Category Archives: Audio Reviews

repost: review of “Doctor Who and the Pirates” from Big Finish

Standard

Title: Doctor Who and the Pirates

Produced by: Big Finish

Series: Sixth Doctor and Dr. Evelyn Smythe

Summary: Evelyn arrives unexpectedly at the quarters of one of her former students, Sally, and proceeds, with the Doctor’s help, to tell a story of piratical adventure to the protesting Sally.  With each episode, this story takes another unexpected turn.

Unexpected Thing: Since it includes Gilbert and Sullivan music, I was under the impression that the story would be silly and lightweight.  I should have known better, given Big Finish’s other productions.  I can’t blow this for you, but just have some tissues nearby, ok?

Now, this my first Big Finish download, and I’m glad that I started here.  (Don’t worry if the sixth doc wasn’t your cup of tea on tv; he wasn’t mine, either.  He’s good here, and they make fun of his silly coat.)  I’ve been in love with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas for many years, and the pastiches of their songs are what attacted me to this story in the first place; so, let’s begin with the music…

The compositions here are very, very strong.  Gilbert was a brilliant lyricist, and many writers since have been baffled by trying to update his lyrics.  The production team here did a lovely job within the second and third episodes, with the highlight being Colin Baker’s solo “I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer.”  [That one’s getting separated and going with my Chameleon Circuit playlist. 🙂 ]Very clever work, chaps.  The overture (which is actually played at the end) combines the Who theme baseline with several themes and harmonies from a variety of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.  It’s beautiful and worth the price of the download alone.

Another particular bit of loveliness, given my love for words, is the nature of the meta-narrative (these elements are strongest in the first episode, but resonate throughout).  Evelyn is telling the story, but she keeps getting confused and having to go back and change bits.  In addition, we soon learn that she also is hiding something.

If you don’t wish to know any more, go to the Big Finish site and download it now.  http://www.bigfinish.com/43-Doctor-Who-and-The-Pirates

**** Here there be spoilers****

Soon, the story spirls out of control, as Evelyn gets in too far before realising that she can’t escape the story without finishing it, including the parts she doesn’t want to remember.  Only after listening to the entire story does the subtitle (common in G & S works) carry its meaning and impact : The Lass That Lost a Sailor.

Speaking of Young Jem, Doctor Who as a program is rather known for its high body counts, especially of nameless soldiers, guards, and townsfolk.  Just look at Resurrection of the Daleks, for heaven’s sake!  After a while, as viewers, we come to regard these deaths of nameless guys as blasé.  In this story, though, the author writes a very powerful argument against our callous attitude towards the death of extras and minor characters.  The name games that Evelyn plays with the sailors first establish them as fairly interchangable, but this comes to an unexpected fruition in the deaths as the story continues.  Each murder builds in power, until Jem’s death becomes unbearable.  We don’t even hear/ see it, but Jem’s murder forms the crux of the story and lends it heart-breaking strength.  In fact, the tone change as we approach it provides such glaring contrast to earlier episodes that it reveals them to be Evelyn’s attempts to whistle in the dark.  It also gives us a glimpse, perhaps, why the Doctor gallavants with such jocularity around the universe, even though he carries with him the weight of constant death and evil.

Following up on the lessons we and Sally learn as we hear the story, the Doctor’s final scene alone with Sally provides a capstone to the adventure.  It could very easily have descended to preachiness, but it rather neatly side-steps this.  Instead, it just reinforces what we are all thinking, as we muse with Sally.

Overall– a strong story that unexpectedly stayed with me.  I’d definately recommend it for anyone who likes radio drama, G & S, or the Doctor.

Advertisements

in which I regress to childhood

Standard

LIZAANNE LISTENS TO AEOLUS

As you all know, I’ve been reading James Joyce’s “Ulysses” along with the Wandering Rocks team. 

Well, we have a new section this week– “Aeolus” [yup, it is full of wind bags]– and a new contributor– Brendan.  With all of this novelty floating about, I figured I would try reading this chapter in a retro way…

“You can read along with me in your book.  You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring, like this.*Ping*  Let’s begin now.” 

