Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PMG Season 3 Review

Zagreus

Yes, I am staying true to my word and am listening to Zagreus, all the way through for a second time. No, don't cry for me, I am sure that I can handle it. It may seem unnecessary as I wrote a fair bit about it last time, and that's true, but it's a different kettle of fish hearing it in context. And this review will doubtless be even longer...

The first question would logically be: okay, Jared, you've heard the lead-in, will you admit now that Zagreus is the most terrible scourge ever inflicted upon homo sapien? Well... no. Because Neverland wasn't actually that good - it's not as if there was a golden setup which is squandered, Neverland is a mad scramble for a cliffhaner for Zagreus to resolve. In fact, I'd say that NL is actually more bloated than Zagreus itself, as it sets out to achieve so little, but takes so bloody long doing it... think about it, all NL needs to do is a) Tell us what anti-time is, b) Have the TARDIS caught in an anti-time explosion, c) Re-introduce Rassilon, and d) Have the Doctor scream "I AM ZAGREUS" cue "Zzzzzieouw!" noise. And it goes for over 2 hours. I'd go so far as to say that Neverland could have simply been conflated into Time of the Daleks to create a vaguely interesting story.

The unavoidable reality is that Zagreus is one of the least popular DW stories of all time, though. I argued previously that this would be due to the fact that expectations were too high, and I still think that is true. Obviously you can only laugh at Zagreus being released directly after Omega, Davros and Master, suggesting with that ascending order of villainy that Zagreus himself is the single greatest villain that the Doctor has ever faced, making those other three wankers look like small-fry, as it reeks of hubris to high-heaven and has proven to be terribly untrue.

So, the character of Zagreus, supposedly the most fearsome villain the Doctor has faced.. what is the problem with him? Well, firstly there's the fact that it isn't even real. In NL people can't stop saying that Zagreus isn't real and... they're right. I was expecting some sort of twist but, no dice, he is really just a fairy tale. The title of the story doesn't even come from the character, but the fact that when the Doctor is hit by the anti-time infection he goes insane and decides to start calling himself Zagreus because he's 'the leader of a fictional race'. So really the villain is Sentris. Again. Just couldn't get enough of her the first time.

So the hook isn't the villain itself, because Zagreus is imaginary. It's the fact that the villain is the Doctor. Still, you can't shake the odd feeling that this has been done before... because it has. Just two stories previous in the Nev Fountain alleged cack-fest Omega, where the Doctor and Omega interact in pretty much exactly the same way as Zagreus and the Doctor. Not a good start for a story that was meant to be taking DW into 'areas it had never been before'. Hmm.

The added problem is that Zagreus has no apparent characteristics or personality. It's just Paul shouting a lot. And it's very disappointing that his very first scene, where he hits Charley, is actually as evil as he gets. Pretty much every scene afterwards isa combination of Paul mumbling fearfully (as 'The Doctor') and then intermittently shouting madly (as 'Zagreus'). This is interesting the first couple of times but becomes boring VERY quickly. However, because Paul McGann is the star of the entire series, there are necessarily a lot of these scenes.

The state of affairs forces Charley into the limelight, which is something well overdue, in spite of the fact that her character is meant to be dead by now, because as I've pointed out she is far from the Rose Tyler of the audios as press will lead you to believe and gets sidelined to Melian levels in most of her stories, and never once upstages the Doctor. Sadly, she doesn't get to upstage even here. The Doctor is out of the way, but there's a substitute very quickly, because as soon as an obviously imaginary and entirely pants-paralyzingly dull bit with Charley talking to her bloody aunt is over the surrogate emerges in The Brigadier aka The TARDIS. Incidentally, I have to say that on my second listen-through I noticed a really neat piece of foreshadowing, in that the Brigadier is introduced to Charley as "Dr Zagreus". If there wasn't so much shite in this story small details like that would be rightfully lauded.

Because Nick Courtney becomes pretty much the star of this audio, possibly as a warped amending of his complete rorting in Minuet in Hell, his performance becomes more central to the drama than any of the other Mark Strickson-style blow-ins. What's interesting, is the fact that it's unusually inconsistent - unusual as Nick is generally the Rock of Gibraltar as the steadfast yet oddly passionate Brigadier. In scenes where he is grandiose and villainous, he is quite brillaint. When he is effectively the Brigadier of old, he is also brilliant. But, strangely enough, when he has to, say, provide the voice of "Captain Dodo", the senile and treasonous head of the animatronic armies of Walton Winkley, alongside the understated performance of Bonnie Langford, he sounds like he's delivering the dialogue while sleepwalking and dreaming of better scripts.

The biggest question posed by Zagreus... I guess after the obligatory "WHAT THE FUCK?!?" anyway... is why the hell it is so long. Yes, it's the "40th Anniversay Special"... but so what? The Anniversary is made by the guest cast and the plot. A whole disc of padding, in turn ratcheting the price of the story up and making the end harder to get to, isn't going to endear you to anyone. As I've said before, people would have been expecting a Multiverse-crossing epic with as many Doctors as possible actively involved and fighting the Anti-Time menace, with plenty of action and crossed and double-crossed subplots. THAT could need three discs. But Zagreus, no matter how much it dresses itself up with mind-bending dialogue, is essentially a shitload of characters walking around the TARDIS. Most of whom aren't real.

The length doesn't just defeat [most of] the listeners - you can tell it defeated Gary Russell himself. Although Zagreus is noted for it's callous butchering of all the sacred cows of the DW universe, what is conspicuous is that there's mostly gentle ribbing in the first two discs. It isn't until the last episode that Charley starts calling the Doctors morons, the Doctors tell PMG he's useless, Romana starts insulting Leela non-stop for no reason, the TARDIS is destroyed, PMG turns evil and the Brigadier tries to kill all the Doctor's companions whilst yelling about their dirty knickers. It may be a rash conclusion to draw, but I think Russell had OD'ed completely on DW by this stage and was just lashing out at all and sundry.

