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The Auntie Matter (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
The Auntie Matter (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
by Jonathan Morris
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tom Baker & Mary Tamm On Top Form, 18 May 2013
The first season of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, in which Tom Baker returned to his most famous role for the first time with Big Finish Productions, was one of the 'Doctor Who' highlights of 2012, and with the bar set suitably high, I expected a great deal from the second season. Fortunately, 'The Auntie Matter' kicks off the second run in great style, with Baker's Doctor now accompanied by Romana Mk 1 (played by Mary Tamm, who sadly passed away between the recording and release of these new audios), gallivanting around the kind of 1920s England beloved of PG Wodehouse - all dopey aristocrats, super-efficient butlers and formidable Aunts. Writer Jonathan Morris has gone out of his way to blend the worlds of 'Doctor Who' and Wodehouse (in particular the Jeeves books), and as someone who loves both of these and was a little apprehensive about the play beforehand, I was pleased to discover that it works so much better than I could have imagined. This is helped by a terrific cast - not just Baker and Tamm, who are on excellent form here, but Robert Portal as the Wooster-esque Reggie, and the wonderful Julia McKenzie as the Auntie of the title, who must be one of the most entertaining villains that Big Finish have produced in their hundreds of audio productions.

Whilst the story fits the format of the Fourth Doctor Adventures (single disc stories, comprising two episodes, with a running time of about an hour plus extras) well, and doesn't outstay its welcome, it's a pity in some ways that there wasn't the opportunity to expand upon certain elements of the story, as it's such fun spending time in the company of its characters. Despite that, it's tremendous fun, and a good standalone adventure that showcases the leads at their very best. There's also a nice little tribute to Mary Tamm as part of the bonus material on this release.


The Thick of It - Series 4 [DVD]
The Thick of It - Series 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rebecca Front
Price: £5.60

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Hurrah?, 10 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Series 4 of 'The Thick Of It' appeared with the weight of expectation resting heavily on it. After a frankly brilliant third series, and a gap of a few years whilst the team behind it worked on other projects, it was always going to be hotly anticipated. But the political landscape has also changed since that third series, with the dying days of New Labour giving way to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in Government, and so it would have been difficult for the show's status quo to remain unchanged. So what we get with Series 4 is a more varied narrative than before, giving more or less equal weight to the Government (in the form of Peter Mannion MP and his team, plus their coalition partners) and the opposition (including the fearsome Malcolm Tucker and Nicola Murray MP, now Leader of the Opposition). It's a format that doesn't initially seem like it will work as well as that of previous series, however as the series arc progresses - and this series has a much more notable ongoing narrative than earlier ones - it all weaves together very effectively. The writing is superb and the performances excellent as ever, particularly Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, who is more scheming and Machiavellian than ever. It's brilliant stuff, especially when the show takes a leap out of its comfort zone to present testimony from The Goolding Inquiry into the culture of leaking in the political establishment, which is as compelling an hour of television as you'll see.

Some may find that they don't enjoy this series quite as much as previous ones - indeed, I didn't at first when it was on TV - but revisiting it on DVD with a clearer sense of the series as a whole and what it's trying to achieve, I found it rose considerably in my estimations. If, as seems likely, this is the end for 'The Thick Of It', then no one can say the team haven't done their best to send it out on a high.


Doctor Who: Shadow of Death (Destiny of the Doctor 2)
Doctor Who: Shadow of Death (Destiny of the Doctor 2)
by Simon Guerrier
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £8.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A New Adventure for the Second Doctor, 10 Feb 2013
'Shadow of Death' is the second title in AudioGO and Big Finish's 50th Anniversary series 'Destiny of the Doctor', taking the form of a brand new adventure for the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, in which the TARDIS lands on an outpost amidst an abandoned city on a world orbiting a Pulsar, which has the extraordinary power to affect time. In much the same way as the previous release, 'Hunters of Earth', evoked the spirit of the show's first episode 'An Unearthly Child', 'Shadow of Death' very much has the feel of a story from the Troughton era, with its 'base under siege' idea and the creeping menace of the titular shadow. Of course, there's more to it than that, but to go into any more detail regarding the plot would serve to spoil things somewhat - suffice to say, it's a story which explores the Doctor's unique relationship with time, and where nothing is quite what it initially seems.

