Saturday, May 31, 2008

Did You Miss Us?

We certainly missed you. But we get this month's installment in which means my grand and glorious listening plan for next month's one year anniversary are still rolling. Tim and I go for a little adventure and try one of the many Chinese restaurants in my neighborhood, Jackie Tan's. (Seriously, that's what the place is called.) Curry chicken was okay but the fried pork dumplings were a bit odd. We wash our food down with Sapporo beer.

I've been a tad remiss in my self appointed pimping duties so I'll just knock that out of the way.

Big Finish has announced details on Season 9 of Benny. The first two audios have artwork and trailers up for your perusal. It looks like in lieu of Ben Aaronovitch's Young Benny book we'll be getting a novella involving Benny's adventures with vampires during her lifetime. Not many details regarding the book outside of a title and
the three authors contributing pieces.

Also on the Big Finish front it looks like they're having a summer sale. The link is on top of the section on their website that lists their different ranges.

A couple of months ago Paul Cornell was interviewed at length by the folks at Geek Syndicate. Only a month ago Simon Guerrier was interviewed by Sin Deniz. (And bless you sir for suggesting Bach.)

Miles Richardson pwns me.

No, really.

If you're not on Facebook get on there and join the Big Finish Audio group. He's posted some awesome comments to The Wall of the page and then some equally great photos. One is him with a midget. Those of you that've known me for a long time know of my love for all things midget in nature. This is why he pwns me. Well, that and also a sweet photo of him as a Draconian. Oh yeah, and that whole he's a pretty damn fine actor thing.

Speaking of which we're on Facebook as well in group form. No reposting of sessions there, but I hope that becomes a place for discussion regarding the audios with our loyal readership.

And speaking of Miles Richardson pwning me, not only does he do so on Facebook but we get a extra dose of pwning as our first audio, The Extinction Event is his introductory one as Irving Braxiatel. But first we have to get through a slightly dodgy teaser where something happens to some people somewhere. For once we can't decide if our inability to figure out what's going on is due to another craptastic outing in sound design by Toby Richards or if my home theater system is acting up.

The opening music starts and it looks like they've dropped the lyrics, but the opening is still long.

Tim: What's the point of this if they're not going to shorten it? Maybe they're gonna do the lyrics at the end?

Wow! For once Benny is actually doing a bit of archeology. Or at least being fawned over by a worker who probably has posters of her hanging on his wall. And for someone that's normally digging in dirt she's a bit preoccupied with being clean.

Brax shows up in his own private shuttle and brings the exposition with him as we get the background on an item that's caught his attention. They hop into his shuttle and we decide to blame Toby again for the sound being so bad.

The shuttle lands and Benny begins to debunk the auction items. Brax seems to be sporting a woody as he talks about his stamp collection. Plans are made to skulk about later on.

Me: I doubt Benny is capable of being discreet.

And sure enough Benny stumbles upon an attempted murder of the Ambassador. Brax recognizes the murder weapon as a cube of radiation and asks Benny to hold it.

Tim: It's full of radiation but don't worry.

We get an odd bit with an alien who speaks gibberish that only the auction house woman and Brax can translate.

Me: Did they not want to pay for another actor?

Speaking of which we get another in story reason for Lisa Bowerman voicing another character as the dude that tried to kill the Ambassador says Benny sounds like his dead lost love. He speaks of alien abduction and anal probes until he gets stunned for an hour.

Me: Is Benny trying to invoke the Shadow Proclamation to save Anal Probe Dude?

Tim: Could be.

While Benny is discovering potential war atrocities Brax is acting like Switzerland as he sets up a deal to purchase the Halstead artifacts.

Me: Oh joy, more exposition and conjecture.

The trick with having a character who doesn't speak English gets old really fast. It's nice for a one-off character, but for a character that's a major part of the plot it's insane.

Tim: Let me recap your order, double cheesebruger...

