Friday, 19 August 2016


It’s easy to claim that Big Finish is killing it this year when there is no television series to compare it to, but even if there was; it would take one hell of a series to hold a candle to what listeners have been treated to this year. Two Masters trilogy, the return of Ten and Donna and the utterly fantastic War Doctor second volume among others. And that’s not even touching the fantastic 2016 Fifth Doctor Trilogy or The Trouble with Drax by John Dorney. Classic Doctors, New Monsters is blessed with a fantastic premise and cursed with carrying the expectation of raising an already sky-high bar even further.

Fallen Angels

Of all the stories, the idea of taking a non-verbal enemy and doing an audio-only story with them can easily be seen as the most bold and audacious, not to mention the riskiest. In fact up until I actually sat down to listen to this story, none of the other titles in the box set really mattered. This was the one I wanted…and I got it! Fallen Angels does very little wrong, if any. Before listening to this story, I wanted the Seventh Doctor to bowl out the Weeping Angels, but the moment Five opened his mouth, I knew there could be no other. This truly is a fantastic pairing and this first story proves that Big Finish did a lot of research and careful choosing when they paired up the Doctors and the Monsters.

The Doctor’s “companions”, a couple of newlyweds on honeymoon Gabby and Joel, have a terrific dynamic with the Doctor, especially Gabby, though they aren’t fleshed a lot. This is forgivable as the pace is brisk as it should be for a Weeping Angel story. Unfortunately I wanted more Five/Michelangelo, but Matthew Kelly’s portrayal of the renaissance artist is breathtaking. Utterly adored every one of his scenes.

As for the Weeping Angels? They couldn’t be in safer hands than Big Finish. The audio folk did a fantastic job recreating the sound effects that accompany the Angels when they are near and I feel on audio it works just as well as on television.

Rating this story: 8/10. 

Judoon in Chains

A Judoon and a Weeping Angel get into a fight, who wins? Surprisingly, the Judoon when it pairs the rhino policemen with the Sixth Doctor. The box set goes strength to strength with a beautiful character piece that will make you view the Judoon in a new light. Judoon in Chains and Harvest of the Sycorax were my least anticipated stories, but I am very surprised by just how much I loved this story, least not because I am a huge fan of Smith and Jones. Judoon in Chains also features the most bonkers setup of all the stories which caught me off-guard the first time I listened to it.

The star of the show oddly enough is not Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, but while we’re on the subject, this story ranks amongst the best outings Ol’ Sixie has had. If you’re not a Sixth Doctor fan and you can’t understand why people are, you listen to this story. It’s as simple as that.

But back to Captain Kybo, the Judoon that headlines this story. Big congratulations to Nick Briggs for a truly breathtaking performance. And a big kudos to Simon Barnard and Paul Morris for a utterly magnificent script. Given their popularity, I knew besting the Weeping Angels with the Judoon was going to be nigh-impossible, but you nailed it.

Rating this story: 9/10

Harvest of the Sycorax

Perhaps the weakest story in the box set, some hype surrounding this story included “McCoy’s greatest performance”. It’s not. And I don’t mean he gives a bad one. Not at all. In fact the Seventh Doctor is one of the things I adore about this story, but there are a lot of other “better” Seventh Doctor tales. And you don’t even have to look very far…The Two Masters anyone? In my opinion stories like The Fearmonger, Master, House of Blue Fire and The Architect of History deserve that praise.

But yes, this story saw the return of the Sycorax and while I believe the Seventh Doctor got the short end of the stick when they were dealing out monsters, McCoy definitely got the juiciest/funniest material and some of the best lines come out of his mouth.

While every story in this box set contains enough elements to put you in the mind of either Blink, Smith and Jones, The Christmas Invasion or The Sontaran Strategem, Harvest of the Sycorax does an exceptional job of being least “in-your-face” about it’s links to New Who. Unfortunately, while having a lot of really creative and funny ideas like the app which kept prescribing medicine every two minutes, the story itself isn’t too memorable.

However, the Doctor’s assistant, Zanzibar# (pronounced Zanzibar-Hashtag), is one of the characters who receives the most character development (but Kybo still takes first prize) and she didn’t make much of an impression on me.

