THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Last of the Titans
Big Finish Productions
Storm Warning

Written by Alan Barnes Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Running Time 90 mins
Released 2001
Continuity After The Telemovie

Starring Paul McGann and India Fisher
Also featuring Gareth Thomas, Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards, Hylton Collins, Helen Goldwyn

Synopsis: After a dangerous encounter in the space/time vortex, the Doctor finds himself on Earth, October 1930. Or rather above it, aboard the British airship R101 on it's maiden voyage over France. Also on board is a young stowaway, Charlotte 'Charley' Pollard, seeking adventure and excitement away from her stifling family atmosphere. What Charley doesn't know but the Doctor does is that the flight is destined to end in tragedy, although no-one really knows why. Not even the Doctor, although maybe the passenger in Cabin 43 can help...


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 6/3/01

The 27th season begins with a tale of the R101 - a real life story - with a Doctor Who twist. Having heard Episode 1 in DWM I was very eager to hear the rest of the story. Episode 1 was great. McGann talking to himself in the TARDIS and then acknowledging it! All the sound effects are there too - there's a definite feel for BRAND NEW WHO. Hearing McGann's voice just makes it more authentic.

Big Finish are up to their usual standards of excellence too. The roar of the R101 throughout the story provides a fabulous backdrop to the action. You really feel you are over the clouds.

The story is okay. After a fine start establishing the environment, creating an atmosphere, meeting the stars - it wanes round the middle. After 2 episodes that fairly fly by, we are given a plodding 3rd episode. I did listen the episodes separate too - and it still felt long-winded. All that talk between characters, didn't like this episode at all. It does finish well though, with an exciting episode 4.

The guest cast does a creditable job. The South African accent isn't the best - but that's the only hang-up. Blake himself (Gareth Thomas) is as blustering as possible as Lord Tamworth, Charley a nice addition to the mythology - a very likeable performance by India Fisher. The Doctor is the star though - and McGann thrives on some great lines. Having enjoyed tremendously the recent Stuck on Earth arc from BBC books - this was nice to have a performance again to reassert the 8th Doctor's image.

So overall a pretty good re-start for the 8th Doctor. This isn't the knock em dead start we were perhaps hoping for - but it's a nice little story, with stand-out performances from the Doctor and Charley. 7/10


A Joint Review by Robert Thomas and Peter Niemeyer 14/3/01

RT : The first thing that strikes me after looking at the case is that they have made a good effort to make it simular to the TV Film title sequence. Very nice touch I think, especially since I had completely forgotten the sequence.

The actual story may be a bit of a bugger to review without spoilers so I'll tread carefully.

The new theme music is going to take some getting used to. As the episodes came along I got steadily used to it. But the beginning and end versions where it's played in full are better. It's got the rough feel that the early music had and at the same time a beutiful harmony, I'm not sure if it mixes well myself but it will grow on me.

PN : Storm Warning holds something of a unique position in Doctor Who canon. It is the first audio adventure of an official Doctor who never appeared in a televised adventure. True, the 8th Doctor appeared in the Telemovie, but that story was written as a telemovie and therefore abandoned certain typical Who conventions (such as cliffhangars, companions and assuming the viewers knew Who).

First off the theme music. I agree with Robert. I wasn't too keen on it initially, but it did start to grow on me by Part 4, and the full-length version is better than the short clips. But, I can't exactly call it a favourite yet. I am glad that they did come up with a unique rendition for the 8th Doctor, though. Makes him feel more of an official Doctor and not just a tack-on to the McCoy era.

RT : Now on to the actual story, The Doctor is excellent and once I got used to how strange it was to hear the 8th Doctor talk I realised how good a job he did. It's worth remembering that this season was rush recorded. All in all I'd say the 8th Doctor gets off to an excellent start in only his second proper story.

PN : I also agree that the Doctor gets off to a good start. If I had less knowledge of the television show, I could easily assume that McGann did as much of a run as Davison, Baker or McCoy. He has a tendency to talk to himself, which is a good attribute for a Doctor who will do most of his work on audio. I also liked his almost child-like sense of wonder and curiosity, and I hope we see more of this atirbute.

RT : Charlotte is amazing as I expected, being even better than India Fisher's debut in Winter For The Adept. I think she is going to rocket to the top of my favourite companion list. A perfect character, her roaring and talking in her 'pet' voice really did something for me.

PN : Charley didn't win me over in episode one. I was a big anti-fan of Winter For The Adept, and when Charley describes "candy floss clouds" in the sky, I thought it was going to be St. Tremaine's all over again. Fortunately the character takes a different turn, and by the end I would more favourably compare her to Rose from Titanic. I also like the rapport she established with the Doctor. He expresses concern for her, but she is capable of standing on her own two feet when the need arises. The last few minutes of episode four have me further intrigued. However, I would be surprised if she went to the top of my companion list. To do that she would have to unseat Evelyn Smythe, and that will be hard to do.

