The Church and the Crown
Audio / March 24, 2016

Released November 2002 ‘The Church and the Crown’ represents a return for Doctor Who to the pure historical format, a story type long since abandoned in favour of including generally more exciting and fantastic science fiction elements. Yet this story presents history in a very entertaining fashion more suited for the modern audience, paying homage to The Three Musketeers and full of a great deal of wit, intrigue, and action. The key component to this story’s success if the great characterization, focusing primarily on Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis. Although both straddle the line between detestable and sympathetic figures as they antagonize each other, they ultimately are able to put aside their differences for the overall sake of France thanks to the timely intervention and persuasiveness of the Doctor and his companions. Andrew Mackay captures the arrogance of the monarch perfectly, and Michael Shallard brings across the frustration of Richelieu’s desire for a unified France believably. Just as importantly, though, the two musketeers Delmarre and Rouffet are brought to roguish life incredibly well by Peter John and Andy Coleman, respectively, and their growing respect and awe for the Doctor as he talks and fights his way through situations is a…

Night Terrors
Episode / March 24, 2016

Aired 3 September 2011 After a surprisingly lengthy number of consecutive episodes set either in Earth’s past or future or on different planets, Doctor Who returns to the Earth in the present day with the smaller-scale but suitably creepy ‘Night Terrors.’ While the Tensa, a scared and confused psychic entity strong enough to communicate with the Doctor across the universe, isn’t necessarily the most novel concept, its portrayal and the resultant look at a child’s perception as well as a parent’s dilemma make for a fantastic and surprisingly insightful story. Whether intentional or not, the relationship between parents and child has been present in both episodes kicking off the second half of this series, focusing both on the dysfunctional and successful aspects of the relationships. Here the alien Tensa is abandoned and left to fend for itself, attaching to a human family and altering their perceptions to fit into their lives seamlessly. The sheer fear of being abandoned again inadvertently leads to the parents being terrorized themselves, looking to external sources to resolve their issues with their son. This setup allows for a fascinating exploration of the fragility of psyches and how even the best intent can have negative ramifications.…

The Sandman
Audio / March 23, 2016

Released October 2002 Big Finish continues its streak of bringing new writers and experimenting with formats in ‘The Sandman.’ Here, Simon A Forwards presents the perspective of those that the Doctor has affected and bringing into question previous assumptions and expectations along the way. The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn land among the Clutch, an assembled collection of migratory ships that is a home of sorts to the reptilian Galyari race. The Galyari, as it turns out, are very familiar with the Doctor, holding a deep fear for him- or the Sandman as they know him- as well as the death and destruction he brings. There have been several attempts to make many of the different Doctors a darker character, and although the Seventh Doctor is known best for this trait, Colin Baker believably portrays a more sinister edge to his own version here. The script is clever enough to drop clues as to why this change in temperament occurs, but it leaves enough unanswered to successfully sustain the mystery of the Sandman. Even the manner in which the fact that the Doctor and the Sandman are the same being is revealed is quite nonchalant and understated, though the incredible fear…

Let’s Kill Hitler
Episode / March 23, 2016

Aired 27 August 2011 After its first official midseries break, Doctor Who blasts back onto screens with an audacious adventure, offering further exploration into the increasingly complex relationship between the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River in the process. Through the use of a series of true flashbacks, it’s clear that Melody Pond has been a part of Amy and Rory’s life for far longer than just as the infant glimpsed in ‘A Good man Goes to War.’ Taking a cue from the headscratcher that was the Doctor’s escapism from the Pandorica, writer Steven Moffat offers another paradox of sorts through the introduction of their childhood friend Mels. Though a troubled individual, it is Mels who gets Amy to realize that Rory likes her as more than a friend after showing just how dedicated he is to her at an early age. She is so important to the pair of them that they decide to name their daughter after her, and as she regenerates into River Song later in the story the fact that they named their daughter after their daughter is a delightful quirk. It’s from Mels, though, that the tantalizing title ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ comes as the Doctor and…

The Rapture
Audio / March 22, 2016

Released September 2002 Joseph Lidster sets his debut Doctor Who story in the unlikeliest of settings as the Seventh Doctor and Ace land on the island paradise of Ibiza where angels have arrived to save the sinners through the power of music at their dance club The Rapture. Given how crucial the club setting and music is to the progression of events, it’s a testament to Jim Mortimore and Jane Elphinstone’s score and sound design that everything flows so well. Rather than forcing the Doctor and Ace straight into the action, the script wisely begins at a slower pace with the Doctor giving in to Ace’s desires to take a break from traveling. This allows for a relaxed introduction to Ibiza before Ace- like so many others on the island before her- becomes entranced by The Rapture and its musically heightened atmosphere. As the Doctor doesn’t instantly become involved in investigations into the club, this setup affords a more character-driven exploration of Ace as she interacts with her new friends. At the end of ‘Colditz,’ Ace declared that it was time for her to grow up after witnessing death first-hand. This thread is successfully picked up here, tying nicely into…

