Sunday, February 24, 2008

PMG Season 2: Reviewed!

CHARLEY: You have a plan?

THE DOCTOR: Of course. Tell me Charley, are you fond of DRAAAMA?

CHARLEY: Yes. That's why I can't fucking stand this story.

MUSIC: Bum-dum-brum-ba-BRUMDAAAA-BWUUUUM!

Invaders From Mars

So... any idea why Mark Gatiss hates me? Because just about everything in this story is calculated precisely to piss me off.

Firstly there’s the voices. See, I like my voices to sound on the human side. Yes, there’s the issue of needing to accentuate and caricature voices to a degree so that all the characters can be told apart by the audience, but there is no excuse for this - a reviewer said it best when he described this as a Bugs Bunny cartoon. That’s the sound precisely, absolutely ludicrous Brooklyn accents that sound like they’re coming from three-foot midgets with oversized fedoras.

Then there’s the plot. Or lack of it. The first two episodes go nowhere because they’re so busy introducing the cast… lets go through it. You got Orson Welles and John Houseman. Their boss, Bix Biro and his secretary who I think was Lola. Biro has an off-sider who I think was called Winkler, and connections with Cosmo DeVine. DeVine is in a gang war with Don “Phantom” Chaney, whose gang includes Mouse and Ellis, who are trying to find out who Chaney’s paymaster is but only run into a private eye named Jack Halliday. Chaney is also holding prisoner a Russian scientist who probably had a name who incidentally has a ‘niece’ named Glory Bee. And then two aliens show up near the end that are a blatant knockoff of The Dominators.

If you count that mess you end up with fifteen named speaking parts and I can assure you there’s a wheelbarrow full of non-named speaking parts as well. This goes some way to explaining the ridiculous voices as essentially all cast members have to triple-up in characters, even though half of the characters I mentioned there do fuck all over the course of the story. But are just about all introduced in the first episode anyway.

Add to this every single one of the fifteen named characters having an agenda, a hidden agenda, a moment where they double-cross somebody, and at some point triggering a gunfight where we have no idea what's happening BECAUSE IT'S AUDIO! This makes the plot quite a considerable mess, but everyone's so frigging pathetic that you don't care, except maybe until the bit where 'Glory Bee' reveals that she is a Russian spy and Jessica Stevenson seems to deliberately do the absolute worst Russian accent as revenge on the people who wrote this. And because her character has nowhere else to go after this cheap and entirely illogical twist, she falls off a bridge at the start of the next ep.

But wait! It can get worse! How about ignoring entirely the fact that America were neutral at this stage and a lot of people saw the Nazis as potential business partners than pure evil and BRING IN NAZIS AS THE BADGUYS!!! Come on, when did Nazi villains not work in DW? Apart from Timewyrm: Exodus and Colditz and in every fanfic they have ever appeared, that is..

MARK GATISS: Oh no, under all the pressure of masturbating into my word processor and sending the ungodly offspring off to my agent, appearing in endless TV shows where I expressionlessly read out lines from a script so I can be called an 'actor', and brainwashing the UK into thinking I have talent, I clean forgot that Gary Russell said he'd kill me if I added anymore speaking parts to this mess. Whatever shall I do? I know! I'll bring in Nazis but they won't say anything at all! I am so brilliant. Who could be unhappy with that resolution?

Me, motherfucker. Me.

And, you know, some aliens who aren't called Tetraps but are bat creatures so I'll call them that and be done with it show up and try to take everything over. But, as previously mentioned, they're exactly the same as those two guys from The Dominators - massively camp and inept in everything that they do. One wants to blast everything, the other wants to scout the options and conserve power. Some of their stuff is even funny, which is good, but resorting to stealing a double-act from an ancient Patrick Troughton story is real barrel-scraping fare and all indicators suggest that the story is crawling to a slow death in a desert of human boredom.

At the last minute, though, Gatiss reveals an absolutely brilliant idea - the Doctor teaming up with Orson and Houseman to broadcast The War of the Worlds to the Tetrap ship to convince them that planet Earth is already under attack by aliens that are halfway competent. Yes! They do it - with the Doctor and Charley playing some of the parts. Yes!

But then, Gatiss moves to piss me off once again - the Doctor’s plan is brilliant, but just isn’t a homage to the massively lame story resolutions in the Pertwee era. When Charley yells out that the Tetraps are just flying away like the bat-shaped bitches that they are the Doctor shouts “Ha! Those idiots didn’t realize that it was just a trick on my part! ‘Me’ being the Doctor! And that if they really wanted to, they could fly straight to the CBS station on 85th and Broadway and blow up the whole building right now, killing me and everyone here instantly, but they cannot, because they have no idea! Yes, I am so much better than them!” straight into his microphone.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who complained about RTD's deus ex machinas needs to listen to this thing - and, yes, that group does indeed include me and I am glad I have now paid my pittance. I say this because the ending breaks all standards of far-fetched, ill-conceived and poorly executed. As the Tetraps head back to Earth, Russian Professor apparently falls out of the ceiling into Cosmo's cell, and proceeds to rant nonsensically, some of it to the gist that he escaped death by, I dunno, jumping into the tank and pretending to be a wall or something. He then reveals the clincher - he is THE FIRST MAN TO INVENT AN ATOMIC BOMB! Yes, in the last thirty minutes, apparently with crap that the Tetraps just left lying around. And he decides to set it off to save the entire world.

