18 May 2015

BF: Kronos Vad’s History of Earth (Vol. 36,379)


Kronos Vad's History of Earth (Vol. 36,379) brings us into the present day with a bang and a big red Routemaster. Yes, Iris Wildthyme is back! You're no doubt getting tired of me saying this now, but as with the six other protagonists drawn from their own ranges into this The Worlds of Big Finish boxset, this is my first proper experience of her. I'm pleased to report that I'm now totally sold on the character.

I was apprehensive beforehand as Iris seems to split opinion right down the middle, with some declaring her the worst thing ever to grace the realms of Doctor Who, but I can safely say I don't subscribe to that. From Big Finish's forums, I've learned this is something of a tonal revamp for the series but if this is the kind of thing we can expect from the forthcoming Wildthyme Reloaded then count me in.

The fourth episode of Worlds is connected much more tangibly to the overarching narrative than either of the preceding two, even though it doesn't start out as such. Iris and dashing sidekick Captain Turner are joined aboard the Omnibus by has-been actress turned presenter Jenni Marcel and her director for new show 'The World's Strangest Mysteries' Zack Hoffman after the irregularly small television crew are attempting to investigate the titular tome that ties the whole tale together.

I really like the way this episode is told. It's the perfect introduction to the world of Ms Wildthyme, taking us on a whirlwind tour of her universe without being an overt 'taster'. It's a very clever script, but to go into the exact way it ties into what we've already seen and what seems to be yet to come would be ruining things. And I ought to mention just how funny this is. The humour thankfully never feels forced and it elevates an already impressive script higher still. Suffice to say David Llewellyn's first Iris Wildthyme promises great things for Series 5, although it's a massive shame he's not involved. Given the choice between Big Finish's first Torchwood and the fifth series of Iris Wildthyme though, I can understand his decision. The Scott Handcock era nonetheless looks very promising. 

As with a couple of the earlier stories in the set, it almost felt like this could have done with another five to ten minutes to fully round out the entire plot, rather than a couple of lines of explanation at the end. But Llewellyn comprises sensibly by foreshadowing the conclusion, almost excusing the excision of the biggest set-piece of the episode. I wouldn't want every episode to feature time-travelling antics like this but with Jenni and Zack as our way into the wacky world of Wildthyme, it's a really fun introduction. Katy Manning is excellent and clearly knows the part inside out, embodying the mad old bag with relish. This is Hugh Skinner's first (and last for the foreseeable future) turn as Captain Turner and he's perfect in the role. The small touches he adds as a counterpoint to Iris' eccentricities are excellent and it's a tragedy the dates for Wildthyme Reloaded didn't work, meaning Geoffrey Breton will assume the role from now on. 

Steve Foxon's music is again highly impressive. I love the Iris theme tune and the little reprises between scenes are most welcome. It only makes me regret his decision not to include music the majority of the time more. The sound design he provides is reliably good too, really bringing the action to life. Even though it's unlikely Zack would cue in the dramatic stings whilst filming, they work as a neat shorthand into the kind of cheap, disposable American cable show they're making. You just know this would be on Quest within eighteen months. 

Overall then, this is my favourite of the set so far. From Iris' perspective the story is over, but I've no doubt she's done nothing but make Vienna and Benny's lives hell. I'd be lying if I said it didn't take me a few minutes to adjust to the tone of the piece, but once I had, I was loving it. This half-hour flew by and left me wanting more. If I wasn't skint I'd be off pre-ordering Series 5 right now. I should just issue a warning though, since I've not seen one anywhere. When looking into which of the older Iris series I might be interested in, I read a few reviews saying that buyers' kids loved it. I wouldn't advise giving Kronos Vad's History of Earth (Vol. 36,379) to a child though. There's a few uses of swear words, which don't bother me but I was surprised by them. So if you're easily offended maybe just watch out (and that's just Iris!) for them. I must just quickly praise John Dorney who has quite a small role in this, but gets to show how good he is at comedy, in a change to the more serious parts he usually lands.

Another excellent addition to the set and I'm thrilled to see that the quality of the first half is being maintained (and exceeded) in the second. Kronos Vad's History of Earth (Vol. 36,379)  is a rip-roaring blast and I loved it.




You can buy The Worlds of Big Finish here.

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