The Holy Terror
The Fires of Vulcan
The Audio Scripts
|Summary: Four scripts from Big Finish, plus early versions, lost dialogue and introductions from the authors.|
Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 24/3/03
Big Finish picked four of their audio plays, one for each Doctor, and put the scripts for them together in one book. If you find such things interesting, they can give an insight into what exactly was going on, especially useful when there are script directions that don't translate well, and can make it easier to follow along with the story.
These types of books can also give an insight into the production of such stories, and considering how much has been written about the production of Doctor Who television stories, this gives a real opportunity to find out about the audio plays. Unfortunately, aside from brief introductions by the directors and authors, there isn't much of that here. (Although I think I remember seeing something about a book of that type also in working by Big Finish... but I could be making that up.)
However, we do get some interesting notes from behind-the-scenes. I'll have to check out the beggar in The Fires of Vulcan again, not to mention the sculptor in The Holy Terror. The history of Loups-Garoux was informative, but could we have less loup-y puns next time, Mr. Mark Gattiss? But I'm sure there's a lot more we could find out about Neverland than we'll ever be told.
By now, I've given away the stories involved. Loups-Garoux being the first, written by Mark Gattiss and directed by Nicholas Pegg. The script starts off with a glossary of terms, a device some of the other scripts might have found useful, then we're into the script. Reading it, I can almost hear the audio again, and I have to agree with the comments made to the order that the full flavour of the story doesn't really come through until the entire audio is put together, the cast and production adding a lot. One question that does arise from reading the script is 'where is Scene 18?' The script says that Scene 18 is deleted from Part One, which now ends on Scene 17. Part Two begins with Scene 19, so what was 18? Admittedly, the likely answer involves something dull and irrelevant, but still any completist likely to get this book will want to know.
Next up is The Holy Terror by Robert Shearman, directed by Nicholas Pegg. Given the popularity of this story, it's not surprising that this story was included here. There isn't much that this script adds over the story, but Robert Shearman's opening comments make for interesting reading. There is definitely more that could be done in that area.
The Seventh Doctor story is The Fires of Vulcan, written by Steve Lyons and directed by Gary Russell. The interesting addition here is in the appendix, where we see Part One as originally written for the Seventh Doctor and Ace. I'd just like to take this moment to thank Gary Russell for instead asking for this story to be rewritten for Mel. Admittedly, the Ace version would probably have been cleaned up a little, but Ace is presented as a little too much 'Ace', which isn't well wicked.
Last up is Neverland, written by Alan Barnes and directed by Gary Russell. The script we get here isn't what was finally produced, but the original four parts written by Alan Barnes. Without actually listening to the audio whilst reading the script, I can't spot all the cuts, but those I could I can't say were anything too major (the Divided Loyalties references, for example, I'm glad didn't make it, it definitely would not have fit). All up though, that last line is still chilling, even in print.
The Audio Scripts could have included a lot more background details, and some of the more attractive features of it are the extra part of The Fires of Vulcan and the extended Neverland, but ultimately I'm not fully satisfied that this is entirely value for money.
A Review by John Seavey 31/3/03
I was a little surprised to find out that Big Finish was releasing a book of their audio scripts -- after all, they'd said on their website that they had no interest in putting out print versions of their audios, since the audio was a hard enough format to get people interested in. It's certainly been a hard format to get me interested in, mainly because a lifetime of reading has trained me to tune out the noises around me so I can concentrate on visual stimuli, which is a bad trait to have when you're trying to listen to an audio-only drama.
In other words, I was quite glad to see a book of audio scripts from Big Finish. I hadn't been avoiding their work on any principle of cost or quality, but simply because the medium didn't appeal to me... and this nice hardcover book was going to give me a chance to read some of the Doctor Who I'd missed out on as a result. As it turned out, there was quite a lot of good Who in here (and some bad, as well, but you can't have everything) -- it served as a good read, a nice work of reference on the four audios it contained, and enough of an advertisement that I'm probably going to be buying two of the four audios just to hear the voice performances. So on the whole, I'd call this an excellent success for Big Finish, and I hope very much that this is just the first volume of many.
