THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Omega

Written by Nev Fountain Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2003
Continuity Between Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen.

Starring Peter Davison
Also featuring Ian Collier, Caroline Munro,   Patrick Duggan, Hugo Myatt, Conrad Westmaas,   Jim Sangster, Faith Kent, Anita Elias

Synopsis: A strange telepathic message prompts the Doctor to travel to the 'Sector of Forgotten Souls', a place where, thousands of years ago, Omega's ship vanished whilst detonating a star.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 26/9/03

The first of the 3 villain stories, it's time for Peter Davison and Ian Collier to shine. I really didn't know what to expect from this CD. I had not heard any trailors, and vaguely recall reading about the Doctor and the villain in one room. I hoped this would not be the case, and it isn't thankfully.

What I didn't expect was the total entertainment that was Episode 1 - and Omega is hardly in that part! Nev Fountain here produces one of the best opening episodes I can recall BF producing. It's funny, it's imaginative, it's a wonderful new angle on the Time Lords. Populating the tour ship with wonderful characters like Maven and Glinda, really brought a smile to my face. Having the legends of Time Lord history being played in a cheap gimmick by jobbing actors (Daland and Tarpov) - and then turning it all round, excellent. I loved the Zagreus cameo too - very funny!

The 5th Doctor revels in the freedom that being on his own gives him, notwithstanding the explanations in episode 3 and 4. Davison has never had such a wordy script, and he again shows what a fabulous audio Doctor he is. The stand-in companion here is a Professor Ertikus, an Irish Time Lord no less! A likeable, inquisitive chap, well played by Patrick Duggan.

Top of the list of guest characters though is Caroline Munro. She's a looker, we all knew that - but I doubt most of us knew how good a voice she has. She is impressive both in looks and conversation - what a woman! The role of Sentia is one of the best of recent releases, even if she seemed naive in her relationship with Omega.

Thus we come to Omega himself/itself. Ian Collier faithfully recreates the Time Lord baddie, and he really does dominate proceedings (far more than the initial listen led us to believe). The story ties in with the 2 TV appearances well. There's brief references to Amsterdam and multiple Doctors - but the story is allowed to develop of itself, without too much continuity.

My biggest complaint of Omega - the audio, is that it doesn't maintain the level of excellence, and entertainment, of Episode 1. Episode 2 is Omega talking with the Doctor. Episode 3 and 4 is a lot of postulating and talking in anti-matter space (or whatever it's called). We get to know Omega more in this story - but I did prefer the whole Jolly Chronoholidays set up more. Fountain has an adeptness for humour, and great characters - but his story is less interesting when the serious issues kick in. The strange Holiday tour set-up is discarded in favour of Omega's domain - just not that interesting I'm afraid.

With excellent performances from Peter Davison, Ian Collier and Caroline Munro, this really is well done throughout. Fountain shows an improvement on Death Comes to Time, but the story faded away rather than rose to a climax. Not one of the best Big Finish productions, but still worth a look for the 3 actors/actresses above. 7/10


Timely by Joe Ford 1/11/03

This wasn't the disaster I predicted and yet failed to be the classic it should have been. It was certainly a good release, superior to Flip-Flop before it and a neat little tale with only a few major drawbacks. It was certainly a good confidence builder for the upcoming Peter Davison adventures after a rather dry run for his Doctor of late.

I am not a big fan of Omega or the Time Lords. To be honest with you I was glad when Justin Richards and cohorts decided to wipe out Gallifrey and the endless continuity bursting factors that come with it. I do appreciate that when used well the Doctor's people could be the catalyst for GREAT stories (The War Games anyone?) but on the whole they are merely an excuse to get bogged down in the show's history and prevent telling fresh and original stories.

Omega was my least favourite 'nutty Time Lord' of the bunch (and let's face it there have been a few... the Master, the Rani, Borusa, Morbius, the Valeyard...). His debut and sophomore stories were so unspectacular I was left with lukewarm feelings about one of the most important figures in Time Lord history. The Three Doctors portrayed him as a ranting loony, a man so shouty and egotistical it wasn't worth listening to what he had to say. Arc of Infinity was even worse, one of the worst ever Doctor Who stories that paints Omega as a shallow victim, albeit one with vengeance on his mind. Ian Collier was so quiet and subdued compared to Stephen Thorne's throaty rantings it was impossible to compare the two. They clearly weren't the same person.

Well hurrah for Nev Fountain who has achieved something spectacular here. The Omega of Omega is a powerful being, intelligent and cunning with more than a few tricks up his sleeves. He is a very worthy foe for the Doctor and is painted in many shades of grey. As the adventure continues you see more to the man than just wanting to escape, you see a man desperate to see how history paints him, who is remorseful for the terrible things he has done in the past, a man who wants more than conquest and power but to simply escape his prison and be free again. Ian Collier is more than up to the task this time especially in episode four where he turns on those closest to him, disgusted at their reactions to the atrocities committed.

