The Five Companions
Audio / June 3, 2017

Released December 2011 Whereas 2010’s Bonus Release ‘The Four Doctors’ took a rather novel approach to a multi-Doctor story by focusing on a new character traversing the Doctor’s personal timeline, 2011’s fuses different eras of Doctor Who together in an altogether more traditional fashion, though still with its own unique twist. As Ian, Steven, Sara, Polly, and Nyssa find themselves brought together and confronted with Daleks, Sontarans, and dinosaurs, ‘The Five Companions’ finds the Doctor directly confronting his past in a thrilling but also very personal tale of survival and reflection. Writer Eddie Robson borrows from ‘The Five Doctors’ and suggests that these past companions are in another part of that serial’s Death Zone on Gallifrey and that the Doctor has been pulled out of his transport to the Capitol to appear at that same area. However, though this is a Fifth Doctor story, the tale wisely focuses on the returning companions themselves, certainly not shying away from the fact that they have aged since leaving the Doctor and allowing moments of reminiscence while showcasing the unique element that each brought to the series while traveling aboard the TARDIS. Obviously Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles range has kept the earlier…

The Faceless Ones
Episode / October 3, 2016

Aired 8 April – 13 May 1967 The TARDIS returns to contemporary Earth once more, in fact on the exact same day as the events portrayed in ‘The War Machines,’ as suspicious goings-on at Gatwick Airport come under scrutiny and Ben and Polly make their departure. ‘The Faceless Ones’ really starts to show the mischievous charisma and charm that Patrick Troughton has been perfecting over the past few stories. Whether butting heads with airport security or thinking quickly and even threatening others to get out of dangerous situations, Troughton imbues his character with a darker edge that sells the menace of the situation, and the balance between humour and stern intensity is perfect. Notably, this is really the first time that the Doctor and Jamie have truly gotten to interact, and it’s clear that there’s an inherent and easy chemistry between the two that further exemplifies the tonal balance. A small moment like the Doctor warning Jamie not to overdo his acting when pretending to be sick to gain access to the medical ward and bigger set moments like the two hiding behind newspapers or posing in a phone booth all suggest hints of just why Jamie would go on…

The Macra Terror
Episode / October 1, 2016

Aired 11 March – 1 April 1967 Warning about superficial judgments and channeling some of the totalitarian themes of George Orwell’s seminal 1984, ‘The Macra Terror’ is yet another lost story with often overlooked merits in part because of the rather dubious photographic stills of the titular crablike foes. Fascinatingly, although the Macra have taken over complete control of the human colony and enslaved its denizens, the majority of the humans themselves are completely oblivious and believe that life is wonderful thanks to some very clever propaganda and more insidious brainwashing. As the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie arrive and are initially treated to the splendours of this holiday environment, there are also odd warnings that anyone who breaks curfew will be punished as the ever more sinister broadcasts from Control insist on continuing work for continuing happiness. Even more disturbingly, most of the people who have at least a notion that something may not quite be right are still quite content to leave things as they are, either because they are afraid of change or because they enjoy some degree of power within the current system. The truly dark side of this setup manifests in the mines where those…

The Moonbase
Episode / September 29, 2016

Aired 11 February – 4 March 1967 With its two missing episodes reconstructed in animated form, ‘The Moonbase’ is currently the earliest ‘complete’ Patrick Troughton serial to be released. While it does feature some rather unfortunate and improbable plot contrivances, it also features incredible tension and firmly cements the Cybermen’s place as a viable recurring foe. With producer Innes Lloyd’s desire to shift the focus of Doctor Who more towards science fiction, monsters, and tense action, the Cybermen were a logical choice to make a return despite so recently having been in ‘The Tenth Planet.’ With the Daleks out of commission as Terry Nation tried to sell them overseas, there was a sudden impetus on creating memorable alien threats for the Doctor to face. With a sleek redesign and more straightforward motivation that didn’t rely so heavily on a convoluted backstory, the Cybermen of ‘The Moonbase’ are most certainly much more in line with the versions that would succeed them in future eras and are certainly dangerous enough to warrant their prominent recurrence in the Second Doctor era. As the TARDIS misses Mars and lands on the Moon instead, the Doctor’s companions are thrilled to have a chance to explore.…

