The Witch’s Familiar
Episode / February 23, 2016

Aired 26 September 2015 Straight away, ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ proves just how beneficial the two-part nature to a Doctor Who story can be. It’s rare that the Doctor actually has a chance to sit and discuss motivations and aims with his foes, but the Master and Davros have occasionally been the exceptions, never more so than here. Davros is dying, the Doctor touchingly at his side because he asked him to come, and the poignant conversation between the two that is interspersed throughout the episode is unequivocally an all-time highlight of the series. The Doctor and Davros have always been written as equals, each standing firmly on one side of morality. And while the Doctor has occasionally had to venture into morally grey territory, it’s only during this conversation that the extent of a possible overlap between the two really becomes apparent. The Doctor has recently been one to search himself in hopes of finding if he is a good man or not and, ultimately, his continued kindness and loyalty to his deadliest foes must surely put him closer to good, even if Davros calls that compassion a cancer and is correct in saying it will kill him. Yet, while…

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor
Audio / February 23, 2016

Released June 2000 Big Finish’s ninth main range offering, ‘The Spectre of Lanyon Moor,’ teams up Colin Baker’s Doctor and Maggie Stable’s Evelyn Smythe, finally fixing a glaring omission in the Doctor Who canon by having the Sixth Doctor officially meet and interact with the Brigadier. The story itself evokes a shifting tonality that encompasses all of the 1970s televised era, with more direct comparisons to ‘The Daemons’ and ‘City of Death.’ However, while the occurrences and ambience will surely appease many long-time fans, this truly is Nicholas Courtney’s time to shine. He effortlessly slips back into his iconic role of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and the camaraderie between the Doctor and him has never been so prevalent as it is here. There’s something familiar and safe about the Brigadier; as Doctors and companions change, the Brigadier is always there carrying on the good fight, offering a sense of stability and forming an anchor for the Doctor’s wild world. The script itself is a very strong one as well. The Doctor and Evelyn happen upon an ancient Cornish fogou that has many strange phenomena associated with it. As the Doctor begins investigating Philip Ludgate’s archaeological discoveries and Evelyn does some local research…

The Magician’s Apprentice
Episode / February 22, 2016

Aired 19 September 2015 With no new lead actor to introduce at the start of this series, Steven Moffat wastes no time in catering to the true fans of the series. Michelle Gomez’s Master/Missy, Julian Bleach’s Davros, and the Daleks all make their return, and the action picks up right from the start, beginning to set up plot points that will surely have ramifications later in the run. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is introduced dramatically as he attempts to rescue a young boy from a visually fantastic and harrowing field of handmines. The moment the boy reveals his name as Davros, though, the tone instantly changes and the Doctor suddenly shows a rare moment of uncertainty, superbly channeling Tom Baker in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ as he holds the early fate of one of his most dreaded foes in his hands. It also brings back the continual inner turmoil of the Twelfth Doctor in needing to decide if he is a good man or not. The dilemma of that opening scene is left unresolved, and Capaldi actually remains off-screen quite a while afterwards, wanting to remain hidden; the benefit of the added emphasis on two-part stories this series is that…

Last Christmas
Episode / February 22, 2016

Aired 25 December 2014 It’s a bold move to fill the vast majority of an episode’s running time with a dream, but that’s exactly the risk that Steven Moffat takes with ‘Last Christmas,’ and it pays off wonderfully. Unlike the previous yuletide offering ‘The Time of the Doctor’ that had to provide a memorable send-off for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor while dealing with a heavy burden of continuity issues, ‘Last Christmas’ is less restricted and able to focus solely on what happens with the Doctor and Clara going forward, and it’s all the better for it. For any episode- but especially for a Christmas episode- ‘Last Christmas’ has some properly dark and scary moments, although comedy is never far from the surface either. Doctor Who has flirted with the horror genre throughout the preceding series, but the menace and atmosphere is truly ratcheted up here. The Dream Crabs end up indirectly borrowing some aspects from Moffat’s previous creations as the characters are told not to look at them and not to think about them, but ultimately the close-up of a salivating creature and a direct Aliens reference leave no hesitation as to what type of base-under-siege story this is going…

Red Dawn
Audio / February 21, 2016

Released May 2000 For the second consecutive release, Big Finish revives one of the Doctor’s classic foes, this time switching focus to the Ice Warriors. Featuring an underused lead pairing in the Fifth Doctor and Peri and written by the proven Justin Richards, all of the pieces are in place for a fantastic tale. Unfortunately, ‘Red Dawn’ fails to live up to expectations and marks a definite misfire for a range that has generally been growing in confidence and overall quality. The reintroduction of the Ice Warriors is handled very well, and their unerring sense of morality and their code of honour comes across very well in the audio medium. Still, it’s apparent that this meeting between humans and Martians is not going to be a cakewalk as Zzaal attributes a human’s death to a misunderstanding, creating an inescapable sense that one mistake could prove fatal to everyone involved. Paul Webster’s agenda independent of the mission controller’s threatens matters even further and leads Zzaal to attack the NASA Mars module, putting- amongst others- Peri in peril. Ultimately, it is down to the Doctor’s understanding of the Ice Warriors’ code of honour and then willingness to show mercy when he has…

