Saturday, August 10, 2013

Benton ... Daleks ... Master

Just a normal day at the office for me ... listening to some of the excellent Big Finish CDs in the car on long journeys ... here's a round up of some recent offerings, and some thoughts on each.

First off Council of War is the first Companions Chronicles release to feature the vocal talents of John Levene as Sergeant Benton. It's an interesting story, but one which for me is slightly unbelievable as 'fitting in' where the authors claim it fits. Benton is off doing some covert surveillance for UNIT, investigating some disappearances in the town of Kettering. Benton is portrayed here as some sort of ertzaz James Bond figure, and in my world of the third Doctor, this was never the case. He's not a dashing hero, he's a trusty sidekick ... but that aside, Levene does a good job with the material. I did wince a little at some of the asides from Margery Phipps about his manliness and so on, but perhaps this is meant as local colour ... Sinead Keenan (the female werewolf off of Being Human and the female alien with a green conker head from Doctor Who) does an excellent job of bringing Phipps to life ... her reading is clear and effective and complements Levene's male tones well.  The story is unfortunately a little forgettable and silly, with aliens in the far future kidnapping Phipps because she wrote a book that they based their entire culture on (of peace) and then when they get invaded, they have no way of defending themselves. Thus they blame Phipps and put her on trial!  It's just daft.

Next up is The Final Phase, one of the Tom Baker/Mary Tamm series of audios. I've not listened to all of these, and on this one I felt I was missing something. It seems to be a return appearance from David Warner as Cuthbert, a character who has joined forces with the Daleks. Warner is brilliant here, managing to toe a line between serious threat and incompetence as he realises that the Daleks he hired as a security force (what was he thinking?) actually have their own agenda and are after a sort of wormhole thing he has found in space. I liked the stylings of this, and the music is very Dudley Simpson from 'Genesis of the Daleks'. I did have a small problem with Tamm's voice, as she doesn't sound terribly like she did in the show, and Tom Baker too is perhaps playing it all with too much flippancy than would perhaps have been the case ... but then some of this is down to the script and the dialogue the character is given. It was an entertaining listen, but I did start to get bored the 100th time someone asked Cuthbert to explain his plan, and he found another reason not to ...  The Dalek voices are, as usual, excellent, and generally the sound design and production is top notch - but then Big Finish have a lot of experience of doing these things now.

Finally, another Companion Chronicle, Mastermind which features Geoffrey Beevers as the Master, along with Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso as a couple of UNIT (I think) operatives who are keeping the Master's body in a mysterious vault.  I really enjoyed this tale, it works perfectly in the medium, and does not overstay it's welcome. It's also got some lovely twists and turns in it, some excellent audio effects, and a nice, satisfying ending, all of which works within the concepts that the author (Jonathan Morris, contributing what seems to be his 26th CD for Big Finish's main Who ranges) is playing with. Beevers is brilliant as the Master, his voice moving from pitiful wheedling to powerful control as the play progresses, and I liked the time travel elements which were introduced as well. Overall this is the best of the three, a great, cracking adventure, and one which would actually work really well as a film - just three cast, limited sets, and lots of great ideas and sparkling dialogue.

1 comment:

Traveller28 said...

Hi David, I added you to the links on my blog as I do rather enjoy your thoughts/writing. Keep up the fab work matey!