Her Final Flight
Audio / May 18, 2017

Released December 2004 Normally, science fiction stories involving virtual or alternate realities amount to little more than an interesting diversion with little true impact for any of the main characters. However, despite its own set of shortcomings, the free Big Finish release ‘Her Final Flight’ uses its purposeful inclusion of clichés to its advantage to craft a surprisingly poignant and resonant tale that forces the Sixth Doctor to confront his past while facing imminent danger in the present. Once the story is able to get beyond it rather awkward exposition in which the Doctor lands and talks to himself following a scene in which a stereotypical zealot declares that her bioelectrical implant is ready for the Doctor, events move at a brisk pace and easily fill the seventy-five minute running time without any lag or lull. In fact, even though the world itself is known to the audience to be fictional due to the prologue, the entire story itself wonderfully takes on the form of a tragedy since Rashaa clearly states that everyone within the story is hopelessly doomed. Jonathan Owen’s Hamiyun and Conrad Westmaas’s Damus are incredibly passionate figures and lend a needed counterbalance of determinism and fact to…

Shada
Audio / May 17, 2017

Original Webcast 2 May – 6 June 2003 Audio CD Released December 2003 There have been countless lost Doctor Who stories through the years, ranging from stories that are just a fragment of an idea to ones with completed scripts simply waiting to be filmed. However, ‘Shada’ is something wholly unique, a partially-filmed Fourth Doctor serial written by the indomitable Douglas Adams that offers a fascinating collision of contemporary Earth and Time Lord history that unfortunately fell victim to an industrial strike. While ‘Shada’ has certainly remained in the public consciousness through the release of the filmed material with linking narration as well as a novelization, Big Finish has crafted an alternative, full-cast production featuring Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor alongside Lalla Ward’s Lord President Romana and John Leeson’s K-9 to finally bring ‘Shada’ fully to life. Obviously a television production and audio production follow wholly different models, but the audio fully captures the whimsical imagination so ingrained into Adams’s original work in a way that simple narration could never manage. Still, with all of the wonderful work Big Finish has done in fleshing out the character of the Eighth Doctor, it is still very evident that this is a script…

Real Time
Audio / May 15, 2017

Original Webcast 2 August – 6 September 2002 Audio CD Released December 2002 Before the BBC relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005, it was primarily on the shoulders of Big Finish to keep up any sort of official adventures while the BBC tried to figure out just what exactly it wanted to do with the franchise following the failed backdoor pilot featuring Paul McGann. Following the first official BBCi webcast ‘Death Comes to Time’ featuring Sylvester McCoy, the BBC teamed with Big Finish to offer the much-maligned Sixth Doctor a more official chance at redemption by bringing Colin Baker back into the public consciousness. Fortunately, ‘Real Time’ succeeds admirably in that regard, removing Colin Baker from the behind-the-scenes turmoil that plagued his tenure on television and portraying the arrogance and sense of grandeur that so defined his character in an overall softer and more amenable light. The script wisely does not eliminate the more contentious aspects of this Doctor here, but it admirably explains why such divisive mannerisms and actions that would seem out of place for any other incarnation are perfectly logical and perhaps for the greater good in their own right. This is perhaps best explored when the…

Oxygen
Episode / May 14, 2017

Aired 13 May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW ‘Space: the final frontier’ is, of course, the phrase that opens countless episodes of Star Trek, and Doctor Who confidently begins ‘Oxygen’ with that same line followed not by glimmering optimism but instead by an ominous sense of warning. As the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole answer a distress signal coming from a mining space station, the grave tone is instantly set as Peter Capaldi’s voice warns that the void is always waiting and ready to kill. Although the Doctor’s lecturing and the university setting have by necessity moved to the background since the series opener, it’s refreshing to see both come into prominence for the opening scenes, allowing the Doctor to lecture Bill and her class about dying in space rather than crop rotations and also for Nardole to join the adventure after again exclaiming about the importance of the Doctor’s oath to protect the mysterious vault and its contents. The action quickly shifts to the strangely-empty Chasm Forge mining station, though, and the unfettered progression of capitalism quickly rears its head as the TARDIS trio soon finds that even access to oxygen is monetized. With the TARDIS out of reach and the…

The Ninth Doctor Chronicles
Audio / May 13, 2017

Released May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Christopher Eccleston burst onto screens in 2005, instantly winning over fans with his confident, funny, and tormented incarnation of the ages-old titular Time Lord. Unfortunately, although his decision to leave the role after just thirteen episodes probably helped the viability of the franchise by allowing regeneration to be introduced and incorporated so early, it also left the Ninth Doctor as one of the most tragically unexplored incarnations to date. As of yet Christopher Eccleston has declined any invitations to reprise his role, but Big Finish has employed the stylings of its The Companion Chronicles range and Nicholas Briggs’s ability to channel the essence of the Ninth Doctor to once more bring 2005 to life with its The Ninth Doctor Chronicles. Cavan Scott’s ‘The Bleeding Heart’ opens the set, focusing on a very emotional and wounded Ninth Doctor fresh out of the Time War prior to his meeting with Rose. It seems natural that he would seek out a respite following the atrocities he both witnessed and committed in the name of the universe, and a planet of perpetual peace provides the perfect draw. However, when a mysterious death prefaces an increasing number of mysterious…

