Reviews
 Sirens
of Time
The first of the Big Finish audio adventures showed the new production company had a lot to learn about non-visual storytelling. It seems clear that they wanted to do a multi-Doctor story to kick off the series with a bang, but this was clearly not a script ready for production. The first segment, Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor segment, is simply incomprehensible. After listening to it, I had no clue to what had happened, if anything. Sound levels varied so widely that much of the dialog was difficult to follow. The plot seemed to have something to do with rescuing someone from quicksand, and a second location where some people were talking about nothing interesting. The segment lacked sufficient description to let the listener know what was happening and where.

The second segment, the Fifth Doctor segment, was easier to follow, but not satisfying in any dramatic sense. While the dialog was easier to follow and there was sufficient description to keep the listener with the program, the story doesn't go anywhere. The writer seems to see the Fifth Doctor as a non-participant. He exists to be beat up, shot and abused, but not to take any action that influences events.

The third segment, the Sixth Doctor segment, holds together as a story better than the others. In fact, if this script was salvagable, it would be by simply expanding this segement to make it the whole story.

The fourth segment, where the three Doctors come together, suffers from a massive information dump, as we have it explained to us what happened in the first segment (good thing... I wouldn't know otherwise), and a large amount of material is introduced to tie together the first three segments. The effect is stultifying. The trend of giving the Fifth Doctor nothing to do but take abuse continues here. By the time we get to the end, it's hard to care.

Bottom Line: A lot of work needed to get the series up to speed.
 
 
 Phantasmagoria Phantasmagoria was a collection of ideas that never quite coalesced into a story. It sounds OK as you're listening to it. It's easy enough to follow, the dialog is comprehensible, there's enough description -- but -- when you get to the end, you say "Huh?"

Mark Gatiss throws in everything but the kitchen sink, but he never really gives much thought to how these elements relate to one another. There's a highwayman, who seems to exist solely to provide a miraculous rescue; there's a sinister card player; there are aliens, who don't seem to have anything to do with anything; there are tormented souls, whose torment doesn't seem to make much sense...

In the final analysis, Phantasmagoria could have used a couple of story brainstorming sessions to make the atmosphere and imaginative characters come together in some sort of coherent plot.

It was nice hearing Mark Strickson as Turlough. He sounds just like he did in his acting days. His performance was just fine. However, Gatiss doesn't seem to know who Turlough is. He has a few Turlough-ish moments, but the rest of the time, he's morphing uncomfortably between Adric and Sarah Jane.

Bottom line: Good performances, terrible script.
 
 
 Land of
the Dead
Land of the Dead is a breath of fresh air in a series that seemed to be on pretty shaky footing. Steve Cole's script has a strong, coherent storyline. There's sufficient description to let us know what's happening, and it presents a compelling group of characters interacting in believable ways. The suspense builds to a good, exciting climax and with only a little suspension of disbelief, it makes pretty good sense.

I have a couple of minor complaints: Nobody seems to know what an Inuit accent would sound like. Clue: Not French Canadian. And the cliffhanger at the end of Part 2 is terribly silly. It would have been gripping, but the device of having the Doctor on the phone with Nyssa, describing the monster as it bears down on him leaves one with the impression that he isn't very worried. You can imagine him turning to the monster and saying "Could you be quiet? Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

The small weaknesses don't overwhelm a production that is, overall, very enjoyable. Sarah Sutton doesn't sound anything like she did in her "Nyssa" days. But that doesn't detract much, once you make up your mind that this is what Nyssa sounds like now. When it comes right down to it, neither does Peter Davison. His voice is deeper and more gravely these days. Who among us isn't a bit older than we were?

Bottom line: Excellent production that could have benefitted from just a little better research on the Inuit.
 
 
 At Home
With The
Braithwaites
"At Home With The Braithwaites" is pure pleasure. It encompasses some of the best work Peter Davison has done in years. The best since "A Very Peculiar Practice" in my opinion. His character is multifaceted and entirely believable. We're introduced to David Braithwaite as he irritably barks at his children over the breakfast table. Soon after, we see that he's having a smarmy affair with his secretary. The character could have been thoroughly dislikeable. However, Davison's performance overcomes the surface flaws of the character to show us a man who loves his family but doesn't know how to show it. His missteps are borne out of his frustration with his own inadequacies.

The plot steps over the line at times. But for all its exaggerated incidents, the characters, each with his or her own achilles heel, carry the story forward.

Bottom line: This is one where you're sorry to see the last episode end. Here's hoping it's picked up for a second series.
 
 
This page is © Elsa Frohman 2001

Click Here!