Castle of Fear
Audio / August 31, 2016

Released October 2009 ‘Castle of Fear’ commences Big Finish’s final 2009 main range trilogy, featuring the Fifth Doctor in Stockbridge, a popular locale for his long-past Doctor Who Magazine comic adventures. After the suitably bombastic and dramatic conclusion of Charlotte Pollard’s travels in ‘Blue Forgotten Planet,’ ‘Castle of Fear’ is a welcoming and more light-hearted affair that finally introduces the Rutans- one of the most enigmatic but important species in Doctor Who canon- to the audio medium. From the start it’s clear that writer Alan Barnes, himself the former editor of Doctor Who Magazine, has drawn inspiration from such classic sources as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Blackadder, imbuing his script with spectacular wit that somehow manages to capture the feel of a comic strip adventure. Avoiding the common pitfall of relying on too much awkward and descriptive dialogue, Barnes manages to create a completely visual experience within the confines of the audio medium in a way few authors are able to manage. Framing events with a panto-type play in the nineteenth century that ominously correlated with events in the twelfth is a masterstroke and, although the script itself isn’t necessarily the most complicated affair, its tremendous…

The Time Meddler
Episode / August 30, 2016

Aired 3 July – 24 July 1965 ‘The Time Meddler’ is arguably one of the most important stories in Doctor Who canon, the story that finally blurs the lines between the historical and science fiction genres that the programme has up until its broadcast kept virtually distinct. While fans of later eras would become quite accustomed to seeing the Doctor and his companions arrive in the past and eventually thwart some sort of alien or technological menace, ‘The Time Meddler’ is the first fully story to put that concept to the test after a brief tease of such a concept in ‘The Chase.’ Whereas up to this point the past has been treated as an inflexible constant, ‘The Time Meddler’ fleshes out some of the discussions about the perils of interfering with time from ‘The Time Museum,’ showing the inherent hazards of reckless time travel in a fascinating and rewarding manner never before attempted. ‘The Time Meddler’ also represents the first story in which the Doctor is truly fully given the spotlight. Until now, Ian and Barbara had often been given the more protagonistic heroic roles in stories, the Doctor more of a mysterious figure who would come and go…

Blue Forgotten Planet
Audio / August 27, 2016

Released September 2009 After Big Finish somehow managed to meet and perhaps even surpass the hype surrounding ‘Patient Zero,’ the company challenges itself to repeat that feat with ‘Blue Forgotten Planet,’ the story promising to bring to a conclusion Charlotte Pollard’s time with the Doctor while also wrapping up long-standing paradoxes and the story of Mila as the Viyrans once more return to the fold. Nicholas Briggs is again tasked with bringing a blockbuster in concept to fruition, and he once more succeeds admirably setting incredible stakes while ratcheting up the tension until the very end. Although there truly is a sense that every aspect of this story would work well as a cinematic or televised adventure, it’s the setting and the Viyrans themselves that most lend a sense of immediacy and scope to the proceedings. Post-apocalyptic Earth is certainly a tried and true setting, but the version presented here is firmly grounded in reality and quite relatable to the present. Leading the two groups of survivors, JJ Feild and Alec Newman are absolutely fantastic in bring the plight of Earth’s situation to life, a plight that the threat of the Viyrans keeps very present at all times. The Viyrans…

The Chase
Episode / August 25, 2016

Aired 22 May – 26 June 1965 ‘The Chase’ is an odd Doctor Who serial, clearly an attempt to profit off of the Dalek craze of the time but also quite brilliant in its own way. Written by Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, ‘The Chase’ in a way follows the format of his previous six-parter ‘The Keys of Marinus’ in which there are several near-standalone stories with an overall link. Here, the Daleks pursue the Doctor and his companions through time and space to several different locales, in the process encapsulating the fluid and experimental nature of early Doctor Who perfectly. It’s quite easy to dismiss ‘The Chase’ as an overall pointless episode, especially since Terry Nation admitted that public demand rather than narrative need spurred the story making it to screens and since it falls into the easy pattern of the Doctor and his companions arrive somewhere, battle against the Daleks, and then leave. However, there are several small intricacies thrown in that make ‘The Chase’ a very worthwhile viewing whether one holds that viewpoint or not. The opening of the story is particularly important, not only because it finally shows that the TARDIS has become home to…

Paper Cuts
Audio / August 24, 2016

Released September 2009 The Draconians have always been vastly important at least on the periphery of the Doctor Who universe, having their name and cultural aspects occasionally mentioned in both televised and non-televised adventures. Yet despite their popularity, they have never anchored a story outside of their initial appearance in ‘Frontier in Space.’ Tasked with fleshing out a culture and background in much the same manner in which he tackled Time Lords in ‘Lungbarrow’ and the Cybermen in ‘Spare Parts,’ author Marc Platt turns his attention to Draconia and its denizens with similarly strong results. It’s a testament to the script that Draconia feels like an incredibly familiar world that has been visited several time before by its end, and Platt’s introduction of concepts such as the chess-like Sazou, origami-like warriors, and eternal tombs in space truly help flesh out the Draconian culture while paying respect to everything that has been shown previously. Remarkably, much of the world-building is done in the absence of the Doctor and Charley. Instead, these two are much more directly involved in the true action and intrigue of this piece, a prequel of sorts to ‘Frontier in Space’ that picks up on the thread of…

