Saturday 29 August 2015

The Masters of Luxor

The Masters of Luxor is arguably, the ultimate lost story, as it was intended to be the second Doctor Who serial, until it was dropped in favour of Terry Nation's Dalek story. The rest is history. It would be interesting to imagine how the show might have developed differently had Verity Lambert stuck with this story instead of The Daleks, though one might doubt that it would have experienced the same runaway success. This serial has been adapted by Nigel Robinson, author of a number of Target novelisations, as a narrated audio story by Big Finish. The Doctor and Ian Chestertong are voiced by William Russell, while Carol Ann Ford voices both Susan and Barbara. The other characters are voiced by guest actor, Joseph Kloska. I was very keen to listen to this, as the original script was penned by Antony Coburn, the author of the first Doctor Who serial, known to us as An Unearthly Child.

The show was in an embryonic stage when this was originally written and this serial has some religious elements to it, with a lot of discussion about God, souls and the afterlife. Nigel Robinson felt it was necessary to trim them down a bit, but they are still present. The Doctor's final line mentions God, which feels quite striking.

There is action in this story, but it tends to spend more time in conversation and dialogue. This suits the audio medium well. It is quite a cerebral, intellectual story that asks interesting questions. Yet it also has some beautiful descriptions, along with that slightly dreamlike fairytale quality that many Hartnell stories have.

This is a very long story which feels awkward when it has so few characters. It does feel rather padded. I suppose Big Finish felt it was necessary to keep the length for the sake of authenticity, but one is likely to get weary listening to it all in one go. One difficulty I had at times was telling apart the characters. Russell and Ford work hard at distinguishing the voices of the Doctor and Ian and Barbara and Susan, but I still got a little confused occasionally. I also felt uncomfortable with the way the characters came across at times. Ian is really angry and aggressive for much of this. It also felt a little painful, the way Barbara seems to bully the Perfect One. Nevertheless, this is still an audio that is very much worth listening to.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Counter-Measures Series 4

** Spoiler Alert **

I complained in a previous review about the lack of extraterrestrials in Counter-Measures. This is sort of remedied with the return of the Light from The Assassination Games, though I would have liked to have seen the sort of slimy seaweed-like aliens that you might expect in a series influenced by Quatermass. British Rockets Group make an appearance, however.

Unlike the previous series of Counter-Measures, the individual episodes are not proper stories, but blend into one big series arc. I felt this made for a somewhat less interesting ride. It also meant problems of pacing, as some of the episodes could not carry the arc forward as well as other parts.

There are a few nice moments in this series. I like the use of a monorail in the first episode. Monorails are very Sixties and evoke the spirit of all those Gerry Anderson shows and their spin-off comics. There is also a nice line from Gilmour about destroying the world from Hertfordshire. There is also a clever use of the audio medium, with Gilmour and Sir Toby being played with the wrong voices, without this being commented on until later in the story. Nevertheless, my feelings about this are the same as the previous series. Too much darkness and too little humour (as well as too few monsters). All the intrigue and betrayal becomes just a bit too much. What the Counter-Measures series has so badly needed is a few more light-hearted stories that simply enjoy the nostalgia of this era. A slightly lighter tone at times would really give the listeners a break.

Shockingly, it appears that Counter-Measures ends here. The series ends with Gilmour, Rachel and Alison all getting killed in a series of explosions while Sir Toby denies that the group ever existed. Does it really end like this? Quite possibly it is, given that there is no announcement of a new series. If this is the end of Counter-Measures, this is an horrible and lazy way to end the series. It would also contradict a number of Doctor Who novels, such as Millennial Rites, in which we learn Rachel Jensen became scientific adviser to the Cabinet.