November 11th, 2013


The BBC doesn't own the TARDIS? Yeah, right

So I read this today. I'm not an expert on British copyright law but I can't imagine for a minute that this has any legs. The concept of a time/space craft with variable outter dimensions but larger inner dimensions was created before Coburn even was assigned to right the first story. Once the budget ensured that the ship would need to get stuck in a certain appearance he was the one who decided on a police box and I believe he came up with the acronym "TARDIS". I can't imagine that's enough to give him ownership of the rights to the TARDIS. This is so absurd that I wonder what his son hopes to gain? Does he think that the BBC will just settle with him to make it go away during the anniversary? That's the only thing that I can figure.
Polly Ooh

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 5.09 - The Forbidden Time

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/4/13 on another forum.

Blurb: Time Walkers have descended upon the Earth. This alien race, known as The Vist, has claimed an area of time for itself – any species entering into the immediate future will pay the most terrible forfeit.

The human race is in a state of panic, but one woman knows the truth. Her name is Polly Wright, and she visited that future many years ago, with the Doctor, Jamie and Ben.

She has stepped into the Forbidden Time – and this is her story…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Polly Wright. Published by Big Finish Productions and released March of 2011.

Setting: Earth: London, England, 1976. Polly narrates this story from 2011.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones. There is no indication of when this story is set with respect to other stories set within this same gap in the TV series. The Doctor mentions that his race were the first to discover time travel but later says that at least part of his story was false (see Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Falls the Shadow).

Canonicity Quotient: I didn't notice anything in this one that made inserting it into the canon difficult. 1.00

Discussion: This was another impressive story as I continue my foray into the season 4 Companion Chronicles. I really loved hearing Willis and Hines working together. Its a shame that they couldn't divide up the roles and have Hines play the Doctor and Willis play Ben but it makes sense based on the framing device. Yet, having them both in the story really helped to sell the era and it was nice to have a scene between the two of them. It really shows the power of these companion chronicles of what you can get once you get more of the principle characters from an era to play all of the parts.

The framing device was one of the more clever ones. Polly has a press conference to explain to presumably UNIT and/or any other organizations concerned with aliens why the telepathic message that they received is nothing to fear. She does so with some theatricality and in hindsight once she has told the whole tale it seems as if she could have done this much more quickly and saved everyone a lot of time. Still, for those of us who are listeners that doesn't matter. We got to hear Polly's thoughts on the Doctor, Jamie, and Ben and got at least some understanding of what she's been up to. I live for these moments in the CC's and its one of the reasons why I lament that we haven't really gotten a Steven CC yet that talks about his days since the Doctor. It does sadden me that Polly and Ben aren't married but at least they still have a relationship. It does highlight the sad fact that Michael Craze isn't around to do these CC's though which does lead one to be a tad melancholy.

The other interesting part of the framing is Jamie's inclusion by way of some audio recordings that he made during the adventure. It's nice because it allows us to get a perspective on the adventure that we couldn't have gotten from just Polly's narration alone and it also gives us an unreliable perspective. At one point for instance it seems that Jamie is neutralized during one portion of the recording when it stops abruptly during a tense scene but we just found out later that its because the machine only has a very limited recording limit.

The idea of creatures walling off a particular area of time and space as their feeding ground is an interesting one. The fact that they show no surprise when the Doctor rails at them of the injustice of imposing this penalty when most creatures can't control their motion through time shows that they're quite aware of the consequences of their action. Having the cosmic hobo Doctor rail against this seems to be the right choice and I really love the whole conceit here.

The Doctor once again shows the roots of the Dark Doctor that can be seen in several Troughton stories. He gives the creatures every chance to back down but in the end its their own selfishness and greed that proves their undoing as they travel back before the creation of the universe and ostensibly cease to exist. The whole scene is beautiful and Anneke has such a great way of relating the Doctor's mannerisms that it is like watching an old story on television.

The other thing that I thought was brilliant because it's just so human and such a great character point is that Ben picks up a car magazine whenever they arrive somewhere so he feels that he's an expert on every make and model of car to 2164. I still smile as I think about this scene. I can see the comic timing and even the framing that would have been used on TV and the Doctor, Jamie, and Polly all look at Ben when he names the make and model of the 1970's car, which he should know nothing about.

Before I end I definitely want to put some props out to the composer for this one. That piano score was beautiful and brilliant. It so wonderfully echoed the physical description of the shadow world, a drab, melancholy, empty place with such morose music to make it come alive. That was a beautiful job. Well done.

To me the only downsides were as I already stated the press conference seems a bit lame in hindsight since Polly could have wrapped the whole thing up in 5 minutes and explained to everyone that the crisis was averted. The other one is that Ben is taken out of the action so quickly. While I realize that this story starred Polly and Jamie so its important that they had the main points of the action, this kind of highlights to me that having both of them really was surplus to requirements which is why in the end they got rid of Polly and Ben as there usually isn't enough action to keep for 3 male leads busy. That being said, its not a huge gripe and I really did love this story.

