Review: Vienna Series 1 / Author: Mark Wright, Nev Fountain, Jonathan Morris / Publisher: Big Finish / Starring: Chase Masterson, Frazer Hines, Alisdair Simpson, Alison Thea-Skot, James Hayward, Rachel Atkins, Mike Grady, Andrew Dickens, Michael Chance, Mark Frost / Release Date: Out Now
Following on from 2013’s popular release of Vienna: The Memory Box comes the first Vienna box set from Big Finish which consists of three stories for the galaxy's most glamorous bounty-hunter Vienna Salvatori (or assassin if you will) played by Chase Masterson. Each is penned by a different writer and each leaves their mark on the character.
First up is Dead Drop by series producer Mark Wright, in which Vienna has to kill the all-powerful psychic leader of the Dyarid Primary Vanguard battle fleet on board her 30 km flagship the Custodian. As if this weren’t challenge enough, there are also the massed hordes of the Chtzin to deal with as they enter into battle, leaving Vienna with much more to do than she bargained for. Mark Wright paints an epic space battle – think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 and you won’t go far wrong. Our plucky heroine also gets a clue as to the existence of the mysterious Crevo Finn.
Next is Nev Fountain’s Bad Faith which takes up the story of two rival sects, the Church of Old Wonderment and the Church of New Wonderment, with their newest recruit Vienna Salvatori. Leading the Church of New Wonderment is the charismatic Bax Spendlove (Frazer Hines, aka Jamie from Doctor Who). Not only has Vienna to bring down the leader of the Church of the OId Wonderment but also contend with someone killing Bax’s followers. Frazer Hines is superb as the manipulative figurehead and there is a lot of chemistry between his character and Vienna. Nev Fountain also paints a home world for the Church of Old Wonderment very much in the style of Tatooine. At the end of the story Vienna also gets further mention of Crevo Finn.
Finally Jonathan Morris takes the helm with Deathworld. Morris created Vienna for a story entitled The Shadow Heart and also wrote The Memory Box which was very much in the style of certain Philip K. Dick stories. In Deathworld we have a version of The Hunger Games but with professional assassins and Vienna is determined to be the last one standing. We learn more of Vienna’s past as she pursues Crevo Finn and also listen as the layers of her life are unpeeled. By the end everything we thought we understood has been challenged.
This first full series gives us a more rounded version of Vienna than previously: she is occasionally vulnerable and doesn’t always have the answers to everything that the galaxy throws at her. The stories are populated with almost Dickensian character names and are pure science-fiction. Vienna has shaken off her roots in a Doctor Who story and found her own identity, even if that identity isn’t all it seems to be at times. There is action, plot twists and above all entertainment.
Full details are available on the Big Finish website for this and other titles featuring Chase Masterson’s glamorous assassin. Roll on the next series.