The Final Phase
Audio / January 31, 2017

Released July 2013 ‘The Final Phase’ carries with it a sense of finality in many ways, concluding events set out in ‘The Dalek Contract’ which hearken back to the earlier Laan stories, concluding the second run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, and also concluding Mary Tamm’s direct contributions to the franchise as her final story recorded before her unfortunate passing. With Cuthbert’s plan for the Proxima system and his plan to control reality progressing to its final phase and with the Daleks beginning to reveal their true intentions while holding Romana and K9 prisoner as the opening of the Quantum Gateway begins, the scene is set for a bombastic finale after ‘The Dalek Contract’ played it rather safe. The premise for this story is a great one, and the thought of the Quantum Gateway being a tear in the fabric of space and time but requiring enough energy to destroy the universe to open it is chillingly visual and dramatic. At the same time, while it’s inevitable that the Daleks have a secret plan and are simply acting subservient to Cuthbert in order to achieve their own means, it’s quite intriguing that they have been punching holes through the Gateway,…

The Dalek Contract
Audio / January 31, 2017

Released June 2013 The second run of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures comes to a close with a two-part Dalek tale scripted by Nicholas Briggs that also serves as a sequel of sorts to the Cuthbert storyline introduced in the earlier Laan double release. ‘The Dalek Contract’ begins the finale as the Doctor, Romana, and K9 attempt to discover the truth behind Cuthbert and his infamous experiment as well as just how the Daleks fit into his conniving plans in the Proxima system. It’s apparent from the beginning, especially regarding the Daleks themselves, that this will be a fairly straightforward and traditional tale as many familiar plot points are recycled. As the Daleks stay more in the shadows to watch their secret plan unfold, a group of rebels on an oppressed world fight for their rights and freedom, and business and profits trump decency and the common good, there is little here that hasn’t been done elsewhere before. Instead, the intrigue stems from Cuthbert’s involvement with the denizens of Skaro as he plans to hire their services as a security force, a role which they clearly intend to use to their own advantage. Some nice set pieces result even…

War Against the Laan
Audio / January 23, 2017

Released March 2013 The Doctor, Romana, and newly-elected Earth President Sheridan Moorkurk continue their investigation into and battle against business tycoon Cuthbert and his all-encompassing Conglomerate started in ‘The Sands of Life.’ However, with Cuthbert intent on seeking revenge against the Laan creatures he believes have personally attacked him and an interspecies war looming large, the stakes have never been higher as Earth finds itself hanging in the balance. The central conflict here is well-written and lends an air of gravity to the Laan that the introductory story didn’t quite manage to achieve because of its expository nature. With the Laan needing to use Earth to spawn in an act that will annihilate the human population, there’s an inherent moral question that needs to be asked regarding how aggressive humans have the right to be. Of course, Cuthbert believes that humans are in the right to take the fight to the Laan, but it’s the President who explains the morally-ambiguous nature of a potential attack best to fully flesh out the inherent drama that the situation poses. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to find an appealing alternative that both sides accept rather graciously, but the tension resulting from an impossible…

The Sands of Life
Audio / January 22, 2017

Released February 2013 After last month’s dip into more surreal humour, The Fourth Doctor Adventures now adds a political edge to its headier science fiction as a mysterious invasion of Earth turns much more complicated. While the Doctor and Romana attempt to discover the underlying motivations of the Laan, Earth’s newly-elected President, Sheridan Moorkurk, begins to understand that Cuthbert and his megacorporation The Conglomerate hold more power than anyone has ever realized. Tom Baker and Mary Tamm are once more excellent, and the inclusion of John Leeson as K-9 adds another layer of authenticity to events even if a time spillage interferes with his robotic systems and the sands of the Sahara Desert necessitate his staying behind in the TARDIS. Baker, in particular, excels when the Doctor is asked to drop all humorous pretenses and show his true compassion for Romana as he desperately searches for her. Romana, still fairly new in her introduction to the universe and to humanity, is appalled that humans’ natural reaction to the unknown is aggression, and it’s intriguing to see her try to negotiate with those in charge to change viewpoints. Of course, the Fourth Doctor era has always worked best when the Doctor…

Casualties of Time
Audio / August 19, 2016

Released August 2016 ‘Casualties of Time’ brings to a close the fifth series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures, in the process giving a sense of closure to Cuthbert’s storyline that has intermittently spanned three years of releases in the range. It’s clear that Cuthbert, Mr Dorrick, and the Conglomerate are important creations to Big Finish, and it’s impressive that the company now has such a library of its own available that it can revisit its own creations, but it’s also quite telling that the script brings in such a plethora of new and returning characters to help spur events to their logical and surprisingly happy ending. Yet while the sense of absurdity as the talking Ecidien Cerebus parrot-like creature gains prominence in a story that spans everywhere from Iron Age Scotland to a space station in 2071 fits in perfectly with Douglas Adams’s tenure on the programme, there is a style and tonality that meshes much better with later eras. Indeed, this tale- even more than because of the appearance of the Black Guardian after so much discussion throughout the previous releases- would quite seamlessly fit in with Peter Davison’s era, a time when the potential of time…

