2.1 The Invention of Death by John Dorney
There are a few themes here in this story that remind me as a listener of other science fiction. The Invention of Death, clearly shows off more than ever what a gem of a cast Big Finish have done in getting David Bradley, Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell and Jamie Glover along for another spin in the TARDIS as the original Doctor and companions. There is a wonderful landscape that is painted here with John Dorney’s words of the foursome landing on a planet where the entities have the ability to repel illness, and live and eternity. The ever proverbial intervention of the Doctor moral code of what life is about is played out for the species of the planet, whom for my are an amalgam of previous Who alien encounter, this time the Ashtallah, as they are called for me where the almost ethereal, elven like creatures who have advanced as far as they need too, are as inquisitive as they need be, and posses all the powers that most would love to have. They however, in the haste discover the fragility of human beings, and, in their help in helping Barbara, end up discovering more about their own frailties of existence due to the lack of loss.
2.2 The Barbarians and the Samurai by Andrew Smith
Wow this is like the best mix of first who you could have, historic placement, ancient Japan, and nice story with a good companion split story, one on the side of the establishment, one on the side of the rebellious and progressive. Ancient Japan at the time of it’s exclusion of all but their own is the setting for this release. This could suffer from a sort of over theatrical self destruct, with actors performing like they where part of a Gilbert and Sullivan Mikado Opera, but, of course as mentioned in this review Big Finish have carefully and selectively made good use of a cast with genuine and worthy originality. There is no ‘shouty’ acting going on, it’s much more discrete and makes for a stunningly good couple of hours entertainment. I for one, think that this blend always will be a hit. The cast again make the sound stage seem enormous, when we all know that we are looking at a handful of individuals and some exceptional sound editing and production, giving you the listener the audio image of something much bigger.
John Dorney as written up a storm here, and this as in most of the Big Finish more classic releases of the earlier Doctor Who stories you get the massive hit of nostalgia and then the self doubt that is this an original story or is this a re-release of a TV episode long since lost to the BBC’s lack luster guardianship of one of it’s most treasured assets. Of course all it does is prove that the stewardship of the name and the franchise is in good keeping. This release also begs the question of which will Big Finish keep putting out, these lush, extravagant and I would assume much more expensive release with this cast, or will they still also keep the early Doctor fans happy with the output which are acted by two, three actors, one taking on the role of the Doctor. I guess after we hear that due to poor sales of Counter Measures series being curtailed, it will come down to the sales versus the production costs. There of course is more obvious an immediate answer to this, that being that so few remaining actors now around for first generation to act, either as cast drama or single actor are less, so at least with this we are getting a continuation and the first foray into the Whoiverse is going to carry on.