Review: Doctor Who – Vortex Ice / Cortex Fire

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)

After the success of last month’s 5th Doctor release Alien Heart / Dalek Soul Big Finish now gives us a 6th Doctor 2-story set in the same format; with each story taking an hours running time. It’s a really strong format that leads to sharp pacey stories. These two follow that trend. Vortex Ice by Jonathan Morris
In which we find Sixie (Colin Baker) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood) in a mine system with a local expedition trying to find a way out. Things are somewhat complicated when they come face to face with another version of themselves stuck in “Vortex Ice” and a squid like creature that seems to be producing the Ice. Can they find their way to freedom without being killed? Can they avoid their fate and if not can they save their future selves? And can they save any of the expedition? All these questions are answered, but not before it gets a lot more complicated.

This story at the start feels like its going to be entertaining but maybe not so original. To begin with it reminded me of the 7th Doctor audio “The Fires of Vulcan” where the Doctor must try to prevent himself being trapped with the Tardis in the volcanic ash of Pompeii; but very pleasingly this story takes a left field twist and ends up somewhere completely unexpected and exciting. It’s also a really good opportunity for Flip to take centre stage and to be in the position of knowing more than the Doctor for a change, for reasons I can’t give away without major spoilers.

Cortex Fire
by Ian Potter
The Doctor takes Flip to Festin. A futuristic planet, that for all its technology seems disinterested in space. They are there to witness a light show similar to the Northern Lights on Earth. But as tends to happen to the Doctor and friends they are soon caught up in explosions and local politics. The discover the planet and its people are run efficiently by the Cortex; an all powerful network. But the peaceful world that is meant to be brought about by the Cortex is threatened by the so called nihilists and outsiders. The Doctor suspects there is more to it and maybe the Cortex isn’t all it claims to be.

As with “Vortex Ice” this story starts off down a seemingly predictable; slightly done before road, but takes you somewhere nicely original. Unlike the previous 2-hour long story set, these stories are unrelated but are a perfect paring. The first takes us underground, the second to a sprawling futuristic city. One has a monster, the other has our heroes battling technology and human nature. “Cortex” gives both the Doctor and Flip their own paths to follow in the story but brings them together enough to make it a nicely joined up story too. I also like in both stories feeling that I know what is happening then being surprised.

Both writers have done a great job and the pacing and directing by Ken Bentley is flawless. As much as I still enjoy some longer-form stories I would really welcome more of these hour long double headers.
On balance I think my favourite of the 2 stories is “Vortex” for its cool sci fi twists and turns that feels both familiar to the genre and yet new and exciting in execution, but really both stories are strong.

I give this release a ‘so hot it’s cool’  9/10

You can pick it up on download or CD here fire-1255
Order from Amazon

Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!

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