The format for this series is that of an enhanced audiobook, with a main narrator accompanied by an actor in a supporting role. Frazer Hines narrates here, and I couldn't think of a better choice to handle this release - not only does he handle the job of narrator well, he also plays something of a dual role in the acting department, effectively playing not only the part of Jamie McCrimmon (his TV character, and the Second Doctor's longest-serving travelling companion) but that of the Doctor himself. Hines provides an uncanny performance which perfectly captures the spirit of the late Patrick Troughton, and given that this is very much a Doctor-centric story, it very much works to the benefit of the finished product. In fact, at certain points, I managed to forget that I wasn't listening to Troughton himself in those scenes. That, combined with the excellent sound design, really helps to cement the Troughton era feel in one's mind when listening. It's a slightly shorter story than 'Hunters of Earth', running to just under an hour or so, and the story didn't quite grab me as its predecessor had, but it was still an hour well spent, and I'd imagine essential listening for those with a particular fondness for that era of 'Doctor Who'. There's also a scene which ties into the 'series arc', which is rather intriguing, and gives the impression that 'Destiny of the Doctor' could be going somewhere very interesting indeed.


The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon [DVD]
The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Price: £5.92

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Underrated Gem, 3 Feb 2013
One of the nice things about Steve Coogan's critical and commercial success over the past 20 years or so is that even his flops can find their way to DVD. 'The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon' is one of those - an attempt to break away from the likes of Alan Partridge and Paul Calf, with a character who's clearly inspired by old school singers of the Tom Jones / Englebert Humperdinck stable. 'Phenomenon' is a well-observed spoof of singer-led light entertainment shows of the 60s and 70s, and whilst Ferrino didn't really take off as a character, it's by no means a disappointment. There's a lot to enjoy here, and it's a shame the character didn't have much of a life beyond this (his appearance in Coogan's live show 'The Man Who Thinks He's It' notwithstanding). If you haven't seen it, or have only dim memories of it, give it a try - it's better than popular opinion would have you believe.


A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (DVD)
A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (DVD)
Dvd ~ Graham Chapman
Price: £5.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Film, But Not Quite There, 3 Feb 2013
'A Liar's Autobiography' is an unconventional attempt to put an unconventional book on screen, and tell the story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman in animated form. Though appropriately enough for such a surreal tome as Chapman's autobiography, it's jam-packed with fantastical imagery and a wide variety of styles throughout, with numerous different animation studios contributing sequences to the film. This isn't a bad idea in principle, as it allows for some variety, although it can be frustrating when some sequences are rather better executed than some others (the animation for the Freud sequence, for instance, and that of the young Chapman holidaying with his parents, are very nicely done). The film boasts the vocal talents of all the Pythons bar Eric Idle (who declined to be involved, probably wisely as it turns out) - including Michael Palin and Terry Jones playing Chapman's parents, amongst others. Even Graham Chapman himself features, as the backbone of the film is a recording of him reading from his book. So it's something of a Python reunion in some respects.

And therein lies the problem - due to the subject matter, and the fact that the former Pythons have become involved and supported the film (not to mention the way it's been marketed), one could get the impression that it's 'a Python film'. Which it isn't. In many ways, it's like someone who doesn't understand Python's attempt to do Python. It's not without a few amusing moments, but it lacks the kind of qualities I'd associate with the Pythons' material. If you've read and enjoyed 'A Liar's Autobiography' in print, then perhaps you will appreciate the film more than I did. Its heart is certainly in the right place, and the film-makers should be applauded for trying something different, but ultimately it doesn't quite work - certainly not as a feature-length film.


Alan Partridge - Mid-Morning Matters [DVD]
Alan Partridge - Mid-Morning Matters [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Price: £6.50

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Return To Form, 3 Feb 2013
`Alan Partridge: Mid Morning Matters' is a welcome return for Norwich's most famous son, and Steve Coogan's best-loved comic character, after a long absence from our screens. Starting life as an online series before being bolted together into half-hour (or thereabouts) TV episodes, it takes the form of a studio webcam recording Alan at work at his new home of North Norfolk Digital. The strength of the series lies in the fact that it's back-to-basics Partridge - he's such a well-observed and layered creation, and Steve Coogan appears to inhabit the character so fully, that a character-based piece such as this really works. Both the TV and online versions are available in this set - the latter work slightly better than the former for me - and although it's a shame that we're lacking the kind of extensive extras package than previous Partridge DVDs have enjoyed, `Mid Morning Matters' is well worth your time.


