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This is the fifty second release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Paul McGann as Eight and India Fisher as Charley Pollard. It is the first in a season of four linked Eighth Doctor stories that follow directly from the events of Zagreus. 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 producers of the Big Finish range seem to have taken the decision to do something new and experimental with the Eighth Doctor. His stories have morphed over time from straight adventures as we know them into tales that are a bit more challenging. The mind bending Zagreus marked the full transformation. At the end of that epic, the Doctor and Charley voluntarily departed for the divergent universe, to remove the possibility of infecting our universe with anti-time. This is the story of the consequences of their actions.

Cleverly playing with perceptions and senses, the story explores how the relationship between Eight and Charley has been irrevocably changed by their actions. It's a character study that goes into what it means to be a companion of the Doctor, why he has companions and why they want to travel with him. It also starts to explore the possibilities of this new universe, with different laws and properties to our own.

It's a bit of a masterpiece. OK, so occasionally it strays into the overly sentimental, and the L word (you know, that 4 letter one that blokes are traditionally uncomfortable with) comes up a few times too often, but that can be forgiven. It works so beautifully to take you to places you never imagined you would see in the Whoniverse. The script is excellent, but it's the performances that really make it. McGann portrays the change in Eight's character from the happy-go-lucky carefree adventurer to the weary, wary man who has endured too much to a T. There is now a feeling of deep pain behind his mask, and McGann just makes you feel sympathy for this hero who has sacrificed so much. And India Fisher s usual excels as Charley, portraying her confusion, hurt, and strength of character.

It's a perfect little duet, taking us to unexpected places and sensitively analysing relationships. It's also got a really good adventure at it's heart. In all 5 stars for this excellent effort.
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on 3 October 2014
My favourite Doctor Who story of all time did not appear on television but was an Eighth Doctor story for Big Finish audios. After pulling off ‘Zagreus’, their most complex story with the largest cast yet, Big Finish stripped it all back for the character-piece to end all character-pieces. The Doctor has banished himself to another universe, intending never to return. His one solace is the knowledge that he has done this to save his companion Charley, that she is safe and will live a full and happy life. The only problem is Charley has snuck aboard the TARDIS. What follows is one of the scariest and most emotional stories I have ever consumed. The performances are sublime, to the point that if I met either of these actors I would gush about this audio drama despite having listened to many others starring Eight and Charley. The sound design feels alive. The script is water-tight; perfect for an audio-only medium and flawless in its dissection of both characters, the very nature of being The Doctor’s companion, death, sacrifice and love. The only downside (and it isn’t really a downside) is that this almost certainly works a lot better if you have listened to some of the Eighth Doctor’s audios leading up to this; ‘Storm Warning’, ‘Neverland’ and ‘Zagreus’ itself, with the recommended addition of ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ – another audio which almost made this list.
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on 4 September 2015
Of all the Big Finish stories I have heard Rob Shearman’s have been Unique, inventive and some of the darkest. A couple haven’t really connected with me like ‘The Maltese Penguin’ and ‘My Own Private Wolfgang’ but even then they have been well written. Rob also seems to have a knack for adding strong elements of the surreal and humour without being detrimental to the tone. In fact the tonal transformation of ‘The Holy Terror’ as you listen to it makes it one of the most impressive feats of writing I have heard so far in the Big Finish range.

‘Scherzo’ is an enigmatic ghost of a story. It takes the mystery of ‘The Mind Robber’ and the menace of ‘The Edge of Destruction’ and merges them together with superlative style. It’s eerie, emotive and surreal. The soundscape takes a less is more approach which is absolutely right for this story. Paul McGann delivers every line with the weight it deserves and really embraces the spirit of the script. The Charley is the perfect foil and the interplay between them is sublime, though Charley is at times clingy. It’s certainly more character driven than previous offerings from the same writer, for a large part it’s just the Doctor and Charley scrabbling around in the brightness sans TARDIS.

