Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Dreamland

  • Title: Dreamland
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Stephen Greif
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/09/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s last Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Dreamland, begins by wrapping up the cliffhangers from the last story, Fatal Consequences. Josh rescues Sarah from the Keeper of the Crimson Chapter – not only does he stop the Keeper from killing Sarah, Josh kills the Keeper and administers the cure for the Marlborough Virus to Sarah. Josh also killed Will Sullivan – claiming it was self-defense. It should be obvious that Josh is a member of the White Chapter of the Orbis Postermo. Josh also reveals to Natalie that he killed her boyfriend, who was a Crimson Chapter member. Natalie accompanies Sarah to Will’s funeral. Sir Donald tries to convince Sarah to go to Nevada to see the first “space tourism” flight of the Dauntless. Sarah is hesitant and unconvinced until she sees Sir Donald and Josh together and realizes Josh is Sir Donald’s son. Sarah and Natalie head to Nevada, to the Dreamland Air Force Base.

Once in Nevada, Sir Donald’s poor health and eventual death mean it will be Josh, not his father on the flight, and Sarah fulfills Sir Donald’s dying wish by agreeing to go on the flight. Natalie will be on a headset in mission control.

The flight seems to be going well until the pilot fails to turn off the ship’s booster rocket after 90 seconds. As the ship continues to go up towards space Sarah and Josh realize something is wrong. Josh tries to force the pilot, Ben Kimmel, to cut the rocket thrusters but Ben is a secret member of the Crimson chapter. Josh pulls a gun, despite having earlier promised Sarah no more guns or killing. Not to mention the utter stupidity of bringing a gun on a spaceship, which Sarah points out. Josh and Ben struggle. The result is Ben is killed, Josh is shot and apparently dies later from his wound, the instrument panels are smashed, and a fire breaks out in the cockpit. And since the rocket thrusters are still firing the ship is hiding out much farther than it was either designed for or is safe. Natalie and Sarah are able to talk over their radio headsets briefly and Sarah tries to reassure her friend. Sarah then tells Natalie she sees a bright light and hears a terrible noise in her head.

The play ends with a news update that something has gone terribly wrong with the world’s first space tourism flight, and the fate of the three people on board the ship is unknown. So the play ends with a cliffhanger.

I’m going to assume that the light and sound were the Mandragora Helix since it’s been teased throughout the entire second season of audio plays. But I do wish Big Finish had recorded one more audio to wrap up the Mandragora plot. This audio play was recorded in 2005, and Elisabeth Sladen’s television series, The Sarah Jane Adventures didn’t even start until 2007. Still, even with the cliffhanger ending this series of Sarah Jane Smith audios has been excellent. The acting, sound effects, and music are all very good. I highly recommend the series and Dreamland in particular.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To Order Dreamland on Download only click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Fatal Consequences

  • Title: Fatal Consequences
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Will, The Keeper, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Tom Chadbon, Jacqueline Pearce, Stephen Grief
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s second season of Sarah Jane Smith has used news radio broadcasts as a framing device in each story. Two of the stories that have been consistently developed over the course of three stories have been: Sir Donald Westbury’s planned trip on the first space tourism trip on a ship called the Dauntless, and Sarah’s friend Maude holding a protest at a research lab that they claim is participating in unethical and even illegal animal experimentation. Fatal Consequences rewards longtime listeners by explaining why all that information is actually significant and not mere atmosphere.

Sarah is at her house with her friends, Will and Josh waiting for Dr. Dexter to appear. Dexter claims to have proof that Mandrake, the owner of his lab, which happens to be the one where Maude has organized her six-month protest, is involved in something shady. Mandrake is the new name of the corporation that was involved in illegal human cloning experiments in Cloots Coombe. Dexter arrives and tries to talk Sarah into investigating his lab. But when it comes to explaining exactly what’s going on or providing proof – Dr. Dexter is rather hesitating and less forthcoming. Sarah decides to try to find out more. She has Josh check the Internet for information and asks Will to go undercover at the lab, using his medical background to check it out.

