THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
...ish

Written by Philip Pascoe Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity Between Revelation of the Daleks and
Mindwarp.

Starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant
Also featuring Moray Treadwell, Marie Collett, Chris Eley, Oliver Hume

Synopsis: ...ish suffix? Enclitic word (?) of unknown origins, as playing with the voices of its victim(s) or hosts; sentient (?) auto-memetic (?) fragment (?) of the Omniverbum (q.v.?). See also ...ish ?? ...ish? ...ish?


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 18/9/02

INTRIGUING. That is the word that came into my mind as I have awaited this Big Finish Audio Release. Then the Cover was released - even more INTRIGUING. Was this to be as weird as it appeared, was it to be the real surprise of the year - there's always 1 or 2 after all. After the wonderful 8th Doctor season, it was refreshing to return to past Doctors (they after all established the range with their excellence) - and especially the 6th Doctor, by quite a margin my favourite Doctor in Audio format. The Excelis series had teased us with pretty good half-stories - but now it was back to the real thing.

Philip Pascoe is a word-buff - he loves the written word, and he is a self-confessed fan of the English Language. One of my favourite authors - Bill Bryson - is also so inclined - he's even written an excellent book (Mother Tongue) on the subject. I like to think that his books are so interesting and easy to read because of his grip on the English Language. I hoped that Phil Pascoe (despite the vastly different discipline of writing an audio, to writing a travel book) would be similar. That my vocabulary would be expanded, that I would refer to the Dictionary quite a bit, and learn something. That was my wish - along with a good story, of course.

...ish is actually a pretty impressive story, despite its limiting setting. The range, the diversity, lies in the script - not the stage on which the drama is set. I expected quite a complicated piece, but it really is a mystery, where the Doctor is the main detective. It has a small cast of characters, something which I prefer in Audios (large casts always have a few characters who get lost in the narrative), and each character is well thought out and acted. The aptly named Book is the most interesting character, and also the best performed. It's the most interesting Artificial Intelligence since a certain creation of Dr Soong, on another classic Sci-Fi show. The wonderfully named Moray Treadwell really throws himself into the part, the result is an effective and disquieting role that stands comparison with the very best of Big Finish. The others:- Warren, Cawdrey and Osefa; continually switch - you are never quite sure of their real motives. There may be few characters, but each one is multi-dimensional. The small cast of characters results in better characters.

The 6th Doctor and Peri are a partnership very sparingly used in Big Finish. The 6th Doctor has Evelyn now, and as much as I like Peri, Evelyn does work better with this Doctor. That is not to say Peri doesn't work, just Evelyn is a breath of fresh air in the audios. Saying that, the marvelous thing about this audio is how excellent Peri is in it, and how well the interaction is between her and the Doctor. The TV bickering is not really there (except at the start), and the story is better for it. Peri has always been perceived as a looker, rather than a thinker - and it's refreshing to find an intelligent interpretation of the character here. In this production Peri is smart and witty, and the character benefits massively. Nicola Bryant's performance is really excellent throughout.

Colin Baker thrusts himself with energy and enthusiasm into ...ish. He gets the bulk of the flowery language, and he performs it all with confidence. When I was younger I remember a show called The Good Old Days. It was on at peak time on a Wednesday night I think. It was a celebration of the old music halls, like the one in Talons of Weng Chiang owned by Jago. A larger than life gentlemen, dressed in his finery, would introduce each act, with a barrage of elaborate sentences, punctuated by magnificent words. As he uttered each verbal decoration, the crowd would shout "Wooooo", and he would be inspired to delve even deeper into the Thesaurus. Colin Baker's performance is severely like that larger than life gentleman, and many times during the play I wanted to cry Wooooooooo!

Colin Baker keeps everything wonderfully in check though, the language flowing freely, rather than being an indulgence. He never goes too far. He is at a College that is writing the ultimate Dictionary after all, the Lexicon - and he wants to impress with his astounding vocabulary. As he competes with the Word Specialists, so he is determined to show his expert opinion too. That he emerges again as the star of the piece shows an author who fully understands the 6th Doctors personality. Colin Baker is also particularly adept at this kind of wordplay. It's yet another 5 Star performance from the greatest Doctor of them all.

The production of the story is the usual Big Finish excellence. There are plenty of strange sound effects to accompany the drama. Episode 4, in particular, contains a wonderful segment set in the netherworld of the ...ish. As it sweeps around your senses, travelling from ear to ear, you can only admire the attention and imagination that has gone into really presenting an alien, and highly unusual foe.