RT : All the other characters are good with the best being Lord Tamworth played by Gareth Thomas who makes up for missing getting a role on the TV programme by becoming the supporting guest character who has stood out the most. Rathbone really got on my nerves as the story went alongwhich is good as the character is a rat. The pasenger in cabin 43 is very interesting indeed. Nice to see a particular character like this treated this way throughout the story.

PN : I'd agree with Robert's assesment of the supporting characters. Tamworth had some nice 3-dimensional-ness, and Rathbone comes accross as sufficiently menacing. The vortisaur is a nice touch.

RT : As for the story, as exciting start and a story which has a few impressive surprises and turns out not to be the type of story we were led to believe. The start of part 4 needs to be heard in a humorous light, or we will get people moaning about it.

PN : I do feel the plot was rather run-of-the-mill. I didn't find any of the twists and turns to be exceptionally original. Fortunately the characters were interesting and well drawn, so they were able to prevent a standard story from becoming a boring one.

RT : Overall after a gap of four years, Doctor number eight has made an impressive comeback. Giving us a glimpse of what we have missed for the past few years and leaving me with optimism of the rest of season 27 and the series if it ever comes back to TV.

PN : All in all, this was a very good first run, much better than Phantasmagoria, though not as strong as Whispers of Terror or The Fearmonger. However, I do think the strongest point of any story is the ability to take any turn it wants. Most of the Doctor Who audios are really unable to do this, being shoehorned in between known televised episodes. So far, I feel that only the 6th Doctor/Evelyn stories have had the room to really flex their narative muscles. The 8th Doctor/Charley stories should have even more room, and so I look forward to the coming stories. (8 out of 10)

RT : Before we close, out of curiosity, as an American what did you make of the regional accents?

PN : If they were British regional accents then they could have completely escaped me. Nobody in the production sounded American. There was an accent comment which came to mind after this review. Rathbone sounded French to me. Of course, I eventually realised the actor (Barnaby Edwards) played Archbishop Francois de Noailles in The Marian Conspiracy. One of my growing criticisms is that Big Finish are pulling from too small a pool of actors. With no visuals sound carries everything. And when two supposedly different characters sound the same it makes it harder to suspend disbelief.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 28/3/01

Yes, he`s back. And its about time. Storm Warning, the first of the new Eighth Doctor audios sports a new theme, complete with teaser, a new companion and the return of Paul McGann to the fold of Doctor Who. It`s basically a pseudo-historical tale of the fate of those aboard the Airship R101. Firstly the era of the 1930s is spot on recreated with ease. Paul McGann is great carrying some personality traits from the TV Movie (eg the name dropping), although he works better when he has someone to react to, as opposed to talking to himself.

India Fisher(Peril from Winter For The Adept) also makes a promising debut as new companion Charley Pollard, complete with what looks like to be her own story arc. Gareth Thomas is likewise equally enjoyable as Lord Tamworth. My only minor complaint is that the third episode does tend to drag on without much happening, thus losing some of the tale`s pace.

Overall Storm Warning is an enjoyable opener, it`s nothing spectacular, but it serves its purpose. 8/10.


An irrational review – by Julian Shortman 1/4/02

Rationally, I really shouldn’t commend this story. You see, from my usual standpoint of what I find makes a strong and enjoyable DW tale, this story fails on a number of counts. In fact, were this story to feature any other Doctor, and hold any other position in DW continuity, I’d have considered it seriously mediocre. But each time I listen to Storm Warning, I can’t help but get caught up with the childish excitement of hearing the 8th Doctor given his first breath of life since the TV movie. (Apologies to fans of the 8DA’s, but I’ve only read a couple, and the 8th Doctor didn’t leap off the pages for me).

When Storm Warning begins, I’m nine years old all over again. It’s autumn and I’m sitting on the comfy sofa with a tape recorder carefully positioned beside TV speaker; my family has been commanded to talk in whispers, and woe betide anyone who dares telephone our home in the next 24 minutes.

The first episode of Storm Warning is almost perfect – and as a stand-alone, it rates as one of my favourites in the BF range. The layers of mystery are gently placed before the listener, and it’s easy to soak up the stormy atmosphere of the great, fated flight of the R101. McGann does a sterling job with his early monologues – never seeming too self-conscious, and exuding the reckless, childish outbursts that helped him to shine in the TV movie. The questions posed in the listeners mind are intriguing ones – who is the passenger in Cabin 41? What great and hidden schemes does Tamworth have for the British Empire? How can the Doctor and Charley escape the fate of the R101?