Then the story really rushes forward. Will is a member of the Crimson Chapter of the Orbus Postermo, but we found out he joined in medical school – thinking it was a silly secret society. Will insists he won’t kill anyone, especially Sarah. We also discover that Josh is a member of the White Chapter, assigned as guardian to protect Sarah. And the billionaire Sir Donald who is so fascinated with spaceflight? He’s the Keeper of the White Chapter.

When Josh arrives at the lab – he discovers six of the protestors, including Maude’s daughter, Emily, have disappeared. It’s suspected they are in the lab. Will is able to get inside, where Dexter orders him to give a “cure” to the protestors. Will can’t really say no since Dexter is also a member of the Scarlet Chapter. Once the six are released, Will discovers it wasn’t actually a cure. Will ends up shooting Dexter. He goes back outside with a few doses of a real cure (he thinks – unfortunately, it only works for 24 hours). Will administers the cure, but is confronted by Josh. Josh admits who he is – and Josh and Will end-up in a struggle.

The Keeper of the Scarlet Chapter gets her hands on Sarah when she enters the lab and offers her a terrible choice. Sarah’s discovered that the lab has developed a new super-virulent variant of a hemorrhagic fever. The Scarlet Chapter plans to release this disease worldwide to see that their doomsday predictions come to pass. The Keeper also tells Sarah that the Book of Tomorrows was written by Duke Giuliano. The Keeper also recognizes that Sarah knows that name. Sarah blames herself, saying everything is her fault. Sarah also realizes that she is getting really ill. The Keeper offers her a quick death by being shot rather than the painful death of the Fever. Sarah asks the Keeper to shoot her. There are a scuffle and gunshots… and… cliffhanger.

Fatal Consequences wraps up a lot of things that have run through the entire series so far and even brings back a character from the first season of this audio play series. As a stand-alone it might not make a lot of sense but as the penultimate story of a series it’s immensely satisfying to see Sarah finally figure out Will is with the Scarlet Chapter, to find out just how Will got involved in such a group (and that he isn’t willing to kill Sarah even when ordered to by his Keeper), and to discover that Josh, as I suspected, is part of the White Chapter.

The entire second series has also served as a sequel to the aired story, “The Masque of Mandragora”. However, I just re-watched that story last night – and Sarah never tells the Duke anything about the future. In contrast, at one point Giuliano mansplains to her that the Earth is a sphere not flat. The two spend a fair amount of time together, so her “predictions” could have happened off-screen, but it’s not something we see in the actual aired story. However, it’s interesting that Sarah’s carelessness led to the Duke writing down everything he remembered her saying. And the group that evolved from reading his journal more or less took it from there, creating their own Doomsday Cult. The Scarlet Chapter even decided that since the promised Doomsday didn’t happen at the turn of the Millennium they would force the issue instead. Scary stuff! I do recommend this story and the entire series. The next volume is Dreamland.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To Order Fatal Consequences on Download only, click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Snow Blind

  • Title: Snow Blind
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Will
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Tom Chadbon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/28/2018

Picking up two months after the events in “Buried Secrets” with Sarah fully recovered from being shot, Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play Snow Blind has Sarah and Josh taking their promised trip to Antarctica. The play opens with Sarah and Josh getting ready to take a cab to the airport, and has Sarah refusing to answer the phone as she leaves her house. Unfortunately, that missed call was rather important – it’s Will warning her not to come.

Sarah and Josh take a prop plane to Nikita Base, and the plane is piloted by an Australian bush pilot name Jack. During the flight, Jack calls for weather info from the base and finds that it should be fine for landing, but a storm is due in soon. The three arrive without issues, but Jack says something is wrong with the plane, and later says they won’t be able to take off again until he’s able to fix the plane, after the blizzard hits.

At the base, Sarah and Josh meet Dr. Monro and Morgane, and they are reunited with Will. Morgane is a French scientist and drilling specialist. Dr. Monro is the scientist in charge of the project, which is supposed to be on the effects of global warming. Will and Morgane take Josh out to the drilling site, while Sarah stays behind to interview Dr. Monro – not as a reporter, as she’s now retired, but as an investor who wants to know how her aunt’s money is being spent. Monro sounds paranoid and suspicious of everyone.

