on 2 November 2002
This was the first online audio production to be broadcast by the BBC, and the first Doctor Who story made in house since 1989. The first episode was webcast as a pilot and proved very popular, generating large numbers of hits for BBCi (then called BBC Online). It was followed a few months later by the rest of the story. If you never heard the original webcast, the plot is concerned with the world-conquering actions of General Tannis, a deliciously evil genius played with camp abandon by John Sessions. Meanwhile Ace, the Doctor's companion from the original TV series played once more by Sophie Aldred, begins a journey led by the ancient Casmus (Leonard Fenton). The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) is despatched to find out who is murdering Time Lords. We are introduced to Stephen Fry's Minister of Chance, who is charged with the task of aiding the rebellion on Santiny, the latest victim of Tannis's invasion plans.
Why is it that even though Io?=ve already heard this story before, Death Comes to Time on CD was still the title I was looking forward to the most since it was announced? At last, after a few delays, here it is. And it's absolutely glorious. Throw away your computer speakers, stick the first CD in your stereo system and crank it up to max. The internet is a wonderful thing, but you really haveno?=t experienced Death Comes to Time until youo?=ve heard it on CD. Gone is the need to click on the next small subsection of a subsection to hear the next part. Gone is the occasionally dreadful sound quality that would randomly corrupt each episode. Hello gorgeous, seamless stereo sound.
There's so much that's worth hearing. Sound is used to describe every scene, not dialogue. The detail in the background effects is stunning, and now you can hear every pinging console, every shot fired during a battle, every drop of rain. The sound mix sets the standard against which all Doctor Who audio drama will be measured. The internet medium did wonders for the awareness and novelty factor of Doctor Who online, but it doesn't do this production justice.
What makes this story so rich is that it's about so much more than the basic plot. It's about power, responsibilities, friendship, consequences and conflict. In short, elements that make good drama. Big things happen in Death Comes to Time and events feel like they matter.
This presentation differs in some ways from the version available online, and even if you listened to the original webcast it's well worth getting hold of the CD. One obvious change is that there are no more irritating divisions, so scenes fade into one another properly, and a greater feeling of flowing events can be experienced. Some scenes have been re-recorded, a few extra lines of dialogue have been dropped in for clarification, and the sound mix rebalanced. Voiceover has been put over the opening and closing theme, which unfortunately sounds rather annoying. The changes areno?=t radical, I was hard pressed to spot all of them, but together they give greater coherence to the whole. Most notably, in the last episode, the scenes featuring Americans have been toned down. They still sit uncomfortably with the rest of the story and the accents continue to sound bad (which is odd considering real American actors have been used to re-record the lines), but there is an improvement. The controversial appearance of an old Doctor Who character in the last episode still bugs me, but I realized that his involvement is actually signposted earlier in the story by Speedwell, a detail I missed the first time I heard it.
As for the cast, its one of the strongest Doctor Who has ever seen. John Sessions is terrific in the role of the evil dictator. Tannis gets some wonderful lines, but everyone gets their fair share. Aldred's Ace is recognizable from the television series, but grows up here in a way that's better handled than in Virgin's New Adventures books series. Sylvester McCoy is a revelation. His Doctor is older, wiser, weighed down by his responsibilities. When he says he's tired, we believe him. Gone is the hamminess that would often plague McCoy's performance in moments that demanded subtlety and quiet power. The Minister is troubled, compassionate and devilishly charming. His ultimate downfall is the pivotal point of the story and his final scene is both powerful and moving. The ever wonderful Stephen Fry plays the role flawlessly. There's even a scene featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head.
The CD comes with some amusing extras. There are the requisite outtakes, some of which are laugh out loud funny, especially John Sessions asking if his last line was camp enough, and Anthony Stewart Head 's plea to be rescued. Funnier still is John Humphries' interview'with General Tannis. There's also an interview with Sylvester McCoy and Michael Hanlon, science writer for the Daily Mail. It's worth listening to just to hear Sylvester McCoy defend both Doctor Who and the internet.
Death Comes to Time is one of the most controversial releases in the show's history, but also one of the best, most dramatic and most powerful. The CD presents this story in the way it was meant to be heard. This is truly Doctor Who for the new millennium.
on 13 September 2003
Outwardly, this story is utterly superb. Crystal clear sound effects, akin to those in a film, and superbly powerfull, emotive performances abound.
The trouble is, the story tries to hard to be a revolutionary epic and in so doing slightly mangles the charectar of the Doctor.
If you don't want to know what happens, avert your eyes, etc...
The Doctor, it emerges, is no longer a half-human Time Lord, but rather a "God of the Fourth," who has the power to manipulate time and space simply by saying the right words.
Basically, the code of the Doctor's people forbids using these powers to meddle in affairs for better or for worse; to let the course run naturally.
While this does raise some intriguing questions of ominipitence (Is it unethical for someone to use Immense Powers to help people if using said Powers will cause havoc?), it makes an unnecessary alteration to the charectar of the Doctor.