After all the hatred in the final episode, the happy ending feels truly out of place, with Charley apparently reverting to an eight-year-old girl, and the Brig giving the Doctor a magic potion that solves everything. Or, actually, nothing because he's still Zagreus anyway so why even put it in the story? Not enough frigging references to a children's book written by some stoner a few centuries ago? And why the hell does the Brigadier say he's "been trying to give it to the Doctor all morning"? Weren't trying very hard, were you? Maybe if you stopped trying to kill him for more than five minutes... arsehole.

Oh, and Rassilon's plan is pretty stupid, surely? Why does he think the Doctor will agree to kill an entire Universe?

Anyway, I still kinda like it. Definitely a guilty pleasure.


Scherzo

Scherzo is one of those stories where you want to kick yourself in the teeth simply to alleviate some of the rage at the fact that the motherfucker writing the previous story didn't even try to segue the end of it into the next one. What's the matter, Russell? Too busy having a nervous breakdown? Well, I guess that's a half decent excuse. But it's really painful because Zagreus eventually ends with the TARDIS flying off to unknown vistas in the brand, spanking new Divergent Universe in a state of serenity. Whereas Scherzo opens with the TARDIS dying with a drawn out death-rattle upon reaching the new Universe.

HELLO?! SLIGHT CONTINUITY ISSUE!

The reason this pisses me off so much is the fact that this story is just sodding fantastic, so to have a blight against it from the previous, far inferior work seems almost as unjust the ABC managing to purchase one of the greatest TV sci-fi dramas ever to be devised, only to discover they've got episodes that have been 're-jigged' by the same dude who edited the Season 22 cliffhangers with extra swearing edited in by Eddie Catflap with the subtlety of those edits of The Goodies all those years ago.

Yes, I'm talking about Jekyll. How about some of Steven Moffat's classic dialogue, as delivered by Gina Bellman?

"What the fuck do you mean you haven't fucked anyone in fucking days? You motherfucker! I'm going to fuck you till I crush your fucking pelvis!!!"

Ah, as charming as it is urbane...


Damn, getting distracted as I often do when the story is too good for me to slag off. I promise I won't reference any other shows for the remainder of this one review. But then I don't always keep my promises...

Anyway, Scherzo's beginning is wonderfully dramatic. The TARDIS is going nuts and Charley is scared. She goes to find the Doctor... who seems to have regressed to a childlike state, hiding under the console and hoping all of his problems vanish. Not that he would know, because as he says he's hiding from nothing - the TARDIS is from another Universe and so here it cannot understand the data it's receiving and from it's point of view nothing here exists. This goes from creepy to downright scary as the TARDIS begins to be eaten away or, rather, ceasing to exist with a horrible hissing noise - and the Doctor decides that he's going to die with his ship.

Charley naturally tries to talk the Doctor out of this, as would we all, but the problem is that the Doctor doesn't recognize her in a neat parallel to the way that his TARDIS doesn't recognize any of it's surroundings. He has sacrificed his life so that Charley may live, so it can't be possible that Charley is here to die with him... man, this is a cool story.

Eventually, of course, Charley gets the Doctor out of the TARDIS and the two stumble into what must be generically termed a 'white void', but that's understatement of the century. It's a void of pure light, burning light that sears into their eyes, that stabs into their skin, their mouths, and destroys all of their senses. As soon as they have seen the TARDIS crumple into nothingness, all they have is one another, and the need to escape.

Even though his life has been saved, the Doctor is majorly pissed off. Charley has destroyed his suicide attempt and thus his life. Charley is similarly pissed off at this lack of gratitude and the fact that the brave new Universe isn't really what she was expecting what with the whole 'stumbling around numbly and blindly'. They have to talk to one another, though, because in this Universe there isn't anything else to do at all. Well, until the Doctor tells Charley to shut the fuck up so he can think.

Just like with The Chimes of Midnight there are suggestions that Shearman's work got butchered in the editing stages of Dalek, as here his emo work is again completely unobtrusive, subtle, and not just relevant to the plot - it is the plot. The Doctor and Charley need to do far more than work together (which, to begin with, they find impossible) to survive, as they find themselves confronted by a terrible enemy in this new Universe - themselves. Or, rather, a creature that is taking shape as themselves.

One reviewer pointed out that this is the story where Shearman's habit of writing stories in a Sparacus-style make-it-up-as-I-go approach is most evident. I'd extend that logic to saying that this is the story where Shearman's godlike nature is most evident, as it's still hard to tell. In fact, I'd say he's given himself the perfect story to work this way in - it's the Doctor and Charley just walking around a void talking to one another! Of course it's going to be disjointed, stream-of-consciousness stuff. There's no exposition, no guest cast, no plot twists that have to be explained to all and sundry - it must have been as liberating as it would have been terrifying to write because Shearman eliminates any and all kind of the usual obligation to the audience for himself. This is also what makes it the perfect story to introduce the Divergent Universe - a wonderful start from a blank slate type of deal..

(Incidentally if you think in the last paragraph I compared Sparacus and Shearman's writing styles I guess you would be correct. I should qualify that the key difference is that Shearman isn't tossing one off while he's doing it, and nor does he send the script to Big Finish with a post-it note saying "Sorry it's not finished I've just gone to the loo". At least not as far as I know...)

The story also deals with the big left-field moment of Neverland, which probably would have been amazing before the New Series, where the Doctor tells Charley that he loves her. Admirably, it looks at what that means in practical and cynical terms. "I love you" Charley says to the Doctor. There is a pause you could boil an egg in. "Is that IT?" spits the Doctor in response, suddenly using his Lieutenant Bush voice*. It fits in the story perfectly whislt also making a point - what does the 'love' mean to DW? Really?

The directions that the story takes, thanks to Shearman's near callous disregard for narrative conventions (Episode 3 begins at least a month after the previous cliffhanger - I love it!) is unpredictable and very entertaining. The scenes of the villain appealing to Charley's weak emotional side by masquerading as her imaginary daughter, even though it is so clueless about humanity it appears and sounds exactly like PMG are dark, tense, and fucking hilarious.

