The Companion Chronicles have the distinction of being the second longest and consistently running Doctor Who range at Big Finish Productions. They began in 2007 and released several single releases to 2014 before switching to yearly boxsets between 2015 and 2019. A box set was announced for release in June 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Second Doctor: Volume Three was plagued with production delays, finally having production finish in late 2021 for release in 2022. Among this rumours spread that the Companion Chronicles would be ending with this volume which have not yet been confirmed, though there is some contradictory evidence of actors mentioning recording a release which hasn’t been announced while higher ups mentioning that this would be the final installment in the range.If this truly is to be the final release of the range (and I truly hope it isn’t) it is a stellar release for the range to go out on, finding creative ways to explore the entirety of the Second Doctor’s era and not limit itself to the Companion Chronicles’ two-hander format as it’s rumoured Big Finish will be taking the range towards a more full cast approach if it is to continue.
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.
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 →
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.
Helen Goldwyn writing a Doctor Who story set in World War II is an excellent pitch for Big Finish Productions to take up. Goldwyn has extensive acting and directing experience, being a part of Big Finish Productions since the very beginning with her first work being in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor and The Secret of Cassandra. Most recently she showed an incredible understanding of wartime as one of four writers on Louise Jameson’s Big Finish Original ATA Girl. Subterfuge takes place at the tail end of World War II and deals with Winston Churchill’s campaign as leader of the Conservative Party and eventual loss to Clement Attlee, the Labour leader of the time who took the position of Prime Minister. Ian McNeice returns to the role of Winston Churchill and is brought into conflict with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor and Rufus Hound’s Meddling Monk. Subterfuge juggles two distinct storyline tied into the campaign: first is the Monk’s attempts to get Churchill reelected and the second is a series of terrorist attacks by a group of aliens and spies that the Doctor has to find a solution to while dealing with the Monk’s meddling.