Meanwhile, at the drilling site, Morgane seems faint and unwell. Will says it’s over-exposure to radiation – meaning the strong and damaging sunlight at the South Pole. She heads back to the base on her snowcat – and Will take Josh to see the local penguins – the first thing to excite Josh since he arrived at Nikita Base. But when they arrive, the penguins are gone. Will looks around, realizes the mountains are also gone and that means the blizzard is past them and moving in fast. They race for their snowcat and return to the base.

Sarah, meanwhile, receives a note to meet someone in the main storage hut. To her credit, she calls Josh and Will to tell them where she’s going, but she ignores their warnings about the coming storm. Sarah gets to the storage hut OK, but she’s attacked by someone wearing a mask.

Will and Josh successfully make it back to the base, but the blizzard is in full swing. The guide line between the main living quarters and the storage hut has snapped in the high winds, or possibly it was cut. However, they are able to raise Sarah on the intercom. Sarah is cold and wet. Will advises her to change into dry clothes and a hat and then to crawl into a sleeping bag to get warm and raise her core temperature. He also tells her they can’t reach her until the blizzard passes over, but she will be safe.

The next morning, everyone goes to find Sarah and she still cannot see anything. Will realizes she’s snow blind – as Josh puts it “a sort of sunburn of the eyeballs”. The condition is brought on by exposure to strong light and UV radiation but is probably not permanent.

Before they can get Sarah to the main building – everything turns to total chaos. The main building bursts into flames. Will and Josh head off to try to do something about the fire and to make sure Morgane and the others are safe. Monro shows up and tells Sarah he suspects Morgane and Jack. Jack arrives, kills Monro, and takes Sarah hostage – after having killed Morgane. It turns out Morgane found ultra-pure uranium under the ice, and she and Jack had partnered to get it out of Antarctica to sell to the highest bidder. But not only are these two willing to sell uranium to terrorists or whoever will buy it – Morgane is working for one of the chapters of the Acolytes of Tomorrow, and the uranium sale is meant to fund their End Days activities. Jack was in it for the money – and decided to cut her out and take all the profits for himself. Jack reveals this to Sarah when she’s his hostage – but she manages to activate the fuel dump for his plane and get out of the plane before it crashes. Plus the crash attracts the authorities.

Will, flabbergasted by everything asks Sarah and Josh if it’s always like this: unveiling a plot to smuggle uranium out of Antarctica, the base burned to the ground, and two of the members of the expedition dead. Sarah and Josh seem to look at each other like, What? As in, well, actually, yes.

Another cute bit is when Sarah is talking to Morgane and later Monro about what was discovered under the ice. Her first thought is “a seed pod” and she asks if it’s hatched yet. When it becomes obvious they each have no idea what she’s talking about, and Sarah asks what was found, they tell her about the uranium. But for the audience, “seed pod” is a reference to the Classic Who adventure, “Seeds of Doom”. Only in Sarah Jane/Doctor Who can smuggled uranium be the less obvious answer to the mystery.

This is a fun adventure. Antarctica is an interesting location for Sarah and Josh, and the entire cast does an excellent job performing the story. The story ends with dialogue between the same unknown characters as in Buried Secrets – a Keeper and her Acolytes who have something to do with the scarlet chapter of the Orphans of Tomorrow. The Keeper decides that sleeper agent Will must kill Sarah Jane Smith. This leads straight into the next story, Fatal Consequences.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Buried Secrets

  • Title: Buried Secrets
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Will
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Tom Chadbon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/26/2018

Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play Buried Secrets starts off the second year of this excellent audio series. The story is framed by news reports that catch up the listener on what’s going on. Hilda Winters, Sarah’s adversary in the first series, has died in custody after Harris was “shot while trying to escape” earlier – sparing Sarah Jane the need to testify in court. Sarah has retired from journalism and is apparently living off her Aunt Lavinia’s inheritance – though she is also investing money in good causes. Josh is with her in London, while Nat is off in Florance Italy, assisting a group of forensic archaeologists who are investigating the tomb of the Medici Family in San Lorenzo. The project’s first archaeologist has disappeared, and a replacement has just journeyed to Florence.

