The Secret History
Audio / December 31, 2016

Released June 2015 The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki land in the Italian city of Ravenna in the year 540 as the Byzantine General Belisarius continues to lead his army’s march. With Steven quickly ending up on a boat bound for Constantinople, the Doctor must mount a rescue operation while finally discovering who is sabotaging his personal timeline and putting both his life and the history of Earth at risk as the Fifth Doctor is sent into his First incarnation’s time. As opposed to the previous two stories in this Locum Doctor trilogy, the Fifth Doctor is quite easily able to convince Steven and Vicki that he is a younger version of their Doctor, his amiability and honesty in response to his former companions’ intellectual and sensible questions serving him well. Astoundingly, Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien still sound exactly as they did during the Hartnell years, lending an incredible air of realism to the core concept behind this story, and the script marvellously captures Vicki’s mischievous nature as the ideals from her time come crashing down in a past full of such uncertainty as well as Steven’s adventurous and physical prowess as he comes to terms with the potential of…

Horror of Fang Rock
Episode / December 30, 2016

Aired 3 – 24 September 1977 Doctor Who at the time of ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ was seemingly an indomitable force, churning out genuine classics with alarming regularity. After closing out the previous season with the likes of ‘The Robots of Death’ and ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang,’ the travels of the Fourth Doctor and Leela continue with the story that perhaps best epitomizes the gothic horror that encapsulates the tenure of Philip Hinchcliffe as producer, even as that mantle is taken up by Graham Williams. Actually, the basic premise of ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ is incredibly straightforward, strictly adhering to the trusted template of having the Doctor and his companion arrive in a mysterious location, only to get caught up in otherworldly events that soon threaten all of those around them. With the story confined to a small lighthouse, though, director Paddy Russell is able to create a startling sense of tension and claustrophobia, and the supporting characters are rather more well-rounded than is usual, creating a genuine sense of empathy during the strange goings-on. Tom Baker is, as usual, at his enigmatic and charming best as the Doctor slowly uncovers the alien truth, but ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ also…

Last of the Cybermen
Audio / December 30, 2016

Released May 2015 Ten years after the assault on Telos that effectively ended the Great Cyber War, the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe set out to explore the meaning of a giant Cyber-head at the galaxy’s furthest reaches. As his companions try to discover if the universe has really seen the end of the Cybermen, though, so, too, do they try to discover just who the man in the multicoloured coat claiming to be the Doctor truly is and how he has come to be there in their own Doctor’s place. Although the reason for later Doctors suddenly appearing in their earlier incarnations’ timelines is still not addressed, Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is the perfect counterpoint to Patrick Troughton’s Second, especially as the Sixth’s characterization here is an amalgamation of the earlier televised Sixth incarnation along with the more mellowed and compassionate audio version. Subtlety is out the window here, and Colin Baker is clearly relishing the opportunity to add a slightly more antagonistic and gruff edge to his character while still staying true to the years of characterization at Big Finish. However, it’s the companions that keep this tale firmly rooted in the Second Doctor’s era, and both Frazer Hines…

The Defectors
Audio / December 29, 2016

Released April 2015 As Big Finish approaches its monumental 200th Main Range Doctor Who release, the company has commissioned a trilogy of stories that pairs Doctors with past incarnations’ companions. Beginning with ‘The Defectors,’ Jo Grant and her inexplicably-changed Doctor arrive on Delphin Isle on a matter of national security as they learn of a highly classified incident dating back to the Cold War. As secrets manifest and bodies mysteriously appear in the harbour, the Pertwee and McCoy eras impressively collide. The crux of this concept is developing a story that feels like it comes from the earlier Doctor’s era, and the incredible atmosphere of Delphin Isle and the mystery of its oddly-acting locals certainly manage to evoke the core essence of the Third Doctor’s Earth-bound tales. Indeed, McCoy seems perfectly at home in this type of story that has so rarely been afforded to him, the secrecy of the Seventh Doctor complementing the burgeoning mystery of Delphin well. Indeed, Jo Grant acts as a stand-in voice for the Third Doctor, highlighting the different courses of action that these two Doctors take and keeping the tale true to her time on the programme. Katy Manning manages to evoke the youthful…

The Diary of River Song Series Two
Audio / December 28, 2016

Released December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Diary of River Song Series One was a revelation for Big Finish, one of the company’s first attempts at bringing the universe of the modern televised Doctor Who to life in the audio medium and succeeding magnificently in capturing the essence of the Doctor’s one-time wife in all of her unpredictable glory. While the inclusion of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor helped push the boundaries of expectations as the intricate first series unfolded, The Diary of River Song Series Two unabashedly meshes the two distinct eras of the franchise as both Colin Baker’s Sixth and Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctors collide with a future they cannot be allowed to remember. Guy Adams opens this second set of adventures with ‘The Unknown,’ a fascinating tale brimming with ideas that perfectly sets the scene for what is to come. Aboard the space exploration vessel Saturnius which inexplicably continues to head to a destination that never gets nearer, River Song and the crew members find their memories failing them, even forgetting how a strange man known as the Doctor came to be on board. Sylvester McCoy provides a unique presence when paired with Alex Kingston, especially with both…