This is where Scherzo's big problem rears it's head. It is just too good. The series has well and truly established the fact that it can't tell consistent stories and its previous attempts at arcs have been misguided at best and incoherent and worst. With a new arc being undertaken, Shearman grabs the bull by the horns and buggers the life out of it, using the ideas brilliantly and creating a brilliant setup. He leaves us with Charley and the Doctor in love with one another, redefining the Doctor-companion relationship, and the two on the cusp of a new Universe that they find it difficult even to understand. These ideas are great. And surely every fan had to realise that they would be immediately squandered in stories that could never live up to these high standards?

This is outlined by a bit near the end, where Shearman has clearly written some dialogue to indicate the temporary omniscience of the Doctor, the acceptance of the new Universe and neatly foreshadow what is oncoming. He has clearly written some blank spots for Gary Russell to fill in, preferrably with the names of some amazingly impressive beings in this Universe. However it ends up being:

"We could be mightier than the Kromon, more powerful than The Censor, greater even than Koth!"

On first listen-through, this is rather intriguing. On a second, it is hilarious, as none of those count as proper villains and Russell has twisted the words as a desperate and misguided bit for publicity for the next three stories. I mean, seriously, the Doctor could be mighter than the Kromon by opening a bottle of Mountain Dew on the first try...

Speaking of the Kromon..

*Knew I couldn't make it. Hornblower reference...


The Creed of the Kromon

Ewen Campion-Clarke maintains with the vigor of Rob Sitch impersonating Imran Khan that that this story is the worst of all of PMG's stories. I maintain that The Next Life makes this feel like Ben Folds to my thankful ears. It doesn't seem our positions are going to change.

I think, if I were to lose my ingrained repulsion to the sheer horribleness of TNL, I could probably admit that they're both as bad as one another. But in diffrent ways. TNL has a lot of ideas. Two years of stories' worth of ideas, in fact, but they are poorly presented (mostly in the space of one episode) with a complete lack of any coherent plot, painful padding, whilst leaving all the regulars on the sideline and ignoring all the issues of the 'arc' it is supposed to be concluding. A lot happens, but it is amazingly retarded.

Kromon, however, has nothing happen in it. There isn't really any plot, no real ideas.

So, which one is worse really depends on whether you think it's better to try to be clever and fail, or try to be average and fail. I guess from my vote of which story is worse that I go for the latter, and to me it makes sense. It lands closer to its goal afterall. Whatever one's opinion, it's certainly a close-run thing between these two dreadful stories.

To begin with, the story starts with the Doctor and Charley walking and talking in a way that tells us immediately that the previous masterpiece has been completely retconned out of existence and the fact that they are supposedly in love will never be mentioned again. Thanks for that, arsehole. Things get lamer steadily, as Phil Martin proves as quickly as possible that having to rewrite the script for Vengeance on Varos a dozen times before it ended up on TV has permanently handicapped his career in sci-fi, as he is conspicuously unable to stop re-writing it and give it a new title. I'm referring to the bit where Charley is attacked by hundreds of killer insects and the Doctor mumbles "Yeah, they're, like, hallucinations or something". Of course, Charley's a girl so she has to be told several more times before she gets the message.

And then the fucking Kro'ka turns up.

I don't know who to blame for Kro'ka. But whoever it was: you suck. An incredibly camp guy who sounds like Nick Briggs, reads minds and makes crap jokes. Let's make him a recurring villain. What is this, 60s Batman? How many people has the Doctor met who can read minds for Christ's sake?! Why are we meant to be impressed with THIS loser? He tortures Charley a little bit, which I guess is kind of interesting, but the Doctor defers to him like a total wuss (WHY?!?) and Kro'ka proceeds to act like a customs officer and consider the Doctor's right to enter 'Zone: Eutermes'.

As soon as the Doctor is through with this crap the Kro'ka pulls out... something, and says "Experiment 54cimtotallynotgay started..."

Who thought that the idea of the Doctor being shunted between one pointless experiment and another was a good idea? Take a guess as to my opinion of you. That's right: you suck. Well done.
Of course, if they did something with the idea... but no. The 'experiments' are not different to any normal adventure in any way at all. They're a framing device or, specifically, the worst framing device ever devised as they are completely irrelevant to everything else in the story.

So, after all this crap where do the Doctor and Charley end up? Wandering around a desert, bitching. Until they find C'rizz, mumbling insanely and he tries to strangle Charley. They're oddly unperturbed by this and proceed to save his life, so he can tell them a long and very boring story about how he ended up there.

Philip Martin, judging by scenes like this and the general shittiness of the story, seems to be completley ignorant of BF's achievements in making innovative and fresh forms of the humble audio drama, and the fact that it's not all that different to TV. Even though it's not a visual media, the principle of 'show, don't tell' still applies. If we were introduced to the story with C'rizz's strange and alien wedding ceremony being interrupted by gun-toting cockroaches in a surreal yet action-packed scene, we would actually care about the characters. Or if C'rizz was stand-offish and made cryptic references, which we slowly began to understand with flashbacks, then we would be intrigued. As is, we just get Conrad Westmaas expositing till the sun comes down.

The rest of the episode is taken up by desert-wandering and introducing the Oroog, a giant badger who serves as the stories only real character. Everyone then gets captured by the Kromon in a suitably lame fashion, and the cliffhanger is seriously C'rizz saying that they're all going to die. Setting aside the fact that he isn't in any position to judge this, C'rizz has been well and truly established as the whiniest bitch on the planet. This isn't surprising. Let alone interesting. Let alone confronting. Let alone anything approaching frightening or tense which is the whole idea of a cliffhanger for Christ's sake!!

Bear in mind, this is the best episode of the story. Thanks mostly to the brilliant sound design and nicely strange and understated music, and the desolate atmosphere, this episode is actually bearable.

What destroys this story is a dreadful combination of two different factors. Firstly, the simple fact that Philip Martin has a terribly naive view of science-fiction. Look at what he comes up with: a colony of gigantic anthropomorphised insects kidnap other aliens and enslave them, transform beautiful females into disgusting maggot-queens for questionable reasons and... actually, that's it. It's the cheesiest load of 50s-style pulp you'll encounter outside of MST3K. It's sheer rubbish. It's derivative, listless, pointless GUFF. And what really stings is that this is all presented as if these are incredible ideas. The Doctor practically spends the entire story going around saying "Whoa, this stuff is seriously expanding my mind!" making him sound like a complete moron. This story is very notable as the first one where McGann completely loses enthusiasm and attempts to deadpan every line of dialogue, as well.