Sarah says goodbye to Josh who is supposed to be house-sitting for her and rushes off to an evening appointment at a restaurant. Hoping to meet Harry Sullivan, even though he’s been missing for years, Sarah is surprised to meet Will Sullivan, a man who introduces himself as Harry’s half-brother. Sarah and Will get on well, especially when it turns out that one of Sarah’s causes, a scientific research study in Antarctica, is the very same research study that Will is slated to be on for the next thirteen months starting the next day. It’s a surprising coincidence.

Josh shows up at the restaurant, using the excuse of delivering a letter that came by special courier for Sarah. Sarah knows he’s being over-protective and gets annoyed.

However, when the two get back to her house they find the place has been tossed. Sarah puts it down to the rash of burglaries in the area. Sarah reads the letter – it’s from Hilda Winters, a letter from beyond the grave. The letter talks of the secret society, the Acolytes of the Future Orphans and the Book of Tomorrow. The Book was written by an Italian Duke from San Lorenzo and contains very precise prophecies of the future and the End of Days. Hilda warns Sarah she’s being watched and she’s more important than she knows.

Sarah and Josh then contact Nat, to see how she’s doing and find out she’s been held for questioning in the murder of Dr. Beretti – the missing archaeologist – who was found in one of the coffins exhumed from the crypt. Sarah and Josh head to Florence to provide moral support.

In Florence, they meet up with Nat, briefly meet her new boyfriend, Luca, and have dinner. They return to the tombs and crypt, hoping to explore it once the police have gone.

Josh and Sarah head down the ladder and into the tombs, while Natalie, who is in a wheelchair, stays up top. The lights go out while they explore, and Natalie suddenly stops answering Josh’s calls to her. He goes up to check. Meanwhile, with the lights out, Sarah spots light coming from a hidden chamber. She goes inside and finds the room is papered with strange papers – papers similar to those of the legendary Book of Tomorrow but written in English. Sarah is caught by Luca, who insists she is the Herald of the End of Days. The cult, split into two chapters – the white and crimson chapters, had long known that the final Herald had the initials SJS – but the hidden pages reveal that the woman’s name is, “Sarah”. Sarah insists it’s a coincidence – Luca insists she’s the Herald and it is his duty to kill her. Sarah shuts out the lights, hoping she will be able to escape. Shots ring out.

The next scene is the news update, and then Sarah catching up with Josh in hospital. Luca and the second archaeologist, whom Luca had identified as part of the White Chapter of the Future Orphans, while he was a member of the Crimson Chapter, are both dead. Luca had killed the archaeologist earlier, and Josh shot Luca to save Sarah. Sarah was shot, but they were able to save her in the hospital. Natalie, although glad that Sarah is OK, is again upset that her life has been upset because of one of Sarah’s adventures – after all Luca was her boyfriend, and she’s probably lost her job as well.

The play ends with an answering machine message for Sarah. It’s Will, inviting her and Josh to join him in Antarctica at the scientific research station.

This play includes references to two of Elisabeth Sladen’s adventures with the Doctor, “Seeds of Doom”, which starts with her and the Doctor at an Antarctica research station (Sarah, upon learning that Will is a scientist who does research in Antarctica tells him she spent a few days there.) And, “Masque of Mandragora”, set in 15th century San Lorenzo, where Sarah meets Giuliano (soon to be Duke) and makes quite an impression – since he is the Duke who wrote the “Book of Tomorrows” as his journal, unintentionally starting a doomsday cult in the process.

I quite enjoyed this story. It runs a bit short, but that also made for a great listen in the car. As the first story in a new season, it’s a pretty clean break. Buried Secrets uses news radio or TV broadcasts almost like a narrator to catch the reader up on the story so far, so if you haven’t listened to the first season (or first five plays in the series) this is a good place to start. The play also ends with a tease and even a trailer for the next play in the series, Snow Blind.

Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Buried Secrets on Download only follow the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

  • Title: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Peter Anghelides
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Wendy Jennings, Miss Winters
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Louise Faulkner, Patricia Maynard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre picks up from where the previous audio, Ghost Town left off. Sarah is now on some islands off the coast of India, trying to interview local fisherman about a disastrous biological warfare experiment that went wrong in the 1940s. Her interview with the local fisherman is not going well when she’s approached by another former Planet 3 reporter, Wendy Jennings. No sooner than they start to talk when Wendy tells Sarah she’s being watched, and leaves her, leaving her a card with a time and place for a second meeting written on it. Sarah meets Wendy at the restaurant and they start to chat, only to have Wendy again insist they are being watched. Next, they meet on the beach – and are nearly run over by a Jeep.

Bit by bit, Wendy and Sarah do get to “compare notes”, as not only are they investigating the same story from the 1940s, which will be released to the public in a week’s time anyway as the result of the Official Secrets Act Statue of Limitations (basically) running out, but Sarah and Wendy suspect that a British biological research company with offices in the UK and India is intent on reviving the project. Wendy takes Sarah to meet the scientist from the original project, but a police officer shows up and kills the scientist.

This is part one, essentially, of the story – although this audio play is not officially broken-up into episodes, like many Big Finish Productions, and it is a single disc story. Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre is framed with voicemail messages at Planet 3. Sarah, also a little paranoid (but with good reason), is using the Planet 3 voicemail system to keep in touch with Natalie and Josh. Natalie has apparently recovered from her sense of betrayal as a result of the events of Test of Nerve. Back home in the UK, while Natalie researches Scarla, the British bio-weapons firm, and checks on Wendy Jennings’ background, Josh is unpacking and setting-up Sarah’s household in yet another new flat, this one Claudia’s old apartment.

Back in India, after the scientist is murdered, Sarah is much more sympathetic to Wendy’s stories. The two head to Scarla’s Indian headquarters. There, Wendy claims she’s used her Planet 3 credentials to get an interview with the CEO – really she is on a fact-finding mission and a distraction, while Sarah looks for proof. Sarah investigates in the records room and discovers that Scarla plans to use a much more virulent and deadly version of the 1940s virus to poison the Parambikulam-Aliyar project – a huge project of interconnected dams, tunnels, and viaducts, that will bring clean water for drinking, agriculture, and power to most of India by damming and connecting seven rivers. But Sarah is captured.

Taken to the CEO office, Sarah is confronted by Miss Winters and Mr. Harris. Harris had been after her throughout the entire series, since Comeback, and Sarah discovers it was Winters who set her up for the fall at Planet 3. Not only that but Wendy Jennings is actually Wendy Jellicoe, the daughter of Professor Jellicoe. Everything Sarah’s been through, being set up for publishing a “fake” story, losing her career, being constantly pursued, the loss of her reputation, even the death of her friend, Claudia, is all due to Winters, Harris, and Wendy wanting revenge on Sarah. This leads back to events in the aired story, Robot, and Think Tank and the Scientific Reform Society. Furthermore, the three plan on poisoning the Parambikulam-Aliyar project, which will result in the deaths of millions and the destruction of hundreds of acres of land. Sarah ends-up rescuing Wendy, whom Winters and Harris plan on sacrificing in a car crash, with help from Josh. Josh had gone to India to speak with Sarah personally since she wasn’t really answering the frantic voicemails he and Natalie had left – and when she did phone them she seemed off. Meanwhile, Natalie had called in a tip to the Indian authorities claiming Tamil rebels were going to attack the Parambikulam-Aliyar project. Sarah returns to the UK with Josh and meets up with Natalie, knowing now, just who set her up and why.