A Good Man Goes to War
Episode / March 22, 2016

Aired 4 June 2011 Considering the fairly intricate and twisting plots Steven Moffat has presented in many of the episodes he has penned, ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ surprisingly offers a more straightforward tale as Doctor Who concludes the first half of this series. Still, there is an epic blockbuster feel to proceedings and a heavier dose of action than recent episodes have featured, and events easily weave their way to the cliffhanger ending that sets up the concluding run of episodes nicely, offering some much needed answers along the way. In a bit of neat role reversal from ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ the Doctor calls in several favours to assemble an army of his own following the revelation at the end of ‘The Almost People,’ affording him a tremendous victory- though perhaps not as epic as the fates had proclaimed. The trap that is set as well as the creation and use of another Time Lord of sorts to destroy the Doctor is certainly a unique and fascinating plan of action, though it does seem quite circuitous and present just to serve the plot going forward. Still, it’s hard to argue just how incredibly effective and shocking the faux…

…ish
Audio / March 22, 2016

Released August 2002 ‘…ish’ is an intriguing release for Big Finish, reuniting Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Sixth Doctor and Peri for the first time since ‘Whispers of Terror.’ Like in that story, the Doctor is drawn into a murder mystery of sorts in which sound or language itself is sentient in a sense and crucial to the plot; however, new writer Phil Pascoe twists the central concept of turning sound into a villain and instead focuses on his love for the English language and just how much detail goes into language, grammar, and the art of conversation. Set at a linguistic conference with the purpose of presenting the most complete dictionary in the universe, language is the underlying theme and is explored to its fullest. The breadth and distinctiveness of words used and the subtlety and elaborate nature of sentence structure ensure that the importance of language is never far from the forefront of events. Herein enters Book, the representation of language to its fullest extent, the artificial intelligence behind the Lexicon dictionary who is striving to define every possible word and every possible connotation and derivative, a goal that brings about the key struggle of ‘…ish.’…

The Almost People
Episode / March 21, 2016

Aired 28 May 2011 ‘The Almost People’ picks up events immediately where ‘The Rebel Flesh’ ended, and in continuing its story completes easily the most traditional of Doctor Who tales in a very long time. This is no strike against the episode, though, as it remains thoroughly entertaining up to and through its shocking epilogue. The sense of confusion due to the doubles that pervaded the atmosphere last time returns and, if anything, is actually increased, helping to steer events to their logical conclusion and demanding the characters’ and the audience’s attention. Matt Smith quickly becomes even more of a presence than he normally is thanks to the addition of his Ganger. The time it takes for the duplicate to become adjusted and stable allows for some fun callbacks to previous Doctors, but it’s apparent throughout that Smith is thoroughly enjoying himself as events progress, convincingly playing off of himself and even holding conversations with himself. Again, this is no easy task, but each of the duplicated humans manages to portray their two versions exceptionally well, Sarah Smart again doing yeoman’s work as Jennifer becomes more integral. Mark Bonnar and Raquel Cassidy offer very strong and convincing performances as well,…

The Rebel Flesh
Episode / March 21, 2016

Aired 21 May 2011 Following two wildly different standalone episodes, Doctor Who returns to a more traditional tale with ‘The Rebel Flesh,’ the opening installment of a two-part story. With the pacing slowed down, writer Matthew Graham allows for a deep exploration of the characters and their choices in a near-future situation. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in a twenty-second century monastery that is being used as a factory. To minimize risk with acid and more dangerous situations, the workers employ the use of technology that creates doppelgangers of themselves (called Gangers in the story). However, rather than creating a robotic replacement or some other base equivalent, the technology creates sentient beings with the same memories and emotional capabilities as the humans. This, of course, allows for powerful storytelling opportunities; as a strong solar storm wreaks havoc with the system, the established situation and means of doing things quickly change. In general, the Gangers are brought to life effectively and given a bit of a sinister appearance- as long as they are not performing superhuman feats of stretching and such that strain the CGI verisimilitude and budget. However, the instability of their forms adds an intriguing aspect to their…

Spare Parts
Audio / March 21, 2016

Released July 2002 ‘Spare Parts’ may just be the best Cyberman story released in any medium. Too often the Cybermen are merely portrayed as emotionless robots, largely ignoring the humanity and emotion underlying their very existence and, as such, lessening their potential impact. By setting this story on Mondas at the very creation of the Cyberman race, the scope of these issues is unabashedly at the forefront of proceedings, and the overall tale is all the stronger for it. Mondas, of course, had been alluded to back as early as ‘The Tenth Planet,’ its extreme orbit into the depths of space forcing its inhabitants to live underground to stand any chance of surviving the hostile conditions. While there are still peddlers of human organs for those needing transplants, mechanized replacements are much more common and effective, though the conversion process means the loss of everything humanity entails. Doctorman Allan states bluntly that she is helping to turn the population into a mindless group of automatons. Big Finish is free of any constraints that television and timeslots place on Doctor Who, and so the true horror of the conversion process can be fleshed out more thoroughly. Here the mechanical and monotonous…