Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous

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Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous
Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
John Hurt as The War Doctor; Jacqueline Pearce as Cardinal Ollistra; Lucy Briggs-Owen as The Nursemaid; Carolyn Seymour as The Slave; Beth Chalmers as Veklin; Alex Wyndham as Seratrix; Kieran Hodgson as Bennus; Barnaby Edwards as Arverton; Mark McDonnell as Traanus; John Banks as Garv and; Nicholas Briggs as The Daleks
Ⓟ 2015, Big Finish Productions
Each of the three episodes runs approximately 80 minutes
SFF | TIME TRAVEL | DOCTOR WHO | THE WAR DOCTOR | AUDIO DRAMA

The Doctor and the other Time Lords are waging a Time War with the Daleks. In this trilogy, The War Doctor has detonated a time disruptor; and in the fallout, has landed on the peaceful planet of Kesca. However, Cardinal Ollistra is the manipulative head of the Time Lords who will stop at nothing to reclaim The Doctor, while he would rather forget who he is and recover at the hands of a Kescan woman. There is quite a bit of intrigue, betrayal, and even sadness in the stories. Compared to The Tenth Doctor Adventures which were fun and a bit campy, The War Doctor series seem to be much different: The scripts are sober and a bit more sophisticated with dreams and flashbacks inserted; and The Doctor is much more cynical and unlikable. There are sound effects (natch) and original music (a ten-minute track at the end presents a musical suite in full.) John Hurt as The War Doctor is en pointe as the crusty and abrasive old man; and Jacqueline Pierce is equally amazing as Cardinal Ollistra, and sounds remarkably like Judi Dench! Interestingly, if you were to scroll through the credits of the Doctor Who TV episodes from The Ninth Doctor onwards, you see some names reappear on the audio drama cast rolls. For example, Nicholas Briggs, who was the voice of the Daleks in the TV series, is the writer/editor/director of the audio dramas; and he reprises his role as the voice of the Daleks in this trilogy. The consistent use of talent across mediums reinforces the argument that the audio dramas are cannon material.

OTHER: I listened to the three-CD set, Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous (Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) which I purchased through Amazon.com. They are also available as CDs and as downloads directly from Big Finish. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous (Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Technophobia; Time Reaver; AND Death and the Queen

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1.1. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: TECHNOPHOBIA
By Matt Fitton
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Niky Wardley as Bex; Rachael Stirling as Jill Meadows; Chook Sibtain as Brian; Rory Keenan as Kevin and; Jot Davies as Lukas
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | TIME TRAVEL | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

Doctor Who and his friend Donna land two years into the future in London. At the Technology Museum, it becomes clear that things are not what they should be: The head of an IT development company is there for an interview, but she becomes progressively more afraid of her own creation. Soon, fear, paranoia, and stupidity spread through the city; and The Doctor must race against time to figure things out…

The audio drama starts off fast and a bit disorienting. The script calls for an opening scene before the iconic theme music cuts in; and it takes a full quarter to a third of the audio to sort characters and plot out. While at first a little bewildering, it does place the listener in sympathy with the characters who likewise are slow to catch on to what’s happening to them and around them. Once in though, the script is original, fun, and at times humorous, though never losing the tension or drama of the events as they unfold.

David Tennant is The Tenth Doctor and delivers an expressive performance with his light Scottish lilt; but it must be noted that there are times his voice drops very low (whisper level) which makes some lines difficult to discern. Catherine Tate is also clear-voiced and brash as Donna Noble, the perfect counterpoint to the Doctor’s relatively nuanced and enigmatic demeanor. The head of the IT company, Brian, and the janitor are easily distinguishable; but the two females actresses at the beginning are so close in sounding alike, it contributes to the initial confusion as to who is who.

1.2. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: TIME REAVER
By Jenny T. Colgan
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Alex Lowe as Soren;  Sabrina Bartlett as Cora; Terry Molloy as Rone; John Banks as Gully and; Dan Starkey as Dorn
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | TECHNO THRILLER | SPACE OPERA | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

On the planetary transit hub of Calibris, the head of the Lost & Found Department “finds” something interesting, and deadly in the wrong hands… or tentacles! The Doctor Who and Donna work with Vacintian agents to recover the found object…

The audio starts off fast, with an opening scene that makes clear that this adventure is not a continuation from “Technophobia;” and carries over none of the characters from the first audio drama in this series other than The Doctor and Donna Noble. The script is fast-paced with chase scenes and a sense of urgency, but making time for a little of The Doctor’s trademark combination of snark and compassion.  David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Nobel return with performances consistent from “Technophobia”; and the cast of supporting actors are distinct (no confusion between any two characters as to whom is speaking.)

1.3. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: DEATH AND THE QUEEN
By James Goss
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Blake Ritson as Rudolph; Alice Krige as Queen Mum; Beth Chalmers as Hortense and; Alan Cox as Death
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

The Doctor and Donna land in Monte Carlo where Donna finds her Prince; but will she find her HEA?  The Prince hails from a kingdom that no one has heard of; and there is an ulterior motive to his marriage proposal. The Doctor crashes the wedding with some answers; but will the Doctor lose Donna? Will the Kingdom be saved?