All in all ...ish is a highly unusual tale. Not in the plot, that's quite traditional, but in the way that plot is executed. Undoubtedly this audio will be remembered for its more flowery and extensive vocabulary - but this is an integral part of the plot, not just a whim of the writer. The characters, including the Doctor, are all linguists and lexicologists. The English Language is indeed a fascinating thing, and no Doctor Who story has ever made use of it so well before. Philip Pascoe has used the English Language to great effect, aided massively by the talent of the actors and actresses performing this excellent script.

All credit to Big Finish for picking up on this unusual, but terrific script. It really is the type of story perfectly suited to the Audio medium. It really does justify bringing new writers on board when the material is so innovative and good as this. 9/10


The most expressive cover ever! by Joe Ford 8/11/02

...ish had to something REALLY special to top my impressed reaction to Spare Parts last months and to be honest I didn't think it would manage it. But not only did it surpass my expectations but it has turned out to be my favourite Big Finish production so far.

I love the English language. Words are the most powerful force any of us will ever come into contact with. Our entire perception of the world around us springs from words. That's why we read books, words have to power to capture our imagination, to make us laugh and to make us emote. Never before has language been used so interestingly and with such scope. No other Doctor Who story has made me reach for the dictionary to find out what words like omniverbum, logomaniacs, lexical transcendentalism, xenophilologists and physically articulated means!

What is especially clever about this production is how it is in all sense a traditional Doctor Who albeit one that adapts to allow language to step forth as the 'monster' of the tale. As ever the threat is to the entire universe, the Doctor's assistant is in danger, the Doctor is desperate to work out the plan of the 'monster', there is plot twists, uncertain characters, murders to solve, dramatic cliffhangers and an ever present threat hanging over the story. All these archetypal Doctor Who elements are present and accounted for.

It has been too long since Colin Baker has charged an hour and half production and the phenomenal response of this story should warn them not to do it again! He is quite extrordanary and he seems quite at home with all this gorgeously technical wordplay. But then he should be, after all it is the deliciously verbose sixth Doctor who uses his voice as his weapon so much of the time. He has lots of lovely gentle moments in the story, in particular his "Why Osefa?" monologue with some truly haunting music in the background but he hasn't lost any of his spark and the shocking cliffhanger to episode three "You insane, stupid boy!" provides some memorable Colin-fireworks.

The sixth Doctor was fortunate enough to have his fair share of excellent speeches during his television reign ("I have battled against evil...", "Surely not even the eyes of Time Lords...") but some of his dialogue here is so gloriously poetic it puts those other moments to shame. His love of English is astonishing and provides some beautiful scenes..."English, what a remarkable, versatile language. Ever adapting, surviving but never compromising its integrity or its poetry. One of the foremost achievements of human kind. A living language in the truest sense of the word and a language worth living!"

As Book, one of the most silky spoken characters in Doctor Who, says "When we find a word which goes beyond our description we will have discovered the soul of the language. Worth preserving simply because it exists" he wasn't joking but you and I know these things are never that simple and the ...ish creature from the title proves to be a formidable foe indeed. Because it is a word they are dealing with it allows for all sorts of clever wordplay. The introduction of the censor beeps, whenever somebody uses the word ...ish it goes !beep! leads to hysterical scenes of Peri and Cawdrey stuck saying !beep! !beep! every other syllable...its really clever stuff. Even better is the Doctor and Peri's discussion about the omniverbum itself with the word "so" used so cleverly I couldn't stop giggling ("Don't be such a so and so!").

While we're on the subject of clever things just who would choose to enter the lexically transcendental chasms of the Doctor's mind? Especially the sixth Doctor! It's a startling moment with a real sense of magic and wonder (due in no small part to, as Richard Radcliffe points out, the wonderful soundscapes). Colin's "English isn't like those other languages. It adapts like other languages, exchanges words with them, other languages die out. English doesn't! Do you realise what you're up against?" is quite beautiful. I know it sounds like I'm spoiling the whole CD but I'm not, reading these words and listening to them are two very different things. Buy the CD and see what I mean.

More incredulous cleverness when it comes to the side splitting humour Phil Pascoe manages to drain from the language. The Doctor and Book's conversation "Doctor/Verbose, Peri/Pathetic") is brilliant but even better is the hysterically apt phrases that pop up like "If you haven't met Warren consider yourself... well, literate!"

The cliffhangers are all excellent, episode three as I've mentioned is very powerful but then episode two's matches Face of Evil part two for surrealism. My favourite was part ones though just because of the excellent music and the uncertain threat...