The Space Museum
Episode / August 23, 2016

Aired 24 April – 15 May 1965 There are few who would consider ‘The Space Museum’ to be a classic Doctor Who story, but as a concept it is incredibly interesting and certainly pivotal to the programme as a whole. The idea of interfering with and changing time is certainly not a novel one, having been referenced in almost every historical tale to date, but here it is the TARDIS team’s own future and fate which hangs in the balance. Harkening back to the events of ‘The Edge of Destruction,’ eerie noises and direction that give a sense of disorientation dominate the beginning of ‘The Space Museum.’ The crew soon discovers that they have somehow jumped a time track, leaving them unable to interact with their environment in any meaningful way. The Space Museum itself is brought to life by some incredible model work, but it should be noted that the actors’ shadows do detract from the sense of scope the sets are aiming to achieve. Regardless, as the Doctor and his companions wander through the Museum while trying to avoid the patrolling the Moroks, the sense of unease is only heightened as each room seems to be identical, the…

Patient Zero
Audio / August 22, 2016

Released August 2009 ‘Patient Zero’ is one of the most hotly anticipated titles Big Finish has ever released, continuing the fascinating tale of Charlotte Pollard and the Sixth Doctor and tasked with satisfactorily resolving the cliffhanger from ‘The Raincloud Man’ while bringing in both the Viyrans and the Daleks. While these type of ‘event’ stories have a habit of simply failing to meet expectations, ‘Patient Zero’ somehow manages to deliver on all counts, continuing the very strong stretch of audio outings with a superb effort. Writer Nicholas Briggs deftly reprieves Charley from her certain death by having her contract a virus and succumb to a coma, the TARDIS withdrawing its protection from her when her deceit was revealed. This turn of events prompts the Doctor to urgently seek a cure, traveling to the Amethyst Viral Containment Station while Charley stays in the TARDIS’s zero room. Importantly, the story shows that the Doctor has made many trips between the prologue and the true story, giving many isolated events and stories over the past year extra context and meaning. ‘Patient Zero’ finally introduces the Viyrans into a feature-length story after their all-too-brief tease in the one-part ‘Mission of the Viyrans.’ It’s incredibly…

The Crusade
Episode / August 21, 2016

Aired 27 March – 17 April 1965 Following the more light-hearted and comedic undertones of ‘The Romans,’ Doctor Who returns to a more serious tone with its historical outings in ‘The Crusade,’ a harrowing look at the Third Crusade in twelfth century Israel. Intriguingly, although the TARDIS crew once more becomes embroiled in events rather quickly, they find themselves this time between two men, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, who both simply desire peace. David Whitaker’s script wisely avoids pointed Anglophilic bias, showcasing both the rights and wrongs of both sides of the struggle as well as the shortcomings of the prominent individuals. Richard is quite prone to temperamental outbursts, especially when his plans are questioned or need to be modified. Yet rather than allowing the character devolve into a totally unlikable wretch, actor Julian Glover adds an intrinsic air of nobility and righteousness to his character that better defines Richard and keeps him both powerful and believable. Bernard Kay also does tremendous work as Saladin, the antagonist of Richard but a man who is still presented as very dignified and intelligent. There is, of course, the obvious fact of the makeup required to bring the non-Caucasian character to life,…

Casualties of Time
Audio / August 19, 2016

Released August 2016 ‘Casualties of Time’ brings to a close the fifth series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures, in the process giving a sense of closure to Cuthbert’s storyline that has intermittently spanned three years of releases in the range. It’s clear that Cuthbert, Mr Dorrick, and the Conglomerate are important creations to Big Finish, and it’s impressive that the company now has such a library of its own available that it can revisit its own creations, but it’s also quite telling that the script brings in such a plethora of new and returning characters to help spur events to their logical and surprisingly happy ending. Yet while the sense of absurdity as the talking Ecidien Cerebus parrot-like creature gains prominence in a story that spans everywhere from Iron Age Scotland to a space station in 2071 fits in perfectly with Douglas Adams’s tenure on the programme, there is a style and tonality that meshes much better with later eras. Indeed, this tale- even more than because of the appearance of the Black Guardian after so much discussion throughout the previous releases- would quite seamlessly fit in with Peter Davison’s era, a time when the potential of time…

The Pursuit of History
Audio / August 18, 2016

Released July 2016 ‘The Pursuit of History’ is a rather important release for Big Finish, not only as the opener of two-part finale to fifth series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures but also as chance to tie up a storyline that had been lingering for some three years. With the unfortunate passing of Mary Tamm, it would have been easy and understandable for Big Finish to put aside the exploits of the malicious Cuthbert and his flunky Mr Dorrick. Instead, taking advantage of the unique opportunity that the character of Romana and her regeneration into Lalla Ward’s form allows, Big Finish catches up with the duo and the Conglomerate for the first time since 2013’s two-part ‘The Dalek Contract’ and ‘The Final Phase.’ David Warner and Toby Hadoke return to the roles of Cuthbert and Dorrick, respectively, adding an instant air of both familiarity and gravitas to proceedings. Cuthbert seems to be a bit less restrained than in his previous outings, not quite reaching the Master’s levels of scheming and machinations but showing a clear combination of charm, sarcasm, contempt, and danger as he brokers deals and strives to ensure the survival of his Conglomerate. Likewise, Dorrick is allowed more…