs to be typical, because it's about the presence of the eponymous fifth traveler. The story is a vehicle to explore the character of Jospa and how he relates to the crew. It's only after we've experienced the group with Jospa that we begin to learn more about him and the story starts moving towards its conclusion. It's also why the characters all have to be spot on to their television characterization. Vicki even names the Vividic control module "squishy", which is classic Vicki to a "tee". The interesting part, though, is to see how Jospa effects the dynamic. Yes, there's a power struggle that's highly reminiscent of the 100,000 BC portions of An Unearthly Child, but the real climax of the story is when the Doctor and Jospa confront each other in the TARDIS.

There were only two things that I had a problem with. First, we're told that Matriar's can't have a mate. Yet, Sharna is the daughter of a Matriar. How does that happen? Maybe the Arunde reproduce in a way far different than anything that we can imagine, or maybe the Matriar adopts, but it's something that should have been explained. The second is that Jospa basically propositioned Vicki to settle down somewhere with him. Yet, this story references Byzantium!, which states that Vicki is fourteen years old. While society's standards about this sort of thing change, you'd think that she'd be to young for that sort of thing and would say so. Sure, she leaves to get married in The Myth Makers, but that's about a year on in her personal timeline at least. It doesn't help that Maureen O'Brien didn't even look fourteen. [Spoiler (click to open)]Of course, if Jospa really has risen through the ranks of the Vividic military then he has to be far older than fourteen. Is his telepathy so good that the travelers perceive him as a fourteen-year-old even though he must at least be in his twenties? And was tempting Vicki with being his lover really the best temptation he could think of for a fourteen-year-old? It seems a little odd.

The performances are mostly good and guest actors Kate Byers, Elliot Cowan, and Orlando James deserve special credit as the Arunde. Kate Byers especially brings a hesitant warmth to Sharna, a maternal figure coming to grips with her responsibilities and unsure if she can fill them. Elliot Cowan plays Gark as a sulky, brooding figure rather than as a brutish bully that one might expect a dominant ape to be, yet it makes so much sense for his character, still young and unhappy in the society in which he lives. James Joyce also deserves special mention as the fifth traveler, Jospa. He's a fun loving, happy-go-lucky, energetic young man. Yet, Joyce displays a pretty full range in this, being able to sound incredibly nasty when the need arises and making him a fairly memorable character. Maureen O'Brien doesn't disappoint as Vicki either. She's still got all that youthful charm and energy. It's clear that O'Brien loves working with Joyce. The chemistry is real. O'Brien also does a find job narrating. While she's not in the same class as Purves or Russell in his prime, she's one of the better narrators and it's nice to listen to her using her current natural voice and describing scenes.

Unfortunately, it's clear that age has taken its toll on William Russell. His Ian and Doctor voices are distinguished far less and sometimes its hard to tell which one is speaking. His Doctor sounds incredibly tired all the time, and he's no longer able to make Ian sound all that youthful. Jemma Powell also does not impress as Barbara. Her performance here is better than in The Age of Endurance, and it appears that with a larger part that she's growing with the character. Yet, unlike Tim Treloar or Elliott Chapman, she doesn't sound a thing like Barbara. There are times when she seems to get the right vocal rhythms, but she sounds far to young and light to be Barbara. It's unfortunate, because it was necessary to add someone to play Barbara so that the writers didn't feel like they needed to write Barbara out of every story, but Powell just is not all that strong in the role.

There are a lot of great sounds in this one. There are strange beasts in the jungle as well as the regular background sounds that you might expect in such a locale. There's rain, squishy sounds from the Vividic control module and all kinds of things. The only thing that disappoints are the canned ape sounds used in conjunction with the Arunde. They just don't match up well with the characters making the sounds, and it's clear that they come from some kind of documentary material. The music, though is excellent. There's a whole suite of music composed just for this story that is included as an extra. There are a lot of instruments that one might find in a jungle setting, but there's also some sixties Hartnell era mood music.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: On one hand, the story's maguffin is obvious, but writer Philip Lawrence deserves credit for making it just about believable that a fifth person somehow shows up in the season two TARDIS team. The Arunde are a neat sci-fi concept that work well. The story keeps its pace and the characterization is spot on. There are a few plot issues and the direction for how the canned ape sounds interact with the voices doesn't work, but overall the story is very good. I recommend getting it.

Blurb: The TARDIS materializes on board a still and eerie spaceship. When a squad of soldiers land, they realize they've found themselves in the middle of a war zone. With one of their crew trapped by the enemy, the Doctor and his friends find themselves locked in a desperate race for survival. Vast warships manoeuvre around each other as both sides try to out-think their opponents, flying into ever more dangerous areas of space.

The stakes could not be higher. But as ever in war, the lines between good and evil are hard to define. Will anyone survive to claim the moral high ground?

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring William Russell and Carole Ann Ford published by Big Finish Productions and released September 2016.

Setting: The spaceships Vanguard and Endruance in an unknown star system, time unknown.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants. There is no indication of where it fits in relation to other stories within the same gap. Everyone is familiar with the concept of the TARDIS landing on a moving object (see The Sensorites).

Canonicity Quotient: Susan is listed as having a second heart in contradiction to what we're told about Gallifreyans pre-regeneration in much of the Virgin material. Other than that, there's no issue with working this into the existing canon.0.95

Discussion: Someone really likes the idea of the original TARDIS crew in naval situations. On the one hand, it's kind of funny. Domain of the Voord has the time travelers arriving on a planet made mostly of water and about half the story takes place at sea. This story while set in space uses a lot of naval terminology with the spaceship analogous to a submarine. While it almost certainly isn't a deliberate move, it does seem odd that the Powers that Be who commission these stories didn't notice it and perhaps assign this story to the season 2 crew instead of season 1.

