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K.M. Wilson (Fife, UK)

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Dad's Army - The Christmas Specials [DVD]
Dad's Army - The Christmas Specials [DVD]
Dvd ~ Arthur Lowe
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 3.45

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walmington's Home Gaurd go Crackers for Christmas!, 12 Jan 2010
David Croft and Jimmy Perry and the wonderful cast made three Christmas specials, all of which appear on this DVD. They feature Walmington-on-Sea's nutty, unforgettable Home Gaurd platoon, the equally brilliant actors Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, Arnold Ridley, Ian Lavender and James Beck (who only appears in the first story here, as he died before the series ended), getting up to all sorts of hilarious high jinks that really exemplifies why this show has become a classic. One bonus is that you can watch these specials all year round, as they are not necessarily set at Christmas.
The first story is Battle of the Giants, which involves the platoon competing against Captain Mainwaring's bete noir Captain Square and his men in an initiative test based around a race to the church tower. Never mind a laugh a minute, it's a laugh a second. One moment all seasoned fans such as me will appreciate is Sergeant Wilson, Chief Warden Hodges and the bridge. I won't spoil it by telling you what happens. Another good moment is the balloon popping sequence - yes, just like the party game, but with the immortal bayonets. Talking of bayonets, Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal Jones is on particularly clownish - and therefore good - form in this one. It ends with a hilarious bit of comic genius, and in the meanwhile it's packed with funny lines and funnier moments. I can't begin to describe how side-splittingly funny it is.
The next story is My Brother and I, a hilarious and ultimately rather touching story in which it is revealed that Captain Mainwaring has a brother - who is coming to Walmington, and, with a little prompting from Private Frazer, gate crashes Mainwaring's cocktail party. What follows is hilarious, as everyone tries to get him out without Mainwaring's distinguished guests being aware that anything unusual is going on.
Finally, there's one of the ones that's rather more about Walmington's civvie street, and involves Mainwaring and his men helping with the vicar's winter bazaar. It's not really got much of a storyline, but that doesn't hinder it being very funny and with a hilarious punchline.
In short, these are all very good and brilliantly funny, though the hour-long Battle of the Giants is undoubtedly the best. The word 'Christmas Special' is often a byword for tackiness with many series, but Dad's Army, eternally unbeatable, completely breaks that stereotype.

Frostfire (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
Frostfire (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
by Marc Platt
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.41

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Who versus the Elements, 12 Jan 2010
This, the fist episode of the Companion Chronicles features Maureen O'Brien reprising her role as the first Doctor's companion Viki, a space traveller from he future, who left the TARDIS after she fell in love with the Trojan hero Troilus, and departed to begin a new life in the ancient world as Lady Cressida. This story reveals that she misses the advanced world of the future, but she has a secret friend hidden deep underneath a temple in the form of the mysterious 'cinder'.

In the story that she recounts to the cinder, she recounts how, along with the Doctor and fellow companion Steven, she visited Regency London druing a bitterly cold winter. A frost fair is being held on the Thames, where they encounter novelist Miss Austen and a mysterious egg. Writer Marc Platt weaves an engenious plot, capturing beautifully the flavour of the early series of Doctor Who, and painting a very convincing picture of the period. He also writes Jane Austen very well, capturing her elegant but catty personality admirably well. She is just one of a rich and varied cast of characters that you can believe are really from the nineteenth century. At the same time, the science fiction element of the plot is very present, and the story is wonderfully creepy and tense, with enough humour to lighten it without tarnishing the effect. In short, the elements are beautifully balanced. Best of all, there's an ingenious time loop, making use of the legend of the pheonix in a very creative and effective way. Maureen O'Brien only adds to all this by reading the story beautifully. Her impression of William Hartnell is very good indeed, and it helps that Platt has captured his character perfectly. The plot threads are woven into a wonderfully satisfactory conclusion to an exciting, flawless and memorable narrative. Possibly the best of the Companion Chronicles that I have heard yet.

Helicon Prime (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
Helicon Prime (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
by Jake Elliott
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.60

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lot of Mixed up Nonsense in - Where?, 12 Jan 2010
This edition of The Companion Chronicles begins rather confusingly. The second Doctor's former companion Jamie wakes up after being hit on the head by something, which has jogged his memory enough for him to remember one of his adventures travelling in the TARDIS - the fact that he starts off a bit hazily is probably why the story is so unclear. The trouble is that the bit that is happening after the main events of the story is just as confusing as the actual adventure - if not more so. A murder mystery set on a spa planet might seem like a good idea, but not when it's so messed up and unexplained. From Jamie's point of view, you don't even get to see the body, and I might have missed something, but it's very unclear as to who this fellow is who's been bumped off. One thing I tend to like about the companion chronicles is that they recreate the flavour of the companion's era and give you a real sense that what's going on could be acheived with the effects from that period. Not so with Helicon Prime. It forces you to imagine that most of it is computer graphics, and gives the feel not even of modern Doctor Who, but more of Star Wars, though Star Wars makes more sense. The start of the plot is OK and even promising, and Jake Andrews does capture the character of Patrick Troughton's Doctor very well, but then he's pushed aside rather and just becomes an idle tourist gawping at famous names. It's true that he does manage to find out a lot more than Jamie, who spends most of this storty creeping up and down corridors and hiding, but he doesn't seem to put it all together the way the Doctor would. Mind you, he's probably just not admitting to Jamie that the plot has flummoxed him. It certainly flummoxed me. There are certainly a lot of impressive ideas, but they're wasted on a story that just doesn't hold together. Some characters come in that don't have anything to do with the plot and you wonder why they're there, and most of them get bumped off in various spectacular ways before you've really had a chance to meet them properly. At the end, you're not even sure who's murdered who, or indeed, who's done what. The story gets shakier and shakier as it goes on, and builds up to a very weak and ineffective ending that left me in a state of utter confusion - the story is on big, over impressive bang that goes out with a whimper. Maybe I just didn't pick up on a vital clue, but I won't be listening again to find out, and it doesn't alter the fact that the story has not real conclusion: you never really find out what happened. You don't even really know what is taking place in the past and what is taking place while Jamie is telling the story. It's a grossly overdone and almost surreal story that wastes such a good actor as Frazer Hines, who does a wonderful impression of Patrick Troughton. Sadly, it doesn't compensate such a lousy plot. In conclusion, I'd say that if you want a good murder mystery set in exotic, luxurious surruondings, don't bother with this mess. Go and read Agatha Christie's 'Death on the Nile'.

