Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Big Finish once again break new ground by having their first boxset to feature the 9th Doctor. Before you get too excited, sadly Christopher Eccleston is still a hold-out for now; but still, hello 9th Doctor!!Just from the beginning hearing that era’s version of the Doctor Who theme gave me goosebumps. But let’s break it down into individual stories first…
The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott
Two waring races meet on the so called ‘planet of peace’ Galen to try to end hostilities. Adriana Jarsdel is covering the peace talks when a death risks the process. Luckily the Doctor turns up just at the right moment and soon Adriana is caught between getting the scoop and keeping up with the Doctor.
There are some really interesting tonal points that reminds us of the 9th Doctor when we first meet him in ‘Rose’. He is darker and trying his best not to care in spite of himself. He tries to put off Adriana from getting too close to him, but can’t help being involved and the surrounding humanity soon rubs off on him; even if it doesn’t fully take.
There are also subtle nods to the style of the earlier episodes. The Doctor uses the phrase ‘my people’ when referring to himself instead of saying ‘Time Lords’, which is maybe too painful for him to face at that time. There is also a wonderfully dark moment at the end which I won’t spoil here.
The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack
The Doctor & Rose land on a planet at civil war. A planet of glass prisons and menacing beasts. The beloved new ruler has been deposed by his uncle who has imprisoned his lover. Meanwhile Emily Bronte is on the Moor’s in 19th century Earth were a strange doorway is opened upon the world at war.
An interesting high-concept story that takes full advantage of the ‘limitless budget of the imagination’ that audio brings. Maybe sometimes a little too high-concept, but enjoyable none the less.
The Other Side by Scott Handcock
Set just after Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley) enters the Tardis, the Doctor is about to take him straight home when the Tardis gets caught in a temporal tsunami. They find themselves landing at an abandoned cinema which seems to be the cause of the disturbance. But when the Doctor goes missing will Adam be able to help Rose find him or leave him for dead and want to give up and run away?
This for me is where the set really kicks into gear with the addition of a star from the TV show. Not just because they have been on TV Doctor Who, as cool as that is, but because they are more prominent in the story than the guest voices in the previous two stories and this breaks up Nicholas Briggs doing all the voices. Not that he isn’t very good; but I find a more multi-voiced cast an easier listen. It’s a great story and more stripped back than the two before it; to great effect.
Retail Therapy By James Goss
Jackie Tyler is working her way up in the world at long last. The Glubby Glub’s that she is an official rep for are selling like hot cakes and what is best is they are just for people like her. Not the rich and elite, but every day folks. They are cute little pink squishy eggs that put people at ease and give them a good nights sleep. Jackie is looking 5 years younger. And at £19:99 a pop they are working her way to a villa somewhere exotic where she can give Rose all the excitement and adventure without her having to leave the planet. So Jackie isn’t too pleased when the Doctor arrives to let her know Glubby Glub’s are dangerous.
Far and away my favourite story of the set!
It’s great to see the 9th Doctor in any form brought into the Big Finish fold. Yes, we all want Eccleston back but I always say the more we politely accept he doesn’t want to do them at the moment, the more likely he is to sign up when he is in the right place for it.
The writers all have a different and interesting take on what time in the 9th Doctors run they write for and what aspects of his character they bring out. Each seems to find something different, but all very in keeping with something we saw in his one series on TV. I think realising these script has to be credited to director Helen Goldwyn also. There is a great supporting cast both from the TV show and newcomers to Doctor Who.
The way these audio’s are structured is not my favourite if I were to be honest. It basically follows the companion chronicle model. One narrator that plays most parts with one person per adventure playing one or two parts. I will confess that I prefer the full cast style to narration as a whole; but I get some why people like the narrator. In these stories they go very large on the concepts and sometimes having Nicholas Briggs doing all the parts loses me a bit. He does a great job and his Eccleston impression is not bad; or at least gives you enough Eccleston to be able to picture him. I just would be able to picture the scene better with a bit more of a cast. We are already taking the leap of seeing Eccleston done by another voice artist and then on top of it we need to picture Briggs as old, young, female, a robot and whatever other parts the script calls for. For my money something more akin to the First, Second and Third Doctor adventures might be better. One cast member doing their own part, the Doctor and a Narrator. Or in this case have Briggs playing the 9th Doctor and narrator and having at least one other cast member for him to divide the other parts with. For instance I found his Rose hard to get past. In 2 of those adventures featuring Rose they did have a female cast member that could have taken the role and I’m sure they could have got someone for the other one. My favourite stories were the last two, both of which have the second cast member being more present throughout and as a result breaking the voices up a bit.
All of this is intended as constructive criticism. I think with some tweaking this could be a good format. Briggs said in the extra’s they are now planning similar ranges for the 10th & 11th Doctor, with him in the same role. I must admit I’m not sure about doing this with the 10th Doctor as we already have him doing Big Finish. I know this would allow for more adventures with his Doctor, but as we have him doing it, might this not seem like the poorer cousin?
My other thought is, would it not be good to show case other voice actors who have a really strong Tennent and Smith voices? Believe it or not I am a fan of Briggs, but it feels like him taking on all of the rolls may lose something. In the first 3 Doctors sets they have someone else doing each Doctor and I for one think this adds a different flavour to each.
Anyway, I digress. This for me is a good first attempt at this style of set for the 9th Doctor, but I think they could make some tweaks to make it even more special for future sets. 7/10
Download it here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-ninth-doctor-chronicles-1628
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