This is the hundred and sixty third 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 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.
Following the events of the excellent trilogy opener, Protect and Survive’, this adventure finds Ace, Hex, Lysandra and Sally searching for the Doctor. The ongoing thread of the black and white TARDIS’s is resolved and the presence of Sally and Lysandra explained. The four head back to the time of Beowulf, as the Doctor was studying the story when he vanished. Soon they are tangled up in the legend of Beowulf in two different time periods, two of them at the time of his defeat of Grendel and two of them at the time of his final tale. The authors give a somewhat different explanation for Beowulf’s exploits, and have a little fun with the power of words and spin doctors.
This is a tale with many good and bad points. On the plus side, Beowulf is a great character, and he lives up to the legend. The four companions have well portrayed adn interesting relationships, and the bickering between a jealous Ace and Lysandra is a bonus. On the down side, the exposition of the back story as Lysandra and Sally are introduced is clunky to saythe least, the alien threat surrounding Beowulf isn’t very well done and Garundel, whilst a good character, is totally out of place here and one feels would be better placed in a lighter tale.
A very mixed bag, not easy to get into unless you have been following the Seventh Doctor adventures since Project: Destiny, clunky, but with a great central hero (Beowulf) and some good moments for the four companions. 3 stars.
This is the 163rd release by Big Finish in the main range of Doctor Who audio stories. The story is the second of an interlinked trilogy (following on from `Protect and Survive' and completed in `Gods and Monsters'). Once again, the Doctor is largely absent from the story, and the parts that he does appear in are sometimes retrospective. Instead this story features the companions. Ace and Hex have returned to the Tardis after their adventure in Protect and Survive, but found that there are two people already there. One of them is familiar - Captain Lysandra Aristedes. The other is Private Sally Morgan. Both of these women have been `recruited' by the Doctor to help him in his battle against the Elder Gods. But the Doctor has been careful, up to now, to keep Ace and Hex from knowing about Morgan and Aristedes, and vice versa. Why? What game is the Doctor playing? And where is he?
In an effort to find the Doctor, and to work out what's going on, the Tardis crew must travel to the land of the Danes, where legend meets truth, and reality meets fiction. What is truth, and can the Tardis crew find out what they should be doing, before it's too late for all of them - and the Doctor?
I love the story of Beowulf, and was very excited to hear Matt Fitton's take on the story, aligned with the Doctor and the Tardis crew. He has very cleverly taken the legend of Beowulf and Grendel and re-woven it in such a way that it becomes a seamless mesh of truth and fiction, and you never see the joins. Brilliantly done.
The cast in this story deserve special mention. Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier work together wonderfully as always, along with Sylvester McCoy. Maggie O'Neill as Lysandra Aristedes and Amy Pemberton as Sally Morgan are fantastic, and play their characters to the hilt, yet perfectly matching up with what we have heard of them in previous stories (Lysandra was in `Project Valhalla', `Project Destiny' and Project Nirvana'; Sally Morgan in `House of Blue Fire' and `Project Nirvana'). But note that it wouldn't matter if you had not heard these stories before coming to this trilogy. It's not a deal breaker by any means.
The characters of the Danes and their visitors are brilliantly played: Michael Rouse as Young Beowulf and Richard Bremmer (Voldemort in `Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone') as Old Beowulf are completely in character all the way through. John Banks as Weohstan and James Hayward as Wiglaf are also perfecly cast; they sound like the characters that they play, from beginning to end. The only `off' note I found was Stuart Milligan as Garundel. Stuart Milligan is a very good actor, but I think the part of Garundel needed to have been played differently, and by a different voice. I just could not match up the voice and the way the character was played, to the visual identity of the character he was supposed to be as noted by the other characters through the story. Great stuff; I'm looking forward to the climax of the trilogy in Gods and Monsters.
This is the story that (almost) explains what has been happening to the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex for years. It explains the origin of the black TARDIS and turns the white TARDIS blue. We also cross over into the Forge / alternate companions of Lysandra and Sally Morgan.
Following the excellent Protect and Survive and leading to the remarkable Gods and Monsters this is another good piece by Matt Fitton (also wrote for Counter Measures and has a Companion Chronicle coming up).
This should be on the must listen list for any Doctor Who audio fan