Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Beginning Benny - Season 7

Previously on Benny…. We got the good stories out of the way.

Season 7, I’m afraid to say, starts a rather severe downturn in the quality of the Benny audios.  I was mostly up to date with them when they were coming out for the first six years but then fell behind on listening.  I still kept buying them though and had something of a stockpile.  It became habit, Big Finish would announce the next season, I’d pre-order it and then say “I must catch up on the last season… oh, I’m two seasons behind… no three….”  Would I have continued buying them if I had actually managed to stay up to date with them?  Do you know I’m really not sure…

Certainly “The Tartarus Gate” isn’t the strongest opener to the season.  Benny’s trapped in a virtual world (how out dated was that when it came out, it felt excessively behind the times when I listened on this marathon) and there’s a gateway to hell that someone wants to open because they think they can control the gods.  It’s all very shouty, it’s very noisy and it’s really not that enjoyable.  There’s talk of a perfect cube and one of the gods sounded, to me, very Valentine Dyall like but sadly it wasn’t to be.  Jason gets his memory back though at the end and realises what an unpleasant person Brax has been. 

“Timeless Passages” is actually close to being good.  There’s timeywimey done well, a genuinely spooky atmosphere, a very camp homicidal knight and a baby.  Out of all the Benny stories of season 7 it’s the best (yes, faint praise indeed) and it’s certainly one that you need to keep concentrating on to keep up with the jumping around in time (there aren’t any handy “we’ve just changed time period” sound effects so you’ve got to just damn well pay attention) and I couldn’t help think that there were certain aspects of it that had a certain Rivery Songy type feel to them…

Big Finish took a huge risk calling the next one “The Worst Thing In The World”.  Thankfully it does have one redeeming feature (the zombie servant song and dance number caught me completely by surprise) but it feels very much like “well we’ve done a weird reality one every year so far so let’s do another one this year” was the motivation behind it.  It has a few laughs but it’s not particularly subtle and, in places, the acting left a lot to be desired (seemingly bad acting is allowed under certain plot conditions but it the permission doesn’t detract from the fact it’s painful to listen to).  Still, it did have the song and dance number.  That’s more than can be said for the next one.

“Summer of Love” aka “You’ll never get that hour of your life back”.  Everything about this one just felt wrong to me.  The acting was stilted, the dialogue poor and the lame excuse for a plot was so lacklustre that you know full well the planning meeting for it went “We want to do an audio of people shagging and attempting rape, do you think we need to put a decent reason in or can we come up with any old lame explanation”.  Terrible on pretty much every level.

Only marginally better is “The Oracle of Delphi”.  There’s an artefact that Benny’s after.  She runs around in history and tries to make sure that everything that’s supposed to happen still happens and ummmmm she finds the artefact.  I’d love to tell you more about the details of the plot, I’d love to tell you how wonderfully acted or written it was but, even soon after listening to it, most of this one just went from my mind.  I know I listened though but that statement alone is probably the most damning review of it I can muster.

To end the season there’s “The Empire State”.  Benny has an artefact, Benny’s in a place that should have been destroyed and is destroyed again only it isn’t and then it is and then it’s rebuilt around her and… It probably has one of the stronger plots of the season but that doesn’t say much.  The origin of one character, when revealed, sets a sinking feeling about how things are going to end up and yes, you get to the end, and the development you’re presented with is the one you’ve been pretty much expecting since the end of season six.  Still, there’s a nice loud bang at the end of the story which acts, I guess, as a cliff-hanger type hook to get you into season eight.

I really wish I were more enamoured with the seventh season of Benny audios.  It almost felt like six releases of trying to do little more than tread water.  There are very few sparks of originality in there, not particularly large amounts of charm and not really all that much in the way of a plot.  Still, I’m sure that it’s only temporary and when I did get around to completing the stockpile I’d find it was so much better for season eight.  Wouldn’t I?

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