Review: The Eighth Doctor Adventures – Connections

Review by Jacob Licklider

Connections is the final classic Doctor Who release this year, bringing the Eighth Doctor’s many box sets of the year to a close with three one hour stories and interestingly a focus on companion Helen Sinclair after the ending of Stranded 4 heavily implied her exit (as well as establishing the exit of Liv Chenka). Despite having a cover that connects directly to What Lies Inside?Connections is a set that doesn’t actually connect in terms of developing a story arc for the Eighth Doctor, continuing the move away from multi-box set story arcs specifically for this Doctor as well as diminishing them in terms of Big Finish’s story arcs output.  This does not mean that there isn’t a focus, like What Lies Inside? there is a general overarching theme to each of the episodes, but not as explicit as other sets.  The three episodes all have a fairly tight focus on exploring the characters in various ways but each straddles very different tones from a farcical heist, to romantic drama, ending with an intense piece of character drama that manages to take a place amongst the best of Big Finish’s audio output, not just of 2022, but of all time.

John Dorney’s Here Lies Drax opens the set working as a direct sequel to Dorney’s Fourth Doctor Adventure, The Trouble with Drax.  Despite being a direct sequel, Dorney essentially takes the ideas he begun there and extends them without necessitating someone listen to The Trouble with Drax to do so.  Sadly, this does end up making Drax feel closer to a one trick pony, as one of the twists in Here Lies Drax is the same twist as The Trouble with Drax, though here Dorney somehow manages to up the stakes and insanity of Drax’s plan (it involves faking his own death to avoid temporal assassins).  This ends up being one of those stories where despite Dorney going down the same twist as the previous this one only feels like he had to go bigger with this one.  This is a twist that I don’t think Dorney will be able to do again, but if he reads this I’ll issue that as a challenge to somehow manage that.  Shane Ritchie takes over as Drax here and like Ray Brooks and Barry Jackson before him, he manages to make his incarnation unique and more lovable.  Dorney also does an excellent job with the setup, giving the Doctor, Liv, and Helen some time in the TARDIS to really extend the comedy of the situation with the mail Drax sending the Doctor for safekeeping being random tat that anyone really could have found.  Here Lies Drax is perhaps the lightest in tone of the three episodes which makes it a very nice way to ease into the set.  8/10.

The Love Vampires by James Kettle continues the set and brings the tone into exploring the first loves of the TARDIS team and the inhabitants of a space station.  Kettle’s script is incredibly effective at establishing the base under siege format where the base is under siege from a pandemic in the form of a vampiric being that forces you to face your love and lash out with your desire.  The inhabitants of this space station are also designated by numbers meaning there is this air of impersonality that adds some extra intrigue to the situation.  While this generally leans towards tragedy, especially for Liv and Helen which allows Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan to give emotional performances (though Morahan will be discussed in the next story).  Paskie Vernon’s performance as the Doctor’s “love” the Realist is such a fascinating performance as well as the character essentially acting as this distillation of the Doctor’s character traits.  Kettle doesn’t actually try to establish the Realist as thecharacter who the Doctor on Gallifrey fell in love with which makes for an interesting approach.  Much of it comes from specifically the Eighth Doctor’s characterization, McGann playing it like looking into the mirror for the character which really brings to the forefront the romantic side of the Doctor.  McGann in this set in particular is closer to the more romantic and carefree version of the character.  The story also just ends on a really touching note that leads perfectly into the finale, despite there still being a story gap in between.  7/10.

The final story of the box set is one that blows the other two stories out of the water in terms of quality.  Albie’s Angels is a story that brings back the Weeping Angels in the early 2020s, the Doctor, Liv, and Helen tracking a temporal anomaly to Soho and splitting off into two groups to find the source.  The Doctor gives Helen a spare sonic screwdriver and she finds a record store which has a captured Weeping Angel sending her back to 1963.  The rest of the episode is split between Helen in 1963 with the Doctor and Liv in 2022 both attempting to unravel the mystery chasing Helen.  The Doctor and Liv’s plot is great, but there’s a reason that Roy Gill gives them less screen time than Helen who meets her brother Albie, played by Barnaby Jago.  Albie works in the record shop and is in a band with his partner, Bailey, at a time when homosexuality was illegal.  It’s already been established that Albie was sent to prison and that is the aura of dread lingering over this episode throughout its runtime.  Gill’s script is also fascinating as while the Weeping Angels are the threat and this story couldn’t really be told without them, they are used more as a means to an end for exploring the state of the characters which is a wonderful choice.  This is because the Angels are kind of a one trick pony in terms of what they can do and while Steven Moffat attempted to rectify this with every television appearance after Blink, it didn’t really stick for good reasons, they don’t really up the stakes.  This is a story that I genuinely don’t want to spoil for people since it’s honestly a great character piece for Helen, Hattie Morahan giving a powerhouse performance in every scene, playing it very carefully to keep the web of time in tact and not letting Albie know.  It’s a very human piece of drama as well that somehow manages to have both a happy and bittersweet ending that feels earned.  10/10.

Connections is a great box set for the Classic Doctor Who box set range to go out on for 2022. All three stories are great and have something to say with the final story being the one that stands above the other two as a must listen, yet all three make the set worth the price of admission. 8/10.

Order on CD/Download from Big Finish
Order on CD from Amazon or Forbidden Planet

Review: The Eighth Doctor Adventures – What Lies Inside?

Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!

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