Declarations of love and cannibalism aren’t elements I would expect to follow each other as already noted Shearman excels at blending opposing elements into a narrative. For example to save the day they have to defeat their child. Winning tainted with a strange sense of sadness. As much as I like this story I think it drags a little in the middle and the whole alternate reality thing was done in ‘The Holy Terror'. That being said it’s a small price to pay for a story that breaks the mould not just of storytelling but perhaps the characters themselves.
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VINE VOICEon 16 November 2014
Following the events of 40th Anniversary audio Zagreus, the 8th Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped in a strange alternate universe. This audio is probably best suited for audio more than tv. Just The Doctor and Charley as they encounter a strange sound creature in a strange new universe and no other cast members at all feeling like a stage play more than anything else. This type of storyline hasn't been attempted since the early Hartnell tv 2 part episode Edge Of Destruction and not an ideal starting point for new listeners, it assumes you know the backstory for previous audios and can keep up with what could be quite frankly the most bizarre Doctor Who story ever starting off the 3rd series of 8th Doctor adventures.
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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2003
After I'd listened to Scherzo, the first story in a new season of Eighth Doctor audio adventures, I reached for Google and found that in Italian it literally translates as 'joke' and that it's the third part of various musical forms such as symphonies, string quartets and sonatas. So the joke is that it's named after music but it doesn't feature any at all. So it's a very clever title - but then it's a very clever work.
If you really want to demonstrate to someone how far Doctor Who has traveled since the TV Movie get them to sit down and listen to this. Imagine a story in which everything is stripped to the bare minimum. There is The Doctor (Paul McGann), a companion, in this case Charlie Pollard (India Fisher), a mystery to investigate in a bare landscape and that's it. Without giving away too many secrets (and half the fun is discovering those secrets) there are no other real characters. This isn't a monster adventure, or a 'historical'. The only arch enemy is perception itself and the inherent tension is in whether the travelers decide between themselves if they should live or die.
This is a Who adventure set in The Theatre of the Absurd, as difficult to pin down as Samuel Beckett, the characters as adrift as Vladimir and Estragon standing under that tree in Waiting for Godot. Nowhere to go, no end in sight. If this had been made for television (which is impossible since it wouldn't work on television, or in a book for that matter) it would have to be on late night BBC Four not teatime BBC One. The concepts and ideas on display are utterly terrifying, magnifying how hopeless our short lives are really is when faced with the passage of time, or what can pass for time -- sometimes.
The writer of the piece, Robert Shearman is an award winning playwright turning his keyboard to his love affair with a timelord (not counting his wife, who according to the inlay notes let him work on the play while they were on their honeymoon). None of his previous works have been what you would call traditional. In Chimes at Midnight (voted best audio drama of all time in a recent anniversary poll) The Doctor had to investigate why the same figures in a murder mystery kept dying over and over again. Another work Deadline featured Derek Jacobi as a ex-writer for Juliet Bravo with delusions of traveling the universe in a police box with his granddaughter and her school teachers based on a treatment for a tv show he never managed to get off the ground. Scherzo fits perfectly into this ouvre as Shearman again reduces the concept of the show to it's bare bones, stretches and manipulates them but still produces something which is both recognizable and alien at the same time.
The direction falls to the multi-talented Gary Russell, the overall series producer. It's his bravery which led to this, the most evocative adventure of them all. He asked the writer to create a two hander which would tie up some of the loose ends from premise the shattering doublebill Neverland and Zagreus. I can only imagine how he felt when Scherzo landed on his desk. My first thought would have been 'How the hell do I direct this? but direct he does, realizing that the only way the listener is going to understand the void which the characters have been dropped into is to have the experience replicated for them too as much as possible.
Without the usual props of supporting characters to bounce off McGann and Fisher again demonstrate the heartbreaking chemistry we've seen between them time and again. Recent events have made The Doctor a much darker character - if this had pictures you could imagine the light in his eyes once so bright, dimmed slightly. The characters are coming to terms with words spoken, and we are right on Fisher's shoulder pleading with our friend to be just as he was, the man so willing to pretend to be a private eye and talk Orson Wells into stopping an alien invasion or take Romana on one final trip to Oxford to find out what really happened in 1979. It's her performance which helps us adjust to this new version of the character, as McGann's interpretation gains layers of hurt and pain which may take years to sort out. It's a tragedy that their work here is only going to be heard by a relatively small audience.
When Doctor Who returns (and how odd to be able to say that) it won't look or sound anything like this. Which isn't to say it won't be challenging and with Russell T Davies at the controls it won't be boring either. But to garner an audience it will have to be fairly traditional, mostly offering the frights that people remember from all those years ago, hiding behind a collective sofa of nostalgia. Scherzo is for a different audience, the kind who'll go and see the Japanimation import Spirited Away and talk about it for hours afterwards. It's about ideas, expectations and the fragility of who we are and next to a Cyberman I'll take those kinds of scares every time.
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on 27 December 2014
Listened to this many times. Totally gripping.
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2004
Following on from the anniversary story Zagreus Scherzo, the first story in Big Finish's 3rd 8th Doctor season is another story to mark up as an interesting failure. Where Zagreus went overboard, throwing everything including the kitchen-sink into it's 3 and ¾ hour running time, Scherzo is decidedly minimalist, featuring no actors beyond Paul McGann and India Fisher, and a very slight plot (Doctor and Charlie arrive in the Divergent Universe, lose the TARDIS, accidentally create a creature of sound, and compete in an evolutionary race against it). In fact, this must rank as one of the shortest stories ever to be extended to two discs - at around 90 minutes running time it really should have had some padding trimmed (plus the extremely irritating episode breaks, which are intrusive as there are no dramatic cliff-hanger moments) and released as a one disc story. Robert Shearman is without a doubt the best writer in the Big Finish range, and there is still some excellent material in Scherzo, but compared to previous triumphs The Holy Terror, The Chimes of Midnight and Jubilee this falls somewhat flat. The play isn't helped by the addition of a sickly Doctor & Charlie love angle, which robs the character of the Doctor of his individuality and makes him like every other hero. Scherzo is a brave experiment, and has some flashes of genius, but it's also a fairly dull story.
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