Collision Course

Posted in Audio by - July 22, 2019
Collision Course

Released July 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Fallout from the temporal distortions has finally reached Gallifrey as The Legacy of Time reaches its monumental finale in Guy Adams’s ‘Collision Course.’ While Leela and Romana suddenly remember traveling with the Fourth Doctor to the same world at different times, the uncovered plan to create a destructive paradox the likes of which the universe has never seen just may require more than one Doctor to avert.

‘The Avenues of Possiblity’ revealed that none other than Big Finish’s first Doctor Who villains the Sirens of Time have been the cause of the immense temporal fractures and deviations noted throughout this set, and ‘Collision Course’ wastes little time introducing the true scope of their current plan. Naturally, an anniversary release such as this requires a unique momentousness to truly resonate and capitalise on the occasion, and the Sirens interfering with the very first Gallifreyan attempt at time travel absolutely taps into both the planet’s and franchise’s mythology to do exactly that. The Sirens aren’t evil just for the sake of being evil, and that they are willing to destroy a universe through the changes in established history simply to sustain themselves gives a simple but profound motivation for their actions while also providing the power to give at least a plausible explanation for how they have managed to escape their living prison to wreak this untold destruction. There might not be quite enough to these beings to truly make them recurring nemeses on a more regular basis, but ‘Collision Course’ does show the frightening extent of their power and manages to present a credible threat for this finale that is not wholly reliant on clichés and ubsubstantiated spectacle is so often the case.

Of course, it’s the manner in which the true danger is realised that rightfully takes centre stage, and it’s wholly fitting that it should be Leela and Romana who lead the charge both with and without the Fourth Doctor. Since long before their travels with the Doctor continued within the audio medium, Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward became stalwarts for Big Finish in the mesmerising Gallifrey series that brought the politics and machinations of the Doctor’s home world to life like never before, and they are the perfect characters through which to explore the Doctor’s travels and the truly universal threat that is threatening to destroy everything they know and more. With new memories of old travels manifesting and timelines in which they all perish taking form, the stakes have rarely if ever simultaneously been quite so intimate and colossal, and the Doctor not remembering his trip with Romana to the same isolated planet he had previously visited with Leela is only the beginning of the haunting events on this world that has seemingly experienced a tremendous topographical change from jungle to devoid and deserted land. The Legacy of Time as a whole has confidently explored events unfolding in different times concurrently, and Tom Baker is able to play off both of his leading ladies to capture the unique nuances of their relationships while also further intensifying the gravity of the situation that causes him to admit for the first time that he wishes he had not stepped out of the TARDIS and onto this world.

As the original pioneers into time travel and the Doctor’s personal heroes face the ultimate sacrifice while begging for their actions to be stopped, the unique need for the console to have six Time Lords present wondrously allows for the Third through Eighth incarnations of the Doctor to confront a task together. The ability of Bernice to collect all six at Romana’s future beckoning might be somewhat circumspect, but the end result is sure to please fans of each of these eras. As always, the different incarnations are unafraid to poke fun at the others, a jibe at the Sixth Doctor’s trousers and the Fifth Doctor’s inability to find Heathrow being particular highlights, but the implicit trust each has in the others as they all jockey for a semblance of superiority underscores this grandiose scene perfectly. The actual plot component to this meeting takes up only the briefest portion when compared to the banter, but Doctor Who has always been able to blend whimsical and serious with good success, and that certainly applies here as even the First, Second, and Tenth Doctors as played by David Bradley, Frazer Hines, and David Tennant, respectively, attempt to get in on the action that has no room for them. Some may claim- and not unreasonably- that this could detract from the sense of imminent danger, but this scene provides just another moment that wondrously captures the essences of these three Doctors who have likewise become so important to Big Finish over the past several years.

Multi-Doctor stories are notoriously difficult to pull off, and ‘Collision Course’ takes that challenge one step further by including no fewer than nine incarnations while also piggybacking off a story showcasing the Fourth Doctor and what his era has gone on to produce. The writing, acting, directing, and sound design all had to be pitch perfect to have any change of pulling off this monumental undertaking, and it truly is a testament to how far Big Finish has come over twenty years that so many celebratory ideas are able to intertwine with such a grandiose threat so well. The pacing may slow a little once all of the Doctors are present and the suggestion that time will iron out the wrinkles that have been caused may be a little anticlimactic given the tremendous lengths that were gone to as countless assured deaths were averted, but this is a strong conclusion to twenty years of audio that highlights Big Finish’s expanded cast of heroes and its surprisingly dangerous foes who have come full circle in a wholly satisfying and engaging manner.

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