Over the years since their DOCTOR WHO audio drama series began, Big Finish have put out some real corkers, and the odd catastrophe. Titles like SPARE PARTS and THE CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT have become synonymous with classy, well written adventures. With ZAGREUS, release number fifty, the fortieth anniversary special, three discs, four doctors etc, you get the feeling this is the tale the BF crew have wanted to tell since 1999. From the digipack that holds the adventure, with its great graphics, cover and interior art, along with its movie style cast lists and production credits, this release is the first real, bonafide movie audio the company have ever put out. From the epic scope, to the ?nd of the universe?subject, this is a tale that gets bigger and bigger. Beginning with Charley and McGann? Eighth Doctor in the stricken TARDIS, (this follows the events of NEVERLAND, the previous Eighth Doc adventure) and ending on Gallifrey, this is a tale that, by the end of the story, changes the direction of the upcoming McGann ?eason? But back to ZAGREUS- for all its epic scope, is it any good?

If your expecting Doctors Five, Six and Seven to come along to help their stricken future incarnation, then prepare for disappointment. The characters that Davison, Baker and McCoy play in the audio feel like characatures of their Doctors (Davison- quiet, thoughtful, Baker- Dark, Cocky, McCoy- madcap, with a dark side) and despite the fact they barely play the time lords we know and love, that hardly feels out of place here. This release features more ex companions in different roles than I think is medically safe. From Sophie Aldred as Captain Duck, or Liz Sladen (in a role that consists of about three lines) its fun trying to spot Peri or Nyssa. The other side of the coin is that few of these actors get anything near substantial time- we want to hear more, but in hindsight, being left wanting more is better than being stuffed full. The play sounds great, with music and sound effects working so well, it proves BF have really honed their art. The inclusion of Jon Pertwee into the story is a great, cleverly done idea. It made me wonder how great a Tom Baker audio would be- but that? not happening as far as I know (at present).

This is the point in my review where I would try to explain the story, but I wont- hell the packaging doesn? even attempt that one. The tale is so complex and full of ideas that it merits (despite its run time comparable to a Lord Of The Rings movie) re listening to pick up on things you didn? quite last time round. The cast give faultless performances, and its greatly directed by Gary Russel. The script is full of lovely in jokes and clever nuances that made it a joy to listen to. K9 is in it for gods sake!!

The inclusion of Leela and Romana (or at least their meeting) felt false. Leela seems to have changed?ell, she hasn? since she left the fourth Doc at the back end of THE INVASION OF TIME. Where? Andred gone?! Its nice to hear them when their together though- im looking forward to GALLIFREY when its released later this year. Overall, ZAGREUS makes a great birthday party, honouring both WHO? past and its future. I havnt given this top marks thanks to its confusing and (only occasionally) dodgy scripting. Lets say it puts a bad foot here and there along the way. But overall, ZAGREUS is epic stuff, well worth the build up its received- great.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE NEXT: McGann is back, in SCHERZO?]>

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