The second factor, is context. That this generic slab of cliche and dullness should come directly after Scherzo is painful. That this is supposed to be the Universe that the Doctor was struggling even to comprehend a few minutes ago is absurd because there is nothing here even to be taken aback by. There's also the fact that this story is the kicking off point for a long arc and, as such, sets the tone for everything that will follow. Which is a terrifying thought. Frankly, what I'm getting at is why the hell did they even approach Philip Martin about this story?

Anyway, in the midst of all the nothing happening over the course of the next hour C'rizz is 'forced' to kill L'da, his wife, as she's been turned into a giant maggot. Not too important to hear this bit as it will replayed in every play after this pretty much and makes another shit cliffhanger. The Doctor also turns evil for no readily apparent reason, achieving genocide of the Kromon race through a gigantic bomb and, when that doesn't quite do the job, poisoning their water supply. Erm... 'yay'? Is that what you're expecting from me here, Phil?

This evil turn from the Doctor, without the excuse given in Mindwarp, feels very odd, considering that the Kromon are, without a doubt, the most pisspoor race of monsters he has ever encountered. And they're up against stiff competition! The Kromon are a bunch of termites that talk like accountants, have no scientific skills, and need to be constantly hydrated. Which can be a bit of a weakness when you live on a desert planet! They are obsessed with production and following business models in their pisspoor attempts at galactic conquest. What's that? Yes, just like Sil. Whom all of Philip Martin's other DW stories contain. Hmm. It should be noted that the Kromon lack Sil's character, intelligence, charisma, competency and general memorability.

Good news: eventually the story ends. Bad news...


The Natural History of Fear

Sometimes ya just gotta say "What the fuck?"

So the Doctor, Charley and C'rizz talk about crazy shit is about to go down. Then they spin a top. Then we hear the theme music coming from some terrible PA sound system in a weird 80s mix. Then Charley's watching an episode of Doctor Who with some dude who's apparently her husband. Then he asks a question and she needs to call in C'rizz and his Jackboot Patrol. Then her husband kills himself. Then Charley gets taken away. Then...

No. It's not worth it. It just isn't. Fucking. Worth it.

Jim Mortimore is some guy whose stuff I have never read but gets praised to the point where Buddha would be feeling it's a bit excessive. I gather he's quite smart. It seems quite a commonly known fact. So it's strange that he's using this audio seemingly for the sole purpose of communicating this fact.

There is a plot. But in the end it isn't actually very interesting. The Doctor, Charley and C'rizz are dropped off in Light City by the Kro'ka. And... no I can't be bothered. I really can't. If you're reading this, you either know the plot or you'll be lost and not care.

The idea is an interesting one. A society where minds are preserved, where people are 'revised' by an Editor, where questions are banned, where Thought Police rule supreme. But these are not ideas on which the narrative is based. They seem to be used as obstructions to keep us from the narrative.

Because people are constantly revised Conrad Westmaas and India Fisher are always changing roles. The confusion is compouned by the fact that in Light City names are banned also - there's the Nurse, the Conscience, the DJ, the Engineer, the Editor, the Censor and the Fire Officer. No frigging names. Paul McGann is the only constant, playing The Editor, who thinks he is The Doctor. But what exactly his motive is remains confusing because he double-talks nearly everyone he meets and it soon becomes apparent that he is entirely insane.

To demonstrate the fact that the society is stuck in a blind-alley from which it can't evolve, entire scenes play out identically. The Editor mimicks the Engineer's suicide rant before letting a bomb off; The Nurse and The Editor give exactly the same speech about the real world; the conversation between The Doctor and Charley upon arriving in Light City is repeated ad nauseum. The story contains very little action, and no tension as we are never given a clear hero. Essentially we are given two possible heroes in the opening (The Nurse and The Conscience) but they're re-written. From then on the story follows The Editor, who was introduced to us as the villain... and really still is.

What I'm getting at here is that this is a story entirely obsessed with what it can do to be clever, without any regard for the audience. Five minutes of the lengthy philosophical discussions in this story are interesting. A whole episode is a major stretch of patience and effort to follow things. The entire story will most likely take up to a dozen sittings and feel utterly unrewarding.

Basically... The Censor got the Doctor's memories so she could use them to destroy her own state in a bloody revolution. No it doesn't make much sense. No, it's not a good ending.

And why the hell are Doctor Who episodes used as propagand in Light City? It makes no sense - the entire idea of the show is escapism, but everything to do with Travel is banned! Gack, this audio sucks!


The Twilight Kingdom

The season starts with a little bit of a bang, and ends with a 'meh'.

Words cannot describe how bemused I was at Twilight Kingdom. It is not bad - well, I could have been influenced by it's placement in the season, as to seem distinctly bad after it's two predecessors it would need to be nearly lethal - but with this story it's as if they've (I don't know who wrote it - some guy?) set out to create the single most innocuous, generic DW ever.

They could never succeed, of course, because God had one of his funny days and had to go and invent Mark Gatiss, but this is really pedestrian, middle-of-the-road stuff. Utterly generic, instantly forgettable.

So... did the writers know this was meant to be an arc about the Doctor in a completely, scarily foreign Universe? Kromon at least tried to wow us somehow with aliens that didn't look human (Oh my giddy aunt!) and History of Fear aimed to fuck our heads up so much that we hopefully wouldn't realise the story could have been set anywhere. But here... they seem to have given up entirely.

A bunch of rebels gathered together under the leadership of the renegade Major Koth - played by the great Michael Keating who really relishes his villainous role and is generally terrific. Curiously there's much talk of space battles and whatnot, which is interesting because in every other storyin the arc inter-planetary travel doesn't exist (no, sorry, forgot about The Last. But can you blame me? That shit makes this season look like high art...) There are vague comments from the rebels and stuff that serve to vaguely hint that it's a possibility that everyone here is somehow stranded from our Universe to cover for the fact that the author has actually made no effort to fit this into continuity at all.