The Invisible Enemy
Episode / December 27, 2016

Aired 1 – 22 October 1977 ‘The Invisible Enemy’ reflects the uncertainty of Doctor Who as producer Graham Williams took over the role of producer after prominent declarations from public figures that the show had become far too violent in recent years. As ‘The Invisible Enemy’ attempts to hold on to strands of the horror that had served it so well while also amplifying the innate humour of Tom Baker and his Fourth incarnation of the Doctor, the tonal shifts between episodes and scenes results in a somewhat jarring and ultimately forgettable experience remembered more for the introduction of the robotic K-9 than for the titular Nucleus of the Swarm itself. To be fair, the Nucleus’s ability to possess those around it instantly poses it as a credible threat, although the makeup effects and oft-repeated catchphrase that ‘Contact has been made’ are somewhat less successful in reality. With even the Doctor a victim to its influence, Tom Baker does mesmerizing work while playing the villain, savagely chasing Leela with murderous intent. It’s quite telling that his ultimate resolution is quite cruel and dark as he decides that Leela’s explosive plan is the best course of action in a story that…

The Entropy Plague
Website / December 27, 2016

Released March 2015 As entropy increases and a Great Darkness spreads throughout E-space, the TARDIS arrives on the power-devoid planet of Apollyon where a scientist named Pallister guards the only remaining exit from the universe, a mysterious portal that requires the energy found within living tissue to function. With death or sacrifice seemingly the only way out of E-space as the Sandmen approach, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in a harrowing race against time that unfolds in a rather unique perspective. ‘The Entropy Plague’ is a narrated story with the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, and Nyssa each telling his or her perspective of events to Adric over the course of an episode. This actually works exceedingly well and allows a much more intimate and personal affair than is usual, giving each character a chance to shine as different pieces of the puzzle slowly slide into place. Big Finish has proven with this trilogy that its writers have finally found the means to balance such a large TARDIS crew, and this format proves that there could still be great variation to be had with them if the story hadn’t opened with the distressing fact that Nyssa’s time in the TARDIS…

The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Episode / December 26, 2016

Aired 25 December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW It’s been full calendar year since Doctor Who has aired a new episode, but despite the inherent pressures of any episode and the immensely-popular Christmas slot, in particular, ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ benefits from not having to pick up on a current companion’s plot arc or to set up or handle a regeneration as others have before it. Indeed, with only a fleeting scene where the Doctor is mistaken for Santa and only a couple of quick references to last year’s ‘The Husbands of River Song,’ this is perhaps the least Christmas-themed and the most standalone of the festive specials yet as Steven Moffat crafts a loving homage to American superheroes. The festive holiday period provides the perfect time to experiment with the fundamentally ridiculous nature of the superhero genre, the spirit of the season bringing out the inner child in viewers more than any other time of the year. Quite wisely, though, the focus of the tale is very much on Grant Gordon and his misguided attempts to get nearer to his lifelong crush, reporter Lucy Fletcer, while also making the world a safer place as his Superman-eque alter ego, The…

Cold Fusion
Audio / December 24, 2016

Released December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE 1996 MISSING ADVENTURES NOVEL ‘Cold Fusion’ was a significant release in the days of the Virgin novelizations, the first multi-Doctor story in its catalogue and the first time that the Fifth and Seventh incarnations officially featured together in any form. It also firmly cemented Lance Parkin as one of the premier Doctor Who writers after his strong debut with ‘Just War,’ and here he proves unafraid to delve deep into the expanded mythology of the Doctor and Gallifrey to once more offer a completely enthralling and satisfying tale that has made the transfer to the audio medium spectacularly. Landing on a desolate world of ice that is precariously close to war as rebels target the ruling elite, the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric quickly find themselves entwined in an ever-deepening mystery that could threaten the entire universe. With the Seventh Doctor also present as he conducts investigations into the Earth Empire’s dangerous energy experiments, the story and its need to focus on no less than seven leads certainly had the potential to fall apart under its own weight and ambition. However, by positioning the Seventh Doctor into his…

Original Sin
Audio / December 23, 2016

Released December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE 1995 NEW ADVENTURES NOVEL The final words of a dying alien send the Doctor and Bernice to 30th-century Earth to attempt to avert a disaster. Arrested on the spot as prime suspects in the latest of a series of seemingly motiveless murders, they join Adjudicators Roslyn Forrester and Chris Cwej as they attempt to clear their name and uncover the truth behind a conspiracy that reaches far into the Doctor’s personal past. Even without the context of the other The New Adventures novels preceding it, ‘Original Sin’ is very much the beginning of a new era for the Seventh Doctor, and the two Adjudicators instantly step into the spotlight and unquestionably prove themselves to be worthy additions to the TARDIS by story’s end. Yasmin Bannerman expertly portrays the by-the-books and tough-as-nails Roz who is haunted by a memory she can’t quite remember and a questionable superior officer, and Travis Oliver perfectly brings to life the naïve but well-intentioned Chris who has a reckless streak and would even undergo a body-beppling procedure in the name of fashion. The two make an unlikely combination, but they instantly clicked in prose and…