Review by Jacob Licklider
There is often a complaint from Big Finish Productions that there are characters whom they put at one point before bringing them back making them confusing. The Eleven is one such character, being introduced in Doom Coalition as a Time Lord whose previous regenerations are still living in his consciousness before appearing through the Eighth Doctor box sets to the end of Ravenous, and being brought back with other Doctors. They appeared in The Legacy of Time, Dark Universe, and the Time War box sets, though often in past and future incarnations, and the latest release is The Eleven, a three-episode box set where the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke encounter the Eleven on the planet Molaruss. Like any of the new Big Finish box sets which have been successful, it’s essentially a three hour miniseries chronicling the Eleven’s rise and fall from power. Setting up a box set as a miniseries of connected stories flowing from one to the next is a brilliant setup as it allows an avoidance of a lot of the issues of one hour stories not living up to their full potential, and in The Eleven each installment manages to tackle different things involving generally small casts of characters going from each scenario to the next.
The set opens with One for All by Lizzie Hopley which is mostly setup, but it’s setup done very well. Hopley focuses on the Doctor and Constance arriving on Molaruss, a planet whose inhabitants have dual personalities, one staying in control. This obviously makes a parallel with the Eleven, a character with eleven personalities all vying for control of a single body, usually with the latest being the most in control. The Doctor knows the Eleven is on the planet, he finds his TARDIS after all, abandoned in space. On Molaruss there is this implied prejudice to a defect in its people, some people are born as mono-minds, only having one consciousness inside them, and there is a doctor attempting to fix these people. One such mono-mind is Lucy Gaskell’s Miskavel, a woman who finds comfort in the Doctor and Constance’s presence and existence as mono-minds. The Eleven has taken over Dr. Varma’s life and is doing his own experiments here to actively reduce the number of personalities in his head, he is the only Time Lord with his condition to last to eleven lives, and through cloning believes he can fix anything. This builds to the big reveal that this has obviously been a trap to get the Doctor and Constance onto the planet so the Eleven and Miskavel can both escape, Miskavel having fallen in love with the Eleven. Their chemistry is great and Gaskell is excellent when it comes to playing the equally psychopathic wife of the Eleven, of course being Mark Bonnar’s actual wife is one plus. This is a story however, that at points feels a bit too run of the mill to be perfect, with the big twist and ending doing a lot to bring it up in my estimation. 8/10.
Nigel Fairs returns to Doctor Who with the second story of the set, The Murder of Oliver Akkron which is essentially a murder mystery in reverse. Oliver Akkron is the Global President of Molaruss and has been assassinated, and they already know who did it. There isn’t any sort of question that the Eleven didn’t commit the murder, but what matters is which personality of the Eleven committed the murder. Fairs is the perfect writer for a story like this, as outside of Doctor Who he runs a long running series of murder mystery plays (some adapted by Big Finish Productions), and he flexes his muscles as a mystery writer here excellently. This is a tightly paced script with only four characters, including the murder victim, while there isn’t a question where which person is responsible. The Doctor and Constance do not appear here, meaning that there can be a real exploration of the relationship between Miskavel and the Eleven as it’s prepared as this mutually abusive for both of them. Miskavel is just as deceitful as the Eleven and just as power mad, showing her true colours throughout the set and in this story in particular as she has her own evil plans to get the Eleven right in her corner. As this is a murder mystery, much of the fun comes from how the solution is eventually revealed and the explanation is incredibly touching, especially if you’re up to speed on the Eleven and his other incarnations. 9/10.
The Doctor and Constance return in Chris Chapman’s Elevation which is a story with an excellent pun. Taking its cues from The End of Time, the Eleven has developed nano-bots released in the atmosphere of Molaruss which splits everyone’s personality into eleven different pieces, except the Doctor (as it doesn’t work on other Time Lords). This creates a situation where unlike the weirdness of everyone becoming the Master in The End of Time, the planet is immediately plunged into chaos, with people dying from the stress of having multiple people inside their heads. This gives Miranda Raison the chance to explore Constance in more depth than she really has, as different aspects of Constance begin to emerge as she breathes in the nano-bots. There is an examination of her stiff upper lip, 1940s wren from Bletchley Park persona, with one personality being distinct in having her inhibitions taken away and acting on circumstance. It’s the part that Constance rarely listens too, implying she went with the Doctor to get away from a life she found fulfilling, yet boring. This feels more like a retrospective on the travel and how Constance has changed (Bletchley and Mr. Clarke seeming boring because of the wonders she has seen). The ability for the many aspects of Constance to work together is integral in defeating the Eleven and Chapman does this idea of not discounting the parts of oneself which seem less than savoury. The entire idea makes Elevation the highlight of the set and the perfect conclusion. 10/10.
Overall, The Eleven is a great start to the Sixth Doctor’s era of box sets, bringing a stand-alone miniseries out of circumstance (there is still a pandemic which was the inspiration for this set) and gives us some fascinating character exploration. Baker, Raison, Bonnar, and Gaskell all excel. 9/10.
You can get it on download/CD from Big Finish.
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