on 3 June 2009
Who are the game players and why are they doomed to spend eternity repeating their actions? Who are the mysterious figures in the attic? Why is The Doctor on his way to an exclusive sanatorium in the Swiss Alps? And where are Ace and Hex?
All these questions and more are thrown up as the latest Doctor Who audio from Big Finish opens in enigmatic and puzzling fashion. Matthew Sweet (Doctor Who: The Year of the Pig, Bernice Summerfield: The Diet of Worms) has crafted a complex and creepy tale set in 1926, where in-between grisly EST sessions, the patients of the intriguingly named Dr Ludo Comfort play endless parlour games such as Snap! And musical chairs. Meanwhile, The Doctor struggles to remember why he is there, and it seems like this time the morally ambiguous Seventh incarnation of the Time Lord is a pawn, rather than the Grandmaster...
With an eerie gramophone musical accompaniment to the games being played; a raft of intriguing characters - from faded Music Hall stand-ups Harry and Herbert Randall, to Lola Luna, cabaret artiste extraordinaire - and the return of one of The Doctor's oldest and deadliest opponents; The Magic Mousetrap is both cosily familiar and utterly disquieting by turns; reminding me at times of the equally brilliant Eighth Doctor story `Chimes of Midnight'. Despite the odd dodgy `Allo Allo' accent, the story is both accessible and highly entertaining, and is one of the best Seventh Doctor audios for a long time.
As a bonus there is the first of a twelve-episode story entitled `The Three Companions Part 1'. It comes in place of the usual interviews, and is a welcome return for former companion of the Second Doctor, Polly Wright, and revolves around an internet chat between her and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT.
Great audio package, and a worthy addition to your CD collection.
on 3 January 2010
This is a everything that 'The Nightmare Fair' isn't. I compare the two because they both feature the same foe (who I shall not name), and unlike 'The Nightmare Fair' this is an outstanding return for him. Whereas 'The Nightmare Fair' is painfully straightforward and far too retro for its own good, this is complex. I genuinely did not have a clue what was going on for the first two episodes. The cliffhangers are good and in the second episode it is revealed that the tables are turned for this scheming Doctor and his companions as unlike them the Doctor is as 'in the dark' as the listener. For all these reasons this holds up well to repeat listenings.
Doctor Who is going from strength to strength on audio at the moment, surpassing the tv series. In fact comparing this story (and those that follow) to the Big Finish 'lost adventures' series of 80s tv scripts shows just how brilliant and inventive Big Finish have become. I particularly love the 7th doctor, Ace & Hex in the majority of their adventures and look forward to the imminent 7th doctor & Klein pairing. (Remember her from Colditz?)
Buy this, then buy 'Enemy of the Daleks' and 'The Angel of Scutari' to complete a wonderful and acclaimed trilogy.
on 21 October 2010
'The Magic Mousetrap' is not quite Matthew Sweet's finest offering for Big Finish (for that honour, check out 'The Year of the Pig' or 'Bernice Summerfield and The Diet of Worms') but it still far outshines 'Divided Loyalties' and 'The Nightmare Fair' as the best Toymaker story since the 1966 original. Indeed, the script, in terms of craft, wit and invention, puts almost all current Doctor Who writers, audio or TV, to shame.
The author makes a point of giving the leads something to do other than just trot out a character they have played before (and Messrs McCoy, Aldred and Olivier seem to relish the opportunity, all three initially appearing in unexpected guises without it being mere change for change's sake). The Doctor is particularly well done, so much more than the continual reinforcing of his Machiavellian side from the later TV stories and the Virgin New Adventures range. The supporting cast are all distinctive and credible but most welcome, and even more characteristic of Mr Sweet, is the application of brains to the process (for example in such an unexpected point of reference as Thomas Mann).
The downside is nothing at all to do with any fault on the author's part, nor the cast's. What is wrong is a very unappealing sound design. Big Finish Productions, having taken it upon themselves to produce audios for all manner of half-forgotten series, have left themselves with the headache of finding enough sound designers to fill the breach. It would appear that there simply aren't enough to go round and 'The Magic Mousetrap' is the worse for it. What should have been a listening joy from start to finish often feels rather flat. The superb script is more than enough to divert you most of the time but, sadly, the overall sound lacks depth and any sense of place.