Benny explains to Hulver the reasons for the Collection and the noble reasons why they want his items.

Me: Oh naive Benny...

Tim: Isn't Hulver a middle eastern dessert?

Hulver composes some music.

Tim: He's composing the music that Spock plays in the worst episode of Star Trek? The Enterprise versus the Space hippies?

Benny gets arrested, again. Brax only really cares about getting items for his collection, again. Nice bit of tension as Benny and Brax argue over ethics.

Me: Oh naive Benny.

Tim: So if they kill the Ambassador we don't have to listen to him, right? Stop gurgling!

The Ambassador finally speaks English as we get more exposition and explanation. And we think he's busting out f-bombs every other word as we get lots of "expleted" in his dialogue.

Me: Dave Stone makes this work better in The End of the World.

Things go all Total Recall when a huge window/forcefield is destroyed letting the apparently deadly atmosphere in.

Me: This might be the most sedate fight sequence I've ever heard.

Tim: There was a fight?

All's well that ends well as people are dead, worlds are avenged, auction houses don't get their money, and Brax gets his newest Collection pieces.

Tim: The Ambassador isn't expleted happy.

Brax tells Benny she's a good person and Benny wonders if that's all.

Me: According to your Ursu code it is.

Then we get like the Love Theme from The Extinction Event as we're treated to a harp solo.

Tim: This is like the deleted scene from Dune with Patrick Stewart and his huge instrument.

Me: Can someone turn the Ottmar Liebert off?

End credits roll.

Tim: I was right! Lyrics at the end.

Not much for Miles to really do in this Lance Parkin piece, but what he does get he makes the most of it. The interplay between he and Lisa is the only thing really worthwhile about this audio. A lackluster story made so by way too many sequences of people just standing around and talking.

We determine that Tim was thinking of halva as we switch disks and slip in The Genocide Machine with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, written by Mike Tucker. Insert sound of drums tapping here. I get all excited as we hear Louse Faulkner as I had forgotten that this was the introductory audio for Bev Tarrant. And she immediately starts verbally kicking ass.

Tim immediately picks out the Dalek heartbeat.

Me: The Doctor keeps his bookshelves like I do.

Ace wonders what to do with his copy of Bleak House.

Me: Burn it!

After we hear Ace whinge and moan a bit we hear the Daleks/Nick Briggs for the first time. Then we go back to whinging and moaning, this time from the guy working with Bev. Bev's team gets attacked and we get more action than we got in all of The Extinction Event. From the myriad of sound effects in the battle sequence we can tell which series got the quality sound design guys and who got the crap (Toby Richards) one.

We return to Ace whinging and moaning about getting wet.

Me: Is it her time of the month?

Tim: Well, the TARDIS is always in a state of temporal grace. She could be at the time of the month for a long time.

Ace continues to be crabby even after The Doctor gets them to the library. We think it's awesome that they consider The Sun and The Mirror to be classics of the 20th century. The Doctor finds that he's not in trouble, but has managed to get the Head Librarian's underpants gnome in trouble for not noticing the missing books.

Me: Because no one gives a damn about the Alpha Centuarians.

We get what will turn out to be a rare moment of emotion and regret from Bev as she mourns her dead team.

Me: So the Chief Librarian is that dude from that Twilight Zone episode and he runs his library like the BBC in the 70's?

Ghost like voices start to emanate from Bev's dead team and Tim and I do our best "remember the tooth" bits.

Me: This music is very reminiscent of Mark Ayers' era music. At least too me.

Tim: Not enough percussion.

While Ace is rescuing Bev The Doctor is getting all anoraky over the library's wet work data system. The Chief Librarian shows The Doctor a data chair and Tim and I don't get a good feeling as to how this will end.

Tim: (Dalek Voice) We're about to enter the cliffhanger, Doctor!

Ace and Bev make their way back to the Library. Bev whinges and moans about having to climb the mountain since she can't see The Library.

