The War Doctor – Only the Monstrous
Audio / February 3, 2016

Big Finish has had a fair share of important release over the years- recent notables including ‘The Light at the End’ to commemorate Doctor Who‘s fiftieth anniversary and ‘The Last Adventure’ to finally give Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor a proper farewell- but perhaps none have carried such a weight of anticipation as the first box set of the War Doctor saga, Only the Monstrous. With a truly mesmerizing performance in 2013’s ‘The Day of the Doctor,’ Sir John Hurt masterfully played the shrouded version of our Time Lord hero, in so doing almost demanding that he be brought back to further explore this character, the version that had gone to such lengths and done such deeds that his future incarnations chose to renounce him as if he never existed. Thanks to Big Finish, we are afforded that opportunity as the once untouchable Time War is entered as well. In a risky and bold move given the anticipation of the project, writer Nicholas Briggs decides initially to avoid the core of the Time War conflict itself and instead to focus on a different war. There is a slow burn to the opening story, and several parts are essentially a two-handed act…

The Trial of a Time Lord – Terror of the Vervoids
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired 1 – 22 November 1986 After a look to Doctor Who past stylings with ‘The Mysterious Planet’ and a firm entrenchment in the present stylings with ‘Mindwarp,’ neither of which reached the needed heights of excellence needed for a show under increasing pressure and the latter of which condemned its lead under an air of ambiguity, The Trial of a Time Lord next looks to the future with ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ to suggest where the franchise may be headed next. Unfortunately, despite the unique premise of seeing events yet to occur and thus meeting new companion, Bonnie Langford’s Mel, after her introduction to the Doctor, ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ is the weakest of the season’s serials, half-heartedly throwing together many familiar plot points but failing to create any sort of excitement or momentum that proved the show had learned from past mistakes as it brazenly forged forward. Recycling of plot elements of previous Doctor Who adventures and external sources is not inherently a death sentence by any means, but it does seem like an odd choice for a story supposedly offering a glimpse at how the franchise will change. Nonetheless, the biggest flaw is that the story simply…

TheTrial of a Time Lord – Mindwarp
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired 4 – 25 October 1986 After a somewhat flawed but appreciated attempt at returning to the stylings of bygone Doctor Who eras to begin The Trial of a Time Lord, ‘Mindwarp’ firmly returns to the present state of conditions to offer a distinct contrast in its continuing support of and investigation into the dealings and persona of the Sixth Doctor. With several of Colin Baker’s opening stories hardly regarded as classics and the writing for his character in particular often called into question, ‘Mindwarp’- almost by definition- becomes the single most important story in this season-long arc, proving the benefits and dodging the negative pressure that could result from such a drastic tonal change. With that rather hefty burden on its shoulders, ‘Mindwarp’ presents an intriguing story that certainly supports the case that the darker and more violent tone is not intrinsically doomed for failure, but it fails to live up to the overall quality of the previous season’s two classics, ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Revelation of the Daleks.’ Indeed, the single biggest flaw with the story is that it remains equivocal in its portrayal of the Doctor simply by virtue of being linked to The Trial of a…

The Trial of a Time Lord – The Mysterious Planet
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired on: 6 – 27 September 1986 Doctor Who was in a precarious position when the aptly-titled The Trial of a Time Lord quietly came to screens following an eighteen-month absence after ‘Revelation of the Daleks.’ Attempting a season-long story arc with the Sixth Doctor’s life hanging in the balance as his own people put him on trial for his incessant meddling in the universe, everyone involved in the production was all too aware that the franchise was on the verge of cancellation as the episode order was reduced to fourteen and the length to thirty minutes each. Fortunately, despite the real-life drama that plagued the season’s production, including the death of legendary script writer Robert Holmes before his completion of the finale, the opening instalment, ‘The Mysterious Planet,’ is a strong opening that manages to hide many of the behind-the-scenes issues. Doctor Who had, of course, attempted, a season-long arc before with The Key to Time, but those six stories remained remarkably distinct with the titular Key only a linking device rather than intrinsically vital to the individual plots. The Trial of a Time Lord, however, revels in its central conceit, often cutting away from the action to advance…

The Twin Dilemma
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired 22 – 30 March 1984 Following the superb ‘The Caves of Androzani,’ it was almost inevitable that any story would seem like a letdown. Unfortunately ‘The Twin Dilemma,’ plagued by a hackneyed script and bland direction, is truly an uninspired Doctor Who offering regardless of the circumstances of its airing, a shame since it is also the first chance for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor to enter the spotlight. The characterization of the Sixth Doctor is an intriguing one, one perhaps better on paper than how ultimately written and portrayed on screen. In a bold and inspired choice, the new Time Lord has an almost entirely different persona than his predecessor, brashly and arrogantly performing right from the start. The original concept was to have him start off as more of an unlikable anti-hero and to slowly win over audiences through the exploits of his adventures. This approach has worked in other franchises, but the writing on display here takes things a bit too far in the unlikable direction, not so much creating a more tragic figure than the Fifth Doctor whom he is so clearly a critique of in this ever-darkening universe as simply creating a more bombastic version…

The Last Adventure
Audio / February 3, 2016

Released August 2015 It took until 2015, but Big Finish has finally tied up the last lingering plot point from the classic run of Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor’s swansong and regeneration. Whereas up until the release of The Last Adventure, fans had to settle for an inadequate explanation of the regeneration and were not even allowed to see Colin Baker properly regenerate. Much like 2013’s The Night of the Doctor provided a satisfying (and also overdue) send-off to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, The Last Adventure is a spectacular finale for a Doctor who has taken full advantage of the second life the audio medium has afforded him. ‘The End of the Line’ wastes no time with exposition and throws the Doctor and new companion Constance Clarke right into the proceedings. This is Constance’s first released adventure- although not the first in her timeline as her introduction will be saved for a later main release- and so it is a brave choice to limit information about her and to instead have her [rese as someone who has already earned the Doctor’s trust implicitly. This setup works wonderfully well, while still creating a sense of yearning to know more about the…

Robot
Episode / February 3, 2016

Aired on: 28 December 1974 – 18 January 1975 Replacing Jon Pertwee, the longest-tenured actor in the lead role to that point after an impressive five-year run, was never going to be an easy task, and so it makes sense that ‘Robot’ is essentially a Pertwee episode complete with his familiar UNIT family and a threat to contemporary Earth in order to ease the audience’s transition to new leading man Tom Baker. Of course, nobody could have predicted just how instantly Tom Baker would make the role his own and quickly take the title as the definitive Doctor in many fans’ eyes. As a result, though, this makes ‘Robot’ feel a bit as if it is constraining its new lead rather than allowing him to fully find himself. Even Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan, a character who was explicitly brought in not only to provide a male-female companion dynamic as in the earlier years of the programme but also to cover the possibility of having to be the a more physical male presence should the Fourth Doctor ultimately not be able to perform that task, quickly becomes redundant presence as Baker far exceeded all expectations right from the start. Still, there’s…