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This is the sixtieth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Colin Baker as Six, Maggie Stblaes as Evelyn and in a long overdue move, guests Leslie Philips as Dr. Knox. There are 4 episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with original theme music between each, and cliff hanger endings. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes.

The Doctor and Evelyn arrive in Edinburgh, apparently just as Burke and Hare are in the middle of their infamous careers. But it soon seems that not all is as it seems - just why has no one ever heard of William Burke? And just what is Dr. Knox really up to? And what does Daft Jamie really see?

This starts off as an excellent production. Full of bags of atmosphere as all the actors ham it up to evoke the seedy, terrifying, smelly feel of old Edinburgh. There is an interesting moral argument expressed - The crimes of Burke and Hare were horrendous, but they allowed medical science to advance. Does that in some way make them acceptable, or even laudable? And what is the limit of such acceptability? And finally there is a delicious performance from Leslie Philips, who manages to steal every scene, even from an in form Colin Baker who is no mean scene stealer himself.

But for all that it starts out well, this is a slightly disappointing production, mainly due to a problem that Big Finish quite often seem to suffer. They just don't seem to know how to end it. So when the end comes it is somewhat rushed, a bit confusing, and to be honest didn't really make much sense. But apart from that this is a decent adventure, with much to enjoy, especially Philips in fine devilish form as the sneering Knox. 4 stars in all.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 27 September 2013
I was keen to get hold of this story, largely because I really like the partnership of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn (played by Maggie Stables). But it took me a while to get around to listening to it, because I thought at first glance it was a straight historical story.

But boy was I wrong! This story, which starts off with the Doctor and Evelyn landing in Edinburgh in 1827 shows a city seemingly at the mercy of Burke and Hare, the infamous (to us, now) bodysnatchers. Back then, nobody knew who was killing people or apparently removing buried bodies - or did they? The Doctor and Evelyn find two locals who seem to be in the thick of the action, Mary Patterson and Daft Jamie (played with utter brilliance by David Tennant - I didn't realise until the end when I read the credits that it was even him!). And Burke and Hare seem to be taking orders from a local doctor, Doctor Robert Knox. So far, all so historically correct. And then it gets even more interesting. The direction the story then goes in is really brilliant. A historical story, interesting in its own right, becomes even more intriguing when the Doctor gets involved.

By the end of the story, I felt deeply involved in the whole story; Leslie Richards as Doctor Knox was so ghastly that you could just visualise the whole action in every scene he was in. Even Burke and Hare were presented in a way that was not totally without some feeling of potential redemption. And poor Daft Jamie was so sad that I felt really quite lost as the story ended. The Doctor, a Timelord who so often defies being characterised in his stories as `human' shows a lot more humanity than most, and Evelyn learns another sad lesson about travelling through time.

This is great stuff; definitely a story that rewards repeated listening and one that will be kept and treasured.
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on 19 May 2015
Stepping back to his first BF effort, comedy historian Robert Ross gives us a ghoulish period tale where the Sixth Doctor and Professor Evelyn Smythe land in early 19th century Edinburgh, the time of resurrection men Burke and Hare's crimes. Murder and duplicity are on the order. Except, something seems off about the place, and as it turns out, Burke and Hare are not exactly collaborators...

Despite my less than pleased sentiments on 'Pier Pressure', Ross' first script is still a familiar but much stronger work: what opens as a very traditional historical right out of the early years of Who slowly morphs into something else, and mixed with a sense of morbid foreboding given what the Doctor knows happens to certain characters, the audio play balances chills and occasional laughs rather well, though this a more serious story than his follow up. Everything you'd want, from graveyards, dark tunnels and lonely streets to hawking whores and even a hanging, are present as Ross creates a very frightening and miserable Edinburgh that befits such lurid subject matter. And while the second half does go a little more exposition heavy as it pulls a 'Stones of Blood' on us with what's really going on, at least the plot is always moving forward and the sit downs are less frequents than in 'Pier Pressure'. The only other gripe is that, while questioning the Doctor's morality is interesting and especially so with the more alien Six, his reasoning about medical science and Burke and Hare doesn't make much sense, and just feels like a shoehorned attempt to make the story seem smarter than it actually is.

