The Genocide Machine
Audio / February 20, 2016

Released April 2000 ‘The Genocide Machine’ marks the Daleks’ first appearance in a Big Finish story. Written by Mike Tucker of Doctor Who novels fame, this tale firmly falls into traditional fare category, but his writing of the Daleks themselves is fantastic and proves that the mortal foes of the Doctor have plenty of life left in them for the audio medium. The plot is fairly straightforward in that the Daleks are seeking to invade the library of Kar-Charrat in order to gain access to The Wetworks, the greatest repository of knowledge in existence, and further establish themselves as the greatest force in the universe, a plan complicated by the presence of another alien being and ultimately thwarted by the Doctor. What works so well regarding the Daleks here is that they are not tied to the presence of Davros as was the case for several consecutive televised stories in the 70s and 80s. Here they are portrayed as the cunning and ruthless creatures they were originally intended to be, and the lengths they go to to gain access to the library and further their plan is astounding, actually achieving success- if for only a short time- through the use…

Dark Water
Episode / February 19, 2016

Aired 1 November 2014 ‘Dark Water’ is a chilling episode, tapping into one of humanity’s primal fears while bringing back some of the Doctor’s most dreaded foes. While Steven Moffat, much like his predecessor Russell T Davies, has sometimes been criticised for failing to fully capitalise on the momentum his story arcs set in motion ‘Dark Water’ offers a more linear and calm opening instalment to the two-part finale than is usual, putting aside a need for complicated temporal affairs or explanation for events. The story starts its emotional impact with a particularly shocking moment as Danny is hit and killed by a passing car. Showing this from Clara’s perspective is an incredibly moving storytelling device, and Jenna Coleman’s fantastic range makes it believable as she fully swings back to Danny’s perspective and threatens to strand both the Doctor and her in the most perilous of locations if the Doctor could not somehow go back and save Danny. It’s at this point that her commitment to Danny becomes fully evident, her heartbreaking willingness to throw away every single key to the TARDIS a tangible threat that the Doctor could not ignore. Of course this was never going to happen, but…

The Marian Conspiracy
Audio / February 19, 2016

Released March 2000 Doctor Who was originally a show about history, and while most historical plotline have added some sort of science fiction twist for storytelling purposes, ‘The Marian Conspiracy’ harkens back to the Hartnell days and provides a sensational story with just the Doctor and his companion interacting with historical figures. Nowhere to be seen is an alien menace, any malfunctioning technology, or any supernatural elements. The story opens with the Sixth Doctor tracking a nexus point in time landing him in the lecture hall of Evelyn Smythe, PhD. Evelyn’s family tree is disappearing, and the two travel back to Elizabethan England, the Doctor to explore and repair the nexus point and Evelyn to experience living history, one under the rule of a Queen she is not expecting. This Big Finish pairing of Colin Baker and Maggie Stables is a masterstroke. Baker continues to rehabilitate his Sixth Doctor and, while he still has his moments of bravado and pride, he is much less argumentative and instead is much more considerate and devoted to his companion. Stables instantly instills Evelyn with a sense of self-confidence and liveliness, proving herself to be a formidable match for the Doctor. In quick succession,…

Dark Eyes 2
Audio / February 18, 2016

Released February 2014 Continuing on from the ending of Dark Eyes, Big Finish continues the Eight Doctor’s adventures with another four-story box set aptly titled Dark Eyes 2. Comprised of ‘The Traitor,’ ‘The White Room,’ ‘Time’s Horizon,’ and ‘The Eyes of the Master,’ this time the Doctor finds himself and acquaintances pitted against the Daleks and a resurrected Master. Dark Eyes was an astronomical success for Big Finish, and fortunately the high quality continues in the sequel while even managing to eliminate many of the pacing issues that hampered the first set. That improvement is primarily due to the individual stories having stronger individual plots, allowing for events at hand to be managed while the overarching plot can be gradually revealed without relying on superfluous padding to fill the running time. Dark Eyes saw the Eighth Doctor at his lowest point before finally finding a renewed sense of hope that allowed him to continue with his life; this sequel set sees him as still a very fragile being, but one being unwittingly drawn into the temporal affairs of both the Time Lords and the Daleks. Clearly Big Finish is building towards something grander down the line- quite possibly the start…

In the Forest of the Night
Episode / February 18, 2016

‘In the Forest of the Night’ bucks the recent trend of Doctor Who episodes and goes in a wholly different direction, offering something a bit slower and subtler. The threat, rather than a tangible monster as is usual, is a solar flare heading for Earth that could cause a mass extinction. With no warning, a dense forest has also grown across the world overnight, carrying with it some ecological undertones, and that is the core conundrum facing the characters throughout the tale. It’s another strong offering for this series, more of a character piece than action piece, but ‘In the Forest of the Night’ does undoubtedly suffer somewhat for not having a core antagonist at the centre and so not being able to offer a continued dramatic sense of tension. Fortunately, the remainder of the episode takes care of its business very effectively and efficiently. Viewers are quickly introduced to Maebh, a Coal Hill pupil played by Abigail Eames, a lonely girl making peculiar gestures. She knows about the Doctor and without understanding why knows that she needs to find him; this is achieved quite quickly since he happens to be in London… in the middle of that newly sprung…

