This is the hundred and fifteenth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Sylvester McCoy as Seven, Sophie Aldred as Ace and Philip Olivier as Hex. This is another of the anthologies of four stories that Big Finish are wont to produce to mark anniversaries, and this marks forty five years since Ian and Barbara first followed the mysterious Susan home to a junkyard and a mysterious blue box. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with 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 each disc.
Each of the episodes is a self contained adventure but linked by the number forty-five featuring prominently in each. The four episodes are:
False Gods - An interesting start to the set, the Doctor Ace and Hex wind up in the presence of the great Howard Carter on an archaeological exploration in Egypt, some years before the dig that would make him famous. The piece ends with a rather dramatic and moving scene, which allows Sylvester McCoy to show just what Seven is all about with a rather fine piece of acting that evokes both rage and sorrow. It's a good story, enhanced byt the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch as Carter.
Order of Simplicity - Probably the weakest story in the set. Seven, Ace and Hex answer a mysterious signal with a code hidden in it. They are soon up to their eyeballs in a gothic mystery full of mad scientists and frightening creatures. It's OK, but not as satisfying as the others on the set.
Casualties Of War - A perfect piece. It's VE day, and Seven, Ace and Hex are in town to track down some alien technology that is being misused. Fans of the Curse of Fenric will enjoy meeting Ace's family again. Hex and the Doctor get some nice moments as the truth of Hex's heritage is explored, and there is a satisfying return of an old foe. It's a piece for long time fans of the series, but perfectly executed and an absolute delight.
The Word Lord - The best episode on the set. Seven, Ace and Hex are in a secret base where an impossible murder has just occurred. They have just 45 minutes to solve it and save the world, but a new foe for the Doctor has other ideas. The concept of the foe is brilliantly realised, and the ending is breathtaking. I loved it.
In all a decent release in which each of the three regulars gets their moment to shine, especially Sophie Aldred who seems to be having a lot of fun. Episode 2 is a bit weak, but apart from that excellent. 4 stars.
on 30 December 2008
Following on from 100, Forty-Five is Big Finish's latest release this time celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Doctor Who. Like 100 this is made up of 4 single part episodes, each by new authors to the Big Finish range. While it's a nice introduction to each of the authors works. I'm hesitant to say that giving a one-part story like this is the best way to do it.
The first episode is False Gods by Mark Morris (recognisable as a writer for the books range). The idea is quite nice, but is brought to a conclusion rather abruptly. It could have filled out a bit more time I expect, unfortunately it only had the one part
The next story is Order of Simplicity by Nick Scovell. It's quite an interesting idea, but the science hangs together rather loosely... nonetheless a nice idea.
Casualties of War is the next episode, possibly the weakest plot of them all. Yet having said that there is some very interesting character development with Ace and Hex - dropping some considerable hints hopefully to be explored later and with a great concluding line.
The Word Lord concludes the release, this is perhaps the strongest albeit most ridiculous story. Set in the near future, the number 45 seems to be everywhere in a top secret diplomatic bunker and a seemingly impossible being is up to no good.
With such a wide cast/authorship this has some of the best interviews I've heard and are well worth listening to. All in all nothing to mark it out, distinctly average.
another audio adventure for sylvester mccoy as the seventh doctor who, with companions ace played by sophie aldred and hex played by philip olivier. the former appeared on tv but the latter was a new character created especially for the audio series a few years back.
this release slightly alters the usual format because it's not one story in four twenty five minute part. it takes the formula used for an earlier fifth doctor story called circular time, and a sixth doctor story called 100, and has four one part stories instead. all of them, by way of celebrating the show being forty five years old this year, use the number forty five by way of inspiration and other things. this isn't quite as arbitrary as it may seem.
the first disc begins with a trailer for the next release in the regular audio range, a sixth doctor story called the raincloud man.
then comes the first story on this release, false gods. this is set in egypt in the early twentieth century, and has the tardis crew meeting howard carter, years before his most famous excavation. the one he's doing here leads the tardis crew and the rest of carter's expedition into a problem involving monsters and time travel.
there's a surprise development in the middle that may seem at first like a deus ex machina, but it turns out to be anything of the sort, and the central crux of the story. this leads to a good character based climax. it's well written and well acted, especially by the actor who plays carter who makes him a very strong character.
