|Starring Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and John Hurt|
|Synopsis: An overview of Big Finish's 2016 releases.|
Wave of Conspiracy by Stephen Maslin 9/12/21
1st Place: Aquitaine
by Simon Barnard & Paul Morris
(Fifth Doctor, Nyssa & Tegan)
A totally absorbing listen that succeeds on every level. Put on a decent pair of headphones, lie back and let it work its magic. With a superbly paced build-up leading into a drama that never lets up, this is by turns unnerving, touching and horrific but always compelling. Matthew Cottle as Hargreaves almost steals the show, but it is Messrs Davison, Fielding and Sutton who take the prize. They have never been better.
2nd Place: Wave of Destruction
by Justin Richards
(Fourth Doctor & Romana II)
"A timely allegory on the tyrannous ubiquity of pop music, extrapolated from a plot device in The Invasion of Time" may sound a little dry, but this really isn't. There are some very funny lines, and Tom Baker and Lalla Ward turn in superb performances. It's true that there are a couple of minor gaffes (some yucky cutesy music at the beginning, and a female character created merely to be killed off as the punchline to a not-very-good joke) but, like Gareth Roberts' trio of 4th+R2 novels from the 1990s, this is how Season 17 should have been. An effortless upgrade.
3rd Place: The Ravelli Conspiracy
by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky
(First Doctor, Vicki & Steven)
Supporting characters that include Guiliano de Medici, Pope Leo X and Niccolo Machiavelli? Yep, and with an excellent supporting cast rising to the challenge. An unashamed throwback to early Who historicals and, though it starts a little shakily, one of the best.
4th Place: The Two Masters Trilogy
by Alan Barnes, Justin Richards & John Dorney
(Fifth, Sixth & Seventh Doctors)
Assembling a trio of BF's heavyweight writers really pays off, providing a grandiose folly that really hits the spot. Geoffrey Beevers is excellent, but the real star is Alex McQueen. The last episode may be a bit overwrought, but there are fine moments all the way through.
...and THE WORST?
How I hate the War Doctor (and so, by the sound of it, do the cast). The War Doctor 2: Infernal Devices is pretty duff all round, but by the time one gets to this final part, everyone seems to have given up completely: it contains no acting from the leads whatsoever; just two people being paid to read something about which they no longer give a damn.
And I can't stand River Song either. I don't care if Alex Kingston is a well-loved TV companion or not: here she just turns up and takes the money. 'Doom Coalition 2' in toto is a real mixed bag, but (again) by the time one gets to the final story, there are the all too depressing notions that a) one is listening to a very tired and bored group of actors, and that b) one has sat through this kind of story many, many times before.
The Eternity Cage.
If you want to know how bad this is, read Noe Geric's scathing review elsewhere on this website. I couldn't have put it better.
Most of Doom Coalition, series 3.
The first story, Absent Friends, starts things off well, and initially the second story, The Eighth Piece, looks like it's going to keep up the quality, with John Shrapnel as a masterfully unpleasant Thomas Cromwell. Then a lot of things happen at once: the music becomes tediously Hollywood-heroic, a very meh villain turns up, a convoluted and confused storyline piles don't-care upon don't-care and, the icing off the cake, River Song pitches up again. Alex Kingston's acting here is a good few notches down from the rest of the cast, and it doesn't help that it sounds like she was recorded in a different room, even a different town, to everyone else.