Anyway, with such a generic story I guess I should look at the hooks. Well, it has the whole "Companions Betraying the Doctor!" bit. Which, it's fair to say, C'rizz probably could have done without considering that he strangled Charley in his first story and didn't even appear in his second: he leaves the season feeling more than a little like Adric Mk II, which a lot of people would not want to see. It also feels a bit shoddy by not doing justice to the obvious potential blended with the "Doctor-and-Charley, sitting-in-a-tree..." subplot in the arc, but then there does seem to be an agreement among writers to pretend that that never happened. For its purpose, though, it works well enough.

The other stuff in the story... well, not that much. There's some nice disturbing bits to do with the old "living planet" idea, which is riffed on in style, and in a rare moment of distinction the story actually does the whole "Doctor gets the smack-down by way of being told that he can't do everything before human does the noble sacrifice that he never could" bit that was easily the best bit of Voyage of the Damned, but here it's with a 50 year-old man rather than Kylie Minogue so didn't quite get the same level of attention.

In short... a nice, completely harmless and enjoyable little DW yarn. That happens to be precisely what the series didn't want at this time. *Sigh* Where was this when Sword of Orion came out?

The only thing that disrupts this is, predictably, interference from the arc. Because the audience can't help but think "What the fuck are these experiments about?!", due to the rather glaring fact that none of them since Scherzo have so much as vaguely made sense. And then they try the cliffhanger ending to the season...

"Oh, yeah, gang. Based on no evidence at all, I know precisely who is behind this... RASSILON!"

"Isn't he dead?"

"Who's Rassilon?"

"Sorry, is that meant to be impressive?"

"Hey, I'm not having guest-cast interrupting my cool, fourth-wall breaking, foreshadow-y epiphanies!"

"Then what am I doing now?"

"Well... I guess I am having it. For the moment. Now please stop."

"Okay."

"Anyway to answer your questions yes, he did seem to be dead. But... I dunno he was made of the Matrix or something. Point is HE'S COMING BACK! And as for you, C'rizz... you're an idiot and I don't like you. So... re-subscribe for next year. Please. Do it or Conrad gets it!"

"Hey!"

"No, you're right, that will only encourage them further... WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WANT ANOTHER TAKE?!"


Couldn't quite work out why they got Dylan Moran to play the Doctor in that one scene...

9 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

Looking at the latest DWMs, it beggers the imagination that they aren't employing you - or at least your style. It's just "plot from the blurb" "acting" "whatever" in three paragraphs with a photo of the cover. The reviews used to be so much better - ironically, during the time of this season.

As ever, I can't agree enough. Except perhaps that Zagreus' being so awful was really down to 18 months of waiting, which you really have to LIVE through, like that year when EVERYONE thought Nick Briggs was the Doctor because he was the official comic strip one... that betrayal never really fades and I still wonder WHY, WHY WHY WHY did they start the Divergent Universe arc? Did they really think we'd expect them to stay there? We're FANS for Christ sake and they just told us "No more Daleks, Cybermen, humans..." and we were supposed to cheer up in joy at it?

WHY?

As for Scherzo, yep, it's... it's brilliant. There is, however, a couple of rather big flaws (by which I mean flaws in the story itself rather than the rest of the season not matching with it), like the Doctor and Charley being able to clap moments before finding their hands have grown into each other and... well...

I hate to be vulgar, but, COME ON! They spend like a year in the glass corridor, and are given back their senses every day... did they not notice the huge pile of crap and piss they would be leaving behind/in front of them? The Doctor's nifty Time Lord biology may stop him being so dirty, but Charley is very much a human being, so if she's 'awake' once a day she's got her own way of marking time without the Doctor counting his heartbeats.

It may be gross, yes, but it keeps bugging me for some reason. Like the idea they still have CLOTHES at the end of the story.

Plus, the "parents kill children" aspect of Shearman's work really comes to the fore here. He has issues, with the Child in The Holy Terror, Edward Grove in Chimes, the sound creature here, and even Susan in Deadline. Did his parents keep trying to kill him or something?

As for Kromon... that guitar music in part one is good. As is the Oroog. Seriously, why would they choose C'Rizz as a companion over the Oroog. I only remember one line of dialogue - "I like you, Charley, you're funny" - but it's still 18 million times more endeering than C'Rizz.

Having heard the C'Rizz era, he has his strengths which basically boil down to shouting, "CAN WE JUST FUCKING GET ON WITH THE PLOT WITHOUT THE POP CULTURE REFS?!" and being rude and cantankerous in contrast to the Doc and Charley's "aw, we're cute"ness.

As for TNHOF, well, I still boggle at the stupidity of that finale: "You're not the Doctor! You have eight arms!" "Fuck me, I didn't notice that before!". Why not just "count your hearts, mofo" escapes me. Then we get a scene where the Doctor, Charley and C'Rizz arrive in a city full of people with eight arms and describe every single thing EXCEPT the fact people have eight arms?!

I like The Twilight Kingdom, but the damage is done, really. Plus the fact it's clearly written for the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough. And there's that truly awful scene where the Doctor and Janto (good companion material there) are examining the mushrooms and Charley runs in, screams the Doctor is a moron, runs out again and niether react. At all.

As for the Kro'ka, he never acts like the customs and excise man at the start again. He just becomes, you know, a surrogate TARDIS. So why they didn't have the Doctor find the TARDIS or build one or something clever like that instead, would be a lot more interesting. Well, less pointless. Hell, who came up with the retarded idea of a whole new universe and visiting ONLY TWO PLANETS! EVER!?

Another REALLY big problem is that every single story has the Doctor and co brainwashed. The sound creature messes with their heads, the Kromon give them wierd drugs, the Censor rewrites their brains, the planet makes them angry, Miraculite makes them depressed, Landscar kills them, the Kro'ka and Rassilon mess with them, and when they finally get back to Earth, Davros does the same bloody thing!

All in all, the absolute stupidist, worst, beyond-Sparacus-awfullness moment ever, the one that makes me despise Creed of the Kromon more than ANYTHING is that bit that goes:
"Hey, Doc, do the Kromon scare you?"
"Yes. Yes they do. With their organizing skills and their potions, they could be unstoppable! THEY COULD RULE THE UNIVERSE!"

