This is the hundred and ninth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Sylvester McCoy as a companionless Seventh Doctor. There are two stories here, the first three episodes are an adventure called `The Death Collectors', the fourth episode a one part story called `Spider's Shadow' that acts as a coda to the three parter. 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.
The whole thing feels like a bit of an homage to 2001, with a run around on a space station battling an out of control computer for the first three episodes, followed by an almost surreal epilogue. The opening story finds a companionless Seventh Doc responding to a distress call from a quarantined area of space, where a deadly virus known only as Decay is being researched by a small group of humans in conjunction with the rather creepy and excellent new alien species the Dar Traders. What follows is a decent run around adventure, with some interesting philosophising about the nature of death. Clearly the Seventh Doctor in this story is near the end of his regeneration, and thoughts of auld mortality are starting to prey on his mind. This is not helped by the presence of the Dar Traders, a creepy collective who seek out death, and interact with it in a strange way. The running around meets a thrilling climax, and as the Doctor's plans go awry there is a shocking and shattering finale for his companions.
The second story, as is usual with these 3:1 releases, is another standout. It starts very disconcertingly, and it is hard to find your place in the story, but eventually all becomes clear and resolved as the Doctor comes face to face with his foe. For a story that relies so heavily on repetition it does not feel as though it is going over old ground, and each repetition has you hooked as you try to analyse the subtle difference this time around. Well acted and produced, with a great script, this is an excellent adventure.
5 stars for this thoughtful release that still manages to deliver a lot of excitement.
Big Finish deliver up another triumph in the form of The Death Collectors + Spider's Shadow - a three part story followed by a 1 parter that links directly on. The Death Collectors sees Doctor Who at its most sci-fi, with some lovely flavours of horror thrown in for good measure, this is one story that really plays for scares.
In short, the plot kicks off with an 'accident'. A man has returned to a space station from an alien planet down below, but he hasn't returned the same man he set out as - he isn't even really alive any more. As the Doctor turns up, following a mysterious distress signal, things get weirder by the minute as the destructive 'virus' known only as Decay begins causing havoc on the station.
Thematically, The Death Collectors brings to mind a whole host of previous adventures - there's the morbid, gothic feel + the Doctor clashing with a rival scientific ego that touches on the Brain of Morbius while the revived series has had a whole host of sci-fi 'possession' storylines in the form of '42', 'The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit', 'Midnight' and 'Silence In The Library/Forest of the Dead'.
The Death Collectors is especially reminiscent of this last story, both in the idea of a space suit becoming filled with a formless alien consciousness speaking through a half dead-half alive host. We also get a River Song-esque role in this story's one-off companion, Danika.
Of course, Alien/Aliens serves as a reference point too, as it has done for so much sci-fi in the character of Mors, the misguided scientist that puts research before human life. It's a small cast in this story but that's where a lot of its strength comes from - the Doctor is alone and Sylvester's performance of him plays off brilliantly against the other characters who are equally well-acted.
If I was to have one criticism of this story, it's that a lot of it doesn't really go anywhere. While you're listening to it, caught up in the tension, it's fantastic, but at the end of each part you step back and think, nothing much has really been developed. The story does pose some interesting ideas about life and death though and if you're a fan of 'philosophical-Who' then this is a good story for you.
I also found it refreshing to see an alien race (in the form of the eerie, gurgling Dar Traders) that on first impression is horrific, but are actually fill the role of allies in the story (albeit, shifty, reluctant ones).
You also get the Doctor nearly trading in his 7th life to save the day as well as offering to take on a new companion, only to be swiftly rebuffed. And there's a nice little twist/cliffhanger at the end. There's also a real sense of added gravitas to The Death Collectors too as numerous points foreshadow the 7th Doctor's death in the 1996 TV movie - most obviously, the use of the 'Madame Butterfly' song. This is a story close to the end of his 7th life - and as such, the themes of death and morbidity feel even stronger.
Without a doubt though, this story's strength is the out and out thrill factor. It's got some great scary moments interspersed with those wonderful dashes of comedy Sylvester's Doctor does so well. The tension is built up wonderfully and there's loads of rasping calls of 'i see everything' and 'we will trade' to send shivers down your spine. The fussy, disobedient computer, Nancy, is also a nice touch - although when it starts endlessly glitching and repeating things it can get a little annoying.
So, all in all, while The Death Collectors might not be the most original, or strongest of stories in terms of plot - it's a real fun riot of action, scares and above all tension from end to start.
Spider's Shadow on the other hand is witty, clever, innovative - whereas The Death Collectors was the big epic action story, Spider's Shadow is far more complex. It starts off completely baffling, told all out of order in a weird case of deja vu-esque repetition - a little confusing yes, but stick with it and it really pays off.
As the story builds to a crescendo in parts 8 & 9 and the reason why time has gone all weird and mucked up is revealed this story really comes into its own - it's just a feeling of 'Wow! Now that's good!. Sylvester McCoy is an absolute dream in this story. There's something unique and beautiful to this quirky 1-parter and in many ways it almost feels like a '...and the moral of the story is' fairytale, helped along by the fact that the protagonists are two princesses.
Taking this 2-disc collection as a whole, across both stories, this may just be me searching for more connections but there's also some lovely bits of continuity if you chose to see them as such - In the first story you get the Doctor saying 'ashes to ashes' linking back to Remembrance of the Daleks while in the second story you get a conversation between the Doctor and one of the princesses which goes something along the lines of 'Dance, Doctor, dance!' 'I'm a little out of practice' - which looks forwards towards Eccleston's 'The Doctor Dances' two parter and a similar conversation he has with Rose.
To sum up, I loved these two stories. On their own they are good, but what makes them truly great is that packaged together - one following on directly from the second - they present two opposing sides of a coin. The themes of each one juxtapose each other perfectly and present an exciting, evolving showcase for the 7th Doctor.
another audio adventure for doctor who. this one features sylvester mccoy as the seventh doctor, on this occasion travelling on his own with no companions. It contains two stories. A three part story called the death collectors, and a one part story called spider's shadow. the death collectors episodes are all twenty five minutes long, and spread over the first two discs, and spiders shadow can be found on the second half of disc two. as usual both discs end with interviews with the cast and crew, and there's a trailer for the next release in the monthly doctor who audio series at the start of disc one.
the death collectors is a story with a strong amount of science fiction in it, and it involves the doctor arriving on a space station above a strange alien world. a person has just returned from the planet, and is about to spread an infection that threatens all of existence. in the face of a computer behaving strangely and an obsessive scientist, can the doctor stop it?
the three part format allows the story to move at a very good pace, and this is a very good one indeed. very well directed, the director gets strong performances out of all the small cast, and the characters are strong and quite three dimensional as a result. there are some clever concepts here, and part one is very involving. there's an awful lot going on in the next two parts, which means you have to pay close attention to them, but they are worth it. the story has some good twists and turns, and nicely foreshadows the doctor who tv movie which spelled the end for the seventh doctor. all in all a good little tale. and it has a memorable ending.
spider's shadow is a one part story, and involves the doctor getting caught up in a war between humans led by a royal family on another world, and alien spider like creatures. suddenly finding himself adrift in time, can the doctor end the bloodshed?
this borrows certain elements of the plot of a certain feature film that pretty much every science fiction and fantasy show has homaged at one time. you'll know the film I mean when you hear it. on the whole the episode does feel a little too long at first, as if it's marking time towards the end, but everything comes good in time for the finale, with some strong character drama on the way.
It's not quite as good as death collectors, but it's okay for what it is.
A strong audio all in all and definitely worth a listen