the second story, also on disc one, is called order of simplicity, and is best described as a mad scientist story. the tardis crew are drawn to an old house where a rather mad professor and his housekeeper dwell. there are strange machines in the basement - wonderful sound design gives them a noise like crackling electricity, like machines in old horror movies - and actor jon glover playing the mad scientist does make him a very three dimensional character who's anything but a characature. one stumbling block with this one is that whilst the plot is clever, it's really rather complicated containing some detailed and rather clever science, and you need to really have your wits about you at all times to follow it. it will probably benefit from future listenings, though.
the disc concludes with roughly fifteen minutes of interviews with the writers and cast from the first two stories.
onto disc two, and it starts with casualties of war, the third story. this is set on VE day in 1945 and has the tardis crew on the track of an alien device that has fallen into the hands of a petty crook. in addition to finding him, they also run into doctor who continuity, both in the shape of something from the original tv series and earlier audios. both of these things shouldnt prevent people who don't know the continuity from enjoying and understanding the story, though.
this is another well drawn character piece, and the characters and setting are very convincing. it also seems to push one story arc that has been in the background of the seventh doctor audios a little further on. one minor complaint with this one is that it has a grown up actress playing a very young child, and despite her best efforts in the role the age difference was a bit too obvious.
and next on this disc is another story called the word lord. the writer of this one set out to create a foe who could frighten the doctor, and he succeeds, with a rather amoral character who starts off acting not unlike the tenth doctor. but turns out to be a rather different individual. the tardis is in a military base in the future and a murder that has just been committed there leads to the tardis crew coming face to face with this monster. the creature is quite an original creation and well acted, and the effect it has on the doctor is well portrayed. things work out very satisfyingly in the end, though, with once again something that could be a deus ex machina proving not to be the case. it also manages to tie all four stories on this release together in a clever way.
make sure you don't turn the cd off once this episode ends, as something else on the final track needs to be heard.
and the final disc concludes with roughly eighteen minutes worth of further interviews with cast and writers and crew.
not the most exceptional release in this range, but a good and solid and entertaining one, and well worth a listen
on 27 February 2009
Egypt 1902 is the setting for the opening story in this 45th anniversary compilation featuring The Seventh Doctor and his companions Ace and Hex. We are in familiar Doctor Who territory when the travellers meet archaeologist Howard Carter of Tutankhamen fame, several years before he became famous. Carter is in the process of uncovering the secrets of the pyramids; however his student, Jane, is not all that she seems, and Ace finds herself flung into a far-off future where global warming has reached its zenith, and robotic guardians protect the Earth's desolate shell...
Creepy gothic mansions and mad scientists have always made for great Doctor Who; think Ghostlight or The Brain of Morbius. The second of 45's mini-stories: Order of Simplicity is no exception, as The Doctor's search for some stray `psionic' energy sees the TARDIS arrive in just such a place, filled with sinister characters. While Hex nervously explores the house, The Doctor and Ace discover that a virus that destroys the intellect is being manufactured in the house; leaving those infected with an IQ of 45...Moody, atmospheric and tense, the story builds tension nicely, and also has a great twist...
The third story on 45 brings the travellers to London 1945 - and VE Day. Ace is disturbed to find herself back in her old neighbourhood as The Doctor continues to search for the source of the leaking psionic energy. Hex finds solace in the local pub while Ace tries not to jeopardise her own timeline when she again meets her mother, but this time as a small child. Shades of 1989 TV adventure `The Curse of Fenric' abound; the presence of alien technology in post-war Britain alerts The Doctor, and the race is on to find and remove it before a calamity occurs. This is an emotionally resonant story that follows the new series' lead of focusing on the lives of the Doctor's companions and basing the story around them. The Doctor, Ace and Hex make a great team; the subtle undercurrent of sexual tension between Ace and Hex is noticeable but not intrusive, whilst Sylvester McCoy's Machiavellian Timelord is on top form.
The final story is set in an Antarctic bunker in the year 2045; a conference delegate has been murdered and the TARDIS crew are naturally the prime suspects due to their (un)timely arrival. Strangely enough The Doctor's old employers UNIT are again involved, and the time-travellers quickly find themselves at the centre of events. As the situation escalates the TARDIS crew find themselves caught up in a desperate race to avert the destruction of all life, as the deadly `Word Lord' appears on the scene, and begins to annihilate the bunker's inhabitants one by one...
The four stories all stand alone nicely but are loosely linked by the theme of 45. CD extras are the usual interviews with cast and crew, and are as informative and entertaining as ever, with the contribution from the delightful Sophie Aldred being the pick of the bunch.