Wednesday night we gathered together at Tim and Angelie's House of Fun for our first foray into this little experiment. After a mishap involving chicken gone bad and the procurement of fresh meat we had baked chicken with some lovely Shiner '98 to cleanse the taste buds and chocolate Hob Nobs for dessert.
We began our listening after dinner in the car as we had one mission of vital importance that had to be completed in a timely fashion. Since we're going in release order number we started with The Sirens of Time, staring Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, and Peter Davison. With two Benny plays under his directorial belt, Nick Briggs is writing and directing this inaugural drama. The first episode opens with the Timelords getting attacked and talking about the end of their civilization being seriously nigh. My immediate reaction was that they're talking about Russell killing them all off. Next we're finally introduced to the 7th Doctor and immediately we noticed that the timing of sound effects seems to be off. He's talking about hearing the Cloister Bell long before the audience ever hears it. And then just as quickly bells cease tolling. Not that I want the bells to be tolling loudly the whole time, but don't just drop one or two tolls and think you've created enough tension.
Eventually we get to the 7th Doctor being stranded on a planet where he meets a bunch of people, including Maggie Stables as some pig jailer. If ever an audio was in need of subtitles this is it. The accent and voice are so rough it's a nightmare to fully figure out what she's saying. Thank god she's killed off at the end of the first episode so we don't have to endure that performance any longer. Tim noted that it might've been cooler if each Doctor's adventure involved his theme as opposed to the generic one.
Next we get Mark Gatiss giving his German accent some work in the second episode with the 5th Doctor. This was universally agreed that this was the strongest one of the story. There's a bit of action, you can never go wrong with U-boat dramas, and Tegan and Turlough are stuck in the TARDIS. My personal theory is that they just closed the doors so they could get it on, but then again my mind likes to wander into the gutter. It's a shame that a nice pairing like Gatiss and Davison is wasted on what probably would've made an excellent drama on its own, but has to be sandwiched in this overall crap.
We move on to the 6th Doctor solo adventure and by now we're losing the will to live. You start getting the information you need to understand the full story towards the end of this episode but by now it's too late. Tim notes that point of caring what's going on has past. Now we're just listening to finish this up and not wimp out. I have trouble remembering the story being this horrible and Tim can't remember if he even listened to it all the way through when he first bought it. I'm also saddened because while not perfect, even the first series of Benny audios had a decent mix of action, adventure, humor, and drama and I just figured Nick Briggs would've remembered some of that when writing this.
The final episode is where all three Doctors finally get together. Then we're subjected to a rewind of what we missed in the previous three episodes. It's like Nick Briggs knew we'd probably fall asleep so he slipped this in to make sure we couldn't escape. Much groaning ensues when the Doctors all say 'contact' before mind melding and when they address each other as 'Doctor'. At this point I firmly feel this story needed dwarves with chainsaws.
Eventually the day is saved and the story is over. Near the end we switched the display on the player to countdown how much time was left. With mere seconds left I finally got excited ala New Year's Eve, without the snogging, Dick Clark, and huge disco ball in NYC. Angelie and I agree that the best part about this story is that it's over. Tim points out that much like the '96 movie there was a ton of fan expectation attached with this. There's little chance of expectations being met when the bar is initially set so high, especially with all three Doctors involved. While there were some notable performances it's not enough to save the piece as a whole. While we all admit to being a little sleepy, we finish a little after eleven at night, it's also noted that there wasn't much to keep us awake. Opinions are running so low Tim almost wants to abandon the project, but Angelie and I convince him to continue on. I've listened to enough plays to know that they get better, it's just a matter of how many we have to get through to get to that point.
We get together again sometime in July with hopes to make it an afternoon meeting. This was we won't be so sleepy and we can get through more than one play. We know we'll be listening to Phantasmagoria with our second choice up in the air.