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: Doctor Who Third Doctor Adventures – Kaleidoscope

Review by Jacob Licklider

Six-part Doctor Who serials are often particular favourites of mine, simply because in storytelling there is quite a lot you can do in six episodes.  The 1970s revolutionised the six-parter by essentially dividing them into a four part story and a two part story which I have discussed at length on the Internet before because it allows for more exploration of characters and a plot that needs to be able to go through the length with at least one big twist at a point in the story to send things off in a different direction.  Big Finish Productions have done six-part stories before, ‘The Next Life‘ and ‘The Game‘ were the earliest, and several of the Lost Stories range were allotted six episodes as that is how those scripts were pitched and often written which worked especially well for stories like ‘Farewell, Great Macedon‘ and ‘Lords of the Red Planet‘.  This year they’ve dipped their toes into a single seven part story with The Annihilators which I enjoyed and reviewed, but as the rest of the Doctors got two box sets, the second set for the Third Doctor continues the trend of longer stories with a single six part adventure set during the middle of Season 11 dealing with some of that season’s major themes written with a more modern sensibility from Alan Barnes.  Kaleidoscope at one point directly references similarities to ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs‘ and while there isn’t Malcolm Hulke’s ecological message, it does deal heavily with governmental conspiracy and how the 1970s Cold War mixed with pop culture.

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Review: Classic Doctors New Monsters 3: The Stuff of Nightmares

Written by Cavan Gilbey

‘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.

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Review: Doctor Of War – Genesis

Review by Jacob Licklider

The Unbound range essentially started as a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who by introducing six alternate universe takes on the Doctor and Doctor Who based around questions like “What if the Doctor never left Gallifrey?” or “What if the Doctor was exiled to Earth in the 1990s?”. This allowed different actors and actresses to take on the role of the Doctor, but after the initial six release run there weren’t any new Unbound Doctors introduced, two more releases in 2005 and 2008 before the David Warner Doctor was paired with Bernice Summerfield. So, imagine the surprise when it was announced that the range would be revived for two box sets using a new Unbound Doctor, the Doctor of War, played by Colin Baker, in a timeline that diverges during Genesis of the Daleks for two box sets, Genesis and Destiny (named after the Tom Baker Dalek serials).full

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Review: The Third Doctor Adventures (Volume 7)

Review by Jacob Licklider

Big Finish Productions with the Third Doctor Adventures have perhaps taken the greatest risk since the inception of the range with Tim Treloar replacing Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor, and that’s releasing a box set without any returning cast members from the Third Doctor’s era. Katy Manning’s Jo Grant is not present nor John Levene or Richard Franklin. Fans of Jo Grant, fear not, she will be reappearing in Volume Eight, as Volume Seven brings one story from Season 7 and one from Season 11, meaning that they include Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith as companions, bringing back Daisy Ashford and Sadie Miller in those roles as well as Jon Culshaw as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Taking this step (and announcing Miller’s involvement in Volume Eight) means that Big Finish are not afraid to use their recast performers in the ranges resulting in fully recast casts instead of having at least one original cast member present. The Third Doctor Adventures Volume Seven also brings two new authors into the range: Big Finish veteran Mark Wright (although not writing with his usual writing partner Cavan Scott) and, in his first four part story, Tim Foley. This takes the range into new territory as Big Finish goes headfirst into its new box set led era of stories.

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Big Finish Return of the Cybermen trailer released

One of Doctor Who’s most famous unmade stories will finally see the light of day courtesy of audio drama producers Big Finish.

As part of their Lost Stories range, Big Finish is adapting Return of the Cybermen – an unused script by the monsters’ co-creator Gerry Davis.

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BBC Re-Release Doctor Who The Collection Season 12

BBC Worldwide has announced that Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 12 will be re-released on Blu-Ray.

For fans of Doctor Who and collectors of Classic Who seasons, the Blu-Ray has limited edition packaging with artwork by Lee Binding and has been restored and up-scaled to HD by Peter Crocker and Mark Ayres.

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