Unfortunately, from a rational viewpoint, that’s about as good as it gets. The characters we meet in episode 1 continue to be fun and fairly interesting in parts 2-4, but the storyline takes a turn for the worst, and the resolutions are fairly unsatisfying. We all know the R101 is going to crash in episode 4 – and of course, we all know the Doctor and Charley will escape too, so what we’re really interested in is the events that lie between. It’s difficult to put a finger on what Alan Barnes could have done to improve the narrative as it is – the weakest element of the story is definitely the encounter with the Triskele alien culture. We don’t really meet them until episode 3 (episode 2 comes across as more of an extension of episode 1 with the story barely moving forward), and considering the important role they are then supposed to play, the events with them feel terribly rushed. Maybe it was an insurmountable task to try and set up meeting, establishing and changing the history of an entire alien culture in the space of 1.5 episodes. It certainly seems like an insurmountable task now I come to write about it! The Triskele seem sadly and unrealistically simplistic and the resolution to their problem matches this. Lets hope Tamworth doesn’t have a heart attack in the next couple of weeks or the Uncreated are really going to make a mess of things again…?

The story picks up towards the end as the R101 plummets to the ground, but the closing dilemma with Charley’s fate left me cold and confused the first time I heard it. I confess I’ve grown to like the moral issue of the Doctor not feeling willing to put Charley back in the R101 to crash and die just to preserve the web of time, but on the first listen I was dead unimpressed. Surely the web of time is disrupted every time a companion steps on board the TARDIS? Wasn’t Tegan meant to get to Heathrow and meet x, y and z? Wasn’t Mel meant to stay in Pease Pottage influencing the history of the universe with her honest computer programming (and if only she had!)? Wasn’t Susan meant to stay on Gallifrey and not get tied up with Earth in the 22nd century? And what kind of havoc must Leela have caused by getting involved in the history of Time Lord society? My perception of the Doctor is that he is a past master at bending the rules of time – and has done so for many (if not all) of his companions, as well as his own life. Wasn’t he meant to stay on Gallifrey and not have gotten involved?

But despite this sticky issue (which has improved in flavour in the later McGann stories), and the less than solid storyline, when Storm Warning ends, I can’t help but have a satisfied smile on my face. I’m embarrassed to say it, but simply seeing DW move forward again with McGann at the helm is good enough for now.


Unlike the R101, this story does not crash and burn by David Barnes 10/7/02

Storm Warning, as everyone knows, is Paul McGann's first story in the Big Finish series. This audio was eagerly anticipated but I started collecting the audios only a few months ago, so I missed out on all the excitement. But this was my first Big Finish CD. I was so impressed by the trailer that I decided to use this as a pilot. If I liked this then I would buy the rest.

I have now collected 6 and am constantly saving up to buy more.

The pre-titles bit was a bit jarring. Paul McGann did seem a bit wooden when telling us what was happening ("Oh no! Vortisaurs, swarming to pick over the debris!") but hey, it's Paul McGann. This is the first time he's played the Doctor since 1996 (well, not strictly true as I believe he recorded a few of the other stories in the initial Paul McGann season of Big Finish before this one) so we have to make allowances. But the ending of that bit with the Vortisaurs breaking in was really good.

A brief mention about the theme tune. I think it is pretty good but I did have to get used to it as it didn't feel quite right (every other person on the net has said this as well).

Paul McGann is magnificant for 99% of this story (the 1% was some of the stuff in the pre-titles sequence). He really seems to be enjoying himself. This audio put him from being my least favourite Doctor to being my 4th (although Colin Baker has recently pushed him down to 5th). He has some very witty lines and has a marvellous speech in part 3 (I think) about the spirit of adventure.

India Fisher as Charley faired less well. My first encounter with her was Invaders from Mars Part 1 (free in a DWM magazine) and I thought she was terrible. Incredibly wooden and really badly acted. She is quite good in this story though she still isn't brilliant (her accent she puts on in part 1 is terrible).

The guest cast are all magnificant. Gareth Thomas is the best one as Lord Tamworth, with Nicholas Pegg as Frayling (a perfect cream of England chap!) and Barnaby Edwards as Rathbone (an evil Australian) coming afterwards.

The first two episodes are wonderfully crafted, even though hardly anything happens, but it gets a bit dull in part 3 (a sentiment felt by most people who have listened to this story). Although I do like some of the more talky stories (The Marian Conspiracy for example) it is still a bit dull here with the explaning of the Triskele culture. The Triskele themselves are well thought out, but a touch unbelievable.

