Big Finish: Doctor Who THE CRY OF THE VULTRISS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who THE CRY OF THE VULTRISS Review

Matthew Kresal witnesses first contact.

Ask a Big Finish listener who their favorite Doctor on audio is, there's a decent chance they'll answer with Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor. After two decades worth of stories, it isn't hard to see why that might be as actor and character alike have experienced a well-deserved second life. April 2020 saw the start of a new batch of adventures in time and space for Baker’s incarnation with Cry of the Vultriss, featuring him alongside companions Constance (Miranda Raison) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood).

Darren Jones' script picks up with the TARDIS knocked out of the vortex, sending the trio to a crash landing upon the mountainous world of Cygia-Rema. Soon enough, they find themselves involved with the bird-like Vultriss race, its competing rulers Jabule and Queen Skye (Caroline Lawrie and Natasha Cowley, respectively), and this world's first contact with an alien race. Who, of course, happen to be the Martians, represented by Vextyr (Adele Lynch) and her Ice Warriors (voiced in their ranks by Nicholas Briggs).

If that premise might sound a bit familiar, especially to fans of Classic Who, perhaps it should. It is, after a fashion, the starting of the pair of Peladon stories from the Third Doctor era. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. For what Jones has done, to his credit, is take the sorts of stories that Brian Hayles did in the early 1970s and apply a fresh coat of 21st-century paint. Like those tales, this a story with a lot going on in terms of court politics, first contact events, and impending natural disasters. In some ways, once you add in the complications of Ice Warriors and what threw the TARDIS out of the vortex, perhaps too much going on if there is such a thing. On the plus side, Jones puts his four episodes to their fullest use, which, when combined with Simon Power's sound design and score means there's never a dull moment.

Given how reliant the story is on dialogue, it's got the good fortune of being well-cast by director John Ainsworth. The trio of this TARDIS crew works wonderfully together, teaming the Sixth Doctor up with the seemingly contradictory pair of a WREN from the Second World War (Constance) and an impulsive 21st-century young woman (Flip). Yet, they compliment each other as their performances here show wonderfully, full of chemistry, respect, and humor at the right moments. Of the trio, it's Baker who comes across the best as the script lets him tie into an emotion we don't often see with this Doctor: guilt, especially as the nature of the impending natural disaster becomes clear. Both Raison and Greenwood get moments all their own, making it interesting for a long-time listener such as myself to see how far both have come since first hearing them, particularly Greenwood. Together, they're a dynamic trio, full of as much energy as the vortex itself.

Backing them is a well-chosen supporting cast. Lawrie and Cowley’s combative Vultriss leaders are fun to listen to, at once powerful but also full of bluster, so different and yet so alike in their ways. The highlight of the supporting cast, though, is Lynch and Briggs. Lynch, who previously played the Martian Royal Iraxxa on TV in Empress of Mars delivers another showstopper performance here, communicating presence and intelligence even without the benefit of prosthetics, with Briggs ably bringing a troop of Ice Warriors to back her. It's a cast that once again highlights Big Finish's strength of casting well.

Though it's perhaps too ambitious for its own good, Cry of the Vultriss has plenty to recommend it. From its 21st-century update of the Peladon tropes to its soundscape and cast, Vultriss is a story sweeping in its scope, one that is at once traditional but also modern. A description that is also a perfect summary of what Big Finish has been doing for twenty years now, as stories like this can attest.

Cry Of The Vultriss is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until May 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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