THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Project: Twilight
Big Finish Productions
Project: Lazarus

Written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2003
Continuity Before The Telemovie.

Starring Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Maggie Stables.
Also featuring Stephen Chance, Rosie Cavaliero, Emma Collier, Adam Woodroffe, Ingrid Evans, Vidar Magnussen

Synopsis: A traveller in time returns to correct the mistakes of the past and faces a danger that could rob him of his future. Unless his future intervenes. And in the shadows stands Nimrod. Waiting...


Reviews

Two Become One by Andrew Wixon 287/03

Well, here we are, yet another distinctly experimental sixth Doctor tale from Big Finish... kind of. Or would it be better described as a Colin Baker tale? Hmm. I would hate to give too much away as this is, for the most part, a rip-roaringly entertaining story.

No, make that two rip-roaringly entertaining stories, strongly linked admittedly, but no moreso than the first and Project: Twilight. Big Finish acknowledge this explicitly by using the Season 23 theme music for the first two episodes, which focus on the sixth Doctor, and the McCoy arrangement for the latter pair wherein he becomes the dominant character. This works rather like The Ark, in that both halves feature the same locations and many of the same characters, except that this time a considerable period of time (from the Doctor's point of view) elapses between the two.

It's a neat conceit, something else that couldn't have been done on the TV show, and the chemistry between Baker and McCoy is rather good. Almost inevitably, simply because he's in it throughout and gets some very good material near the end, Baker steals the acting honours - the writers, like many before them, seem uncertain as to whether this is the jolly early seventh incarnation or the brooding loner of his latter days, and McCoy's performance seems equally uncertain as a result. He's still much, much better than he was in The Dark Flame or other recent outings.

Elsewhere the writing is better, although the duo still seem a little uncertain as far as the audio medium goes (the Doctor talks to himself a lot, so the listener knows what's going on). The jolly Enid Blyton atmosphere that sometimes prevails when Evelyn's around finally gets sort-of dispelled, and there's the welcome return of Stephen Chance as Nimrod, one of the best characters BF have created - he's more overtly villainous this time round, and Chance's voice is less processed, which makes the cyborg vampire slightly less interesting, but never mind.

The main flaw with Project: Lazarus is implicit in the structure of the story - this is basically two plots of two-episodes length each, which means that both seem a little rushed and shallow in comparison with their four-episode kin. But the story moves fast as a result, and it's just a shame that - inevitably - the concluding half is weaker, overwhelmed by the presence of two Doctors. Ironically, the end of episode two of this story is one of the finest climaxes I can remember Big Finish producing - shocking, emotive, action-packed stuff, aided immeasurably by a stirring score from Andy Hardwicke, and superbly played by Colin Baker and Maggie Stables. Everything that follows is, well, a bit anticlimactic. But still, this is very impressive, and I look forward eagerly to hearing the plot threads set up here play out.


50/50 by Joe Ford 23/9/03

Do you want to know how to write really dramatic Doctor Who? Then take a leaf out of Caven Scott and Mark Wright's book, Big Finish's hottest new talent (despite their ludicrously bland Church and the Crown) bar Robert Shearman. I was so impressed with Project: Twilight because it not only found a genre the show hadn't touched before but also in its ability to really dramatises the situation through the characters. It also had some top notch bad guys and continued a flawless run for the Doctor and Evelyn, the best Big Finish combination by a country mile.

Is this better than Project: Twilight? Yes, and no. It certainly has moments that go much further than the original dared and contains some truly sadistic material to keep you hooked. On the other hand it has a more experimental flair to that other story with its multi Doctor attraction and there is a definite swing in quality as we leap from Colin's segment to McCoy's. Twilight was certainly more consistent in quality but perhaps wasn't quite as daring. I dunno, I thoroughly enjoyed both and that's all that counts.

The first two episodes are astonishingly good. Want to know why Big Finish is increasing its opus all the time? Gritty, exciting, and damn near perfect episodes like this are all you need to see why. Indeed I would rate episode two of this story, a segment so brutally violent and abusive, as possibly my favourite audio episode so far.

Sequels can be a lot of fun especially if you remember what made the first one work so well and elaborate on that. Aliens, Matrix: Reloaded, Ghostbusters 2... they took the core elements of the originals and made them bigger, bolder and much more entertaining. Project: Lazarus succeeds for the same reason, there is more of the dirty atmosphere from the original, more gross out moments, more melodramatic shouting and much more disturbing scientific concepts being abused. What Caven and Mark achieve where so many others fails is in suggesting how things might go in this story and twisting it to surprise you.

