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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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This is the ninety seventh release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Colin Baker as Six and Bonnie Langford as Mel. There are two stories here, the first three episodes are an adventure called The Wishing Beast, the fourth episode a one part story called The Vanity Box, which has a direct r3elationship to the preceding adventure. Episodes are roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with original theme music between each, and cliff hanger endings within the three parter. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes. There are also some interviews with cast and crew at the end of the both the first and second discs.

The Wishing Beast is a middling story with a great concept and set up, but doesn't quite manage to live up to it. Six and Mel are brought to a mysterious asteroid by a distress call. There they are met by two mysterious old ladies who live alone together in a house in the woods. The haunted woods. The companions are promised that in the morning they will be given their dearest wish by the mysterious wishing beast. But of course not all is as it seems...

This has a dark and interesting set up, and in the two sisters two very well realised characters. The concept of layers of life being stripped away to leave ghosts is a fascinating one. But the scriptwriter seems to have forgotten about the need for a good story to hang these on, and the resolution is a bit of a damp squib (literally, with a leap and a bound he was free). Three stars for this story.

The single parter, The Vanity Box, is far superior. It has a real sense of fun, of time and place. It's worth it just for the image of old Sixie dragged up as an old Northern woman, a part that Baker pulls off with aplomb. It's a great little story that links closely to the preceding adventure. Personally I think it has more legs, and could have been made into a three parter whereas the Wishing Beast might have worked better as a single parter.

4 stars in all for this release.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 15 September 2015
This is the 97th cd set in the Big Finish Main Release range. This is a relatively unusual release, in that it contains a 3-part story on the first cd and the first half of the second cd. The remaining half of the second cd contains a 1-part story, which is itself part of an overall story thread.

In the three-part story, The Wishing Beast, The Sixth Doctor and Mel hear a signal and trace it to what appears to be its origin. While they wonder what’s happening, they receive a broadcast from the planet below – two elderly ladies, who say how delighted they are to have visitors, and ask them to land and come and visit with them. The Doctor and Mel decide to accept the invitation, but on landing in the forest a little distance from the ladies’ home, they are spooked by the atmosphere; and is there something following them?

This is a really evocative story; it has the elements of a fairy-tale, and feels so familiar in many of its elements. But it has twists that you wouldn’t expect, as well as humour, and is really lifted above what could be fairly standard fare by the talents of the cast. Colin Baker plays the Sixth Doctor with great compassion and loyalty, and Bonnie Langford’s characterisation of Mel grows in strength and depth, as Mel is now a strong independent and fiercely loyal friend and companion to the Doctor. Jean Marsh and Geraldine Newman are utterly brilliant as the two sisters, Maria and Eliza. Their characters are pivotal to the success of the whole story, and they play their parts with relish. Both very different, yet both characters seem to bring undertones to their words that really chill as the story unfolds. A really good three-part story.

The one-part story which concludes the two cds is The Vanity Box. This is the third part in the four-part virus thread stories which began on the BF Main Range #94 I.D./Urgent Calls, continued on #95 Exotrons / Urban Myths, and concludes #102 The Mind’s Eye / Mission of the Viryans. In this story, the Doctor and Mel have landed in 1965 Salford, where they find strange goings-on at a local beauty parlour. This story is very clever (you will see why when you hear it), but is also delightfully funny, as it has touches of something very familiar to most of us in its atmosphere and characters (again, no spoilers). This tale will delight, and will have you laughing out loud in one part where the Doctor tries to find out exactly what’s going on, by going undercover.
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Big finish do it again.

When first listening to the story I was hit by the old `Oh no the old rewrite of a fairy story' or oh no another rehash storyline' type of thought but I'm delighted to say the story really picks up and you're left with a very satisfying 3 parter story couple with an excellent 1 parter `The Vanity Box'

Story spoilers apart the two are linked and that is a stroke of genius on the author Paul Magrs part. This is an intelligent use of the `time' aspect of Dr Who.
Think of the TV story the Ark with the Monoids and your on the right track or should that be timeline?

The story has a great cast, just what we expect from Big Finish BUT I suggest you do not play the extras on the first CD before you listen to the second because there is a big story spoiler on there for you.
Listen to the first 2 parts on CD one then play part 3 on CD2 followed by the Vanity Box. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
In the Wishing Beast Jean Marsh, Geraldine Newman and Toby Longworth provide excellent support to the story.
The story is set on a distant asteroid and the occupants are castaways...
BUT I could see that the sisters were up to no good from the start and I've no idea why the good Doctor and Mel didn't just tie the sisters up and force the confession out of the two old ladies... but that would be cheating wouldn't it dear readers?

In the second and to my mind superior of the stories it is set in Salford in the mid 1960s.
Now this setting, the accents of the actresses really seems to set some people laughing- Southerners??
But think of Coronation Street when it started and you have an idea of the setting.. backstreets, pubs with Snugs and `Hairdressing Salons al Madam Lulu etc!!
Here I should mention the brilliance of Toby Longworth who plays Monsieur Coffure all cod French and slipping into broad Mancunian so well it really seals an excellent little play within a play off like a Ginger Biscuit to a cup of tea.
Add this with the good doctor dragged up and you have an excellent CD.

The extras are really good too just don't play them until you've listened to the plays.
Recommended?

