Hello again to my many readers! It is always enjoyable to write about many different kinds of audio productions be it audiobooks, audio dramas, full cast productions or podcasts by enthusiastic amateurs(even if that last one isn’t really the kind of thing I cover.)
However it is also lovely to have a few favourite topics or series to return to such as the various different Warhammer settings, the numerous different Sherlock Holmes productions over the years or – as in this case – Doctor Who once again after my discussion of the Cyber ArcHive. Specifically the Big Finish Productionsaudio stories I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions by now.
For the most part my discussions of all things Big Finish have been centred around their slightly older material by which I mean its at least three years old or thereabouts by the time I cover it with the noted exception of my review of The Sons Of Kaldor. So this time why don’t I cover a release from mid April?
Cry Of The Vultriss by Darren Jones – who has in the past written a handful of the audio original stories for new series Doctors such as The Eye Of The Jungle for Smith and Rhythm Of Destruction for Capaldi – was Jones’s first official Big Finish release, discounting his involvement in the Destiny Of The Doctor series co-produced by the BBC and Big Finish, as well as last month’s main range release.
The plot in simple terms is as follows: The Doctor (Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor who has experienced quite some character rehabilitation under the watch of Big Finish. That may be an article of its own one day.) is attempting to return one of his two companions home to Bletchley Park during the war. The companion in question – a Miss Constance Clark (Miranda Raison) who was a member of WRNS during the war – expresses some desire to stay. Still having to return to Earth at a different time for reasons related to his second companion Phillipa Ramon (hereafter known as Flip)a more modern travelling partner played by Lisa Greenwood he attempts to land the TARDIS only to crash land on a very remote planet known as Cygia-Rema. This world is the home planet of the Vultriss an avian alien race which is expected to receive first contact very shortly.
While on a perilous mountain trail The Doctor and Flip become separated from Constance and are taken to meet the world’s ruler Queen Skye who is known as the legendary Fabled One – expected every one thousand years – for possessing the so called Cry a legendary ability in the species. She has promised her people that soon the Vultriss shall fly once again and awaits the arrival of some Martians (specifically the classic Doctor Who monsters The Ice Warriors most famous for The Curse Of Peladon and Monster Of Peladon among others) while at the same time Constance is being held hostage by a leader of a rebellious group known as Queen Jabule.
Unfortunately while The Doctor attempts to find out the reason for the TARDIS’s crash it becomes clear that both the Vultriss and the Martian Ice Warriors have certain agendas. How will they intersect? And just how will The Doctor and his companions manage to extricate themselves from their present situation? After all the TARDIS will need extensive repairs.
The cast are collectively on fine form indeed! The leads all appear to be enjoying their adventures on the closed off world of Cygia-Rema. Miranda Raison’s Constance certainly seems to have a sizeable role in affairs, attempting to play the part of a diplomat at first and arguing her case well when the situation changes. Colin Baker also seems to be enjoying the chance to have a showdown with the Ice Warriors and throwing himself into things with gusto. When the reveals occur he does an excellent job of showing just how severe the situation is. Lisa Greenwood as Flip on the other hand has become fascinated with the Vultriss and does as much as possible to help the Vultriss species collectively without going into spoilers. She comes across as very empathetic if somewhat enjoyably snarky and her part in the tale flows well.
The guest cast are also highly enjoyable. The two Vultriss queens Skye and Jabule – performed by Natasha Cowley and Caroline Lawrie respectively – are highlights of their respective factions. Both are ‘mad’ so to speak in their own way although they both have justifications. It is definitely up to the listener if these justifications ring true. Another personal favourite among the guest cast is the character of Pagus, Queen Skye’s advisor, as performed by Vincenzo Nicoli. Pagus is performed excellently with enough of a sense of right and wrong and of loyalty so as to question Skye when he feels he has to. This is something most people do not do. He also has an interesting family connection in the form of Tyto (Daniel Norford) who I can’t go into detail on for without giving the story away.
Before I switch topics I must also praise the Ice Warriors. Nicholas Briggs is excellent as always with the sssibilantcreaturesssss and brings out at different points both their war-like tendencies and their sense of honour. Adele Lynch – who played Ice Warrior Queen Iraxxa in the television story Empress of Mars – plays Queen Vextyr marvellously and whenever she speaks you feel constantly on edge as a listener.
Darren Jones has written a very entertaining tale which has quite the engaging political slow burn. However it is certainly a story which requires your attention. The twists and turns and various allegiances can be hard to keep up with at points although all the major players had a good amount to do! I also have to praise Darren for creating an interesting alien race in the Vultriss. I’d certainly be keen to visit them again some time. The story is also well written enough that you can enjoy it without knowing heaps of background information. It has a small connection to Constance and Flip’s last appearance in Static – an intriguing moody horror piece – and one or two mentions are made to previous encounters with the Ice Warriors but none of these references are required to understand the plot and are just put in unobtrusively for the super fan.
The only critique I actually have of the story is I feel it may contain just one too many components. I’m not sure what I personally would change as I really enjoyed the story and found it a fun listen however it did feel that slightly too much was going on. I feel that my readers would certainly be able to keep up without issue but nonetheless I feel it should be mentioned.
In conclusion I really enjoyed Cry Of the Vultriss. It is a very entertaining story with brilliant use of its cast and a novel storyline for the Ice Warriors. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece like Spare Parts or – in my opinion – the adaptation of All-Consuming Fire but it is VERY entertaining and I’m almost certain to listen to it again soon. I definitely hope to hear from Darren Jones again at Big Finish and I hope I have persuaded some of my readers to dip their toe into the waters of Big Finish Productions. They also currently have a weekly free ‘Lock Download’ with the rest of the story in question being available at a reduced price which may be of interest to some of you.
As for my next adventure? I know I promised a lengthy time away from the worlds of Warhammer but I have to make an exception for Commissar Severina Raine and the Eleventh Antari Rifles. Let me tell you about…Honour bound.