The Daemons
Episode / October 31, 2016

Aired 22 May – 19 June 1971 Jon Pertwee’s second year in the titular role is undoubtedly less experimental than his first, the stories for the most part very clearly following the template laid out in ‘Terror of the Autons’ and using that template to good effect. ‘The Daemons’ also marks the first attempt at a dramatic season finale that offers a dramatic settlement of what has come before it. Its execution is somewhat reserved as it only underscores the multiple appearances of the Master in this season and features a much bigger foe than any previous story, but it’s an important step nonetheless that adds extra weight to this serial and with refined effects that are still felt and implemented in the modern television series. ‘The Daemons’ expertly blends together a certain New Age philosophy with the much darker culture of the occult, and the satanic foe and imagery around hallowed grounds is employed superbly at a time when The Church of Satan was gaining prominence as an organized religion. Indeed, the Master seems quite acclimated with Earth’s studies and theories of the occult, even offering a spin on one of the the famous occultist Aleister Crowley’s declarations, presenting…

Black and White
Audio / October 30, 2016

Released August 2012 Following the sensational ‘Protect and Survive,’ ‘Black and White’ continues this latest Seventh Doctor trilogy with a tale that finally offers answers to questions that have been building since Hex’s first appearance. Fitting in Doctor Who’s take on the Beowulf legend as well as the monstrous Garundel ravishes the kingdom of Hrothgar, ‘Black and White’ comes precariously close on multiple instances of collapsing under its own weight and ambition but ultimately tells a very intriguing story that sets up the final story of this trilogy incredibly well. The answers are revealed at a fairly consistent pace, and the first episode is largely a standalone one that focuses on Sophie Aldred’s Ace, Philip Olivier’s Hex, Maggie O’Neill’s Lyssandra from ‘Project: Destiny,’ and Amy Pemberton’s Sally from ‘House of Blue Fire’ slowly figuring out what is going on around them. As it turns out, the TARDIS’s white façade over the past several stories is not just a meaningless colour change, and the Doctor has also been using a corresponding black TARDIS to help with recruitment of soldiers in his eternal battle against the Elder Gods. Hex and Sally create a very natural pairing, though their quick comfort with each…

Colony in Space
Episode / October 30, 2016

Aired 10 April – 15 May 1971 ‘Colony in Space’ is the first off-Earth serial of the Jon Pertwee era, a seeming acknowledgement that the Earth-based UNIT stories are simply not variable enough to carry a franchise inherently built upon flexibility in format. In some regard, the introduction of Roger Delgado’s Master to the fold in this run of serials has by itself been an attempt to inject a science fiction element to the focal alien invasion or mad scientist plot, but exemplifying the Master’s continued ability to travel through time and space is clearly the next logical extension. Notably, Doctor Who doesn’t welcome its return to space with a lavish spectacle, a quarry standing in for the beaten planet and the serial itself lasting six episodes to allow the budget for set design to go that further step in heightening realism. While it would have been very easy for writer Malcolm Hulke to create a base-under-siege tale like the ones so popular during the Troughton years, the story even being set up this way as remote colonists insist that the native primitive creatures are murdering them, the story instead shifts its focus to dealing with much more mature social…

Protect and Survive
Audio / October 30, 2016

Released July 2012 Stories only minimally featuring the Doctor became quite commonplace during the Russell T Davies era, each of David Tennant’s three full series featuring one episode in which he was only a fringe presence. While Big Finish has largely avoided that approach, Sylvester McCoy’s obligations to the filming of The Hobbit has afforded the company the opportunity to try something different while beginning to tie up several of the lingering loose ends of the Seventh Doctor’s audio era. ‘Protect and Survive’ itself hearkens back to British government’s campaign during the Cold War in which it gave instructions for surviving a nuclear war to its general populace, and that type of atrocity forms the backbone for Jonathan Morris’s script. The story actually spends a good deal of its opening episode dealing with the atrocities of that setting, Ace and Hex exiting a faulty TARDIS into what appears to be an alternative 1989 in which Soviet leader Chernenko has been replaced by the very militant Khrushgov instead of Gorbachev. While many stories would jump right to the inevitable science fiction hook, though, ‘Protect and Survive’ wisely and quite darkly focuses on the grim reality of the situation at hand as…

The Claws of Axos
Episode / October 29, 2016

Aired 13 March – 3 April 1971 ‘The Claws of Axos’ has strangely come under criticism in the decades since its broadcast for simply being the epitome of the Pertwee era. While it may not dare to do anything groundbreaking, the story told of aliens landing in Great Britain and offering to resolve all of mankind’s trouble with a mysterious technology that ends up being much too good to be true is still a very intriguing and well-paced one. The strict Earth-based setting for the early Pertwee years does inherently limit the types of stories that can be told without forgetting the science fiction element, but the friendly alien invasion plot achieves everything it sets out to do while pushing the boundaries of practical and special effects of the programme with decidedly mixed results. The colour separation overlay technique has been increasingly employed through the early Pertwee stories, and that trend certainly continues here, giving an almost living comic book feel to the scenes aboard the Axon vessel but unfortunately not creating an overwhelming sense of verisimilitude. The actual Axons themselves come in two forms, the golden humanoid iterations used for negotiations much more visually effective than the trundling rubber-and-cloth…

