Night of the Vashta Nerada
Audio , Website / July 28, 2017

Released July 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW With so many foes originating from the classic era of Doctor Who continuing to return to the modern incarnation of the series, it was only a matter of time until Big Finish inverted that formula and had foes of the modern series cross paths with classic regenerations of the Doctor. Met with unfettered acclaim last year, the first collection of Classic, Doctors, New Monsters proved what a resounding success the format could be as the likes of the Weeping Angels, Judoon, Sycorax, and newer Sontarans each appeared earlier in the Doctor’s timeline that previously known. To kick off the second box set, the Fourth Doctor happens upon the Vashta Nerada on Funworld, a proposed planet of joy where the construction and intended opening have been marred by mysterious reports of a predator and a complete termination of communications. ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ unavoidably shares several moments of similarity with ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead,’ but the reintroduction of the eponymous foe and their means of hunting and survival when their native forests is handled so well that it hardly matters. The fact that these minute piranha-like beings are normally…

Leviathan
Website / June 12, 2017

Released January 2010 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Following two adaptations of well-known scripts featuring returning foes to begin its The Lost Stories range, Big Finish turns to a lesser-known story with a completely novel and satisfyingly complex plot as ‘Leviathan’ finally sees the light of day. As the Doctor and Peri arrive in a mediaeval society where nobody lives to old age or dares break with tradition, the mystery behind Herne the Hunter and the local baron’s cullings slowly takes prominence and leads to an entirely unexpected truth. ‘Leviathan’ is unquestionably a tale of immense scope, and it’s difficult to believe that a production such as this could have been realistically realized on the limited BBC budget of its intended time. Nonetheless, within the confines of the audio medium, it comes to life spectacularly from the very beginning as the mythological skull-faced and antlered figure of Herne is seen pursuing youngsters through the forest. Although ‘Leviathan’ ultimately plays out as a story of two distinct halves, which again proves to be the wise approach given the individual episodes’ prolonged running time and the availability of only one cliffhanger, the mysteries that engulf the events of the opening half are truly superb…

Smile
Website / April 23, 2017

Aired 22 April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Every now and again a foe comes along that seems perfectly suited for a particular incarnation of the Doctor, and pairing robots that kill those around them for not smiling and being happy with the sternness and consternation that pervades the characterization of the Twelfth Doctor certainly seems like a natural choice. Unfortunately, after a solid and more deliberate opening half in which the Doctor and Bill get to know each other and the strange world before them, the intrigue of the Vardy threat simply doesn’t have quite enough weight to successfully carry ‘Smile’ to a balanced and engaging resolution. Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce shows no hesitation is putting the focus of the story squarely on the shoulders of Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie, and the chemistry the two innately share shines brilliantly throughout. After a strong introduction in ‘The Pilot,’ Bill is further fleshed out as a dynamic and multifaceted character who is keenly aware of the details in her surroundings while managing to process the strange world that being with the Doctor presents her. It is a bit of a shame that ‘Smile’ doesn’t take the time to explore Bill’s reactions to…

Vengeance on Varos
Website / April 7, 2017

Aired 19 – 26 January 1985 ‘Vengeance on Varos’ is an unreserved highlight of Colin Baker’s first full year as the Sixth Doctor, employing the usual decree for violence and power struggles but managing to explore these issues with a degree of finesse rarely obtained in this era. Indeed, as a satirical indictment against the violent trends of civilization as well as of reality television that has become so popular and pervasive in the decades since its airing, ‘Vengeance on Varos’ remains incredibly relevant and withstands the test of time immeasurably well. Of course, Doctor Who is by no means alone in predicting the rise of so-called reality television, violence and fights for survival played out in front of a watching audience the basis of many works of science fiction at the time and to this day. Nonetheless, it’s intriguing to note that it aired at a time when The House of Lords began making acts of democracy public by broadcasting debates as well as when laws about videos were changing and the BBC was experimenting with interactivity in homes. These elements all focus, and the recordings within Varos’s Punishment Dome are clearly being used as much for profit as…

The Pirate Planet
Website / January 12, 2017

Aired 30 September – 21 October 1978 ‘The Pirate Planet’ scripted by Douglas Adams represents Doctor Who at its most ambitious, its sprawling and epic script bursting with clever ideas and concepts. With a seamless blend of science fiction, realism, and absurdity, only the four-episode running time and one unfortunate performance keep this second story of the Key to Time season from reaching its full potential. The pirate planet itself is an absolutely ingenious concept that works incredibly well within the confines of Doctor Who and its budget, tying several loose threads together naturally without ever indulging in how clever it is as a narrative device. In fact, every plot point introduced is fascinating, but the search for the Key to Time segment as well as the pirates, the planet’s queen, and the telepathic sect all end up being less developed than they might have been in a script with fewer elements in play. It’s tough to fault the ambition of Adams here or to cry foul when each of these ideas is incredibly strong, especially since the resulting pace is fantastic, but there is easily enough content here for a six-part adventure with minimal padding. The major point of…