Episode 4 gets back on track and the crashing of the R101 is the definite moment in this story. Big Finish seem to have a knack for presenting tragedies well (the destruction of Pompeii for example). The bit where the Doctor thinks about how Charley should have been on the R101 and how he must put her back was quite good, and I understood what was being put across. The only thing that mars it is the fact that the Doctor has never worries about stealing other people from their history. The matter was probably best unsaid, as now Storm Warning kind of contradicts every other Doctor Who story.

But all in all this story is a wonderful little story and I'm glad I chose this to start off my Big Finish collection! 8/10


A Review by John Seavey 10/12/03

My first McGann audio! I admit, I wasn't expecting him to work nearly as well in audio, but that's because I'd heard the first portion of this audio where he doesn't yet have a companion and is forced to narrate his every action. ("Hmm, I've emerged into a hold! Well, there's a ladder here...") After he meets Charley the story picks up a lot, and is an enjoyable debut with only two nitpicks: One, the Uncreators lose a lot of their menace when you find out they're scared of loud noises and a fifty-something year-old man can beat up their leader, and two, the Doctor's logic as to how Charley should have died in the crash doesn't work. (He says that there were 54 passengers and crew, but that one person stayed behind with the Triskele, but that there were 54 bodies recovered from the crash... so that means Charley must have died. However, Charley didn't stow away -- she substituted herself as one of the crew. So even with her dying, that still leaves one person short. Perhaps the Doctor, too, was supposed to die on the R-101?)


Beginnings... by Joe Ford 27/1/04

Almost perfect, this is almost the ideal example of what makes a good Doctor Who story. It has something for everyone; it will appeal to newcomers what with the introduction of Charley, like them fresh to the series and willing to see what it has to offer. Long term fans can delight now the 8th Doctor finally shows up in a story that resembles Doctor Who, it was one of the biggest disappointments from the TV Movie that we never got to see Paul McGann have a go at something a bit more traditional. It uses the show's limitless format to the full being both a historical in the Hartnell tragedy/comedy mould (not being able to interfere with a disaster from history/the characters are in the same model as the ones from The Smugglers) and an excellent exploration of an alien culture (the Triskili being one of the more surreal and interesting extra terrestrial types we have seen in a while). Listening to this story again the 8th Doctor began his adventures on audio on exactly the right note.

The story is all about beginnings and as such it has that wonderful 'first episode' feel throughout. Who wouldn't be excited at the prospect of hearing the silky voiced Paul McGann back at the wheel of the greatest show of all time? How delightful then that he should prove so engaging, proving without a shadow of a doubt what a great choice he was! The small prologue that opens the story with the Doctor wondering around the TARDIS alone, going through some old junk and the TARDIS stumbling on a timeship and a pack of Vortisaurs is quite superb, McGann manages to guide you through the scene realistically, not like he is trying to explain what we cannot see at all. His enthusiasm is infectious, you can see him flying around the console yanking levers and kicking himself... ladies and gentlemen, the Doctor is home.

What's more Storm Warning gets to show off just what McGann is capable of. The tone of the story fluctuates between comedy and high drama and this Doctor proves quite adept in situations involving both. His hysterical attempts at impersonating a German spy impersonating an Englishman ("Your colloquialisms are harder to grasp... 'Old bean'!") are only matched by his sweet and charming scenes with Charley ("I can do that too! How!"). But then we get to see his darker self too without going to Zagreus lengths (his speech about the Web of Time is very powerful). Recent stories have proven that it is only due to poor scripts that McGann would fail to impress and the script to Storm Warning is a treat, bursting with great dialogue for everyone, but especially the Doctor.

But is it any wonder the Doctor impresses so much when he is surrounded by such a delightful array of characters. And chief amongst them, Gareth Thomas as the eccentric, militaristic, stiff upper lipped but undeniably humane Lord Tamworth. What an amazing guy, single handedly leading the mission to the stars to negotiate (or ransack) an alien craft. Tamworth is a laugh a minute character ("Look what the silly arse has done to me trousers!") but is capable of producing moments of great depth too, especially when he realises they were going about abusing the aliens the wrong way. His decision to stay behind and act as an advisor rather than reap all the glory is astonishing, all that patriotism falling away in a moment of simple kindness.

Rathbone is one of those horrible wankers that crops up every now again, someone with sod all to like about him. He is racist, sexist, rude, arrogant and nasty. Even his accent is laughably bad.

Let me tell you a story about a young lady who made a date at the Singapore Hilton which ended up almost destroying the entire universe. Charley Pollard her name was, who met up with a reckless dandy and captured his affections and together they fought back a tide of monsters and evil schemes. And their adventures begin here...

