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.
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 →
‘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.
Just over one year ago, in March 2021, the Main Range ended from Big Finish Productions as the box set format took root before being firmly established for 2022. Now, one other long running institution from Big Finish Productions is at an end, the 16 part, four disc set, Eighth Doctor miniseries which has been the format of Eighth Doctor releases for nearly a decade. Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition, Ravenous, and Stranded have all been released to acclaim and here we are with Stranded 4, the final set in this style.
This has been a review that I’ve let percolate in my mind for a few days. The first season of The Ninth Doctor Adventures has come to a close in a perfect parallel to Series 1 and building from genuinely humble beginnings. It is also quite difficult to discuss as it’s serving as a prequel to Series 1, ending with Old Friends implying a lead into Rose. This along with Lost Warriors, and to a lesser extent Respond to All Calls, have been an examination of the Ninth Doctor’s trauma along with other characters he meets on his lonely travels. Old Friends is a contemplative box set with two stories, a single hour long episode and one two episode serial, both parallels to Boom Town and Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways. This has been a long time coming and is honestly an odd box set to review, because it’s a box set that almost blind sided me with what it was doing and how things ended up the way they were. The covers of the sets have been mimicking the four individual releases of Series 1, from blue to red to green to purple for the finale. This ended up being an interesting example of priming listeners for what exactly to expect with these sets.
“Cycle of Destruction” continues the “Dalek Universe” adventures with an audio counterpart to “House of Kingdom” from the prior set but this time focusing on the other component of this saga’s main trio. Roy Gill’s script wastes no time in jumping right back into the fray, albeit in a way that feels more like a necessary diversion rather than a substantial addition to the main thrust of the arc. The premise is a strong one overall and it’s nice to see Mark himself get the same amount of attention and backstory that Anya did previously. But the plot and writing contain tons of technical exposition that (while interesting in how it handles the aspects of the ALARK facility and the intensive lives of the people working within it) grinds the pacing and excitement at hearing these characters again to a screeching halt. Still, the writing also touches on deeper questions as to the nature of Mark Seven and the androids themselves as well as contains major flashbacks to Mark Seven’s past which is as harrowing as one would expect. It’s in those moments and in the tension between members of the TARDIS team as to how and why they got there in the first place that the story truly shines and not necessarily in the immediate details of what’s going on in the plot. Continue reading →
Stranding the Eighth Doctor on Earth was by no means a new idea, it had been done in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, but making him a landlord with Liv and Helen made for an interesting change. Stranded 1 was released way back in June 2020 when we were all in lockdown and the future releases were sadly delayed, with Stranded 2 moving from its original November release date to March 2021. Stranded 1 was one of those releases while where I enjoyed it quite a bit, I felt slightly underwhelmed by the premise as it was very much Doctor Who does a soap opera, but sitting down to listen to Stranded 2 made me acutely aware of how I have missed this ensemble cast and their interactions. Like Jon Pertwee’s second season bringing some time travel back, Stranded 2 still contains four earthbound stories, it is the first to actually bring these new companions and residents of Baker Street into the TARDIS and exploring their history and interpersonal relationships. This premise allows it to stand out from the first set and the Pertwee era in a number of ways which makes it incredibly fun. As Stranded 2 is still kind of like Doctor Who does a soap opera, this review may contain minor spoilers for certain plot developments in the characters. This review was also written with each section right after listening, so each section may not reflect how any story arcs happen.
The Paternoster Gang as a spin-off has suffered from a bit of an identity crisis through its first three volumes. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a spiritual successor to Jago and Litefoot or a straight out character driven comedy or a serious Victorian drama and examination of Victorian culture. The subtitle of the first four sets being ‘Heritage’ implies the later, but the first two sets don’t really examine the idea of heritage or the theme.
One of Big Finish Productions’ sleeper hits of 2019 was February’s Missy box set starring Michelle Gomez as Missy on her own causing mayhem and murder throughout the universe. Gomez made for an excellent lead and the stories brought in several different types of stories from a Mary Poppins style satire, to a film noir by Nev Fountain, and an encounter with Rufus Hound’s Meddling Monk. The premises and possibilities for storytelling warranted the set to become a range as Missy: Series 2 becomes Big Finish Productions most recent release; this time mixing in two sequels to the first set and two original stories, from a set of four authors. Each story has a different flair and remains self-contained from the others; allowing new viewers to pick this set up as their introduction to the range.