It feels like only yesterday when Eccleston joined the team at Big Finish to star in a batch of new adventures, 8 boxsets later and we have reached the end of what we know the company had planned for the Ninth Doctor Adventure range. It’s been a range with some genuinely spectacular stories, reuniting this Doctor with old friends and old enemies in ways that feel new and fresh. There have been some rough patches on the journey to Shades of Fearbut with 24 new stories in this series that is only to be expected. This new boxset I think is the most emblematic of the ranges strongest and weakest elements, it has the characteristic inconsistent quality that has been a bit of a blight on the range but the spirit of the era is captured so vividly with the right themes hitting home and the atmosphere fitting really nicely into what RTD helped create back in 2005. Its not the best one we’ve had from the range, but still manages to keep the momentum from previous sets rolling and delivers an all around good experience with Eccleston at the helm.
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.
It’s that time of the year again where Eccleston and Big Finish bring us a fresh batch of adventures with the Ninth Doctor, a fact which still feels miraculous to this day. In previous sets we’ve had the Ninth Doctor face off against familiar foes, namely the Cybermen in a Dalek to Parting of the Ways style of progression, so here we have the Sontarans who feel like a natural fit for this Doctor given his Time War guilt. However where we deviate from those previous sets is in theming; in the first series of four sets in this range we saw thematic boxsets with three stories that represented the primary settings for RTD era narratives. But with series two we get boxsets, that while still thematically linked in their stories, focus on just story setting and explore as many avenues with it as possible. Back To Earth gave us three story set across Earth’s history so to contrast that Into The Stars sends beyond Earth to see life beyond the stars.
The Unbound range essentially started as a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who by introducing six alternate universe takes on the Doctor and Doctor Who based around questions like “What if the Doctor never left Gallifrey?” or “What if the Doctor was exiled to Earth in the 1990s?”. This allowed different actors and actresses to take on the role of the Doctor, but after the initial six release run there weren’t any new Unbound Doctors introduced, two more releases in 2005 and 2008 before the David Warner Doctor was paired with Bernice Summerfield. So, imagine the surprise when it was announced that the range would be revived for two box sets using a new Unbound Doctor, the Doctor of War, played by Colin Baker, in a timeline that diverges during Genesis of the Daleks for two box sets, Genesis and Destiny (named after the Tom Baker Dalek serials).
The Terra Nostra returns us to the criminal organisation first glimpsed in the Blake’s 7 episode Shadow, for a set of stories in the shady underworld of the Federation. Taking their inspiration from the Mafia, the Terra Nostra seemingly stretched throughout the galaxy and it was heavily implied that they existed as a form of Federation soft power within the criminal classes. This boxset also draws together strands from the previous two in The Worlds of Blake’s 7, The Clone Masters and Bayban the Butcher – notably the story of the psycho-strategist Hinton.Continue reading →
Stranded as a miniseries ended its second set with the Doctor being thrust into the future with companions Liv, Helen, Tania, and Andy where the Earth has come under a fascist dictatorship run by Divine Intervention. Stranded 3 picks up where Stranded 2 left off and with any of the multi-set series from Big Finish, and especially for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this is not going to be a set aimed at newcomers. It continues the character driven nature of the other sets and the general Earthbound nature of the previous two sets, but the TARDIS is now working enough so the Doctor can actually travel in time, none of the episodes being set in a normal 2020/2021, the closest we get being John Dorney’s finale dealing with some of Divine Intervention and setting up the final box set. As with the final story having the gimmick of starting at the end and going back to the beginning, that is how this review will be structured. We will be starting at the end and working our way back to the beginning as Stranded 3 brings something very different to the standard box set, even by the standards of Stranded making it some of the more interesting sets from Big Finish.Continue reading →
Ravagers introduced Christopher Eccleston to the world of Big Finish as the Ninth Doctor through a miniseries.Respond to All Calls switched gears towards three thematically similar stories with the idea being the Doctor, battle scarred and hardened, is always there to help.The third set follows the format of Respond to All Calls, three stories tied around a theme, but that theme is a little subtler and is perhaps why some people haven’t gelled as much with this set as a whole.Lost Warriors is a title which sets up the set with a subconscious exploration of the remnants of the Time War, and that’s there, but only in the last story and in the way the Ninth Doctor is characterised.Each story has a warrior at its centre and each is an exploration of a different reaction to a war, one from a modern human war, one from a human war in the past, and one from an alien war, while the Doctor representing the Time War in all three of the stories.It’s interesting as the Time War isn’t really directly mentioned in any notable capacity throughout the set, it’s in the background and simmering, but not actually being the driving force of the stories.It’s a set about other warriors and other people as a reflection of the Doctor and not a direct parallel.Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor is incredibly subtle here with the trauma and in each of the three stories he is absolutely brilliant in the role.Some have complained he is too close to Tennant, but this is an odd set where the Doctor is actually the connection to the audience which usually is the companion’s job.
October was already set to be a celebration of the Third Doctor era, bringing out the second Third Doctor Adventures set this year, but July saw the announcement of The Diary of River Song: New Recruit, sending River back to Season 7 with the Doctor travelling Europe and Liz and the Brigadier left back at UNIT. Of course, Tim Treloar reprises his role of the Third Doctor for the final story, but this is a celebration of the early years of the Pertwee era with a twist, putting River in the role of the Doctor and Liz as a companion making for a very different dynamic. Each of the four stories pastiches a Pertwee style story with the final one in particular providing one last twist for a Pertwee story which Big Finish have been unable to do until very recently which ends the set with one very pleasant twist. This twist is one which listeners would not want to have spoiled, and the TARDIS Wiki articles for these stories do provide spoilers so I implore potential listeners to avoid looking anything up about these stories. This review will only include light spoilers for plot details, but none of the big twists will be spoiled.
With the first two series of Missy, Rufus Hound’s portrayal of the Meddling Monk appearing in one story for each set already becoming a standout, for Series Three the subtitle Missy and the Monk was given. Hound is featured as Missy’s own companion in each of the three stories, all travelling the universe together. Except because it’s Missy piloting the Monk’s TARDIS, the Monk is much more a hostage than say an active participant which is an excellent dynamic, making Rufus Hound the butt of the joke which is just a perfect dynamic throughout. Missy and the Monk is also notable for being from mostly new writers meaning that it’s a set with its own distinct flavour from the previous two with less emphasis on Missy as an evil ‘Mary Poppins’ (there aren’t any stories here with the Davis siblings) and more of her as the crazy version of the Master with the hair-brained yet genius schemes. Some complaints I have seen of this set are that ‘Miss’y and ‘the Monk’ are perhaps parodies of themselves, but I can’t really see that as Missy is already a character who doesn’t take the Monk seriously and is just keeping him around for her own amusement. That’s just their dynamic and it has been in the previous sets with Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound playing off each other brilliantly. Though one slight issue with the set as a whole is that the incidental music, while always great, relies a bit too much on reusing the tracks from the first two sets.Continue reading →