India Fisher is one of Big Finish's best catches. Along with Maggie Stables they have created two instantly wonderful companions for the 6th and 8th Doctors. It is so nice to be able to see how the companions have been designed for their Doctors, India Fisher's Charley is almost ideal for Paul McGann's excitable Doctor, the pair of them desperate to get out into the universe and see what wonders they can find. It is impossible to not get wrapped up in their enthusiasm. And India gets off to a flying start in Storm Warning, proving how bolshie (standing up to Rathbone) and brave (risking going back on the ship to help the Doctor) that she can be. India has a great voice for audio, instantly recognisable and very sexy in a cute sort of way. What a babe!

The story is packed full of sparkling moments that help to impress. The gorgeous introduction of the R-101 by way of one of those scratchy, radio adverts where everyone speaks in proper BBC English. Or the moment where Charley looks into the alien's eyes and starts to cry. How about Tamworth's hysterical "Put 'em up sir! Put 'em up!"? I love the Doctor's rigorous speech about the spirit of adventuring; McGann's delivery was phenomenal!

It is about time we got involved with an alien race as imaginative as the Triskili. Alan Barnes has clearly put a lot of work into these guys and it really pays off, in a few short episodes we get to explore their culture to the full, their science, their criminals and their law. The audio medium is the only one that could really do this race justice and the sound FX are extraordinarily good, almost as if Big Finish had been up to visit the Triskili and taken a tape recorder! They are never portrayed as good or evil, just very, very different from what we are used to. I like that.

It is great to be able to go back and listen to this story now I know how much impact the crash of the R-101 has on the series. I never knew anything about the crash before I heard this story but I know consider an important tragedy in history. It is another strength of the show I regularly draw attention to, its ability to slip in a bit of history whilst entertaining. Read a history book about the R-101 and you will probably never want to hear about it again. But listen to Storm Warning and I am willing to bet you will want to find out more, the event itself is given considerable impact and climaxes in a superbly dramatic moment as Freiling toasts to the airship seconds before it crashes to the ground.

And finally it leaves open the clearly troubling question of Charley's survival which is given a thorough followup in later stories. With the Doctor's worried speech about her continued existence after the crash who wouldn't want to listen to more to see how this is resolved?

The production of Storm Warning is flawless. Bless Gary Russell who I have been scathing about all year, this is a time when he directed some mighty fine stories. You can sense Gary's enthusiasm to make this work above everyone else's and his commitment to the project is there in every second. The sound design is amazing, I love the squeaky doors and ricocheting bullets and growling monsters, the TARDIS in the vortex, the screeching Vortisaurs and the climatic crash. It all sounds wonderfully authentic. But its more than just sounding realistic, Gary injects the story with real pace and wonder, his actors give first-rate performances and the whole story feels like the audio recording of an expensive, lavishly written blockbuster. It feels special.

I miss Alistair Lock's music, he hardly scored anything in 2003 and listening to Strom Warning again reminds why he should have. He is the only composer who manages to make his music sound genuinely cinematic, like he has a thousand instruments at his disposal. Storm Warning has an incredible score, punchy and emotional and it would be a much sorrier piece without it.

As you may have gathered I was rather impressed with Storm Warning, it is a good example of how much Big Finish can achieve when everybody is dedicated to get the best of their product.

I think the results speak for themselves and everyone involved deserves a good pat on the back.


A Review by Adrian Loder 27/8/07

I'd been meaning to get my hands on the Big Finish audio Doctor Who adventures for quite a long while, almost since I first learned they were being done. Unlike unauthorised audio stories, which have to employ different names for the Doctor (such as the BBV stories starring "The Professor"), they have the official BBC Doctor Who stamp of approval and license, and furthermore use the real actors that really played the roles on TV, including - and, perhaps, most importantly - Paul McGann. But, for some reason, even though I always considered them canon - this, despite never hearing one, seemed obvious to me, considering they had the BBC license and featured the same actors as on TV, reprising their old roles, and some new ones - I never gave them a try.

But then one day it occurred to me that as I now own and have viewd every single bit of TV Doctor Who, on VHS and DVD, including all the recreations of past episodes, I was all out of fresh Doctor Who. Season 29/Series 3 is over and while many of the old stories are often prodding me to rewatch them, for some reason it really irked me not to have soimething fresh for me to see.

Or, to hear, as it turned out. (Note: I fear I may have started an infection of improper season labels. In my recent - and by recent I mean recently-posted, not recently-written - review of Smith And Jones I originally incorrectly called the TV season just over Season 30 and referred to RTD Series 1 as Season 28. Wrong, wrong, wrong was I. RTD Series 1 = Season 27 overall, and so forth. Frankly, if RTD hadn't decided to restart the numbering, we wouldn't have to do this, and have to differentiate between two Seasons 1, 2 and 3, but I digress).