Yeah. Big Finish jumped INTO the shark at that point.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Looking at the latest DWMs, it beggers the imagination that they aren't employing you

Heh, getting paid to do this. Now that would be the life...

As ever, I can't agree enough. Except perhaps that Zagreus' being so awful was really down to 18 months of waiting,

Yeah, I guess that is probably true.

It still means, though, that it's reputation as one of Big Finish's worst is actually based on

a) Being the front-runner of the dire Divergent Universe arc

b) Being the biggest screw-job to their audience by Big Finish by completely cheating on the cliffhanger in the first two minutes.

Overblown, but quite entertaining in small doses, IMO.

that betrayal never really fades and I still wonder WHY, WHY WHY WHY did they start the Divergent Universe arc?

Beats the hell out of me.

To my cynical eye it seems like more pseudo-plagiarism directed at the books, what with their ongoing arc into a baggage-less reality.. I can't fathom any reason for liking the idea in the first place, especially given the fact the finished stories demonstrate a complete lack of any ideas involving the Divergent Universe.

I hate to be vulgar, but, COME ON! They spend like a year in the glass corridor, and are given back their senses every day... did they not notice the huge pile of crap and piss they would be leaving behind/in front of them?

This reminds me of you bringing up the fact that the cheerleader in Heroes will be a virgin forever.

If that was you. At least two, maybe three, people I've talked to have brought that up. Sorry if I'm mistaken.

It may be gross, yes, but it keeps bugging me for some reason. Like the idea they still have CLOTHES at the end of the story.

Do we know that they had clothes? Maybe they got clothes in the Inter-Zone?

I only remember one line of dialogue - "I like you, Charley, you're funny" - but it's still 18 million times more endeering than C'Rizz.

Yeah, the Oroog is really loveable. I wish he had at least a heap more scenes, seeing as the rest of the guest cast are identical-sounding cockroach dudes. That's one of things that makes Kromon so dull to listen to - an alien race that all sound the same. And there's no-one else around.

You're not the Doctor! You have eight arms!" "Fuck me, I didn't notice that before!".

Yeah, the idiocy of that really stood out. If he had the Doctor's memories, surely he would have realised that Charley and C'rizz had two arms?

Doctor, Charley and C'Rizz arrive in a city full of people with eight arms and describe every single thing EXCEPT the fact people have eight arms?!

I know, and the guy who comes up asking all the questions never thinks of asking "Where the fuck are your other six arms?!"

Plus the fact it's clearly written for the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough.

Ah, so THAT's what was going on. It was a likeable story but feels really out of place...

Hell, who came up with the retarded idea of a whole new universe and visiting ONLY TWO PLANETS! EVER!?

They were meant to visit other planets in the TARDIS in the three years between Caerdroia and The Next Life, weren't they?

See, that's the thing that really buggers the arc up. They go and quit half-way through. Very unprofessional and very unsatisfying.

Another REALLY big problem is that every single story has the Doctor and co brainwashed. The sound creature messes with their heads, the Kromon give them wierd drugs, the Censor rewrites their brains, the planet makes them angry, Miraculite makes them depressed, Landscar kills them, the Kro'ka and Rassilon mess with them,

..hand't realised that.

Maybe that's the difference between the two Universes? In DivergentLand you're everyone's bitch!

"Yes. Yes they do. With their organizing skills and their potions, they could be unstoppable! THEY COULD RULE THE UNIVERSE!"

...oh dear god I forgot that bit. Yes, a race of giant insects who have only gotten anywhere through bullying and can't even understand the idea of space travel are a major threat to the galactic status quo.

I did some thinking about how cool a story Kromon could have been if done differently. It's a little depressing...

Youth of Australia said...

Heh, getting paid to do this. Now that would be the life...
I wanna be Sorvad...

Yeah, I guess that is probably true.
It still means, though, that it's reputation as one of Big Finish's worst is actually based on
a) Being the front-runner of the dire Divergent Universe arc
b) Being the biggest screw-job to their audience by Big Finish by completely cheating on the cliffhanger in the first two minutes.
Overblown, but quite entertaining in small doses, IMO.

OR if you're so completely exhausted your brain is numb. That's how I heard it the first time...

Beats the hell out of me.
The idea they were flipping the new series the bird makes sense, except they only found out half way through making it.

To my cynical eye it seems like more pseudo-plagiarism directed at the books, what with their ongoing arc into a baggage-less reality..
There's a review somewhere that notes how much of Zaggy is plagiarizing Interference.

This reminds me of you bringing up the fact that the cheerleader in Heroes will be a virgin forever.
Well, it's TRUE!

If that was you. At least two, maybe three, people I've talked to have brought that up. Sorry if I'm mistaken.
My dad worked it out first...

Do we know that they had clothes? Maybe they got clothes in the Inter-Zone?
...that's exactly what Conrad Westmaas said. When they dressed C'Rizz as the Ninth Doctor for the comic strip ads.

Yeah, the Oroog is really loveable.
There's actually a photo of the guy who plays the Oroog and he LOOKS like a badger! Big guy, white hair, beard, glasses, huge grin... missed opportunity there.

I wish he had at least a heap more scenes, seeing as the rest of the guest cast are identical-sounding cockroach dudes. That's one of things that makes Kromon so dull to listen to - an alien race that all sound the same. And there's no-one else around.
Only one of them sounded distinctive and that was the judge in the trial who sounded EXACTLY like Sil, in that infamous:

Judge: Turn Charley into a maggot!
Charley: No!
Judge: Would you rather die?
Charley: Yes!
Judge: Oh. Well. er. Fuck you! You're gonna be turned into a maggot anyway!

scene.

Yeah, the idiocy of that really stood out. If he had the Doctor's memories, surely he would have realised that Charley and C'rizz had two arms?
I dunno, I can't explain it.

Though that special theme tune from the story is actually the AV theme. So a huge chunk of the story is there solely to take the piss out of Nick Briggs. Plus that bit where the DJ lists story titles they'll never see like "Dark Rising"... he might as well have added "The Nightmare Fair!" "Shada!" "Steven Fry in the 1920s!"...