Doctor Who: The Devil in the Smoke (Unabridged)
Doctor Who: The Devil in the Smoke (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable Spin-Off Tale, 3 Feb 2013
'Doctor Who: The Devil in the Smoke' is a slightly misleading title, as the Doctor does not appear in this novella at any point. It does, however, take its inspiration from the 2012 Christmas special 'The Snowmen', and feature Madame Vastra (the Silurian detective), Jenny (her maid, sidekick and partner) and Strax (their enthusiastic but sometimes misguided Sontaran butler) in an intriguing adventure story as they investigate a mysterious murder, and a villainous industrialist with a sinister secret. The story, whilst slight, is a lot of fun, and author Justin Richards has captured these characters perfectly. The audiobook is helped considerably through being narrated by Dan Starkey, who not only reads and performs his familiar role as Strax from the TV series, but throws himself into giving each and every character their own distinct voice - and does a fine job of it too. If you enjoyed these characters on television, then 'The Devil in the Smoke' is the best place to go next.


Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection (Shada/More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS) [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection (Shada/More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Baker
Price: £7.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Side Step for the DVD Range, 3 Feb 2013
`The Legacy Collection' is a boxset containing two `spin off' titles from the main `Doctor Who' DVD range, both released in the 1990s by BBC Video. The first of these is `Shada', a presentation attempting to piece together an unfinished Tom Baker story from 1979. The second is `More Than Thirty Years In The TARDIS', an expanded straight-to-video version of a documentary originally aired on BBC One back in 1993.

BBC Video's `Shada' makes a valiant attempt to present the surviving fragments of Douglas Adams' unfinished six-part serial, originally due to end Season Seventeen in 1979, together with linking material from Tom Baker. It's not an entirely satisfactory presentation, for various reasons - Baker's narration has to fill in several key sequences, particularly in later episodes where much of the studio material was never filmed, and the lack of visual material, together with key scenes being abridged into perfunctory descriptions, hampers the overall presentation. That said, the original 1979 material looks excellent, particularly the film sequences, which have been cleaned up specially for this re-release, and there's a lot to like about what does exist. Regulars Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on fine form, and guest stars Christopher Neame (the villainous Skagra), Dennis Carey (Professor Chronotis) and Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons) all give good performances in their supporting roles. I have a feeling that, had `Shada' been completed, then it would have ranked as one of my all-time favourites. As it is, what we have here is an enjoyable but somewhat frustrating viewing experience.

However, to compensate, the DVD also features a host of special features, arguably the most notable of which is the 2003 BBCi webcast version of `Shada', starring Paul McGann. This version of the story - essentially an audio drama with `motion comic' type graphics - boasts another excellent cast, including Andrew Sachs, James Fox and Susannah Harker, and is presented as a Flash animation, viewable via a DVD-ROM drive. It's a pity there wasn't room for this to be featured as a fully fledged DVD, but it's an extremely welcome addition to the set nonetheless, and enormous fun. Among other highlights are `Taken Out Of Time' (a nicely compiled `Making Of' documentary focusing on the 1979 production, featuring some hugely entertaining contributions from Tom Baker), `Strike! Strike! Strike!' (a fascinating documentary on the subject of unions and strikes in the television industry in general, presented by broadcaster Shaun Ley, which puts some of the difficulties surrounding the production of `Shada' in context), `Now and Then' (a look at the serial's locations) and `Being A Girl' (a general featurette on the portrayal of women in `Doctor Who'). All in all, it's a decent package for what, ultimately, is a bit of a curiosity, and whilst it might have been nice to see an attempt to improve upon the 1992 VHS presentation of `Shada', the DVD does at least feature the original materials presented in the best available quality.

`More Than Thirty Years In The TARDIS' makes up the other half of the release. It's a documentary that has a special resonance for me, as I remember playing the VHS to death back in the day, so it's nice to see it finally turn up on DVD. Originally commissioned for television at the time of the show's 30th Anniversary back in 1993, the programme sidesteps telling the story of the show's history and focuses on the impression it made, both on viewers and those who appeared in it. This is best exemplified by a number of sequences in which a young boy, and various former cast members, including former Doctors Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, are menaced by familiar `Doctor Who' monsters. The clips - some from the series, others rarities from elsewhere including vintage spoofs and adverts inspired by the series - are well chosen, and whilst on reflection the structure doesn't hold together quite as well as it could, the production is enormously enjoyable. It was clearly a labour of love for director Kevin Davies, and the fact that it's remembered and held in the affection it is nearly twenty years later should be a sign of just what an essential part of any Who fan's collection this is.

