Every so often Big Finish will give us the chance to explore new characters within the Torchwood universe, offering us a look at branches and agents we may never would have seen onscreen. We’ve been to a Third Reich occupied Paris in The Dying Room, a Charlie’s Angels inspired LA in The Dollhouseand most famously we’ve had a glimpse into Norton Folgate’s Soho based branch. Doublefollows suit and takes back to a world where the Autons are slowly plotting their global take-over through corporate subterfuge and how a 70s British Torchwood may go around dealing with this hostile threat. Double’s strength lies in its longer format as we get to feel more involved with the world we see in Guy Adams’ script, everything is given the room it needs to breathe and we are offered an Auton story that feels genuinely fresh and expectedly bleak. Although there are some issues with how long it takes Adams to breathe, which ultimately does leave us with a big cluster of brilliant ideas and characters trapped within a narrative which ends up being somewhat confusing for the listener.
The War Doctor, and this was very much unexpected I would like to add, has very quickly become a personal favourite audio-centric incarnation. This Time War era Doctor had fascinated me for a long time and I have only recently bought into the John Hurt fronted boxsets, of which I have heard and loves volumes 2 and 3. But He Who Fights With Monsters, bit of a mouthful, is the first time I have delved into this new prequel era where Jonathon Carley takes on the role. I think this is a great place for me to have started with The War Doctor Begins as this set forms one long story which lasts roughly 3 hours, telling a grand space opera tale which I think does some of the strongest emotional work and character development for this particular regeneration. In terms of the non spin-off material released this year, He Who Fights With Monsters is my favourite Doctor Who release of this year hands down. So expect a 10/10 at the end of this.
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 →
With the release of Gallifrey: Time War: Volume Fourthe general consensus was that the series was over. Romana was punished to chronicle the Time War, Gallifrey was in the throws of a fascist dictatorship under Rassilon’s thumb, Leela was captured, and Narvin was essentially sent off to his suspected death. And then the Gallifrey One convention for 2022 happened and Big Finish Productions announced not one, but four new Gallifrey box sets under the series name War Room with the first set releasing this August, over a week ago at the time of writing. Yes, I am a bit late because this released while I was sick, so here we are finally taking a look at Gallifrey: War Room: Allegiance.
‘Classic Doctors, New Monsters’ has been a novel concept for a range, both previous boxsets have been inventive with their match ups and often taken their chosen monsters into new and exciting territories; Judoon in Chains being the easy stand-out from those first sets with how it creatively uses it’s monster of choice. Weeping Angels, Sycorax, Racnoss and Carrionites are all obvious choices for the range but this third volume does plumb the depths a little bit; I mean who is really asking for Balhoon or Tivolian stories? Although I must admit a two parter involving the Dream Crabs is pretty inspired as you have the potential to create some truly surreal audio landscapes. But that aside, the four stories we get are all great fun thus making this a set that really is more the ‘Stuff of Dreams’ rather than Nightmares.
The Eighth of March was a special release on International Women’s Day 2019 to celebrate the female characters of Doctor Who, essentially serving as example episodes for various series from (mostly new) female writers:The Paternoster Gang, The Diary of River Song, UNIT, and a story set in the Virgin New Adventures. Here we are, three years later and for International Women’s Day 2022, a three disc follow up has been released in the form of The Eighth of March: Prisoners of Time, exploring Lady Christina, Jenny: The Doctor’s Daughter, a Romana spin-off, and a tribute to The Sarah Jane Adventures with two new writers, Abigail Burdess and Nina Millns and an opening story from Lizbeth Myles (who has been contributing to Big Finish since 2014). Like the previous box set, this is an incredibly versatile set as the only real brief is that there is a female lead and it is set in the Doctor Who universe, giving the writers free rein on what they wish to play with. There also are two female directors assigned to this release, Louise Jameson tackling the first episode while Helen Goldwyn directs the other two, both bringing their distinct style to give each story its own flair.
New Dawn 1 is the first of two 3-story boxsets which picks up the tale some fifteen years after we last heard from Terry Nation’s Survivors.
Although it eschews a move into double figures, making a fresh start with the subtitle New Dawn, this is effectively the tenth audio series. With six new episodes adding to the thirty-six already released, there’s now more Survivors on audio than were made for television in the mid-1970s, which is a remarkable achievement. However, it’s not the Seventies that we are concerned with here; though it’s not specified, by my reckoning the events of New Dawn occur somewhere in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Abby Grant returns: Fifteen years after she went into hiding, having prized her conflicted teenage son Peter from the clutches of the quasi-military operation he’d become a part of, and despite his crimes, the pair fled.
It’s most definitely a coincidence that Big Finish Productions would have two releases within a week of each other that tells its story in a non-linear fashion, but it is interesting that it’s happened so soon after Stranded 3’s What Just Happened? inspired my review to be told backwards. The War Doctor Begins: Warbringer is presented as non-linear in the way each of its episodes are presented, beginning in media res, going to a conclusion, and then flashing back to the beginning to deal with a character’s amnesia. This decision assists in making the themes of Warbringer come front and centre with each of the three episodes having single word titles: Timothy X. Atack’s Consequences, Andrew Smith’sDestroyer, and Jonathan Morris’sSaviour. These titles make the set feel much like three episodes of a complete story. While Forged in Fire also acted as a miniseries, Warbringer is a three-part story. It feels like Atack, Smith, and Morris all had the time to communicate with each other in telling the same story.
Philip Hinchcliffe Presents is a Big Finish range that is tangentially related to The Lost Stories in that it is a range from the mind of a previous writer doing stories that fit in line with that era of the television show, but not actual ideas which were ever proposed. Philip Hinchcliffe, enjoying the work done adapting his lost story The Valley of Death, began to work with Marc Platt to produce his ideas, alternating a six and four part story. Four stories were released across three releases between 2014 and 2017, so imagine the surprise when a fourth release was announced for August 2021. As described in the behind the scenes interviews, The God of Phantomsis a story that just came to Hinchcliffe and has been in development at Big Finish for a while as Platt worked and reworked the outline into a usable form. Recording actually happened in February of this year, not too long before it was officially announced, and like any Philip Hinchcliffe Presents release is one focused squarely on mixing gothic horror and science fiction. While the range itself has been incredibly varied with stories like The Ghosts of Gralstead and The Devil’s Armada being classic horror and The Genesis Chamber being more straight science fiction, The God of Phantoms actually most feels like a story produced by Hinchcliffe’s successor Graham Williams in The Stones of Blood.