The fact that this massive, festering chunk of offal was the opener for PMG's second season rather than the close of the first shocked me. Not just because this is the sort of thing you should lock in your attic and never show to anyone, let alone bring out to say "Look, new stuff! Come and get it while it's brilliant!", but because the production is terrible. The voices are ridiculous. The sound design doesn't even try to let you know what's going on during the action scenes. Cosmo DeVine's mute Nazi mates notably don't seem to walk anywhere or breath. Ambient sound effects are sparse unless directly required by the script. And the music...

Okay, someone dug out a reel of stock music strictly for use in low-grade 1920s porn films that had been terribly distorted by nearly a century of cats urine and leaked battery acid. And decided to play it after every single scene.

I do not give this half a star. I do not give this a single black hole. I give this nothing but my undying hatred.


The Chimes of Midnight

Why is it that so many great Doctor Who stories start with just the Doctor and his companion walking around a deserted place, seeing weird stuff, and talking about it? Why? It’s such a simplistic method of starting a story, nearly too simplistic, but once again Shearman uses it and produces gold.

The Doctor and Charley arrive in a completely deserted Edwardian house, in which absolutely nothing seems to change - they break jam jars, write their names in the dust - but it all vanishes straight away. In some very atmospheric and creepy talking, the Doctor and Charley realise that they're being shut out of the actual house, in a strange twilight reality with cause but no effect. At the same time we're given brief glimpses into the reality that they've been shut out of - and it isn't a pleasant one.

Edith, the pleasant, cheery young scullery maid is at her thankless work scrubbing dishes for the cook, who is obsessed with her plum puddings, when her only pleasure, singing the only Christmas Carol that she knows, is taken away from her by the officious and short-tempered butler. Her life drudges on, but she is unhappy, and everyone in the household seems to loathe her unconditionally. It's uneasy listening...

And then the two worlds cross. Charley recieves a vision of Edith, and Edith tells Charley that she knows that she will die any minute. That Charley needs to remember her...

The Doctor, to the surprise of nobody, announces that this is too messed up for him to deal with and does something he evry rarely does - run to the TARDIS. But then the clock strikes ten, Edith's screams pierce the air, and the Doctor says that they don't have a choice anymore. What has been keeping them out is now letting them in...

When people ask for a Big Finish story starring Paul McGann for a recommendation, this is the one that gets namedropped. And no sodding wonder. This is a work of Rob Shearman's and is, for my money, an absolute masterpiece - one of the greatest DW stories ever written.

Shearman, apparently, makes his writing up as he goes along. And I will admit that there are signs of it here. Episodes Two and Three take tremendously odd turns, but all of it is either touching or blackly funny, and, as usual, it's only in Episode Four that things get explained. The interesting thing I noticed is that one of the two oddities remain unexplained. The one that stuck with me is that there's absolutely no reason for the villain of the story to be obsessed with using cod Agatha Christie plots to torment the inhabitants of the house, but this seems something of a minor niggle in the long-run.

The absolute biggest reason for singing this story's praises, though, is that it gives Charley something to do! In fact, this entire story revolves around Charley, as she is the catalyst for everything that subsequently happens, acting a Schroedigner Cat in a far more effective way then the same theory was used in Zagreus. This is great because every story since her introduction sidelined the character criminally and gave her pretty much zero development (Stones of Venice is something of an exception but was regrettably balanced out by Invaders From Mars being quite sickeningly sexist)

I can't go into much detail about this story, though I will admit that this is, I think, the only story to make me cry. It's the stuff about Edith at the end... it's very moving.

If I bothered giving scores this would be 10/10. Take note.



Living Legend

This story is ridiculously short and thus so shall be my review. The Doctor and Charley meet some ludicrously incompetent aliens. The Doctor gives one a heavy dose of the Eric Saward virus (found, as always, in a three-litre jug of wine) which causes the Vogons (damnit, they're not actually Vogons... but they might as well be) to argue endless, achieve nothing, and then vanish abruptly.

This left me with only one question - why the hell was this story set in contemporary Italy? This could have been anywhere at all. Anywhere! Wouldn't it have been slightly cooler if it was, say, New Zealand celebrating a World Cup victory in 2065 or something? Something implausible? The Italians win every second World Cup because they've become that good at cheating it! Oh, yeah, I went there.


Seasons of Fear

This was a story that got me swearing my head off that out of all the possibilities for a DW series, BF should choose to make a sequel to that one bit in Minuet From Hell where Nick Briggs gloats about how much better he is than PMG, because that's pretty much the basis of this story.

The Doctor and Charley finally get to Singapore, only to find that it's nothing but ambient music and a few voices chattering in the distance. Charley was expecting something more impressive, but even so is only hear so she can get jiggly and fleshy with her date that she met some years ago and fell in love with: Nick Briggs Jr. So she goes running off and the Doctor decides to master his brooding stare in the distance for upcoming BBC novel covers.

But wait, who's this well-dressed fellow approaching? Nick Briggs Scr! Predictably he gloats to a painful level over the Doctor, for no apparent reason, before revealing that he killed the Doctor - in HIS past, but the DOCTOR's future! He then goes into detail about the incredibly unconvincing Singapore backdrop being just that - a backdrop, created by his 'masters' to fool the Doctor into thinking that the Earth is truly being run by pitiful humans with their agile and durable appendages rather than the ULTIMATE BEINGS!!!