One thing I really did enjoy was how much “screen-time” the Sycorax received which is something I found lacking and jarring in The Christmas Invasion.

Rating this story: 7/10.

The Sontaran Ordeal

Steven Moffat! Listen to this story! This story proves that Eight could’ve fought in the Time War. It doesn’t go against his character. In fact, it actually adds to it. Having a Doctor begin the story by calling out the Time lords and begging them not to bring the Time War into real time and devastate a particular segment of the galaxy instantly establishes what sort of a ride we’re in for. It’s like Big Finish took the magic of The Night of the Doctor and stretched it from seven minutes to fifty-four. I am really looking forward to the Time War Box Set next year if it means getting more of this Eighth Doctor. I cannot praise Paul McGann enough for his performance here. Kudos!

The Sontarans aren’t technically new monsters, but I love the clone batch New Who cooked up and I must say it feels nice to hear Christopher Ryan as another sinister Sontaran. Please Big Finish! I love Dan Starkey as a Sontaran, but give us more of Mr Ryan. He is just as out of this world!

This last instalment feels the least like its New Who counterpart in that we are presented with a very different kind of Sontaran story. It’s also not much of a stretch to link why the Sontarans are even here. Big Finish watched the Sontaran 2-parter, spotted one line of dialogue and decided to build an entire story around it…and I’m okay with that. I adored every Sontaran in this story; from their motivations to their back stories. Plus it feels like I’m listening to the Sontaran 2-parter and that sits right with me.

The “companion” for this story is Sarana Teel, played by Josette Simon. The Time War ravaged her planet in a couple of minutes (centuries in real time) and she joins the Doctor on his mission unaware that he is a Time Lord. If you’ve ever wondered what it would’ve been like had Cass not died and instead travelled with the Doctor, listen to The Sontaran Ordeal as it re-imagines such a relationship perfectly.

Unfortunately of all the stories this one ended up letting me down the most. But not because of its beginning, middle or even the climax which were all brilliant…but the last three minutes. It doesn’t feel earned; it makes no sense and tries too hard to…spoilers!

I’d like to elaborate, but I’m afraid I might give something away. All I will say is I believe the ending was aiming for bittersweet, but unfortunately it ended up just bitter.

Rating this story: 8/10

And now! We ask one very important question …well two actually. How do these stories compare to their New Who counterparts? And more importantly: Who wins? Let’s have a look:
  • Blink vs Fallen Angels
    I want to say Blink still takes it home but Fallen Angels is really really close. While Blink‘s prestige has had years to be dilated, Fallen Angels feels like a story which will manage to stay utterly consistent in entertainment for many years to come. 
  • Smith and Jones vs Judoon in Chains
    I really love Smith and Jones. I mean really love it. Series 3 is one of my favourites and Martha’s meeting with Ten in that hospital was fantastic, but Judoon in Chains takes it.
  • The Christmas Invasion vs Harvest of the Sycorax
    Harvest of the Sycorax may come across as ordinary, but at least it doesn’t feature the Doctor unconscious for 2/3s of the story and more importantly, unlike Rose Tyler, Zanzibar doesn’t break down and cry THREE bloody times during the runtime.
  • The Sontaran Strategem vs The Sontaran Ordeal
    This is a tough one. Ignoring the last three minutes of the latter, I’d say it’s a tie ladies and gentlemen.

I do recommend picking up this box set. It’s well worth a listen and certain worth the price of admission. In a year without Doctor Who, Classic Doctors, New Monsters is the closest you’re going to get to New Who until Christmas rolls up. The series has already been green lit for a second season and I’m going to end this review with a prediction of sorts for what I’d like to see Big Finish tackle in box set 2:
  • Fifth Doctor vs The Racnoss
  • Sixth Doctor vs Krillitanes
  • Seventh Doctor vs Vasta Nerada
  • Eighth Doctor vs The Silence

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Sebastian Strange comes under attack by a mysterious assailant with resources both financial and temporal. The only thing keeping him alive is a fob watch which can predict his time of death.

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