On the surface, The Age of Endurance is a story about the war between the humanoid Lastborn and the reptilian Shift. The Shift have the advantage of being able to morph their skin into a variety of textures that can make them invisible or give them armored hides that are impervious to laser fire. Yet, the story is actually a little deeper than that. It's the classic sci-fi trope of pushing the edges of science to far. The Lastborn gave themselves artificial bodies that could ostensibly allow them to live forever, but did so at the cost of their humanity. They performed genetic experiments on the Shifts remaking them in their image, but in doing so created a "superior" race that dominated them and forced them into menial labor. It's through the creation of organic beings again that the Lastborn gain absolution and regain their "humanity". It's schlock b-level sci-fi, but that's perfect fare for the Early Adventures, who's mandate is to create stories in black and white.

On that topic, one shout-out that I wanted to give was that they even used scienctific terms incorrectly in the story, just like they would in a 60's Doctor Who serial. The term "galaxy" and "solar system" was used interchangeably, which was so common in those first few seasons of Doctor Who. The solar system that the Lastborn live in is completely closed off from the rest of space. Yet they mentioned that there was a cosmic incident that effected their entire galaxy. There was no way to know that isolated in their solar system, so they must have meant solar system. I just thought it was clever that they worked that in there. I also like that the engines are mostly mechanical with a lot of loud pounding piston noises. Most of the technical jargon seems more in-keeping with a 1960's perspective than a 21st century one and that was greatly appreciated.

From a cast perspective, the performances were overall serviceable, but not spectacular. Carole Ann Ford was a real delight. She alternated easily between her narrator voice and her voice as Susan. I continue to be impressed by her ability to sound like a fifteen-year-old on command, especially when she has to alternate with her regular voice. William Russell is doing amazingly for a 91-year-old man. He continues to be able to convey the strength and presence of Ian Chesterton, and although his narration was diminished in this story he still did a wonderful job narrating when he needed to. If I have any concern it's that his performance as the Doctor continues to deteriorate, a trend that I've been noticing since The Dark Planet. His Doctor now sounds incredibly hoarse and week. While part of that was story-driven, one wonders if that wasn't put in to mask Russell's difficulty with playing the part. Still, there isn't much that you can do about that. The man is still doing better than so many his age, so it's still quite a feat. I just suspect that we'll be seeing a full recast of the first Doctor before to long.

The other voices are serviceable, but not memorable. Rachel Atkins' Myla is just your generic tough female commander. John Voce's Toban is strong soldier. Gethin Anthony's Olivan and Andy Secombe's Benya are such generic junior officers that at times its hard to tell which character is which. The story doesn't help much in that regard until Olivan's secret is given. Neither does much to really distinguish themselves and it's hard to remember which name applies to which one. Tom Bell gives perhaps the most prominent performance as Arran and the other Shifts, but it left me wondering if they'd gotten Darren Strange back to reprise his role as The Butcher from The Sleeping Blood. It was the exact same voice, which is basically just a deepening of the actor's natural voice to make them sound like a goa'uld from Stargate. It unfortunately, didn't really give him much room to actually act as the character, since the electronic effect dominated his voice, and it seemed like a strange choice in the first place. One imagines the Shift's looking like armor-plated velociraptors. When they reveal themselves they're given a hissing sound effect that like someone put the microphone up to newly-poured soda and then dropped the sound a few octaves. There's a lot of hissing in that sound, but when the Shift's speak they sound perfectly normal except unnaturally deep. There's no hissing or anything that'd actually identify them as reptilian at all. It seems a really weird choice and really works against trying to create the reality of the situation.

The big deal is that Big Finish recast Barbara Wright as Jemma Powell following Powell's performance as Jacqueline Hill in the An Adventure in Space and Time documentary. The problem that I always had with that casting is that Powell had maybe a half dozen lines as Hill, and she never really sounded much like her. But seeing the success of Elliot Chapman and Tim Treloar as recast Doctor Who characters, I was curious to see what she'd do. To say that I was underwhelmed is an understatement. While Chapman and Treloar obviously studied the performances of the actors who they were replacing, Powell's response to playing the role of Barbara is to read the lines as if she's seeing them for the first time. It's a slow, precise performance with absolutely no inflection. I'd say that she was doing a better job of playing Ben Stein than she was playing Barbara Wright. I know that others have said to give her time, but Chapman and Treloar hit the ground running with these parts. I get the feeling that Powell isn't paying the same respect to the character, and I honestly blame David Richards for doing stunt casting with a name that would be familiar rather than finding someone who could truly emulate the warmth and presence of Barbara Wright.

The pacing is slow, but that doesn't feel that out of place for a story that's trying to emulate season 1. The first episode really hearkens back to those days when the crew could explore and figure out where they are for most of that first episode, and it gives the story some time to breathe and gives the regulars a chance for some character interaction. The rest of the story is the cat-and-mouse game from The Wrath of Khan dragged out for three episodes. There's some intrigue and some action that keeps the story from getting to glacial, but there also isn't anything to exciting or memorable other than Ian teaching the Lastborn to use the currents inside the storm for speed and his spacewalk when those same currents could rip him from the ship.

My first real issue with the story structure is that once again two regular characters are removed from the story for a time. I'd hoped that this nonsense would stop after the first season and the negative reaction that similar moves caused, but it is here on full display. Yes, sometimes in the original series the cast could go on vacation for one or two weeks at a time, but it was never this often and never would they have allowed two regulars to be gone at the same time. Here the Doctor is gone for a single episode. While that's still better than most of the previous Early Adventures, it still grates because Barbara is gone for two and a half episodes. While the need to write the Doctor out may be due to William Russell's health, there's absolutely no reason to write Barbara out, since it's the only part hat Jemma Powell has to play. While it's possible that this story was written with the idea that Carole Ann Ford would double up as Barbara and that may have been the reasoning behind writing Barbara out, it really makes no sense. Both Russell and Ford are used to doing Companion Chronicles where they have to play far more roles than they do here. If they want to write a single character out then fine, but two is just to much. It also makes it more difficult for Ian and Susan to sustain so much of the story by themselves. If it's to much for William Russell to double as the Doctor and Ian for four episodes then they really ought to consider recasting the first Doctor as well.