Me: (singing) Climb every mountain!

It takes them less time to climb this mountain than Frodo and Sam do in climbing Mount Doom in the film version of The Return of the King, where they promptly find the Daleks.

Tim: The cliffhanger didn't end quite the way I expected. I was actually expecting them to come out as they were introduced by The Librarian. That would've been predictable. So sorry.

Eventually the Chief Librarian has his turn to whinge and moan as he worries that his underpants gnome is gonna screw around when he should be working. He also bitches and moans about the rain.

Me: bitch bitch bitch, moan moan moan. Everyone is just crabby in this episode. Nice, Sylv was able to roll the first 'r' in 'stretcher'.

The Doctor finds Ace and Bev unconscious in the forests and brings them back to The Library.

The real Ace is the prisoner of the Daleks. Ace mentions special weapons and we get excited as we think she might be referring to Special Weapons Dalek. We also can determine when it's either Nick Briggs or Alistair Lock doing the Dalek Voices.

Me: The Dalek said penetrate.

Tim: They do that a lot.

Me: Penetrate?

Tim: Duplicate people. It's like when they can't think of anything else they just duplicate people.

Ace boasts how well The Doctor knows her and won't fall for the Fake Ace.

Me: well does he know you?

Tim: I'm sure he will but probably not until episode three.

It takes a while, but The Doctor figures out Ace is a duplicate.

Tim: Well, that happened faster than I thought it would.

Thanks to The Chief Librarian being old and slow The Doctor doesn't make it to the Library in time to stop the Daleks from taking control of it. The Chief Librarian starts freaking out about that thought of the Daleks in the Library.

Me: Is that like Klingons on the starboard bow?

We get the obligatory sequence of the Daleks killing everyone in sight and screaming "exterminate".

Me: Did he just say Skaro?

Tim: He said he'd contact Skaro. Whoever is left there. Maybe it's Skaro 2. Or before Remembrance of the Daleks as far as the Dalek timeline is concerned.

Bev encounters Fake Ace and notes she should pick her friends more carefully in the future.

Me: Oh, Bev, she's not the worse choice you make in the friend department.

The Daleks learn it wasn't such a good idea to try and get at the Library's data without The Doctor as one of their own experiences premature extermination through the interface with the wet work system. They manage to capture The Doctor which leads to another classic confrontation between him and the Daleks. The Chief Librarian gets dragged to the wet work store. He starts whinging and moaning about not being a competent technician and calls upon his underpants gnome to speak up.

Tim: Is that like Radio Shack?

The Doctor lets himself get hooked into the wet work store. The data begins to flow regularly.

Tim: It's important to have a steady data flow. If your data flow isn't see your doctor.

We get another tender moment for Bev as we learn the bloke whinging and moaning on her crew at the beginning of the audio whinged and moaned with her for more pleasurable reasons. Tender moments continue as she encounters the animated corpse of her dead lover.

The Dalek who couldn't handle his data stream keeps running around and keeps sounding like he's enjoying the world's longest orgasm. We try to figure out if this one is being voiced by Sylv. Special Weapons Dalek shows up and is apparently a prima donna, actually refusing to kill someone.

Speaking of killing, The Doctor returns to his body and he's all nine kinds of pissed at the Chief Librarian. Sylv is at his best when he's playing The Doctor being nine kinds of pissed. The Daleks and The Doctor cut off the Chief Librarian's explanation.

Me: Shut up asshat!

Things start to come to a head as the Chief Librarian's underpants gnome is killed along with Fake Ace. Madcap hilarity for the audience ensues as The Doctor and Ace fool the Daleks with a bad bit of acting. Meanwhile Special Weapons Dalek is all like "screw you, I don't feel like killing today." He finally gets into the killing mood when Ace starts leaving nitro-9 presents all over the Library.