Haven't I dribbled on about the cleverness of this tale alot? Well that's because it deserves it, there is more content in this Doctor Who story than in many of these Big Finish run-a-rounds put together, Philip Pascoe has written a comprehensive, literate script that impresses with its ability to make you think and to entertain you wildly. You need a little patience with this one as it's no average "Exterminate! Exterminate!" monster story but a very thoughtful and stunning piece that uses words to capture a sense of wonder and power.

Oops, I haven't mentioned Nicola Bryant and I most definately should as she provides one of her best performances and easily her best audio work so far. It is such a relief to see Ms Brown written as intelligent and inquisitive and her scenes with Book in the lexisphere are reccomended to anyone who suggests she was just nice to look at. Her chemistry with Colin Baker is so good by now I for one didn't miss Evelyn this time round (as much as I love her!). I hope they get some more work together because this post Revelation of the Daleks banter is quite frankly, very very good!

Book is an excellent creation and deserves another story. His story about travelling to other worlds is lovely. Moray Treadwell imbues with a slick menace that's addictive to listen to.

Brilliant on every level, this is Doctor Who at its imaginative best. It reached into my mind and expanded my knowledge, it provided me with another entertaining Colin Baker story and it kept me captivated until the last ...ish. The cover is such a beauty and the CD itself amazing. Totally, thoroughly recommended.


A review-ish by Jamas Enright 31/3/03

Outside of music and sound effects, words are all that Big Finish have to trade in. What we know of characters are the words they speak. What happens, then, when the words themselves speak? What happens, then, when we can't say anything else? [Does that make you 'skittish'?]

Australian writer Philip Pascoe brings us a tale of words, the tale of a dictionary, the dictionary as it happens. The Lexicon. An achievement on a grandiose scale, this is a single repository of every word ever said, of every meaning, from every language (although fortunately it is in English). It was created by Professor Osefa de Palabra Hftzbrn... who may have been murdered. It has a controlling artificial intelligence named Book... who may well be mad. It is adored by a logophile named Warren... who wants to see it destroyed. And it has been infected by an inexplicability... that feasts on the words in your head. [The situation is 'ticklish'.]

The story is an engaging one, which starts out as a somewhat simple murder mystery of the like we've seen many times before. Then the second half kicks in, and we find out what's really happening behind the scenes. Although the 'monster' (which is a good a word to describe it as any) takes a little disbelief suspending, this is still a cracking little script that offers up some great moments. Check out the Doctor and Peri's 'so'-called conversation. Find out what's in the Doctor's head. And never again be short of a word starting with 'peri-'. [It's never 'yawn-ish'.]

Given this wondrous word-play, who else could star in this audio but Colin Baker? Certainly the loudest of the Doctors, if not the most loquacious, Colin Baker leaps into this play with glee, rolling around phrases like 'imitative disphrasia' and 'the insouciant maledictaballoon' like they only had a quarter of the syllables. Nicola Bryant holds her own, with Peri here far more capable than she ever was on screen (in Season 22 anyway), although I think we the listeners could have done quite well without hearing her blow her nose in full stereo surround-sound, thank you very much. [It's all quite 'lavish'.]

Top marks to Moray Treadwell for his performance as Book. One of my favourite moments is when he says the simple phrase, but packs it with such emotion: 'My word, yes.' Despite only being an artificial intelligence, Moray Treadwell makes the role as full and realistic as any of the other characters, and is easily my choice for the 'character of the play' award. Marie Collett gives a memorable performance as Professor Osefa. Although only on briefly, she really is the focus of the scenes she appears in. Oliver Hume gives a good performance as Symposiarch Cawdrey, although the character is rather weak, and caves at the end a little too easily for my tastes. Chris Eley, as Warren, I have to say grated more than helped, especially when going into full rant mode. [Although I wouldn't ever use the word 'impoverish'.]

Overall, high marks to ...ish, with terrific acting backing up a solid story. [One might say it's 'swish'!]

(Double your review time! There's another review, this one only one word, built into this review. See if you can find it. [Isn't that 'hellish'?])


A Review by John Seavey 19/6/04

I really don't know what to think of this one. I think it deserves a second listen, certainly. I think it's fun, and witty. But I don't think I really understood it, and I'm not 100% certain that the author did either. Some of the exposition is awkwardly delivered, or missing, and in a story that has ideas this complex and expresses them with this degree of verbal complexity, that's not good.

But Colin Baker gives a great performance, possibly one of his best, and Nicola Bryant actually gets a fairly juicy part for Peri, which is a real change for her. There's good dialogue, it's a fun listen... but as I say, I'll need to hear it again, I think, before I'm convinced it all hangs together in the end.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 31/7/04

...ish is literally a play on words and best suited to the most articulate of the Doctors in Colin Baker`s sixth incarnation. A lot of the criticism levelled at the play is that it is difficult to follow, this however simply means that the listener has to work at it, resulting in repeated listening. Conversely the plot is relatively simple, a professor working on the ultimate English dictionary is found murdered at a conference of lexicographers, and is aiming to use language to take over the world.