Given the fact that there's nothing at all in the story to suggest that this guy isn't just major-league off his fucking nut, it isn't the most enticing of setups. But the Doctor takes him very, Very seriously and sets off back in time to stop him before he started. If you haven't realised that this will inevitably be what causes Briggsy to try and kill the Doctor, I'm guessing you don't know much about sci-fi and have stumbled onto this page by mistake.

The biggest shock for me, though, was realising that Grail, the actual villain of this story, wasn't played by Nicholas Briggs. Rather, somebody who sounds exactly the same. Why, though? For that matter, why does the Kro'ka sound so much like Briggs? And why, for that matter, recruit Michael Keating as a future villain when, again, he sounds an awful lot like Nick Briggs? If you're going to get guest-cast members into these stories, I would much rather they NOT all sound like insane toothbrush-weilders, thank you. Hopefully this has been taken onboard.

Anyway, this story ends up becoming a little ridiculous as the Doctor spends the rest of the story hopping from time-zone to time-zone, following the twisted history of Grail through the years. Because of the small cast, most of the people the Doctor meet sound the same which stretches credibility a bit, and none of the locations are really fleshed out, or have a striking sound to them that really puts you in the scene, unlike most other stories.

The jet-setting nature of the premise, combined with some odd comic relief and completely ridiculous schemes of Grail (He gets peasants to make him a gigantic stockpile of Uranium in the 11th century...) and, oddest of all, a running first-person narration by PMG give this a distinctly uneven feel. The whole story is building up to the reveal of Grail's masters and it seems quite depressingly obvious who they are...

I mean, consider: the aliens travel through 'time corridors'. They use genetic engineering to make Grail more powerful. When they begin to materialise Charley says 'it looks like some sort of metal egg!'. And the Daleks have made two, fleeting appearances, one in a weird freaky vision and another popping out of nowhere into ancient Britain.

So... OH MY GOD! This is all turned on its head and twisted around with the revelation that the 'metal egg' was a pod. And it opens to reveal... "WE ARE THE NIMON!"

Awesome.

Gary Russell brings back one of the worst DW villain races ever. And they still kind of suck, as demonstrated by the way they zap the Doctor in the cliffhanger, but the very next episode he's going "What, is that the best you can do? I can't even feel anything!"

As you may expect, from this point onwards the story becomes harder to take seriously. For me the breaking point was when I realised that whenever the Nimons moved you could hear their hooves tapping against the cobblestones, and I just pissed myself laughing.

But, all that aside, yes they do have an evil plan to destroy the Earth and the Doctor does have to stop them with an incredibly ballsy plan that involves very nearly killing himself for the greater good and such wondrous Ace Rimmer-style panache. The Nimon get defeated, Grail joins the very thin ranks of DW villains that don't get killed, and the Doctor finishes his bedtime story to Don Warrington, who seems slightly bemused. And that's-

No wait. One last scene with those two generic 18th Century conpeople. Hmm, yes, life goes on for them and- wha? A naked glowing Charley materialises in the room? And... kills them. Okay. That is terrifying. Jesus. I thought we were having a good time...


Embrace the Darkness

This story is so frigging Nick Briggs that it hurts. Where did this guy get a reputation for being a good writer? Furthermore, why does every script of his seem to seethe with loathing of humanity? Is he alright? Does he need some professional help?

Why is it obviously Nick Briggs? Well, the guest cast is mostly three people who may as well be the three last human beings in the known universe as they are in complete and utter isolation. They are also the biggest three arseholes you could ever hope to meet. Almost the entire story concerns these people in a 'base-under-seige' scenario in their claustrophobic ship. All other scenes are on an equally claustrophobic base on some boring shithole of a planet.

The three arseholes are attacked by some aliens and they have their eyes eaten. Good show, lads! Then the Doctor and Charley land on the rescue ship headed towards them, run by some extremely talkative robot who was called something like 'ASBO-B01'. ASBO, like most robots, doesn't like intruders and so decides to kill the Doctor and Charley. So the Doctor sonic screwdrivers him. Then he comes back online. Then the Doctor tells him that he shouldn't kill humans. Then ASBO points out that Charley is all weird and shit because she's meant to be dead and then tries to kill her. Then the Doctor sonic screwdrivers him. Then they run. Then ASBO comes back online, says "I am getting sick of this!" and confiscates the sonic screwdriver. Charley gets in an escape pod. The Doctor calls a truce but tells ASBO that he'll be talking him out of killing her later. And that's basically episode one.

From here on there's actual plot but it makes no sense at all because Briggsy was clearly determined to have a last-minute twist that nobody could ever expect and the easiest way to do this is a plot that does constant 180s. It's probably fairly predictable that the aliens who eat eyes turn out to be good, right? Well, they do. Why did they eat eyes? Because they were trying to heal, but didn't understand about eyes because they live in the darkness. Why do they live in darkness? Because evil aliens came to their planet for healing and they were dying out trying to cure them all, but couldn't send them away. And so they destroyed their own sun.

That lack-of-sun is what the arseholes are trying to remedy, by creating a gigantic artificial sun. Interestingly it is to be powered by nine different stations across the planet, but the one the Doctor ends up on is apparently the only one that is attacked by the eye-eating aliens. Hmm.

