THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Dreamtime

Written by Simon A. Forward Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2005
Continuity After Survival

Starring Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier

Synopsis: A city travels the stars, inhabited by stone ghosts. At its heart, an ancient remembrance of Earth. Mythical creatures stalk the streets and alien visitors have come in search of trade. But there is nothing to trade. There is only fear. And death. And the stone ghosts.


Reviews

Don't waste your time... by Joe Ford 10/5/05

In a world where there are about six Doctor Who stories coming out per month in various media it is a competitive world for those who are building on the legacy of the TV series. The books, the audios, the comic strip and the television all have their rough spots, periods when you feel tired of what is on offer and give up. I have been in this zone with Big Finish for the past two years now with the continually trying eighth Doctor adventures and the overload of continuity and then the complete lack of revealing that Gary Russell is in fact a modern day JNT pandering to the fans. Unfortunately when you do this the stories suffer as indeed they have with nightmares such as The Next Life and Creed of the Kromon daring you to set fire to your house just so you don't have to listen any longer.

But I fear Big Finish has reached its all time nadir with Dreamtime, a story with no redeeming features of any kind. It is thoroughly tedious from the word go, totally uninteresting, blandly performed, embarrassingly directed and it even has the audacity to waste newcomer Hex on a story that is unworthy of what he can bring to the series. I spent the two hours of this story in a sort of daze wondering when it would end, listening to words and wondering they would penetrate and make some kind of sense of drag some kind of reaction out of me. It never happened, throughout I was bored. No worse than bored... I really didn't give a shit about any of it, I was fast approaching the Dreamtime...

You may feel as though I am being harsh and have no right to so viciously critical but as two good friends of mine have pointed out we pay nearly fifteen pounds for one of these CDs, which is more money than I pay for the DVD releases! To expect something resembling a good story is not only understandable but also expected. After all you can hardly send them back just because they are as dull as dishwater, can you? If so half my Big Finish collection would be on the way back to them...

Also it beggars belief that Simon A Forward and Gary Russell should fail so miserably when both of them have delivered quality goods in the past. Emotional Chemistry was a rich treat of a story, packed with detail and drama. And Russell's early days of Big Finish was two years worth of outstanding stories of the class of Shadow of the Scourge, The Fires of Vulcan and Storm Warning. Are they both so bored with Doctor Who that this is the best they can do?

The reason I am going on about the contributors to this story rather than delving into the problems with the stories themselves is because it has left virtually no impression on me at all. I cannot remember any of the major plot points I and I only finished listening to it an hour ago. There were some stones, which used to be people. The Galyari were there doing nothing exciting. The Doctor spent two episodes in the Dreamtime talking a load of pretentious guff. Hex had to remember all the good times with the Doctor and all he could think up was that he said "Oh my God!" a lot and that annoyed him. And I think it had some connection with Aborigines but that's just because I read the CD sleeve. Ace was there too but honestly who gives a flying fuck about her anymore?

Simon is a huge fan of Philip Olivier (he turns up online a lot with his torso on display) and so I popped this on for him so he could get a taster for his acting ability. However he asked me to turn it off after track one because he did not have a clue what was going on. And he was right, that first track typifies the problem with Gary Russell's direction in recent years, all sound and fury, signifying sod all. People shouting, a bunch of loud sound effects drowning them out and horrific music drowning that out, coupled to the fact that the script hardly makes it clear what exactly is happening. Compared to Barnaby Edward's subtle and atmospheric opening of The Chimes of Midnight, this is further exposed as the relentless noise that it is.

The performances of the guest cast were yawn-inducing in the extreme but I can hardly blame them, this is not the sort of material to inspire greatness. Philip Olivier struggles gamely with his weak characterisation... Hex should be in constant awe of everything that is going on around him but instead gets the surprises over with quick so he can get mouthy with the Galyari. Olivier is a fine performer and certainly miles better than McCoy and Aldred but you wouldn't think that listening to Dreamtime. Wasting an actor of this quality on something so bland is unforgivable.

