Asylum of the Daleks
Episode / March 28, 2016

Aired 1 September 2012 Doctor Who‘s seventh series starts off in style, offering a very strong story and bringing some excitement and danger back to the Doctor’s most dreaded foes while exploring Amy and Rory’s relationship further. Yet for all that ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ manages to achieve, it’s the surprise appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman- she who has been cast as the Doctor’s new companion starting in the upcoming Christmas special- as Oswin that’s going to provide just as much of a talking point as anything else. For here she is, seemingly fated to an existence as a Dalek before the planet she is on blows up, five episodes earlier than when the Doctor is slated to meet her. That’s an interesting plot thread to ponder over and explore, to be sure. The Amy and Rory seen here- quite some time after the events in ‘The Wedding of River Song’- are on the brink of divorce, seemingly because Amy is incapable of having children. Both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are in superb form here, excellently portraying the necessary emotion of a couple who has been through so many incredible and heart-wrenching events together and, as a result, almost forced…

The Dark Flame
Audio / March 27, 2016

Released March 2003 ‘The Dark Flame’ is Big Finish’s second plunge into the universe of The New Adventures, the range of novels meant to continue the adventures of the Seventh Doctor following the programme’s cancellation in 1989. While the first, ‘The Shadow of the Scourge’ was generally well-received, it was perhaps a bit jarring for those listeners unfamiliar with the novels to suddenly see a colder Doctor more willing to sacrifice whoever and whatever he needed to achieve his aims alongside a more battle-hardened Ace. ‘The Dark Flame’ softens these traits, creating a more accessible and friendly entry point for strict Big Finish fans; while any exposure to Lisa Bowerman’s Professor Bernice (Benny) Summerfield is a definite treat, the story itself unfortunately lives up to the potential that all of its strong component pieces hold. While traveling to pick up Bernice from the Orbos research facility, the TARDIS is bombarded by a cry from help from the Doctor’s old scientist colleague on the facility, Remnex. Remnex has been experimenting with the incredibly dangerous black light that relates to fluctuations in the space-time continuum, and it appears as though he has met his death Only he hasn’t, and the experiments he…

The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
Episode / March 27, 2016

Aired 25 December 2011 The Doctor Who Christmas special has quickly become a must-see annual tradition. Yet for all the splendour and sometimes important storylines that the previous specials have dealt with, ‘The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe’ manages to feel more classically and quintessentially Christmas-y than any other. Following a slightly bigger opening in which Madge Artwell comes across a crash-landed Doctor and helps him back into his TARDIS, prompting a debt to be paid later, time jumps ahead a few years and the story begins to focus in on Madge herself, played fantastically by Caroline Skinner. She has just received news that her husband has died on the frontlines, facing the conundrum of both having to spend Christmas without him and having to find a way to tell her children of the loss. The Christmas special is by necessity something completely different from the proper series, and here Matt Smith is allowed to bring some levity and light-heartedness back to the role after having to carry so much emotional weight throughout the last few episodes. Companionless as still obviously affected by what has occurred to him, the Doctor nonetheless brings out a childish glee as he fills…

Nekromanteia
Audio / March 26, 2016

Released February 2003 Following two very successful and effective releases in ‘The Eye of the Scorpion’ and ‘The Church and the Crown,’ it seemed as if the newfound TARDIS trio of the Fifth Doctor, Peri, and Erimem was going to be bound for instant greatness regardless of the stories or situations they experienced. Unfortunately, ‘Nekromanteia’ can’t be saved by the strong performances of its affluent leads, failing to thoroughly explore its intriguing concepts and making poor characterization choices, especially for the Doctor and Peri. The Doctor, in particular, is very unimpressive in this script. After spending a significant amount of time calming Harlon in order not to be shot and attempting to get Erimem medical attention after she gets shot, he then- despite plenty of warnings from Harlon- without reason walks into Witches of Talderun’s temple and promptly gets beheaded and eaten after failing to reason with them. The premise is an interesting cliffhanger to be sure, but the events leading up to it paint the Doctor in a very negative and foolish light. Even afterwards, despite a pleasant initial cricket scene in the afterlife, his resurrection following a lengthy diatribe of technobabble is a little muddled. It is during…

The Wedding of River Song
Episode / March 26, 2016

Aired 1 October 2011 By beginning the revived Doctor Who‘s sixth series with the very public death of the Doctor, Steven Moffat was always going to have a tough task in wrapping up the plot arc in a satisfying manner that didn’t alienate its fans or more casual viewers. While it’s inevitable that not everyone will be pleased with the outcome, ‘The Wedding of River Song’ manages to tie together the loose threads and lingering questions without too much deus ex machina or paradox as might be expected. The beginning of ‘The Wedding of River Song’ is Doctor Who at its most confident, unabashedly referencing its past episodes and creating a grand spectacle in the process. In an alternative London, time is frozen at 17:02, and the likes of pterodactyls, steam trains on tracks in the sky, Roman soldiers, and even Charles Dickens advertising his upcoming Christmas special on television are all seen in quick succession. Enter a bedraggled Doctor who tells Winston Churchill that time has been splintered, causing all of history to happen at once. The cause? A woman. An extensive flashback follows, as the Doctor explains events and how this history came to be, establishing and re-establishing…