The revalation that he has had the ability to use these powers all these years, but has been forced by a strict and momumental code not ties in well with the series, and one can't help be utterly immpressed when McCoy's voice suddenly echoes, and he speaks in that ethereal, calm tone.
But what makes the charectar-alteration doubly sad for me is that Sylvester McCoy is my favourite Doctor (I've actually told him that myself,) and he gives a truly majestic performance.
But the revalation that the Doctor was never a child, and has in fact been a demi-god all his lives was frankly to much for me.
Robert Perry and Mike Tucker are two brilliant authors who have written some gripping Seventh Doctor novels, and in their most recent, "Loving the Alien," they tied up all the loose ends by blaming their slight conflict with the Virgin Doctor Who books on Parallel Universe, which I found wonderfull. Robert Perry said in an interview that he preffered to believe "Silver Nemesis" never happened.
I know this may sound a bit obbsesive, but I hope this turns out to be set in a parallel universe, too.
on 7 April 2003
A strangely epic attempt to "re-imagine" huge expanses of Doctor Who mythology and continuity, "Death Comes To Time" isn't really bad, just a bit puzzling. Producer Dan Freedman has stated on numerous occasions that he felt it was necessary to re-invent the series in order to give it a shot at eturning to television, but...wow. Who knew he'd reinvent it quite so much? UNIT with space battleships? Ace becoming a Time Lord? And then, there's the death of the Doctor himself. Not a regeneration (though to a certain extent things are left a bit vague), but a fatal blow. I hate to spoil so major a story development, but it's necessary to reveal that point - if not its context or its place in the plot - in order to really discuss why Death Comes To Time resulted in a fan backlash fierce enough to make Freedman withdraw his bid to follow the story up on TV.
"Death Comes To Time" is an experiment with inconclusive results. The BBC trumpeted the return of Doctor Who in an audio/online medium with an unavoidable tidal wave of publicity - even though Big Finish Productions had already brought the series back in that medium two years earlier. A bold re-imagining of the story served to alienate and baffle what may well be the most continuity-obsessed body of fandom in the world. And yet at the same time, the production values were great, the cast was excellent, and the bold re-imagining was, at the very least, intriguing if not "official." But by the time the third disc spins down, I can understand why the reins were handed over to Big Finish for the next BBC online audio project. Producer Dan Freedman took a bum rap for "Death Comes To Time," and while he earned it in some ways for toying so drastically with the fundamental tenets of the series, he also gave us an interesting story which sparked what I'll charitably call a lively dialogue about what form the fans would accept for the return of Doctor Who.
on 8 December 2003
I wasn't sure what to expect from this C.D. and was utterly unprepared for how the tale drew me in.
I found the story captivating. The background music enhanced the mood, and the actors played their parts with such obvious enjoyment that I couldn't bear it to end!
The baddie was gloriously over-the-top, the Doctors character was well-captured, and the guest voices, including Stephen Fry and Anthony Head, were selected on pure suitability. There were even cameo's from old favourites.
This C.D. made me laugh, fret and, I'm ashamed to admit, scream out loud when I was startled in the middle of a particularly edge-of-my-seat part.
I love all formats of Dr Who and I'm pleased to report that this produced-for-internet story lived up to the television show.
Buy it. Listen to it. Love it.
on 18 July 2013
In 2003, aged sixteen, I bought the CD release of Death Comes to Time. For the past few years, I'd been an intermittent reader of Doctor Who Magazine, and had glimpsed exciting talk of some sort of online animation production, with wonderfully slick illustrations, featuring the Seventh Doctor, whose tenure was closest to my experience of television, having been born in 1987. Death Comes to Time felt like a direct continuation of what when I was born had been new.In 2002, in hospital, I saw an advert on BBC2 for the new webcast. I hadn't yet sampled the Big Finish audio productions. Talk of new, "broadcast" Doctor Who was exciting stuff. Later, I read of what a lavish production this was.
The artwork in the introductory inlay booklet is gorgeous; bright, slickly detailed, and with a touch of solemnity. Accompanying it are detailed notes of the energetically ambitious lore surrounding this new interpretation. Listening to the CD, the acting, sound effects and music conveyed something admirably ambitious; a believably detailed intergalactic setting, with an interpretation of the Time Lords which was both intriguing science fiction, and had a poetic, divine quality, as I think reviews elsewhere may have observed. Able to manipulate the course of time with sheer force of will but forced, most of the time, to subdue this, is an enthrallingly ambitious interpretation of the concept of the Time Lords, and a sombre, satisfying and thought-provoking development of the Doctor. I was at first uncomfortable with the Doctor's burden of omnipotence. Perhaps it doesn't entirely gel with the general televised depictions of the character, but on its own terms, I absolutely love this interpretation.
on 4 November 2002
Writing a review of "Death Comes to Time" (or DCtT as it's more widely known among Dr Who fans on the internet), is something of a mammoth task. There is a lot to take in during these five new episodes, the first of which was originally recorded for BBC Radio Four.
