Human Nature
Episode / April 29, 2016

Aired 26 May 2007 Part of the fun of Doctor Who is imagining how different incarnations of the Doctor would react to and resolve a situation. It’s well known that several of David Tennant’s early episodes were written with Christopher Eccleston in mind as the protagonist; even though the two actors and Doctors are radically different in style and tone, it also speaks volumes as to just how similar the different incarnations are. With that in mind, ‘Human Nature’ and its concluding half ‘Family of Blood’ are adapted from Paul Cornell’s The New Adventures Seventh Doctor novel Human Nature, and the end result is a superb spin on a classic formula that simultaneously celebrates everything that is and is not Doctor Who. At the same time, though he’s been very strong with the material given since taking over the titular role, this is the first episode where it’s impossible to even think of anyone but David Tennant as the Doctor. Quite famously, the Seventh Doctor of The New Adventures range is a much darker and more manipulative figure than ever shown on television, this ‘era’ truly invoking how alien the Doctor is. Compared to almost any other actor in the…

42
Episode / April 29, 2016

Aired 19 May 2007 The threat of a ticking clock is an excellent means of raising tension in an episode- television’s 24 proving how action-packed and sustaining that premise can be- and Doctor Who takes a stab at that format with the intriguing ’42.’ The scripting falls to Chris Chibnall here as he makes his Doctor Who debut after writing a couple of Torchwood tales that were met with mixed reviews. Unsurprisingly, 42 is very well-paced as the threat looms large, but it gets manages to get so caught up in its pacing that it fails to explore its supporting cast and setting well enough to truly create an immersive experience. Fortunately, the adept use of frantically changing camera angles, superb special effects, and some astounding set design and lighting choices help to elevate the immersion and splendour even within the confines of the space station. The danger that the enemy- eerily personified as a member of the crew wearing a welding mask- poses is made abundantly clear, and the mounting death count of the crew members as they are burned and reduced to ash is quite effective. The issue is that it’s tough to really care about these deaths…

The Council of Nicaea
Audio / April 28, 2016

Released July 2005 Caroline Symcox finally gets the opportunity to write her own story for Big Finish after previously co-authoring ‘Seasons of Fear’ with Paul Cornell. The result is ‘The Council of Nicaea,’ a fascinating tale that explores the history of the church extensively. Theology is used very well throughout, and it is from factions with disparate theological viewpoints that the danger to the Doctor and his companion arises. The concept of Christ’s divinity becomes the focal point, a discussion important enough for the Emperor himself to become involved in at the titular Council and a topic much more meaningful to Erimem who comes from a religiously-centred society. In fact, there is an innate air of dissent about the TARDIS crew throughout the story, starting from the beginning as Erimem expresses interest in events and being relatively close to home whereas Peri can only think about the poor local facilities and conditions sure to meet them. Shockingly, though, it’s Erimem who starts causing much more trouble as events progress, especially once she discovers that Arius will not be given the opportunity to defend his beliefs at the Council while facing persecution. This brings her into a conflicting position with the…

The Lazarus Experiment
Episode / April 28, 2016

Aired 5 May 2007 Holding onto youth and vitality is one of the key cornerstones of modern society, and that notion forms the backbone for ‘The Lazarus Experiment,’ an enjoyable if straightforward monster tale that gets the series back on stronger footing after the relative misfire of the Dalek two-parter. The straightforward nature may be slightly offputting to some, but ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ certainly manages to channel and evoke the Pertwee era with a modern twist. Here, once more, a scientist on Earth disregards the Doctor’s warnings about messing with forces of nature, a good deal of running around and racing against the clock when the experiment goes wrong then following. Mark Gatiss plays Professor Richard Lazarus, a genius of advanced age who still holds enough influence to throw a large party to show off his reverse aging machine while boasting about himself. Martha’s sister, Tish, is his public relations assistant, and she’s also the subject of some unwanted attention from Lazarus, which becomes a bit more forward once he uses his machine on himself and seems to forget about his long-time wife. Of course, in life and especially in Doctor Who, prizes as alluring as immortality come with a…

Unregenerate!
Audio / April 27, 2016

Released June 2005 The loss of one’s sanity is a terrifying concept to consider, and it’s only natural that Doctor Who would at some point find itself in an insane asylum where experiments are being performed upon the patients. ‘Unregenerate!’ has some interesting ideas behind it that play nicely into the overall mythology of the programme, but the end result is a messy, overly complicated script that manages to lose its way in offering any substantial drama. Instead of exploring those intriguing ideas in detail, te majority of ‘Unregenerate!’ is presented as a mystery with the characters trying to figure out what is happening around them. This is itself is not a bad choice, but the decision to include the Time Lords and to further complicate the Doctor’s relationship with them as they continue their almost xenophobic ways surprisingly detracts from the overall proceedings. Still, the planting of the minds or consciences of TARDISes within people’s heads as a means of keeping tabs on time travelers is a fascinating concept, if again a bit more bombastic and complicated than need be. The fake asylum on Earth, the Doctor facing amnesia and a crisis of identity, and a great double act…