So, anyway, when the Doctor thinks that the eye-eating aliens are actually evil rather than misled he makes sure that the artificial sun is ignited. But no! That brings the EVIL ALIENS! Instantaneously. They've just had a ship waiting out there for 3000 years waiting for the sun to come back on - and I'm sure we are expected to believe this because the Doctor mentions 'solar sails' on it. Hmm. Solar sails that somehow pull directly towards the sun.

So, then it's battle stations. Much drama when ASBO-B01 screams that they aren't allowed to shoot at them because eye-munchers ignored all that 'healing' stuff and proceeded to annihilate his mind. So they're flying defenceless towards the EVIL ALIEN! ship. The EVIL ALIENS! then proceed to blast the crap out of their ship to the point where they're all on the edge of death and all of ASBOs effort is going on keeping them there. And then, all of a sudden, the EVIL ALIEN! ship docks and out comes...

OMGADALEK!

Wait... no. It's just another species that lives inside a casing. And that casing opens to reveal..

OMGITSMOLOCH!

No, not really, but that's what I like to imagine. Hehe, Moloch, I love that guy. More aliens should have moustaches. Are there any others, really? I can think of Dex from Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and that camp midget green dude from that one episode of Farscape I had to tape for my mate. Well, if you wanted to get pedantic you could include The War Cheif and other such humans-playing-aliens-without-makeup, but I'm talking the real deal. Reptilian green/blue alien with an inexplicable moustache right over their lips/equivalent protuberance.

Whoa, sorry, got sidetracked. There's a lot of stuff that interests me more than this story, you see. Like that YouTube video of a guy trying to play that insanely difficult level of Super Mario Bros. for 25 minutes. Or the fact that they made a Super Mario Bros. movie starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo - what a double act! And the fact that John Leguizamo was subsequently in Baz Luhrmann's massively popular train-wreck Romeo + Juliet. Which also featured Harrold Perrineau Jr., a man often seen as the best feature of the film in his performance, but also subsequently seen as the most offensive elements of both Matrix sequels and LOST. Think about that - if Goebbels was in both of those he'd have a hard time trying to bag that title. Also, who the hell is Harrold Perrineau Scr? Am I really in any danger of getting people confused if I leave the 'Jr' off? I think John F. Kennedy Jr. and people like him are the only people who really have a right to that. Well, and I guess Cuba Gooding Jr. because he's clearly one of two people in all of history to have that goofy name, and if somebody who knew one the Cubas heard some libellous stories, they'd assume it was the Cuba Gooding they knew and spread the filth around liberally..

So... Embrace the Darkness was it? Oh, yes... the alien comes in, opens its casing to reveal.... another eye-eater. Except that this one has eyes.

See, they're one and the same! Hah, didn't see that coming did you?! No, because... why are they called aliens if they were from the same planet? Why did destroying the sun drive them off but not the healers? Why did they all need to be healed? And the big question - why did they try and kill the Doctor if they were just archaeologists?

No answers forthcoming.

This story has some good moments - when one of the arseholes goes completely insane he actually makes an interesting character for a little while, the cliffhangers are strong and the plot, in its early stages when making sense, is pretty engaging. Although I mocked it for being a senseless and generic series of captures and escapes (which it is) the first episode is actually quite entertaining, because it has some handle on what it's doing.

All of this drowns in one character, though. I can't remember her name, 'Laskia' or something, who is the bitchy and officious leader of the arseholes. And the biggest cretin to ever appear in Doctor Who. And she speaks an even worse accent than Jessica Stevenson in IFM, possibly in a loving tribute to Ingrid Pitt.

Every line of hers can be summed up thusly:

"You males suck! I hate you! Do some work!"

"SO, have you watched that boring-as-all-fuck video I keep asking you to watch? What? I hate you! Do it now!"

"Why should I help you? I hate you!"

"Oh, yes, easy to say that when you have eyes! I hate you. I HATE YOU!"

One of the things that will keep people going through this wearing experience is waiting for her seemingly-inevitable death. But sadly it never comes.

Briggsy - stick to the Dalek voices and creepy egomania. Please.


The Time of the Daleks

One of several stories where the YOA version is so much better you wish he'd been working as script editor. Okay, I don't know if they could have actually gotten Sacha Baron Cohen to do it, nor am I sure if Ali G was actually mainstream in the year 2000... but this story just didn't come out right as was.

Shakespeare has been erased from history. This is something you might have noticed when the Doctor decided to quote Hamlet out of nowhere in Invaders From Mars and Orson Welles said "Huh?", or it's equally possible that you took it for the eight thousandth joke to fall completely flat and didn't think twice about it. So what does mankind do but begin a gigantic civil war between The Proletariat and Dictatorship of the Month, each assuming that the other side is responsible for going into the timeline and erasing Shakespeare.

At first I assumed that this was the work of Rob Shearman, because it seemed a very Shearman idea. But then, when I realised that nothing was being done with the idea other than a heap of characters going "We need to get Shakespeare back, cor blimey!" I thought that it clearly wasn't him, but someone doing a terrible impression of him. The culprit turned out to be Justin Richards - one of several DW writers whose work is solid, inconspicuous and can fall either side of the fence but very rarely ends up being classic material. In fact, from memory Banquo Legacy is the only thing that he's done that's really wowed me. Oh, what am I saying, he did The Burning too.