I enjoyed this audio play. As with all the Sarah Jane Smith audios, it moves very fast. So fast, in fact, that on the first listen I was really confused when Sarah and Wendy arrive at the Indian headquarters of Scarla, and everything changes. I liked Wendy, and I thought another reporter made a good companion for Sarah. However, tying everything that’s happened so far into an aired episode of Doctor Who was clever – as was casting the same actress to play an older Miss Winters. And Sarah saved Wendy from drowning so she may turn out to be an ally. Winters and Harris’ plot was also significantly horrifying (and realistic) and gave the audio much relevance. I have been very pleased with all the Sarah Jane audios I’ve heard so far, and highly recommend this audio and the series.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre on CD or Download follow the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Ghost Town

  • Title: Ghost Town
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Rupert Laight
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Yolande Benstead, Jack McElroy
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Ingrid Adams, Robert Jezek
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/19/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Ghost Town is a ghost story. Sarah and Josh, after the events of the last story in this series, decide to have a holiday and visit Sarah’s friend, retired journalist Yolande Benstead. Yolanda now lives in a small village in Romania that is hosting an international peace conference. Josh and Sarah arrive, catch-up with Yolande and meet her butler, Dmitri. Dmitri had simply turned-up at her doorstep one rainy night, in quite a state and with no memory, not even of his own name. Yolande took him in as a kindness.

The first night she is there, Sarah is attacked by something horrible in her room. She doesn’t believe in ghosts but doesn’t know how to explain the feelings of fear and dread she experienced. The next day, Sarah and Josh learn that similar cases of hauntings have been happening all over the village. And two of the delegates to the conference also had similar experiences.

The next night, Yolande invites a visiting American couple to dinner. Paul is with the conference, and his wife, Candy, is accompanying him. But that night, the horror strikes again – and Candy is frightened to death.

Dmitri also confronts someone at Yolande’s house – but because Sarah is attacked again at the same time, no one realises what’s happened. The intruder shoots Dmitri dead. However, Dmitri leaves a clue. Sarah investigates at a nearby library and then at the university. She discovers Dmitri is really a research scientist and lecturer in sonics, who had disappeared recently. Sarah and Josh inform the department chairperson that his scientist is dead. Returning to the village, Sarah checks out the recording equipment from the previous night – there is nothing there.

She goes to the pub and confronts Christian, an ex-pat living in the village who had tried to talk her into having dinner with him. She obtains evidence against him, confirming her theory, and manages with help from Josh to stop him from harming herself. Christian Ian Abbotly is the “CIA” Dmitri warned them about. It seems Dmitri was a scientist, lured away from his university to work on sonic weapons. He developed a weapon that, using radio waves, projects feelings of horror and dread – feelings of fear so strong they can even cause death. Each of the victims had a radio in his or her room that picked up the deadly signals.

Ghost Town runs a bit short, but it is a very atmospheric and spooky story. Romania is the perfect setting for an entire village suddenly besieged by ghosts. Sarah’s friend, Yolande, is an excellent addition to the story. I hope she returns, though I doubt she will. She’s also a bit of a warning to Sarah. Yolande had been a cutting-edge journalist in the 60s but eventually, she was pushed out of the profession because no one wanted to back her anymore.

Recommended.

The CD version includes several trailers for other Big Finish productions.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Ghost Town on Download only follow the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Test of Nerve

  • Title: Test of Nerve
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith Test of Nerve is my favorite so far of the Sarah Jane audios I’ve listened to. It’s fast-moving, has a real sense of danger, and adds to the continuing plot of the series. I lost my first attempt for this review due to an unexpected computer shut-down so hopefully, the second will be OK.

Test of Nerve opens with a radio broadcast of three news stories: a junior minister being “jostled” by protestors and the arrest of one of the same, “New Age Travellers” being forcefully evicted from an old tube station, and a break-in at a bioweapons/testing lab in which the lab officials insist “nothing” was taken. All three of these stories prove to be interwoven skillfully into the plot.

Josh and Natalie, Sarah’s friends, are waiting for her at her house for a meeting that Sarah called. Sarah arrives, late, toting a large gift she found outside her apartment addressed to her. She opens it and finds a living rat in a cage. When she, with Josh’s help, removes the note stuck to the cage, the cage seals and a pellet releases gas – which quickly kills the rat. The note is also a threat – if Sarah doesn’t do something to stop it, all of London will suffer the same fate as the rat. Sarah and her friends have a subject for investigation. Natalie will remain at the flat to investigate on-line; Josh goes off to investigate the bio lab (Bioguard), and Sarah takes the very dead rat to her friend, Claudia, at C19, to find out what happened.