I suddenly realized that there was an entire series of audio stories out to explore and, on reaching Big Finish's website, discovered that soon we will be at the 100th audio story. I went almost catatonic with delight - a rich, unmined vein of new Old Who, including Paul McGann finally getting to reprise his role as the Doctor and really get a chance to play the role and not just be some one-off appearance or aberration from 1996.

Storm Warning is, obviously, McGann's first audio story, and it is a real treat. McGann is in fine form. I haven't watched the TV Movie recently enough to be sure that he's still playing the role exactly the same, but it's close enough. He made a marvelous Doctor then and he makes a marvelous one now. Many of his traits are the same as in past incarnations but there is a kind of gloominess or foreboding that has been brought to the part as well. Or perhaps it is simply the doomed nature of the R101 that lends the performance this quality. Either way, McGann's Doctor is a wonderful blend of new and old and works excellently.

Charley was also well-acted by India Fisher, although maybe just a little too much "plucky young lass" for me. Still, nothing offensive.

I'm a devoted student of many aspects of history so historical or pseudo-historical stories have always fascinated me and this was a particularly interesting bit to explore, given I was not previously aware of the flight and crash of the R101. And, in typical Doctor Who fashion, some historical tragedy or event is given new life through sci-fi and we find the reasons behind certain things are not exactly what history tells us.

It seems evident that the aliens are meant to be those that are referred to as "greys" by the UFO crowd, or at least it seems so to me. Their predicament, and its resolution, are all handled well, and is a truly intriguing setup. But even after this there is still the matter of the Doctor's escape, and when he saves Charley we get a scene where the Doctor wonders if he has altered history by saving her. A subtle indication is given that he has not - or at least, not significantly - but there is actually something very intriguing to examine here.

The Doctor states that 54 bodies are found in the wreckage, and it is also stated somewhere in the audio that the entirety of the passengers died in the crash, and that it crashed into a hillside in Beauvais, France. The Doctor states that by saving Charley, he has altered the timeline, and 53 bodies will be found, not 54.

Personally, I'm surprised none of the other reviewers were inspired by the story to investigate the actual history of the R101, but I was, and what I found surprised me. Yes, there were 55 passengers (one of them stays behind with the aliens, leaving 54) but in reality there were not 54 dead - the entire crew. Actually, 8 people survived the crash: 3 from inside the ship itself and 5 from the outer engine compartments. One of them died 3 days later of injuries sustained, leaving the death toll at 48. So, the Doctor, or rather the scriptwriter, is wrong.

Or is he? If there's one thing The Discontinuity Guide has taught me it is that anything can be explained and rationalised if you work hard enough at it. The Doctor says 54 people die in the crash, and there are signs near the end that he has altered history by saving Charley, but then there is the aforementioned hint that, if he has, it at least hasn't been significant. What if in original history everyone *did* die in the crash, but the Doctor's intervention is what caused the history we now know - the history where 8 people survived the initial crash, and 7 survived overall - to occur, and that instead of exploding into a hillside, as he says it does, it instead gently settled to the ground (as indeed historically one of the survivors said the impact was not enough to knock him off his feet) with the nose in the woods and the rest of the ship in a meadow, as our real history says?

Either the author of the story, Alan Barnes, is extremely clever in his arrangement - after all, if the Doctor's meddling actually creates what we, today, know as history, then we certainly aren't going to look askance at it - or else he's a shoddy historian, since it took me all of 5 minutes at a webpage of famous air wrecks to find out the truth of the R101's final flight.

But, either way, this is one kicker of a story, and an excellent welcome back to Paul McGann, recalling him from the footnotes of Doctor Who history and into the limelight. 9/10


He's Back And It's About Time by Matthew Kresal 12/1/10

One of the tag lines used for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie proclaimed "He's back and it's about time!" Sadly, the TV movie didn't lead to a new TV series and for some time it appeared that Paul McGann's time as the Doctor would be limited to his single appearance in the TV movie. Then, in 2001, Big Finish, who had by that point been doing Doctor Who audios with three of McGann's preceding Doctors, released Storm Warning. With its release, McGann not only triumphantly returned to the role of the eighth Doctor but got a fantastic new starting off point as well.