But this won't be remembered fondly by those that admire those creepy, claustrophobic pieces of B7-style cynical human drama against historical backdrops. Because this is a story that strains very hard to be epic. For some reason when trying to make an 'epic' story, writers don't think 'big' problems or 'big' dramas, but 'big' armies, 'big' scenes.

JR's first 'big' scene is one of the Daleks talking about how hardcore they are in the language of Technobabbale for about five minutes. At least, that's what I think they were talking about. But then some weird time loop thing happens and... I don't know, it's hard to understand. Lots of Daleks end up screaming for help or for a rescue effort or something, I don't really remember. Suffice it to say, this scene is the best enthusiasm cyanide I've encountered in my time.

The story doesn't improve from then on... it's like Justin Richards is working from a book of cliches. Faceless dictatorship, faceless rebels, the facists are unwittingly getting help from the Daleks, believing that they are they good guys. Nobody gets any characterisation because JR is too busy trying to find good bits of Shakespeare for them to quote off the cuff.

So anyway, the one vaguely cool thing in this story is the humans having invented a form of time travel using clocks and mirrors. But then it turns out that it's a load of crap taking advantage of the same space-time anomalie the Daleks are caught up in. Ho-hum.

This time travel stuff also creates the most impossible to follow storyline I've encountered, with the Doctor and Charley and the faceless fascists and faceless rebels all splitting up in different groups and travelling through mirrors and stealing stuff. Eventually, they end up in 1560-something. Hmmm, could this possibly be where something happens to Shakespeare? Considering that there are Daleks everywhere with human slave labour, probably.

Oh, and while they're there Charley and Female Rebel meet and 8-year old boy (Played by a girl, for some reason) and decide to take him with them for some reason. Jeeesus Christ. You didn't think anyone would make the connection, Richards?

And then the Doctor time-loops the Daleks. The end.


Neverland

Sometimes, when I get around to doing these reviews, there are stories I get around to that I can't actually remember anything about, but because I like the look of my own voice on a webpage I persevere and write some stuff down anyway, hoping I don't make an arse of myself. In fact, there was a little bit of that with the Seasons of Fear review, in that I'm not sure if there WERE two Dalek attacks, or just the one - whoever is reading this will know, so that doesn't matter.

Usually I get this problem with the first in a season, rather than the last. For one simple reason: the last is the latest one I have listened to. It should be very fresh in my mind. But, this time, this isn't the case.

So, let me painstakingly go through everything I DO remember about Neverland

*It was really long.

*I stopped listening a couple of times

*It hard more tedious 'evil Time Lords' stuff, specifically when revealed that Romana had a Bureau of Genocide working full time that she didn't find out about because she was too busy joy-riding around in her own past with Paul McGann.

*The naked, glowing evil Charley from Seasons of Fear was not, as I thought would have made sense, Zagreus. She's somebody called Sentris. As just about everybody says in some part of this - Zagreus doesn't exist.

*The Doctor gets sucked into an evil mirror-version of the Matrix for a little while, where Romana is impersonating Hitler and a black man is claiming to be Rassilon. Pfft.

*It seems to rip off quite a lot of things from the Ancestor Cell. But then that was apparently entirely ripped off from one of Lawrence Miles' manuscripts. And it's probably got the wrong date so what do I know

*The Doctor calls Vansell 'toastrack' or something for the whole story. Am I meant to know who Vansell is?

*Oh, Vansell's also, like, a traitor or something.

*There's a lot of runaround stuff, even though Time of the Daleks demonstrated that runarounds suck even more in audio, when you can't see the corridors.

*Trojan horse thing with Never-people giving the Time Lord's a big ol' barrell of anti-time and claiming that it's Rassilon's coffin.

...no, wait, hang on... I think that's all the important details. Oh, that and the fact that the design and direction is really good.

I guess it seems like I couldn't remember anything because this story is of an outrageous length. I couldn't believe how dull and boring this was in the middle, because this entire story is nothing but the setup for the cliffhanger right at the end. If there was any sense then this story would have been one episode on one disc, to make it punchier, quicker and more dramatic.

OR: keep it the same length but give Charley something to do. Because, unbelievably, Charley is again sidelined in traditional companion style. She spends effectively the whole story hooked up to machines by some camp double-act of morons, and achieves nothing, even though EVERYTHING in this story, as with most stories in this season, has been caused by he escape from the R101! India Fisher, of course, gets to play the story's villain, Sentris, but probably the least said about that the better because her performance is terribly OTT.

Anyway, after two-and-a-half-hours this is what you're left with: the Time Lords bring back the Barrell of Anti-Time unwittingly, and have already infected themselves. The Doctor meets Rassilon, who tells him that he already knows what he has to do. The Doctor materialises the TARDIS round the Time Lord ship as it explodes.

And then: "I AM ZAGREUS!" *Whack* ZZZZIEOW!!!

It's a good cliffhanger. But the story preceding it is drab, overwrought and overlong. And a bad ending to what was a decent season.

