Judoon in Chains
Audio / July 30, 2016

Released July 2016 Following the Fifth Doctor’s triumphant encounter with the Weeping Angels, Big Finish’s Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume One set continues with the Sixth Doctor crossing paths with the Judoon in the eponymous ‘Judoon in Chains.’ Compared to most alien races in Doctor Who, the Judoon are still somewhat of an unknown quantity, clearly a determined force for justice but having only prominently featured once in ‘Smith and Jones.’ Pairing this monosyllabic race dedicated to rules and due process with the boisterous Sixth Doctor is an immensely intriguing concept, and fortunately the story ends up delivering fully on its potential while delving further into the titular race. Framed within the context of the Judoon Captain Kybo being on trial for desertion unfolds an altogether more intriguing story of individuality and morality. The Sixth Doctor is, of course, no stranger to the courtroom, but fortunately these scenes feature only rather briefly, setting the scene at the beginning and proving monumentally important to the conclusion at the end as the Judoon’s penchant for removing areas from local jurisdiction- in this case a Victorian era courtoom from Earth- brings the Galactic Court into the fold. While Kybo may, indeed, be a…

Fallen Angels
Audio / July 29, 2016

Released July 2016 Big Finish begins a new undertaking with its Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume One set, a collection of four stories that sees the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth incarnations of the Doctor meet up with foes (or variations of in the case of the Sontarans) only introduced on screen since the programme’s revival in 2005. Arguably the most successful of these villains are the Weeping Angels, and it’s they who Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor must confront in the first story, ‘Fallen Angels.’ The Weeping Angels are perhaps the epitome of a villain who needs the visual medium to fully shine given how instantaneously they move and change expressions, and so Big Finish had the monumental task of transitioning that visceral and visual threat into the audio medium. To the credit of ‘Fallen Angels,’ the descriptive and emotional dialogue paired with stellar audio cues does as well as can be expected, but the Angels are a bit more in the background and are simply talked about more than on television, perhaps as an acknowledgment that less is more is the best approach with them in the audio format. Additionally, while this is no fault of the script itself…

The Raincloud Man
Audio / July 29, 2016

Released December 2008 ‘The Raincloud Man’ serves as a pseudo-sequel to ‘The Condemned,’ the Sixth Doctor and Charley once more cross paths with DI Menzies who is now an investigator of alien affairs in London. Freed of the necessary burden of introducing and buildings this character up from scratch, ‘The Raincloud Man’ quickly sends its plot in several different directions involving a unique battle between the virus-like Cylox and the warlike Tabbalac, an interplanetary casino, Charley’s continued insistence on hiding her true identity from the Doctor, and a peculiar coin from the future. After defeating the Krotons in an unpublished adventure, the Doctor and Charley head for breakfast, unwittingly discovering a mystery that takes them into the depths of the Manchester criminal scene. Wisely, the script separates the two leads, allowing each to uncover pieces of information before rejoining to move the plot forward in an attempt to end a centuries-long war. Charley is never far from the Doctor’s mind, however; despite the rather inconsistent information he has gained about Charley, especially regarding her apparent knowledge about the web of time, he refuses to believe she is capable of such heinous acts as murder as Menzies suggests at one point.…

The Reign of Terror
Episode / July 28, 2016

Aired 8 August โ€“ 12 September 1964 The first series of Doctor Who ends with ‘The Reign of Terror,’ another step back into history as the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara visit revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1794. While the first run of episodes certainly has its ups and downs, the progressive characterization of the leads- most notably the Doctor himself- has been a thematic undercurrent throughout each of the successive adventures. Unfortunately, without any real reason or explanation given, the Doctor regresses to his arrogant, temperamental, and curt personality really only seen in ‘An Unearthly Child.’ The story even has him go so far as to twice club an individual on the back of the head, a true defining moment of the anti-hero status in the premiere but further going against the softening development and evolution that highlighted his early time in the TARDIS. Despite everything the characters have been through and the trust that developed over the televised year, the Doctor is keen to get rid of Ian and Barbara so that he can continue exploring the universe untethered, not even bothering to check where or when he has landed for the apparent departure point. Fortunately Ian…

Forty-Five
Audio / July 26, 2016

Released November 2008 ‘Forty-Five’ celebrates Doctor Who‘s forty-fifth anniversary with the Seventh Doctor alongside Ace and Hex, following the anthology format of ‘100’ and ‘Circular Time’ with four individual one-part stories linked only by the number forty-five. Mark Morris’s ‘False Gods’ begins the collection, finding the TARDIS team meet up with archaeologist Howard Carter while searching for the lost tomb of Userhat and attempting to undo the damage done by a student. Unfortunately, because of the short nature of the story, none of the characters get fully developed; Benedict Cumberbatch is suitably strong as Carter but nothing proves to be incredibly vital to the plot and Lucy Adams does her best in the limited time to earn sympathy as the unsympathetic Jane Templeton who is not all that she seems. While Sylvester McCoy offers a fascinating and rather more volatile and vulnerable take on his Doctor than usual, Philip Olivier and Sophie Aldred are unfortunately put more in the background for proceedings. ‘False Gods’ ma not be the strongest story, but the twist in the middle keeps its momentum going and the conclusion wraps everything up nicely. Nick Scovell’s ‘Order of Simplicity’ forms the second part, another story which features…