For all that, we have here another quite exceptional Matthew Sweet offering, just not one that is as polished as those Big Finish were once routinely capable of producing.
start of a run of three audio adventures for the seventh doctor and his companions ace and hex. Casual listeners can pick this one up without needing to have heard anything that came previously.
regular listeners will find the format is slightly different to usual.
there are four episodes spread over two discs. the final three do run slightly longer than the usual twenty five minutes.
there are only one lot of interviews with cast and crew, and they come at the end of disc one. these are some of the best they've ever done, thanks to the writer of the story acting as interviever and being very good at it, and they're well worth a listen.
and on the end of the second disc is a special bonus episode. more on that in a moment.
the main story here finds the doctor arriving at a sanatorium in switzerland in 1926. but he has no memory of who he is or how he got there. and yet he's driven by an insatiable desire to investigate and find out what's going on. this is all very well played by sylvester mccoy.
the residents of the sanatorium are keeping secrets. and someone is up to no good. can the doctor find what's going on? and where are ace and hex?
this story sees the return of an old enemy. and you can't say too much about it without giving spoilers. Mind you there are a lot of clues in the first two episodes and some fans should be able to work it out prior to the big reveal at the end of episode two.
Let's just say this is well worth a listen and one of the best seventh doctor audios, and one that you can come back to when you know the plot and always find something new.
all the supporting cast are very good, creating characters who are eccentrics but never going over the top in their portrayals. The cast do some very good accents, and when the villain is finally revealed their portrayal is quite incredibly sinister. whilst episode three seems overlong early on there are some stunning plot twists in the last five minutes so hang on in there.
this is a very strong and complex script and it really works out well and rewards the listener. an excellent story all in all.
the bonus episode is part one of a twelve part story. the remaining eleven parts will come out one each on the next eleven regular big finish releases. it's called the three companions. It features former companions polly and the brigadier striking up a friendship via e mails, and the story is told by each of them reading the e mail out as they type.
this is very nicely written and played and there's a real sense of missing the doctor from both. but at the same time there are hints of a bigger problem in the world that they will doubtless have to deal with as the story progresses. the third companion of the tale is recent fifth doctor audio companion thomas brewster, who pops up right near the end. and his appearance promises problems for polly and the brig.
a superb four parter and a very enjoyable start to a twelve parter. this is a really good release.
This is the hundred and twentieth 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. There is a welcome guest appearance from Nadim Sawalha as Swapnil Khan. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with original theme music between each, and cliff hanger endings. This is the first of a trilogy of adventures that will bring Hex more to the fore. 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 first disc disc. There is a treat for regular listeners in the form of the first part of a twelve part adventure called `The Three Companions', with a ten minute segment released on the second disc and on each of the eleven subsequent releases.
This is an excellent release. It takes the character of the Seventh Doctor and his manipulating ways and turns them on his head. He arrives amnesiac at a sanatorium in 1920s Switzerland (and as we all know, McCoy can do amnesiac and confused very well by now). He is being manipulated by someone, as some grand game is being played out. But just who is doing the manipulating?And why is he being given such regular electric shocks? The big reveal at the end of episode one is jaw dropping. And the even bigger reveal of the main villain is equally jaw dropping and chilling. I won't spoil it.
It's played out as a grotesque mixture of Agatha Christie and Noel Coward, a dark mystery with a level of wit and intelligence that really makes it shine. It walks the line between humour and darkness superbly, never straying too far into either territory and resulting in a gripping and entertaining two hours of drama. It's a really 5 star production.
The Three Companions promises to be a classic adventure. This first ten minute segment introduces us to a correspondence between Anneke Wills' Polly and Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart in which Polly starts to relate one of her adventures with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Ben. It's especially welcome to hear Courtney as the Brig, and it reminds us of how sadly he missed by the world of Who. A brief note at the end reveals the identity of the third companion, and lets on that there is trouble ahead for Polly and the Brigadier.
All in all a 5 star release.