The Cradle of the Snake
Audio / September 30, 2016

Released September 2010 With Janet Fielding agreeing to reprise the role of Tegan alongside the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Turlough, it was only a matter of time before another encounter with the Mara followed, a foe that spotlighted Tegan best. ‘The Cradle of the Snake,’ penned by Big Finish stalwart Marc Platt, revisits the iconic foe from the Davison stories ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance,’ attempting to recapture the surreal and sometimes disturbing tones of its predecessors while forging a new path with a more modern pacing as well. Wisely, Platt foregoes the obvious choice of having the Mara possess Tegan for the a third time, instead opting to have her be the one in charge of freeing her companions from its influence. This is a wonderful subversion of expectations, allowing Peter Davison to once more showcase a darker and edgier performance that truly resonates and adds a palpable sense of danger to proceedings. This setup also allows Sarah Sutton to play a much racier version of her normally proper and demure Nyssa and Mark Strickson to take on more of an enabling role until really called into prominence toward the end. Also intriguingly, and perhaps due to his previous success with…

The Moonbase
Episode / September 29, 2016

Aired 11 February – 4 March 1967 With its two missing episodes reconstructed in animated form, ‘The Moonbase’ is currently the earliest ‘complete’ Patrick Troughton serial to be released. While it does feature some rather unfortunate and improbable plot contrivances, it also features incredible tension and firmly cements the Cybermen’s place as a viable recurring foe. With producer Innes Lloyd’s desire to shift the focus of Doctor Who more towards science fiction, monsters, and tense action, the Cybermen were a logical choice to make a return despite so recently having been in ‘The Tenth Planet.’ With the Daleks out of commission as Terry Nation tried to sell them overseas, there was a sudden impetus on creating memorable alien threats for the Doctor to face. With a sleek redesign and more straightforward motivation that didn’t rely so heavily on a convoluted backstory, the Cybermen of ‘The Moonbase’ are most certainly much more in line with the versions that would succeed them in future eras and are certainly dangerous enough to warrant their prominent recurrence in the Second Doctor era. As the TARDIS misses Mars and lands on the Moon instead, the Doctor’s companions are thrilled to have a chance to explore.…

Doom Coalition 3
Audio / September 28, 2016

Released September 2016 After an agonizing wait, Big Finish has at last released Doom Coalition 3, four more stories continuing the ever more complex adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Liv Chenka, and Helen Sinclair as they battle both the past and future and once more cross paths with the enigmatic River Song. This review, by necessity, will feature fewer and fewer spoilers as the four stories are subsequently discussed and the more vital and crucial plot points leading into the fourth set are revealed. John Dorney’s ‘Absent Friends’ kicks off the third portion of the Doom Coalition saga with the Doctor concerned about why the TARDIS has landed in England rather than on Gallifrey as intended. Set just before the turn of the twenty-first century, the TARDIS team finds itself in a small village struggling with the advent of mobile telephones and mysterious calls, a large phone mast from the new telephone company Superville dominating their attention and view and causing plenty of scorn and consternation. As the Doctor tinkers in his TARDIS and soon finds that nothing is wrong with it and that he seems to have been pulled off course purposefully, Helen gives in to temptation and furtively…

The Whispering Forest
Audio / September 27, 2016

Released August 2010 One of the more fascinating concepts Doctor Who occasionally explores is how an ordinary or trivial activity can take on profound and almost spiritual importance as generations in continued isolation persevere. ‘The Whispering Forest’ offers another take on this story, the citizens of Purity Bay upon the planet Cherdor believing that physical purity and cleanliness leads to spiritual purity and cleanliness and thus scrubbing themselves raw to rid themselves of dirt and potential infection. Within the confines of this rather fascinating backdrop, writer Stephen Cole explores a community filled with political strife as the young Sister Seska takes on the leadership role while needing to be wary of her stepmother’s own intentions. With Seska’s father having recently passed away, there is a deep void in the community that both the open-minded Seska and the more zealous Mertil seek to fill. When the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough arrive, they soon find themselves intimately and dangerously involved within these politics while also discovering the more hidden realities of the Takers and the Shades who make the forest whisper. With the older Nyssa rejoining the TARDIS, it’s a nice touch to have the Doctor seeking out potential cases…

The Underwater Menace
Episode / September 26, 2016

Aired 14 January – 4 February 1967 With the surprising recovery and return of episode two in 2011 to the BBC video archives to sit alongside episode three, ‘The Underwater Menace’ completed the classic range of Doctor Who DVD releases in 2016 with the earliest existing footage of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, the remaining two missing episodes presented as telesnap reconstructions. Unfortunately, with its extravagant Atlantean setting that could never have adequately been realized with a BBC budget, lack of characterization, and ridiculous villain Zaroff, this is sadly less a celebration of the best of the classic range and more a showcase of tumultuous road to production and of an absurd whimsy only occasionally explored, a case of ambition trumping practicality. ‘The Underwater Menace’ is Patrick Troughton’s third story, and yet there is distinct shift in how he portrays the character within the confines of these events, shifting from a more manic and comic interpretation to one much more in line with the shrewder and more calculating Doctor he would make so popular and famous. There is the argument that Joseph Furst’s unbelievably cheesy performance as Zaroff provided the impetus for this tactical shift, but seeing Troughton actively…

