Released September 2007
Big Finish reaches a tremendous milestone with the aptly-titled ‘100’ for its one hundredth main range release. While ‘100’ is not a story that will shake the foundation of Doctor Who or the audio medium, it is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable- if perhaps self-indulgent- series of four individual one-part stories featuring arguably the most popular audio pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe.
The collection begins with ‘100 BC’ in which the Doctor and Evelyn arrive in Rome around the time of Julius Caesar’s birth. After accidentally intruding upon a romantic evening between Senator Gaius Caesar and his wife, the two hop forward in time nine months just in time for the birth of the child. However, the child is a female and named Julia rather than Julius. This revelation creates a rift between the two friends, the Doctor determined to fix history and ensure it runs its proper course and Evelyn determined to push forward women’s rights by ensuring one of history’s most influential men remains a woman instead. Fortunately, the story is written in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner in which the Doctor and Evelyn continually try to one-up and outdo the other in order to emerge victorious, resulting in some truly superb humour, and this helps to mitigate the fact that Evelyn is so willing to change history after all of her travels.
The second story is ‘My Own Private Wolfgang,’ and here the Doctor and Evelyn find themselves at Mozart’s birthday celebrations at a later time in his life. Writer Robert Shearman subverts expectations, though, and crafts a wonderfully detailed and surprising tale that kicks off when a masked man appears speaking of a certain deal. The results is a surprising masterpiece in macabre comedy as more and more Mozarts appear trying to alter history to each one’s own purpose. The reasoning for the various versions is quite clever, and the increasing number of plans conflicting with others thanks to the assistance of the Doctor and Evelyn is simply wonderful to experience. This story is truly the standout of the bunch, but it’s the tragedy at the heart of the comedy as Mozart realizes his legacy has been reduced to the subject of mockery that truly makes it special.
‘Bedtime Story’ is penned by Joseph Lidster and also manages to create a tense uneasiness in his tale about multi-generational revenge and several shocking murders at the hand of none other than Evelyn. Whereas Shearman opts for the comedic approach to uncomfortable situations, Lidster firmly entrenches his events in a reality just skewed enough by horror to remain enjoyable. The story itself is rather straightforward, and the Doctor racing to stop a curse is certainly nothing new, but the double twist endings and surprising paths taken help to elevate it to something altogether more intriguing.
‘100 Days of the Doctor’ is going to be the most divisive of the bunch simply because it’s not so much a true story as a quick excursion into the Doctor’s lives, essentially an advertisement for what Big Finish has done and can do. The Doctor finds himself poisoned by the intelligent Texineuron virus, having only one hundred days to live before dying a slow and painful death. As the Doctor and Evelyn attempt to trace the Doctor’s steps to find out when he was actually poisoned, the TARDIS inexplicably takes them into contact with the Doctor’s Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, and even one of Big Finish’s Unbound incarnations. Again, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this setup, and ultimately the Doctor does find and defeat his would-be assassin after several sly and winking comments as the different incarnations cross paths, but the writing here for the Sixth Doctor pales in comparison to the other incarnations and ultimately the story just feels lacking.
In the end, ‘100’ is an interesting choice for such a landmark release. It’s most certainly not the blockbuster many may expect given its numerical importance, but it does manage to capture the sterling relationship and its many facets between the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn perfectly. The series of stories is full of interesting ideas, some of which work better than others, but the time spent with the quintessential Big Finish duo is perfectly enjoyable as always.