A variety of background noises conspire to keep me from sharing my thoughts on the most controversial era of the entire run of Doctor Who. You might even say it's a trial. All in my new YouTube video!
My longest YouTube video yet (as it has to cover seven years), as I look at the man who is, for many, the Doctor Who, Tom Baker.
Robert Holmes sells. According to Big Finish head honcho Nick Briggs pretty much anything containing something, however loosely, created by the former script editor during his run on the TV show will be guaranteed to sell better than the plays around it. Hence in 2012 alone we're getting, as well as the continuing solo adventures of Jago and Litefoot, returns for such diverse things as Nerva Beacon, the Sontarans, Magnus Greel (and Mr. Sin as well) and, in the final of this years Sixth Doctor trilogy, the nasty giant space insect Wirrn.
The story, by William Gallagher in his first four parter for the range, is something of an odd one. There's some good atmosphere and very nice ideas, but the dependence on technobabble and some fairly silly characters drag the thing off course before the end.
After an extremely faltering start in The Curse of Davros new companion “Flip” really needed a strong second story to properly establish her character. Like Jonathan Morris last month author John Dorney is part of the Big Finish writers rep. Indeed, he also script edits for them, acts for them and no doubt writes and sings the theme tune. Oddly despite being a regular for them I've only previously encountered his one episode story Special Features on the 2010 anthology release.
However, The Fourth Wall, his first full story for the main range, happened to come out around the same time as a little spurt of work from him that wound up in my CD player, including a very good Lost Story for the fifth Doctor, a very good Lost Story for the forth Doctor and a decent in flawed historical for the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Anyone who posts on Gallifrey Base will have run across him in the audio sub forum as well, his posts, though not always ones I agree with, show someone who is clearly overflowing for enthusiasm for his work, and that clearly shows in most of his output. And unlike the otherwise usually equally excellent Morris he's much stronger at “Real” sounding characters, meaning Flip stood a much better chance of not being a one dimensional cipher this time round.
The real curse of Davros isn't, as this story suggests, the living hell he's endured trapped in his life support chair for centuries. It's that the character has been absent from Big Finish, the place where he's enjoyed his most consistent form of success in any medium, for four years (indeed, it's actually been seven years since he met a TV Doctor on audio).
The importance of Big Finish to the fan re-evaluation of Davros can't be understated. Before his first appearance in the range in the 2003 story imaginatively called Davros fans were generally very down on the character. Sure, he was great in Genesis of the Daleks, but then he was always there, never giving the Daleks a story to themselves, played by less good, more shouty and ranty actors. When Big Finish started doing Dalek stories the fact Davros wasn't involved was even something of a selling point.
If you'd have told me back in 1999 when I brought The Sirens of Time that the Big Finish audios would still be going 12 years and a 150 releases (in-fact, my folder with all the related main range audios has 181 albums in it, and that's still missing a couple of Big Finish Magazines and the original Doctor Who Magazine promo disc) later I'd have thought you were mad. But then Doctor Who felt a very different place back then. Though the same year's Comic Relief skit The Curse of Fatal Death (written by one Stephen Moffat) was in retrospect the first real sign of a softening attitude towards the program from the BBC the future seemed very bleak back then.
The fact Big Finish managed to not only survive what seemed to be the dying days of the program's popularity but go on to produce some of the very best Who in any medium and have a influence on the revived television series (most obviously Robert Shearman's contribution to the first season, but only three weeks ago we had a Cyberman story where the words “Spare Parts” were repeated several times as a wacky in-joke) says a lot for the talent of everyone involved.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.