Sunday, March 19, 2017

Being able to write about more Big Finish audio dramas makes me happy for a number of reasons. For one, listening to them makes me happy, because they are entertaining and engaging. For another, I listen to them while I walk on the treadmill, so the more Big Finish I listen to, the more I must be walking on the treadmill. 

(I’ve listened to a few more since writing this, but those will have to wait for another week.)

Trailers for the stories are at the end of the post.

The Star Men, telling the tale of the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric's adventures at a research base, Gallius Ultra, caught in the throes of an invasion from the mysterious Star Men, is a lot of fun. Written by Andrew Smith, the young screenwriter who wrote Adric's debut back in 1980, it brings the young Alzarian to the fore, giving him plenty of opportunities to use his vaunted mathematical prowess to help save the day. 

It also helps deepen his character a bit by giving him a romantic relationship, although since this is a story set within season 19, and this character doesn't appear in any of those TV episodes, the listener knows pretty much up front that this isn't going to go anywhere. However, knowing that this isn't fated to be a successful romance gives it a sense of poignancy. Since Adric's ultimate fate in the series is just as tragic, it fits thematically within the overall arc of his story, I suppose.

Interestingly, the notion of the Star Men--outlines of bodies filled with stars--is the second time in recent months that Big Finish has featured a concept that possibly works better visually than on audio. Unlike the stained glass Daleks from Order of the Daleks, I don't know if the Star Men are quite as well realized on the cover of the CD. Still, enough information was conveyed through the script to allow me to picture them in my mind, so it pretty much worked out okay.

In general, I have a very soft spot for stories featuring this particular TARDIS crew. Even when, like this one, they don't necessarily break new ground, I still get excited to listen to them. Seasons 18 and 19 really represent my entry into Doctor Who fandom, I think. I had watched the show before, and read a ton of the novelizations, but I didn't feel like I was current with the show at that point. 

The first issue of Doctor Who Magazine that I bought was issue 48, which--I believe--had the announcement that Peter Davison would be taking over the role of the Doctor. This was the first time the Doctor would regenerate since I had discovered the show, and he was going to be played by an actor I already knew from All Creatures Great and Small. 

It wasn't too long after that that I got a subscription to Doctor Who Magazine (thanks, Mom!), so I was able to stay current on all the developments of the series, reading the news in Gallifrey Guardian as it came out, reading the episode previews as they came out, maybe reading episode reviews--if they did those at that point--when they came out, and so forth. Of course, I couldn't actually watch the episodes, because my local PBS station didn't show anything past the Tom Baker stories (thanks, KQED!) but I could at least keep abreast of developments, and read the stories when they were eventually novelized.

Later, I discovered that if I tuned the UHF antenna just right on our small black and white TV (not the big color one in the living room), I could pick up the audio from the San Jose PBS station, which was showing the Peter Davison episodes. So, late on Saturday nights, when they would broadcast those stories, I would point a cassette recorder microphone at the speaker, and spend like the next 90 minutes constantly adjusting the antenna to get the best possible sound, recording those stories on audio, and filling in the images from what I had read, if the stories had been novelized. I remember recording Earthshock, and for one brief, fleeting moment, the picture resolved clearly enough for me to catch a glimpse of the Cybermen, and I was in heaven.

By the time Colin Baker had taken over as the Doctor, I had found someone who could record his episodes for me on VHS. But for me, the Peter Davison era will always be one that I first experienced on audio, so listening to this particular team feels particularly comfortable. And it's a quartet of characters that I love. I know it's very familiar in fandom to complain about how there's too many characters in the TARDIS at this point, to complain about how all Tegan does is shout and how everyone should hate Adric. That's probably why I don't really try to be part of fandom, because this is an era of Doctor Who that I love.

Because I took a break from exercising, and fell behind on Big Finish, I never listened to the special release that brought Adric back into the fold. So last month's Cold Fusion and this are really the first time I've listened to stories featuring my favorite team. It's like slipping on a comfortable pair of pajamas, or sitting down with a roast beef sandwich, a cherry coke and a pile of comics. It makes me very happy.

While I will happily listen to just about anything Big Finish produces, there are only a handful of their series that my wife is interested in listening to with me. First and foremost among those is Jago & Litefoot, the series that continues the adventures of Victorian investigators into the unexplained, and close friends, theater impresario Henry Gordon Jago and pathologist George Litefoot. This release, the first in the latest series featuring the popular fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, this time alongside companion Time Lord Romana, played by Lalla Ward, and robot dog K-9 (John Leeson), features the TARDIS crew investigating weird energy surges that appear to be emanating from a theater in Victorian London. The theater is run by Jago, and he and Litefoot are assisting the Doctor, Romana, and K-9 with their investigation.

If there's any Doctor Who character I love as much as the gang from season 19, it's K-9, so it's always exciting to see him in a new story. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward continue to do a fantastic job recreating their characters. And having Jago and Litefoot appear in this one is just icing on the cake.

Written by Justin Richards, who script-edits the Jago & Litefoot series, this story is kind of a mash-up between a detective story investigating some weird thefts, and a riff on Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. As a veteran Jago & Litefoot writer, as well as having written a metric ton of Doctor Who stories, Richards clearly understands the subtle difference between having the Doctor guest-star in a Jago & Litefoot adventure, and having them guest-star in a Doctor Who story. Here, while the boys play an integral part in the story, they aren't the ones who solve everything. It's a delicate balance; I felt like they were important to the story, but they didn't take it over.

Pop of the Week: Funko is constantly posting Pop giveaways on Facebook, and if it's a character I'm interested in, I enter, along with thousands of others. I almost never win. However, a couple of months ago, I was very excited to win an exclusive variant of the Cat in the Hat! So here it is.

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