My second issue is that the story just ends. Ian and Susan are talking and suddenly the ending theme happens. There isn't really anything that feels like a proper resolution or ending theme. Even some narration about everyone getting in the TARDIS and having it dematerialize would have been something. Here it just feels like someone yelled cut in the middle of the final scene and they just played in the end theme.

As for the sounds, the music this time was really good. Unlike Domain of the Voord it was not overpowering. Yet, it still had the authentic feel that the music for the previous story had. There are radiophonic tunes and real instruments. The music is used for good effect to enhance scenes, especially during the tense chase in the nebula. The sounds, however, seemed very poorly coordinated with the acting. I've already mentioned how the Shift's sound effects don't seem to match their voices at all. There are also lots of issues where the narrator will describe something, there's an awkward pause, then there's a sound effect, then there's an awkward pause and either there's more narration or some dialog that happens. While I realize that they're trying to emulate a CD reconstruction with narration, the problem is that every time these scenes happen the awkward pause is the same length. It feels very artificial. The less I say about the scene where Barbara is put on a scanner, it talks about her writhing in discomfort and we get an unconvincing "oof" after an akward pause, and the move on the better. I'm also not enamored withe last sound effects. When so much effort was made to keep the story and plot in-line with 60's storytelling, having the "pew pew" of laser fire just doesn't fit. Go watch any Hartnell story and the lasers are just a lightbulb with some kind of alarm sound. While a lightbulb obviously won't work on audio, the alarm sound would have been fine and with the narrator describing the action it would have been all that was necessary rather than going for a sound that jarred with the reality that they were trying recreate.

Final Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: It's a Hartnell story-by-numbers. If you're a fan of the era then there's definitely something to enjoy. If you aren't, then there isn't much new here to hold your interest. Carole Ann Ford and William Russell do an excellent job with this story, but some generic voices, and a plot that doesn't really work to develop the characters keeps this from holding a lot of interest and removing two members of the main cast for a significant portion undercuts any momentum that the plot has. The story mostly works at recreating the season one atmosphere and has a real verisimilitude to the sounds, jargon, and plots that would have been employed in the period, but that alone isn't enough to keep this story out of mediocrity. Every single story from the first season of Early Adventures beats this one hands down. I don't recommend it unless you're a huge Hartnell fan.

Blurb: The TARDIS has landed on a human colony world. In the city, where the inhabitants rely on advanced technology to create their children, a marriage is due to take place. But not everyone supports it, and a crash might just prevent it for good.

In the commune outside live the savages, shunned and detested by the city folk. But they have recently been visited by a man, charismatic and handsome, who may yet be their savior - or their doom.

Two different sides, ready for conflict. But neither realizes that a third force threatens their very existence...

Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson published by Big Finish Productions and released September 2016.

Setting: An unnamed Earth colony world, time unknown, but the almost magical technology of Inscape would seem to imply a very late date, so likely the 5th millennium or later.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock. There is no indication of where this fits in relation to other stories that take place within the same gap but it is likely that it takes place after the previous Philip Hinchcliffe Presents story, The Devil's Armada. Leela says that the Doctor always tells her not to bring Janis Thorns, but she does anyway (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang).

Canonicity Quotient: The Doctor acts as if the idea of his having thirteen heads is strange, and he doesn't understand it. This may be in-character as the Doctor joking, but he doesn't act as if he's joking. Leela also seems out of character, falling for an inept hunter. Other than that, everything fits with the established continuity. 0.85

Discussion: Philip Hinchcliffe Presents returns with a new story idea from ex-Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe. As with the last two stories in this line, Marc Platt, wrote the script based on Hinchcliffe's outline. It's an interesting idea to have someone that was so strongly associated with the "golden age" of the series' past to create new stories. I hesitated a little bit before purchasing this, because two of Hinchcliffe's three previous ideas, The Valley of Death and The Devil's Armada weren't very good. While the Ghosts of Gralstead was a significantly better story, it still had significant plot issues. So, I was really curious to see what this would happen in this story.

At it's heart, The Genesis Chamber, is an allegory for Romeo and Juliet. It just happens to be set on a colony world sometime in the distant future. The colonists have split into two factions - those who embrace technology and live a pristine life inside the city and those who live outside as settlers on this dying world. There's no love lost between the two sides as we're told that those in the city sometimes come out to hunt the settlers who they refer to as savages. The Settlers on the other hand, eschew everything having to do with the city, living a bare lifestyle without any technology. The Doctor points out the fallacy of that, because even the settlers use simple tools and equipment. Yet, both sides are soon beset by an alien menace that wants to see the humans eliminated from the face of this world.

Let's forget for a minute that this already sounds like it's pulling from stories like The Face of Evil, which Hinchcliffe already produced. Let's also forget for a minute that it sounds a real awful lot like The Savages, which Hinchcliffe may not have known about, but Platt certainly does. You would expect, from any sensible plotline that this story might be about the dangers of taking any idea to ridiculous extremes. You might even expect that since it's called The Genesis Chamber that it might be about the morality of growing human beings to order as they do in the city. But no, the story dances around all these issues as nothing more than a backdrop for a very boring alien invasion. The catch here, the aliens are coming from underground. The story is written as if this is an incredibly novel concept and that we should be excited about it without any other reason. Obviously, Hinchcliffe has never seen Frontios, but why is Platt not pointing these things out?