Much of Omega's past is explored too, more than just the boring stellar manipulator facts that pollute these kinds of stories. We get to see how Omega actually was in the past, his relationship with Rassilon and how perception of his life's events are twisted by those in power so the public don't get to hear the 'real' truth. The truth is Omega has become a rounded character with proper doses of sympathy and respect and is far more compelling as a result.

But what's this? Peter Davison is on incredible form in Omega, a script that paints his Doctor as witty and wonderful. Truly after Frontios, Caves of Androzani and Spare Parts this may be my favourite story with Peter Davison in it. Instead of dragging down the tale (see Nekromentia, The Church and the Crown) he appears to relish his chance to play up the funnier scenes, his voice carries a lot of weight in this story because he actually seems to be enjoying himself. The fifth Doctor is integral to the story, a late vital twist subverts expectations in the best possible way and makes us look at the Doctor in a whole new light. My favourite scenes include him trying to explain the joy of staying in our universe (tea, tea and more tea apparently!) and his glorious reaction to the who the murderer turns out to be. A wonderful interpretation of the weakest Doctor, there may be hope for him yet.

I love the script, the dialogue Nev Fountain has written is some of the best we've heard for ages outside of Colin Baker stories. This is man who understands Doctor Who, who manages to poke fun at the traditions of the show without demeaning it. His characters are cleverly written so to appeal to you despite the OTT nature of them. There is a lot of light comedy banter between characters, especially the Doctor and Omega and it really charges the story up. There were lots of moments where I laughed out loud (Mavis hearing the echo was genius!).

But whereas the script was bubbly and frothy the plot tries to be hard as nails and the two fight each other for supremacy. The performances seem to back up the lighter nature of the script so the tought plot concerning genocide, body stealing, calculated murder and perception of history seems a bit extreme. The story wants to play it dangerous but the tone of the story disagrees and I was in two minds as to whether this was a comedy or a drama. An uneven mixture of the two would be more accurate.

Plus the first episode grates a little, the overly theatrical opening instalment gives no indication that this will pan out into a heart wrenching drama. I was in two minds whether to continue into episode two and although I'm glad that I did (because things improved dramatically) it is never a good sign that the scene setter is a bit of a bore (usually it is the best episode of the four). This time episode four takes the honours of being the most successful, the major players have put all their cards on the table, the revelations comes thick and fast and the pace is frantically enjoyable. The level of emotion raised in that last twenty five minutes is astonishing. The last ten minutes in particular scatter everything we know about the story and rearrange the pieces into something even more enjoyable, each character playing a satisfying role in the proceedings and the plot wrapped up with professional tidiness.

Other performances were mostly good with only Conrad Westmas annoying me for any great length of time. He might be an actor and PLAYING an actor but honestly, how much ham can one man shave off? His melodramatic speeches are forgotten though when you think of Patrick Duggan and Caroline Munroe as Professor Ertikus and Sentia respectively. They both start off a little shaky, as if unsure how to pitch their characters but after episode one they settle down and give very interesting performances. Ertikus evolves nicely, bouncing off the Doctor especially well and Sentia has some seminal scenes with Omega in episode four, the very crux of the story brought down to Earth by two people with opposing opinions.

My biggest gripe and I can't believe I'm about to say this is Russell Stone's music which is quite unsuitable for the (apparently) bombastic story. The script says laugh, the story says faint with shock and the music says fall asleep, it's so calm and ethereal. The harmonious music worked for Stones of Venice because it suited the story's mood but similar mood music hear fails dismally because it fights the material. He does crank it up a notch in episode four, complementing the furious pace well but aside from highlighting a few poetic speeches this score did little for me. Shocking.

Not sure what to say about my pal Gary Russell and his uneven direction. In places he is excellent and he captures the delight of the script wonderfully but like his similarly disappointing work in Flip-Flop he can't find any kind of balance, the camp antics of episode one misleading audience expecting a grand drama of the highest order. I don't want to sound too negative because there were many well judged moments that made me punch the air with delight but this was yet another story that could have used a more assured director at the helm. Sorry Gary but you just don't cut the mustard sometimes.

Overall this is a delightful release, it satisfies and surprises, two of my favourite things. There are some incidental issues that drag it away from classic status but the strong writing and decent performances earn it extra points and I'm willing to call it a qualified winner. A worthy successor to Creatures of Beauty which means Davison is on a roll (of sorts) and I truly hope the writers can keep it up. I would like to say some more nice things about him.


