Review by Jacob Licklider
So here we are. March 2021 and the end of The Monthly Range of Doctor Who. Over 20 years and 275 releases, and Big Finish Productions have decided to give their flagship range on final multi-Doctor send-off adventure. Relative newcomer Robert Valentine was given the task of writing The End of the Beginning, a story which harkens back to the very first release in the range, The Sirens of Time, telling three connected adventures for three Doctors before bringing them together for the final episode in one big overarching plan. Each episode adds to the drama and ends with the Doctor (and this time companion) in some sort of danger while everything builds towards some universe breaking danger. The production of The End of the Beginning is put in the hands of Ken Bentley, one of the range’s most prolific directors, and the sound design and music by Wilfredo Acosta. This is an entire story based on making an homage to the range; including appearances from range exclusive characters for one last hurrah before Big Finish moves into a new era of box-sets and new adventures with different Doctors and companions. There is at least one Monthly Range release which is still coming as it was delayed, but this truly is the end of an era for Big Finish Productions.
The End of the Beginning is told through four episodes each with their own exclusive episode titles. “Death and the Desert” sees the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in the deserts of Saudi Arabia in the distant past where an old professor of the Doctor’s has hidden a third of a crystal locking a lost moon which has a great mystery behind it. This kind of takes a Doctor Who does Indiana Jones with some commentary on the nature of archeology and the pillaging of other cultures. The Doctor and Turlough are both cautious to call themselves either Englishmen or archeologists, as archeology for the first fifty years of the twentieth century all have the problem of simply taking artefacts and not trying to preserve history. The Doctor and Turlough are also interestingly finding themselves in an essentially insane situation where they have exposition about a race of Death Lords led by Kevin McNally’s Vakrass. This is honestly the worst episode of the release, with the issue being it’s a perfectly serviceable Doctor Who adventure, setting up the exposition about the Lost Moon and the Death Lords and the Gallifreyan crystal which is used as a key and Valentine doesn’t do much to actually make this work as a simple story.
“Flight of the Blackstar” is Colin Baker’s episode where the Doctor and Constance have taken Flip to a hospital due to an injury on a previous adventure. There is an intergalactic mafia/pirates which invade the planet and the call upon old friend Calypso Jonze to help fight them off, finding the second crystal in the process. This is already a much more fun segment than the first, with Colin Baker, Miranda Raison, and Robyn Holdaway stealing the show with their impeccable chemistry. This makes the story feel very much like a swashbuckling pirate adventure looking for lost treasure and stopping a mafia from taking over a planet. Most interestingly is Calypso Jonze’s crush on one Mrs. Constance Clarke and it’s clear that the Doctor ships it. Constance doesn’t understand that she’s being flirted with by someone who knows she is married, even if her husband is probably never coming back to her. Constance also is driven this episode by compassion for the ill (possibly dying) Flip and is willing to do anything to save her friend.
The real highlight is the fact that we’re getting another story with the Eighth Doctor and Charlotte Pollard. “Night Gallery” sees the Doctor taking Charlotte to check up on a vampire he knows and has punished by giving a house. The vampire accidentally made another vampire who is an artist planning a gallery where he can trick a bunch of people into a room to feed from. It’s a standard vampire story, but having the Doctor and Charlotte together is just something that needs to be heard. Their last appearance together was 2013 in The Light at the End which was excellent, but having an episode devoted just to them having one more adventure is a lot of fun. Valentine also does an excellent job in the script at creating the atmosphere of a gothic horror film. The story takes place in 1999 on the same day that The Sirens of Time was released making for a brilliant little adventure that takes us right into the ending. “The Lost Moon” is where the three Doctors meet and we actually get to see them interact placing this after The Light at the End and giving us an interesting Sylvester McCoy cameo.
Honestly, The End at the Beginning is a great sendoff to The Monthly Range though it’s not the absolute best release. There’s a definite love with several little references to previous releases, some big, some small, but it gives us one final hurrah with these characters before their adventures change forever. 8/10.