To get the background to this story, you really need to listen to Neverland first. Having an understanding of the way in which Charley and the Doctor are travelling together in the first place also helps to put in context the story which continues from Neverland with the main point of conflict between time and anti-time. I first listened to this about 18 months ago, and in a somewhat stop-start manner while travelling in the car. I found, listening to it this time over three consecutive evenings (one cd per evening) that it hung together better and flowed well, building to a very satisfying conclusion.
The Doctor is not himself and Charley is separated from him by what appears to be the Brigadier as she searches for a way to help the Doctor. Old friends and old companions pop up in new guises as the story moves through the three cd-set. It's only on the third cd that the elements of the story that has long been building start to move in unison towards the conclusion, and that's really not what the listener is expecting.
This is clearly a set-piece written to celebrate Doctor Who's fortieth anniversary, and as such needs to have elements that celebrate that without doubt for the listener. As such, the familiar voices are a nice touch. I was not so excited about the Lewis Carroll "Alice in Wonderland" theme that carries through the story; while it does work, I think this element of the storyline could have been improved upon.
This is not great literature, but it is what it purports to be - a great Doctor Who anniversary celebratory story, which features a whole lot of familiar voices and contexts, and introduces new elements with the anti-time element, and the whole Zagreus concept. The other Doctors really work together well here, and it's just a pity that Tom Baker was not involved as the Fourth Doctor. The writing is generally clever, the familiar and unfamiliar elements are melded well together into a satisfying story. Definitely recommended for a `classic' Doctor Who fan, and definitely repays multiple listenings.
on 7 December 2004
Its really difficult to describe Zagreus. An anniversary story (40th), with about a million guest actors (some playing the roles they did in the series, some not), three discs, and one hell of an epic story. Kudos for not going down the same way as The Five Doctors, but this is a sprawling behemoth that takes everything about Doctor Who and threatens to tear it to shreds. Many times i found myself thinking "no, they can't do that!" before things are fixed moments later. I can't complain about it because it is very very good, (and quite serious) but in comparison to the smaller scale Whopisodes it isn't in my favour. In particular the three disc - three part layout is quite hefty - i much prefer shorter parts, more cliffhangers. That said the two cliffhangers that do occur are excellent. I ended up listening to the final disc in one sitting at 1am in the morning (exam the next day) simply because i was completely hooked. As for the acting...well, Paul McGann shows us again why he was absolutely fantastic in the central role, but India Fisher as Charley really shines. There is some word play between the Doc and Charley which thanks to the acting comes across as somewhat ambiguous. Exactly how do they feel about each other? Will their relationship shatter the hopes and heighten the fears of fans, or are they just...the best friends ever?
The humour, of which i thought there would be close to nil due to the seriousness of the storyline, is spot on. Conrad Westmass' chesire cat is hilarious and Sylvester McCoy is a dream come true.
I spent a year before listening to this wondering who played the voice of Zagreus, expecting a guest actor in much the same way as the previous three dramas, Omega, Davros and Master. When i finally discovered who voices the evil being of anti-time...silly silly me. Should have seen it a mile away.
The Doctor Who universe has taken a beating, but come out smelling of roses. I can only thank Big Finish from the bottom of my heart for not spoiling ANYTHING.
Oh and listen out for a very surprising guest voice.
To celebrate 40 years of Doctor Who, and the 50th Big Finish audio adventure, something big and ambitious was required. A multi-Doctor story is a traditional way of marking anniversaries, but the Big Finish team have decided to play around with the traditional format and deliver a very experimental story that breaks the mould somewhat.
This is an Eighth Doctor story, following the saga of Charlotte Pollard and the repercussions of her continued existence after the Doctor rescued her from certain death on the R101. Following the events of `Neverland', the Doctor and the Tardis have been infected with anti time. Trapped within the Tardis, the Doctor is struggling to fight the infection and regain his own identity, and Charlie is trying to find the Doctor. The Tardis is trying to help both of them, guiding them with familiar and voices from the past.
There are a whole host of ex (and future) companions here, but not all playing the parts that we are familiar with. This also goes for Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and makes for a very interesting story. The highlights are Nicholas Courtney with a warm and comforting performance, and the inclusion of a fan recording of the great Jon Pertwee, his appearance makes this a special event. Paul McGann holds the whole thing together with a strong central performance.
Spread over nearly 4 hours and three discs, the story is quite involved, and very intriguing. Adequate time is given to all the special guests, and the whole thing comes together very nicely in the final scenes as all the strands are tied up and the Doctor and Charlie's fates become clear. The big experiment in the production in the main works very well, and this is indeed a very special celebration of the anniversary. It is, however, very necessary that you listen to a few of the Charlie Pollard/Eighth Doctor storie, especially Stormwarning and Neverland first in order to get backstory.
on 15 June 2004
I've always known of and watched repeats of Doctor Who through my brother who is an avid fan but this is the first thing that really got me hooked. This piece challenges expectations and is a fantastically inventive way to have a multi-doctor, multi-companion story for the anniversary. I have to admit I listened to this before I heard 'Neverland' or many of the Eighth Doctor audios other than the outstanding 'Chimes of Midnight' but the palpable fear at the beginning set the tone for a fantastic story questioning many of the fundamentals of Doctor Who. The familiar voices in wholly different roles was a wonderful facet of the idea that the Doctor, the TARDIS and Charley were all trying to make sense of the chaos around them using what memories they had. The acting of Paul McGann and India Fisher is outstanding and the story stood up to many repeat plays. Well Done Big Finish! This has defiantly got me wanting more.