Beyond that, the expected is here: one of Big Finish's constant strengths is its casting, and this is no slack: sure one could go on about how the always lively Baker and the late great Stables bring their usual wonderful back and forthing that made them one of the best TARDIS teams, but there are two bigger show stealers here: first up being Leslie Philips as the time meddling baddie. Despite his background in comedy, Philips comes off as a commanding and threatening presence, his confrontations with the Doctor feeling very much like two universe-wearied opponents and equals sparring, and he resists the urge to go panto as can sometimes occur with these sorts of villains. The other key figure is a pre-Doctor David Tennant as the loveable but tragic cripple Daft Jamie. He perfectly captures that child like quality while not making Jamie annoying or too much of a caricature, and his ultimate fate only make one the sadder at the Doctor's final decision.

Also as expected is the skill of the tech guys, creating the sounds of a 19th century city, be it the clacking of hooves on cobblestone, the drunken chatter of seedy pubs or the dripping of old sewer tunnels and catacombs, rather well. In closing, 'Medicinal Purposes' is a good start and far stronger than Pier Pressure. and though it basically amounts to an amalgamation of 'Stones of Blood', 'The Time Meddler' and 'Carnival of Monsters' with a Scottish setting, Ross shows us he can write Who and maintain interest throughout the tale. Hardly groundbreaking, but a fun period ride with a legitimately unsettling ending when history must return to its proper course. It may be the right choice, but not the most pleasant one...
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on 17 November 2007
`An interesting moral dilemma'...Medicinal Purposes is one of those historical yarns that Big Finish (and indeed the BBC) does so well. Mysterious medical men, feisty harlots, leering murderers and simple-minded vagrants abound and there is even an appearance by future TV Doctor, David Tennant. The soon-to-be Tenth Doctor is just one of a top-notch cast - Leslie Philips provides a sleazily enigmatic Doctor Knox, receiver of first-class cadavers, whilst Kevin O'Leary and Tom Farrelly excel as `misunderstood' grave-robbers Burke & Hare.
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VINE VOICEon 25 August 2004
This is great fun - how do you re-create the atmosphere of 19th Century London, Sherlock Holmes and Jack The Ripper without the story being seen as a copy of The Talons Of Weng-Chiang? Answer: Set the story in Burke and Hare's Edinburgh! Writer Robert Ross hits just the right note in the setting of this story, and the sound design and acting support this more than adequately. Leslie Phillips is brilliant as the Doctor Knox character, and within a few minutes of his first appearance, all thoughts of silly-ass sub lieutenants dropping their trousers will have vanished. David Tennant gives a terrific performance as Daft Jamie, and one would almost hope that he had been written in as a full-time companion to the Sixth Doctor. Talking of whom, Colin is at his best in this sort of setting; it gives him a chance to show many different facets of his Doctor's personality. Evelyn is similarly well-performed by Maggie Stables, however Ross doesn't seem to write as well for the regular cast as he does for his own versions of the historical characters. Evelyn is a little too sarcastic and ironic at the start of the play, sounding more like she had Peri's lines, and the Doctor shows an amoral streak which veers dangerously close to the end justifying the means. Now we know that the Doctor isn't human, and Colin Baker's version is perhaps even less human than most, but problems arise when the attitude to morality is inconsistent. I would venture that the Doctor in this story isn't just inconsistent with his other appearances, but is also inconsistent within the same story. Apart from this, the story is a delight to listen to and one that I may pop straight back in the CD player and play again!
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on 1 January 2010
This is a tale of two halves. It starts off brilliantly with wonderfully drawn characters and a good sense of atmosphere and mystery. It initially seems to be an informative historical and would have worked excellently as such. Unfortunately it increasingly descends into pseudo-historical meets sci-fi perversion and explanation for events. As this aspect thickens in the second half I lost interest and I was so choked by it about three thirds of the way through that I stopped listening. (BTW David Tennant is great as always in the audio's when not playing the Doctor!)
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on 9 June 2007
"Edinburgh, 1827.

