Blurb: Once, Jo Grant travelled in Space and Time with the Doctor. Now, she is travelling with trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme.
Arriving in Los Angeles in the 1930s, Jo and Iris are caught up in the glamour of Hollywood.
Monster movies are all the rage.
But sometimes monsters are real…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the points-of-view of Jo Grant and Iris Wildthyme. Published by Big Finish Productions and released May of 2014.
Setting: Earth: Hollywood, U.S.A. in the year 1936. There is no indication given as to when and why Jo and Iris are narrating the story.
Continuity: This story takes place for Jo after the audio story Find and Replace. Iris mentions her adventures with the Doctor on the planet Hyspero (see The Scarlet Empress). Jo recognizes the tune that the Doctor uses to get rid of the Lizard Man and Wolf Man (see The Curse of Peladon).
Canonicity Quotient: Placing it directly after Find and Replace already sets it on dubious canonicity grounds. Yet even presuming that is the case then Jo should be a woman in her 60's. Yet Katy Manning is using her "young Jo' voice and Vita Monet refers to "Jo" as a girl, so the story isn't even consistent on whether or not it is following on from Find and Replace. Additionally, Iris references the events Hyspero but as Iris regenerated immediately after that story that does not seem likely. She also tells Jo that she can't regenerate which contradicts not only the novels but many of the Big Finish audios as well. 0.15
Discussion: I approached this story with a great deal of regret. The Companion Chronicles have for the most part been excellent, but the line is ending. Of course for my reviews that won't be such a big deal because I will continue to listen to Companion Chronicles made for later Doctors for some time. Yet, this has been a really great line overall and it stills fills me with sadness that it will be a long time before I hear more stories set in the Troughton era and even longer still until I hear anything set in the Pertwee era. I'll also admit that I was not looking forward to another Iris Wildthyme adventure. Katy Manning is a fantastic voice actress, but she does such a great job doing an annoying character that I don't really want to listen to anything with Iris. Ultimately, I still soldiered on so that I could complete this review and because I was curious as to what a story with Jo and Iris having an adventure would be like.
The one thing that I was not expecting when I listened to this story was how bland that it was. I know that Paul Magrs has had a falling out with Big Finish and as a result this is the last Iris story that they will be doing. Yet, this was recorded back in 2011, so I don't think that this story specifically was effected by that issue. Yet, this story feels like someone being forced to complete a contractual obligation rather than someone whose really invested in their work. I didn't like Find and Replace, but the passion that Magrs had for the story was evident in the writing and it did produce one incredibly powerful and moving scene. This loses all of that. The story is missing a lot of the typical Magrs attempts at humor and other than some off color jokes about men and husbands from Iris there's barely any humor in it at all. The story isn't very engaging and it goes through a very predictable sequence of events. The resolution is also very unsatisfying with Jo and Iris leaving and conjecturing that the monsters will turn back to normal without any basis for that belief. I did think that the inclusion of the McGann Doctor into the story was a clever way of making it a "Doctor Who" story, but at the same time he's used for very little effect. He's there for Iris to get jealous that Jo might want to go off with him and then he's a deus ex machina to take care of some story issues, which made it feel as if he wasn't really necessary to plot and since McGann couldn't voice him it makes one wonder why he was there in the first place. The most annoying thing is that Jo references a much more interesting sounding story about a vampire in 1970's Hollywood that apparently she and the third Doctor fought but we don't get that story and get this one instead.
As usual Katy Manning impresses with her wide range of voices that she can switch between at a moment's notice. She does a fantastic job of voicing Jo except that she's still sounding like younger Jo although this should be the older version from Find and Replace. Her Iris is the usual annoying character and she also gives us a passable caricature of an American accent. Her only real miss was voicing the McGann Doctor. I realize that she doesn't have the rapport with McGann that she had with her former costar but that was the most flat delivery that I've ever heard her give for anything. It's almost as if she realized that she couldn't do a great imitation so she thought that she'd go for completely flat so that she wouldn't distract from the lines at least. Derek Fowlds also does a great job playing Claude, The Human Jelly, and the Lizard Man at various points in the story. He does a great job of making each voice distinct and investing them each with their own personality.
The soundscape on this one is similarly uneven. The music is really sparse and there's not a lot here to imply 1930's Hollywood. There's the odd sound effect here and there but the whole thing just sounds bare almost as if this one were made on the cheap.
Final Rating: 5/10
Recommendation: It's a cheap production that feels like it was made to fulfill a contractual obligation. If you like watching paint dry then this may be the story for you. While not as egregiously bad as several other stories that I've reviewed, this one is so positively bland that you may be put to sleep by it. I would recommend skipping this one.