I am trying to avoid discussing Sylvester McCoy because it would appear I have nothing nice to say about his Doctor or his acting ability every time I bring him up and sorry folks but nothing is going to change here. Dreamtime cements my opinion that this is now my LEAST favourite Doctor with every piece of merchandise being released with the seventh Doctor involved pushing him further and further away from the quality of the others. Another reviewer comments this is his worst performance in Doctor Who and I find myself in close agreement, he is unconvincing in practically every scene and upstaged by his companions at every turn. I do recall wincing in agony during the middle scenes when the Doctor is trying to convince Baiame to save the life of some soldiers, McCoy gurns and gurgles and gets embarrassingly overexcited and redefines the word acting to include straining out dialogue as though he were constipated.

Sophie Aldred is trying but let's face it Ace has been bleeding from the gut for years now and she isn't going anywhere remarkable fast.

Give it a rest with the Galyari, Simon! They were hardly the most thrilling race to begin with and after introducing them in The Sandman and continuing their story with The Bone of Contention (these are the CDs you should be buying if you want to listen to some quality Simon A. Forward!) they have had their day. Pretty soon we will be equating the name Forward with Galyari and be expecting them in every story! Besides nothing is added here that wasn't included in those earlier stories so why bother?

I cannot believe this is what Big Finish is offering the same month Doctor Who is back on the telly. With the delights of RTD's Doctor Who to thrill and amaze you why are you wasting time on this nonsense. Why am I wasting my time on this nonsense? At least BBC books had the sense to not try and compete.

A dull, hollow, ugly mess and a sure contender for the worst Big Finish release ever. Go and read Simon's free story Equilibrium on his website instead, a wonderful third Doctor and Liz story that should have published instead of half the rubbish PDAs on the shelf.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 13/5/05

As the Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive in a strange city in space, where reality mixes with dreams - thoughts of previous Doctor Who dreamscapes filled my thoughts: the recent, excellent, Axis of Insanity and Mind Robber episode 1 (particularly to the fore as the DVD was released a few weeks before this audio). Both spring to mind. Here we have four episodes of dreaminess to enjoy - with some startling images we can picture well thanks to the impressive production and writing on offer. "Mythological terraforming" is how the Doctor describes it, and that's a rather apt description of whats on offer here.

Hex brings a much needed new dynamic to this TARDIS team. His wonder at seeing aliens for the first time, at seeing his first spaceship - we enjoy the new experience with him. Ace seems more sedate too, shielding her new friend. It's a fantastic new direction for this era of the show. Philip Olivier's Hex has had the marvellous plus of bettering his two much-travelled characters with him. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are always consistently very good - it's just freshened things up to have a new character to play against.

Dreamtime gently unfolds, with Big Finish sound wizardry elaborating the world the TARDIS lands in. Simon Forward deserves great credit for the words that inspired the production. There's some particularly lovely prose employed throughout. The script, the sound effects, with subtle eerie musical accompaniment - all enhance the dreamlike state of the world they are in. Australia is the inspiration - and the whole production is ripe with the special, unique flavour that the heart of that country employs.

I was delighted when a Big Finish envelope popped through my letterbox a few days ago. If I remember right it arrived on Wed 16th March. DW fans have so much to enjoy in this vast world, but it is inevitable that the focus will be directed mostly on the new TV series at the end of March. It's rather sensible then to bring this out mid-month, rather than at the end. It seems Big Finish not only produce great audios, but their marketing skills are impressive too. I wonder if sales will increase thanks to the new TV series - I really hope so, because after 67 monthly releases there seems to be lots of imagination left in the tank - ready for hopefully more people to enjoy.

Dreamtime also contains the return of an old monster - an audio monster. It's wonderful to see the audio stories feeding off its previous glories (relative glories in the case of The Sandman) and create another facet of Who mythology. The Galyari fit into this story very nicely, and provide a stark contrast to the human inhabitants that populate Dreamtime. These human inhabitants - particularly Toomey, Whitten and Baiame - flesh out the cast well.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dreamtime. It's a nice pleasant listen, full of delightful soundscapes. There's a lovely moral about the old and the new combining to the former's detriment. It's not against progress - just reflecting that ancient traditions are sometimes just as powerful. Impressive mythologizing. 8/10