If Storm Warning proves nothing else, it proves that McGann had the potential to be a fantastic Doctor. Beginning with the story's opening couple of minutes, in which McGann is by himself plus sound effects, McGann takes back the role and really makes it his own. It's hard to imagine another one of the audio Doctors being able to successfully do the opening scene for example, which gives McGann an opportunity to show off his acting skills in the audio medium quite well. If one ever needed a single moment for proof that McGann is a fine Doctor, look no farther then the speech he gives to Charley and Frayling early in Part Three. In that one speech alone lies one of the finest performance moments you're ever going to find in Doctor Who, regardless of the medium. McGann also shares some wonderful chemistry with his fellow cast members as well especially India Fisher as Charley. McGann's potential as the Doctor is put to full use here and it makes for a fantastic new beginning for the eighth Doctor.

Storm Warning is also blessed with a fine supporting cast as well. First off there's India Fisher as Charley Pollard, a young "Edwardian adventuress" who will soon become companion to the eighth Doctor. Fisher plays Charley as a young woman full of a sense of adventure who finds herself caught up in an adventure bigger then she could ever imagine and, coupled with Fisher's incredible chemistry with McGann, that makes Charley a fantastic companion. Also joining the supporting cast is actor Gareth Thomas (better known to science fiction fans as the title character in the BBC's Blake's 7) as Lord Tamworth, Britain's Minister of the Air, and he comes across as a believable - if too much of his time - man who is trying to do the right thing for his King and country. The cast is rounded off by nice performances from some of Big Finish's repertory company including Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards, Hylton Collins and Helen Goldwyn as the alien Triskelies. All round, it's a nice supporting cast giving fine performances especially from Fisher and Thomas.

Storm Warning also has some nice post-production work going in its favor as well. The sound design by Alistair Lock is a fantastic piece of work and helps to give the story an epic feeling. Of special mention is is Lock's score which has a really strong orchestral feel like the score to a major Hollywood movie. There is also the version of the Doctor Who theme arranged by noted film composer David Arnold which, while perhaps not the best arrangement of the theme ever done, is still an interesting take on a classic theme. While the story has fine performances, it is the sound design that really sells the story and this stands as a fine achievement for Alistair Lock.

Then there's the script by Alan Barnes. Barnes, who after all had supervised the first eighth Doctor comic stories for Doctor Who Magazine, proved to be a fine choice for scripting the first audio adventure of the eighth Doctor. Barnes' script takes Doctor Who's traditions for using historical events as a jumping off point for a story and uses it to great effect. By basing the story almost entirely on the famed airship the R101, it infuses that tragic tale with a nice science fiction twist. By framing the story around the R101, the story has a ticking clock; as the hour to the airship's eventual fate gets closer and closer, the listener is left to wonder just how things will end. The story also acts as the set-up to a major arc that would feature throughout many of the eighth Doctor audio stories starting with from the story's finale onwards. Barnes' script gives the audio adventures a fantastic start both as a one-off adventure story and setting up a major story arc as well.

Storm Warning proves to be a fine new beginning for the adventures of the eighth Doctor. With things like Paul McGann's triumphant return to the role of the Doctor, the introduction of India Fisher's Charley, fine performances from the supporting cast, fine post-production work from Alistair Lock and a fine script by Alan Barnes, it is hard not to enjoy this story not only a fine Doctor Who adventure but as the return of a Doctor who was thought to be just a one-time performance. To quote the TV movie tag line, "he's back and it's about time". And this time he was here to stay.


A Review by Jameson Lee 17/4/11

You're a very persuasive fellow; I'd have you on staff if you weren't being shot

The first Big Finish production featuring Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor, Storm Warning is the initial step in constructing an ambitious legacy. As is well-known, McGann's Doctor was only featured in the pilot TV Movie co-production in 1996. There are many opinions on this film and its success or failure, but what nearly everyone agrees upon is the inspired casting of Paul McGann as the Doctor. The most handsome and romantically inclined version of the character to date, much of the planned direction of the new Doctor was left on the cutting-room floor as the pilot failed to attract a strong enough following in the US (scheduled against the final episode of the popular sitcom Rosanne, this was hardly a surprise). The Eighth Doctor had already received copious material in two mediums, the original novels published by BBC Books and the long-running comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine. But neither of these adaptations of the Doctor used the actor Paul McGann who had lent so much personality to the program.

Storm Warning is greatly assisted by Alan Barnes' script and its understanding of Doctor No. 8. As the writer of the Eighth Doctor's adventures in Doctor Who Magazine over five years, he had taken what was initially a shell of a character into a fully fleshed-out incarnation of the Time Lords latest persona.

Storm Warning finds the Doctor apparently in the same place we left him in the final scene of the TV Movie, puttering about the TARDIS. He is shaken from his reverie as his craft is caught in the wake of another time ship's explosion in the Vortex. To add to the frenzy of activity, a swarm of flying predators called vortisaurs arrives, forcing the Doctor to land. He soon finds himself on the doomed airship R-101 and, in typical Doctor Who fashion, all is not what it seems.

