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17Jan/150

Audio Drama Review: The Condemned

In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama The Condemned, the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) picks up a distress signal and rescues Charlotte “Charley” Pollard (India Fisher), not knowing that she was a companion of a future Doctor.

Wary of creating a paradox and uncertain what to do, Charley feigns amnesia, but the Doctor is immediately suspicious. However, the question of who Charley really is is put aside when the Doctor lands the TARDIS in an apartment in Manchester where a murder just been committed. And when Detective Inspector DI Menzies (Anna Hope) finds him in the murder room which no one else could have entered, he’s arrested while Charley is kidnapped and locked in the apartment of one of the building’s tenants.

The story features the Doctor playing detective as he ends up teaming up with Menzies to solve this locked room mystery. Of course, calling this an “old fashioned” would be a bit of a misnomer as this story also involves aliens. It’s a Sci Fi mystery that reminded me a lot of Men in Black. The ending has a mix of tragedy, and a bit of light horror that feels almost Noirish in a sci fi sort of way.

The guest characters are well-written and the casting is superb. Hope’s performance as DI Menzies is top notch. The character is tough and realistic with a rye sense of humor. Everyone else is pitch perfect including Will Ash as the tragic Sam and Sara De Freitas who plays Charley’s surprisingly mellow captor.

As for the leads, Colin Baker turns in a great performance as the Doctor. I was generally surprised as I’d heard very bad things about Baker’s doctor as an arrogant and annoying guy in a garish costume. However, Condemned portrays a Doctor who has mellowed much since the time of the TV series. He’s superb in the role of the sleuth, also kind, particularly towards Charley who he lets travel with him despite distrusting her.

India Fisher is solid as Charley, a character who loved the Eighth Doctor and finds herself really disoriented with this prior doctor and having to keep this secret or risk severe consequences to time itself as well as being barred from future travels. One of the oddities of The Condemned is that this new Doctor/Companion pair spends so little time together in their first adventure. In this story, it works because Charley really needs time to process this new situation. The scenes between Charley and the Doctor in the TARDIS particularly at the start of the story are strong and would set the tone for the rest of this duo’s run.

In one classic bit of dialogue, Charley explains her surprise at seeing the Sixth Doctor in his TARDIS by saying she was expecting someone. The Doctor replies, "I hadn't realised dimensionally transcendental time machines disguised as police boxes were so common!"

The story also represents a good entry point for those who want to listen to Doctor Who Audio. The first Big Finish Doctor Who Audio Drama I listened to over BBC Radio 4 Extra related so much to things that had happened in TV episodes I hadn’t seen that I felt lost. In comparison, this makes a solid jumping on point even if you’re not a fan of Baker’s run as the Doctor or even the Classic Series. To understand this episode, all you need to know is that: 1) The Doctor travels in time and space in the TARDIS and 2) That Charley previously traveled with a future version of the Doctor. The same can be said of the entire run of seven Big Finish stories featuring this pairing. It is very self-contained.

Overall, The Condemned works as a fun Sci Fi mystery with solid acting and a superb story. It's a great jumping on point for anyone who's curious about Doctor Who audios but doesn't want to figure out 50 years of continuity.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5.0

The Condemned is available from BookDepository.com

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This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser

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16Jan/150

EP1471: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Ideal Vacation Matter

Bob Bailey
Johnny has to guard a famous columnist from an escaped hoodlum, but first has to find the vacationing journalist before his would-be killer.

Original Air Date: September 22, 1957

When making your travel plans, remember http://johnnydollarair.com

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15Jan/150

EP1470: Nick Carter: The Case of the Missing Thumb

Lon Clark
Nick Carter gets a new wannabe assistant whose father turns up murdered after robbing a safe.

Original Air Date: May 4, 1947

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14Jan/150

EP1469: Philip Marlowe: Mexican Boat Ride

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe goes South of the Border when a rich man hires him to find out why his wife took a boat ride despite being deathly afraid of boats.

Original Air Date: July 30, 1949

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13Jan/150

EP1468: Crime and Peter Chambers: Murder at The Cafe Tropicale

Dane Clark
Pete investigates a murder at the night club.