Unfortunately, this is really the rub of this story. There are all kinds of things going on. It appears that there are few "families" inside the city, and that there's a power struggle between the Suks and the Janz. It's mentioned a few times, but never effects the story at all. DeRosa declares war on the Settlers, but nothing ever happens with that either. Farla has a deep, dark secret, but it's so unimportant that in episode six a character wanders onto the scene to say what it is and then wonders off. There are maybe half a dozen lines of dialog about it, and that's all that there is to it. Why even bother working it in if that's all that you're going to do with it? I usually don't agree when people say that most of the six-parters in the TV series should have been four-parters, but wow is this a story that's heavy on the padding and should have been a four-parter.

There's so much potential that's wasted. A story about a society that's all about purity and manufacturing people to order would be interesting enough for the Fourth Doctor and Leela. Here, there was some really great potential to explore what's wrong with making people to order. What's wrong with wanting to be among technology and never venture out? Yet, the story never even questions it. The city is bad and while the Settlers aren't completely good their way is definitely better. The Genesis Chamber and Inscape itself are an interesting concept as well, but they're wasted as a deus ex machina at the end rather than really exploring the idea of a computer that has limitless power.

There are just so many things that don't make sense. If Inscape is so powerful and prepares for all possibilities why was it helping to exterminate the Suks at the beginning of the story. Why does it take to the Doctor even though his data isn't in the city other than story convenience? Why does no one seem to mind Volor's locusts crawling all over and inside of them except for the Doctor and Leela? Farla seems to think that he's still wonderful after he's done it to her and no one else shows much reaction. Does everyone really not notice the locusts moving through the city to wherever Volor is when he wants them? How were the locusts already attacking Inscape before Volor got inside? If he could control them remotely and they could get inside anyway, why did he need to get inside to get the information he needed? For that matter, how is it that he lived with the Settlers for a while but never read Wulbane's mind? After all, no one seems to care when he does it. Why is it that Inscape needs to use the city's entire power to protect against a hacking attempt? I get that writers don't always understand computers, but in this day and age that's a bit of a lame excuse. I also can't understand given Inscape's limitless abilities why it would be used as nothing more than a baby factory. Even if people never wanted to leave the city there are so many more applications to which those powers could be put to use. Why is Volor perfectly fine in the supposedly toxic atmosphere of the planet? I understand that his skin suit protected him from the blast, but he goes about perfectly fine after that even though he's exposed to the planet's atmosphere. In fact, he's so much of a danger that the Doctor has to lock him in an eternal prison rather than wait for him to die of natural causes, which is really odd.

The characterization is where things get really bad. Some characters veer from unpleasant to homicidal in an instant. DeRosa's trust of the Doctor fluctuates without any seeming rhyme or reason. Farla is in shock, but then snaps out of it when the plot demands that she should. We're supposed to believe that Volor's motivations are hidden behind so many layers of manipulations that it's impossible to tell what he really wants, but it seems to be just be a smokescreen for making things up as he goes along. After all, if the Genesis Chamber is what he was seeking all along from whatever he learned outside, why was he reading the minds of random people or Farla rather than of DeRosa or anyone else that was actually in a position of authority? So the aliens come, and they can't risk any humans possibly telling anyone about their base even though the humans have never ventured far from where they are and don't have any contact with other civilizations, but then they decide that they have plenty of time to let the humans die out from natural causes? If anything, part of why this story doesn't work is because the invasion was so inept. Yes, it was a change, but without the immediate threat it made it feel inconsequential.

Really, though, the huge issue with this story is the romance between Leela and Dack. I don't much care for the Shown and Ana one either. Romeo and Juliet were in the same social strata after all. I just don't buy that Ana could be won over by this dirty boy who probably only bathes once every couple of weeks in so short a time. She may be open-minded, but that's pushing things considerably. Yet, at least with that one, it's a common enough trope, so I excuse it because that's the kind of story it is. But Leela and Dack just came out of nowhere. It's clear from the beginning that he's smitten with her and that makes sense because Leela is awesome. At first I thought she was just being nice, but then she goes full on "he's my pair-bond" with him and it's like "what...?" I mean, it echoes of a similarly bizarre romance in Requiem for the Rocket Men, and I suppose that someone is equating this with Andred, but Andred at least was a professional warrior. His temperament didn't match Leela's and he seemed kind of boring to us at home, but you could at least see why she'd be attracted to him. Dak is an inept hunter. I don't see how there could be any mutual respect between them to make a decent relationship. Maybe he was just that good looking, but I also don't see her as being superficial. It just seemed really, really odd.

The story isn't without its merits. Everyone puts in a great acting performance in this one. Special mention really needs to go to Gyuri Sarossy for sounding like such a creepy, yet charismatic villain with Volor. John Culshaw ought to win an award for sounding like Michael Jayston, because it's kind of eerie how much DeRosa sounds like him. Tom seems to have been on fire, being full of wit and energy during the recordings. Louise Jameson never disappoints and this script gives her some room to stretch her emotional range a bit, which is always nice. The music is great. There's a nice suite of it on the CD. It's very well developed for the story and makes for a good listen. The sound design is also very good, but I had a problem with Volor's insects. I could never tell where they were coming from or how no one ever seemed to notice them. With the Doctor they're described as crawling all over him and into his orifices. The sound effect used for them is exceptionally loud, implying that they're there as a giant swarm, but most people that Volor uses them on don't seem to notice what is happening nor do those around them. It's very strange and it seems like better sense should have been made of conveying what was going on with the sound effect either through nuance to the sound or by direct dialog.