In this regard the plot is relatively simple, however thanks to Phil Pascoe what we end up with is a clever tale, complete with puns and witty asides. This is mostly thanks to excellent characterisation, Peri`s Americanisms being the perfect foil for the vocally verbose Doctor. Thankfully the supporting cast are equally effective, particularly Moray Treadwell as Book (thanks to him being vocally distinctive.)

There is really little else to say about ...ish, it's challenging, thought provoking and rewarding. Recommended.


A Review by Brian May 10/8/07

...ish is one of the most unique of the Big Finish plays, and a highly impressive one at that. It's a true breakthrough for the series; so far we've had stories ranging from excellent to awful, but no matter how excellent, awful or in-between, they could have also been novels, short stories or comics. But ...ish is a boundary pusher. It doesn't simply conceive and produce an adventure inside the confines of one medium; it creates one that will work only within such restrictions; it can't be told any other way.

The script displays some exquisite, complex and often confounding wordplay, with witty alliterations ("dastardly deconstruction", "congregated cornucopia"), smart puns ("I've got another booking", "Put in a good word") and some pure and simple genius-at-work writing; some personal favourites are the "colonial illegitimatisations" the Doctor so loathes, Cawdrey's "no ink on my fingers", the Doctor and Peri's "so" thrust and parrying in part three, and Warren's hilarious use of "shibboleth" as a swear word. Much of the dialogue is spewed out in quick succession - the virtual litany as Book recites his purpose to Peri is the best example - but it remains accessible. Any verbosity is deliberate, especially as it's mainly the sixth Doctor showing off, very much in character. To quote Warren, "words have to be out there - in use!" and here they certainly are. The words put into action in ...ish cannot be read, they are to be spoken and heard, more so than in any other audio play. (You could argue Whispers of Terror; it certainly utilises the possibilities of pure audio, but the story overall could have worked in print, unlike ...ish.)

Colin Baker is in his element, having lots of fun (you can tell as the words roll off his tongue!). Big Finish continues to justify the actor's potential the BBC wasted. The same goes for Nicola Bryant, who has finally been able to make Peri an affable, three-dimensional person rather than just a screaming cleavage - and more kudos to Phil Pascoe for making good mileage out of the character's nationality, what with the importance placed on the English language's Americanisms (imagine the climax if this had been written for Tegan; Strewth!)

The rest of the acting is all top notch, but special mention should go to Moray Treadwell as Book, one of the most endearing pieces of fictional AI since Robots of Death's D84. He perfects the balance between functional machine and questioning, self aware/self doubting consciousness. The smooth, honey tones of Treadwell's own voice are masterfully fused with the mechanical harmonics to make him/it an even more realistic and sympathetic identity. On the topic of technical matters, the Big Finish boffins have always done a fine job in this area, but such an aurally intensive work as ...ish is a mammoth challenge, and they rise to the occasion admirably. The usual Big Finish staple - a crowd/gathering/symposium with murmuring voices and mass applause - is included, but it goes further: the fantastic acoustics and echoes as we travel inside the lexisphere and into the Doctor's mind; the distortions as the hologlyph of Osefa speaks and as the Doctor converses with Cawdrey on the communicator; the bleeping out of the ish-es; it's an achievement for a story that so openly invites - no, dares - such sonic craftsmanship.

...ish has heaps of in-jokes, and they're actually funny! The Doctor "speaking" Delphon is a huge laugh; I was convinced there was a jump on my CD! The "DAL" dictionary entry gets a look in, as does the fact that everyone speaks English wherever the TARDIS lands. The complexity of the writing means you have to pay attention, but the plot is relatively simple. Like Ghost Light or Transit, the style and presentation are more convoluted than the actual story. But still, I wouldn't recommend it for easy listening; you have to remain alert for the entirety of the play, lest you fail to pick up on a plot twist or revelation. So don't listen to if you're tired, or as a backdrop for cleaning/doing the dishes etc; ...ish will demand your complete concentration. At the end of my most recent listening I still wasn't sure if Osefa had actually killed herself, or how Cawdrey came to meet his fate; I had to double check these online.

But really there's very little to find fault with ...ish; it's marvellously written, well acted, a technical triumph, intellectually stimulating and above all groundbreaking, exploiting the possibilities of Big Finish. 9.5/10