Some totally brilliant work is done with Evelyn on this CD but I seem to repeated that ad nauseum lately everytime she crops up. Maggie Stables is ideal for the role and as in Project: Twilight the writers take her in a new and disturbing direction. And why not? Maybe they have a point when they say she is too fluffy for her own good and scenes such as her desperation to appeal to Cassie show just how far you can take the character. Her reactions to the horrors in episode two are almost unbearable to listen, such is fan appraisal of this character it is painful to have her in so much pain. It worked a beaut in Doctor Who and the Pirates and they repeat the cruelty here to superb dramatic effect. The only thing that bothers me is the sudden twist that crops up, excellent in itself but suggesting we might see an end to her adventures soon. I hope not, Maggie is integral to the series continuing success and her stories are the only ones I really get excited about these days.

And what about Colin? This is a bravura performance from the main man, he gets to display a whole range of emotions in this story from arrogance to guilt from humour to hopelessness. His reaction to Nimrod's senseless killing is electrifying and I honestly thought he might kill at that point such was the power of Colin's voice. As the truth of Project: Lazarus becomes clear the Doctor is tortured horribly and Colin ensures it is as nasty as possible. A lot of people will sign on to this adventure for the double Doctor interaction and this certainly doesn't disappoint, the hints of resentment between these two in The Sirens of Time is explored quite powerfully in later episodes. What impressed me most about Colin's performance was how he could swing so suddenly from anger to compassion... it is why his Doctor remains so fascinating. The end of episode two is heart breaking in this respect.

I have been quite critical of McCoy's performances in recent audios and why not? His loose attitude towards Bang-Bang-a-Boom! and the amateurish turn in The Dark Flame disappointed me no end. He often sounds under-rehearsed and over emotional. His character suits the quieter, contemplative storylines (such as the superb Fires of Vulcan) not the melodramatics of his recent scripts. Fortunately for McCoy and the production this takes place when the seventh Doctor was at his all time most thoughtful, just before the TV movie. It plays to McCoy's strengths and he has some amusing monologues before getting embroiled in the plots at the Forge.

The last two episodes are still highly enjoyable (and in some places more disturbing than the first two) and contain some good material for all the actors. Things are carried to an explosive finale by some excellent twists and nifty ideas. The Forge is quite a terrifying place to visit and the peep into a room of experiments in episode four proves just how evil the researchers can be. It is a vital scene and is extremely disturbing. I certainly didn't enjoy these two as much though, I was too concerned over Evelyn and it clouded my enjoyment of the rest of the story. In isolation they are well paced but Baker makes a far better leading man (sorry Mr McCoy) and the ending just cannot top the second episode climax for sheer emotional power.

An atmospheric release, the music was particularly well done by Andy Harwick. It has a lot more texture than the music of the original and certainly cranked up the tension in the torture scenes. Episode one contains some lovely snippets such as the wistful melody that plays over Harkets story about the myths.

Credit where it's due, Rosie Cavailero and Stephen Chance reprise their roles of Cassie and Nimrod with real vigour. Nimrod especially makes a fabulous villain, a real nasty piece of work and the sort the Doctor should come up against more often. Cassie has some of the most emotional scenes yet in Big Finish in part two and her exit from the story is highly dramatic.

I loved this, a release that got me really, really excited and eager for another sequel. The "coming up on Big Finish" section at the end suggests some good stories coming up but I am seriously eager to return to Evelyn and her adventures. I am saddened to think it could be another before we hear Maggie Stables wonderful voice again.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 6/11/03

In this anniversary year Big Finish conceded to the inevitable, and produced a multi-Doctor story. There will actually be 2 by the year has ended - with Zagreus promising us all 4 Big Finish Audio Doctors in 1 bumper edition. This combines the most successful audio Doctor with the least successful - and the results really surprised me.

The story opens with the 6th Doctor and Evelyn. It's a direct sequel to Project: Twilight - Scott and Wright's impressive debut for the range. Cassie has been left in the cold wastelands of the North, and the Doctor's promise on a quick return are scuppered by an erratic Time Machine. Nimrod makes the most of the Doctor's mistakes, and the Forge continues its experimentations.