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Audio / February 21, 2016

Released February 2016 While the previous The Fourth Doctor Adventures tale ‘Wave of Destruction’ fit firmly into the mould of a classic series 17 story, ‘The Labyrinth of Buda Castle’ goes down a slightly more intriguing route, expertly melding together the flippancy and humour of Tom Baker’s latter years with the pervading horror homages and atmosphere so prevalent in his earlier years. The Doctor and Romana land in Budapest for a holiday and quickly find themselves investigating a man’s death, one seemingly caused by a vampire. They soon find that this is just one in a larger string of recent attacks and, aided by vampire hunter Celia Soames seeking the legendary Count Dracula, they embark to find out the secret of the nearby Buda caves and the soldiers within them. Quite ingeniously, Kate Bracken’s Celia acts as the traditional companion of this tale as Romana does some detective work of her own. Although she is a vampire hunter, she’s not the single-minded and insensitive could they are stereotypically portrayed as; rather, she has a strong humanity and morality about her and is visibly shaken up when she has to accept that humans have built a history upon suffering and misery.…

Dark Eyes 4
Audio / February 21, 2016

Released March 2015 In 2012 Big Finish set out on a mission to reinvigorate the Eighth Doctor, pushing him to the very precipice and driving him closer to the Time War. The first Dark Eyes box set was a commercial and critical success, and the storyline was quickly expanded to a sixteen-part epic spanning four box sets. The first three have featured confrontations with the Daleks, the Master, and the Eminence; now, in Dark Eyes 4, the timelines are unstable and the Doctor sets out defiantly to end the conflict. Dark Eyes 4 opens with the Doctor taking Liv Chenka to London at the turn of the century to look for Molly in ‘A Life in the Day.’ While he explores with Beth Chalmers’s Kitty Donaldson, Liv tends to and gets to know Kitty’s wounded brother Martin, played aptly by Barnaby Kay. Liv has from the outset been walking around with an embittered and almost defeatist demeanour, and ‘A Life in the Day’ finally allows her to come out of her shell as she poignantly comes to terms with just where she is in her life and what she hopes for going forward. Martin proves the catalyst Liv needs to…

Death in Heaven
Episode / February 21, 2016

Aired 8 November 2014 If there was any fear going into ‘Death in Heaven’ that the scope, ambition, tension, and potential consequences built up in ‘Dark Water’ would be more tempered, those qualms were quickly put to rest. With a sheer disregard for life, Missy brutally racks up the kill count right from the start, adding an audacious emotional weight that Doctor Who rarely explores since so often its characters are so strongly protected. The most distressing death came at the hands of Missy as she callously murdered Osgood, returning from her fan-favourite stint in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ while decked in an outfit boasting callbacks to both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. It’s a testament to Ingrid Oliver that her character garners so much loyalty and emotion in such a short time frame. Missy’s deplorable actions were hardly limited to Osgood, though. Kate Stewart gets thrown out of a plane, Seb is gunned down, Colonel Ahmed is sucked out the plane, and even the Doctor is left plummeting to his doom. Doctor Who is no stranger to providing some interesting, and sometimes eccentric solutions to its predicaments and impending death scenes, and that certainly is the case here.…

Aquitaine
Audio / February 20, 2016

Released February 2015 ‘Aquitaine’ is an unassuming title that does nothing to prepare the listener for the fantastic tale it harbours. Even the blurb on the back of the case gives nothing away, setting expectations for a charming story about a robot going about his daily chores on a ship circling a black hole. While this is certainly true, it’s only the very tip of the story, and ‘Aquitaine comes as a genuine surprise. The titular Aquitaine is the spaceship in question and Hargreaves, the ship’s computer/butler/medic/gardener, is essentially the ship personified. He’s very classically trained, going about his daily tasks to the point of mania even after his entire crew disappears. It’s actually quite sad in a way, and Matthew Cottle does a fantastic job in bringing a dramatic sense of bleakness, determination, and anguish to what could have very easily been a one-note role. In fact, he and Peter Davison carry the heart of the story and play off of each other fantastically as they try to find out what is happening to the ship and its occupants. As innocently and pleasantly as the story starts out, though, it quickly unfolds into a tale filled with horror, and…

Dark Eyes 3
Audio / February 20, 2016

Released November 2014 The Master is back for the four-episode Dark Eyes 3 and is again seeking universal supremacy, this time by manipulating the Eminence’s Infinite Warriors. Molly O’Sullivan is vital to his plans and, aided by Sally Armstrong, he is perilously close to succeeding. Paranoid from his recent events and not wanting to change history, the Doctor is hesitant to join the conflict; when Narvin, a Time Lord CIA agent, provides the incentive and motivation needed, though, the Doctor and Liv Chenka go up against the Master to stop his scheme and to save their friend. Big Finish makes a bold choice with the beginning of Dark Eyes 3 as the first story, ‘The Death of Hope,’ primarily features the villainous Master. It’s an approach that’s not used very often in any medium, and Alex MacQueen completely controls every scene he is in, relishing the opportunity to be the de facto lead as the events of this box set are set in motion. The Master here is self-absorbed as always, but he’s also incredibly cunning and charismatic and a dominant manipulator, proving again how evil he can be and how fantastic a foe he can be when handled properly.…