Although the head of the station happily commissioned the pilot, his successor wasn't so keen on it and chose not to air it. Soon afterwards DCtT found a home on the internet and so it became the BBC's first drama to be shown as a web-cast! And what a pity BBC Radio Four can't air something with space ships, and lots of other things that make all sorts of incredible futuristic noises ... because what they really missed out on was a beautiful tale about love, loss and ultimately death.
According to some fans DCtT had a lot of disregard for the established events in the original series even though unlike in the 1996 TV movie, the Doctor hasn't become a half-human, girl snogger.
Rather than selling out to modern audience's expectations, DCtT is more faithful to the spirit of the TV show of old. Think of some of the most terrifying, blood curdling Tom Baker antics but at the same time be prepared to embark on a new style of story telling unlike the original series. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The Doctor now lives in a universe which (heaven forbid) is occupied by others like him, who are as important to the story and to the Doctor's life as any corridor, quarry or screaming assistant!
If you like Buffy for the mixture of characters and the humour and drama that comes from their different ways of looking at things and how the drama ultimately revolves around their lives on a more personal note, then you'll like this. It's still very much Doctor Who but for once we're allowed to go a little deeper and feel what the characters feel and see things from all their different points of view. And it is very clever indeed. Like Buffy, the narrative is well structured as you are kept guessing on certain aspects of what's going on, right up until the end. And there is plenty left to think about (and feel) after it has finished.
DCtT is more evocative any of the original TV series although I felt some scenes and performances could have been slightly more underplayed. Overall, one is left feeling that there is potential for going even deeper still. Lets hope they make some more SOON!
If you're prepared to have an open mind and adjust your expectations you will no doubt be amused, horrified, delighted and saddened by this incredibly endearing new story.
on 18 May 2011
As previous reviewers have said, this story basically tramples all over the history of Doctor Who.
The Time Lords are turned into a kind of religious group, complete with hymns and priests, with the Doctor basically acting as their version of Christ. The idea that anyone can be trained to be a Time Lord is also pretty laughable. The plot follows the age old formula of an ultimate bad guy hell-bent on taking over the universe, and also has many similarities with Star Wars, some of which are obviously deliberate parody but others seem to be integral to the plot. Its pretty baffling that such an amazing cast was gathered when this was the best script available. It is also criminal that many of the stars who make up the cast are used so little (Anthony Head in particular hardly gets a look in). The final nail in the coffin is the Brigadier with his own space ship, totally out of character and unnecessary.
Almost all of this can be forgiven, however, by the inclusion of an absolute gem on the last disc. An interview from the Today Programme is included, broadcast on the release of the original webcast and featuring John Humphrys, Sylvester McCoy and some bloke from the Daily Mail. It is absolutely hilarious and shows just how much contempt some people had for both the internet and Doctor Who just 10 years ago! Apparently Doctor Who should never be brought back because it would never be appreciated by the "modern audience" (whatever that is). Also, nothing useful can be done with the internet and nobody will ever want to watch videos on it. They don't even know how to read out the web address, it really is fantastic!
on 6 March 2006
I finally got around to adding this to my collection of DW audio cd's a few weeks ago. I didn't read any of the reviews before but probably would have bought it anyway...
It's great to listen to a story that's been produced specifically for radio / audio and not a TV recording with narration. It's well-produced, the cast are great - John Sessions is clearly having a great time hamming it up outrageously as the badguy - and, sadly that's about as positive as I can be.
The story, after a good start, turns out to be disappointingly weak and the quasi-religious / mythological overtones grate horribly with everything I've ever known about the "Whoniverse". Overall I found myself annoyed by this CD - a fantastic opportunity for the BBC to issue a brand new DW adventure and continue the story outside of the TV series has been wasted. As stated elsewhere, if you want new audio stories stick with the Big Finish Cd's!
on 24 September 2009
I loved the doctors previously untold ability to affect another timelord with power of his voice. Sylvester McCoy always comes across as having hidden talents, by giving me the feeling as though there is something dark and dangerous about the timelords in general, that is never allowed to be released, due to their rules and codes which have always been expressed.
All episodes show the chances, wit, courage, tenacity and knowledge, that the doctors use in their adventures. None of them show better the true dangers the timelords can incurr when they really meddle. I believe this story highlights, why the rules of the timelords are so important. This story makes the timelords feel like the real superpowers they are, instead of weak previous references and scenes from the tv series of highly dressed, squabbling politicians, who focus constantly on the rituals of their own past.
on 11 August 2008
This seems to polarise opinion as much as Marmite! I really recommned you just listen to it for yourself and make up your own mind. That's what I did and I don't regret it.
I enjoyed DCTT much more than a lot of Big Finish releases. Yes it is quite different in many ways and it has a grand scale to it accentuated by the more classical soundtrack, but it also retains so much of the flavour of Doctor Who. Sylvester MCoy and Sophie Aldred are on top form. The production is crystal clear and fantastic. The cast is full of stars, also on great form; clearly everyone put a lot into this and it shows.