While Mike Tucker wouldn't have been my first choice for writing a Dalek audio he does a wonderful job. He's got a great grasp on the Seventh Doctor and Ace which finds a perfect outlet in audio form. Much like Miles in The Extinction Event Louise Faulkner doesn't get much to do, but hits it out of the park. For me at least the one drawback was the Chief Librarian who was a little too whiny for my taste.

Tim: And the moral of the story is to keep reading, kids! You don't have to commit genocide to gain knowledge. Just go to your local library.

Tonight is a double dose of Miles Richardson pwning in the audio department as we drop The Skymines of Karthos into the player. (Which contrary to the belief of at least one, if not more, is not the return of Stephen Fewell as Jason Kane) It is the return of Toby Richards for sound design which we're not too thrilled with. We are thrilled though with the first appearance of David Darlington composing music.Which manifests itself in a new theme that's ten times better than the previous one. (Though still not as cool as the Jason Kane theme, which really should become the new overall theme for Season 9)

Exposition this time shows up in the form of Benny leaving a long message on Brax's answering machine reading a letter she got from a friend that up to this point we hadn't heard of. It slowly goes from Benny reading the letter to Caitlin actually composing the message and having a less than tender moment with her husband, Michael.

Benny mentions her delicate condition and upon Tim's eyebrows raising well above his glasses I pause the player to explain the bird and bees Bennyverse style.

Constantine and Michael have a bitch fight over the whereabouts of Caitlin.,

Me: Rowr! Saucer of milk, table five. Man, if only the Harris County Medical Examiner's office was this much fun.

Tim: He's got a pin feed printer. Probably dot matrix.

Benny encounters the firefly creatures and she engages in maybe one of the best bits of the second season as she tries to convince the creatures not to kill her. Then she begins what Time Team friend Austin Dave describes as her treating Michael pretty much the same way she normally treats Jason at this point in the timeline. Benny may not be able to drink but we do as we re-engage our participation in the slowly growing Benny Drinking Game as she utters "goddess".

Me: Nice bit when Benny says Jason in all right. I don't know if it was a style choice on Lisa's part or direction from Ed Salt, but it's a nice quick moment of Benny showing concern for him after his return from Hell. Not sure if it's a continuity gaffe though when Michael asks if she's sure Jason's the father or if it's easier for Benny to tell people he's the daddy as opposed to the real story. If anyone can help me lay my hands on The Glass Prison I'd be grateful.

Double wow! An actual nice bit of sound design in Constantine's office right before Benny and Michael show up.

Me: That wasn't entirely bollocks. Maybe they let David Darlington do some sequences. And apparently Caitlin didn't tell Michael that Benny quickly takes charge in any situation she's involved in.

We encounter the possessed version of Caitlin and Constantine and they talk about killing everyone.

Tim: Yes, everyone must die.

Me: Keeps me in business.

Thankfully Michael is concerned about Benny's unborn child because Benny doesn't seem to be as she wants to climb down a mountain and hike eleven miles.

We learn that love does crazy things as Caitlin was apparently behind the fireflies attacking the village in an attempt to let Michael feel like the breadwinner. Benny and Michael make a run for the border when they realize just how much the fireflies want to kill people. Benny eventually goes back and pulls a Doctor trick as she tries to talk the fireflies out of killing people. Nuking the site from orbit sort of works in that it destroys the technology but makes the fireflies a tad pissed. Constantine pulls off a Jedi mind trick and sends the fireflies away.

Me: This might be the best one of the second season. Tight story with just the right amount of action and we don't bitch about the sound design.

If all goes well next month's installment will be our one year anniversary. And to celebrate I finally get my Stephen Fewell double feature as we do The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy and The Green Eyed Monsters from the Benny range and Red Dawn from the main Who line. (In earlier planning of audio listening I would've gotten this double feature in February with Just War and Red Dawn. Better late than never though.) I'm thinking to celebrate the annierversary and the Fewell double feature we should have steaks. Any other suggestions?