THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Nekromanteia

Written by Austen Atkinson Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2003
Continuity Between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani.

Starring Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant and Caroline Morris
Also featuring Gilly Cohen Glyn Owen, Kerry Skinner, Ivor Danvers, Kate Brown, Nigel Fairs, Andrew Fettes, Simon Williams

Synopsis: The Doctor, Peri and Erimem face the wrath of a corporate empire as they struggle to understand the hideous secret of the domain of the dead - a district known in legend as Nekromanteia.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 21/4/03

Big Finish strive to produce a wide variety of stories, thriving on the diversity of the Doctor Who format. Arguably no other medium has succeeded as well. Nekromanteia was to be the Space Opera romp, the type Blake's Seven used to do. That made things interesting, and I hoped for a cast of characters on the edge, sniping at one another. I hoped for planetary shenanigans, and a blockbuster performance from the 5th Doctor (who seems to have had the best stories of the last half-year). I was hoping for more of that lovely friendship that Erinem and Peri are building too. My expectations of Big Finish CDs are always high, because the quality has been so good before.

What we get is pretty much what it says on the tin. This audio features quite a few battle weary soldiers, mercenaries are the common term I believe, epitomized by Glyn Owen as Harlon. His gravelly voice is well suited to the role he plays. His dealings with his superior are always full of loathing and mistrust. Harlon, Cochrane, Marr, Tallis - soldier types - all are in it for their own gain. They all have different agendas, but all think nothing of walking all over the others. This irritable group are a real plus for the story, there's real venom there.

It's quite an unusual story for the leads. Not to put too fine a point on it - they go through hell, with each suffering horrific and mentally scarring ordeals. There's a fantastic cliffhanger featuring the Doctor at the end of Episode 2, epitomizing this - he just can't get out of that surely! The tone is uneasy throughout, and the violence is more graphic than any other audio I can think of. As a result of this trauma all 3 lead actors/actresses have to stretch their acting skills - and all come through with flying colours.

I mentioned the uneasy tone that is present throughout Nekromanteia. This is primarily a result of the Female Savages of the planet Nekromanteia. Led by the cackling Jal Dor Kal, they are determined to rip everything to shreds, and their violence is cringe-inducingly portrayed - it certainly sent a shiver up my spine. The underground caverns that this group live in is the setting of much of the action, and you're constantly aware of the horrors around each corner. Full credit to Big Finish sound Wizards for creating this chilling atmosphere. Full credit also to Gilly Cohen, as the aforementioned Jal Dor Kal, whose screeches linger in the memory long after the production.

It's also quite a bonus to return to the Garazone market, as heard in Sword of Orion. With its tinkling Mobile Phone tunes, it was instantly recognizable. Markets are fascinating places, full of great characters, honest and dubious dealings - I love them - more Garazone please Big Finish!

The other characters (there are plenty) are okay. Simon Williams doesn't appear till well into the drama, and then that distinctive voice is adjusted. I couldn't help but feel his contribution wasn't quite as good as it could have been - things got very surreal around him - which didn't quite fit in with the rest of the story. Nigel Fairs, of BBV fame, is another notable exception to ordinary characters. He provides the voice of researcher Rom. His part is very interesting, a truly obsessive character. How anybody could involve himself in such a savage environment is totally mind-blowing.

Word problems reared their head again in this drama, not the kind presented in ...ish, but the "this sounds like something else, so it will confuse the listener" variety. The villain was referred to as Shara - I kept thinking of Shada. There was lots of talk of a Relic, I kept thinking of a Handbag. I know DW has done nearly a thousand stories now, and you are bound to get duplication - but there must be other ways of naming things. But this is a small irritation, and it shouldn't have spoilt my enjoyment of the story.

Nekromanteia is good production. It's not quite as comfortable listening as other productions, and the last 2 parts set partly in a sort of neverland, aren't quite up to the first half of the drama. It's not one of the top stories of Big Finish, but it certainly is one of the more chilling - all very executed by all concerned. The script is interesting, and the performances are very good. I really like this new TARDIS team of 5th Dr, Erinem and Peri - let's hope another drama featuring them comes out sooner rather than later. 7/10


Yaaaaawwn! by Joe Ford 25/5/03

Oh Jesus that was soooo boring! After last months superlative Jubilee I thought we were in for another top year in the Big Finish sector but it seems things are going to be as up and down as ever. To be honest I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this story as I, for one had never heard of the writer Austen Atkinson or director John Ainsworth and I hate to judge people before I hear what they have to offer. The blurb and excellent cover suggest a rip roaring space adventure, the type Big Finish have tried before (The Apocalypse Element, Dust Breeding) but never really succeeded at. With the fifth Doctor (oh dear), Erimem (who made a particular impression in her last release) and Peri (the ever reliable Nicola Bryant) who knew what this was going to be like?

Well I never thought it would ever be that bad.

It's not poorly written or anything, I mean there is some decent dialogue jotted about and the occasional twist but it's all so mundane. A corrupt empire, witches with their black magic, a companion in awe of the future... there is nothing Doctor Who has not done before, better. The plot ambles along without any excitement or drama, the characters are for the most part kept in the dark about the plot and thus are we. Characters emerge in episode one who are so obviously enemies it is an insult to pretend otherwise. And the cliff-hangers, ooh the Doctor's been beheaded, well who cares when he clearly doesn't??!!