Final Rating: 5/10

Recommendation: Philip Hinchcliffe's latest story doesn't feel like an extension of his era so much as a loose collection of ideas taken from stories that he already did and whatever he happened to be thinking about at the moment. The story is filled with good ideas that are squandered, plot holes, a flat alien menace, and characters that behave in a way that makes no sense. The story is lifted up by some excellent performances and some wonderful work on the music and sound design, but it's not enough to keep this from being a dull and tedious slog. I do not recommend it.

If there's one thing that I've been seeing over and over again on my feed it's people theorizing about the identity of Zoom, the Flash's latest nemesis. I've found several flaws with the reasoning, so below are my thoughts on the subject. I'm putting up the warning right now, that if you're not caught up on season 2 of the Flash then there may be spoilers, so if that will bother you don't read any further.



I've seen a lot of speculation that Zoom is Henry Allen from Earth 2. The reasoning seems to be based solely on Zoom's apparent height and build and a funny morph animation someone put together that makes it look as if John Wesley Shipp's face is behind the mask. The issue with the first point is that using physical clues to deduce the identity of a character that the writers have completely enclosed and given a fake voice to doesn't seem like a smart bet. By the same logic, it should be Tony Todd behind the mask, since it's his voice for Zoom. It may very well be a stunt double performing as Zoom for similar reasons and the real actor will only "step in" once they need to do some sort of a reveal.

On the second point, a computer generated animation is not a safe bet to go on. We don't know how doctored the images were to make them line up. It's not as if there are any shots with Zoom and the 90's Flash that were purposefully recorded with the camera at the same distance and the characters in the same pose. Some resizing and adjustment would have been necessary just to get things to line up, which means that it's possible that the apparent facial size and shape from that animation may not be how things appear in real life.

A lot of people feel that this would be a major development in the story, for Barry to have to fight his own dad. Yet, I feel like the idea of fighting Earth 2 doppelgangers is already running its course. Dr Light is already a doppelganger for Linda Park, someone that Barry is close to. Caitlyn was proven not to be a metahuman in this week's episode of the Flash, so the rumors that Killer Frost will be her Earth 2 counterpart appear to be true as well. Making Zoom yet another Earth 2 doppelganger of someone that Barry knows seems to be playing out what will be a tired idea at that point. Sure, it'll have more of an impact, since it's his dad, and they could get some mileage out of it for an episode, but that's about it. It'd be a gimmicky "gotcha" moment, because Barry already knows that the Earth 2 versions of characters can be very different from the Earth 1 versions. He'd move on after the initial shock. I don't care if Zoom were Joe, Iris, or Barry himself from Earth 2. There's no way that a doppelganger will have the right impact necessary for Zoom to be a proper nemesis.

Yet, someone will most likely ask, how can it be someone from Earth One when Zoom has been operating on Earth 2 for two years, but the breach only opened six months ago? The answer there is simple. They made a big deal out of the fact that the breach opened a hole in time and space, not just reality. Whoever became Zoom could easily be someone from Earth One that fell into the rift and traveled back in time to Earth 2. This would explain two very important factors that would not make sense if Zoom came from Earth 2. First, he knows not only that Barry exists but also knows personal details like women he only dated for a couple of weeks. The second is that Zoom patterned his costume on the Flash of Earth one and not that of Earth 2. That would be odd if there was no connection between the two worlds until the breach opened. So then who are the candidates?

Candidate #1: Eobard Thawne. I have to admit that while this is the most likely candidate, I almost think that that invalidates him. We already had Thawne as the Reverse Flash and most viewers will be incredibly unhappy to see him as Zoom as well. While he was erased from existence, the breach started almost immediately thereafter. There's some potential for an explanation that the breach existing as a hole in time may have stabilized his existence somehow and allowed him to exist on Earth 2. Thawne has the technical know-how to figure out how to pass through the breaches. He also knows all about Barry and the show could always use Tom Cavanaugh in a dual role if they couldn't get the Eobard Thawne actor back. Yet, I really don't think this one is it.

Candidate #2: Ronnie Raymond. Robbie Amell has already said that he's coming back to the show and I have never bought that he's dead. The idea of a friend turned villain runs very close to Zoom's comic book origins and it would also be a colossal blow to the cast, effecting Caitlyn and Barry deeply. Robbie's busy on the X-Files reboot, but that's only 6 episodes long, so he could easily have time to come over in the second half of the season and would explain why they have to use substitute actors for Zoom. Yet, I'm not buying it because it would seem so far out of left field. Even if Ronnie was left on Earth 2, he's the one that chose to enter the breach. It'd get some real mileage out of the cast to see a friend turned villain, but it would seem to be a gimmick just for the purposes of getting a rise out of people. For that reason, I really don't see it.

Candidate #3: Eddie Thawne. "But wait, Eddie's dead." everyone shouts. Yes, but his body was also sucked into the breach. Eddie is the only candidate who could explain why Zoom looks "like death" and also has his costume modeled after The Flash. It's possible that Eddie could somehow have become frozen in the moment of his death, which would hearken back again to Zoom's comic book origins as a character whose powers are based on time rather than speed. It just seems that he moves fast because time is moving so slowly for him that his normal movements are perceived as fast by everyone else. It'd be easy to see how Eddie might be bitter after trying to sacrifice his life only finds himself turned into a monster and coming back to his homeworld finding that Barry got everything. Eddie could then be driven to become the fastest being to triumph over Barry and best him at his own game. It's true that this actor is also busy on another show right now, but it's possible that the Flash show runners anticipated that and pre-recorded some scenes for the reveal. It may be that we don't find out Zoom's identity until the final episode of the season in which case whoever is doubling in the suit and Tony Todd can fill in until then. This is the one that I'm leaning the strongest towards, because even though there's a real world logistics issue, it's something that could be overcome and making it Eddie would make so much sense on all the other levels.