The adventure introduces a new companion, the brave and sassy Charley Pollard, who is out in the world looking for danger and excitement only to collide head first with the Doctor. India Fisher makes for a sparkling addition to the long list of companions and matches the Eight Doctor's enthusiasm for action and his romantic sensitivity as well. Another welcome cast member is Blake's 7 alum Gareth Thomas as the blustering Lord Tamworth who proves to be far more complicated than the two-dimensional caricature he appears to be at first.

Discovered on the maiden voyage of the R-101, the Doctor is hardly welcome. Thinking quickly, he conjures up a hastily constructed cover story of being a German spy and even attempts a broad accent. This apparently does the trick as nearly everyone buys the story, especially since a mere stowaway would have been shot while a political spy would demand more complicated treatment.

The Doctor is mostly concerned with tracking down and taming the rogue vortisor that followed him from the Time Vortex while maintaining the web of time and not getting involved in an historical disaster, but there are far more interesting things afoot aboard the airship, chiefly the mystery surrounding a special passenger restricted to his (?) quarters. Uncovering the identity of the passenger reveals that the Lord Tamworth's presence isn't just to provide a loud British presence to the journey, but to represent to the Crown on a special mission.

I won't dwell too much on the meat of the story to save the surprises for anyone who has not listened to this one, but it has so many more levels and provides opportunities for the entire cast to stretch and grow in the four installments. I still can't figure out why these stories are separated with opening and closing music as I am listening to it at home rather than experiencing it as a transmitted piece, but never mind. I suppose it helps to carry the mystique of the program and, as this is generally regarded as season 27 following the McCoy era, it is perfectly sensible.

As I have said before, I had refrained from dipping into the Big Finish audio adventures for some time simply because I thought it a poor substitute for the real thing. However, the more that I listen to these productions, the more I am impressed that the Big Finish team have a deeper understanding of the Doctor Who mythos than I at first imagined. All of the magic and intelligence of classic Doctor Who is present in these tales so if you are a fan of the old stuff, dig in!


A Review by Brian May 9/2/13

Storm Warning is a highly enjoyable tale. It has to be, really. Obviously, you'd expect any story to deliver on this front, but this one needs to be good for a further reason.

That reason is Paul McGann. This is his Big Finish debut and his first performance as the eight Doctor since the ill-fated 1996 telemovie. He wasn't bad in the role, but the production didn't allow him to make any impact, as he was basically being marketed as a British eccentricity to a US audience. In between then and now, all we had were the EDAs, in which we had an inconsistent, ineffectual and often hatefully written character. There were some good renditions (as well as some dreadful ones), but it still wasn't McGann. But now he gets a second shot, given the opportunity to play the Doctor in a traditional Who adventure. Freed from the above baggage, he does quite a good job. After all, he's a talented actor and has finally been given the right material.

Which gets me back to the story. It's an entertaining one, with good characters and an interesting scenario. It's well-structured, the plot progression suiting a four-parter almost to a tee. The first two episodes have a satisfying build-up: the R101's journey begins, a mysterious passenger is being kept under wraps, there's a bit of random peril for part one's cliffhanger, and the alien revelation for the second. This in turn shifts the setting and focus, as the third episode introduces the aliens fully and makes clear the antagonist's plan, while the fourth resolves everything after a series of confrontations. And it's all done so stylishly. To its detriment, the second half drags a bit, the third episode being 35 minutes in length. This is one of my usual complaints about Big Finish, but I'm willing to be more forgiving in this instance due to the overall high quality of the story. What adds to this quality is the alien race involved, the Triskelion. Now these are a fascinating lot! In fact, I'd go so far to say one of the best from Big Finish.

The guest cast are all very good, with Gareth Thomas stealing the show as Lord Tamworth. Poor Barnaby Edwards is lumped with all the accented roles, but fortunately his South African is much better than his French (The Marian Conspiracy). India Fisher, who was excellent in a supporting role in Winter for the Adept, shows great promise as new companion Charley Pollard. She has a naivety and wanderlust that are endearing, the self-styled Edwardian Adventuress being the perfect accompaniment for the dandyish McGann Doctor. In this day and age of the story arc, her cheating death and the consequent disruption to the web of time set up a tantalising portent that all is not quite right. It's a great hook to get the listener back for more.

The sound effects are superb. The resonating acoustics among the R101's workings are, excuse the pun, atmospheric. The same feel is realised in the Triskelion realm, but a noticeably different "outside" to that of the airship. The newsreel report is a nice touch that sets up the story neatly.

A very impressive and memorable production, exactly what Paul McGann needed for his well-deserved return. 9/10