The first Project tale concerned itself with underworld London, it was full of vampires and dodgy cockneys. Here the emphasis is more on isolated bases, of mad scientists and alien involvement. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. The vampiric villain is hardly mentioned - here he is just a villain - and a rattling good one at that.

Stephen Chance returns as Nimrod - solidifying his reputation as one of the top enemies of the audio series. Rosie Cavaliero as Cassie also returns - but quite different than before. Both characters justify their 2nd outing, and both are big contributors to the success of the whole. The other returnee, besides the Doctor that is, is Evelyn - and Maggie Stables is always wonderful. She's going through hell here again though - and my only gripe is that this a bit too much after her sadness in The Pirates. Hopefully they will lighten things up for her in the future - I hate to see her suffer so! The extra players perform well, but are not really that stand-out-ish. The Forge's scientists are put so much in the shadows, thanks to Nimrod and the Doctors, they don't need to be stronger than they are.

The combination of the 6th and 7th Doctor is what distinguishes this play though. With its choice of cover (I got the 7th) this was always going to be about how the two interacted, and how the story uses two monumental characters within the same story. The 6th starts things off, and there is no sign of the 7th till part 3 - that was another surprise. The 7th then takes over, soon to be joined by the 6th. Writing that, it appears that this is primarily a 6th Dr story, but I honestly believe that the 7th comes out of the whole thing better. Things aren't quite what they seem between the Doctors, and I was constantly wondering if they really were who they were supposed to be - there did seem to be a lot of experiments going on, after all.

In this Evelyn gets really cheesed off with the 6th Doctor, and her emotion is justified - he did get things very wrong - and it's quite a change from the all-singing, all-dancing domineering force of previous 6th Doctor plays. The 7th Doctor, by contrast, benefits from the authors' decision to place this story just before the TV Movie. This is a Doctor right at the end of his life, the best aspects of this mysterious, dark incarnation to the fore. The 7th Doctor hasn't received quite the standard of excellence that the other 3 Doctors have, and it's ironic that his best story sees him outshining the 6th.

There's the surprise - this is a better story for the 7th Doctor, than it is from the 6th - and this coming from a "6th Doctor is now the best Doctor" opinionator. This is not to say the 6th Doctor struggles, he doesn't, and he's actually rather good - but the 7th Doctor is totally brilliant here. Both Doctors great, 7th a little better.

Scott and Wright make it 3 out 3 successes with Project: Lazarus. A solid story, with a core of brilliant characters and actors. A fine spin too on the dual Doctor stories that many have attempted, but few succeeded with. 8/10


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 2/9/04

Project: Lazarus is to all intents a sequel to Project: Twilight although for the first two episodes it largely feels like a continuation of the former tale. Project: Lazarus is also a good example of how to do a multi-Doctor story well. Indeed the first two episodes tie up a lot of loose ends, Cassie`s return (and subsequent death) and Evelyn`s reaction to this, the return of Nimrod, the Doctor having found a cure for the twilight virus and a malevolant force rising from within the forge. Fortunately all these elements combine to make an effective tale, particularly the plight of Evelyn which is hightened by great characterisation between the two TARDIS travellers. The latter episodes shift in focus with the Seventh Doctor now in tow, and a great turn by Sylvester McCoy in perfect melancholy mood. There is also a clever revelation that the Sixth Doctor was indeed a clone, made all the more shocking as he has just lost his arm. And this is reflected in Colin Baker`s portrayal and indeed the banter between the two incarnations in the play`s latter half.

The cast are largely standout here, Maggie Stables is excellent, although Evelyn isn`t given a great deal to do, thus the revelations about her are very welcome and Stephen Chance in particular is great as Nimrod, his voice dripping with malevolance. As sequels go Project: Lazarus hits the right notes, but does only feel like the second part in a trilogy as the open ending would suggest. Not as good as its predecessor but enjoyable, all the same.


A Review by John Seavey 20/10/05

Grim, and I don't think that "grim" is really the strong suit of Messrs. Scott and Wright. It wasn't exactly bad, although I missed the more nuanced character of Nimrod we saw in Project: Twilight; here, Nimrod is just the Big Evil Looney Guy of the Week. On that level, though, he is rather impressively Big, Evil, and Looney. But on the whole, it's depressing and miserable, and that isn't what these writers are good at.