Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Tom Baker is back once again as the Doctor at his eccentric best and he meets the first new companion for Big Finish in WPC Ann Kelso (Jane Slavin).
The Sinestran Kill by Andrew Smith
The Doctor follows an alien energy signature back to 70’s England where he meets WPC Kelso and her DCI, Scott Neilson (Frank Skinner). They are on the scene where a local gang has set its sights on killing a local shop keeper. The Doctor with the help of Kelso soon finds out there is more at work behind this gang and more than one shop keepers life in the balance.A really engaging open to this set penned by Andrew Smith, who of course has a wonderful pedigree between his work on Doctor Who on TV and in Big Finish, as well as being a former police officer. His work in the force brings a lot to the feel of this story and the Doctors new companion (some details of what he gives Kelso from his own past is mentioned in the extras). It sets up both Kelso and the impetus for the rest of this series very nicely and it’s lovely to hear Frank Skinner in Doctor Who again after his appearance on TV Doctor Who and other Big Finish audios.
Planet of the Drashigs by Phil Mulryne
After introducing K9 (John Leeson) to his new mistress, the Doctor takes them to an alien world, that he doesn’t realise has been made into a theme park; ‘DrashigWorld’. A place where all different types of Drashig big and small (the smallest actually being the most dangerous), can safely be wowed over by the public… or that’s the idea.Obviously, there is a parallel to a certain popular movie franchise here as well as a return of a race seen in the Pertwee era of Doctor Who, but is this just a mesh of old ideas? Far from it.
Mulryne has given us much more depth and information of what was, a none
the less cool, slightly one dimensional Doctor Who race. They are voice by Doctor Who legend Dan Starkey, who as well as making guttural screams feel like they are saying something, also gets to give an actual voice to the characters thoughts to great effect. The different types ofDrashigsexpands what they are to great effect too.
The idea of the theme park gone wrong is a recognisable jumping off point but this story does surprise and do something different to it in the way a great Doctor Who story does something new and different with the familiar.
The Enchantress of Numbers by Simon Barnard & Paul Morris
Newstead Abbey,Nottinhamshire, 1850. The Tardis lands in the grounds of the ancestral home of Lord Byron, where his daughter; who he had a tortured relationship with, Ada Lovelace(FintyWilliams) lives. Lovelace herself being the mother of computing. But Ada is now well between with strangers with bird masks and a maze that seems to move, there is clearly something more afoot.I love it when Doctor Who goes to a less explored character in history and where it’s so often females in history who get overlooked, it’s even more special when they get their propers. And what an intriguing character who not only was a mathematical and computing pioneer, but also came from such a fascinating background. A challenge for any actor, but Williams gives her the gravitas she deserves as she faces her darkest hour in this story. Great script by Barnard & Morris and wonderful guest cast.
The False Guardian by Guy Adams
Kelso is feeling unsatisfied at the Doctor’s lack of urgency at finding the Sinestran’s, that first lead her onto the Tardis. So after some lessons on the Tardis from K9 she finds some leads to follow. The Doctor agrees to take her to the most likely. They arrive on a familier world that the Doctor can’t quite place and before he can work out exactly where they are the Doctor and Anne find themselves in a local complex where this time some names seem more familiar than their faces and the threat is all too familiar to the DoctorMILD SPOILERS
The Doctor in this story ends up in an mental facility, where for me the story takes on a whole new gear. Hearing the 4th Doctor take such delight in talking to someone with delusions is perfect, seeing as the way he talks is always so fantastical. He gets the degree of danger here that is perfect for him to laugh off as he does as well as bring the intensity his Doctor is also very capable of. This story also shows the drive of Kelso and the Doctor being so laissez-faire about the ‘mission’ they are on to find the Sinestran’s fits his Doctor perfectly and gives a good reason for the earlier standalone stories. Adam’s story also gives a great cliff-hanger to leave us on before part 2 of the series.
This collection not only gives Tom Baker some wonderful opportunities to play it up as only he knows how, but is a perfect introduction for a new companion who is very well realised. You can already tell how much she relishes the role even before she talks about it in the extras and I think her prior experiences in Big Finish have well prepared her to take on the part. Brilliant writing and casting throughout. On point directing from Nicholas Briggs as always. It’s both in the style of the classic series, but with the pacing that will satisfy old and new audiences alike. One for any 4th Doctor fan. 10/10
Buy it now on CD or Download: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/series-08-volume-1-1642