{ye olde Disney read-along books on records– anyone?  John–enough with the cricket noises already.  You just don’t know the glory of 45’s.} 

a disney record player-- I totally had one of these.  wonder what happened to it.

a disney record player-- I totally had one of these. wonder what happened to it.

Our Brendan doesn’t have any chimes, but he has read aloud “Ulysses” and made his recordings available as podcasts: the Joycecast.  Please go and have a listen. 

Brendan’s voice is lovely  {I have a thing for men with great reading voices.  Yum.}  His accents are generally quite good (and, as far as I know, he comes by them legitimately), and my favorite bit is that he keeps his little mistakes of pronunciation or inflection in.  Thus, his readings feel comfortable and friendly, instead of formal or stiff.  I put his “Aeolus” on my pretty purple ipod & read along with him in my book.  I managed to figure out when to turn the page all by myself.  I know you are proud.  I also made silly notes in the margins– you have come to expect nothing less, I know.

So, my darlings, go and have a listen; then come back tomorrow, when I will post my first batch of marginalia for this chapter.

 

my choice of reading material have grown up a bit, but being read to still rocks!

my choice of reading material have grown up a bit, but being read to still rocks!

p.s.  CeCe, my playmate, if you want to come out and play with me at Wandering Rocks, we’ll be jolly friends forever more.  Or, follow the page-by-page shenanigans on Twitter: WanderingRox

 

I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer…

Standard

Title: Doctor Who and the Pirates

Produced by: Big Finish

Series: Sixth Doctor and Dr. Evelyn Smythe

Summary: Evelyn arrives unexpectedly at the quarters of one of her former students, Sally, and proceeds, with the Doctor’s help, to tell a story of piratical adventure to the protesting Sally.  With each episode, this story takes another unexpected turn.

Unexpected Thing: Since it includes Gilbert and Sullivan music, I was under the impression that the story would be silly and lightweight.  I should have known better, given Big Finish’s other productions.  I can’t blow this for you, but just have some tissues nearby, ok?

  Now, this my first Big Finish download, and I’m glad that I started here.  (Don’t worry if the sixth doc wasn’t your cup of tea on tv; he wasn’t mine, either.  He’s good here, and they make fun of his silly coat.)  I’ve been in love with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas for many years, and the pastiches of their songs are what attacted me to this story in the first place; so, let’s begin with the music…

The compositions here are very, very strong.  Gilbert was a brilliant lyricist, and many writers since have been baffled by trying to update his lyrics.  The production team here did a lovely job within the second and third episodes, with the highlight being Colin Baker’s solo “I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer.”  [That one’s getting separated and going with my Chameleon Circuit playlist. 🙂 ]Very clever work, chaps.  The overture (which is actually played at the end) combines the Who theme baseline with several themes and harmonies from a variety of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.  It’s beautiful and worth the price of the download alone.

Another particular bit of loveliness, given my love for words, is the nature of the meta-narrative (these elements are strongest in the first episode, but resonate throughout).  Evelyn is telling the story, but she keeps getting confused and having to go back and change bits.  In addition, we soon learn that she also is hiding something.

If you don’t wish to know any more, go to the Big Finish site and download it now.  http://www.bigfinish.com/43-Doctor-Who-and-The-Pirates

**** Here there be spoilers****

Soon, the story spirls out of control, as Evelyn gets in too far before realising that she can’t escape the story without finishing it, including the parts she doesn’t want to remember.  Only after listening to the entire story does the subtitle (common in G & S works) carry its meaning and impact : The Lass That Lost a Sailor.

Speaking of Young Jem, Doctor Who as a program is rather known for its high body counts, especially of nameless soldiers, guards, and townsfolk.  Just look at Resurrection of the Daleks, for heaven’s sake!  After a while, as viewers, we come to regard these deaths of nameless guys as blasé.  In this story, though, the author writes a very powerful argument against our callous attitude towards the death of extras and minor characters.  The name games that Evelyn plays with the sailors first establish them as fairly interchangable, but this comes to an unexpected fruition in the deaths as the story continues.  Each murder builds in power, until Jem’s death becomes unbearable.  We don’t even hear/ see it, but Jem’s murder forms the crux of the story and lends it heart-breaking strength.  In fact, the tone change as we approach it provides such glaring contrast to earlier episodes that it reveals them to be Evelyn’s attempts to whistle in the dark.  It also gives us a glimpse, perhaps, why the Doctor gallavants with such jocularity around the universe, even though he carries with him the weight of constant death and evil.

