Audio and radio play reviews

I am Cabin Pressure

My lovely and esteemed wife has recently introduced me to the joys of Cabin Pressure, a Radio 4 comedy series set aboard the fictitious MJN (My Jet Now) Air, a tiny little outfit run by the crabby Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole from Waiting for God) that has only two pilots – the by-the-book captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock, Star Trek et al) and the ever-superior first officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam from The Thick Of It and Endeavour) – and an air steward, Cole’s simple but eternally upbeat son Arthur (John Finnemore, who also writes the show).

Featuring guest stars including John Sessions, Anthony Head (playing the fabulously named Hercules Shipwright), Prunella Scales and Alison Steadman, it’s an award-winning comedy with surprising depths that largely revolves around the games the pilots play to stave off boredom on long flights, the schemes they need to concoct to deal with difficult customers, mechanics and other airlines, and the tensions between Crieff and Richardson, Crieff always wanting to have been a pilot but having no real aptitude, while Richardson has never found anything hard but after a distinguished career, now finds himself first officer to Crieff at MJN thanks to his crossing certain legal lines at his previous job.

As well as being very funny, well written and well acted, it’s also capable of pathos and drama, so I recommend you catch up as best you can via Amazon, iTunes or other avenues.

The show is also a creator of some great memes. Here, for example, is the birth of the ‘Hey, Chief…’ meme, which my wife and I find a constant source of hilarity when we use it on each other (yes, we’re a fun pair):

If you’re a Cabin Pressure fan already, though, please enjoy the following encapsulation of a whole bunch of Cabin Pressure memes in a manner similar to the current Nikon ads. Do you recognise them all?


Audio and radio play reviews

Review: Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock Detective

Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock DetectivePaul Magrs is a very clever chap. He’s a lecturer in creative writing, and has written numerous books and audio plays. Not all of them are about Doctor Who, but quite a lot of them are. Indeed, he’s written a few Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, including my favourite ever, the insanely clever Ringpullworld. He was even the author who managed to lure Tom Baker back to Doctor Who for a series of BBC audio plays, starting with The Hornets’ Nest.

Largely, if Magrs has a theme, it’s to deconstruct Doctor Who, not just as a show but how it’s written. Indeed, his most famous creation is Iris Wildthyme, a perpetually drunk, lying, sexually active Time Lady (the clue is in the name) with her own range of books from Obverse Books and a range of Big Finish audio plays that stars former Doctor Who companion Katy Manning. Iris, who travels the universe in a double-decker bus with a talking panda for a companion, originally started as a way to subvert Doctor Who, the Doctor and science-fiction conventions – she did what the Doctor doesn’t and that illuminated the nature of the Doctor in various ways.

All this is by way of introduction to Magrs’ latest creations, 70s glam rock star Vince Cosmos and his biggest fan Poppy Munday, who feature in a new series of audio plays from Bafflegab Productions, which is best known for producing The Scarifyers on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Starring Julian Rhind-Tutt of Green Wing, Hippies et al, Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective is an origin story that sees Munday moving down to London from Sunderland and meeting her idol, Vince Cosmos… who for some reason seems to think the Martians are intent on invading the Earth. Is he mad? Will the Martians, if they exist be stopped? And will Munday manage to get her end away with Cosmos before the end of the play?

Sound a bit like it might be subverting and deconstructing Doctor Who? You’d not be wrong.

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Audio and radio play reviews

Review: Doctor Who – 135 – Legend of the Cybermen

Legend of the CybermenFor the last two Big Finish releases, we’ve had something of a mystery. First, the Doctor winds up in 18th century Scotland where he bumps into his old companion (for he is old now) Jamie McCrimmon. Except something’s odd. Jamie doesn’t remember him and Scottish history has been strangely altered – Glasgow and Edinburgh have been destroyed and replaced by something that seems to be an oil refinery.

Then, after a short trip to a mysterious castle to collect the TARDIS over in the Companion Chronicles, the Doctor and Jamie head off for the Titanic, where again, history appears to be on the fritz since this Titanic is not for crashing.

What can be going on?

Well, it was pretty obvious from about halfway through Wreck of the Titan, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Needless to say though, following the revelations at the end of the play, something odd really is going on and the Doctor and Jamie are going to have to find out how to fix it.

This time, though, they’re going to have to fight the Cybermen to do it. But at least their old friend Zoe Heriot is along to help, in a conclusion that is both strange and really rather good. Warning: a few spoilers ahead for at least the first two plays, but I’ll do my best to avoid any biggies.

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Audio and radio play reviews

Review: Doctor Who – The Lost Stories – 08 – The Macros

The MacrosThe intention behind the Big Finish ‘Lost Stories’ range is to dramatise scripts that were intended to be made as Doctor Who stories back in the day, but never quite made it. Compared to many in the range, Ingrid Pitt and Tony Rudlin’s The Macros does at least have ‘namecheck’ quality – at least some people had heard of it before Big Finish decided to make it.

But it also had another namecheck quality – it was the brainchild of Hammer Horror/The Time Monster/Warriors of the Deep actress Ingrid Pitt and her husband Tony Rudlin, who had heard about ‘The Philadelphia Experiment‘, a conspiracy theory (and naff movie) that suggested that during the second world war, experiments in invisibility performed by the US Navy on the USS Eldridge led to the ship becoming detached from space and time.

The story – originally The Macro Men – has ended up rewritten a lot, both while it was being targeted at the TV show and while it was being lined up for Big Finish. Not a problem you might think. But for those of you who don’t bother with computer backups, this is a salutary warning: Pitt and Rudlin’s computer hard drive broke and they lost the second episode. Then it broke again and they lost the first episode. So yes, genuinely lost and they’ve had to rewrite it from memory. So how exactly is this the script that was going to be on Doctor Who that so desperately needed to be made?

Oh well, it’s here anyway, quibbles aside, and after all that wait, I can honestly say, “Meh.”

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Audio and radio play reviews

Review: Doctor Who – The Lost Stories – 07 – The Song of Megaptera

The Song of MegapteraRiddle me this: is a Lost Story actually lost if it was simply never accepted for production or has been through so many rewrites for so many Doctors that no one can truly say what was actually lost?

Pat Mills – a former Doctor Who Monthly comic strip writer best known now as the co-creator of Judge Dredd – came up with an idea for a comic strip. His then-wife said it was too good to be a comic and he should submit it to the TV show’s production team. So first he approached Christopher H Bidmead, script editor for Tom Baker’s last season. By the time Mills was ready to meet the producer, John Nathan Turner, Peter Davison had taken over as the Doctor and Eric Saward was the new script editor.

Somehow, time flew by, with changes requested here and there, and before you knew it, Colin Baker was the Doctor, the show became sillier again, and yet more rewrites were wanted. Except The Song of Megaptera never went into production, probably because it was set inside a mile-long space whale.

While working on an Eighth Doctor and Lucie story for Big Finish, Mills asked if BF would be interested in making the script at long last as part of its Lost Stories range, and BF said yes. Deciding – presumably for the sake of convenience – to make it a Sixth Doctor and Peri story like the rest of the range, Big Finish have let Mills rewrite it the way he wants for audio.

The result is a slightly Douglas Adams-ish bit of whimsy in which interstellar whalers are chasing after a space-whale – which the Doctor and Peri eventually end up inside. It isn’t bad, but is it Doctor Who?

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