When I first heard Zagreus, having duly waited 16 months to hear the resolution of the cliff-hanger from Big Finish's second 8th Doctor season, I enjoyed it a lot - but re-listening to it now it's flaws become more obvious.
For a start, lets clear up what Zagreus is not - a celebratory 40th anniversary story. Despite the misleading cover this is emphatically not a team-up of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctor; Davison, Baker & McCoy all appear, but they spend most of their time playing other characters. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but seeing as every other character is played by a returning ex-companion this can be highly distracting (one scene features Colin Baker playing the 6th Doctor playing a vampire, India Fisher playing Charlie playing Rassilon, and Nicholas Courtney playing the TARDIS playing the Brigadier playing a Time Lord.) The hoops the narrative jumps through in order to feature all these old faces is unconvincing, and I can't help but think it would have been a more successful story without this distraction.
Other bad points - at 3 and ¾ hours long this is over-extended by at least an hour, with the majority of the first 2 discs given over to over-padded exposition regarding the divergent universe; an archival appearance by the late Jon Pertwee is a nice anniversary touch, but you can barely make out anything he says; the universe-threatening menace of Zagreus himself turns out to be a virtual red-herring, Paul McGann shouts a bit, throws some books around - and that's it; the central story, while dealing with central parts of Gallifreyan lore, with Rassilon's ordering of the universe and expelling magic and controlling evolution seems to have been lifted wholesale from the book ranges; and having avoided explicit anniversary story tropes for so long the story descends into a barrage of continuity winks at the last ("There should have been another way", "It this death?", etc etc)
Inevitably there are positives too - Nicholas Courtney is superb as the surprisingly convincing TARDIS, and the silky smooth Don Warrington does a good turn as Rassilon, while Sylvester McCoy's Walt Disney clone is fun.
Ultimately though, Zagreus ends up falling between two stools: it's too deliberately obscure to be successful as an anniversary romp, and there's too much distracting flimflam for it to make a really successful 8th Doctor story about Zagreus or the Divergents. Make no mistake - Zagreus is a failure, but it's so over-ambitious that it is at least an interesting failure.
If you've already followed Big Finish's first two 8th Doctor seasons then this is essential listening for its continuation of a cliff-hanger, but if you're looking for a standalone anniversary multi-Doctor story, for gods sake look elsewhere.
on 6 March 2013
Yes, it's too long and you have to pay very close attention in order to follow what's going on, but I love it. You can't beat the McGann audios for very mature themes and absorbing storylines. However, you really should have listened to at least Storm Warning and Neverland before Zagreus in order to get a grip of its labyrinthine plot.
The Doctor has been infected by anti time and is possessed by the entity known as Zagreus. Charley tries to help him and finds herself meeting some very familiar faces known to The Doctor but all are completely different characters. In 2003 the 40th anniversary came and went practically unnoticed by all except for die hard Doctor Who fans unlike the massive hyped recent 50th anniversary celebrations and this and animated adventure Scream Of The Shalka was it as Doctor Who was a forgotten old scifi show until it was brought back and revived 2 years later. Past Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy return to team up with the superb 8th Doctor Paul Mcgann but this is not your traditional anniversary multi Doctor tale. All former Doctors and several former companions play completely new characters in twisted alternate realities though Lalla Ward returns as Romana with Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K9 with Nicholas Courtney as a holographic version of The Brigadier. A lot of continuity references in this and a passing knowledge of the series plus it helps if you have listened to past 8th Doctor audios especially previous audio Neverland which sets up the story so it could be confusing for newcomers. Bizarre, a bit long on 3 discs lasting nearly 4 hours but good fun with terrific performances from the cast and it wraps up the ongoing plot involving Charley and anti time and Zagreus.
on 5 January 2010
I am old (very old, sometimes) enough to know all of the Doctors bar William Hartnell, although I made his acquaintance in the Three Doctors ("so this is what I become; a clown and a dandy"). The echoes of this past are VERY satisfying, and the action is top notch; I listened to this on the way to/from work in the car, and some of the sound effects scared the cr@p out of me, I thought I was on my way to A&E. The pantheon of old faces (...voices...) is wonderful to hear, and the overall arc of the story is brought together in a typically coherent but nevertheless ambiguous climax that leaves one demanding more. This was my first foray into Doctor Who audio discs... where should I have begun? Where do I go next? I feel like a time traveller already..........
on 11 November 2013
This wasn't what I thought, but I still enjoyed it, its a very different format, but still worth getting, it did have some very intresting twists that I didn't see, or should say hear coming. Still glad I got it.
on 7 January 2005
The actors work the socks off but ultimatly a dire, dire, story. Overly long and in need of a darn good pruning, like much of late Big Finish. The old, back stage team is becoming stale. New blood, fresh ideas and a script editor who wasn't necessarily also a BF actor, director, producer, writer would also help. Time to stand back and re-evaluate who your audience is BF, because on this performance you're playing to a diminishing crowd.