With each of the Big Finish Doctor Who ranges moving to box sets it means that yearly listeners will be getting sets with the First and Second Doctors, both of whom have been limited in recent years. Nicholas Briggs has emphasised the desire to make this a fresh start by using new TARDIS teams, exploring new eras, and going against the grain of the previous Early Adventures and Companion Chronicles in stopping the tradition of previous companion actors also voicing the Doctor and recasting both the First and Second Doctors. Michael Troughton will be taking over the role of the Second Doctor (already previewed in The Annihilators), however, instead of continuing with David Bradley as the exclusive First Doctor, a complete recast with Stephen Noonan taking the role was announced with The Outlaws and The Miniaturist (collected under the title The Outlaws). This marketing decision makes it a little confusing to discuss the story vs the collection so this review will be discussing elements of both overall without heavy spoilers. This set also expands upon a previously unused portion of the First Doctor’s timeline set immediately after The Savages so the companion is Dodo Chaplet, here reprised by Lauren Cornelius, which makes an interesting dynamic as here Big Finish have created a pitch to writers to combine two versions of her character. Dodo being a character who was written differently in essentially every serial, Big Finish have given Cornelius a mix of her portrayal in The Massacre and The Gunfighters which makes her proactive and takes away the British RP allowing a slightly toned down version of the accent Jackie Lane used in The Massacre. There is only one plot point which has Dodo falling for the Monk’s story about trying to be Robin Hood in The Outlaws.
There is something interesting about the way UNIT: Nemesis has been developing. The first set was quite a nice surprise with an introduction to the basic players and what makes them work. It was also good to see Kate and Osgood given more in depth characterisation than anything that Steven Moffat gave them. UNIT Nemesis: Agents of the Vulpreen moves beyond setting the stage and characters, giving us a look into what the four set miniseries is actually trying to accomplish and the story it is trying to tell. This is essentially UNIT’s chance to prove itself at thwarting a large alien conspiracy to invade the Earth, this set seeing the preliminary invasion being the main thrust of the story. It picks up fromBetween Two Worlds and explores what the ark is, what the Eleven was doing, and what happens to the captured Jacqui McGee who almost immediately returns in the first episode. It’s somehow a more focused set than Between Two Worlds as well, with only one episode feeling as if it is more of a diversion from what the set as a whole is attempting to accomplish for the furthering of the Nemesis story arc. The nemesis of the title is heavily implied to be the Eleven, who has his presence somehow increased here despite being in quite a lot of the first set.
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.
Bayban the Butcher grants Colin Baker’s famously off-the-hook villain centre stage. Although best known for playing the colourful Sixth Doctor, he gave an entertainingly big guest performance years earlier in Blake’s 7; Bayban, a self-aggrandising baddie with a penchant for alliteration, came up against Vila in Series C’s City at the Edge of the World.
This self-titled boxset follows an appearance in the recent Avalonseries and there’s an audiobook origin story, Bayban Ascending, due in February too. While Bayban apparently died at the end of his only onscreen appearance, it seems you can’t keep a good berserker down. Continue reading →
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 →
Ravagers introduced Christopher Eccleston to the world of Big Finish as the Ninth Doctor through a miniseries.Respond to All Calls switched gears towards three thematically similar stories with the idea being the Doctor, battle scarred and hardened, is always there to help.The third set follows the format of Respond to All Calls, three stories tied around a theme, but that theme is a little subtler and is perhaps why some people haven’t gelled as much with this set as a whole.Lost Warriors is a title which sets up the set with a subconscious exploration of the remnants of the Time War, and that’s there, but only in the last story and in the way the Ninth Doctor is characterised.Each story has a warrior at its centre and each is an exploration of a different reaction to a war, one from a modern human war, one from a human war in the past, and one from an alien war, while the Doctor representing the Time War in all three of the stories.It’s interesting as the Time War isn’t really directly mentioned in any notable capacity throughout the set, it’s in the background and simmering, but not actually being the driving force of the stories.It’s a set about other warriors and other people as a reflection of the Doctor and not a direct parallel.Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor is incredibly subtle here with the trauma and in each of the three stories he is absolutely brilliant in the role.Some have complained he is too close to Tennant, but this is an odd set where the Doctor is actually the connection to the audience which usually is the companion’s job.
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.
‘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.
There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining, and for Doctor Who fans, especially those invested in the expanded universe, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns has created a big silver lining. The devastating shutdowns of the arts has made the entertainment industry turn to other methods for creating content, and Big Finish Productions made no delay in taking advantage of many actors who were now available to record remotely due to the pandemic. One such actor is David Tennant who had already worked with Big Finish as the Tenth Doctor in three individual volumes, plus a myriad of cameos, and with lockdown meaning he was available, Big Finish commissioned a special fourth box set featuring the Doctor’s future wife, River Song. The Tenth Doctor and River Song is essentially the fourth volume of The Tenth Doctor Adventures range, and was wholly conceived during the pandemic due to availability. Three stories were produced and released in late November 2020 in a box set and as three individual stories, all set after Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead for the Doctor and at various points in River’s life, picking up on the implication that the Tenth Doctor would have met her again in this incarnation from that story. The overarching theme of these stories is exploring how that relationship is different from the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors’ dynamics with River. The Tenth Doctor through all three stories treats River like a mystery to be solved, and becomes more and more annoyed at her constant evasions.Continue reading →
“Shadow of the Daleks is an interesting idea for a Doctor Who Big Finish release, at least for the Main Range. Instead of a single release, this is a story arc crossing two releases made up of eight individual episodes from different writers, all with the conceit of the Time War breaking into the life of the Fifth Doctor and a collection of people.”
This is how I opened my review ofShadow of the Daleks 1 last month here at IndieMacUser, and sitting here about a month later having finished Shadow of the Daleks 2, I realised just how apt that description is of these two releases.