The Curse of Fenric
Episode / May 10, 2017

Aired 25 October – 15 November 1989 ‘The Curse of Fenric’ often finds itself in the discussion for best story of the classic era of Doctor Who, the perfect blend of script editor Andrew Cartmel’s plan to reinvigorate the mysterious nature of the Doctor while fully developing and exploring the companion by his side. Without even considering the actual plot, it’s clear that Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred have an immense camaraderie, and the relationship that draws parallels to a father and daughter comes alive wonderfully. Indeed, this is perhaps the most grounded relationship within the classic series, the Doctor encouraging Ace to observe and reach conclusions by herself while still being ever mindful of her propensity for jumping into situations head first and Ace trying to earn the respect of the Doctor while still trying to discover herself. Of course, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is the definitive Ace tale, and never before has a companion developed so much and been so hurt in such a short period of time. ‘The Curse of Fenric’ deals with surprisingly mature themes for a family programme, with Ace’s intimations about being able to use her femininity to her advantage and the metaphorical swimming…

Ghost Light
Episode / May 9, 2017

Aired 4 – 18 October 1989 ‘Ghost Light’ has garnered something of reputation for being a more cerebral or abstract adventure than is the norm for Doctor Who, some viewers and fans being turned off because it does require a greater commitment to piece together the many diverse elements into a cohesive whole. However, it also fits in perfectly with the gradual shift of the programme to put more focus on the companion as an actual person as well as to instill a sense of mystery into the character of the Doctor once more. Appropriately, then, ‘Ghost Light’ is very much a story about the inevitability of and need for change in order to ensure survival. As with any great story, the proceedings on display act as a metaphor for even larger events, and that certainly is the case when looking at Doctor Who as a franchise at the time. Josiah, assured that the British Empire is in decline and heading for anarchy due to lack of direction from the throne, plans to murder Queen Victoria in order to place himself at the head of a society in which the establishment and status quo remain untouched. Intriguingly, there is a…

Battlefield
Episode / May 9, 2017

Aired 6 – 27 September 1989 ‘Battlefield’ opens up what would become Doctor Who’s final season, following in the footsteps of the previous season opener and incorporating a look to the past while further defining the more complex characterization and storylines of the Seventh Doctor. Indeed, the Doctor here is at his most manipulative, a version of him from the future managing to use the current version as a pawn in one of his many grandiose schemes. The Seventh Doctor traveling around the universe to settle old scores and tie up loose ends had been gradually introduced over the previous year, but this is the first time that the Doctor’s personal past, present, and future have crossed paths, lending an extreme depth to the character and adding a degree of certainty to his future when the continuation of the programme was anything but certain. ‘Battlefield’ is actually quite successful with its blending of elements and imagery from different eras of both real-life and the programme’s history even if the production never quite meets its full potential. The notion of Arthurian knights invading modern-day Britain is an enticing concept and certainly helps to anchor the story on a visual level. However,…

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Episode / May 8, 2017

Aired 14 December 1988 – 4 January 1989 In an anniversary season that featured the return of the Daleks and Cybermen sandwiched around a piece brutal political commentary, it’s easy to forget that ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ is the concluding serial and just as important as any of the others, though for wholly different reasons. Instead of playing on nostalgia to cater to the fans, the serial instead wholly directs its focus inwards at what Doctor Who in general had become at the time after years of public pressure had slowly tempered the audacious and surreal imagination originally on display. As Doctor Who continued its fight for its very life as ratings continued to plunge, ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ is a biting and grim look at the 1980s era in general and the impossible situation it found itself in no matter what changes it made or stunts it employed. Without question, the family comprising the audience of the Psychic Circus that determines which acts survive or perish is the most overt metaphor within the serial, showcasing the struggle and sacrifices made to ensure the BBC’s approval of and continuation with the programme as a viable franchise.…

Knock Knock
Episode / May 8, 2017

Aired 06 May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The latest series of Doctor Who has certainly taken a more deliberate approach with its stories, hearkening back to the classic series as plenty of time has been afforded for the expositions to naturally and fluidly unfold. This has, almost by necessity, meant that the denouements have been somewhat rushed so far, but ‘Knock Knock’ manages to strike a good balance as it boldly delves into the horror genre before delivering a surprisingly emotional ending. Wisely, ‘Knock Knock’ does not knock the stereotypes and tropes that form the basis of traditional horror tales but instead willingly embraces them. A old-fashioned house with a mysterious landlord, a group of students bursting with naivety, and plenty of odd creeks and goings-on are all present, and even the Doctor finds himself a victim of the menacing setting as exits and students begin to vanish. However, the chance escape of the Doctor to the cellar slowly sheds light on the truth behind the house and its long-term occupants, the landlord and the strange wooden being locked in the tower. The shift in tone may be rather jarring as emotion and empathy suddenly overtake horror, but both elements…