Doom Coalition 2
Audio / March 10, 2016

Released February 2016 Doom Coalition 2, the second set of four stories in this sixteen-story epic to be released over four box sets, continues the adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Helen, and Liv, as they hunt for and battle the renegade Time Lord villain the Eleven. Nicholas Briggs’s ‘Beachhead’ starts the set off with the Doctor looking to take a bit of holiday following the events of Doom Coalition 1, taking Helen and Liv to the quiet English village of Stegmoor in 2017. As is increasingly the case in Doctor Who, though, water works against the TARDIS team, a sudden flood knocking the Doctor out and leaving Helen and Liv to piece the puzzle of a mysterious energy source together. This provides a good premise for listeners to get re-acquainted with these companions and shows that they are both sensible and reasonable as they discuss what actions to take once they discover an uncovered black rock on the beach that might just be a spaceship. Helen, in particular, comes off as being much more confident here than she did in her initial adventures, but Liv is portrayed quite strongly as well as she eventually heads to the village to see…

The Eye of the Scorpion
Audio / March 8, 2016

Released September 2001 ‘The Eye of the Scorpion’ features the return of Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor alongside Nicola Bryant as Peri, a duo that unfortunately didn’t have much time on screen together but clearly has great chemistry and great potential for untold stories. However, as strong as this story is as a whole, it will best be remembered for the surprise inclusion of a new companion in Erimem ush Inteperem, or Ermimem as she comes to be known. The story centres around the court of Thebes as Erimem’s coronation as the new pharaoh approaches and the Priest of Horus Horemshep attempts to keep her from achieving that right. To realize his goals, he tries to frame Erimem’s loyal guard Antranak for murder while his ally Yanis waits outside the city with a band of mercenaries, ready to forcefully invade Thebes when needed. As an added threat, Horemshep and Yanis are both under the influence of an alien parasite. So, while the plot itself isn’t groundbreaking in any major fashion, it’s the characterization and atmosphere that really elevate the tale. Whereas the classic television series was rather constrained with what it could show due to budget and its usual…

Project: Twilight
Audio / March 7, 2016

Released August 2001 ‘Project: Twilight’ again features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe, continuing the run of high quality that these two have enjoyed under Big Finish’s stewardship. Prior to Big Finish, several novelizations featuring the Sixth Doctor put him into a contemporary setting, an approach that consistently yielded good results, and ‘Project: Twilight’ again exploits this trend to great effect. A series of animal carcasses that have seemingly been eaten disrupts the Doctor and Evelyn’s trip to the Slow Boat Chines Restaurant in South London, and the two soon find themselves involved in the investigation. It’s not long before vampires are reintroduced, albeit with a fresh interpretation that doesn’t just follow the portrayals of previous televised and written adventures. More importantly, though, the plot is structured in such a way that the Doctor has to battle with his own instincts regarding vampires to consider the bigger picture, and this turmoil leads to some of the most emotionally effective scenes. It almost goes without saying, but Colin Baker is again on top form here. His Doctor is again afforded a script that allows him to show his intelligence and tenacity, and writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright also do a…

Bloodtide
Audio / March 5, 2016

Released July 2001 ‘Bloodtide’ brings with it another of Doctor Who’s classic recurring villains, this time giving the Silurians their welcome to the audio format. The Silurians have one of the richest cultures and histories in Doctor Who, but the relatively few stories involving them have not done much to explore their prehistoric but technologically advanced culture that entered cryogenic suspension to survive the impending damage to Earth by a celestial body that eventually became the Moon. ‘Bloodtide’ takes advantage of that opportunity. In 1835, the Sixth Doctor has brought Evelyn to the Galapagos Islands and the HMS Beagle to meet Charles Darwin, one of her idols. As Evelyn does her best to not interfere with Darwin’s studying of finches, the Doctor soon becomes aware of a governor of a local penal colony who is jailing citizens for only the most minor of offences. The governor has made a deal with an unknown species, eliminating ‘undesirables’ so they may become food or experiment fodder. Unfortunately, this is one of the cases where having Evelyn split from the Doctor actually impedes any sort of character development. Evelyn is all too aware that she cannot help Darwin in formulating his theory on…

Dust Breeding
Audio / March 4, 2016

Released June 2001 ‘Dust Breeding’ finally brings the Master into the Big Finish universe, with Geoffrey Beevers reprising the role. Big Finish apparently originally intended to have Anthony Ainley return as the Master, but his demands were too much to make his reprisal a realistic possibility. As it is, though, Beevers possesses a voice that simply exudes everything that is the Master, and so his presence in ‘Dust Breeding’ is superb even if the plot contrivance to explain his being back as a post-‘Survival’ Master is rather overly complicated. The Master’s nefarious plan is to gain control of the sentient Warp Core weapon by using eggs of the Krill, a humanoid creature first seen in the novel ‘Storm Harvest;’ of course, it doesn’t go exactly as he envisions and the Doctor ends up intervening. Actually, though, ‘Dust Breeding’ is full of intriguing concepts, notably a planet as a work of art and sentient dust-like beings that spend centuries trapped inside the painting ‘The Scream’ with the Doctor rushing to save that same painting before its destruction. Unfortunately that sentient superweapon that became more powerful than its creators foresaw never really reaches its full potential and in a sense becomes just…

