With each installment in Dalek Universe, the scope and tension has been building to unravel the mystery of just what’s happening with the universe that the Tenth Doctor is now before the Time War and with Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. The initial promotion as a full fourth series for the Tenth Doctor was perhaps the most accurate description of the three box sets as a whole, all taking place right after The Waters of Mars; and Dalek Universe 3 sets up The Day of the Doctor, and actually helps transition the Tenth Doctor towards the end of his life. Like the first set, Dalek Universe 3 is only two stories, a single episode and two parts, essentially echoing the structure of one of his televised series (without the third two-parter to fill in the usual thirteen episodes as this is only nine episodes). And with any finale, this set is built around wrapping everything up from the heartbreaking installments at the end of Dalek Universe 2. This review will contain spoilers for Dalek Universe 2, so it is highly recommended to at least be caught up with the stories to this point before continuing. This is also a set which cannot be listened to in isolation, despite its high quality.
The Clone Mastersonce again takes a step away from the Liberator, providing another angle on The Worlds of Blake’s 7. Despite being framed as a spin-off, it actually stars two Blake’s 7 regulars, Sally Knyvette (Jenna) and Jan Chappell (Cally), and well as the recurring menace(s) of Travis in two aspects, as played by Brian Croucher and Stephen Greif.
With the first two series of Missy, Rufus Hound’s portrayal of the Meddling Monk appearing in one story for each set already becoming a standout, for Series Three the subtitle Missy and the Monk was given. Hound is featured as Missy’s own companion in each of the three stories, all travelling the universe together. Except because it’s Missy piloting the Monk’s TARDIS, the Monk is much more a hostage than say an active participant which is an excellent dynamic, making Rufus Hound the butt of the joke which is just a perfect dynamic throughout. Missy and the Monk is also notable for being from mostly new writers meaning that it’s a set with its own distinct flavour from the previous two with less emphasis on Missy as an evil ‘Mary Poppins’ (there aren’t any stories here with the Davis siblings) and more of her as the crazy version of the Master with the hair-brained yet genius schemes. Some complaints I have seen of this set are that ‘Miss’y and ‘the Monk’ are perhaps parodies of themselves, but I can’t really see that as Missy is already a character who doesn’t take the Monk seriously and is just keeping him around for her own amusement. That’s just their dynamic and it has been in the previous sets with Michelle Gomez and Rufus Hound playing off each other brilliantly. Though one slight issue with the set as a whole is that the incidental music, while always great, relies a bit too much on reusing the tracks from the first two sets.Continue reading →
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 Coalitionas a Time Lord whose previous regenerations are still living in his consciousness before appearing through the Eighth Doctor box sets to the end ofRavenous, 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.
Big Finish’s Torchwood Monthly Range is no stranger to taking deep cuts from Whoniverse canon. Within the span of its range, it’s made Tom Price’s PC Andy one of the most developed characters in the series, saw Murray Melvin’s Bilis Manger return to cause more chaos in several creepy adventures, and even threw a weird trilogy of Queen Victorian stories together that turned out to be some of the best of its respective canon. But ‘Empire of Shadows’is aiming to take the biggest stab of all at time of writing, bringing back a well-liked but not particularly noteworthy character from the biggest (and best) two-parter from ‘Doctor Who Series 2’, Captain Zachary Cross Flane, for a sci-fi conspiracy thriller involving the death of royalty and a potential opportunity for Torchwood to regain its influence on the Earth Empire….
Philip Hinchcliffe Presents is a Big Finish range that is tangentially related to The Lost Stories in that it is a range from the mind of a previous writer doing stories that fit in line with that era of the television show, but not actual ideas which were ever proposed. Philip Hinchcliffe, enjoying the work done adapting his lost story The Valley of Death, began to work with Marc Platt to produce his ideas, alternating a six and four part story. Four stories were released across three releases between 2014 and 2017, so imagine the surprise when a fourth release was announced for August 2021. As described in the behind the scenes interviews, The God of Phantomsis a story that just came to Hinchcliffe and has been in development at Big Finish for a while as Platt worked and reworked the outline into a usable form. Recording actually happened in February of this year, not too long before it was officially announced, and like any Philip Hinchcliffe Presents release is one focused squarely on mixing gothic horror and science fiction. While the range itself has been incredibly varied with stories like The Ghosts of Gralstead and The Devil’s Armada being classic horror and The Genesis Chamber being more straight science fiction, The God of Phantoms actually most feels like a story produced by Hinchcliffe’s successor Graham Williams in The Stones of Blood.
“The big drawback here is that there is a lot more they could do as playing it safe on a release which was sure to sell left the listeners wanting more. Still, go and give this a listen just to hear a Doctor we haven’t heard from in over 15 years as there’s still the standard Big Finish charm.”
This is how I closed my review for Ravagers, the first volume of Ninth Doctor Adventures from Big Finish productions which was enjoyable, but had the problem of playing it far too safe, a trend Big Finish continued when David Tennant began recording audio dramas. This second volume, Respond to All Calls, is immediately in stark contrast as it does anything else but be safe, telling three tales unconnected by plot, but deeply connected by the theme. The title of the set is important here: ‘Respond to All Calls’. The Ninth Doctor is fresh from the Time War and in each of the three stories the TARDIS essentially drags the Doctor into the situation, further expanded upon by the video trailer showing the TARDIS broken, but coming back to life. This does not occur literally in the set and is used as a metaphor for the Doctor becoming the Doctor again, which was the essential drive of Eccleston’s series on television. The set is three episodes from three vastly different writers all doing something to bring the Doctor back to being the Doctor before he meets Rose and can actually begin the full process of healing from the Time War.
The Palluma Project is the latest Blake’s 7 audiobook from Big Finish. Set in early Series B, it tells the story of a secretive Federation base and its off-book project which Blake and the Liberator’s crew stumble into.Continue reading →
What made the first two instalments of The War Master work incredibly well was the decision to have the Master acting as a background character, working his scheme and influencing people to do things that seem to be good before things fall right apart at the end and it turns out the Master’s been in control all along. Killing Time, the sixth installment (though the fifth to be recorded, switched due to the COVID-19 pandemic) places the Master on the Stagnant Protocol. The planet is one that is out of the way and only noticed when people think that it can be taken over for its own gain. Currently there is a viral plague which the government has been inefficiently handling allowing for a new empress to take power with the Master working from behind the scenes. Now, this series was recorded in 2019 before the COVID-19 virus even existed, yet James Goss and Lou Morgan, in writing a science fiction set where the government doesn’t take the plague seriously, and the scientists are trying desperately to find a cure to the variants. In the behind the scenes interviews, the absurdism of Goss and Morgan’s premises for these episodes, as they weren’t expecting a global pandemic to take the world into one where the situation of the Stagnant Protocol is one that we now all know far too well. Even more coincidentally, this isn’t the only time this happened for Big Finish, two main range releases were delayed for similar reasons.