|Starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann|
|Synopsis: An overview of Big Finish's 2014 releases.|
Masters of Tragedy by Stephen Maslin 25/9/21
1st Place: Mask of Tragedy by James Goss (Seventh Doctor, Ace & Hex)
Intelligent, frequently hilarious and totally original. The writer effortlessly weaves fact with fiction, and having an A-list voice actor like Samuel West in the studio raises everyone's game (not least Sylvester McCoy; this is his best Big Finish performance in a long, long time). The production is blessed with exceptional music and sound design, and characters are well drawn throughout: even the smouldering tension between Ace and Hex is extremely well done. (Such things often aren't.) There's an obviously tacked-on beginning and ending to shoehorn this into a story arc, but the rest is so good, you'll barely notice. Top marks all round.
2nd Place: Moonflesh by Mark Morris (Fifth Doctor & Nyssa)
With a great support cast and a smashing new temporary companion in Hannah Bartholomew (sadly under-used in her two subsequent outings), this is an old school Fifth Doctor story that really satisfies. There are some great spooky old house moments and Peter Davison spars wonderfully with Hugh Fraser and Tim Bentinck. Surprisingly, the Native American mysticism, so often the badge of ham-fisted tokenism in genre fiction, is very well handled as well. A worthy second place (in a rather thin year).
3rd Place: The Rani Elite by Justin Richards (Sixth Doctor & Peri)
Notable for being one of Big Finish's most successful re-castings; this time Siobhan Redmond as the Rani, transforming a previously uninspiring character into a villain really worth bothering about. If there's a downside, it's that few cast members other than Nicola Bryant can match Ms Redmond's acting chops. With all due respect to Messrs West, Fraser and Bentinck, she is Big Finish's best guest artiste of the year.
4th Place: Masters of Earth by Cavan Scott & Mark Wright (Sixth Doctor & Peri)
A Dalek story that isn't just another same-old, same-old rehash? Yes, it really is possible. Add a strong sense of place, and you can file this under both atmospheric and unexpected. All-round strong cast and well plotted into the bargain (though from where I'm sitting, it's hard not to read this as a metaphor for the question of Scottish independence).
Philip Hinchcliffe Presents (adapted by Marc Platt)
The Fifth Doctor Adventures, Volume 1 (by Jonathan Morris & John Dorney).
While neither of these sets are entirely successful, there are plenty of positive signs of better things to come.
...and THE WORST?
The Elixir of Doom
Sick of Iris Wildthyme yet?
A marvellous idea, with all the hallmarks of an audio classic. Alas, it is utterly wrecked by dreadful, suffocating music and disastrous sound design. (The former trying to cover up the latter, perhaps?)
Heavy-handed morality fable meets over-blown sci-fi cliche.
Signs and Wonders
Noisy, dull and utlimately pointless.
Dark Eyes, series 3.
The atmosphere of opening salvo 'Death of Hope' is undeniable, but it's all just scene-setting, and as you wade through the rest of the series, you realise that's pretty well all there is. Aside from Alex MacQueen's contributions as the Master, the whole thing really, really drags.