The Underwater Menace
Episode / September 26, 2016

Aired 14 January – 4 February 1967 With the surprising recovery and return of episode two in 2011 to the BBC video archives to sit alongside episode three, ‘The Underwater Menace’ completed the classic range of Doctor Who DVD releases in 2016 with the earliest existing footage of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, the remaining two missing episodes presented as telesnap reconstructions. Unfortunately, with its extravagant Atlantean setting that could never have adequately been realized with a BBC budget, lack of characterization, and ridiculous villain Zaroff, this is sadly less a celebration of the best of the classic range and more a showcase of tumultuous road to production and of an absurd whimsy only occasionally explored, a case of ambition trumping practicality. ‘The Underwater Menace’ is Patrick Troughton’s third story, and yet there is distinct shift in how he portrays the character within the confines of these events, shifting from a more manic and comic interpretation to one much more in line with the shrewder and more calculating Doctor he would make so popular and famous. There is the argument that Joseph Furst’s unbelievably cheesy performance as Zaroff provided the impetus for this tactical shift, but seeing Troughton actively…

The Highlanders
Episode / September 24, 2016

Aired 17 December 1966 – 7 January 1967 Following a riveting battle with the Daleks, the era of the Second Doctor continues with another staple of the First Doctor era, the historical. Landing in 1746 Scotland shortly after the Battle of Culloden, the Doctor, Polly, and Ben soon find themselves embroiled in tumultuous affairs of the time as they stumble into a hut with wounded Laird and accidentally alert the nearby British patrol. Setting events after the battle is a rather novel twist; while the story itself rather simply amounts to a great deal of capture and escape while featuring rather stereotypical Scottish and English characters, taking the focus off of the major historical events affords the script much more time to further develop its new leads, specifically its new Doctor. Though Patrick Troughton unabashedly took control of events in ‘The Power of the Daleks,’ there was understandably a bit of trepidation as both he and the show tried to figure out what exactly to do with this new incarnation. In ‘The Highlanders’ the Second Doctor skews more towards the comedic end of the spectrum while proving to be master of disguise. As he adopts the persona of a German…

The Smugglers
Episode / September 19, 2016

Aired 10 September – 1 October 1966 ‘The Smugglers’ opens the fourth series of Doctor Who with the final historical story of William Hartnell’s tenure as the Doctor. To this point, the historical tales have fallen into two distinct camps, those such as ‘The Aztecs’ and ‘The Massacre’ that are quite staunch and serious and those such as ‘The Romans’ and ‘The Myth Makers’ that veered distinctly into comedic territory. However, ‘The Smugglers’ merges these two subsets to incorporate a sense of capricious whimsy into its otherwise solemn and quite brutal storyline, a rather successful approach for the Doctor’s first televised adventure with pirates. Whereas the preceding serial ‘The War Machines’ perhaps highlighted some of Hartnell’s increasing health-related frailties, here he is unequivocally at his best and central to the action throughout. Even as he constantly receives more threats to his life, he always carries himself with dignity, unafraid to use to his mind to find an escape. Though his escape from The Black Albatross and some of his other strategies are perhaps not the most inventive and often prey upon the ego and shortcomings of his foes, they nonetheless showcase a confident Doctor has begun to develop more manipulative…

The War Machines
Episode / September 17, 2016

Aired 25 June – 16 July 1966 For the first time since ‘An Unearthly Child’ three years earlier, the Doctor finally returns to present-day Earth, closing out the third season with ‘The War Machines’ which sees yet another companion departure and experiments with a new story style that would become a hallmark of later eras. Instead of enjoying the familiar backdrop, however, the Doctor and Dodo quickly become entwined in a global threat as they uncover the dark secret behind WOTAN within the Post Office Tower. WOTAN, the Will Operating Thought Analogue, is the most advanced computer of the time, able to think for itself and even verbalize its opinions and judgments. Going beyond its programming, though, WOTAN has somehow gained sentience and hypnotic powers, determining that humans are inferior and must become obedient to machine will. At the original time of broadcast when computers were much less commonplace, this was a tremendously and disturbingly topical and novel storyline that played upon the public fear of increasing human dependence on machines very well as WOTAN created an army of human and machine slaves alike. ‘The War Machines’ does unfortunately highlight the decreasing health and capabilities of William Hartnell in the…

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…

The Sandman
Audio / March 23, 2016

Released October 2002 Big Finish continues its streak of bringing new writers and experimenting with formats in ‘The Sandman.’ Here, Simon A Forwards presents the perspective of those that the Doctor has affected and bringing into question previous assumptions and expectations along the way. The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn land among the Clutch, an assembled collection of migratory ships that is a home of sorts to the reptilian Galyari race. The Galyari, as it turns out, are very familiar with the Doctor, holding a deep fear for him- or the Sandman as they know him- as well as the death and destruction he brings. There have been several attempts to make many of the different Doctors a darker character, and although the Seventh Doctor is known best for this trait, Colin Baker believably portrays a more sinister edge to his own version here. The script is clever enough to drop clues as to why this change in temperament occurs, but it leaves enough unanswered to successfully sustain the mystery of the Sandman. Even the manner in which the fact that the Doctor and the Sandman are the same being is revealed is quite nonchalant and understated, though the incredible fear…