Closing Time
Episode / March 25, 2016

Aired 24 September 2011 Doctor Who has had many notable guest stars over the years playing a number of memorable supporting characters. While James Corden’s Craig from ‘The Lodger’ is certainly one of the quirkier and more endearing, he’s probably not the character that many were most yearning to see more of in another episode. On a farewell tour of sorts as his impending death approaches and again alone with no companions, the Doctor once more crosses paths with Craig in ‘Closing Time,’ though the end result isn’t quite as memorable as their first encounter. This majority of this series has been filled with utterly fantastic episodes, and so any misfire stands out even more than it may in previous years. Unfortunately, ‘Closing Time’ is one of those misfires, one that even the genuinely comedic and touching double act of Matt Smith and James Corden can’t save. The basis for the story is strong enough as a small group of Cybermen is restored due to the laying of power lines. Meshed in between some shopping centre banter is a genuine building of tension as many familiar horror mainstays such as malfunctioning lifts, flickering lights, and disappearing people are employed. Regrettably,…

Jubilee
Audio / March 25, 2016

Released January 2003 Big Finish kicks off the fortieth anniversary year by inviting back writer Robert Shearman- author of two of the very best audios so far in ‘The Holy Terror’ and ‘Chimes of Midnight’- to pen a Dalek tale. The result is another masterpiece that continues to showcase how superb the realization of imagination and drama can be in the audio medium. Events here take place on an alternate Earth in 2003, a fascist state that the Doctor inadvertently created by defeating the Daleks a century ago. Here, the Daleks are ridiculed and marketed in popular culture, the Doctor portrayed on screen as a dashing figure and Evelyn as his love interest. In this Glorious English Empire that has risen to lofty power in the world thanks to Dalek technology remnants, command and discipline are strict, even the use of contractions in language strictly forbidden. The parallels to the Dalek culture are obvious- commenting on the folly of not learning from the past- and the madness of the situation is perfectly portrayed by the President Nigel Rochester and wife Miriam, played by Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres, respectively. Rochester mutilating people from around the world and fitting them into…

The God Complex
Episode / March 25, 2016

Aired 17 September 2011 Ever since Doctor Who returned to screens in 2005, the storylines have very much focused on the companions as much as the Doctor, not only as they become more assertive in the face of evil but also regarding how said evil affects their lives. Although families have very much stayed in the background recently, there’s no denying that Amy and Rory’s episodes together have delved incredibly deeply into their psyches to fascinating affect, exploring their relationship with each other as well as with the Doctor, and ‘The God Complex’ continues that theme with another very strong offering. As the TARDIS lands in a rather ostentatious 1980s hotel, the Doctor and companions soon learn that each person in the hotel has a room that houses his or her greatest fear. The incredible camerawork and the presence of CCTV cameras creates a very eerie and disturbing experience, and the anticipation and fear of each character finding that one room keeps the concept inherently interesting. And while the brief appearances of the Weeping Angels, ventriloquist dummies, a clown, and even trendy girls (for the stereotypical shy nerd in the bunch) all tap into a wide variety of fears, it…

Bang-Bang-A-Boom!
Audio / March 24, 2016

Released December 2002 Coming nearly a year after the release of ‘The One Doctor,’ Big Finish reunites writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman to provide another tale rooted in comedy. Whereas that previous release focused on the tendencies of Doctor Who itself, however, ‘Bang-Bang-A-Boom!’ takes aim at more grandiose science fiction programmes such as Star Trek while including more than passing references to the Eurovision contest and some of the worst aspects of Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford’s televised series together. The plot of the tale essentially boils down to a murder mystery aboard Dark Space 8 during the Intergalactic Song Contest. As suspicion falls on a surprising amount of characters, it allows for a rather thorough exploration of everyone’s mindset and motivations and allows the secret conference storyline to unfold naturally. The Doctor assembling the surviving characters at the end and casting suspicion on each of them before revealing the true suspect is very characteristic of the shows this release is parodying, but it’s an unexpected pleasure to have the closing theme suddenly stop as Mel realizes that the answers are all too easy, resulting in another crazed rush to stop the true villain. It really comes down to…

The Girl Who Waited
Episode / March 24, 2016

Aired 10 September 2011 In an era where story arcs are becoming more and more commonplace, it’s telling that two of the most memorable stories from this series so far have been standalone entries, first with ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and now with Tom MacRae’s ‘The Girl Who Waited.’ The TARDIS lands on the holiday planet Apalapucia near a door with two buttons alongside it, and it is soon discovered that the planet is under quarantine. The Doctor and Rory exit the TARDIS and press one button before proceeding through the door, and Amy then follows and unknowingly presses the other button before going through the same door, entering somewhere completely different. The multiple time streams in the different environments soon become apparent, present to allow farewells to those affected and Amy’s area running at a much faster rate. What follows, as the title aptly suggests, is a story very much about Amy Pond, and Karen Gillan again delivers an incredibly strong and moving performance. In a fascinating reversal from the young and innocent Amelia Pond who presented in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ as the one person the Doctor hadn’t screwed up yet, the older Amy who has been caught in time…