Yes!
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on 16 September 2007
This, the third Big Finish Doctor Who release to feature a main three-part and an extra, one-part story, is an imaginative and enjoyable story from Paul Magrs; a veritable 'Who' veteran with a host of novels and audio plays to his credit. He has also written 'Sick Building' for the new range of original novels featuring The Tenth Doctor and Martha.
Magrs' (pronounced 'Mars') story opens with The Sixth Doctor and Mel receiving a cry for help on the TARDIS scanner from two, seemingly frail and vulnerable old ladies. They are then drawn into a mystery involving a host of phantoms, the eponymous 'Beast' and a deadly vacuum cleaner!
After an admittedly 'slightly clunky' start the story beds down and we are treated to what has now become an excellent double-act on audio. Mel is her usual glib and sparky self but The Doctor is in somewhat subdued form with none of his usual brashness and an almost humble demeanour. This works well here although I would hope that he is more true to form next time around.
Jean Marsh and Toby Longworth provide excellent support and the eerie tone is sustained throughout.
The extra mini-adventure, 'The Vanity Box' is a humorous Earth-bound adventure that sees The Doctor and his companion embroiled in the machinations of a previous adversary...an excellent set all-round, with only a slight silliness and the wooden dialogue at the beginning preventing me from awarding the full five stars.
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2008
In the 3-part 'The Wishing Beast' the 6th Doctor and Mel find themselves battling a pair of witch-like sisters and their hideously mutated brother. A pleasantly spooky fairy tale style story enlivened by some moments of humour (including a ghost-destroying vacuum cleaner), this is brisk, enjoyable stuff, and only slightly let down by the rather cheesy ending.

1-part story 'The Vanity Box' makes a lovely coda, as this linked tale finds the 6th Doctor and Mel encountering a hairdresser with a peculiar talent for making his clients look younger. Much more comedic in tone than the main story, boasting thick Mancunian accents and the 6th Doctor in drag, this is fabulous stuff.

All in all two enjoyable interlinked tales, and one of the more successful of Big Finish's experiments in the double story package.
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on 4 September 2007
A doctor who story with a real fairytale feel. Yes, that is this tales definition. Does it suffer because of it? Well, in my opinion not at all. For a start the tale is creepy, with witches and old woods and ghosts. Scary...and the wishing beast itself is a believable creature well voiced by Toby Longworth. Colin Baker is as usual strong as the Doctor and Bonnie is great as Mel. Jean Marsh is brilliant in her role, she always gives a really creepy performance in everything Ive seen her appear in, and shes just as good on audio. And the Vanity Box is a real comedic treat. its funny and yet isnt drawn out or stupid. its just great Doctor Who! So, yet another polished production from Big finish actually....
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on 5 August 2007
There's no reason why Dr Who can't encompass fairy tales into its myth but this isn't the way to do it. This is a story about witches that is too enamoured of its own cleverness to realise that the story is as old as the hills and entirely predictable to boot. The overdone cackling of the actresses playing the witches doesn't help either. Someone hit the overacting button and no-one thought to stop them (now THERE's a ticking time bomb story that needs to be written).

In the meantime we have a pale Shakespeare cast-off that wouldn't have graced his waste paper bin (if he had one) and which bills itself as a 3 part story followed by a 1 parter but which is, in fact, all one story. Simply changing the setting doesn't make it a new story. Once I realised that I prayed fervently that the time-loop ending I could see coming a mile off wasn't the resolution they had plumped for but, sadly, I was to be disappointed again.

Oddly enough, I prefer the second part of the story ('The Vanity Box') because it sees the welcome return of vocal giant Toby Longworth, a nicely incongruous setting and a bunch of actors who seem better able to grasp the material on offer. The idea of an internal makeover to make you years younger is pretty interesting but the plot fails to capitalise on it as the bulk of the story has already been done.

Another poor entry in a year of poor Big Finish releases. I have added a second star for the fun of 'The Vanity Box'.
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another audio adventure for the sixth doctor who, this time with bonnie langford's mel as his companion. as usual with audios that mel is in, the character is written so much better than she ever was on tv and bonnie langford shows what a good actress she is with decent material.

The wishing beast is a three part story, in which the doctor and mel are drawn to a strange world by a message inviting travellers there. two elderly sisters live on this planet, and they have an offer for one of the tardis crew. but things like this usually have consequences, as the doctor finds out when he meets the other inhabitants of the world...

this is a very strange mix of styles that attempts to do something different, throwing in arch comedy - the sisters coming over like the residents from the tv story paradise towers, nice but sinister - fantasy, ghost stories, and a bit of horror with it. as such it is not going to be to everyone's taste. and whilst the first episode is intriguing and quite well played, the pace of the story drops off a lot in the second, which seems to mark time waiting for the cliffhanger. an attempt to present a rather alien environment in this part doesn't quite come off as it feels a bit cliched.

however things do pick in the middle of episode three when the moral of the story comes into play, leading to a decent conclusion and memorable final scene. So personally I found this had it's moments, although it's ultimately a rather light and inconsequential piece.

The fourth episode on the disc is a one part story called the vanity box. unlike the other big finish releases that have been three parters and then a one parter this one parter doesn't stand on it's own and follows on directly from the end of the wishing beast. the tardis lands in salford in 1965, amongst some very interesting accents from the cast, and finds strange goings on in a beauty parlour.

the attempts at comedy are more successful here, particularly one scene that would have been interesting to see on the tv. the old lady of the piece is perhaps better characterised than the ones in the wishing beast, and there's again a decent moral to the tale. although I could have done with finding out more about the central threat.

both discs end with nigh on twenty minutes worth of interviews with cast and production staff. bonnie langford's parts are well worth listening to. although the ones at the end of disc one do give away scenes from part three.

so not the most successful release and one you'll either hate or like, but it has it's moments. I do agree with the other reviewer in regards to big finish this year, though, as apart from circular time they've really produced nothing that has desperately stood out. I hope they can come up with a classic or two again in due course
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