This is the hundred and seventy fifth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Sylvester McCoy and Tracey Childs as Seven and Elizabeth Klein, and introduces us to new companion Will Arrowsmith. There are four episodes, roughly 30 minutes each, complete with cliffhangers and original theme music between each. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes. There are some interviews with cast and crew at the end of the second disc and a few minutes of the soundtrack at the end of disc 1.
I had found the idea of this release a really mouth-watering one. The Seventh Doctor has had a great run of stories of late, and McCoy’s characterisation has just got better and better, culminating in the epic grand finale of many plot strands in ‘Gods and Monsters’ Just how were Big Finish going to follow up on that, and where would they take the Seventh Doctor next? Then I saw that this new trilogy would feature the return of Elizabeth Klein as companion, again it sounds like a treat as Klein was an excellent antagonist for the Doctor in her previous releases, and even though following ‘Architects of History’ the time lines have shifted so that she is not the evil Nazi of her first four outings (I haven’t listened to UNIT Dominion, so don’t know how she was developed in those stories) but in the ‘proper’ reality she is the new chief scientific officer of UNIT, her temperament and basic character should still be the same and the combination of ‘good’ Klein with Seven’s scheming dark Doctor was an interesting prospect.
The trouble with building your hopes up is that you have further to fall when they are broken. And when I listened to this I fell a long way indeed. BF had a great run of form in the monthly main range releases going back as far as Recorded Time, the 150th release. It had to come to an end sometime and it does so with a bang here. This story is just terrible.
In synopsis: the story has a sort of framing device, with scenes featuring a mysterious pan-dimensional shepherd and shepherdess acting as a prelude to each episode. These are eventually linked into the story in Episode 3. The story proper opens with Klein trying to give one of her underlings a motivational talk in a pub. The underling, Will Arrowsmith, is a hapless UNIT operative who is not the world’s greatest at fieldwork. They spot the Seventh Doctor nearby, he lures them into the TARDIS, and they are suddenly off for an adventure in Dusseldorf circa 1945. They are soon on the trail of a mysterious man named Kurt Schalk, who has a device that half the belligerent species in the galaxy want.
What follows would have been a decent adventure and a nice set up for the trilogy if it were not for four things: 1) the characterisation of Klein. Er, what happened to her? I was expecting proactive, intelligent, with a dark edge. Instead the script writers gave us standard female companion with a bit of a grump on. No interesting interaction with the Doctor at all, a great character totally wasted. And taking her to immediate post war Germany had all sorts of potential for confronting the deeds of her ‘evil’ self, but this is not utilised at all unless you count some oblique references to ‘the other frauline’ from one of the supporting cast and a few snarky jibes from the Doctor. A complete waste of good material. 2) Will Arrowsmith. A bit like Maxwell Edison from ‘Eternal Summer’ in many ways, but without the charm of that character. He is just annoying in every scene that he is in. And that’s a pity, as he is in a lot of them. I kept praying that the script writers would have the balls to kill him off in some imaginative way, but no, he lives to irritate another day. A terrible character who adds nothing to the TARDIS crew dynamic. 3) The characterisation of the Doctor! This is set at the end of the Seventh Doctor’s life, and all of a sudden the script writers have turned him into a right git. Taking the traits of the darker Seventh Doctor to an absurd conclusion, he is suddenly turned into the kind of monster he has always fought. It’s awful. 4) It pains me to say it, but some of the acting is terrible. And most painful of all is McCoy’s performance. After the great characterisation he has given us in recent episodes, this is suddenly flat and stilted, almost as though he hadn’t done a read through or rehearsal before recording. It’s all over the place. I was shocked to hear it as I have absolutely loved McCoy’s performances in the past, he has become my favourite audio Doctor.
It’s not as bad as the truly execrable ‘Dark Husband’, but it’s not far off in my opinion. Especially painful are the extras were everyone is talking about how wonderful all the actors and producers are and what a special event the finished product is. They obviously hadn’t heard the finished product. One to avoid, 1 star. Come on Big Finish, we know you can do so much better, but with the previous fifth Doctor trilogy and this release it looks as though things are faltering somewhat.