The Butcher of Brisbane
Audio / October 29, 2016

Released June 2012 With Big Finish’s increasing library and confidence, stories directly related to classic era television serials have become increasingly common. Few television stories carry as much weight and general love as ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang,’ though, and there was understandably a sense of concern when ‘The Butcher of Brisbane,’ a prequel focusing on the villainous Magnus Greel, was announced. Marc Platt has already proven adept at fleshing out the backstory of established villains, his seminal Lungbarrow novel and “Spare Parts’ audio spectacular and important successes. While Magnus Greel may not ultimately be as awe-inspiring as the mighty Time Lords or Cybermen, he nonetheless made an indelible mark on Doctor Who lore with his ambition and unquenchable desire for power. Using every minute detail brought up in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ including the Filipino army marching on Reykjavik, pioneering research on double nexus particles, the mutative dangers of Zygma radiation, and a fifty-first century Time Agent, Marc Platt is able to vividly bring Greel and a dystopic future Earth to life wonderfully while doing much more than simply retreading the original’s territory. With a Zygma beam plucking Nyssa and Turlough out of the TARDIS mid-flight and stranding them on…

The Mind of Evil
Episode / October 28, 2016

Aired 30 January – 6 March 1971 For years ‘The Mind of Evil’ existed only as a black-and-white copy of the original televised colour edition, but painstaking digital reconstruction has recently restored the second serial of the eighth series to its original glory, allowing it to fit beside its Pertwee counterparts seamlessly. ‘The Mind of Evil’ is another prime example of the paradigm shift Doctor Who experienced in the early Pertwee years. With the Third Doctor still exiled on Earth, working with the militaristic UNIT and without essential knowledge of the TARDIS, the stories necessarily become much more topical and politically relevant as the series also temporarily foregoes its more classic science fiction elements for a greater focus on action and adventure instead. The eighth series in particular is notable for introducing the nefarious Master to the franchise, and Roger Delgado reprises his role form ‘The Terror of the Autons’ to wonderful effect as the linking force between two seemingly disparate storylines involving the sabotage of an international peace conference and a brainwashing rehabilitation experiment with very unintended consequences. Six months after the Doctor marooned the Master on Earth as well, the fascinating game of intrigue and one upmanship the…

The Jupiter Conjunction
Audio / October 27, 2016

Released May 2012 The TARDIS lands on a small, commercialized comet called Eight Slash Q Paneka, one on a path that makes it ideal for use as a cheap means of transportation, and one with a community crumbling at its very foundation. With thefts and disappearances commonplace, Nyssa and Tegan soon find themselves traversing the dangerous Unstable Zone while the Doctor and Turlough become embroiled in events that could threaten both Earth and Jupiter. Even though Nyssa’s rejuvenation to her younger appearance is essentially ignored completely here, ‘The Jupiter Conjunction’ is the second story in a row that truly highlights the potential of this rather crowded TARDIS team. Splitting the leads up to experience different parts of the story is a trusted technique, but writer Eddie Robson employs it to great effect here. Importantly, even though Nyssa does now appear much younger, she retains the rational assertiveness that her years of experience have given her, in the process hinting that someone close to her may be suffering back home. Tegan being taken completely out of her depth and put in this hostile alien environment also tempers her usual sarcastic angst, and it’s fitting that she is so crucial to saving…

Terror of the Autons
Episode / October 26, 2016

Aired 2 – 23 January 1971 Jon Pertwee’s first season stands up as some of the very best and consistent British science fiction of the era, tackling mature themes while also proving that the shift to colour and setting the stories during one time period on Earth could breathe new life into the franchise. Beginning Pertwee’s second series, ‘Terror of the Autons’ takes a step back from the high-concept, instead offering a thrilling and frightening adventure that, though perhaps light on plot, is brimming with iconic moments that left an indelible mark on public consciousness. After proving to be such an incredible success the year before, the Autons return with another plan for world domination. Writer Robert Holmes proves adept at making the mundane absolutely petrifying, and the use of plastic mannequins, dolls, flowers, and even armchairs as weapons of destruction is terribly brilliant in its elegant simplicity. Doctor Who thrives when the commonplace becomes anything but, and the Autons exemplify this perfectly, the plastics here sometimes literally scaring their victims to death. The villains here also know how to exploit humans’ need for oxygen, and the Doctor fighting to save his new companion, Jo Grant, from suffocation is played…

The Emerald Tiger
Audio / October 26, 2016

Released April 2012 Under the pretense of watching a cricket match and enjoying a relaxing vacation, the Fifth Doctor alongside Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, return to the Big Finish forefront as they arrive in 1926 Calcutta. However, when a seemingly rabid man promptly bites Nyssa and the TARDIS with its curative supplies is loaded onto a private train and rushed away, a harrowing expedition and journey into the lost world of the mythical emerald tiger instead ensues. The setting and atmosphere are unquestionably the strongest aspects of this story, both in recreating India and the jungle, in the process exuding the very essence of Rudyard Kipling and classic adventure movies. In fact, the story has no qualms about making allusion to The Jungle Book, weaving elements of it throughout and paying off at the end satisfyingly. This is a story that requires much more sound effects than usual, and Big Finish steps up to the task admirably to bring both the wild dangers of the untamed wilderness and of modern technology to life incredibly realistically. ‘The Emerald Tiger’ is also a very busy story, tying together many plot threads and proceeding at breakneck pace from beginning to end. An entrance…