Review by Kenton Hall
“No way. That’s how stupid people die horribly.”
– Tegan Jovanka
When I was young, in the first flush of my Doctor Who fandom, I used to record episodes from whatever PBS station was currently airing them, and transfer them to cassette so that I could fall asleep listening to them. I still do this, thanks to Big Finish (and to a lesser extent, being single) although the Betamax tapes and cassettes of my childhood are now museum pieces, designed to make my own children frown in confusion and wonder if they were something I used to feed to my pet mastodon. Anyway, the thing I liked best about any Doctor Who story, and this is still true, was the beginning. The establishment of the world and the situation before the good Doctor and friends turned up to interfere and make nuisances of themselves. I also liked the middle and the end, but the thrill was in wondering where the TARDIS team in question would pitch up next, Which is a long-winded way of saying that I appreciate these shorter, two for the price of one, stories. I’m not against an old-fashioned four-parter, when the writing demands it, but some tales just want to be pacier – get in, tell the story, get out.
Warzone and Conversion are two very different, but excellent examples of this. The first, with a relatively high concept at its heart, though with nice moments all round for the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and new audio companion Marc. The Fifth Doctor is nicely incensed by the race in which he and his companions find himself and its always great to hear Peter Davison vent some righteous indignation. I’m also a fan of character development and real consequences in Doctor Who, which until the new series, was largely the province of Big Finish and other expanded universe stories. Not that it wasn’t there, but there was certainly a tendency to skim over any change for the central characters, in favour of getting to the next adventure. (I know some fans prefer it this way, but from a writer’s perspective, it always feels like a missed opportunity.) Conversion takes some time to explore the Doctor’s relationship with his second most famous rogues, the Cybermen, and reckon with the impact of Adric’s death in Earthshock. The return of David Banks as the Cyber Leader helps with the resonance of this immensely. All in all, a pair of well-written, well-acted stories that don’t overstay their welcome. And the line quoted at the top of this review made me laugh out loud, something Janet Fielding manages regularly, especially in her Big Finish work. If I believed in star ratings – which I don’t – it would garner this release an extra one. As it is, I’ll just have to say – go and buy and listen. In that order, for the sake of sanity.