Original Air Date: June 29, 1954

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12Jan/150

EP1467: The Saint: Dossier on a Damsel in Distress

Vincent Price
A woman jumps into Simon's cab after witnessing the murder of a publisher she knew.

Original Air Date: August 13, 1950

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11Jan/150

Video Theater 060: Philip Marlowe: Murder is a Grave Affair

A young actress dies with the gas on in her room. The police think it's an accident but the girl's father and an admirer believe it's murder. Philip Marlowe (Phil Carey) investigates.

Season 1, Episode 23 (1960)

Also features Connie Hines, and William Schallert

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10Jan/150

EP1466: Dragnet: The Garbage Chute Murders

Jack Webb
Friday investigates the murder of a professional organist who was killed by a man who entered the garbage chute.

Original Air Date: December 15, 1949

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10Jan/150

Top 10 Nero Wolfe Novellas, Part Three

I continue my list of the top 10 Nero Wolfe Novellas. See Part One and Part Two.

3) Disguise for Murder (1950)

This one was adapted for A Nero Wolfe Mystery and it was also done for CBC’s Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. So, it’s a stand out whenever anyone looks at adapting the Wolfe canon, and for good reason.

Wolfe has been talked into opening the brownstone and his orchid to a flower club. At the event, a woman takes Archie aside to confide him that she recognized a murderer at the party, but she’ll only confide it to Wolfe. It goes without saying that before Archie can get Wolfe back to the office, the woman is killed in Wolfe’s office.

This is not only unfortunate, but very inconvenient for Wolfe as Inspector Cramer peevishly orders the office sealed and Wolfe just as peevishly refuses to divulge a key observation to Cramer. Cramer uses Wolfe’s dining room to interrogate the witnesses and Wolfe orders Fritz to make sandwiches for everyone but the police. The novella is far more subtle than the Television version for A&E, as it quietly shows the tension between Wolfe and the official police rather than Wolfe shouting at the police.

The story than features one of the most memorable climaxes in the Wolfe canon with Archie facing more physical danger than ever and a truly surprising solution.

2) Counterfeit for Murder (1961)

A woman named Hattie Annis comes to Wolfe's door looking quite disheveled and unlike the high value clients that Wolfe usually pays for and Archie's not inclined to let her in. However, Archie's willing to let her see the big guy because Wolfe is under the impression that he's a sucker for a certain type of woman and Archie thinks it'll be fun to show Wolfe up.

Hattie has a stack of money that she found in her boarding house which shelters showbiz people whether they can pay their $5 a week rent or not. When Wolfe sends Archie to the boarding house to investigate, they find an undercover female Treasury Agent dead.

The cop-hating Hattie Annis is without a doubt Wolfe's most interesting client so far. Her speech and personality (she calls Wolfe "Falstaff") make the story one of the most enjoyable to read in the canon.

The mystery isn't half bad either. Throw in some T-men and the NYPD in a turf war and there are Few Wolfe stories of any length that can beat this one for pure entertainment value.

1) The Next Witness (1951)

"The Next Witness" finds Wolfe called as a witness to a peripheral matter in a murder trial. While being out and watching the trial, he becomes convinced that the prosecution's case is wrong and leaves the courtroom with Archie, going on the run from the law while Wolfe tries to find the truth.

It's fascinating to read of Wolfe out in the light, asking questions of people in their own place of business is an incredible change of pace. There's also a classic scene with Wolfe in a diner eating Chili and waxing philosophical about it.

"The Next Witness" is truly a top notch story and it shows Wolfe at his wiliest and most resourceful as he's forced to stay in a strange house, travel around in a car, and question witnesses in strange places. The payoff scene in the courtroom features one of Wolfe's most brilliant stratagems.

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

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9Jan/150

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet Excerpt: Do Hard Things; Expect Others to Follow

The following is an excerpt of my newest ebook All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet  which examines the careers and histories of seven great detectives of literature, radio and film. This is the first of five lessons learned from the immortal  Joe Friday:

Do Hard Things; Expect Others to Follow

A pop culture stereotype of a recruiter for dangerous jobs is someone who slyly makes you promises about great benefits and retirement packages and never mentions the risks of the job: including the risk you may not live to enjoy the retirement benefits.

