Joseph A. Morrison
26. Fan of Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner and more old-fashioned TV. Reviewer, wannabe writer and general twit.
#60yearsofJamesBond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
When Sean Connery decided to leave the role of James Bond after production on "You Only Live Twice", it was decided that, rather than let the Bond series end, the role would be recast. But who would be suitable for the part that Connery had basically made his own? One candidate whose name cropped up again and again was Roger Moore. However, he had commitments to the ITC series The Saint, and so wasn't available. Other names in the frame included John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Terence Stamp, Oliver Reed and Timothy Dalton. Over 400 actors, in total, were seen for the part: probably one of the most extensive casting sessions in cinema history for a leading role. And the name chosen from this huge process? A virtually unknown Australian advert actor called George Lazenby. It was quite an unusual choice to say the least, especially considering the standard he would be measured against. Nonetheless, it was Lazenby who the producers wanted, and he made his debut, and, indeed, his final appearance as Bond in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". This was to be a Bond film like no other: not only would Bond be seen to be more vulnerable than previously, there would be a greater emotional heart, an attempt to push the boundaries in terms of effects and stunts, and perhaps the most shocking ending to a Bond film in the series' 60 year history... And it's this daring, radical approach that makes this one of the very best films in the franchise to date. From beginning to end, this is something very, very special, and it isn't afraid to break with established tradition in order to be successful.
Doctor Who: Love and War Review
Back in 2012, as part of the anniversary celebrations marking 20 years since the creation of Bernice Summerfield, Big Finish decided to mark such a momentous occasion with the release of an audio adaptation of "Love and War", the 1992 book which introduced Bernice Summerfield for the first time. Not only did this mean that Lisa Bowerman would depict the very first story to feature Bernice Summerfield, but also it marked a chance for Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred to depict the circumstances of the Doctor and Ace's parting: an event talked about for years, but never performed by the actors. In many ways, then, this was a hugely significant release, and there was a lot of anticipation for it from fans of the classic series' final few years, and those who followed the books in the early 1990s too. And it is safe to say that "Love and War" is a triumph: not only did it spawn a further nine Novel Adaptations, but it managed to distil one of the most popular New Adventures into a two-hour release that never feels overly compressed or rushed. As such, it stands as one of the best adaptations Big Finish has ever done, whether it be a Doctor Who novel or as part of their Big Finish Classics range.
The year is 1964. The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" was at number 1, BBC Two was launched, Harold Wilson became UK Prime Minister, the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination rumbled on, and Dalekmania swept the classrooms of the United Kingdom. And, on the 17th of September, the third Bond film, "Goldfinger", launched the franchise to stratospheric levels of popularity. The first two James Bond films, "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love", had been hugely successful, but the success of "Goldfinger" was on another level. It was the first Bond film with a budget befitting its blockbuster status; it was the first Bond film with a title song, sung by the legendary Shirley Bassey; it was the first Bond film to feature the Aston Martin DB5, with all the gadgets and tricks we know and love; and it was the first Bond film to be directed by legendary Bond director Guy Hamilton, who brought a whole new style and glossy look to the Bond franchise. In many ways, "Goldfinger" became the yardstick: the film against which every Bond film since has been measured against. It remains one of the most commercially successful entries in the franchise's history, and it has gone on to be hailed by critics and fans of the series as the best Bond film in the franchise's 60 year history. It has been parodied, emulated and spoofed hundreds of times over, perhaps most notably by the Austin Powers franchise. Nevertheless, "Goldfinger" remains an icon for the best of the Bond series, and stands today as not only the best instalment of the series to feature original lead actor Sean Connery, but also one of the strongest instalments of the series full stop.
Doctor Who: Brave New Town Review
One of the most arresting elements of the Eighth Doctor Adventures was its ability to bring new life to old Doctor Who monsters. Across four seasons, the production team brought back the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Zygons, Morbius, the Krynoids, the Wirrn, the Metebelis Spiders, the Monk and the Ice Warriors to face the Doctor and Lucie. However, one of the most interesting - and, potentially, daring - old foes to come back were the Autons, in 2008's "Brave New World". Being mostly silent automatons of the Nestene Consciousness may not make them an obvious choice to bring back on audio, so it makes what writer Jonathan Clements does with them here even more interesting. And, as a result, this becomes one of the most novel Eighth Doctor Adventures, despite its use of a traditional element in its storytelling. It really pushes how far you can take the Autons, as well as telling a genuinely intriguing mystery story into the bargain. It all adds up to one of the stronger instalments of one of the most well-regarded series from Big Finish.