Cobwebs
Audio / September 25, 2016

Released July 2010 ‘Cobwebs’ reunites the TARDIS team of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough for the first full-length and full-cast story since Nyssa’s departure in ‘Terminus.’ With Janet Fielding finally consenting to reprise her role on a regular basis, Big Finish decided against taking the easy way out and inserting several stories between ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Terminus,’ instead choosing a far more interesting route and having Nyssa rejoin the others fifty years after initially departing. Accordingly, even though the excitement around this story rightly focuses on Tegan’s presence, it’s the story of Nyssa that really becomes the spotlight. Whereas Nyssa oftentimes was relegated more to the background on television, Big Finish has afforded an incredible second lease on life for the character, and that has never been more true that here. Having stopped her work with the Lazars some fifteen years ago after developing a successful vaccine for their condition. Now searching for a cure for Rictus that has since claimed some six billion lives, she and her robot companion arrive to explore a cobweb-laden gene-tech facility on Hellheim, facing a tremendous ethical dilemma along the way. Meeting up with her old friends fifty years after leaving- but…

The Highlanders
Episode / September 24, 2016

Aired 17 December 1966 – 7 January 1967 Following a riveting battle with the Daleks, the era of the Second Doctor continues with another staple of the First Doctor era, the historical. Landing in 1746 Scotland shortly after the Battle of Culloden, the Doctor, Polly, and Ben soon find themselves embroiled in tumultuous affairs of the time as they stumble into a hut with wounded Laird and accidentally alert the nearby British patrol. Setting events after the battle is a rather novel twist; while the story itself rather simply amounts to a great deal of capture and escape while featuring rather stereotypical Scottish and English characters, taking the focus off of the major historical events affords the script much more time to further develop its new leads, specifically its new Doctor. Though Patrick Troughton unabashedly took control of events in ‘The Power of the Daleks,’ there was understandably a bit of trepidation as both he and the show tried to figure out what exactly to do with this new incarnation. In ‘The Highlanders’ the Second Doctor skews more towards the comedic end of the spectrum while proving to be master of disguise. As he adopts the persona of a German…

Legend of the Cybermen
Audio / September 23, 2016

Released June 2010 ‘Legend of the Cybermen’ brings to a close the adventures of the Sixth Doctor and Jamie, somehow satisfactorily answering the lingering questions from the previous two stories while also reintroducing The Land of Fiction, showcasing the Cybermen in an intriguing new light, and even bringing back Wendy Padbury’s Zoe Heriot in a very meaningful role. The Land of Fiction, first introduced in the Second Doctor serial ‘The Mind Robber,’ is, of course, a reaml fueled by imagination, and Mike Maddox’s script certainly does the fantastic premise justice. Putting the completely logical Cybermen in the realm is a masterstroke in contrasting philosophies, and having them transform the likes of giants into enormous Cybermen and Moby Dick into a living submarine is simultaneously frightening and hugely entertaining. Even an exceptionally meaningful and deep appearance by the ephemeral Count Dracula adds to the overall spectacle of this unique spin on the typical story about the ravages of war, and the visuals created here are easily some of the most powerful and robust that a Big Finish release has ever created. With the surprising and sometimes heartbreaking treatment of other famous literary characters such as Oliver Twist, Alice, and Artful Dodger,…

The Wreck of the Titan
Audio / September 20, 2016

Released May 2010 One would be forgiven for thinking that ‘The Wreck of the Titan’ is Doctor Who’s take on the sinking of the Titanic after a brief look at the release’s cover art and blurb. While that fateful event does spur on events at the end of the first episode, writer Barnaby Edwards instead offers a cinematic tale that is altogether more interesting and satisfying as it deftly continues on from ‘City of Spires’ while reaching much farther back into the Doctor’s personal history. It seems quite fitting that the Doctor would want to make Jamie’s first official trip in the TARDIS a memorable one, and the blindfold is a nice touch as he tries to add a feeling of spectacle and wonder. The Doctor is rather delighted to inform his once-again companion that they have landed on the Queen Mary in 1946, but Jamie bluntly contradicts him and shows him that they are, in fact on the Titanic in 1912. With nothing fixed or certain, the entire first episode delightfully plays with an uneasy sense of the unknown, and the Doctor even begins to think that they are in some type of tourist attraction that re-enacts famous disasters,…

The Age of Endurance
Audio / September 20, 2016

Released September 2016 The Early Adventures has been a revelation for Big Finish, affording the eras of the First and Second Doctors a chance to flourish, crafting new full-cast adventures while staying true to the tone and very essence of those times. ‘The Age of Endurance’ marks the beginning of the third series and sees the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara land aboard a seemingly empty spaceship that soon leads them to the very heart of an impossibly old war. Without question, one of the biggest talking points of ‘The Age of Endurance’ will be the recasting of Barbara Wright. While there is a natural trepidation whenever a beloved character must be recast due to the unfortunate passing of the original actor or actress, Big Finish has certainly proven adept at doing so while paying homage and due respect to the original performances with the previous decisions to cast Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor and Elliot Chapman as Ben Jackson. Following her wonderful turn as Jacqueline Hill in the fiftieth anniversary special An Adventure in Time and Space, Jemma Powell is a perfect decision to take on the role of Barbara in The Early…