Review: Doctor Who Once and Future – Past Lives

Review by Jacob Licklider

Mild spoilers

Let’s take a moment to discuss integrating a theme into a story and how an author’s intent may perhaps become muddled by a production. Once and Future is the overarching name given to Big Finish Productions’ 60th Anniversary miniseries, planning to release monthly installments until the anniversary month and a coda in 2024. Like all anniversary specials the announcement came with a slew of guest stars and returning characters, with the premise being some incarnation of the Doctor has been attacked and is degenerating into previous incarnations of themself. This is the overarching plot of the miniseries, established at the start of Past Lives, Robert Valentine’s introductory story.

With the title and behind the scenes interviews, Valentine lays out this idea about anti-nostalgia and the pain of nostalgia, which is a laudable idea to inject into an anniversary story, especially one for a franchise that has been going for 60 years and shows no signs of stopping. It is especially prescient for an audio drama which is supplemental to the main show and whose company has had criticisms for an over reliance on nostalgia in recent years to stay in business.

This could have been an interesting examination of the need to keep referencing things and drawing people in as Valentine clearly intended, however, Past Lives just doesn’t do anything to explore those themes in its hour-long runtime. There are hints, Sarah Jane, played by Sadie Miller, is brought in right at the end of The Hand of Fear and the UNIT characters of Kate Stewart and Petronella Osgood, played by Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver respectively, right before The Day of the Doctor, is a clear choice to parallel characters from after and before their involvement with the Doctor proper (though Kate had appeared in The Power of Three). The Meddling Monk being the antagonist of the story, played by Rufus Hound, also could have been a larger presence of preserving some sense of nostalgia but the script never crystalizes any of its ideas. As it stands, the plot of Past Lives is actually quite condensed, the opening and conclusion being dedicated to introducing the central idea and mystery box of Once and Future’s arc which means that Valentine only gets about 40 minutes to actually tell his story from front to back. A lot of the introduction feels incredibly rushed, with points where it feels as if Helen Goldwyn in the director’s seat has realized how tight the script needs to be to fit in the CD time limit and has some scenes just move quick. The recreation of the end of The Hand of Fear is perhaps the biggest example of this, Sadie Miller almost rushing through her lines before she is brought into the story. The conclusion is also just a lead in to the fact that the Doctor, played by Tom Baker here, is changing his appearance again and going off to find his daughter.

When the story is actually dealing with the Meddling Monk and the Hyreth invaders, crocodilian invaders whose leader is voiced by Ewan Bailey with aplomb, there’s a pretty fun story to be had there. Okay so it’s a bit standard but it genuinely feels like Valentine had a much bigger scope story to tell, but having only an hour means that a of the five major players of the Doctor, Sarah Jane, the Monk, Kate, and Osgood are competing for time in the spotlight while also exploring a new species of alien invaders and setting up a mystery box. The resolution of the story is great, with the Hyreth turning themselves into UNIT which indicates maybe there’s hope for peaceful existence with aliens which is nice. The downfall of the Hyreth feels like the point where Valentine meant to explore the idea of holding onto the past, but it just doesn’t get enough time to shine. Past Lives as a story is a perfectly fine story on its own, but as the beginning of a story arc it strays far too much into just setting up a basic premise, when more time should have been given to Valentine to actually tell the story he wanted to tell and expand on the themes that suffer from only being a small thread in the corner of the story. 5/10.

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Big Finish announce eight-part multi-Doctor audio drama series celebrating the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who

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Review: Unit Nemesis – Objective: Earth

Review by Jacob Licklider

As Big Finish retired their 16 episode miniseries for the Eighth Doctor, late 2021 saw the start of UNIT: Nemesis, a revival of their New Series UNIT range specifically chronicling an escalating threat to the planet Earth in the present day. Between Two Worlds began the miniseries by setting up the threat of the Eleven and the arches, Agents of the Vulpreen chronicled the first bouts of violence between Earth and the Vulpreen, and now we have Objective: Earth setting up the conflict for a final resolution in the fourth set.