The biggest sin this production makes is letting that man Davison near it who gives a performance so lazy I was astonished he was even awake! I mean honestly, when those guards come knocking at the door of his Packer friend he just mutters something about a smoke bomb and nips out the back door and when he wakes up after his 'death' he just accepts where he is with little interest. No I'm sorry you pro happy Davison supporters out there (hey there Mike Morris!) but this is offensive stuff! There is absolutely no sense of urgency to any of the story thanks to Davison, he doesn't appear to care at all for his companions' lives and he plods along from episode to episode (and gee his cliffhanging statement at the end of episode three is delivered with all the sincerity of the man from the Daz advert!) sounding thoroughly bored with the whole thing. If anything confirmed my suspicions that this man was totally unsuitable to play the Doctor, Nekromanteia proves it! And after last month's tour de force from Colin Baker you can only highlight the talent between the two. Truly awful.

Peri is neglected, they throw in a few witty lines for her to remind us she is an American (something about hot guys and Baltimore) but aside from that she spends most of the story at the hands of the witches or unconscious. Nicola Bryant is a talented actress and deserves much better. Unfortunately the three man team means she is now often pushed to the sidelines.

Fortunately Caroline Morris' Erimem is still wonderfully naive (and yet peppy!) and gives the deadly dull story a little kick start every time she appears. I love her comparisons to ancient Egypt, it is good we never forget her origins and this being her first off world story she gets to display much more of that wonder and delight and the alien things she discovers.

Unfortunately the other performances are ghastly! Glyn Owen is totally unsuitable for audio, his gruff bored-sounding voice does nothing for the potentially interesting character of Cmmdr Harlon. He was no good in Power of Kroll and he's no good here, his attempted rape of Erimem should have been a dramatic moment but instead his flat tones subverts the drama. Simon Williams too who gave us the wonderful Gilmore in Remembrance of the Daleks sounds wrong for the sly tongued Paul Addison, his chirpy voice has none of the menace the part implies. And as for Gilly Cohen as the witch Jal Dor Kal... she actually plays the role with a witches cackle and screech! I mean, give me strength! Any chance we might be scared by those scenes lose merit as this screaming witch drowns out the tension!

To make matters worse the production lacks any of the regular Big Finish sparkle. Last month's music for Jubilee was terrifyingly good, adding real suspense to the wacky proceedings. But this? David Darlington needs to get off this eighties beat kick imbuing every story with the same "what's up girlfriend?" attitude! He did it with the Excelis series and the Sarah Jane Smith series but in this space opera we needed a really menacing score, I dunno, flutes and drums not disco beats! It's almost as if Big Finish is screaming "look at Doctor Who in our hands! It's hip and cool!" Add to that the fact that sound effects drown out the dialogue on regular occasions and lose the plot every five minutes. The sound effects themselves were adequate but an early space battle denies us any thrills being low on blasters or exploding spaceships.

I have to admit it was a struggle to get to the end of this one. With an unengaging storyline, a tedious Doctor and no atmosphere I give this Big Finish production one out of ten. And that one point belongs to Caroline Morris who deserves much better.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 31/5/04

Nekromanteia is a tale of missed opportunities. At the heart of the story is a simple premise; it is basically a treasure hunt with lots of factions, vying for the prize including the TARDIS crew. But the script lacks polish and despite its "infamous scenes" featuring the time travellers this isn`t enough to save the story. Showing how gruesome the universe can be is one thing; there are references to blood sacrifice, drug taking, beheading (a Davison era stalwart), sexual assault and violence; while this is all dealt with realistically, it doesn`t make for pleasant listening.

The performances are variable, Glyn Owen has a gruff voice suited to audio, imbuing Harlon with a sense of loyalty. Ivor Danvors too underplays the role of Wendle Marr, bringing a sinisterness to the part. Simon Williams is equally impressive, particularly in his scenes with the Doctor and he convinces all the more as the play goes on. Gilly Cohen however has been criticised, she takes the part of playing a witch too literally and as a result her cackling does sound over the top.

Thankfully the regulars are on fine form, Peter Davison is excellent bringing both the mature and forceful side of his incarnation to the fore. Nicola Bryant actually gets the least to do and as Peri she has created a lasting repartee with Erimem. And it is Caroline Morris who impresses the most;not too dissimilar to Leela in some respects, Erimem is one of those characters that is a joy to behold; whether it be her discovery of a watch or her acceptance of death. In short then good performances aside, this alone doesn`t make Nekromanteia a strong story.


A Review by John Seavey 12/9/05

My first thought when I listened to this was, "Somebody obviously took the wrong lessons away from Eric Saward's run on Doctor Who." But really, it repeats a lot of the sins of the entire JNT era, without really adding any of its virtues. The plot is like a collision of Logopolis and The Caves of Androzani, with the occasional impact into Arc of Infinity and Terminus. The Doctor doesn't do much, Peri and Erimem are equally underrepresented (although I remain enthralled by the chemistry between the two actresses), and so we're left with the story of lots of unpleasant people betraying each other over something ill-defined and uninteresting. Staggeringly underwhelming.