This adventure is neither a time (“Technophobia”) or space (“Time Reaver”) tale; but one of place; and is not a continuation of either of the other two stories in this set. Back on Earth, The Doctor and Donna come to a fork in the metaphorical road when Donna meets a prince in Monte Carlo. The Doctor becomes suspicious when he hasn’t heard of the prince’s kingdom, Gauritania; and his skepticism interferes with Donna’s pursuit of happiness. The Doctor’s relationship with Donna becomes strained owing to his intrusions as much as Donna’s stubbornness in refusing to admit that The Doctor may be right… The overall tension relies not on a race against time or an exciting chase scene; but on the dynamic between The Doctor and Donna. That is not to discount the battle scene, the wedding, and the surprise groomsman; but they are events that force the connection between The Doctor and Donna to come under closer scrutiny. The Doctor is forced into some surprising admissions! Overall, the story feels more like a comedy than a thriller or soap opera. Doctor Who adventures have a unique sense of humor that tends toward the dry and clever; but this one tipped over into more obvious humor, a bit campy or even cheesy.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate return as The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble respectively; and for better or worse, with the same consistency in performances as from “Technophobia” and “Time Reaver.”  The supporting cast was excellent, delivering lines with clarity; with distinction from other like characters (i.e. Rudolf and Death); and with the exaggerated affectations that the characters demand – all with aplomb .


This set of audio dramas are heavy on the sound effects, the overall aesthetic closer to radio drama with its Foley artists than the subtlety of a film score.

It’s all in good fun, and Doctor Who fans will enjoy the ride. Are they cannon though? This is debatable as the adventures do not fit into the TV franchises storylines per se; and are not actual BBC productions but that of a producing licensee. But they do have David Tennant and Catherine Tate; that instantly recognizable theme music; and most importantly, they add to, without taking anything away from The Doctor Who mystique. 


Trailer for the set:


OTHER:
I listened to CD copies of 1.1. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Technophobia (By Matt Fitton; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast);  1.2. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Time Reaver (By Jenny T. Colgan; Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast) and; 1.3. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Death and the Queen (By James Goss; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) which I purchased through Amazon.com. They are also available as CDs and as downloads directly from Big Finish. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Death and the Queen (By James Goss; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: The Mountaintop

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The Mountaintop
By Katori Hall
Performed by Larry Powell and Aja Naomi King
Ⓟ 2016, L.A. Theatre Works
1 Hours, 4 Minutes
PLAY | HISTORICAL FICTION

This is a staged reading of Katori Hall’s 2011 play featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. and a maid sitting in a motel room talking and smoking. As mundane as that may seem, the import comes from the time in which the play is set, April 3, 1969 – the eve of Dr. King’s assassination.

The dialogue reveals the flaws and greatness of both characters; and the lines are delivered with all the best of actorly skills: credibility and passion.  Everything the listener needs is in the script, meaning the action does not require sound effects or music, and the performance is powerful for its understated production values. This is also a play that also stands up without any visuals, making it the perfect audio drama offering.

Below is a “video” (actually the audio posted with a still photo of the event) of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech in full, “I have been to the mountaintop” (posted by SeurJamzEnt on YouTube.com):

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Mountaintop (by Katori Hall; Performed byLarry Powell and Aja Naomi King) which I purchased from Audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Mountaintop (by Katori Hall; Performed byLarry Powell and Aja Naomi King) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Reviews: The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2

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The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2013, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 20 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger and Others
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2016, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 18 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

 

Pete Seeger was an iconic American folk musician whose work was at its zenith during the Civil Rights Movement. His signature song, “We Shall Overcome” was a reworking of the gospel song, “”I’ll Overcome Some Day”” (Charles Albert Tindley, 1900); but there is more to Pete Seeger than that one song at that one period in U.S. history. This pair of offerings from Hachette Audio gives listeners a glimpse into the man, his influences, his causes, and his legacy in a format that highlights his contributions. Pete Seeger himself narrates anecdotes set against background music; and interstitial pieces (a poem, a song, an interview with a notable person) are cut between the stories. There are guest performers, and the whole is edited into a sort of highlight reel of Pete Seeger’s life by Jeff Haynes.

For those who do not know or remember Pete Seeger, the Storm King set is a pleasant introduction to the musical folklorist; and may encourage a deeper look into his biography, his catalogue of works, and the Clearwater Festival. For those who do know/remember him, it’s a nice nostalgia piece. The whole of the works have a slow, evenly paced rhythm that reflects the late singer’s aesthetic. It doesn’t seek to dazzle, but to gently inform and entertain the listener. It has a “hippy” or New Age feel to it, a contrast to the violence of the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil of modern politics. Those who groove on NPR will probably like this a lot.

The two audio offerings seem to actually be one work arbitrarily split into two titles. The first volume is the stronger of the two; by virtue of setting the tone, and introducing all the performers other than Seeger himself. The second volume feels like a continuation, and while not less well produced, feels unsupported without the first volume.




OTHER:
I listened to a digital download copy of The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) which I purchased from Audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Works category.

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