Following up on the lessons we and Sally learn as we hear the story, the Doctor’s final scene alone with Sally provides a capstone to the adventure.  It could very easily have descended to preachiness, but it rather neatly side-steps this.  Instead, it just reinforces what we are all thinking, as we muse with Sally. 

Overall– a strong story that unexpectedly stayed with me.  I’d definately recommend it for anyone who likes radio drama, G & S, or the Doctor.

Torchwood: fit the second– Golden Age

Standard

I’m finally ready to review the second new Torchwood radio play: Golden Age by James Goss. For my review of the first new play Asylum, click here.

This one is now on itunes to buy, so you can listen to it even if you missed out on the BBC website.

Basic plot: The Torchwood team are investigating strange energy waves and people’s disappearances in Bombay, India.  Jack is surprised to discover that the origin of these energy spikes seems to be the old building of Torchwood India, which he shut down in the 1924.  Inside, he finds his old *friend* apparently not a day older than she was when the sun never set on the British Empire, nor has anything in the building changed.  He makes it his business to find out why, and how it connects to the disappearances in the city.

Once again, the Torchwood team split up here: Gwen and Ianto/ Jack and Duchess.  Jack certainly got more airtime in this episode, and it’s always nice to meet one of his old flames.  Are there ANY of these folks who don’t want to kill Jack?  (Also, much has been made of Jack calling Ianto his “assistant” when talking to the Duchess.  I did quirk an eyebrow at that one).   Gwen and Ianto do the exploring of the house and its grounds.  Most of their speech is reaction to what they are seeing. 

The episode on the whole was less of a concept piece than the previous two.  It reminded me more of one of the slower Classic Who episodes, minus the political intrigue sub-plots.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but I think that if I were a Brit, the plot’s main thrust of longing for the “Golden Age” of the British Empire would resonate more with me.  As it was, I could appreciate it, but I didn’t own it, so to speak.  They do spend so much of the episode building up the glories of the by-gone years, that when Jack confronts Duchess with our modern, P-C sensibilities, it feels a bit forced.  Perhaps this reflects the conflicted nature of Brit society?  I just don’t know.

That being said, this was an episode that could have worked well on television, in that it could have been set in any of those period 1920’s sets that the BBC does so well.  The fact that this stately home was in the middle of India WAS crucial in the plot, but we saw/ heard very little of Bombay itself.  Speaking of which, I think that the radio play producers could learn from the Focus on the Family Radio Theater people about realistic sound design.  They spent too much time describing locations with words instead of allowing clear and distinct Foley to do it for them.  We heard the big things, like smashing glass, sure, but what about footsteps, ticking clocks, clink of croquet balls on the lawn, etc?  Bring the setting to life, guys, come on.

**Spoiler** As for the ending, well… I saw it coming as soon as we got a glimpse of what was going on the house, and, though I understood the conversation about the machine– the actual thing itself didn’t make much sense.  The last time the shadow hooks made it all the way into the factories blocks away before the machine went critical; this time they don’t even make it out of the room.  Huh??

Should you listen to it?  Yes.

Is it the best one?  No.

 I’m interested to hear what you thought, folks. 

Torchwood Radio Plays– fit the first: Asylum

Standard

The first of the new Torchwood radio plays was on BBC Radio 4 last week, and although it is no longer available on their iplayer, it has made its way onto itunes for quite a reasonable price.

Ah, Torchwood!  The show has really grown on me over the past several years.  I like its ability to make me interested and uncomfortable at the same time [Countrycide from season one being a prime example].  Sure, Torchwood has its flaws and can be a bit schizophrenic at times, trying to decide quite what it wants to be, but I think that those hit-and-miss times are well balanced by the strong acting and creative plot elements apparent in nearly every episode.  Besides, any show that can give us the farce/horror of Something Borrowed, the heart-breaking final minutes of Out of Time, and the chilling fairies of Small Worlds, and the pathetic sweetness of Random Shoes– all in the first two seasons– means that they have something for everyone. 