I know, and the guy who comes up asking all the questions never thinks of asking "Where the fuck are your other six arms?!"
We find out C'Rizz has x-ray vision and cheerfully tells Charley that he can see her naked. But not that, you know, there's a guy with eight arms running up behind her...

Ah, so THAT's what was going on. It was a likeable story but feels really out of place...
It's Frontios fused with Androzani, and it's not bad, but it SHOULD just be a story set in our universe without the Kro'ka bollocks.

They were meant to visit other planets in the TARDIS in the three years between Caerdroia and The Next Life, weren't they?
...that SO helps.

See, that's the thing that really buggers the arc up. They go and quit half-way through. Very unprofessional and very unsatisfying.
Yeah. I dunno, maybe if Scherzo ended with them finding the TARDIS, abandoning the Kro'ka as their tour guide, and they put Faith Stealer right after Kromon like it should be...

No, this story arc is beyond saving.

..hand't realised that.
I only twigged a few months ago.

Maybe that's the difference between the two Universes? In DivergentLand you're everyone's bitch!
Sig. worthy.

...oh dear god I forgot that bit.
I shouldn't have reminded you. No joking, apparently Paul McGann wanted to quit after that story. It seems NHOF persuaded him to stay cause it was interesting and fun to do...

Yes, a race of giant insects who have only gotten anywhere through bullying and can't even understand the idea of space travel are a major threat to the galactic status quo.
In a universe the Doctor doesn't know about. What does he care?

I did some thinking about how cool a story Kromon could have been if done differently. It's a little depressing...
Yeah.

In good news, the Eighth Doctor is set to meet two out of three Goodies and ANOTHER Blake's 7 cast member in his next season: adding Tarrant to Blake, Vila and Avon. He's even meeting them in chronological order?! How fucked up is that?!

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I wanna be Sorvad...

That B7 one he did that you quoted really did read like it was your work...

There's a review somewhere that notes how much of Zaggy is plagiarizing Interference.

Really? I read someone talking about it plagiarizing Crystal Bucephalus with the whole "tourism locale built on ruins on Gallifrey" but I thought that one was a bit of a stretch...

Well, it's TRUE!

Yeah, it's true... but is it actually relevant?

Anyway, back to the Scherzo thing - Charley and the Doctor are locked up in the glass tube for the purposes of an experiment. Which means the variables are being controlled. And variables wouldn't be very controlled if they were tripping over their own excretions the entire time, would they? Not very good sensory deprivation. So we can assume there are some kind of nanogenes around to tidy up.

(Also it's worth noting that dead creatures don't have the ability to evolve over a period of months. Generally they just decompose)

What I think is a better question is who the hell was running the experiment? The Divergents? Because it wasn't the Kro'ka...

...that's exactly what Conrad Westmaas said.

Hmm, co-incidence? Or are we ONE AND THE SAME?!

It's Frontios fused with Androzani, and it's not bad, but it SHOULD just be a story set in our universe without the Kro'ka bollocks.

Did the Kro'ka even do anything, though? Because I can't even remember for sure if he was in that one...

...that SO helps.

Hey, just saying, you know, it could have been slightly better if they didn't chicken out.

No joking, apparently Paul McGann wanted to quit after that story.

I can understand that all too well.

It seems NHOF persuaded him to stay cause it was interesting and fun to do...

Yeah, I'm sure it was good for the actors. Well, apart from Westmaas. He plays at least three characters in that one, doesn't he? When he's meant to be settling in as a companion. What with Cheshire Cat and Vanderkirrion, wouldn't that make him portray more characters than any other BF actor for the year? Quite an achievement considering that they all sound exactly the same...

In good news, the Eighth Doctor is set to meet two out of three Goodies

Yeah, Tim and Graeme, isn't it? With Tim playing a Zygon as I heard it...

and ANOTHER Blake's 7 cast member in his next season: adding Tarrant to Blake, Vila and Avon.

They got Steven Pacey? Wow. I got the impression he was over sci-fi cos he hasn't been in anything else.

Bloody hell.. the only one they need now is Josette Simon! They've left the toughest one till last... oh, no forgot about Glynis. Always forgetting the hottest one, me...

He's even meeting them in chronological order?! How fucked up is that?!

So... Neil Blisett next year?

*Dodges rotten tomatoes*

Youth of Australia said...

That B7 one he did that you quoted really did read like it was your work...
I know! I could rock...

Really? I read someone talking about it plagiarizing Crystal Bucephalus with the whole "tourism locale built on ruins on Gallifrey" but I thought that one was a bit of a stretch...
Especially as the CB says:
"Hey, this is built on a ruined planet, guess which one?"
"I DON'T WANNA KNOW!"
"OK. Chill."

Yeah, it's true... but is it actually relevant?
More so than Creed of the Kromon...

Anyway, back to the Scherzo thing - Charley and the Doctor are locked up in the glass tube for the purposes of an experiment. Which means the variables are being controlled. And variables wouldn't be very controlled if they were tripping over their own excretions the entire time, would they? Not very good sensory deprivation. So we can assume there are some kind of nanogenes around to tidy up.
Well, you think they might have noticed...

(Also it's worth noting that dead creatures don't have the ability to evolve over a period of months. Generally they just decompose)
There you go again, assuming YOUR universe is the right one...

What I think is a better question is who the hell was running the experiment? The Divergents? Because it wasn't the Kro'ka...
According to TNL, it was the Divergents, but they got eaten between Scherzo and Kromon, and... actually, that doesn't make sense.

Hmm, co-incidence? Or are we ONE AND THE SAME?!
God I hope not.

Did the Kro'ka even do anything, though? Because I can't even remember for sure if he was in that one...
He turned up at the end so the Doctor can say "RASSILON!!!"

I can understand that all too well.
I know. I'm impressed at his professionalism. I woulda walked out at the "the Kromon are the most powerful monsters ever" scene.

