Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
The 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) is back, this time joined by his pals from the Virgin novels Chris (Travis Oliver) and Roz (Yasmin Bannerman).
The Trial of a Time Machine by Andy Lane
In the vortex the Tardis collides with another as it lands. Unfortunately damaging it’s fellow time vessel. The tricky part comes when as a sentient being the Tardis is put on trial. But when guilt or innocence is decided by what is in the public good and the judge is somewhat elusive, can the Doctor adequately defend his ship?
This is a story that gets into an area of Doctor Who rarely explored. The nature of the Tardis’ sentience. We know it’s more than a machine, but what are the consequences of that when a crime is perceived to have happened? The Tardis does not (or at least chooses not to) speak, so how does it defend itself apart from the Doctor speaking for it? Leading the Doctor to question his right to do so. Really cool stuff.
Then there are the new companions. I say new; lovers of the books or those who listened to the recent adaptations of them will know them from there but this was an opportunity to see them as written for audio (something discussed in the bonus features). It’s really nice to have a new dynamic for the 7th Doctor. I adore Ace and Mel (the latter especially as written for in audio) but in this set we get to enjoy the different slant the Virgin novels put on what a Doctor Who companion is and the way that brings something out in the Doctor. Roz is very keen to take charge without being overly reactive and Chris is curious and kind without being a pushover. Wonderfully written in each story and played by the actors.
Vanguard by Steve Jordan
The Dauntless and the Intrepid people were once two proud peoples, warring over their shared planet. Now all the remains of them are the Keepers. Huge robots built by either side to attack the other. But are there really no survivors? And what finally happened to wipe out both sides?
This is a story that has some echoes of some classic sci-fi. It reminds me in some aspects of an original series Star Trek (I won’t say which as it might give away some aspects of this story). But it’s far from unoriginal. The idea of a race so bent on war as to destroy itself and the psychological effect of that on those who survive what happened and the manner in which it happened is really well explored. The framing of this story takes you right into the action as well and separates our Tardis crew giving us an insight into how they cope with the world they find themselves in when left to their own devices.
The Jabari Countdown by Alan Flanagan
The Tardis finds itself all at sea… literally. On a boat during World War 2. When the boat gets wrecked on an island with its mathematician crew they are stranded. To make matters worse the Tardis is lost, people are speaking in numbers and people are being attacked and turning up dead. It’s a race against the clock to see if the Doctor can solve this one in time.
This is a story that hits a lot of different notes. It gets to play with a fun side to the Doctor and companions at the beginning. Then that is nicely juxtaposed by a very serious situation that quickly becomes very tense and calls to mind a lot of ‘who-dunnits’, some world war 2 dramas and a nice dollop of sci fi goodness. It packs a lot into an hour without feeling rushed and there is a twist at the end which speaks to the time of the war, our attitudes now and where we need to go as a people. If that isn’t a teaser, I don’t know what is.
The Dread of Night by Tim Foley
The Doctor, Roz and Chris seek to take shelter on a rainy night. Where they are granted entrance to a household, it is one in mourning and the spirits of the departed; or something even more menacing, seems to be making itself felt.
This is a classic ghost story wrapped in a Doctor Who adventure. To me it calls to mind some of the 4th Doctors more horror-influenced story’s, something the 7th Doctor hasn’t traditionally played against as much. The set up of the household is very intriguing. Nurse Hooley (Melanie Kilburn) who seems so obviously mean; is she too obvious to be the one behind events, or is it a double bluff? Then there is the troubled Annabel (Elaine Fellows) who is so troubled with grief and seems to be at odds with the world around her, just to give 2 examples. It’s a very atmospheric and well paced story that keeps you guessing and even provided me with at least one jump scare.
The writers and director Scott Handcock have done a great job with this set. It feels like the 7th Doctor; but shows sides to him that bring something new out, assisted by the use of lesser known companions. These are great companions for this Doctor too. Perhaps a little less bombastic than Ace, leading to some more grounding influences. Although the Doctor still teaches them, they feel more like grown up companions from the get go; so are more mature students for the 7th Doctor maybe? Instead of being shown how the world works, maybe being shown how to look at it differently. I look forward to more adventures with this Tardis crew. 9/10.
Buy it now on CD or download at https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-seventh-doctor-new-adventures-volume-01-1882