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The 14th Doctor is officially revealed

The Power of The Doctor saw Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as The Doctor and featured return of the Doctor’s biggest adversary – The Master (Sacha Dhawan), who last appeared in series 12’s final episode The Timeless Children.

402154,Doctor Who - The Power of the Doctor

Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor regenerated into a familiar face and it has now been officially confirmed  that David Tennant will be the Fourteenth Doctor.

But what has led to the return of a much loved face? Check out the preview below.

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Doctor Who reveals title and images for Jodie Whittaker’s final episode

The upcoming BBC centenary special of Doctor Who finally has a title. As previously confirmed by Doctor Who Magazine the episode title is Power Of The Doctor. Check out the teaser images  (also previously released in DWM)  below which show The Doctor joined by some familiar friends & foes.

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Doctor Who Magazine confirms title of Jodie Whittaker’s final episode

The upcoming BBC centenary special of Doctor Who finally has a title.

Although it has not been officially announced by the BBC at the time of writing – subscribers of Doctor Who Magazine #581 got the news early today.

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The Master, Daleks and Cybermen plus two classic Doctor Who companions will return for BBC Centenary special

The Master, Daleks and Cybermen plus two classic companions are set to return to Doctor Who.

A first look at Doctor Who’s feature-length BBC Centenary special, and Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, has revealed the return of the Doctor’s biggest adversary – The Master (Sacha Dhawan), who last appeared in series 12’s final episode The Timeless Children.

And for the first time since the show returned to BBC One in 2005, The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen will all feature in one single story.

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Review: UNIT Nemesis – Agents of the Vulpreen

Review by Jacob Licklider

There is something interesting about the way UNIT: Nemesis has been developing. The first set was quite a nice surprise with an introduction to the basic players and what makes them work. It was also good to see Kate and Osgood given more in depth characterisation than anything that Steven Moffat gave them. UNIT Nemesis: Agents of the Vulpreen moves beyond setting the stage and characters, giving us a look into what the four set miniseries is actually trying to accomplish and the story it is trying to tell. This is essentially UNIT’s chance to prove itself at thwarting a large alien conspiracy to invade the Earth, this set seeing the preliminary invasion being the main thrust of the story. It picks up from Between Two Worlds and explores what the ark is, what the Eleven was doing, and what happens to the captured Jacqui McGee who almost immediately returns in the first episode. It’s somehow a more focused set than Between Two Worlds as well, with only one episode feeling as if it is more of a diversion from what the set as a whole is attempting to accomplish for the furthering of the Nemesis story arc. The nemesis of the title is heavily implied to be the Eleven, who has his presence somehow increased here despite being in quite a lot of the first set.

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Review: UNIT Nemesis – Between Two Worlds

Review by Jacob Licklider

The original UNIT mini-series from Big Finish Productions brought back Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but only for its opening and closing instalments and is generally regarded as a weak miniseries.  It would be shelved and not picked up again bar UNIT: Dominion in 2012, but 2015 saw a long running revival bringing for the first time New Series elements were allowed to be used.  The series ran for eight box sets from 2015-2019, ending, but being revived this month just a week before Kate Stewart returned to televised Doctor Who, Big Finish released the first of a four set miniseries subtitled Nemesis, beginning with Between Two Worlds, where the UNIT has to contend with the Eleven, trapped on an alien planet and scheming to gain power on Earth.  He is the through line for these four stories and Mark Bonnar plays the role brilliantly throughout, the set using the time to flesh out the different personalities of the Eleven with many of them getting to shine throughout.  Bonnar is a constant undercurrent providing a clear and present alien danger for UNIT to face, moving away from an older perception of UNIT as only fit to deal with threats like the Bandrils. Continue reading

UNIT character to return to Doctor Who: Flux

Following the shocking ending of Village of the Angels, the preview trailer for fifth episode has revealed a returning fan favourite character.

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More Doctors announced to cameo in Time Fracture

More Doctors will feature in pre-recorded cameo appearances for the immersive show Time Fracture!


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