I have to say that, all in all, I'm a bit disillusioned with the quality of Big Finish from what I've heard. They have some great stories, but as is the way with classic Who, it's the ones that come from the great writers. And, somewhat distressingly, these rarely seem to be those from the people who are actually running the whole show. Nick Briggs, in particular, seems an inpet, tiresome, one-note writer. Alan Barnes doesn't inspire me much either, and Gary Russell... hmm.
I feel the need to say this because I have heard such a great deal from people about the quality of Big Finish releases. And, yes, they cannot be faulted for the quality of design, marketing, and general professionalism at all. But a lot of the stories seem half-cocked and display a truly low quality of script-editing at times (Though this problem could well be universal in the industry, I've noticed many moments of cheap or lazy script-editing in New Who and even in Life On Mars, and the less said about Torchwood the better!)

My conclusion is thus: although Big Finish did suffer a massive set-back in the next season (beginning with 'Z' and ending in 'THAT was PMG's favourite story?!?'), the truth was that it was more a case of their welcome being overstayed and the unforeseen timing of a certain announcement from the BBC that truly brought about a gigantic downfall in their popularity.

Of course, a big part of it must have been the singularly unimpressive nature of the resolution to Neverland which DID manage to have a very powerful ending..

8 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

Oh, I've looked forward to this.

It has to be said IOM isn't QUITE so detestably awful without the horrible 1930s music (the DWM freebie disc had part one without incidental music and it wasn't quite so cringemaking).

I often wonder at the homophobic bits of IOM - like Bix being terrified of admitting he's got a boyfriend, the boyfriend keeping quiet to Charley about being Bix's boyfriend, and of course Cosmo Devine (what the fuck was Gatiss up to there?) being dubbed "thy miserable faggot". I was expecting some interesting edgy material when Charley found out her cellmate was gay, since that would rub her up the wrong way what with her being such a prude...

But no. Nothing. The star crossed lovers are quickly disposed of and, in best Eric Saward tradition, never mentioned again. Like Glory Bee drowning, well, I was certain she was going to turn up again, wet, sea-weed clad and screaming in Russian, but no, she dropped out of the plot as well. And why were Strewth and Annoying acting like alien observers in their first scene when it's established they're just con men? Why act without an audience? I'll tell you why, because this crap is being written without continuity. See the bloodthirsty Chaney become the wacky side relief. And with all the mentions of the Phantom, it wasn't the Ghost Who Walks.

Thanks for noting how utterly stupid the Doctor blabbing it all over the mike was. I mean, did he HAVE to? It would have been just as good if they acted normally... in fact, it would have been better if the aliens just left without the hydrogen bomb exploding in the atmosphere...

I didn't realize that Welles not recognizing a Shakespeare quote was a plot point. I just assumed it was him not being able to keep up with the Doctor.

As for Chimes, I really like it. I might slag Shearman off for the fact the first episode is a complete rip off of The Space Museum and the rest of the story from Sapphire & Steel, but he's convinced me it was completely coincidental - look at that bit where the Doctor says to the butler, "Your boss, he isn't trying to build a time machine, is he?", where Shearman is deliberately writing himself into a corner to come up with something new.

The cleverest bit is that the explanation for how a time paradox causes a time loop causes Edward Grove to become alive makes sense when you listen to it... even though it doesn't make sense afterwards. However, again I worry about Shearman's obsession with killing children so the parents can stay swinging bachelors, a theme which takes over Season 3...

Living Legend... nah. Never quite worked for me. It seemed an episode long "I created Charley and I actually remembered she likes pretending to be other people and disguises and stuff" rant...

Seasons of Fear gobsmacked me. I've always liked/been terrified of the Nimon simply because these bastards are a) quite capable of eating the universe b) only can be killed by blowing up the planet they are on c) coolest voices for monsters ever. The cliffhanger to part three stunned me, but it's just another part of Paul Cornell's greatest hit package (the original title was Time's Champion, for example, and was full of so many pop culture references Paul McGann refused to say the lines. It even ended with the Doctor quoting Terrance Dicks from The Making of Doctor Who "he is never cruel or unkind...") and his obsession for rubbish monsters.

Probably the funniest thing is that there is a different version of part four with McGann's first takes where he apparently took the Nimon "too seriously", leading to Gary Russell showing everyone Horns of Nimon. The reactions from McGann and Fisher were morbid disgust and hysterical laughter respectively.

Briggsy blames Embrace the Darkness on the fact he was really busy with Dalek Empire, but you've pointed out how similar ETD is his other works... but I think I might have invented the expression "toothbrush wielding"...

Time of the Daleks bores me. Utterly. Beyond redemption. I can barely remember it - except wanting to punch Learman's face in when, instead of saying things like "Get out of my way" she shouts "DO NOT STAND BETWEEN THE DRAGON AND HIS WRATH!"

YES! YOU LIKE SHAKESPEARE!

WE - GET - IT!!

Neverland was even longer in the original version, but apart from explaining where the TARDIS world comes from, we didn't miss much.

They STILL haven't explained what happened to the Daleks in the time loop... probably never will. It does kill off the anticipation knowing the Daleks ultimately form the biggest time war fleet ever and then get trapped in a loop before they even START a time war... does kind of screw things up. I mean, for the Time War to happen this means Romana has to let the bastards go and wish them well! Mind you, maybe that's been explained in Gallifrey 90210...

Brilliant reviews, sah!

BRILLIANT!

Youth of Australia said...

Now the best bits of the review.