At the end of the day I don't know if this is what the CW will go with. I'm excited for this season of the Flash and have the confidence in the showrunners that when Zoom's identity is revealed it will make sense and have sufficient emotional impact.


Blurb: Steven Taylor left the Doctor and the TARDIS to become king of an alien world. But it's now many years since he gave up the throne and went to live in a cell in the mountains, out of sight of his people. He's not escaping his past – quite the opposite, in fact. As his granddaughter, Sida, is about to discover...

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Sida. Published by Big Finish Productions and released June of 2015.

Setting: The unnamed planet of the savages in December, 1986. Sida narrates the story to an unnamed audience sometime after these events take place.

Continuity: For Steven, this story takes place after the television story The Savages and after the narration portion of the Big Finish audio The Founding Fathers. For the Doctor it takes place concurrently with the television story The Tenth Planet. The deaths of Katarina, Brett Vyon, and Katarina are mentioned (see The Daleks Masterplan). The Vardan who killed Oliver makes an appearance (see The First Wave). Steven reminds the Doctor that he was willing to let Anne Chaplet die (see The Massacre). Sida refers to Steven's cell (see The War to End all Wars). The copy of the Doctor's mind makes an appearance (see The Founding Fathers).

Canonicity Quotient: The Doctor communicates with Steven and Sida. A day later he is brought to their world for well over 24 hours. In all, over 48 hours passes before the Doctor returns to Earth. Yet, the Tenth Planet doesn't take place over that large of a span of time. The entire conceit that the Doctor's mind was pulled to the planet of the Savages also seems to contradict the reasoning that the Doctor is weak because his "body is wearing a bit thin". The whole notion of the Doctor having a "brain in a jar" leftover from The Savages seems to be a half-remembered factoid. Guerrier says in the interviews on the CD that a friend pointed out to him that the Doctor still has a brain in a jar in the Savages, but this seems to ignore the fact that the Doctor's brain was never cloned or extracted from his head. The Elders took his energy and that energy seems to have been imbued with some element of his personality. Jano took the entire infusion of the Doctor's energy that they'd stolen, but even if he hadn't, it would have all been lost when the Doctor destroyed the energy siphoning machine. 0.35

Discussion: I was really excited for this story. I didn't care much for the ending of The Founding Fathers, but I enjoyed the story over all. It seemed a bit bizarre to set up the faux-Doctor as the big bad for the trilogy only to have it disappear at the end of the second installment in the trilogy. Still, I was really curious to see what Simon Guerrier came up with and was intrigued by a companion chronicle that didn't contain any narration about a time when Steven was with the Doctor. It'd be a good opportunity to flesh out the world of the Savages and give Steven an adventure that showed how far he'd come since his time with the Doctor.

Peter Purves continues to impress in this one. He's freed up a bit to play Steven only as an old man, but he does it well, giving us the same vital, man of action from Doctor Who and showing how he's aged. There's a bit of nuance to his performance showing that as Steven has gotten older he's become more like the Doctor and I really enjoy that element. His Doctor performance hasn't diminished with time either. While I prefer William Russell's Hartnell, it's not difficult to see why Purves is the fan favorite. He's got so many of the Doctor's mannerisms expressed perfectly even if his voice doesn't sound at all like Hartnell's. Sida grew on me throughout this trilogy. She's a tough girl, raised on Steven's stories of his time as an adventurer in time and space. She hates injustice and wants to do right. Alice Haig plays her here with a real fire. She goes from an exasperated bureaucrat to someone fiercely determined to protect her people and clever enough to outwit an invading alien. It might be a difficult job for anyone else, but Haig pulls it off with ease, making her character very likable. Lisa Bowerman reprises her role as the Vardan here. There's not much in the part to challenge her. The Vardan is basically a moustache twirling (if she had one) villain and there isn't much depth there, but she does what she can with it.

The cast is well served by the production. I like that the music goes from a soundtrack that would feel at home in a 60's story in the beginning to a much faster-paced, modern sounding music as the story weaves on. It's like an audio link that bridges the Steven with the Savages with this older version, who'd be someone we'd see on modern TV if Purves were ever able to reprise the role. The soundscape is also rich. We've got the normal Vardan sounds, but also the sounds of jackhammers, gunshots, hovercars, bolts being thrown, and grappling on the floor. With this being more of a "full-cast audio" then a typical Companion Chronicle, there's a lot more room to have action rather than narration and the sound department steps up here.

So much of what works in this story can be laid at the feet of the actors and the director. Unfortunately, the writing is just not up to par. At the best of times, I feel like Guerrier emphasizes characterization at the expense of writing. When he hits with things like The Cold Equations and The Library of Alexandria he hits big, but many times his stories feel contrived to evoke emotional responses rather than following the logical development of a particular premise and the characters as performed on screen. Nowhere does this feel more evident than in The Locked Room.

In the CD interview, Guerrier talks about being stumped at the plot of the overall trilogy, which he hadn't planned ahead for when he wrote The War to End all Wars. It sounds like he had several different ideas and ended up just going with one that came together in a rush and it shows. What should as a Companion Chronicle have been a story about Steven quickly became a story about Sida instead. She's even the narrator for the tail, even though there isn't much narration to be had. Steven remains a passive observer, someone to comment on what's going on, but Sida is the one who does all the action. Even at the end, with the Vardan destroying everything. It isn't Steven who comes up with the plan to save the day. It's Sida. This story could and should have been a showcase of how Steven had grown and matured during his time with the Doctor and shown how he didn't need the Doctor to save the day. Similar themes were developed in The Time Museum and Second Chances. Here was a chance for Steven to have the limelight, but even at the end he wants nothing to do with the world. Sida has to even threaten him with jail just to get him to help out with the rebuilding efforts. He's just a depressing character to follow and it's an unsatisfying conclusion after he seemed to want to get more involved during The Founding Fathers.