Dark Shadows: Beyond the Grave Review
Over time, the Dark Shadows audios from Big Finish Productions have built up from their rather humble beginnings into huge sprawling arcs. Whereas the early Dramatised Readings were isolated chamber pieces with only one or two actors, the range has since expanded to feature much larger casts of characters, and more complex storylines that feel closer to Dark Shadows' roots as a soap opera than those early storylines did. This culminated in 2013's run of releases: a series of stories set in 1973 that, while focusing on individual characters, built up a wider threat to the inhabitants of Collinsport. This storyline came to its zenith with "Beyond the Grave", a story that is perhaps unlike any other Dark Shadows audio, before or since. Told through found footage, this release really pushes at the bounds of what a Dark Shadows episode looks like, and probably goes beyond them in many ways. As such, it ends up being perhaps the single most scary Big Finish audio in the company's mammoth discography, which is quite the feet considering the number of scary stories the company has released.
Doctor Who: The Wrong Doctors Review
One of the greatest innovations Big Finish have made to Doctor Who has been the rehabilitation of Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor. When Big Finish began back in 1999, Baker was a lot of people's least favourite Doctor: his era wasn't well regarded by many fans, and the abrasive nature of Colin's Doctor didn't earn him many fans. However, when Big Finish started working with Colin, things rapidly changed. Gone was the combative, brash, arrogant Sixth Doctor: he was replaced with a more mellow and likeable character. He still had the same level of fierce intelligence and an ability to get off on the wrong foot with people, but he was now much more tactful and much less arrogant. As such, he very quickly became one of the most popular audio Doctors, with his stories often gaining critical acclaim for being some of the best Doctor Who around. So, it was perhaps only natural that, in time, Big Finish would want to bring together the two different versions of the Sixth Doctor into one story; one that would compare and contrast the two in a way that had never been attempted before in Doctor Who history. After all, we'd had multi Doctor stories before, but very rarely does the show ever do a multi Doctor story with two versions of the same Doctor. It's still quite a novel concept, and I think "The Wrong Doctors" might be the best execution of it. As well as comparing and contrasting the two Doctors, it's a great story that pays tribute as well to Bonnie Langford's Mel, and one of the most notable audio Sixth Doctor companions, Evelyn Smythe. In many ways, it works as a tribute to a whole era of Doctor Who, as well as being a great story in its own right.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: Find and Replace Review
Back in 2010, when the idea of recasting anyone from Doctor Who who was no longer with us was still very much frowned upon, Big Finish released "Find and Replace", a Companion Chronicle that saw Jo Jones (nee Grant) travel back in time to the 1970s in order to confront her past, and reunite with her Doctor. In many ways, this is a very different type of Companion Chronicle: normally, they are reflections on past adventures by the companion from an older perspective, or occasionally two-handed dramatic conversations. "Find and Replace", however, is none of those things: rather, it is a chance for an older companion to step back into the life they left behind. And, in this case, with Jo Grant, it is an emotional rollercoaster, one that looks back on a well loved era of the programme with the due deference and respect that should be accorded to it.
Doctor Who: 1963: The Assassination Games Review
Back in 2013, Big Finish decided to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who with three stories set in 1963, the year of the launch of the programme. Each story featured a different Doctor from the 1980s, and the final story, specifically, saw the Seventh Doctor and Ace reunited with the Counter-Measures team, first introduced in the 1988 story "Remembrance of the Daleks" (itself designed to celebrate 25 years of Doctor Who), and who were given their own spin-off by Big Finish. In that sense, there's a lot going on in "The Assassination Games", and, as such, this is a very complex story with lots of strands to it. However, despite the complex plot and the weight of expectation on this release, "The Assassination Games" is a fantastic release that maintains a speed and pace that is perhaps unmatched by many Doctor Who stories, as well as balancing all the lead characters we know and love. In those regards then, this is an expectational story.