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…

Afterlife
Website / November 21, 2016

Released December 2013 ‘Afterlife’ picks up from the harrowing conclusion to ‘Gods and Monsters’ with a distraught Ace holding the Doctor responsible for Hex’s death and forcing him to travel back to 21st century Liverpool. Seeking Hex’s friends and family, the Doctor, Ace, and Sally each try to come to terms with Hex’s death in order to move on. ‘Afterlife’ is somewhat uneven and unsubtle in places, but it deserves full credit for trying to bring emotions to the forefront. Ace is initially the focus of this tale, and Sophie Aldred does well in bringing out heartbroken rage to exemplify just how badly Ace has been hurt. While the Doctor does come off as a bit foolish and ignorant by suggesting that Ace just needs to get her blood sugar up to feel better, the first episode highlights the emotional gulf between the Time Lord and his companion while once again suggesting that Ace has been traveling with the Doctor for so long that she might be unable to return to the real world. Interjecting a previously-untold adventure with Hex into the pain of remorse through narration from Hex in a letter to his grandmother works exceedingly well, heightening the…

The Monster of Peladon
Website / November 17, 2016

Aired 23 March – 27 April 1974 ‘The Curse of Peladon’ was one of the most important serials of Jon Pertwee’s tenure, not his Third Doctor’s first trip off of Earth but certainly the first one to create a vast and rich alien world that showed the true potential of the colourized programme’s extraterrestrial adventures. With how beloved that serial instantly became, it makes sense that Doctor Who would revisit the world of Peladon in a rare direct sequel, but ‘The Monster of Peladon’ does little new and instead seems content to revel in repetition as if celebrating the success of its predecessor. Set some fifty years after ‘The Curse of Peladon,’ ‘The Monster of Peladon’ asks the audience of believe that Alpha Centauri is still present on the planet, that the last surviving native creature Aggedor is still alive and well, that the rare trisilicate mineral has shown up in abundance on Peladon, and that the Ice Warriors are again involved in events. All of these plot points, aside from trisilicate’s abundance, are well-trodden and were used to good effect before, but it strains credulity to suggest that all of them would coincide for another tale. The script does…

The Company of Friends
Website / August 17, 2016

Released July 2009 It seems somewhat odd that the Doctor with by far the shortest amount of screen time has had the greatest amount of non-televised work dedicated to him. Undoubtedly due purely to the fact that the television movie left the Eighth Doctor as a completely blank canvas full of untapped potential that could never become stale due to continuity constraints, the number of written, comic, and audio adventures dedicated to this regeneration is staggering. With ‘The Company of Friends,’ Big Finish brings those three distinct interpretations of the Eighth Doctor together, framed within the context of travels with just a few of his many companions. It’s certainly a bold move for Big Finish to dip its toes further into non-continuity territory, but it’s also a move that will be sure to appease long-time Eighth Doctor fans while introducing Big Finish fans to alternative interpretations and travels of Paul McGann’s iteration. Of course, the brevity of each story allows only the briefest glimmer of the Doctor-companion relationship, but the sense of nostalgia obtained is a testament to Big Finish as a whole. Intriguingly, the first story features Professor Bernice Summerfield, one-time companion of the Seventh Doctor but who also…

Memory Lane
Website / May 30, 2016

Released October 2006 ‘Memory Lane’ begins on a perfect summer day in an idyllic English neighbourhood, an ice cream truck rolling down the street and snooker playing on the television. Unfortunately, what seems to be a peaceful and unassuming place houses a much greater secret, and writer Eddie Robson slowly increases the mystery and sense of unease to create an enjoyably unsettling but still lighthearted experience. With a shorter running time than most Big Finish main range releases, ‘Memory Lane’ moves along at a very brisk pace with minimal padding. Tom Braudy, a ten-year-old boy, starts off as the focus of the intrigue as he builds a spaceship out of Legos. Strangely, though, he appears to be much, much older than his age would suggest, and his Nan seems completely undisturbed by the appearance of the TARDIS which is then promptly stolen by the driver of the ice cream truck. Yet finding the TARDIS proves rather difficult as every house in the unending neighbourhood is the exact same, each filled with its own Tom’s Nan and each one’s television playing a video of astronauts trying to escape from a creature aboard their ship, one of the astronauts sounding eerily like…