Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Doctor Who: Eldrad Must Die! (April 2013) Review

Big Finish April 2013 Release
Doctor Who Main Range 172.
Eldrad Must Die!

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Stephen Thorne (Eldrad), Nancy Carroll (Mulkris), Pip Torrens (Charlie Gibbs), Jessica Claire (Kate Sherrin), Brian Protheroe (Bob Gell), Mark Field (Jim)

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Reviewed by Graeme Bentzen for The Gallifrey Times

This review may contain spoilers.

I really wish at this point that this wasn't my first Big Finish review for The Gallifrey Times, as this review will probably make me seem like a grumpy old bugger. However, a review is needed and honesty is the best policy after all, so here goes....

"A Doctor, curse his name, threw me down among the dead... but I endure. I am Eldrad… and I must live!”

Both the opening lines resonating from the title's chief protagonist and on the premise that Eldrad was of course the silicon/crystal based naughtiness from the 'Hand Of Fear', I was rather excited when this finally landed on my desk and was deep listening in to the first three minutes.

Unfortunately, my optimism was slowly diminished, as part one began to feel rather awkward. As a seasoned listener to the main range of Big Finish adventures, you can tell when the actors playing those lovable characters from the TV adventures of old are having a bit of a hard time getting to terms with the sound booth environment and interacting with each other. The first two parts of this adventure I have to say, were sadly, perfect examples of when this happens. Don't get me wrong, Davison, Strickson, Fielding and Sutton are fine examples of seasoned pro's when it comes to Doctor Who and related content, in fact it's very hard to find fault with any one of their performances. It just didn't gel together at all and perhaps down to the writing of Platt and direction of Bentley, there were instances unlike the vast majority of Big Finish audio's, when I thought: "Their all in the booth reading of a script, not 'out there' experiencing every point, twist and turn the narrative presents”. On listening, the jaunt along the beach may become apparent as the perfect example to accompany my thoughts.

It was a nice enough build up in terms of setting the scene for the adventure, the dead animals on the beach, the shifty 'Gibbs' obviously delivering some shifty dialogue to set up his 'Eldrads little helper' role and the TARDIS, disappearing beneath the sands, adding to the feeling that The Doctor will need to use his head as well as his hardware to get out of this one. Overall though, the production and writing was poor, but things can surely only get better?

That was the first two parts of 'Eldrad Must Die!'. Parts three and four really were a marked improvement on the previous . After part's one and two had brought the 'infection' of Turlough via the slightly corny sounding Gibbs and the acquisition of 'the watcher' the adventure starts to gather momentum and by the end of the first half of this adventure, 'Old Jim' with the slightly piratey/arrr! accent had been infected along with the entire village and the ice breaker's crew, things from here on in, start to get going nicely. We encounter Mulkris, voiced by Nancy Carroll, who I must admit was a shining light in this episode, her dialogue was beautifully projected and vibrant, a close second to Peter Davison, who as always in Big Finish audios was second to non by the time the adventure had concluded.

And so to the third and fourth parts, what a difference a quick theme tune makes. A different story entirely. The exchanges between Turlough, Gibbs, The Doctor and Mulkris were superb. Albeit, the phrases Eldrad must live/die (depending on your persuasion) that were maybe a little repetitive at times, 'Eldrad Must Die!' reached a great climax, with the battle between Eldrad's consciousness and the greater good reaching an exciting finale back on Kastria, Gibbs the archetypal power monger didn't fair too well in his efforts to encompass the power of Eldrad.

A pointedly phrased line from Mulkris to the still slightly confused Turlough “There will be many more Eldrads” leaves me to suspect that it may not quiet be the end for the Silicon based crystal loving maniac, however in some ways I hope 'Eldrad Must Die!' was in fact the final act for him/her, based on the 50/50 results from this adventure. I can't really see much left to explore. With different writing though, you never know.

Overall, to use the old football pun, this adventure was a game of two halves. The first and second parts felt awkward, under produced and in some parts even bordered on irritating, simply on the fact that the talents and abilities of the actors had been so poorly utilized. The third and fourth felt like they'd changed the entire writing and production team, with the characters interacting well and it feeling like a good old fifth Doctor romp, Teegan, Nyssa and Turlough all along for the ride too!

If I was allowed to score individual parts then the score for 3 and 4 would be at least a 9. Unfortunately, the slow start brings it down.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 7/10
Many thanks to Big Finish Productions for providing the audio for review.
Picture courtesy of Big Finish.