Doctor Who: 100 Review
To mark the 100th Doctor Who release (barring specials) from Big Finish, we got "100": an appropriately titled collection featuring four stories for the Sixth Doctor, all linked by the theme of 100. While a pretty meta concept for an anthology release, this set of stories was backed up with a strong hook: the writers were four of the best ever to put their name to Doctor Who. And, while there are some niggles with some of the tales, this collection is another example of experimental and ground-breaking Doctor Who, the likes of which hasn't been seen for some time. Taking in temporal meddling in Ancient Rome, meeting legendary composer Mozart, a gruesome curse on a seemingly innocuous family and a trip up and down the Doctor's timeline, this collections runs the gamut of Doctor Who stories and really does offer something for everyone.
Doctor Who: The Girl Who Never Was Review
In 2007, the Eighth Doctor was given a new lease of life when Big Finish combined with BBC Radio 7 to bring us the Eighth Doctor Adventures. Partnering him with Sheridan Smith's Lucie Miller, the series was a hit success, and paved the way for a whole new format for Paul McGann's Time Lord. However, there still remained the thorny issue of McGann's previous companions: Edwardian adventuress Charlotte Pollard and Eutermesan C'rizz. And so, towards the end of 2007, Big Finish released two stories to conclude the character's journey's: "Absolution", which brought C'rizz travels to an end, and "The Girl Who Never Was", which would write out Charley. And this is as fitting a finale as you can get, with high stakes, some dramatic cliff-hangers, and, of course, the return of the Cybermen. This all makes for a fine send off for the Edwardian adventuress.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: The Invasion of E-Space Review
Season 18 of Doctor Who was one of the most groundbreaking and experimental in the show's history. To this day, it remains one of the most thematically consistent seasons of the classic series, and, while it isn't one that has been revisited that often in the years since, it is one that is still held in huge regard by Doctor Who fans. So, when, in 2010, Big Finish released "The Invasion of E-Space", there was a lot of anticipation for this story. Added to that was the fact that this would be the first story written by Andrew Smith since his debut, "Full Circle" (the first part of the E-Space trilogy from Season 18), back in 1980. As such, there was a lot of anticipation for this story, and it is a shame that it isn't quite as strong as a lot of Doctor Who fans were hoping for. Don't get me wrong - "The Invasion of E-Space" is a perfectly serviceable, decent Doctor Who story. However, this doesn't really have a lot of the heart the Companion Chronicles traditionally employ, and there's nothing here that makes this standout from most other Doctor Who stories: something that, at its best, Season 18 did in spades.
This instalment of #60yearsofJamesBond is dedicated to the memory of Robbie Coltrane - 1950-2022. The early 1990s was a particularly bleak time for James Bond. While the preceding two films in the series, 1987's "The Living Daylights" and 1989's "Licence to Kill", had been fairly successful, there was a sense that, even with Timothy Dalton's reinvigorated take on James Bond, the franchise was in serious need of a rampant success story. Added to that, the end of the Cold War, a new era of political correctness, the beginning of the countdown to the new millennium, and legal difficulties between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq, who held the rights to the Bond film series, and it felt like there might never be another film: in many ways, "Licence to Kill" had felt like a place to end, and one that, perhaps, they wouldn't come back from. As such, it looked like the end of the swarve secret agent: a situation made even more likely by the protracted legal situation between Albert R. Broccoli and MGM. By 1993, it looked like Bond would be returning to the silver screen: however, despite sounding interested in the film's initial development, Dalton decided not to reprise the role as he felt unable to commit to more films beyond "GoldenEye". As such, Barbara Broccoli, who was now producing the Bond series with her husband Michael G. Wilson, would have to find a new Bond. To find their new Bond, the producers went back to their initial choice for Roger Moore's replacement: Pierce Brosnan. Released in 1995, "GoldenEye" was the smash success the producers had been hoping for, and has since gone on to be seen as a high watermark for the series. However, while I see a lot of the appeal of this film, I personally don't find it as good as most other Bond fans do. There's a lot of good ideas here, and some aspects of the film work surprisingly well. However, there's something just something missing for me, and it isn't quite the high watermark for Bond films as some seem to claim that it is.