Yet, this whole story seems to have been developed around the idea of cheap reference thrills to hide the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. Oliver is trotted out again because having "died" it supposedly gives the character more weight and Guerrier makes sure to try and get some more mileage out of that one. The Doctor is brought in seemingly just so that Purves can do his Doctor impression again, despite the fact that the Doctor isn't really needed or wanted in the story. To make things even worse, there's fanwank explanations for how the Doctor is from The Tenth Planet and that the reason that he was knocked unconscious is that his consciousness was brought to the planet of the Savages...for a day. We'll get back to that later. The Doctor really adds nothing to the story, except as a vessel to bring back the Vardan from The First Wave. I really thought that when Steven talked about a "she" returning and that it was something that touched both his mind and the Doctor's that it would be the proto-Drahvin from The Suffering. I feel like that would have been such a better story as it would have set Steven against Sida and we might have gotten some interesting mileage there. But no, it's cliched villain A played by Lisa Bowerman. At least it was already hinted that the proto-Drahvin may come back. There were never any indications that the Vardan would return and it makes the whole story so incredibly hokey, especially since the faux-Doctor would have been a much more interesting threat. Instead, we get the Vardan taken down by the proto Doctor in a deus ex machina supreme. Even though he was supposed to have destroyed his consciousness, apparently it was all a ruse. Out of nowhere he's back and Sida apparently has extra-sensory perception to tell her that he's still there. It's such a mess that doesn't hang together but expects you to be oohing and awing over the continuity references so much that you won't notice.

What makes this even more frustrating was that Guerrier and others have said that he campaigned to do a Steven story that is set after he left the Doctor in the Savages. It's a great opportunity for world building. The Savages and the Elders were at war the last time that we saw them. How did Steven forge them into one society. What side did he take his wife from? Did that cause any schisms? How did he keep the old tensions from resurfacing? None of that is evident in the story that we're told. There's some lip service to a revolt, which could mean that the old rivalries had sprung up again, but we're never given any details around them. Instead, we're presented with a world that might as well be an Earth colony of some type rather than an alien planet with two civilizations that lived very different lives. I'd expect that even 100 years on that there'd still be some evidence of what had gone before.

One of the things that I've always appreciated about Guerrier's stories is that he's made absolutely sure to make the science correct. He even went back to school, apparently, when he was doing the Cold Equations just so that he could talk reasonably about astronomical observations. That's why it seems so odd that this story makes no sense when it comes to science. Apparently Steven picks up the Doctor's mind from Earth and takes it to the planet of the Savages. Yet, how does this work? It can't be some sort of TARDIS-like technology that can pluck the Doctor's mind from time and space or all the talk about the planet needing to face Earth for this to work wouldn't' make any sense. Also, neither Steven or the Vardan in his mind know anything about time travel, so that doesn't make any sense. So, basically, unless Geurrier is trying to argue that the planet of the Savages is in Earth's solar system, that means that the Doctor's mind has been gone from Earth for years. It would also take years for it to return. Yet, in The Tenth Planet, the Doctor is only unconscious for a few hours. In The Locked Room, Steven makes contact with the Doctor one evening and then makes contact with him on another, which is already more time than the entire story of The Tenth Planet takes When you add to it that the Doctor spends a whole day out of his body, you start to wonder whether Guerrier ever even cared to do anything like fact checking. In fact, how did Steven even know where the Doctor would be? Vardans can only communicate at the speed of light and even if the planet of the Savages is relative close to Earth, it'd take years for Steven to get the message and by then the Doctor would have left.

There's also an odd dating issue going on. Since there's no time travel going on, we almost have to assume that somehow Steven has made some sort of machine for instantaneous transmission. That places The Savages at some point in the 19th century. Yet, Steven is very clear that the doctors on the planet wouldn't be able to help the Doctor because he "isn't human". This statement means that in Steven's view, he and the people of the Savages are all of the same race, but the Doctor isn't. Yet, if this story really takes place in 1986, contemporary with The Tenth Planet, then how are humans populating this planet? It doesn't make any sense and one wonders why Guerrier didn't just use the notion that this was a lost Gallifreyan colony, since that simplifies things immensely while also giving good fodder for future stories.

Final Rating: 5/10

Recommendation: It's a story that had everything going for it - a great production team, good director, wonderful performers, and two stories preceding it which were fantastic. Yet, it was all let down by a story that doesn't seem to know what it wants to do and tries to get by by throwing as many references at the audience to help them ignore the fact that the emperor has no clothes. The performances and direction help to keep this from being a total loss, but it's a disappointing end to what was shaping up to be a great trilogy. There are still two great stories in the Companion Chronicles Vol. 1, and I wouldn't call this a deal-breaker to completing that set, especially if you liked the first two installments of this trilogy, but I would advise getting ready for disappointment.

Blurb: The TARDIS lands in Leicester Square in the summer of 1762. When the Doctor, Steven and Vicki find themselves locked out of the TARDIS, only one man can possibly help them. But the American, Benjamin Franklin, has problems of his own...

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Steven Taylor. Published by Big Finish Productions and released June of 2015.

Setting: Earth: London, England in the summer of 1762. Steven narrates the story from the unnamed planet of the Savages, roughly 70 years after he decided to stay there.

Continuity: This story takes place between the television stories The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four and sometime after the audio story The Suffering. There's no evidence for when this story occurs with respect to other stories set within the same gap. Steven mentions that they'd met time travelers bent on changing history before (see The Time Meddler). Steven mentions that he'd been to London in 1912 (see The Suffering). Sida talks to Steven about how he needs to leave the seclusion of his cell from time to time (see The War to End all Wars). Steven still lives on the planet where he left the Doctor (see The Savages).

