River Song has had a bit of a fandom redemption I feel thanks to Big Finish, sure she had a ton of fans thanks to her TV outings (myself included) but the Classic Who fans and those who weren’t massively enamoured with Moffatt’s writing style would probably need a lot of convincing to like Doctor Song. That’s where the Diary of River Song range seems to come in, offering a fun bridging of the worlds of Classic and New Who along with plenty of original stories. I’d heard the second, fifth, and sixth volumes before coming into series 11. I had really positive experiences with the former two but was hugely disappointed by what felt like fanservice for the sake of fanservice in volume 6. But Friend of the Familyoffers a new avenue for the series; a distinct absence of Doctor Who elements. Previously we’d either have had a prior Doctor, companion or foe but here we have a completely original and stand-alone story which gives River the time to shine she deserves.
What’s always fascinating for a range is what happens when a cast member cannot return for a range.Time War: Cassis one such release, continuing the Eighth Doctor releases from Time War: Volume Four but without the character of Bliss due to scheduling conflicts with Rakhee Thakrar.Luckily, unlike the issues that arose with Dark Eyes and the scheduling conflicts Ruth Bradley faced, the setting of Time War: Cass is one where due to the universe being in a constant state of flux due to the Time War.This is something that the writers of this box set are keenly aware of with each of the three stories featured doing something with the ‘time’ element of the Time War which is already a recipe for success when dealing with this era.There is a clear reason (or at least an appearance of a reason) for why Bliss isn’t there, though the details of this are not given to the listener partially for intrigue and partially because there is not a guarantee that she will be available to record with Big Finish anytime soon.Instead this set picks up some time after the cliffhanger ending of Time War: Volume Four with the Doctor traveling with Alex Campbell, once again played by Sonny McGann, with an unspecified amount of time having past and this is an interesting premise since when we last saw Alex he was dead.Continue reading →
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.
There is something interesting about having the Fifth Doctor taken after Four to Doomsday slid down his timeline going back and forth to each of his TARDIS teams in mysterious circumstances, meaning that authors have to be aware of the Fifth Doctor being a very young Doctor put in circumstances at different points of his arc. Forty 1included the Fifth Doctor learning of Adric’s death and having to then have an adventure with Adric before being flung forward to the point where he is traveling with Tegan and Turlough, specifically after the events of Frontios which is where Forty 2 picks things up.
It’s that time of the year again where Eccleston and Big Finish bring us a fresh batch of adventures with the Ninth Doctor, a fact which still feels miraculous to this day. In previous sets we’ve had the Ninth Doctor face off against familiar foes, namely the Cybermen in a Dalek to Parting of the Ways style of progression, so here we have the Sontarans who feel like a natural fit for this Doctor given his Time War guilt. However where we deviate from those previous sets is in theming; in the first series of four sets in this range we saw thematic boxsets with three stories that represented the primary settings for RTD era narratives. But with series two we get boxsets, that while still thematically linked in their stories, focus on just story setting and explore as many avenues with it as possible. Back To Earth gave us three story set across Earth’s history so to contrast that Into The Stars sends beyond Earth to see life beyond the stars.
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.
Originally announced as a four-part series, Big Finish have returned to Chris Boucher’s creation of Kaldor City for two more volumes (at least — is it greedy to hope for more?) of director Ken Bentley’sThe Robots, an ambitious, sprawling, politically-charged audio drama extrapolated from concepts originally introduced in the Tom Baker-era classic The Robots Of Death, principally starring Nicola Walker, reprising her role as Eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka, and Claire Rushbrook as her sister, Liv. Continue reading →
Old Friends ended the first series of Ninth Doctor Adventures with a genuinely brilliant series finale that felt like a lead in to Rose, something my review of that set had some pushback since it had already been announced that Series 2 would essentially be continuing where Series 1 left off with the Ninth Doctor still travelling alone. Now Series 1 spent quite a bit of time developing the idea that this was one continuous series, including by designing the covers to mimic the single DVD releases of Series 1 of the show. Series 2 seems to be less a full series with a central character arc for the Ninth Doctor and more of a series of themed box sets with new styles of cover art, this first one being from the wonderful Caroline Tankersley, with the theme of going Back to Earth. It’s three stories set at various points in Earth’s history, mainly in the past ranging from the early 17th century to the early 1990s, with one story having some pieces in the modern day, but not really. All three of the authors here do an excellent job of taking their piece of Earth and doing something interesting with it, overcoming my initial hesitation of going into a set not really following up the character development of the Ninth Doctor within the first few minutes of the first story.
The Lone Centurion was kind of a dark horse for Big Finish Productions, coming in under the radar with a premise of being a spin-off set in between The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, in Roman times with Rory trying to survive while guarding the Pandorica and Amy inside of it. Because of an already vague premise it meant that the writers could really do anything with the premise, the first volume being a three part miniseries in the Roman empire while The Lone Centurion: Camelot does what it says on the tin, a three part miniseries in Camelot. There is one overall issue with the set, it follows the same formula as the first set to the letter with the first story being mostly set up of the world ending with Rory in a position of power that he doesn’t quite want, the second being an interlude leading to an ending with Rory at a low point, and the third being the finale ending with a large set piece as a conclusion before Rory moves on to pastures new. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, formulas work for a reason and there are plenty of amazing stories that follow established formulas, but for a spin-off it isn’t something that can always be relied upon to the letter. Going forward Big Finish will have to mix things up if the want this spin-off to stay interesting. That isn’t to say the formula can’t be followed, it just needs to be mixed up a bit, especially if there is going to be a third box set. The Lone Centurion: Camelot also has an interesting setting, being mostly fictional and not really based on anything in history while doing three stories in a pure historical mood. There aren’t any science fiction elements outside of the Pandorica being a McGuffin that the villain of the set is after, the fact that Rory is an Auton. Some of the science seems a bit too advanced for the era, but there are no instances of magic or sorcery that you would expect from a King Arthur legend.
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.