MUSIC: Bum-dum-brum-ba-BRUMDAAAA-BWUUUUM!
It's more entertaining in print than being heard. Which is a universal rule that the tune is crap.

I clean forgot that Gary Russell said he'd kill me if I added anymore speaking parts to this mess.
Another uncanny impersonation. He really does talk like that, doesn't he?

the story is crawling to a slow death in a desert of human boredom.
And even in THAT it's ripping off another story, Vengeance on Varos!

THE FIRST MAN TO INVENT AN ATOMIC BOMB!
It strikes me that twist could have been really funny if it did the traditional Doctor Who "hey, you're taking the piss right" attitude of having Cosmo Devine shouting, "YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME?!" Come to think of it, Cosmo doesn't even get a last line... MORONS!

there's absolutely no reason for the villain of the story to be obsessed with using cod Agatha Christie plots to torment the inhabitants of the house
I never thought of that. Wow.

It's the stuff about Edith at the end... it's very moving.
It is. Stopped me considering suicide when they threw me out of uni, this did. So every time I bag out Shearman in my guides, it's really a way of saying thanks.

Seriously, isn't "You are nothing and you are nobody" the cruellest thing that you could ever say to anyone? Not even Vasey or the Master said that to their victims...

(damnit, they're not actually Vogons... but they might as well be)
I'm so glad someone else thought that.

such wondrous Ace Rimmer-style panache
Brilliant metaphor. I think the Ninth Doctor spent his whole life trying to achieve that... failed miserably, of course, but I'm certain he was trying that. Even in his first episode there's that, "Rose, save yourself, oh I am so noble and what this Auton is doing to my backside, it's not what it looks like, Rose! OF COURSE I CAN JUSTIFY TAKING A DEADLY WEAPON TO A PEACEFUL NEGOTIATION! I'M DEAD FUCKING NORTHERN, ORRIGHT?!" I was surprised his dying words were not to ask Rose to smoke him a kipper.

Every line of hers can be summed up thusly:
"You males suck! I hate you! Do some work!"
"SO, have you watched that boring-as-all-fuck video I keep asking you to watch? What? I hate you! Do it now!"
"Why should I help you? I hate you!"
"Oh, yes, easy to say that when you have eyes! I hate you. I HATE YOU!"

Fuck me sideways, Orlensa IS Spartha Jones!

One of several stories where the YOA version is so much better you wish he'd been working as script editor.
Aw, shucks, man. What are the others? Are they any? ;)

Okay, I don't know if they could have actually gotten Sacha Baron Cohen to do it, nor am I sure if Ali G was actually mainstream in the year 2000...
Well, they got the cast of Spaced and Little Britain to do it. And Ali G was big in 2000, which is when I penned that spoof, still at high school. The Paul McGann ones were pretty much the same ones from the very start of the project.

And it's probably got the wrong date so what do I know
No, you're absolutely right. I mean, for it being possible to be a rip off. Actually, I feel kinda slack about slagging off Neverland as the story (and indeed the Charley story arc) was Barnes coping with his daughter being stillborn. Hence the whole "you can't miss what never happened" vibe. Not quite sure what was behind the teenage Time Lord saying, "Hey, doesn't this TARDIS look just like a brothel?"

Which seems a bit unTimeLordish.

Am I meant to know who Vansell is?
Yes. He was in a number of BF stories with Time Lords. Basically he's the boss of the CIA and this is his comeuppance.

The trouble was, as ever, "Divided Loyalties" and it's brilliant idea that EVERY SINGLE TIME LORD the Doctor EVER meets was in his gang. So all the stuff about them being at uni together was added at GR's insistance (thankfully cutting the scene where the Doctor lists EVERY DAMN MEMBER of the gang and telling us which one was which... "Isn't Ushas turning up? Or should we call her the Rani nowadays? I know Mortimus is too busy being a monk, and Koschei and Magnus WHO ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, are both engaged, so that leave you, me, and Jeplax, the guy we let join just because, you know, we needed a nice round number...")

probably the least said about that the better because her performance is terribly OTT.
I heard they cut the scene where Sentris sings a Cabaret song as she waits to blow up Gallifrey (they leave in the start with "Tomorrow Belongs To Me!" which is a song from it, apparently),

Neverland which DID manage to have a very powerful ending..
You know, we actually did start to wonder if Zagreus would be the final ever Doctor Who story, chronologically speaking. Which you don't do unless it's a really big cliffhanger, ala War Games...

Oh well. Next stop Scherzo!

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

often wonder at the homophobic bits of IOM - like Bix being terrified of admitting he's got a boyfriend, the boyfriend keeping quiet to Charley about being Bix's boyfriend,

I must have missed that whole subtext.

..I guess that's why Bix's man was locked in Chaney's closet, huh?

and of course Cosmo Devine (what the fuck was Gatiss up to there?) being dubbed "thy miserable faggot".

Somebody declared that Cosmo was a pro-gay character because his sexuality was completely incidental.

(I thought it couldn't have been more conspicuous, myself)

I was expecting some interesting edgy material when Charley found out her cellmate was gay, since that would rub her up the wrong way what with her being such a prude...

Yeah, it might even have woken me up..

See the bloodthirsty Chaney become the wacky side relief.