UNIT: Shutdown
Audio / July 25, 2016

Released June 2016 In a year without a new series of the televised Doctor Who, Big Finish is keeping the modern world alive with the continuing adventures of UNIT headed by Kate Stewart with the help of scientific adviser Osgood. Following the astronomical positive success of UNIT: Extinction and the return of the Autons, expectations were incredibly high for UNIT: Shutdown and the introduction of the new foe the Tengobushi. Bolstered by incredibly strong performances and action-packed sequences, Shutdown continues the darker tones of the original box set while increasing the sort of shadowy tension that a covert international group would necessarily entail. Shutdown begins with Matt Fitton’s ‘Power Cell,’ a tense piece of character development that sets up the threat and intrigue. Kate becomes entwined with Lyme Industries and its leader Felicity Lyme who has come into possession of a rather powerful piece of alien technology. It’s clear from the start that Lyme Industries is more than it seems as a leader in energy research, and its connections with high-ranking government officials is certainly unsettling, but the subtle exploration into the goings-on behind the scenes is very effective and forms a suitably strong backbone for the introductory story among…

The Sensorites
Episode / July 22, 2016

Aired 20 June โ€“ 1 August 1964 Following the superb historical adventure with the Aztecs, Doctor Who again takes off in a completely different direction, this time going back into the depths of space while exploring an alien mystery in ‘The Sensorites.’ While this story does not hold up in terms of plot or pacing as well as the first trip into space in ‘The Daleks,’ there are still some clever ideas and character development to be had. For the first time, the lead characters take a moment to reflect on what they’ve seen and how far they’ve come since first meeting, showcasing early character development with particular focus on the Doctor himself who has become a much more heroic and steadfast figure than initially. This is a man who still puts the safety and well-being of Susan above all else, but he is also learning to accept Ian and Barbara as stand-in family members as well. Perhaps learning from his overconfidence in ‘The Daleks,’ the Doctor does not rush in to explore the spaceship with its seemingly dead crew, instead trying to usher his companions back into the TARDIS and avoid the situation altogether. This sort of non-intervention policy…

Brotherhood of the Daleks
Audio / July 21, 2016

Released October 2008 ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ has a reputation for being one of the most convoluted Doctor Who plots in the programme’s long history, its unassuming blurb giving away nothing of the satisfying complexity that lies within. In fact, one could be forgiven for expecting a straightforward Dalek tale, and that’s precisely what seems to be in store for the Doctor and Charley as references to the Thals and Spiridon come out very early. However, the greater complexities of the plot soon manifest within an episode structure that is just as unique, creating an altogether more memorable experience as the duo emerge in the middle of a Dalek war with tactics being used that threaten reality itself. Given its placement in the Sixth Doctor’s timeline, the saga of who exactly Charlotte Pollard necessarily forms a crucial component to the tale. This will be a challenging component for some of the more casual listeners, especially because Charley has met the Daleks before in ‘Time of the Daleks’ and ‘Terror Firma,’ a fact that they remember. Despite its heavy reliance on continuity, though, ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ has a very clear story to tell, using the Thals and firmly taking the…

The Aztecs
Episode / July 20, 2016

Aired 23 May โ€“ 13 June 1964 Following the resounding success of ‘Marco Polo,’ Doctor Who returns to the historical genre with ‘The Aztecs,’ a story that not only survives in the video archives but is also definitively worthy of classic status. Once more there is no alien nor technological menace, different cultures and viewpoints providing all of the drama necessary. The four-part nature of the story keeps events moving at a brisk pace, but all of the subplots are given ample time to breathe. Notably, ‘The Aztecs’ is the first story to bring up the question of the TARDIS crew potentially changing history, the history teacher Barbara believing that she may be able to steer the Aztec culture away from its more barbaric tendencies and therefore avert its extermination at the hands of the Spanish. This understandably creates the core of the episode, and Jacqueline Hill ably proves that she is able to fully carry a story when thrust into the spotlight. Her scenes with William Hartnell are mesmerizing, and he hints at his own history as well as his own desires as he agonizingly explains that not one line of history can be rewritten. This is, of course,…

Time Reef and A Perfect World
Audio / July 19, 2016

Released September 2008 Continuing with the Thomas Brewster interlude into the Fifth Doctor’s travels, ‘Time Reef’ finds the Doctor, Nyssa, and Brewster crash onto an uncharted time reef while following a distress beacon. Finding Commander Gammades and his war heroes as well as the beautiful Lady Vuyoki who have likewise been marooned, a greater mystery arises as they all try to survive the carnivorous Ruhk. ‘While Time Reef’ itself may not be a lasting classic, it certainly gives Peter Davison ample opportunity to shine as he steps outside of his usual comfort zone. It’s rare that the Doctor has to show fear or dread, but Davison duly delivers as his life is seriously threatened and the TARDIS is seemingly permanently taken from him. This pairs nicely with his stern and sometimes terrifying interactions with Brewster who made some modifications to the interior of the TARDIS himself on his stolen excursion even if there is a level of underscored sympathy between the two regarding the overbearing fear that traveling blindly into space and time can bring. The prospect of the Doctor having previously visited the time reef and impacting the lives of those there is intriguing, but expectations are subverted as,…