Nocturne
Audio / May 31, 2016

Released February 2007 ‘Nocturne’ is an intriguing release, a compilation of really good concepts that never quite come together cohesively to offer a fully polished story. The planet of Nocturne itself is a military transit point at the far edge of human-controlled space during a seventy-year war against the Foucoo. The Doctor has brought his companions Ace and Hex to Glasst City on Nocturne, one of his favourite places, for some rest and relaxation, the city itself a haven for artists and philosophers in what has become known as the Far Renaissance. Unfortunately, their arrival occurs at the same time that fires mysteriously start breaking out in the city as an unnerving noise fills the air at night. Big Finish writers seemed to have a difficult time capturing Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in the early releases, but that issue has generally been getting better with each successive release. ‘Nocturne’ isn’t necessarily a misstep in characterization given the darker nature of the Seventh Doctor, but his apparent eagerness to kill the creature troubling Glasst City certainly goes against how Big Finish has written him up to this point and undermines a heartfelt confession about his laws he had made moments earlier. For…

Circular Time
Audio / May 31, 2016

Released January 2007 ‘Circular Time’ is something of an experiment for Big Finish, a compilation of four unrelated stories featuring the Doctor and Nyssa and exploring different aspects of time. Spring– The Time Lord Cardinal Zero has decided to retire from Gallifrey, taking up residence on a rainforest planet with a dominant avian species, one for which he as great plans. The Doctor arrives to ensure that Cardinal Zero does not interfere with the timelines, and Nyssa is distressed to find that this species’s form of justice involves punishing the youngest member of the criminal’s family. This is a very straightforward story, and due to the brevity of the running time some of the Doctor’s actions seem a little contrived to suit narrative purposes and Zero’s plans and also to help the resolution. Regardless, Hugh Fraser is absolutely delightful as an arrogant Time Lord who firmly believes that he knows what is best for the avian people, wanting to become the Prophet of legend by bringing about a radical change that will bring them out of their barbaric traditions that time has ingrained into their society. Summer– Summer is possible the most direct and accessible of the stories included in…

Year of the Pig
Audio / May 30, 2016

Released December 2006 ‘Year of the Pig’ is a very atypical Doctor Who release, one in which the cover brazenly displays the basic premise of the Doctor meeting an intelligent and cultured pig, but the end result- for those who will give it a chance and are willing to listen to its characters and their dialogue rather than be bombarded with ostentatious action sequences- is a uniquely satisfying one in its own right. As the Sixth Doctor and Peri arrive to relax at a Belgian resort in 1913, they unwittingly draw the attention of several other visitors to the area, notably the titular pig Toby with his telescope in his hotel room who is sure somebody is there to kill him. The plot takes its time getting where it wants to, but that’s not meant to be taken as a criticism. It simply has a very relaxed demeanour about it, allowing events to unfold at more causal pace and for its characters to have very thorough conversations. With Toby being an exaggerated extreme of the intelligent pigs that used to travel around in carnival acts of the time and the ‘Year of the Pig’ unafraid to have discussions about the…

Turn Left
Episode / May 30, 2016

Aired 21 June 2008 Nearing the end of its fourth incredibly successful series, the modern series of Doctor Who brazenly celebrates itself with ‘Turn Left,’ essentially Doctor Who meets A Wonderful Life and telling the tale of the world had Donna not been there to stop and save the Doctor in her debut tale ‘The Runaway Bride.’ With the Doctor dead, killed too quickly to regenerate, Donna takes the lead in this story and provides an entry point for the viewing audience to experience the strange and alien events witnessed over the past two years from a completely normal family. Of course, without her travels with the Doctor to temper her, the Donna on display is much more in line with the brasher and more self-centred version from her debut; it thus makes perfect sense that, upon seeing the Titanic crash into Buckingham Palace and flood a good portion of the country with radiation, her biggest gut reaction would be to her inability to move to Leeds rather than to the loss of life and ramifications involved. As the events continue to unfold, there is a recurring background story of the world at large trying to carry on normally, and…

No Man’s Land
Audio / May 30, 2016

Released November 2006 World War I brings with it the horrible imagery of trench warfare, soldiers on each side protecting their zones with weaponry and praying they would not have to enter No Man’s Land, the area between trenches dangerously filled with landmines and barbed wire. It’s one of the most shocking and brutal settings in human warfare history, and it also helps to create a wonderfully atmospheric tale as Big Finish releases another historical serial. The Doctor, Ace, and Hex, awake in a British hospital in Northern France designed to help British soldiers regain their desire to fight as quickly as possible. Lieutenant Colonel Brook is in charge of the proceedings as the hospital, using prosaic questionnaires and morning hate sessions to achieve his aims. Yet even as Hex demands to leave and the Doctor becomes distinctly uncomfortable and angry with the methods, Brook demands that they stay, having received orders that three civilian advisers will be arriving to investigate a murder at the hospital, a murder that has not happened. ‘No Man’s Land’ features a well-constructed plot that is filled with enjoyable secondary characters and plenty of misdirections. Even as it brings in elements of technology and the…