This isn’t true of the vast majority of recruiters, and it wasn’t true of Joe Friday. In the episode, “The Interrogation,” Friday and Gannon were worked out of Internal Affairs. They brought in an undercover rookie cop named Culver who’d been identified as a man who committed an armed robbery.

Culver protested his innocence, felt being pulled into internal affairs was the last straw, and threatened to quit the force. He’d already had enough grief after his fiancée left him over his decision to become a police office. After Friday found out Culver was indeed innocent, he hesitated to tell him because Culver would most likely quit.

Instead Friday decided to address Culver’s inclination to leave. Friday correctly guessed that Culver’s fiancée was disappointed because he was a college graduate and she hoped he’d get better job. This was back when a degree actually held that promise.

To address the despondent cop, Friday could have explained that the department had good job security. There will always be a need for someone to ensure public safety. He could have talked about all the opportunities to be promoted within the department to Lieutenant, Captain, or even the Chief’s office. He could have explained there were plenty of women who would respect Culver’s life choices and be supportive of him.

Instead, Friday said that perhaps the fiancée’s fears were justified and explained what it meant to be a cop. It meant having a schedule constantly subject to change, being disrespected at social functions, and being the butt of jokes. “You’re a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law. You’re the fuzz, the heat; you’re poison, you’re trouble, you’re bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman.” He also said the job required sacrifice and frugality. “If you count pennies, you can put your kid through college, but you better plan on seeing Europe on your television set.”

Of the hazards of the job, Friday was said, “When you try to arrest a drunken prostitute in a Main St. bar, and she rips your new uniform to shreds, you’ll buy another one out of your own pocket.”

Friday also didn’t promise a job that was great for your emotional well-being and told Culver he would encounter “…underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids. The old people nobody wants—the reliefers, the pensioners, the ones who walk the street cold, and those who tried to keep warm and died in a $3 room with an unventilated gas heater. You’ll walk your beat and try to pick up the pieces.”

He warns of boredom and promises more of the same if Culver decides to move up to detective. “You’ll do leg work until you’re sure you’ve talked to everybody in the state of California.”

In addition, Friday promised him that the job would include filling out constant paperwork and that it would mean working with difficult decisions and people he didn’t like in prosecuting crimes. “You’ll learn to live with the District Attorney, testifying in court, defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, judges, juries, witnesses. And sometimes you’re not going to be happy with the outcome.”

Why would anyone stay on the police force under those conditions?
Friday explained, “There are over five thousand men in this city who know that being a policeman is an endless, glamourless, thankless job that’s gotta be done. I know it, too, and I’m damn glad to be one of them.”

And that was enough for Culver, who said he’d call his fiancée. It’s also enough for tens of thousands of cops across America who find fulfillment in doing something that’s not always fun but is necessary and vital to the security of civilization.

Friday’s honesty about the challenges he faced was not uncommon in that time. Earlier in that decade, President John F. Kennedy, in challenging America to go to the moon declared, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

In addressing Officer Culver, Friday also avoided a key pitfall that many leaders make today. Authors Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick said that many of those trying to motivate others were “stuck in Maslow’s basement,” a reference to the famous psychologist’s hierarchy of needs, which suggested people’s basic needs—such as food, clothing, shelter, and safety—had to be first be met before they’d care about any higher level needs such as belonging or serving their fellow men. However, we make a mistake if we only seek to motivate everyone by lower-level needs.

According to the Heath brothers, most of the people they interviewed for their book were motivated by higher-level needs but assumed others were motivated only by money and related concerns. Thus many leaders fail to motivate people because they don’t understand what motivated them. Friday believed Culver had been motivated to join the police force by a desire to serve and make a difference in his community. Friday also may have reasoned that, if Culver was only interested in money, ease,and status, he didn’t belong on the police force anyway.

Not all of us are cut out to join the police force, but instead of seeking money or easy work, we can find fulfillment in helping others in whatever our work is or however we volunteer outside of work. If we do find something that motivates us because it tugs at our heart or it’ll make peoples lives better, we should also seek to motivate others to share that vision rather than hoping they’ll see some material benefit.

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet examines the history and career of seven great fictional detectives and twenty life lessons that can be learned from them. The previous ebook All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo is still 

For all other e-readers, All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet and   All I Needed to Know from Columbo are available at Smashwords.com

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