This is the 175th release in the Main Range by Big Finish, and the first in a trilogy featuring the Seventh Doctor and Elizabeth Klein. The remaining two stories in the trilogy are ‘Starlight Robbery’ and ‘Daleks Among Us’.
Two voices, speaking with an ‘otherworldly’ quality in tone and speech patterns, discuss their grief at the life they now seem to be doomed to endure. Their servant, the Sylph, is distressed at the inability of the Lord and the Lady to live as they should. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Klein, UNIT’s Scientific Adviser is having a meeting out of the office with her assistant Will Arrowsmith, when Will spots The Umbrella Man. Sending Will back to report to the office, Klein follows the Doctor. But Will, wanting to prove his worth to UNIT, follows them into the Tardis. Travelling to Dusseldorth in 1945, the Doctor seems to be leading Klein towards something; but does he really know more than he is letting on? And what will he do when he finds that Will has followed them? The Doctor is feeling his years, but is he still playing games? Klein knows the Doctor of old; but is she, or he the same as they were in those other meetings?
There is a great cast in this story. Paul Chahidi plays the Shpeherd, and Bondsman Tango-Veldt; Miranda Raison plays the Shepherdess and Acquisitor Prime. I thought they stood out in the cast as the parts that were very well written, and that were played by them both with great depth and character. Gemma Whelan does a great job as Castra, the Sylph and the Khlecht voice. David Sibley plays Kurt Schalk, a very cold and driven scientist, and Jonathan Forbes is very good as his colleage Lukas Hinterberger. Christian Edwards plays Will Arrowsmith very well, as a rather goofy and earnest young man who tries his best at being what he believes he ought to be. And Tracey Childs reprises the role of Elizabeth Klein admirably. Sylvester McCoy is playing the dark and devious, manipulative Seventh Doctor, and it is really hard to pin down just how much he may or may not know in this story, and whether he has any idea what may happen next. The story ends at the end of one part of the journey, and very much on the way to the next part of the journey. Where it will all end, we wait to find out.
This is a story that very much sets the scene for the remaining two stories in the trilogy. The end of this story is by no means a resolution in itself; while one door of a part of the story seems to be closing, many more are opening up. Listening to the interviews after the end of the second cd, Jonathan Barnes who wrote ‘Persuasion’ is very clear that his story sets up many threads which are followed in the next two stories. I think final judgment on this story must wait until the next two are heard. This story is hugely enjoyable in so far as it goes; whether it is successful in the trilogy as a whole will need to be considered after those two have been heard.
on 2 September 2013
I have been an avid fan of Big Finish since around 2008 but must admit I predominantly follow the adventures of the 5th Doctor, closely followed by the 6th. It's not that I don't enjoy the 7th, it's purely a question of finance and my loyalties to classic Who lie with the Davison era.
I like Sylvestor McCoy - more so now as a 39 year old man than my teenage self did back in the day (although Remembrance of the Daleks is one of my all time favourite stories). What he started doing with the character in his last two television seasons was most intriguing and a step in the right direction (if not a little late to save the show from the axe).
Owing to the above, I am aware of the Klein character through reviews I have read and my general interest in Big Finish but I am not up to speed with the background to the character. I approached persuasion without the benefit (or hindrance) of the past. What did I think?
I'll be honest, after two episodes I was not hooked and I could see why I had never chosen to follow the 7th Doctor's exploits on audio. Several days later I jumped into parts three and four - and really enjoyed them, so much so that I will be getting the next installments in the trilogy (well certainly the Dalek one anyway!).
It's a complex tale but very much in line with the character of the 7th and all does become clear towards the climax of the story. Will Arrowsmith starts out annoying which I'm guessing was the intention and starts to grow on you - presumably by the end of the trilogy he will have developed somewhat.
The story does seem like the beginning of a journey and very much feels like the opening installment so don't expect any closure.
Could have been better but no faults on the part of the main cast. Big thumbs up to Sylvester McCoy and Tracey Childs.