Saturday, 5 January 2013

Review: Big Finish Audio's Doctor Who Story: Dark Eyes

I wasn’t interested in audio plays. The first one that I listened to, and did enjoy was an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. It boasted “3D sound!” and did sound very effective. Many years later I took a punt on the reboot of Blake’s 7. Despite a good cast, it was a horrible update of a much loved TV show. It put me off exploring the world of audio adventures.
So, skip to the present day. I’ve had a surge of interest in Doctor Who. I’ve been a fan since I can remember but as the 50th Anniversary got nearer I decided to watch as much Doctor Who as possible. I was very disappointed that some of the best stories were lost and decided to listen to the BBC Audio soundtracks. I was wary of doing this but found myself thoroughly enjoying them. 

Going slightly away from the focus on the audio, in 1996 I watched the TV movie that was expected to be the pilot of a new BBC America TV show. Thank the maker, in hindsight, this never happened. The production values were superb. Finally, we got to see the inside of the TARDIS that really sold us on the concept of “bigger on the inside”. Trouble is, the story leaved a lot to be desired. First off, we have The Master tried on Skaro, by Daleks, before being transmuted into some kind of gooey slug (a forerunner to Patient Zero perhaps?) and allowed to be transported by The Doctor. Yes, the Daleks that are little more than psychotic alien squids in a powerful exo-robot. What made matters worse was a romance with his companion (God forbid!) and the laziness in the writing by saying that the Doctor is half-human. So that’s why he spent so much time on Earth: rolleyes.
So whilst the movie wasn’t that good, McGann made a very watchable Doctor. The fact that he only got to make this 90 minute film was a great crime. Fans, like myself, wanted Paul McGann to be able to continue as the Eighth Doctor.

I saw a picture advertising Dark Eyes, with the Eighth Doctors new look, designed by WETA. It piqued my interest and I ordered the box set. I then ordered the last two CDs from Season 4 to find out what made the Eighth a darker character.
Dark Eyes picks up the Eighth’s story after In Death. The Doctor has lost much in a battle with the Daleks. It has caused him to feel a great deal and with this loss, become angry at himself and the universe. He pushes the TARDIS into taking him to the end of everything. He’s intercepted by a fellow Timelord who offers him a job that he promises will give him hope. This plunges the Doctor into an adventure where nothing is what it seems.
As usual, the cast are excellent voice actors, conveying the story without tedious exposition and unnecessary narration. The new companion is typically strong and unafraid to speak her mind. Her accent is a bit Father Ted and some might get irritated at her pronunciation of “The Daa-leks” and calling the TARDIS “The TARDY-BOX”. It didn’t bother me and I found her to be an interesting character and a fitting replacement for the no-nonsense Lucie Miller.
McGann performs energetically and enthusiastically, who's clearly into the plot and enjoying himself. Nicholas Briggs, once again, is a revelation…of Dalek voices. There’s a brilliant WTF moment that I won’t spoil but, trust me, you’ve never heard Daleks sound like this before. I’ve always admired Brigg’s voicework. Citing two examples in the Ninth’s episode “Dalek” and the recent “Asylum of the Daleks”. In the latter, Briggs effectively conveys Oswin’s emotion and anguish through the modulator.
There are some cool additions to continuity such as the explanation of why the sonic screwdriver is much more than it used to be (during Classic continuity) and how events in Dark Eyes may fit in with the Great Time War, that is an off-screen battle in the back story of the Ninth Doctor. Briggs and McGann show us how the Eighth Doctor became the “Oncoming Storm”.
All of this, more than ever, makes me wish that Steven Moffat would include McGann in a 50th anniversary. McGann has proven himself to be a genuine Doctor and not a one film wonder. I would like to see, at the very least, a scene referencing the Time War and showing the Eighth’s regeneration into Eccleston. If RTD isn’t involved it probably won't happen.

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