Loups-Garoux
Audio / March 3, 2016

Released May 2001 In ‘Loups-Garoux,’ Marc Platt successfully brings werewolves, creatures surprisingly not truly explored up to this point, into the world of Doctor Who, weaving a very emotional and gripping tale in the process. Platt bravely chooses to portray the werewolves as actual people with a dark and primal urge lurking beneath the surface rather than as baseless monsters and in so doing allows a greater degree of individuality and attachment to develop. Lichtfuss and Jorge consider themselves superior to humanity but realize the importance of staying hidden out of sight to survive whereas Inez and Ilaena desire a cohabitation with humanity, Ilaena concerned only about her son. On the far extreme end of the spectrum, though, is the villain of the piece, the ‘Lobo King’ Pietr Stubbe, who looks to rule the wolves and humans alike. The Doctor is all too aware of the threat Stubbe poses, calling him one of the most dangerous beings ever produced, and Stubbe exudes this power through a combination of brutality, charisma, and cruelty. At the same time, though, the wolves are linked to the Earth, Stubbe more than most, and the rather opaque ending in the TARDIS where he surrenders himself…

Minuet in Hell
Audio / March 1, 2016

Released April 2001 ‘Minuet in Hell,’ the finale to Paul McGann’s maiden ‘season’ with Big Finish, is a tale full of potential that, unfortunately, never fails to deliver everything that it is setting up and promising. The setting and plot is filled with horror, a genre that has served Doctor Who well in the past. However, whether McGann is describing the Gallifreyan legends of hell or, the plot is dealing with prostitution and mental illness, or the Doctor is facing a lobotomy as he struggles to find his identity, there is a lot of very genuinely scary goings-on throughout the script. Unfortunately, despite these dark and intriguing concepts, the suspect supporting performances, shoddy pacing, and overreliance on unnecessary nods to continuity and past adventures make ‘Minuet in Hell’ fall flat. In theory, the Doctor being in an asylum and being unsure if he is truly a time traveler or just delusional while facing a man claiming to be the Doctor should work wonders and progress the story easily. However, there is absolutely no question about who the Doctor truly is and so rather than creating an exciting mysterious dynamic, this gimmick instead turns into a grinding plot point that only…

The Stones of Venice
Audio / February 29, 2016

Released March 2000 ‘The Stones of Venice’ is the first Big Finish script penned by Paul Magrs, and his typical imbuement of more magical and fantastical elements into the world of Doctor Who transitions easily to the audio medium. Set in a futuristic Venice that is facing destruction by sinking, the plot takes a very genuine possibility but tinkers with the underlying reason by having it be due to a curse set upon the city and its ruler Orsino by his lost lover Estrella. This is eventually explained to be the result of alien technology, but for the purposes of the story it is treated as a magical cause, magic carrying great weight throughout the tale. So, too, however, does a sense of surrealism. The fact that the people of Venice are knowingly staying in a doomed city and meeting their end just to have one final party, that the gondoliers have somehow evolved into amphibious creatures, and that there is a strange fog that can somehow rearrange the layout of the city at random all remind of just how strange and yet still relatable the worlds of Magrs can get. Magrs is also quite adept at instilling humour into…

Sword of Orion
Audio / February 29, 2016

Released February 2001 Paul McGann’s second Big Finish outing brings his Eighth Doctor and new companion Charley face to face with the Cybermen, themselves making their audio debut. Following the successful transition of the Daleks and Ice Warriors to the audio medium, expectations were high even before release; however, whereas the Cybermen on television frequently lurked in the shadows until a surprise revelation partway through a story (in the many stories that did not have ‘Cybermen’ in the title, at least), heavy promotion of their return as well as the cover artwork make this type of reveal impossible in ‘Sword of Orion.’ Overall, ‘Sword of Orion’ borrows several storytelling ideas from previous Cybermen adventures, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The usual slow reveal is still in place and, ironically, knowing that the Cybermen are going to inevitably make an appearance without knowing exactly when adds to the tension and atmosphere rather than detracting from them or making it seem like the story is providing filler or treading water. This actually ends up being one of the story’s greatest strengths. The structure of the story is quite routine by Doctor Who standards and begins as something dangerous is out…

The War Doctor – Infernal Devices
Audio / February 29, 2016

Released February 2016 Infernal Devices, the second of Big Finish’s box sets to explore the shrouded and darker incarnation of the titular Time Lord, picks up his tale at an undetermined time following the conclusion of Only the Monstrous with the Time War at or near its height and with Time Lords and Daleks alike willing to do whatever it takes to win outright. Infernal Devices features a slightly different format and tone than the preceding release in that the stories, although connected, are much more standalone, each focusing on a unique and powerful weapon as well as the consequences- both intended and not- that such power can have. The Tenth Doctor briefly but emotionally recalled some of the travesties of the Time War in his final episode, but it is during this set of three stories that listeners are afforded a glimpse of just what types of schemes and powers are truly involved. The Time Lords have forsaken their stance on non-intervention and are actively spearheading counterattacks and pre-emptive attacks against the Daleks, seemingly unconcerned about any repercussions the universe at large may feel and in a very real sense mirroring the Daleks themselves. John Dorney’s ‘Legion of the…