Released March 2007
Big Finish tries a new format with its main range, releasing the three-part story ‘I.D.’ followed by the unrelated one-part story ‘Urgent Calls.’
Beginning with ‘I.D.,’ the truncated running time means that several of the intriguing plot points fail to get adequate exploration, keeping a very solid entry in the base under siege genre from reaching loftier heights. In the thirty-second century, outdated and obsolete computers and data storage devices are sent to an isolated planet at the edge of the galaxy to rot away. However, pirate and legitimate corporations scour the computers to retrieve information that they may be able to sell for profit to interested parties. The Doctor finds himself a captive of one such group of pirates, having to talk himself out of a ransom situation to a corporation who has no idea who he is. Meanwhile, a Scandroid finds a vital piece of information that it must forcefully disseminate to as many people and other Scandroids as possible, a piece of data that kills and living being with which it comes into contact.
Interestingly, this piece of data touches upon much deeper aspects such as personal identity rather than just being a standard computer virus or some other trite plot device. This is a time and setting where people directly interface with computers without the need for keyboards or mice and where a person’s personality and memories can be augmented, and it’s nice to see the crucial piece of information relating to these topical issues. The ending brings up some intriguing ethical quandaries as well, but unfortunately the resolution is quite rushed and doesn’t have quite the impact that a bit more exploration and explanation could have otherwise helped deliver. The story as a whole moves at quite a rapid pace and thankfully has no real padding, but the big revelations certainly could have used just a little more time dedicated to them.
This is one of the few Big Finish stories in which the Sixth Doctor does not have a companion, but Colin Baker ably carries the extra weight of expectations. The Sixth Doctor seems most at home when pushing back against ethical and moral gray areas and technology gone wrong, and he quickly asserts his authority while being unafraid to condemn the criminal behaviour and general technological advancements without consideration of ethics. ‘I.D.’ ends up being a masterpiece showcase for Colin Baker, proof positive of just how much Big Finish has done for the character over recent years.
‘I.D.’ is, of course, filled with supporting characters, but each is flawed enough that nobody is presented as a true hero or someone worthy of full support. Joe Thompson’s pirate Gabe clearly thinks of himself first and even looks to profit off of his own mother’s death, Helen Atkinson Wood’s accountant Tevez only cares about profit margins, Gyles Brandreth’s Doctor Marriott cares only about finding his information no matter the cost. Sara Griffith’s Claudia Bridge is arguably the most important supporting character, tying directly into the story’s ending, but her decisions seem rushed and based solely on perceived pro/con or cost/benefit. Having a story populated with such ambiguous characters is an interesting approach, but it’s certainly hard to fully support anyone but the Doctor.
‘Urgent Calls’ is the single-part tale to finish off this release, seeing a young lady in London making multiple telephone calls to wrong numbers, each one being picked up by a mysterious man in extraordinary circumstances. The story unfolds directly from the young professional’s viewpoint, and Kate Brown does quite well in showing how much her life is changed by knowing that extraterrestrial life is real, in essence showing the influence of interacting with the Doctor even indirectly. Suddenly every little aspect of her everyday life that she holds in such regard loses that level of importance. Even though she never gets to meet the Doctor face to face, she eventually does decide to write him a letter, knowing that somehow he will get it. It’s a nice, brief tale that aptly shows a very logical reaction to continued interactions with the Doctor without relying too overtly on terror or threats, a nice addendum and refreshing change of pace.
Big Finish must be commended as always for being willing to switch things up in such a long-standing and successful range. And though the condensed three-part format does leave some parts of ‘I.D.’ feeling underdeveloped and underexplored, it’s still a very solid base under siege story that showcases Colin Baker. Combined with the intriguing and slightly more relaxed pace of ‘Urgent Calls,’ this is certainly a type of release that big Finish could further exploit to great effect in the future.