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6 May 2020

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Darren Jones

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2020

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"Violently ejected from the Space-Time Vortex, the TARDIS crash lands on the remote planet of Cygia-Rema, a mountainous world ruled by the bird-like Vultriss. Their newly-crowned Queen Skye is expecting first contact with alien ambassadors – Ice Warriors - and the sudden arrival of the Doctor, Flip and Mrs Constance Clarke causes confusion.

However, Skye is no ordinary ruler, she is the Fabled One gifted with the deadly power of ‘The Cry’. The queen who will enable the Vultriss to fly once again – at any cost.

But as the Doctor investigates why the TARDIS crashed, he discovers that the Vultriss are hiding a deadly secret. An ancient legacy that if left unchecked will plunge half the galaxy into an eternal living end."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

I’ll get the awkward part out of the way now: this is not going to be a positive review. I wish it were. I always find it hard to write a review like this about something like an audio play: some people probably find it easy to do so, but I struggle. The hours that must have been put in by the writer, the director, the actors, the sound designer, the musician. Good intentions run deep in most art, and certainly here nobody has gone out of their way to create something unenjoyable. Also, what one person finds unenjoyable another will delight in, and that’s how it should be: reviews will only ever be subjective. Sadly though, this play failed to land for me in every single way.

We open with a rousing political speech given, promising a population of bird people that good times are ahead. Soon after, we join the TARDIS crew as they sail through the vortex while the Doctor is having a bit of trouble with the controls: so far, so traditional. A callback to Static reminds you how long it has been since this particular TARDIS crew (the Doctor, Flip and Constance Clarke) graced our ears, and it is undoubtedly nice to hear them back as they’ve proven to be a successful team. In fact, I would say that Flip and Constance are far better together than they ever were apart, and perhaps this is one of the play’s problems as they’re separated for much of the play. We lack their spark as they play second-fiddle to a series of uninspiring supporting characters.

Indeed, all the writing and dialogue feels uninspired. At best, it’s gracelessly functional and gets the job done; at worst, it’s overwritten and steeped in cliché. The dialogue is perhaps the greatest offender of the lot with dozens of examples of say-what-you-see writing, which is incredibly grating and unrealistic. I get that you need to paint a picture without visual aids, but it doesn’t work when someone with perfectly fine eyesight tells someone else with equally good eyesight exactly what they can both see, from the position of birds in the sky to rocks that are jutting to the size of places or the design of props. It’s audio exposition at its very worst. Perhaps, like the overall plot, it’s trying to ape a certain style, but to me it felt tired, with twists and turns in the plot flat and predictable.  I’m not sure how that is possible in a play about bird people, political intrigue and Ice Warriors, but here we are.

‘Flat’ also sums up the direction and sound design. This is unusual given how Big Finish usually excel in these matters, but in the opening episode especially it all sounded very studio-bound and lacked sparkle. Early on, the TARDIS crew is attacked by birds and we are told they are attacking from above but there is no indication of this in the sound, just loud squawking with the bare minimum of shift in the stereo field. Again, maybe it’s a feel they are going for: to make this feel televisual in its static soundscape and writing, but it’s a huge miss for me.

From start to finish I found myself clockwatching, wishing the next scene would hurry up and get here. It’s not a nice experience to be listening to a play because you have to, knowing full well that if you did not you’d have given up a long while ago and instead listened to something actually enjoyable instead.

It is tired, boring, overlong (bar the opener, every episode clocks in at over half an hour in length) and obvious, with lacklustre sound design and flat performances from many of the guest cast. I could not in any good conscience recommend this play to anyone. I am sure Cry of the Vultriss will have its fans but for me personally, listening to it made for one of the least enjoyable experiences I have had with Big Finish for quite a while.


+ Cry Of The Vultriss is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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