Three’s A Crowd
Audio / April 26, 2016

Released May 2005 ‘Three’s A Crowd’ evokes the Peter Davison era of the classic series immensely well and, even if the plot becomes a bit predictable, it moves along at a quick and steady rate and boasts some clever ideas. The title could, of course, refer to the current TARDIS crew, but it also directly to the Earth Colony Phoenix where each human lives in complete isolation except at designated times when they may interact with one other individual. Over time, these people have become agoraphobic, afraid of social contact, and though Bellip does seem quite taken with Laroq at the social as she asks for patience in developing some sort of a relationship, the arrival of Peri by teleport throws everything into chaos. The revolutionary Vidler who wants to create a mass interaction of eight or more people helps to complete this strange backdrop for the story, but it seems like there are several missed opportunities for further exploration. The isolation of people and their preferred contact electronically clearly speaks to a trend in modern culture, and the fact that the podcasts the colonists watch are controlled by Auntie is another jab that never really gets explored. These ideas…

Evolution of the Daleks
Episode / April 25, 2016

Aired 28 April 2007 ‘Evolution of the Daleks’ carries on the story put forth in ‘Daleks of Manhattan,’ putting a unique spin on the typical Dalek storyline but ultimately falling apart under some questionable choices and plot points. The part of the story that works surprisingly well is the Dalek-human hybrid Sec and his evolving perspective. Sec is never portrayed as a godlike or even saintlike being, but it’s interesting that he comes up with a peaceful plan that would have worked, only to be spurned by the Doctor and his innate fury. One of the Doctor’s go-to tactics is to offer invading aliens another chance through relocation to another planet, and here it’s Sec who pleads for that offer, not wanting to be a burden or threat to humanity. Sec remains reasonable throughout and is able to answer every question and insult the Doctor throws his way, providing a fascinating foil for the Doctor. Eric Loren does exceedingly well as Sec, able to express a great deal of emotion through the makeup and, while it’s not quite as effective when Sec talks about gaining a human capacity for warlike behaviour, the innocent reactions to new emotions and the sense…

Daleks in Manhattan
Episode / April 24, 2016

Aired 21 April 2007 At its core, Doctor Who is a family programme that doesn’t always ask viewers to take its stories too seriously, unafraid to play with formats and even poke fun at itself along the way. The exception to this rule so far in the revived programme has been the Daleks, the iconic foe that so much care and effort was put into to restore them to their former glory. And so even though they just made a surprising appearance at the end of last series, anticipation was high that the first mid-series two-parter featuring the Daleks would impress and dazzle. These early two-parters haven’t exactly been the standout successes of their respective series, ‘Aliens of London’/’World War Three’ and ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’ being serviceable but hardly classic adventures. Unfortunately, as the opening part of this tale, ‘Daleks in Manhattan’ falls squarely into that category as well, channeling a sort of B-movie vibe as it puts on display truly atrocious New York accents and questionable aliens and schemes. Whereas the Daleks have been portrayed as truly galactic conquerors that need to be feared in their first appearances, it’s inherently underwhelming to see them hiding…

Catch-1782
Audio / April 24, 2016

Released April 2005 The rebirth and redefining of the Sixth Doctor has unquestionably been one of the distinct highlights of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audios, but the recent adventures featuring Colin Baker’s incarnation have lacked that something extra to really set them apart like so many of his earlier releases did. This trend continues in ‘Catch-1782,’ a story that takes a unique perspective but fails to fully explore or realize the full potential of its approach. The Doctor and Mel, answering an invitation from Mel’s uncle, arrive at a scientific foundation to join in its centennial celebrations with a time capsule ceremony. The building that the Foundation is situated in once belonged to Mel’s family, and she takes the opportunity to do some exploring into her own past, soon finding herself somehow transported into the past and interacting with her own ancestors. This premise holds great potential as the past can directly change the personal future, and a derivation of it has even been used in Big Finish’s own ‘The Marian Conspiracy.’ Rather than political intrigue, though, the past in ‘Catch-1782’ focuses mostly on Mel trying to integrate herself into her ancestor Henry Hallam’s home, the requisite drama of the…

Gridlock
Episode / April 23, 2016

Aired 14 April 2007 ‘Gridlock’ is an odd episode, a follow-up to the already-divisive ‘New Earth,’ and another episode that is sure to have both its lovers and its haters. The story is rather light on plot, and the story itself comes about from the Doctor trying to decide if he’s ready to take another companion aboard the TARDIS full time after decreeing that Martha would only get the one to Shakespeare’s time. Unfortunately for the Doctor, Rose still weighs heavily on his mind and, whether it’s because of his alien nature or because of an emotionally-driven misjudgment, he decides to take Martha to the same planet as Rose’s first trip with him. Whereas Rose got to sample the fresh air and technological marvels of the countryside, Martha gets to experience the inner slums of the city, emerging into a street full of drug vendors- portrayed in a rather comic fashion due to the family nature of the programme, of course. Martha is soon kidnapped by two young people claiming her so that they can use the motorway’s fast lane, prompting an outright fury in the Doctor that is brought out well by David Tennant as he threatens to close…