29 March 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney

RRP: £8.99 (Download) each

Release Date: February 2019

Reviewed by: Chris Swaby for Doctor Who Online


The Perfect Prisoners: Part One

"The Doctor, Ann and K9 are hot on the trail of the Syndicate, and straight into trouble. 

After contending with killer robots and dangerous aliens, the clues lead straight to a machine that can literally make your dreams come true. A device that in the wrong hands could lead to misery for billions.  

But who’s the real villain here? And what exactly is their master plan?"

The Perfect Prisoners: Part Two

"Secrets have been revealed, and the Doctor and his friends at last know who they’re fighting.

An epic journey across space leads them to the true mastermind of the Syndicate conspiracy.

Alliances will shift. Friends will die. Can even the Doctor come out of this alive?"

As this is the finale to the eighth series of “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” it begs the question, can this be enjoyed without having listened to the rest of the series? Well, the answer is yes but it comes with two caveats. Both parts are perfectly enjoyable and easy to follow without listening to the proceeding six stories. However, to get the most out of this finale, I would suggest listening to these first. Added to this, it would be worth checking out “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, why? Because it gives a nice bit of background to this story and well, it’s one of the classics of Who! It may be 12 parts, many of which are sadly still missing but this does not detract from a fantastic serial. 

Part One starts in a pretty lively fashion. We first encounter The Doctor on the run from killer robots whilst trying his best to avert a rocket launch that would mean certain doom for many planets. As usual, not only is he fighting a deadly foe, but also a long standing enemy - a countdown! Meanwhile, the newest addition to the Big Finish roster, WPC Ann Kelso, is chasing down a suspect in true Policewoman style. Here we get a big departure from the usual companion territory, and we experience the first of many shocks and twists that this finale throws up. 


Following the successful stopping of a nefarious plot, a clue is picked up to the existence of the mysterious “Syndicate”, an ever present threat throughout series eight. From here to the end of part one, we stay pretty static on one planet and one building as The Doctor and Ann investigate a media conglomerate on their way to unravelling what The Syndicates’ master plan is. The episode moves along slowly without ever feeling like it is dragging, a hard task to accomplish for a writer but John Dorney manages it flawlessly here. 

 

Towards the end, the story flicks into another gear and the action really ramps up finishing with a huge twist at the end, setting it up nicely for the next part. Again, even without being invested in the series as a whole, the reveal still manages to shock and leaves you instantly wanting to get straight on to the next part. I was intending to listen to it over consecutive nights but as soon as part one finished I couldn’t stop myself from playing the next part, which is always the sign of a good cliffhanger.

 

Whereas Part One kicked off with an all action set piece, Part Two goes the other way and is a lot more understated, which given the huge reveal makes sense. In this part we get a far wider scope in terms of location, moving from one to another as The Doctor works to piece together the fall out from the cliffhanger, whilst also trying to stop The Syndicate’s plan from coming to fruition. On the whole this has more action than the former part, but it is evenly spaced between some great dialogue scenes, with one near the end being a particular highlight of the finale. 


The ending has plenty of twists and turns. At one point you really feel like the ending is clearly signposted, with one character killing another but it defies expectations and goes in another direction completely. In the dying moments, you really think you can tell what is going to happen but again, the writer throws convention out of the window which left me with a feeling of heartbreak followed by happiness at the final words. This is a true talent for any writer to accomplish and John Dorney nails it perfectly.

 

Both parts are full of well acted, entertaining and engaging characters. Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor is as fun as ever. He comes across fun and banterous to start but by the end of the first part and throughout the second his serious side comes out. That’s not to say its a complete 180 degree turn and the humour stops but he is definitely far more on the silly side to start.

 

Ann Kelso is a tough one to discuss without going all in on spoilers so I will try my best to pass comment without ruining any surprises. I found during the first part it was a bit difficult to really pin down her character, there are some interesting things that she is involved in but does come across as a bit unremarkable for bits of part one. I am pleased to say that although she is hard to pin down character wise at times, there is a lot going on with her and there is much to enjoy from the character throughout. Jane Slavin handles the character well and puts in a great performance given the different things she was required to do.

 

K-9 features heavily in this story and the back and forth with The Doctor is as comedic as ever. At times it can feel like K-9 is used as a bit of an easy “out” to certain situations and I found it to be a bit grating in a few places. The main highlight of the supporting cast is Ronan Vibert as “Zaal” who gives a wonderful performance, whether it be confident, duplicitous, smooth, schemer, manipulator or crazed despot. This is one of the best villains Big Finish has thrown up in a little while and I’m hoping we haven't seen the last of him.

 

There isn’t much to dislike here, the only things I found I didn’t enjoy or out right annoyed me can be boiled down into several things. I really didn’t like the voice acting for the character of “Drarn”, as it is such an over the top performance. It reminded me very much of Alex Maqueen’s Master, which for him works well given the character but here it feels a little out of place. Secondly, I thought was a bit needless that this is a two part story that is then further broken down into four episodes. This means halfway through each part, we get a mini cliffhanger, then the outro music followed immediately by the intro music which just feels jarring, needless and interrupts the flow of the piece. 

 

In my opinion, if you are a fan of the Fourth Doctor and / or “The Daleks’ Master Plan” then you are not going to want to miss this. Even if you have never seen that or have never dived into the Fourth Doctor’s Big Finish run you will still find this an enjoyable story. If you want my advice on the best way to get the most out of this - listen to 8.1 through 8.7, then “The Daleks’ Master Plan” finally finishing up with “The Perfect Prisoners”, you will not regret it!
 


+ The Perfect Prisoners - Part 1 & Part 2 are OUT NOW, priced £8.99 (Download) each.

+ ORDER these titles at Big Finish!


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