Midnight
Episode / May 30, 2016

Aired 14 June 2008 ‘Midnight’ is, simply put, a magnificent piece of science fiction and quite possibly the strongest episode Russell T Davies has contributed to Doctor Who yet. Saying that, there is unquestionably a polarizing aspect to it that, despite its sterling plot and characterizations, may leave some viewers underwhelmed and unfulfilled. With Donna Noble enjoying a holiday, the Doctor boards a shuttlecraft to view the utopic and undisturbed splendour of the surface of the planet Midnight. What follows is a tightly-scripted character piece that explores what happens when a small group of confined people come under siege from a mysterious force outside, only to have the real menace secretly manifest within the shuttle. Indeed, ‘Midnight’ directly contradicts the underlying optimism of Doctor Who that people are inherently good in all places at all times across the cosmos. Here, the other passengers become the true villains of the piece as their inner natures and prejudices are slowly revealed, in a sense echoing what the Master reveals happens to humans trapped and without hope in ‘The Last of the Time Lords.’ It’s particularly interesting to note that, as individuals, each passenger does possess a sense of good, and it’s not…

Memory Lane
Website / May 30, 2016

Released October 2006 ‘Memory Lane’ begins on a perfect summer day in an idyllic English neighbourhood, an ice cream truck rolling down the street and snooker playing on the television. Unfortunately, what seems to be a peaceful and unassuming place houses a much greater secret, and writer Eddie Robson slowly increases the mystery and sense of unease to create an enjoyably unsettling but still lighthearted experience. With a shorter running time than most Big Finish main range releases, ‘Memory Lane’ moves along at a very brisk pace with minimal padding. Tom Braudy, a ten-year-old boy, starts off as the focus of the intrigue as he builds a spaceship out of Legos. Strangely, though, he appears to be much, much older than his age would suggest, and his Nan seems completely undisturbed by the appearance of the TARDIS which is then promptly stolen by the driver of the ice cream truck. Yet finding the TARDIS proves rather difficult as every house in the unending neighbourhood is the exact same, each filled with its own Tom’s Nan and each one’s television playing a video of astronauts trying to escape from a creature aboard their ship, one of the astronauts sounding eerily like…

UNIT: Dominion
Website / May 27, 2016

Released October 2012 UNIT: Dominion is an ambitious and epic four-part box set that brings together several loose threads and mysteries in the Doctor Who universe in a very satisfying manner. With the return of Elizabeth Klein and of the televised companion that never was in Raine Creevy, UNIT and its human soldiers, alien invasions and interdimensional threats, and an unknown future incarnation of the Doctor, Dominion throws everything at its listeners with unabashed glee, creating an intense and thrilling experience along the way. The first part does quite well in setting the initial scene. The Seventh Doctor and Raine, following a distress call through the dimensional divide, land on the Tolean homeworld, desiccated by an ancient Gallifreyan device called a Node. It is here that the Doctor meets his future incarnation who warns him not to help the Tolians, and it is back on Earth that UNIT’s scientific adviser Klein is offered assistance by this same unknown Doctor when she discovers another Node herself. Naturally, the Seventh Doctor succumbs to his hubris and ignore his future self, using the Node to open a path to another dimension from which he can transfer energy back to the Tolean homeworld to…

The Gathering
Audio / May 27, 2016

Released September 2006 Big Finish has been releasing Doctor Who audio adventures since 1999 and, finally, Janet Fielding has reprised her role as the strong and stubborn Tegan Jovanka, agreeing to do so for one story only to provide a sense of closure for the character. In fact, ‘The Gathering’ is based upon the Fifth Doctor reuniting with his companion decades after they went their own separate ways, and although Tegan may not be the core focal point of the story, it’s quite clear that this is a tale about Tegan herself. It’s Tegan’s forty-sixth birthday in the story, and she’s quite overwhelmed that the small celebratory outing she had agreed to has turned into a rather bigger party with even the Doctor in attendance. Apparently, the Doctor happened upon Dr Katherine Chambers, one of the party’s hosts and someone who clearly knows who the Doctor is, as he was investigating a series of energy anomalies, leading to the reunion of sorts. Fielding recaptures the sort of acerbic wit, determination, and bravery so characteristic of Tegan effortlessly, and the length of time that has passed since traveling with the Doctor means that she is an unknown quantity at this point,…

Forest of the Dead
Episode / May 26, 2016

Aired 7 June 2008 ‘Forest of the Dead’ concludes the events set in motion in ‘Silence in the Library,’ masterfully piecing together every dangling plot thread it wanted to and offering a few surprises along the way. This is still a story very much based around concepts Steven Moffat has already used, but the end result is an extremely entertaining one nonetheless. The ending probably deserves the most note, cleverly turning the ever-present sonic screwdriver into a legitimate plot device as it holds the ghostly data fragments of River and thus saves her life in the only meaningful way the Doctor could hope to achieve. It would have been entirely appropriate to simply end the episode with a still shot of the spoiler-filled journal, but the extra motivation from the Doctor to save River certainly creates an altogether more memorable ending for a character that seems like she may still find her way back into the programme at some point in the future. Moffat also proves adept once more at subtly inserting horror into seemingly normal situations. The revelation that every male and female child in Donna’s life is the exact same is chilling, and the casual realization that six…