Yeah, I'm sure it was good for the actors. Well, apart from Westmaas. He plays at least three characters in that one, doesn't he? When he's meant to be settling in as a companion. What with Cheshire Cat and Vanderkirrion, wouldn't that make him portray more characters than any other BF actor for the year? Quite an achievement considering that they all sound exactly the same...
The Briggs Factor.

Yeah, Tim and Graeme, isn't it? With Tim playing a Zygon as I heard it...
And Graeme replacing Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear 5000 spoof.

They got Steven Pacey? Wow. I got the impression he was over sci-fi cos he hasn't been in anything else.
Maybe he needed cash?

Bloody hell.. the only one they need now is Josette Simon! They've left the toughest one till last... oh, no forgot about Glynis. Always forgetting the hottest one, me...
She was in Red Dwarf, you know. As a silent character the Cat embarassed in public. What a waste.

So... Neil Blisett next year?
*Dodges rotten tomatoes*

David Collings first.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Especially as the CB says:
"Hey, this is built on a ruined planet, guess which one?"
"I DON'T WANNA KNOW!"
"OK. Chill."


Lol. They were laying the mystery on pretty thick. Got me imagining Peter Darvill-Evans shouting "No! Why would we want to destroy Gallifrey?! That's the worst idea I've ever heard! Nobody will ever use it!!!"

More so than Creed of the Kromon...

OHHH! HARSH! But also a fair call.

Well, you think they might have noticed...

They did. They were just too damnably Middle Class and polite to talk about it.

According to TNL, it was the Divergents, but they got eaten between Scherzo and Kromon, and... actually, that doesn't make sense.

Oh, yeah, that's right... the big pay-off to the whole Divergents thing... "They're dead"

Man, I'm going to have to listen to NL (damnit!) again. Because, you know, Rassilon wanted to hire the Doctor to kill them...

He turned up at the end so the Doctor can say "RASSILON!!!"
Yeah. Did not get that bit at all...


The Briggs Factor.

So how did Conrad get his job with Big Finish? Not that I'm suggesting anything, but comparing his talents to other regulars such as Nicholas Pegg and Helen Goldwyn there seems to be something of a discrepancy.

And Graeme replacing Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear 5000 spoof.

...that is ten kinds of awesome. I really can't think of a better casting for him...

Maybe he needed cash?

Ooh, lets get on him now for our Fan Audio version of Bid Time Return!

She was in Red Dwarf, you know. As a silent character the Cat embarassed in public. What a waste.

I think I remember that one.

Not a very good use of her South African looks, no...

David Collings first.

.. he hasn't been in a BF DW yet? He's in their Sapphire and Steel stuff, isn't he? Pull yer finger out, Briggsy!

Youth of Australia said...

Lol. They were laying the mystery on pretty thick. Got me imagining Peter Darvill-Evans shouting "No! Why would we want to destroy Gallifrey?! That's the worst idea I've ever heard! Nobody will ever use it!!!"
Have we heard anything from Pete since the new series?

They did. They were just too damnably Middle Class and polite to talk about it.
"Hey, our crap is disappearing!!"
"...yep."
(long pause)
"So, what do you want to do now?"
"I dunno. Play I spy?"
"I spy with my little eye something beginning with b."
"Blinding void of nothingness?"
"Yup. Your turn."

Oh, yeah, that's right... the big pay-off to the whole Divergents thing... "They're dead"
But they were still active in Caerdroia...

Man, I'm going to have to listen to NL (damnit!) again. Because, you know, Rassilon wanted to hire the Doctor to kill them...
Gak! You just KNOW it's all explained in one line in ep four...

Yeah. Did not get that bit at all...
I mean, seriously, the lamest ending to a season ever. I can't think of one that ended worse, not even The War Machines...

So how did Conrad get his job with Big Finish? Not that I'm suggesting anything, but comparing his talents to other regulars such as Nicholas Pegg and Helen Goldwyn there seems to be something of a discrepancy.
I forget. His availability was a major factor, as was the fact his voice is different enough from the Doctor's and Charley's (this, believe it or not, is a major factor when casting companions). Plus the others had other roles like writing and directing and auditioning for RTD...

...that is ten kinds of awesome. I really can't think of a better casting for him...
I've already downloaded it and judging from the trailer the only POSSIBLE downer is that it was clearly written for the real TG team, so ANYONE except them kinds of kills it. But GG does SUCH a good job I didn't even realize it was HIM till I saw the booklet.

Ooh, lets get on him now for our Fan Audio version of Bid Time Return!
Well, if it was just me, you, Steven Pacy and some sound equipment, we'd STILL beat the shit out of the DWADs...

I think I remember that one.
Not a very good use of her South African looks, no...

Stasis Leak, the Cat thinks her fur is a dog trying to kill her. To be fair, she is slightly upstaged in the scene.

.. he hasn't been in a BF DW yet? He's in their Sapphire and Steel stuff, isn't he? Pull yer finger out, Briggsy!
He's been the Unbound Fifth Doctor and Silver, but he hasn't appeared in a story with Paul McGann like all the others.

Cameron Mason said...


They were meant to visit other planets in the TARDIS in the three years between Caerdroia and The Next Life, weren't they?

See, that's the thing that really buggers the arc up. They go and quit half-way through. Very unprofessional and very unsatisfying.


It's funny you should say that, as one day I was bored and put together a possible breakdown of the full length Divergence Arc:

Jan - Apr 2005

Faith Stealer
The Last
?The Cube?
??? (Plot of Caedroia Part 1 expanded into being a four part story) - Ends with the Doctor discovering how to traverse the Interzone without the Kro'ka

Jan - Apr 2006

?Clockwerks?
???
???
Caerdroia (Pts 2 to 4 reworked into a four part story) - The Doctor gets the TARDIS back to explore the wider Divergent Universe

Jan - Apr 2007

Scaredy Cat
?The Cube?
???
The Next Life

Jan - June 2008?

Terra Firma
Other Lives
Memory Lane
Best of all Possible Worlds
Absolution
The Girl Who Never Was

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

It's funny you should say that, as one day I was bored and put together a possible breakdown of the full length Divergence Arc:

...hmmm.

Maybe Ewen was right and the arc was beyond saving...