Loups-Garoux, by Marc Platt, was one of the reasons I bought this book -- I'd heard a lot of raves about the story, and I've also been a huge fan of Platt ever since Ghost Light. I wasn't disappointed, either... this is a great story. Pieter Stubbe is a wonderful villain, filled with a dark and menacing charm, and I find myself wanting to buy the audio just to hear his voice when he delivers lines like, "Huh. Grandmothers. I've had my fill of grandmothers." Doctor Who has given us very few villains as utterly cool as Stubbe, and my only wish is to somehow see him again. The other characters are nice too, and the regulars are dealt with well (I love the Doctor's awkward, tentative stabs at romance), and although the plot sometimes seems a little vague, it's never contradictory and always engaging.
The Holy Terror, by Rob Shearman... wow. This has been billed by many as a comedy (sometimes prefaced with the words "dark"), but don't be fooled. This is actually an intense drama with comic moments strategically placed to relieve the tension like lightning bolts in a storm. The whole thing is an exploration of responsibility -- What responsibility does the Creator have to his Creation? -- and it's dealt with on many levels, from Frobisher hunting down the gumblejack he created out of the TARDIS databanks to Pepin VII refusing to become a god to his subjects to the final, shattering denoument in which we see who the Creator really is, and what he's been doing to his creations all along. It's violent, it's bloody, it's gory, but there's never a moment in which I don't believe that this is the natural, inevitable progress of events -- I've got to get this on audio, because I think it's possibly one of the best works of Who to have shown up in a while. It's on a very high plane, and I recommend it a lot.
The Fires of Vulcan, by Steve Lyons, is... solid. It's like a lot of Steve Lyons books -- the characterization is sound, the plot unfolds well enough, there are reasonably clever moments, and on the whole, there are far worse ways to pass an afternoon (or evening, in my case) than to read it. But don't expect something world-shatteringly good. It's solid. That's probably damning it with faint praise, but there's really nothing else you can say.
Neverland, by Alan Barnes... yeurgh. This is the "bad Who" I was talking about earlier. I understand that Gary Russell wants to show off not just the quality of the scripts, but also the storylines and writers that he's developed at Big Finish. Hence, instead of including a probable crowd-pleaser Eighth Doctor story such as The Stones of Venice, Invaders From Mars, or Seasons of Fear (I'm basing this on the writers involved, not on having heard the audios), he went with one of his own writers, and a story tied strongly in with the Big Finish Eighth Doctor mythos. This proves to be a mistake, in my opinion, because Barnes isn't a very good writer, and Neverland isn't a very good story. The whole thing reads like a second-hand-shop version of the War, and although there are a few cute ideas (dispersed Time Lords continuing to exist somewhere, Time Lords donating lives to soldiers in the fight), there's a lot of codswallop (why do anti-time creatures feed on time? Shouldn't they annihilate each other?) and blather (Zagreus, Zagreus, Zagreus, yadda yadda yadda.) The Eighth Doctor... I will never again claim that the Eighth Doctor in the books doesn't have a distinct character anymore, because now I've read Neverland, and I can at least tell you who he isn't. He's not this guy. Ironic, since Paul McGann actually voiced these lines, but this isn't the Doctor. There are further problems with this as the selection (it relies heavily on knowledge of previous audios, it ends on a cliff-hanger) but the biggest one is that it's just plain bad. Not the best way to end the book.
Still, with four stories and only one being dross (and two being spectacular), that gives it a pretty good claim to be worth picking up -- and it helps that this also doubles as a reference work, for those people who want to refer back to events in The Holy Terror but don't have a good fast-forward/rewind feature on their CD player. I'd love to see another volume of these, perhaps one featuring The Shadow of the Scourge or an all-Excelis edition... and Big Finish needn't worry about this cutting into their audio sales. If anything, it'll increase them.