A Review by Phil Fenerty 21/2/04

Omega is the audio equivalent of the film The Sixth Sense. The whole story revolves around one single twist: when you know what it is, it makes you listen again to what has gone before to see how the trick has been worked. Nev Fountain is on record as saying that he wanted to write a story which could only work in the audio medium, and he has certainly succeeded.

The basic story involves a holiday firm, running the space-age equivalent of a Saga coach-tour, who have created a "Heritage Experience" in the region of space where Omega detonated a star, turning mere Gallifreyans into Time Lords. There, actors interpret the events of the detonation (as far as they are known), perpetually replaying the events which saw Omega trapped in the Anti-Matter kingdom seen in The Three Doctors.

The whole area is a spatial anomaly, and it affects the actor Tarpov, who takes the re-creation of Omega's downfall rather too literally. And then, Omega's ship the Eurydice, appears for real. The Doctor, prompted to travel here for a holiday, realises that everyone is in peril and that he must confront Omega to discover what he wants.

This audio is based around the power of story and the nature of historical perception. Are we to believe what the actors are re-creating is true? Can we believe the villains created by history books are as bad as they are painted (or the heroes as good)? The Doctor meets Professor Ertikus, a historian researching his third documentary on Omega, re-evaluating him (again) in the light of new knowledge and political expediency. As the tale progresses, the listener is forced to re-evaluate what has already been heard in the light of new revelations. The coda to Part Four, somewhat unnecessarily, continues this theme which has run through the rest of the tale.

For a story centering on one of Gallifrey's most potent icons (and one of the series' most tragic villains), the possible continuity-fest is eschewed. Much of what we learn of Omega builds on events from The Three Doctors, Remembrance of the Daleks and (oddly enough) two Virgin NA's (Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow). Omega's anachronistic TARDIS (seen in Arc of Infinity) is ditched, with a much more plausible explanation for his presence at the Eurydice being employed.

At four episodes, the plot is a little stretched. Part One builds up the unfolding mystery, as the actor Tarpov goes mad, seeming to act out for real the part in Omega's downfall he had to portray for the holiday-makers. Parts Two and Three seem to lull, even the device of a spatial instability which could collapse failing to inject drama into the proceedings. It is only in Part Four, when the extent of Omega's plight becomes known and his plan is finally revealed to the Doctor that the story becomes engaging again.

Hugo Myatt as Darland portrays a world-weary, cynical actor to perfection. His character provides a great deal of the humour in the story, without detriment to the plot. Ian Collier's Omega excellently portrays the range of emotions which this exile undergoes: his performance in Part Four, which rides an emotional roller-coaster, is exceptional. But the star of the show, as he should be, is Peter Davison: he has been given a role into which he can get his teeth, doing so with aplomb. His enjoyment of the script is evident, and he gives probably his best Big Finish performance to date.

TV has not treated Omega well: exiled to a Black Hole (later destroyed) and then trapped in a decaying body in Amsterdam, when all he wanted was the recognition due to him for his achievements. This play rounds off Omega's story, teaching us about the man who made the myth, and in the process re-inventing the myth which made the man.

Overall: highly recommended.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/5/04

Kicking off the villains trilogy we have Omega; not the villain you`d immediately think of when it comes to a story featuring returning popular foes of the Doctor. This aside Omega is the best tale to feature the character and there is certainly room for character development. The story gets off to a promising enough start; the tourism and tales of Omega`s legendary exploits are certainly an interesting plot strand; albeit a pastiche on Doctor Who fandom. The twist midway through the story is also welcome and unexpected, but this isn`t enough to save the story, mostly because the plot is retreading old ground; Omega tries to come back to our universe (only this time with a wife.)

Despite this the cast are excellent, Ian Collier brings to Omega a sense of a character searching for an identity of his own (the character being trapped in an anti-matter realm.) Peter Davison is great displaying timing when it comes to witty one liners, tetchiness and mellowness in equal shades. Similarly the guest cast are great;particularly Hugo Myatt and Caroline Munro both being blessed with distinctive characters.

In short Omega should have been better, the pacing makes it feel overlong as a result. Not bad, but not brilliant either.


A Review by John Seavey 21/8/05

What can I say, it's all worth it for the cliffhanger to Part Three. The story is extremely convoluted to that point, it's very confusing to follow as the writer is jumping through insane numbers of hoops to prevent the audience from figuring out that cliffhanger, and really, Part Four can't live up to it, but frankly, you must give this at least one spoiler-free listen just to get to the end of Part Three and a cliffhanger that is up to the best standards of anything Doctor Who's ever produced.

Plus, Nev Fountain can write some fun dialogue, so you won't feel like your time is wasted going through the first three parts.