Mahogany Murderers (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
Mahogany Murderers (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
by Andy Lane
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lightfoot and Jago: the Return of the Old Favourites, 12 Jan 2010
I'm too young to remember the episode actually being on - far too young, in fact - but watching the video, I agree with most fans. The Talons of Weng Chiang is one of THE best Doctor Who stories EVER, EVER, EVER, rivalled only, perhaps, by 'The Pyramids of Mars' and 'Blink'. This is partly because of its main side characters, intellectual police doctor Professor Litefoot and bluff-and-bluster theatre man Henry Gordon Jago. It's long been my opinion, akin to many other fans, that the two lovable Victorian gentlemen deserve their own spin off series, and now they've very nearly got it with this one-off Big Finish audio drama. It's a one off in Companion Chronicles terms in that the Doctor doesn't appear and it's dealing with one off companions - Litefoot and Jago never actually entered the TARDIS, let alone travelled on it, but their experiences the Talons of Weng Chiang more than make up for the fact.

The format of the Companion Chronicles is, of course, that an old companion of the Doctor's returns to recount a story, with one other actor. This story takes place in a pub, where Litefoot and Jago, who have been teaming up to investigate unusual happenings since their encounter with the fourth Doctor and Leela, have met up to discuss their latest adventure. It's a creepy one. The idea of a body being dragged out of Thames is always a good beginning in any Victorian mystery, and it gets creepier from there. The body is actually a cleverly disguised wooden mannequin, and what happens next is very much a la ghost story writer M.R. James. It just gets creepier from there. Be prepared for a gruesome description in the middle of part two. In my opinion it was rather overdone (I thought I was going to see my dinner again). Enough said. Despite this, it's a very good story, and no doubt the characters help with that. Their rather quirky attitude helps the story not to fall out of creepy and into terrifying. For me, the concept certainly pushed it. It's interesting to note the mythology in this one. It could almost be taken as a prequel to the 1960s story Invasion. I won't go on. I might give too much away. Anyway, it's a ripping good yarn, if a bit sinister. Andy Lane writes excellent descriptions, and carries out the task of portraying the characters of Litefoot and Jago admirably. I'm so glad that this story has led to Litefoot and Jago getting their well deserved spin off series at last, albeit on audio. In short, well worth a listen, but not for the faint of heart.

The Glorious Revolution (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
The Glorious Revolution (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
by Jonathan Morris
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.43

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Who and a History Lesson, 12 Jan 2010
This was the first of the Companion Chronicles that I listened to, and all I can say is: wow. The plot is well written and thought out, and has a wonderfully clever time paradox. It begins with the second Doctor's former companion Jamie being visited by a mysterious stranger who wants to know about a visit that he, the Doctor and fellow companion Zoe paid to London when King James II is about to escape into exile, to be replaced by William of Orange. Jamie obviously has strong feelings about this, as it was eventually to lead to the Jacobite rebellion which is disturbing his own time, and obviously as a Jacobite he is on the side of James and not William. What follows is really gripping, and it makes use of Jamie's character in a very inventive and believable way. I particularly like the way that Johnathan Morris has the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe plunged into trouble practically as soon as they step out of the TARDIS - which, as all seasoned fans of both the classic and the modern series will know, happens quite a lot in Doctor Who! - and therefore doesn't give the listener a chance to get bored. After that, he doesn't let you go. He keeps the suspense and action fast paced, but not to the extent that you lose track of what's happening. I'm afraid I'm not very good on the period, but from what I know I think that he's created the flavour really well. He deals admirably with the fact that Jamie has lost all recollection of his travels with the Doctor after having his memory wiped by the Time Lords, and he makes the plot very interesting by bringing in the element that somehow, by telling the story to the visitor, Jamie is sorting out the rupture in history. It is, of course, a great bonus that the writer has got the characters of Jamie, the second Doctor and Zoe off to a tee, and also that Frazer Hines reads the story so well and does such a convincing impression of the second Doctor that you could swear Patrick Troughton was in the studio reading the Doctor's lines. The story concludes well and in a very satisfying way. Through the whole thing, it's surprising how vivid the story can become with two actors and basic sound effects. It just goes to show that big is not always better. In conclusion, with an almost flawless story, and such a talented actor as Frazer Hines reading it, which Doctor Who fan wouldn't want to buy this?

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