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.
The War Master range has easily become one of Big Finish’s finest spin-offs, certainly one the most popular at any rate. But it may shock you to hear that prior to this boxset I had never heard any of Jacobi’s audio boxsets. I had listened to the War Master’s adventure in River Song’s audio series, and really loved it and the characterisation of this particular incarnation of the character but I never went on to get any of his solo outings. But that all changed with Escape From Reality, which I absolutely had to hear due to it being a spiritual successor to The Mind Robber from Troughton’s era of the TV show which happens to be my favourite all time Doctor Who television story. Getting to see the Land of Fiction become corrupted by an evil presence was always going to be interesting, the fact that it got to be Jacobi’s Master is an added bonus.
Perhaps the saddest thing about UNIT: Brave New World is that it is only two box sets long and is currently the only thing announced to use this particular UNIT team.Seabird Onewas already an excellent set and start to the miniseries bringing back Angela Bruce’s Winifred Bambera, but it’s up to Visitants, the second set, to take all the open threads and tie them up.The miniseries is one that genuinely feels different from the other Big Finish ranges, taking what Battlefield started bringing in a new cast of characters that through the great script editing from Robert Valentine and brilliant direction from Scott Handcock.Producer Emily Cook has also really gotten to come into her own in her role as this is a range that is essentially all her own.
Doctor of War: Genesis was the first of a surprise two release miniseries reviving the Doctor Who: Unbound range by giving listeners a chance to explore essentially one aspect of the Time War that the normal Doctor Who ranges either couldn’t do or just haven’t done. The entire idea is that the timeline is rewritten at the “Do I have the right?” speech in Genesis of the Daleks, Sarah Jane and Harry are killed, and the Doctor regenerates into a fifth incarnation played by Colin Baker as reality fractures. Doctor of War: Destiny continues from Doctor of War: Genesis in three separate stories that on the whole does something that the idea of Doctor of War could have become if it were a bit more self-indulgent in retelling classic Doctor Who stories in this new timeline. Doctor of War: Genesis really only did that with the first few scenes to show where the timeline diverged while taking some ideas from other stories but not just remaking them, Doctor of War: Destiny opens and closes with two stories that do takes on classics with the middle story not quite being filler, but being a story to do world-building with the universe and playing around with the Time War at a conceptual level and how changing time can affect a civilisation. What’s especially interesting is this is a set that wraps up the story fairly completely, there is a post-credits sequence that implies it’s possible for this Doctor of War series to continue, but the arc itself is basically over and the threads have found their endings.
Companions become just as much of a friend to the audience as they do to the Doctor, so seeing them return by having them reunited with Doctor after ages can be really refreshing and rewarding. However this concept is only going to really work if we have actually spent some time away from those characters, which with Big Finish is nigh on impossible because every companion is omnipresent there and you can find a new Peri audio just as much as you can a new Jamie story. Tegan and Ace returning to TV feels significant since they’ve not been seen for ages, but we have heard so many extended adventures with them so having them meet a later Doctor on audio doesn’t hit that spot. This is where we come to the main issue with Tenth Doctor, Classic Companions; it’s too much of a gimmick. Sure Classic Doctors, New Monsters is a gimmick but you can understand it more with the monsters than you can with the companions. This set feels like it exists solely to give Ten some stories with older companions as opposed to crafting interesting stories based around the way their relationships have changed, which doesn’t exactly make this an enticing listen. Continue reading →
If there has been a Doctor Who spin-off range from Big Finish Productions that consistently managed good stories while still being very reliant on past pieces of Doctor Who lore, it is The Diary of River Song. Ten series have gone by and only now we have an announcement of a box set with absolutely no returning elements coming out in January 2023. Now luckily the previous nine box sets have had some through line, a story arc or just a simple theme linking all of the stories together, but Two Rivers and a Firewall, the tenth series has a problem, and it’s a big one.
With each of the Big Finish Doctor Who ranges moving to box sets it means that yearly listeners will be getting sets with the First and Second Doctors, both of whom have been limited in recent years. Nicholas Briggs has emphasised the desire to make this a fresh start by using new TARDIS teams, exploring new eras, and going against the grain of the previous Early Adventures and Companion Chronicles in stopping the tradition of previous companion actors also voicing the Doctor and recasting both the First and Second Doctors. Michael Troughton will be taking over the role of the Second Doctor (already previewed in The Annihilators), however, instead of continuing with David Bradley as the exclusive First Doctor, a complete recast with Stephen Noonan taking the role was announced with The Outlaws and The Miniaturist (collected under the title The Outlaws). This marketing decision makes it a little confusing to discuss the story vs the collection so this review will be discussing elements of both overall without heavy spoilers. This set also expands upon a previously unused portion of the First Doctor’s timeline set immediately after The Savages so the companion is Dodo Chaplet, here reprised by Lauren Cornelius, which makes an interesting dynamic as here Big Finish have created a pitch to writers to combine two versions of her character. Dodo being a character who was written differently in essentially every serial, Big Finish have given Cornelius a mix of her portrayal in The Massacre and The Gunfighters which makes her proactive and takes away the British RP allowing a slightly toned down version of the accent Jackie Lane used in The Massacre. There is only one plot point which has Dodo falling for the Monk’s story about trying to be Robin Hood in The Outlaws.
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 fromBetween 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.
The 1963-1989 run of Doctor Who is fascinating in the fact that in the 160 serials (including The TV Movie in 1996), there are few stories that are direct sequels to previous stories, much less sequels within the same production team. Generally the closest you would get are stories like Attack of the Cybermen doing a sequel to The Tenth Planet and Attack of the Cybermen over a decade after the prequel’s release or Snakedance to Kinda and Mindwarp to Vengeance on Varos essentially being extensions of the themes of the previous story, but doing its own thing. The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon are an oddity as they both share the same setting, several of the characters, and feel like a natural extension of the same story. Peladon being the setting of both is a big factor in why the two stories feel so connected, the sets are the same and it feels like the planet is evolving and changing. The Curse of Peladon aired as the second story from Season 9 beginning at the end of January 1972, so as it is the 50th anniversary of Episode One while I am writing this, Big Finish Productions are celebrating with Peladon, a four story box set revisiting the planet throughout its history as well as continue the spirit of Peladon stories in reflecting the politics of the real world using allegory for a stark contrast of the good and bad of today’s world.
Bayban the Butcher grants Colin Baker’s famously off-the-hook villain centre stage. Although best known for playing the colourful Sixth Doctor, he gave an entertainingly big guest performance years earlier in Blake’s 7; Bayban, a self-aggrandising baddie with a penchant for alliteration, came up against Vila in Series C’s City at the Edge of the World.
This self-titled boxset follows an appearance in the recent Avalonseries and there’s an audiobook origin story, Bayban Ascending, due in February too. While Bayban apparently died at the end of his only onscreen appearance, it seems you can’t keep a good berserker down. Continue reading →