Yeah, that was quite disturbing - he was the central villain for the first two episodes!

in fact, it would have been better if the aliens just left without the hydrogen bomb exploding in the atmosphere...

That's what I was getting at.

I just assumed it was him not being able to keep up with the Doctor.

Yeah, there were so many ways to read that, even if you NOTICED it, that making it a plot point was idiotic.

I worry about Shearman's obsession with killing children so the parents can stay swinging bachelors,

...I think I'll ignore that angle for the sake of my own sanity.

Seasons of Fear gobsmacked me.

It definitely wasn't bad. I wasn't over the moon with it but then I'm hard to impress at times - one I'll gladly listen to again. Especially the Roman stuff.

Briggsy blames Embrace the Darkness on the fact he was really busy with Dalek Empire,

Bollocks!

but I think I might have invented the expression "toothbrush wielding"...


Aye, you did. Credit where it's due and all that...

Time of the Daleks bores me. Utterly. Beyond redemption.

I think you'd need to make a running diagram of where all the rebels are to understand it.

But why the fuck would you bother is the obvious question...

I mean, for the Time War to happen this means Romana has to let the bastards go and wish them well!

Yeah, I was thinking about that...

Maybe all the Daleks in the Time Loop were put in the Genesis Ark?

(Did I mention how much the Genesis Ark pissed me off? Absolutely ridiculous idea.)

Youth of Australia said...

I must have missed that whole subtext. ..I guess that's why Bix's man was locked in Chaney's closet, huh?
Why couldn't the original be that witty.

Somebody declared that Cosmo was a pro-gay character because his sexuality was completely incidental.
He acted ridiculously camp just by accident, then?

(I thought it couldn't have been more conspicuous, myself)
He even brags about trapping young men at his house.

Yeah, it might even have woken me up...
The idea of giving her truth serum seemed a bit wierd. Was the idea she would accidentally blab the truth throughout the story or something?

Yeah, that was quite disturbing - he was the central villain for the first two episodes!
He brutally murders his own man in cold blood. For the hell of it.

That's what I was getting at.

Yeah, there were so many ways to read that, even if you NOTICED it, that making it a plot point was idiotic.
Why they didn't have, say, the servants of Edward Grove not recognize Shakespeare, or maybe have Grail # 4 go "Who?", maybe it would have been a proper story arc.

I was stunned when the Doctor suddenly shouts "ORSON WELLES DIDN'T RECOGNIZE SHAKESPEARE!" Well, there he was, starting a riot across New York and he got distracted. The world fucking ends.

...I think I'll ignore that angle for the sake of my own sanity.
Smart.

It definitely wasn't bad. I wasn't over the moon with it but then I'm hard to impress at times - one I'll gladly listen to again. Especially the Roman stuff.
I did love the "there's wild speculation sort of blasphemy and the 'getting a woman near the entrails' sort of blashpemy..."

Bollocks!
Well, the whole cast (bar the regulars) are from Dalek Empire, which was being recorded at the time.

Aye, you did. Credit where it's due and all that...
Mind you, in his first comic strip, he DOES pull out said brush and threaten the enemy with it...

I think you'd need to make a running diagram of where all the rebels are to understand it.
But why the fuck would you bother is the obvious question...

Funny, the official DWM review said something similar.

Yeah, I was thinking about that...
Maybe all the Daleks in the Time Loop were put in the Genesis Ark?
(Did I mention how much the Genesis Ark pissed me off? Absolutely ridiculous idea.)

I dunno. It does make me wonder why the Cult of Skaro didn't unlock the Ark before they fled...

but what REALLY pisses me off is WHERE DOES THE VOIDSPHERE GO TO?!

I mean, if it gets sucked in as well, all it takes is one Dalek to get inside and switch it on and BANG! Breach in the universe all over again...

Sigh.

Cameron Mason said...

Embrace the Darkness does have a couple of good points - Part One is rather good, but then you get Part Two in which nothing happens. Then there's that photo of India Fisher in the recording studio on her hands and knees - very popular with certain fans that is...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Then there's that photo of India Fisher in the recording studio on her hands and knees - very popular with certain fans that is...

Is that the one you got autoraphed?

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

@Ewen

He acted ridiculously camp just by accident, then?

No, I think the idea was that Gatiss was promoting the idea of equality by showing that gay people are just as adept at cold-blooded and ruthless killing as straight people.

It seems an odd thing to do, though, in a story set in a time when homosexuality was demonised..

He brutally murders his own man in cold blood. For the hell of it.

That's what I was getting at.


To be fair, he only decided to kill Mouse at that moment because the plot was lagging and the story needed a cliffhanger.

(We'll try to ignore the fact that it is one of the worst cliffhangers ever for the timebeing..)

Why they didn't have, say, the servants of Edward Grove not recognize Shakespeare, or maybe have Grail # 4 go "Who?", maybe it would have been a proper story arc.

..yeah, those would have made a lot more sense.

but what REALLY pisses me off is WHERE DOES THE VOIDSPHERE GO TO?!

..I didn't even think that far into the plotholes.

Cameron Mason said...

Is that the one you got autoraphed?

I've got Chimes of Midnight, Scherzo and The Adventures of Luther Arkwright autographed by India.

She was utterly brilliant at Whovention - I ran into her and Rob Shearman by chance early Sunday morning while waiting for the main room to open, and she remembered my name.

Cameron