When Sarah calls Claudia she’s busy with someone in her office – but she manages to make an appointment with Sarah for a late lunch. Josh, pretending to be a reporter for Metropolitan magazine, interviews Mr. Harris at Bioguard. It turns out that Ellie Martin was one of the “travelers” kicked out of the tube station. She discusses it with Josh, saying that she and the others weren’t even allowed to take their gear, and they were well away from the platform so it was safe.

When Sarah returns to her apartment, James Carver arrives. He’s a former British soldier, trying to get compensation for soldiers who were subjected to experiments with anti-nerve gas agents without their permission. He had organized the protest mentioned on the news radio program but was released without charge. When he gets to Sarah’s he seems unstable and threatening. Natalie calls the police, but Sarah gets angry – Carver leaves and Sarah tells the police it was a mistake.

When Sarah goes to meet Claudia to find out about her rat, she nearly runs into a man running from the apartment. The door is open and Sarah finds Claudia on the floor, dying. The police arrive and arrest Sarah on suspicion of murder. Josh meets up with Ellie to get her stuff from the tube station and finds her stuck in a glass box. Before long, he is knocked out and they are both stuck in a glass box. Harris threatens to kill them, placing a nerve gas pellet on the top of the box and telling them if they try to escape the pellet will be released – killing them. Why am I now thinking of Schrödinger’s cat? But anyway…

It takes seven hours for the police to release Sarah, and they still do not believe her warnings of an imminent nerve gas attack on London. While she’s being interrogated, and Josh and Ellie are being stuffed in a glass box – Natalie is at Sarah’s when Harris shows up. He threatens her, pushes her out of her wheelchair, and then takes it. He also tells her there’s a bomb in the building and gives her 30 minutes to escape.

When Sarah leaves the building Harris calls and threatens all she holds dear – telling Sarah she can save her friend Natalie from a bomb – or prevent Carver from releasing nerve gas in the tube tunnels (i.e. the subway).

Sarah, surprisingly, shows up at the tube station, where she finds that Carver has just released Ellie and Josh from their trap, Ellie has run off both to escape and to possibly get additional help, and Carver is threatening to throw himself under the train – which will crush and release the vest of nerve gas pellets strapped to him. One thing that Claudia was able to tell Sarah before she died was that C19 suspects that Bioguard lied when they claimed nothing was stolen during the recent break-in, and that in reality a tray of nerve gs pellets went missing and it’s suspected to be an inside job.

Sarah, with help from Josh, manages to get Carver to remove the nerve gas – but he still throws himself under the train. A news report ties into the opening of the story and fills in a few details.

Later, we learn that Natalie dragged herself free of the flat and managed to escape, barely. But when Sarah meets up with her, Natalie tells her: that’s it, she’s had enough. She can’t get over Sarah leaving her to die – even though Sarah had an impossible choice. When Sarah says that even five years ago she would have saved a friend first, but now she has to see the bigger picture and save the world – Natalie cannot accept it and leaves. Sarah accuses Josh of wanting to do the same thing and leave – but he vows to stay with her and help her.

I really enjoyed Test of Nerve from the punny title to the action and suspense. The intercutting between Natalie swearing she “won’t be a victim” as she pulls herself through Sarah’s flat and Sarah rushing, at first we know not where, and later trying to talk down Carver is masterfully and suspensefully done – especially for audio.

There are some plotholes. Sarah calls Natalie’s cell but can’t reach her because it’s in her car – but she apparently doesn’t think to call a neighbor to check on the situation. And Josh, Ellie, and Sarah could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if they’d simply forced Carver into the convenient box that Josh and Ellie had been stuck in. Presumably, it could be sealed. But even so, this was the best Sarah Jane Smith audio so far. I hope the range continues to improve. Highly recommended.

This is a full-cast audio play with the cast performing their roles.

Read my review of the first story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, Comeback.

Read my review of the second story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, The Tao Connection.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Test of Nerve on Download only, click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!