Dark Eyes
Audio / February 18, 2016

Released November 2012 Following the traumatic conclusion to The Eighth Doctor Adventures in ‘To the Death,’ the Doctor is a lonely and broken man in turmoil who has lost any sense of hope. Hitting a reset switch of sorts for the character to allow new listeners to enjoy as well, Big Finish has released the four-story Dark Eyes boxset in which the now downtrodden and often fatalistic Eighth Doctor tries to carry on with his life. At the beginning of ‘The Great War,’ the Doctor has sent his TARDIS racing towards the end of the universe. Quite quickly, however, Straxus, a Time Lord with secretive motivations, finds him and coerces him into undertaking a rescue mission for the Time Lords involving the Daleks; driven by emotion and his previous encounters with the Daleks, the Doctor soon finds himself in the middle of World War I, almost instantly coming under attack by mustard gas. Fairly quick on the recovery, he soon finds his intended rescue target, an Irish medical volunteer named Molly O’Sullivan, but is greeted only with an overwhelming sense of distrust and dislike towards him. And, of course, the Daleks are seemingly around every corner, ever present and seemingly…

The Fearmonger
Audio / February 17, 2016

Released February 2000 ‘The Fearmonger,’ Big Finish’s fifth entry into its main Doctor Who range and the first proper outing for the Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, is a great return to form after the misstep of ‘The Land of the Dead.’ Featuring lasting themes and strong performances, this is a great script laden with impact and perpetual relevance and the first to truly show how successfully Doctor Who can transition to the audio medium. McCoy and Sophie Aldred effortlessly slip back into the roles of the Doctor and Ace, respectively, as if no time has passed since the closing scene of ‘Survival.’ The characterizations of the two are perfect, melding some of the final televised series with some of the traits that developed a little later in The New Doctor Who Adventures novel range. The Doctor is calmly authoritative, unafraid to face any person or situation, and certainly has a few darker and more manipulative tendencies that he became known for later in his runn; Ace, on the other hand, is slightly more mature and proactive, still brimming with confidence and here even trying to take on some of the Doctor’s role for herself with varying effects and consequences. Their…

Flatline
Episode / February 17, 2016

Aired 18 October 2014 ‘Flatline’ is yet another episode whose ending is going to the main talking point. With the Doctor and Clara as friendly towards each other as thy have been all series, Missy- with only one line- throws everything the audience thinks it knows about the relationship into turmoil. There’s an unknown implication here as Missy says that she has chosen well with Clara, perhaps revealing that Missy has been the one continually bringing Clara into the Doctor’s lives or that Clara is in some fashion allied with Missy. This masked divulgement will assuredly manifest in broader terms later in the series. As has been a bit of a recurring theme with this series, though, the events leading up to the bombshell ending are just as worthy of discussion since ‘Flatline’ continues the trend of fantastic episodes. It’s been broadly apparent since Capaldi’s debut episode that Clara has been taking on more of a Doctor-like role, becoming more confident and decisive, and that reaches a whole new level in ‘Flatline.’ With the TARDIS shrinking and the Doctor caught on the inside, it is up to Clara to carry on the investigation in the real world, going so far…

The Land of the Dead
Audio / February 17, 2016

Released January 2000 A new series can be expected to have some inconsistencies in quality early on, but Big Finish’s main range continued to improve with each of its three first successive releases. Written by Stephen Cole, the fourth entry ‘Land of the Dead’ looks to extend that pattern. While it’s not a perfect story and ultimately doesn’t have much lasting impact, the wanderings of plotlines and inconsistent performances that have manifested in the earlier releases have at least been improved upon greatly. In 1964, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa happen to see a plane take off from the Alaskan wilderness and, whether by chance or design, they then land at a cottage in roughly the same area thirty years later. Here they come upon a rather diverse group of characters: the wealthy Shaun Brett, the disagreeable Inuit Gaborik, the sassy interior designer Monica Lewis, and the half-Native/half-American Tulung. Introductions aside, the Doctor quickly discovers that the fathers of both Brett and Tulung were part of an archaeological expedition thirty years ago, one that cost Tulung’s father his life. The secret behind that expedition and the effect that is still present form the basis for the underlying mystery at hand.…

Mummy on the Orient Express
Episode / February 16, 2016

Aired 11 October 2014 It’s an interesting- albeit disappointing- decision not to continue on directly with the broken relationship between Clara and the Doctor that was left at the closing of ‘Kill the Moon.’ Instead, time has passed and the two are chatting merrily together, surprising even if Clara has decided to take Danny’s advice and return for only one final trip. Regardless of that odd gap in time that remains unexplored, ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ offers a spooky and enjoyable tale, starting tensely with a 66-second countdown on screen. People are dying on the outer space version of the famous train, and they get 66 seconds of life after seeing the titular mummy. Nobody else can see the creature, instead only seeing someone terrified for his or her life for just over a minute before suddenly dropping dead. In terms of setting the scene, ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ masterfully executes. This mystery forms the crux of the episode as the Doctor and Clara try to determine how the mummy is selecting its victims and why nobody else can see it. New Doctor Who writer Jamie Mathieson proves adept at the murder mystery format by keeping the tension…