I’ll say upfront that I think Torchwood works pretty well on the radio.  In the tradition of “Lights Out” and “Dimension X,” the Torchwood radio plays use the theater of the mind to conjure ideas, locations, and situations that would be difficult (I’d say impossible, but with CGI these days…) to put on the screen.  Another nice bonus for the listener is, since the cast is so small now, each character really gets some time to develop– this was especially the case in “Lost Souls.”  That was, for those of you who don’t know, the first Torchwood radio play.  It was in honor of the activation of the Hadron Collider last winter.  The episode served as a lovely transitional piece from the end of season 2 and let Jack, Gwen, and Ianto mourn the deaths of Owen and Tosh.

To get down to the business at hand, we have the second radio drama from the original cast, “Asylum” by Anita Sullivan.   This story opens with Gwen’s former partner in the police (P.C. Andy) catching a strange girl shop-lifting.  When he sees what looks like a lazer gun, he calls Torchwood in.  The team tries to help Freda, only to discover that she is more than she seems…  I won’t blow the rest of the plot for you.  I want you to enjoy the episode’s many questions.

What did I like? 

*The story is a simple enough one that it fits comfortably into the 45 minute episode, but interesting enough that I kept wanting to know more.  This simple a story wouldn’t have worked as a television episode, but it fits nicely into the radio format.

*The writing is strong and well-considered.  I really enjoyed the blend of mystery and science-fiction.

*Given my interest in words, the discussion about the girl’s language is intriguing. 

*Speaking of which, Erin Richards, the actress playing the young girl named Freda, is excellent!  She really brought the role to life as a believable, confused, and vulnerable teenager.   In fact, this was very much the Gwen, Andy, and Freda show.  All three of the actors really have their chance to shine.  Ianto and Jack are lesser lights here, although Barrowman’s radio talents are improving nicely and David-Lloyd is consistantly strong in this format.

*The debate between Andy and Gwen over how to treat the girl highlighted the conflicts between personal freedom and community safety that we have to consider in our turbulent times.  This is the sort of thing that Torchwood does well.  It’s a serious issue with many shades of gray, and definately a concern for intelligent adults.

What didn’t I like?  

–  *Spoiler* They spent a good deal of time having Freda talk to herself in a Gollum/Smeagel sort of way.  I was expecting it to factor into the resolution more.

-The ending felt a bit rushed, like they needed about 5-10 more minutes to really give it the time it deserved.

– The Torchwood theme music feels a bit heavy as the tags on a radio drama.

-I would have liked to hear more of Ianto, who has a very nice voice presence on the radio.

Overall-  an interesting episode and well-worth the time.  I’m pleased.  Let me know what you thought.

Review of “Golden Age” coming later this week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.O.E.M.

Standard

Title: English Majors: A Comedy Collection for the Highly Literate

Author: Garrison Keillor/ Prairie Home Companion

2 disc set

Summary: These discs are a collection of a variety of skits, stories, poems, etc as they were presented on “The Prairie Home Companion” radio show.  Included are “The Six-Minute Hamlet” and the “Ten-Minute Macbeth,” advertisements for P.O.E.M (the Professional Organization of English Majors), and a skit with Dave Barry.

I had forgotten how fun this collection is until I listened to it again this afternoon.  It’s a satisfying blend of humor, literature, and drama.  Granted, because this is a collection taken from many years worth of shows, there is a certain amount of repetition (Hamlet, for example, is parodied at least twice); however, each version contains a slightly different take on it, so it’s still worth your listening time. 

I grew up with my mother reading to me, and Garrison’s “News from Lake Woebegone” segments remind me of  that feeling– comfortable and safe, but also full of meaning.  He evokes details from his life in the Mid-West, but his stories are nearly universal in their appeal. For example, in a story on the second disc, he describes his uncle’s combover and “watching the sun set through his hair.”

As for the poetry segments– they are well-read overall.  Billy Collins, Roy Blount, Jr, Robert Bly, and Calvin Trillin are some of the authors included.  Mostly, the authors read their own works.  Since poetry is such an auditory genre, with its cadence and rhyme, that hearing the authors speak their own poems is a rare and excellent experience. 

If you enjoy the beauty of words, this is the collection for you.

For more, check below:

http://www.prettygoodgoods.org/product/show/31707/