The special features on this disc are somewhat patchy - `Remembering Nicholas Courtney' is a well-meaning but slightly disjointed tribute to the much-loved Who stalwart, with some nice interview material with the man himself and a fun cameo from Tom Baker, hampered by the fact that it's really an attempt to piece together a featurette based around a career-spanning interview that was unfinished at the time of Courtney's death a few years ago. Its heart is absolutely in the right place, though. `Those Deadly Divas' is a bit of an oddity, a featurette on the show's female villains which probably shouldn't have made it off the drawing board, but is at least enlivened by fun contributions from the likes of Kate O'Mara, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Gareth Roberts. The package is rounded off by `Doctor Who Stories: Peter Purves' and `The Lambert Tapes: Part 1', both enjoyable featurettes derived from archive interview material with two key players in the William Hartnell era.

Ultimately, `The Legacy Collection' may not be essential viewing for everyone - it's effectively a sidestep from the regular range, presenting material which wouldn't have a natural home as part of one of the normal releases, but a very welcome one all the same. It relies on `off the shelf' material, and doesn't feature some of the extras one might normally expect from the classic `Doctor Who' range (no commentaries, for a start), but there's still plenty spread across the three discs to keep the more dedicated fan happy.


No Title Available

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great 'Prequel' to the TV Series, 2 Feb 2013
Big Finish and AudioGO, producers of so many fine 'Doctor Who' audiobooks, have joined forces for a special series of adventures to mark the show's 50th Anniversary - 11 in total, each one featuring a different incarnation of the Doctor. 'Hunters of Earth' is the first in the 'Destiny of the Doctor' series, and for anyone who enjoyed the show's first episode, 'An Unearthly Child', and wanted to learn more about the Doctor and Susan's time in Shoreditch, 1963, this is a treat. It's an atmospheric tale which taps into its time period - both in 'Doctor Who' lore, and in the real world - extremely well, being set against a backdrop of youthful rebellion, rock and roll, and the Cold War. Author Nigel Robinson has done an excellent job of portraying Susan and the Doctor in a manner which is entirely faithful to their TV appearances - she the prodigious yet occasionally naive teenager, he the crotchety and mysterious old man, full of secrets - and placing them in a story which fits their situation when we first meet them at the start of the TV series. Susan is struggling to fit in with the other teenagers at Coal Hill School, whilst her grandfather sneaks around London sourcing components to repair the TARDIS, and trying to avoid drawing attention to himself. But their attempts to blend into everyday society are challenged when local youths begin turning against 'aliens', as if possessed by some sinister force...

The format for this series is that of an 'enhanced audiobook' - the main narrator reads, and performs occasional dramatised segments featuring an additional actor, similar to the format employed by Big Finish's 'Companion Chronicles' series. It's a format which works well for this title, particularly since Carole Ann Ford's character, Susan, is very much the focus of the story. The sound design evokes the spirit of the early William Hartnell episodes, feeling appropriately lo-fi, and the overall impression is one of a story that could almost have been written for the series back in 1963. Whilst there is a very brief nod to the new series, and a moment which hints at what might become a running plot thread through the 'Destiny of the Doctor' TV series, this is very much a standalone adventure which could be enjoyed in isolation just as much as it could as part of the series as a whole. The plot is not especially complex, given the running time (70 mins on a single disc), but it was sufficiently interesting and well thought-out to keep me engaged throughout. If the rest of the 'Destiny of the Doctor' series can be as enjoyable, and evoke the spirit of their respective eras in a similar way, then I'll be very happy indeed. For fans of the Hartnell era, or those more familiar with newer Doctors who want to delve into the show's past, this is well worth a listen.


The Queen Is Dead
The Queen Is Dead
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen Is Remastered, 2 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Queen Is Dead (Audio CD)
'The Queen Is Dead' is probably the finest album The Smiths ever made, featuring some of their best songs - and several personal favourites of mine, including 'Bigmouth Strikes Again', 'The Boy With The Thorn In His Side' and 'Vicar In A Tutu'. If you're a fan of The Smiths, you'll more than likely be familiar with the album itself. The question is, is the 2012 remastered edition worth the upgrade? Whilst all you get here is the original album - no extra tracks at all - it's a significant step up from the previous CD edition, and it's clear that a great deal of care and attention has been taken in ensuring it sounds as good as an album of its stature should. A brilliant album, given the treatment it deserves.


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