Canonicity Quotient: Once more, we have an issue with The Perpetual Bond, which states categorically that the last time that Steven was in London was The Suffering. Yet, even if you place Frostfire before The Suffering (see Frostfire's entry for the reason why this doesn't work), we now have Upstairs, An Ordinary Life, and The Founding Fathers with Steven in London after the Suffering and before The Perpetual Bond. It's a bit of a mess. You'd think that someone at BF would notice or would at least make sure to flag any statements about "the last time" someone does something in a series where we jump around within the character's timeline. Thankfully, Guerrier seems to have learned from this mistake and made Steven's reference to the events of the Suffering more specific to allow for more adventures in-between. 0.98

Discussion: The Founding Fathers may be one of my most anticipated Companion Chronicles ever. After The War to End all Wars, I was really excited for the prospect of more stories about Steven after he left the TARDIS in the Savages. I was also happy to hear that for once we were finally going to hear a tale from Steven about his time with Vicki. With the promise of the Doctor meeting some of the founding fathers of America it sounded like this one would be one of the truly great stories.

I'm going to get my gripes out of the way first this time and talk a bit about how The Founding Fathers is a pretty big misnomer. We get one founding father - Benjamin Franklin. While he's an interesting character and he's used well it's a bit of a let down. I would love to see a Doctor Who story set in America and dealing with Franklin's involvement in the founding of the nation. There's still room for that somewhere down the line, but it feels like this title should have been saved for that eventuality.

The other issue is that the framing sequence story completely falls apart, and the ersatz Doctor is completely wasted. Steven tells a tale to explain why the "Doctor in a jar" should never be allowed to run for office. Yet, we aren't given key information to help us understand the reason for the story until after Steven is finished telling it. It keeps the listener in the dark about why the story is being told and thus makes it impossible for us to figure out why Steven is telling it. When Steven does give his reasoning and the basis for it, it seems like a fairly sound conclusion, but seems to be a poor fit for the story that he just told. The evidence Abigail was fairly weak and even a copy of the Doctor's mind would have been likely to get more information before doing anything as ruthless as Steven suggests. Also, while it's true that the ersatz Doctor probably shouldn't be trusted to run things, the real Doctor shouldn't be either. At least in this case, though, I think that this was part of the authorial intent. Steven views the Doctor with rose-tinted glasses that have caused him to forget just how ruthless he could be. If trapped in a jar, I don't doubt that he would have done the same thing to get out of his prison. Surely, though, Steven could have thought of a better example of a time when a moral decision had to be made and which needed a quick decision where the ersatz Doctor might have gone with logic and efficiency rather than compassion and justice.

Ignoring the framing sequence, this is a fun, little historical. The familiar trope of the crew being locked outside of the TARDIS is used. The interplay between the Doctor, Vicki, and Franklin is nice to see develop. There's a bit of intrigue and we have the Doctor struggling to deal with Franklin getting into the TARDIS. That cliffhanger made my jaw drop, and I couldn't wait to see how the Doctor would deal with Franklin wandering around the TARDIS.

Gurrier shows his forte by giving some strong character moments as well. I liked that the Doctor baited Franklin by having Vicki come up with the questions about his methadology. I also thought it was great that the Doctor didn't actually need Franklin to get back into the TARDIS at all. He just wanted to take advantage of the situation to go see him. It's such a first Doctorish thing to do. I also really appreciate it when the characters get things wrong. It's understandable that they'd think about time travelers after their recent experiences with the Monk, and I liked that it turned out to be a red herring. I also laughed out loud when the ersatz Doctor made fun of Steven's American accent for Franklin and commented on his oratory skills. I do love stories like this and the Suffering when the narration is itself part of the story and having someone critiquing it while it was going was a treat and very much in character for the Doctor. I also liked why they explained why the "Doctor in the jar" wasn't taking part more in the story, since theoretically it would know more about some of the events than Steven would. The focus on character really helps to make the story enjoyable while providing a counterbalance to the lackluster framing sequence.

If you're getting sick of me praising the production values on Big Finish audio stories, unfortunately you're out of luck. These guys have been doing this for a while and know what they're doing. Purves once again shines as Steven, playing his world-weary older self in such a way that it's recognizable that it's still the character of Steven, but it's also apparent that a lot has happened to him since then. His Franklin is a little overblown, but no worse than most American-accents that I've heard from British actors. He also plays the Doctor with the same great performance that we're used to from him. The only downside is that his portrayal of Vicki is almost identical to that of Dodo. He even gives her the same crazy Dodo-accent even though he turns it down slightly. The two characters don't sound anything alike, so it is somewhat jarring to hear Dodo's voice come from Vicki in the story.

Alice Haig puts in a very notable performance as Sida. That character is really coming into her own with this storyline and it's nice to see that she's maturing into someone who takes charge a bit more often. Lisa Bowerman also puts in a fair performance as Abigail Holt. She's good at playing working class historical British as she's shown in other places. The only downside is that she does it so much that it's impossible to mistake her for anyone else, which can be a little disconcerting. The Companion Chronicles continue to expand their audio landscape. This story features all kind of sounds from bubbling vats to jingling coins, to lightning to rain to fire, to explosions to banging on a door and more. While many say that it's hard to get into the COmpanion Chronicles because of the narrative format these wonderful elements help to enhance the telling of the story and draw a listener in as if they're listening to a friend tell a story about some event. It can be a real treat and this story is no different.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Once again, Simon Guerrier proves that character is his forte. It's a tale of the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki trapped outside of the TARDIS and how they use their wits to get back in whilst being involved in some historical intrigue. The framing sequence let's things down a little bit, but the main story is solid enough to prop up the whole. I definitely recommend it, especially if you've seen The War to End all Wars.



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February 2017



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