Final Rating: 10/10

Recommendation: Few stories do such a good job at evoking their era while presenting you with a story that never would have been done in that era. The Forbidden Time gives you creepy, surreal imagery and the framing device keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and Anneke brings Ben and the Doctor to life with her narration. Other than a copout of a cliffhanger (like that never happened in the show) there's really nothing bad to say about this one. I definitely recommend it.
No Good

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 6.08 - The Selachian Gambit

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/5/13 on another forum.

Blurb: The Doctor doesn’t normally need money, but when the TARDIS is immobilized and a fine has to be paid, a loan from a bank in the sky seems the solution to his problem.

But then the Selachians arrive, and the Doctor and his companions find themselves as hostages in the middle of a heist.

Death seems an absolute certainty. But the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben have outwitted death before…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jamie McCrimmon. Published by Big Finish Productions and released February of 2012.

Setting: The Galactibank in Earth Orbit, time unknown (this likely occurs sometime between 2100 and 2164 although any date up to 2204 is possible). The details of when or why Jamie is narrating this story are not given.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones and after the audio adventure Resistance. Jamie refers to the Battle of Culloden (see The Highlanders). Ben and Jamie refer to their escape from the Milice (see Resistance). It is made unclear if Ben and Polly recognize the Selachians (see The Murder Game).

Canonicity Quotient: Steve Lyons show a great deal of diplomacy by making the issue murky of whether or not Ben and Polly have encountered the Selachians before as Big Finish tends to divorce itself from the novel continuity. It seems odd enough that that fact combined with the fact that the Doctor is a good bit out of character here that it feels like this story doesn't quite slot in where it's supposed to. 0.99

Discussion: After the last two knockouts it was inevitable that I hit a story that would underwhelm rather than overwhelm me and that was The Selachian Gambit. Let me get out of the way that I don't think that this is a bad story, I just expected it to be better than it was. This one had everything going for it - Anneke and Fraser had already proven to be a hit on Forbidden Time, I love anything by Steve Lyons, and the Selachians may have been the best thing to come out of the BBC Books PDA's, so their return was welcome. So with high expectations I may have been a little overly harsh.

First off let me say that there was some brilliance in this story. Anneke and Fraser were brilliant as always. There's obviously that genuine love on Fraser's side as well for Michael Craze and Patrick Troughton as he endeavored to really evoke the feeling that they were involved in the story. Anneke also did a great job recreating Polly and making the intervening years melt away. The script was also kind to the foursome this time. My criticism of Resistance and Forbidden Time was that one companion was redundant in each. This time Polly's sent to make the coffee but that's so that she's free to hatch a plan (although I find it odd that one of the Selachians wasn't watching her) and Ben gets plenty to do in this one as well. Although he's taken out of the action in an air duct for a while he comes back and he's key to the eventual fight that sends the Selachians packing. I think that a lot of the reason why people feel that this story so perfectly evokes season 4 is that the performances by Anneke and Fraser are just that good. The other thing that I love that feels just right for the era is the Doctor refusing to fill out some forms because they're asking for such difficult information like "name" and "address". That scene just makes me chuckle every time I think about it.

Unfortunately I feel like the actors are mostly having to fight a script that is constantly trying to subvert them. This story was played as a complete comedy something that the series would have never attempted in season 4. I feel like The Forbidden Time was more evocative of the era since the story for the most part was dark and full of danger but there were individual moments of high humor - Ben recognizing future cars because he picks up car magazines every time they stop somewhere, Jamie throwing a sophisticated technological device at a monster because its all he can think to do with it. But the series itself didn't try to be a comedy, its just sometimes the characters did funny things. The Selachian Gambit makes me think that we're going for a Three (Four) Stooges episode. The Selachians who at least in novel form were a tragic race who had overcompensated by becoming terror itself are just big, dumb creatures. They shout and yell and rage a lot but don't actually do anything. We get a lot of fussy people, such as a comedy rich lady who doesn't understand that she's in trouble and just insists on things being her way showing a level of divorce from reality that no one would really show. The sequences where Fraser has to have a long monologue of 5 minutes or so as 6 different characters is just kind of tiresome. Seriously they needed to divide up the roles with he and Anneke on this one because it just became painful to listen as suddenly all the voices except for Ben started sounding like the Doctor even when one of them was supposed to be a woman! Then there's the music. Oh god...the music. The music tries to remind as constantly that THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A COMEDY with its playful melody throughout the entire story trying to kill any kind of drama or tension that the story is building to. How do we stop a bomb kids? Throw a pie in its face! This one was just short of a sitcom laugh track to complete the feeling. I also feel like all the talk of "fat cats" shows a trifle to much of Lyons own leanings. It certainly doesn't sound like its from the era and as countless commentators have said before me, the Doctor doesn't seem to have an overt political agenda normally so his constant railing against the fat cats seems a little off.

Final Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: A trifle close to the absurd, The Selachian Gambit has the nugget of a good story but keeps subverting itself by a desire to be a comedy. Still, Anneke and Fraser are wonderful together and its always fantastic to hear Fraser's Troughton impression. It's almost as if the man himself were back. The action remains pacey and there are a series of twists that should maintain just about anyone's interested. I'd definitely recommend listening to it.