Just over one year ago, in March 2021, the Main Range ended from Big Finish Productions as the box set format took root before being firmly established for 2022. Now, one other long running institution from Big Finish Productions is at an end, the 16 part, four disc set, Eighth Doctor miniseries which has been the format of Eighth Doctor releases for nearly a decade. Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition, Ravenous, and Stranded have all been released to acclaim and here we are with Stranded 4, the final set in this style.
The 1963-1989 run of Doctor Who is fascinating in the fact that in the 160 serials (including The TV Movie in 1996), there are few stories that are direct sequels to previous stories, much less sequels within the same production team. Generally the closest you would get are stories like Attack of the Cybermen doing a sequel to The Tenth Planet and Attack of the Cybermen over a decade after the prequel’s release or Snakedance to Kinda and Mindwarp to Vengeance on Varos essentially being extensions of the themes of the previous story, but doing its own thing. The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon are an oddity as they both share the same setting, several of the characters, and feel like a natural extension of the same story. Peladon being the setting of both is a big factor in why the two stories feel so connected, the sets are the same and it feels like the planet is evolving and changing. The Curse of Peladon aired as the second story from Season 9 beginning at the end of January 1972, so as it is the 50th anniversary of Episode One while I am writing this, Big Finish Productions are celebrating with Peladon, a four story box set revisiting the planet throughout its history as well as continue the spirit of Peladon stories in reflecting the politics of the real world using allegory for a stark contrast of the good and bad of today’s world.
My first Big Finish Audio Drama was Storm Warning, it was 2014, and Big Finish had at some point previously put the first fifty main range on sale for $2.99. Charlotte Pollard was my first companion and now, twenty years later, Big Finish are releasing Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuressto commemorate India Fisher’s Charley Pollard and taking the Eighth Doctor back to his early days. Paul McGann is clearly having a blast in all four stories, giving life to an Eighth Doctor unblemished by the loss of friends or the Time War, something which we haven’t seen since Big Finish revisited the Lucie Miller era in 2019. Whenever they decide to revisit this version of the Eighth Doctor, McGann breathes a new life into the character and reuniting him with India Fisher helps the nostalgia of that era bleed into the tone of each of the stories. None of the stories are particularly dark or disturbing, they all at least reference the arc of the time that Charley Pollard should have been killed on the R-101, but most importantly they allow two friends a chance to perform together for the first time in nearly a decade since the 50th Anniversary in The Light at the End.
Stranded as a miniseries ended its second set with the Doctor being thrust into the future with companions Liv, Helen, Tania, and Andy where the Earth has come under a fascist dictatorship run by Divine Intervention. Stranded 3 picks up where Stranded 2 left off and with any of the multi-set series from Big Finish, and especially for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this is not going to be a set aimed at newcomers. It continues the character driven nature of the other sets and the general Earthbound nature of the previous two sets, but the TARDIS is now working enough so the Doctor can actually travel in time, none of the episodes being set in a normal 2020/2021, the closest we get being John Dorney’s finale dealing with some of Divine Intervention and setting up the final box set. As with the final story having the gimmick of starting at the end and going back to the beginning, that is how this review will be structured. We will be starting at the end and working our way back to the beginning as Stranded 3 brings something very different to the standard box set, even by the standards of Stranded making it some of the more interesting sets from Big Finish.Continue reading →
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.
Stranding the Eighth Doctor on Earth was by no means a new idea, it had been done in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, but making him a landlord with Liv and Helen made for an interesting change. Stranded 1 was released way back in June 2020 when we were all in lockdown and the future releases were sadly delayed, with Stranded 2 moving from its original November release date to March 2021. Stranded 1 was one of those releases while where I enjoyed it quite a bit, I felt slightly underwhelmed by the premise as it was very much Doctor Who does a soap opera, but sitting down to listen to Stranded 2 made me acutely aware of how I have missed this ensemble cast and their interactions. Like Jon Pertwee’s second season bringing some time travel back, Stranded 2 still contains four earthbound stories, it is the first to actually bring these new companions and residents of Baker Street into the TARDIS and exploring their history and interpersonal relationships. This premise allows it to stand out from the first set and the Pertwee era in a number of ways which makes it incredibly fun. As Stranded 2 is still kind of like Doctor Who does a soap opera, this review may contain minor spoilers for certain plot developments in the characters. This review was also written with each section right after listening, so each section may not reflect how any story arcs happen.
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.