Stephen Cole

Spiders From… Traxana?

Big Finish Folly, Part 15e – Alien Heart, by Stephen Cole

Alien Heart / Dalek SoulIn the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa stumble across a trail of ten destroyed worlds, all of them obliterated by means of some utterly monstrous but utterly unknown device. The planet Traxana would seem to be next in line to suffer the same fate. But when the TARDIS lands on an outpost on Traxana’s moon, Nyssa is carried away by a tide of giant green arachnoids, leaving the Doctor behind…

And the coming menace is closer than he thinks.

Now, here’s an oddity. Big Finish have decided to experiment in the Main Range with the same format of stories that they have previously employed with both the Fourth and the Eighth Doctors – hour-long, two-episode stories. This means condensed, faster paced storytelling, sharp set-ups, less room to lay out and get overly indulgent, perhaps. Sometimes, it can be a good thing. Your mileage may vary. Since the Main Range releases are double-disc, four episode releases however, that means we get two stories for the price of one. Hence Alien Heart and Dalek Soul on the same cover picture over there. And hence the thematic echo of the story titles. We’ve had three-episode stories in the Main Range before, and single-episode stories too – but how well do the Legacy Doctors fit into this particular mode of storytelling?

And – the big question, of course – is it any good?

Well…

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Wigging Out

Big Finish Folly, Part 15d – Masquerade, by Stephen Cole

MasqueradeThe Marquise de Rimdelle has visitors! Though her grand estate is flooded with an eerie fog, Voltaire’s friend The Doctor has ventured out from Paris with his young ward and her governess. Joy! Conversation, games, scandal! But it’s not just the liaisons that are dangerous – the bizarre mechanical Steamroller Man circles the estate, there’s an invisible dead man in the shifting corridors of the cellar, and the Maschera are behind it all… (more…)

There Goes the Galaxy…

Big Finish, Part 83 – The Apocalypse Element, by Stephen Cole

At a conference on Archetryx between major temporal powers, the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn discover that Romana has been missing for twenty years and that the Daleks’ newest weapon — the Apocalypse Element — threatens not only the Time Lords but the entire galaxy. This time, genocide is only the beginning… (more…)

Diet of Worms and Wild Thyme

Big Finish Folly, Part 71 – The Wormery, by Paul Magrs & Stephen Cole

Bianca’s. It’s a nightclub with a Certain Reputation: only those with an invite can get through the doors. Scientists, politicians, soldiers – they all come here for whispered conversations, strong drink, and the charms of the eponymous hostess. The Doctor doesn’t have an invite. Neither does Iris Wildthyme. Oh dear: that spells trouble. Hold on to something – but not the Doctor. He doesn’t like that. (more…)

Big Finish Folly, Part 24

Kiss of Death, by Stephen Cole

Was there ever a companion more maligned than Mark Strickson’s Turlough? After the Black Guardian trilogy of stories he was given very little to do, and that’s why he decided to up and off shortly afterwards (I’m sure I read that somewhere, but now I can’t find the damned page or link. Anyone?). Anyway, that’s already changed during the expanded adventures Big Finish have created, though some might argue that the writers have tended to emphasise his strong streak of self-preservation over anything else. (more…)

Big Finish Folly, Part 21

The Whispering Forest, by Stephen Cole

Looking for traces of the supervirus now loose in the galaxy, the Tardis materialises on a forested world. Dark spirits infest the air, and the hygiene-obsessed humans living in an encampment by the bay are being picked off and carried away by the Takers if they fall sick… and carrot-topped Turlough resembles the colour of a Taker…

There’s a backstory hidden here, and most of the adventure is spent unravelling it. Yes, this is another Lost Colony affair, with rituals and habits distorted by time, but it’s an effective device to keep the characters moving on through the stages of their conflict. That conflict is primarily between Seska, played by Hayley Atwell, and Sue Wallace’s Mertil – the daughter and second wife respectively of the recently-taken leader of the colony – and the dynamic changes suitably with each fresh revelation.

I have to say that the tight focus on dirt and hygiene becomes slightly hysterical and comedic as the play goes on – where the heck do they get all their handwash from, eh? The other thing that doesn’t quite work for me, and could easily have been lost without affecting the play as a whole, is the idea of the spirits that come out to play whenever the Takers are about: their existence is explained quite late on, through one of those freak inter-dimensional instabilities that always seem to be cropping up, but though they do turn out to be part of the main plot they almost seem bolted on as an afterthought to give the Doctor an easy solution.

And, speaking of the Doctor, for once a lot of the action is going on around him and without him as he tries to negotiate his and Tegan’s safety with Seska and Mertil. Turlough and Nyssa get much more of the running and exploring to do, which thankfully allows the story to play out in pieces rather than have all the revelations fall in one almighty boom.
****

Buy it here.

Big Finish Folly, Part 1

Well, you have to start somewhere. And time isn’t linear. That’s my excuse, anyhoo. All of which explains why Big Finish Folly begins with the Peter Davison story Land of the Dead and moves swiftly on through Winter For the Adept. At some point this year (2014) I’ll probably end up having a Part 0.5 as there will be a box set of stories featuring Nyssa, Tegan and Adric to shoehorn into the chronology (I never said this was going to be easy).

(A quick note on chronology, while we’re at it: I’m using this Wiki page as a guide to the running order of the main monthly series of Big Finish Audio plays. “Lost Tales” have been inserted as appropriate, as have other plays that don’t seem to have a proper home. Fourth Doctor plays will have to be left on the back burner for now. All mistakes are my own; corrections are welcome. Oh, and I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers.) (more…)