The Companion Chronicles have the distinction of being the second longest and consistently running Doctor Who range at Big Finish Productions. They began in 2007 and released several single releases to 2014 before switching to yearly boxsets between 2015 and 2019. A box set was announced for release in June 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Second Doctor: Volume Three was plagued with production delays, finally having production finish in late 2021 for release in 2022. Among this rumours spread that the Companion Chronicles would be ending with this volume which have not yet been confirmed, though there is some contradictory evidence of actors mentioning recording a release which hasn’t been announced while higher ups mentioning that this would be the final installment in the range.If this truly is to be the final release of the range (and I truly hope it isn’t) it is a stellar release for the range to go out on, finding creative ways to explore the entirety of the Second Doctor’s era and not limit itself to the Companion Chronicles’ two-hander format as it’s rumoured Big Finish will be taking the range towards a more full cast approach if it is to continue.
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.
“Cycle of Destruction” continues the “Dalek Universe” adventures with an audio counterpart to “House of Kingdom” from the prior set but this time focusing on the other component of this saga’s main trio. Roy Gill’s script wastes no time in jumping right back into the fray, albeit in a way that feels more like a necessary diversion rather than a substantial addition to the main thrust of the arc. The premise is a strong one overall and it’s nice to see Mark himself get the same amount of attention and backstory that Anya did previously. But the plot and writing contain tons of technical exposition that (while interesting in how it handles the aspects of the ALARK facility and the intensive lives of the people working within it) grinds the pacing and excitement at hearing these characters again to a screeching halt. Still, the writing also touches on deeper questions as to the nature of Mark Seven and the androids themselves as well as contains major flashbacks to Mark Seven’s past which is as harrowing as one would expect. It’s in those moments and in the tension between members of the TARDIS team as to how and why they got there in the first place that the story truly shines and not necessarily in the immediate details of what’s going on in the plot. Continue reading →
The Dalek Protocol started off the Dalek Universe miniseries with a fairly standard but enjoyable tale with no real connection to what would become the series at least based on the first set. And a day later, Dalek Universe begins itself properly with the first three stories in the miniseries being released to acclaim. To make what’s most likely going to be a long review short, Dalek Universe 1 is a brilliant start to the miniseries and if you haven’t already, go do yourself a favour and buy it. This is one of those sets that I cannot critically evaluate without losing my restraint on spoilers so from this point forward. You have been warned. Each installment of Dalek Universe 1 is truly part of a miniseries, blending together which helps as two of the episodes are from John Dorney, and the third deals with the character fallout from the previous two episodes before moving along to what will eventually become the conclusion of the set while transitioning into the second set. An interesting note, this set barely features the Daleks, like The Dalek Protocol before it, they are an off-screen presence bar a few scenes, the writers instead electing for setting this around the time of The Daleks’ Master Plan and dragging the Tenth Doctor out of time into his own personal timeline.
Hype is an interesting phenomenon. When Big Finish Productions announced Dalek Universe, of course there was going to be hype: it’s three whole box sets starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, the return of Anya Kingdom, and a two-hour Fourth Doctor prologue with Leela and K9 to boot. This is the type of release that is designed to build hype, yet now that it is April and the first release is out, The Dalek Protocol starring Tom Baker,Louise Jameson, and John Leeson, and some of the trouble with extreme hype is that is can actually put off listeners. For The Dalek Protocol it is imperative that before you purchase or listen, you understand that it was never actually intended to be part of a bigger series. Recorded in 2018, the behind the scenes on the release are enlightening as Nicholas Briggs was simply commissioned to do what he loves and tribute Death to the Daleks while bringing back Anya Kingdom. This means that the ending of the story feels final, the Doctor and Anya don’t get to reunite which is important as the Doctor hasn’t even met her yet, and that there really aren’t apparent threads which will be carrying over to Dalek Universe proper. As a part of the series, it seems the most disconnected which is fine as it was never written to be a part of a greater whole, so listeners should be wary of those expectations before going in as you will not enjoy it nearly as much when that is in play.
Seven Doctors in seven unforgettable adventures join the Doctor Who Target book range, all publishing on 11th March 2021, each with newly commissioned cover artwork by Anthony Dry.
These latest novelisations, almost all written by the original writers of the TV episodes, will help Target fans finally complete their classic-era collection, and take the Target range into its next incarnation.
‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ is honestly a bit of an annoying release to review right off the bat because it takes place not only after the previous Time Lord Victorious story ‘Enemy of My Enemy’ but also after the main thrust of the Time Lord Victorious event covered in the novel ‘The Knight, The Fool, and the Dead’ and its sequel ‘All Flesh is Grass’ which is yet to be released at the current time of writing. Its description as quote ‘Die Hard with Daleks’ by both its author and Big Finish as a whole is a fairly apt one and Lizzie Hopley’s script wastes no time in immediately jumping into that idea. With the Daleks last seen allying with the Eighth Doctor and venturing into the Dark Times in the prior audio story, the narrative catches up with them after an unspecified amount of time in the aftermath of what must’ve been an immense battle. Working to stay afloat in the Time Vortex in a rapidly disintegrating saucer, the titular pepper-pots are struggling to survive. But they have bigger problems on their hands for the Doctor is still alive and causing havoc onboard in the hopes of finding his TARDIS and getting away.
‘Genetics of the Daleks’ is perhaps the biggest surprise story in the whole of the Time Lord Victorious arc as it features the earliest Doctor involved in the entire saga so far and yet somehow happens to be one of the last stories timeline-wise in regards to how the Daleks themselves pertain to the big event. Its trailer makes it feel like ‘Alien’ with a lone pepper-pot instead of a xenomorph akin to how the recent final Eighth Doctor TLV audio was basically ‘Die Hard’ with a whole army of ‘pepper-pots’ at it’s disposal and the Doctor in the John McClane role. And similar to said audio, ‘Genetics’ delivers pretty much that exact premise albeit with a few twists along the way.