This is the hundred and fifty fifth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Paul McGann as Eight and Julie Cox as Mary Shelly. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 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.
This is the third in a trilogy of adventures that teams the Eighth Doctor with autheress and adventuress Mary Shelly. You do not need to have listened to any of the previous outings to get into this story. The Doctor and Mary land on what should be a peaceful planet, only to find some very strange tings going on. A city state has been totally destroyed, and there is an army of skeletons on the march. The pair have to walk along some dark paths until the truth is brought out and the situation resolved.
This is another high octane and generally fun adventure, with a witty script that delivers some great lines and situations for Eight and his companion. Paul McGann plays it with a feverish energy, really bringing out the tiggerish side of his Doctor’s personality. With its blend of horror and humour it almost harks back to the Robert Holmes glory days of the show. It’s a great blend. Personally I loved this release and hope that there will be more Eighth Doctor/ Mary releases soon, though a glance through the release schedules up to mid 2014 suggest I will be disappointed for some time to come. It was a cracking trilogy, a real triumph for the Big Finish team. 5 stars.
on 10 October 2015
Written by Jason Arnopp and directed by Barnaby Edwards ‘Army of Death’ is the third story in the 2011 Eighth Doctor audio trilogy, and was recorded on 7 and 8 April 2011. The trilogy started with ‘The Witch from the Well’ and was followed by ‘The Silver Turk’. The Doctor and Mary Shelly land on the frontier world of Draxine where there has been an assassination. The dead are rising from their graves. There are utterances of supernatural forces at play.
The soundscape is nuanced, and modern sounding, but doesn’t particularly pull you in. The Robot voices lack sophistication sounding silly and unconvincing. The guitar element of the music would sound more at home in a Western, and seems to chop and change between that and something more pan pipe based. The Modulation applied to Harmon’s voice makes him sound like Arcturus from ‘The Curse of Peladon’, and the Bone Lord sounds like Borussa from ‘The Five Doctors’.
Julie Cox who, plays Mary Shelly, is a fine actress and was superb in the two preceding adventures but the character just seems to get shunted into the back ground most of the time. Mary has also started to develop a crush on the Doctor which doesn’t seem to add anything to the narrative other than Mary putting the Doctor on a pedestal and ultimately feeling disappointed and leaving. Watch out for the scene after the credits of the final episode. The Bone Lord is a rather pantomime villain that makes the Master look profound. McGann gives a lively performance which is nice as sometimes he just sounds too laid back. Shame the story couldn’t match his enthusiasm.
There are a lot of elements that don’t quite gel for me. The effects are unsophisticated and average, but the music sits on top of the action rather than feel a part of it, the humour is glib and it’s also rather tropey with corrupt and incompetent officials. The Doctor gets arrested, and split up from Mary Shelly. There are Fantasy elements thrown in with the SF elements, the flying robots, hover cars and laser guns shooting at walking skeletons. Of course, there is a pseudo-scientific reason for the walking dead and powers of darkness which means we are treated to some techno-babble to go with it. The dialogue is another weak point. Harmon going on about Powers of Darkness and shattering bones are unbelievably two dimensional. I know villains aren’t always the most nuanced of character, but it’s not just him, his dialogue is just the easiest to pick out: “I shall shatter this force field then I shall shatter you, Bone by Bone!”
I always find the political intrigue of an alien society elements of a narrative quite uninteresting. This story bears similarities to ‘Creature from the Pit’ and the TV Peladon stories all of which I quite like. You don’t need to have heard the other trilogy stories to appreciate any one in isolation, but hearing ‘Mary’s Story’, the final story on the short story compilation ‘Company of Friends’ might help. It’s easy to find negatives with this production because the execution is lacking, but this is actually more middle of the road than anything. Thankfully it’s kept quite short at one and a half hours.
on 15 August 2012
As much as I like Paul McGann's portrayal of the eighth incarnation of The Doctor, I really don't think he has been served well in terms of stories his Doctor has appeared in. This audio drama begins well but soon tails off into disjointed confusion, and left me uncaring as to the outcome - not something the Big Finish monthly DW releases usually do.