"The infamous body snatchers William Burke and William Hare are at large. The local prostitutes dull their fear with cheap whisky. The graveyard owls are hooting. Business is good.

"When accidental tourists The Doctor and Evelyn Smythe stumble upon one of Britain's most lurid, illuminating chapters in history, a simple case in interest in the work of dedicated man of science Doctor Robert Knox quickly turns sour.

"Just what is that time-bending Scots mist? Whatever it is may put the very fabric of the universe under threat...

"As always."

"Medicinal Purposes", by Robert Ross, is not a particularly popular story in Big Finish fandom, but I suspect that it has attracted a somewhat unfairly poor reputation simply because it proceeds at quite a leisurely pace. The performances are good and the setting very atmospheric.

The story starts out as a straight historical, and adopts something of the pace of the Hartnell historical era, as the Doctor and his companion Evelyn inveigle themselves in with some of the local crowd, including the independent-minded working girl Mary Patterson (Glenna Morrison) and resident simpleton Daft Jamie (an impressively sympathetic turn by David Tennant - no hollow charicatures here). Burke and Hare are clearly up to no good, presided over by the enigmatic Doctor Robert Knox (Leslie Phillips, sounding very much like he does as the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, but still doing it with unquestionable style). Colin Baker and Maggie Stables do a great job as usual in the lead roles.

Unfortunately, the story makes the mistake of introducing a sci-fi element in what might have been better kept as a pure historical story (I won't spoil it for you, but it concern's Knox's true identity and motivations). The sci-fi conceit detracts from what could have been an good character piece, which could have been particularly interesting where the Doctor's pragmatic attitudes towards Burke and Knox's experiments are concerned.

However, although it may drop the ball in the latter stages, and although the story hardly proceeds at a rollicking pace, I still found "Medicinal Purposes" to be a very likeable piece of period "Who" drama, and it does have a very cool cover.
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on 17 June 2011
This is the only Doctor Who story that had me frightened in my own house. This story is dark and frightening. It's one of the best i've seen. I've only listened to two episodes and already I'm hooked to this story. The actors are awesome in this story. David Tennant is the best as Daft Jamie. Other brilliant characters are Mary who have been kept alive by the very historicially correct writing. The story is set in 1827 and you would definaly know this because the people are so accurate.

The story turns sour when we find out Robert Knox is actually a Timelord or a least has a TARDIS that was apperently sold to him. Which is Utter crap Writing.

The Cliffhangers have you hiding behind the sofa for real and you feel when you get into bed that the ghosts of Burke and Hare will come out from under the bed and strangle you in the night. (This is how I felt)

GRANT MCCLUSKEY (grant24678) where a review will follow on completion of the story
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VINE VOICEon 21 November 2004
Medicinal Purposes has the 6th Doctor and Evelyn encountering infamous Scottish murderers and grave robbers Burke and Hare. It's a suitably macabre setting, and the backdrop for an interesting tale of a time traveller vivisecting humans to find a cure for an alien disease. Leslie Philips makes an engaging villain, but unfortunately the interesting vivisection angle gets pushed aside for some boring nonsense about providing grand guignol entertainment for aliens, and the plot gets tied up in time loops leaving Evelyn a virtual spectator. The Doctor is also curiously a big fan of the murderous Burke and Hare, which while being suitably alien goes against the grain of the Doctor's usual morality. An interesting play, with some great central ideas, but ultimately the execution is very uneven, resulting in a fairly average story.
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on 21 October 2012
An excellent adventure - plenty of plot twists and turns. David Tennant has fun in a guest role and Leslie Phillips is a worthy opponent for the Dr.
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