The Pursuit of History
Audio / August 18, 2016

Released July 2016 ‘The Pursuit of History’ is a rather important release for Big Finish, not only as the opener of two-part finale to fifth series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures but also as chance to tie up a storyline that had been lingering for some three years. With the unfortunate passing of Mary Tamm, it would have been easy and understandable for Big Finish to put aside the exploits of the malicious Cuthbert and his flunky Mr Dorrick. Instead, taking advantage of the unique opportunity that the character of Romana and her regeneration into Lalla Ward’s form allows, Big Finish catches up with the duo and the Conglomerate for the first time since 2013’s two-part ‘The Dalek Contract’ and ‘The Final Phase.’ David Warner and Toby Hadoke return to the roles of Cuthbert and Dorrick, respectively, adding an instant air of both familiarity and gravitas to proceedings. Cuthbert seems to be a bit less restrained than in his previous outings, not quite reaching the Master’s levels of scheming and machinations but showing a clear combination of charm, sarcasm, contempt, and danger as he brokers deals and strives to ensure the survival of his Conglomerate. Likewise, Dorrick is allowed more…

100
Audio / June 14, 2016

Released September 2007 Big Finish reaches a tremendous milestone with the aptly-titled ‘100’ for its one hundredth main range release. While ‘100’ is not a story that will shake the foundation of Doctor Who or the audio medium, it is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable- if perhaps self-indulgent- series of four individual one-part stories featuring arguably the most popular audio pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe. The collection begins with ‘100 BC’ in which the Doctor and Evelyn arrive in Rome around the time of Julius Caesar’s birth. After accidentally intruding upon a romantic evening between Senator Gaius Caesar and his wife, the two hop forward in time nine months just in time for the birth of the child. However, the child is a female and named Julia rather than Julius. This revelation creates a rift between the two friends, the Doctor determined to fix history and ensure it runs its proper course and Evelyn determined to push forward women’s rights by ensuring one of history’s most influential men remains a woman instead. Fortunately, the story is written in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner in which the Doctor and Evelyn continually try to one-up and outdo the other in order…

Dreamland
Episode / June 13, 2016

Aired 21 November – 26 November 2009 Following the rather interesting animated experiment of ‘The Infinite Quest,’ Doctor Who explores the animated realm once more with ‘Dreamland,’ as David Tennant’s time as the Doctor nears its close. ‘Dreamland’ initially aired as one twelve-minute episode followed by five daily six-minute episodes, but despite that brief episodic format similar to its predecessor, it is a much more fluid and traditional tale that works just as well together as separately. Roswell, New Mexico is perhaps the most well-trodden setting for science fiction stories on all of Earth, and so it seems inevitable that the Doctor would finally end up there at some point. Little time is wasted in setting up the story as, before the opening credits even roll, an alien spaceship is seen crashing on 13 June 1947. The Doctor arrives some eleven years later, allowing for all of the initial hysteria to die down and subsequent years of mystery and folklore to be built off-screen. In grand Doctor Who fashion, it takes little time for the Doctor and his companions of the piece, a local waitress named Cassie and her boyfriend Jimmy Stalkingwolf, to be thrown into the middle of a…

Circular Time
Audio / May 31, 2016

Released January 2007 ‘Circular Time’ is something of an experiment for Big Finish, a compilation of four unrelated stories featuring the Doctor and Nyssa and exploring different aspects of time. Spring– The Time Lord Cardinal Zero has decided to retire from Gallifrey, taking up residence on a rainforest planet with a dominant avian species, one for which he as great plans. The Doctor arrives to ensure that Cardinal Zero does not interfere with the timelines, and Nyssa is distressed to find that this species’s form of justice involves punishing the youngest member of the criminal’s family. This is a very straightforward story, and due to the brevity of the running time some of the Doctor’s actions seem a little contrived to suit narrative purposes and Zero’s plans and also to help the resolution. Regardless, Hugh Fraser is absolutely delightful as an arrogant Time Lord who firmly believes that he knows what is best for the avian people, wanting to become the Prophet of legend by bringing about a radical change that will bring them out of their barbaric traditions that time has ingrained into their society. Summer– Summer is possible the most direct and accessible of the stories included in…

Cold War
Episode / April 2, 2016

Aired 13 April 2013 After the apparently divisive ‘The Rings of Akhaten,’ Doctor Who returns to more traditional territory with a story that’s sure to appease a much greater proportion of classic and new fans alike. Taking a cue from ‘Dalek’ that showcased the menace of the entire race by focusing on one trapped individual, writer Mark Gatiss takes a similar approach with his reintroduction of the Ice Warriors. Doctor Who and Gatiss are both no stranger to the horror genre, and the classic setup of a foe versus another group of characters in a confined setting is used to superb effect here as the Ice Warrior confronts a crew of Russian sailors aboard a broken submarine. Although the decision to thaw out the Ice Warrior which sets events in motion is a bit dubious, the end result is great as the threat of the Ice Warrior is effectively brought across and the visual update of the classic foe is strong and fitting of the warrior race. Matt Smith’s reaction to first seeing another of his old nemeses is brutally brilliant. Rather than just treating Grand Marshall Skaldak as a generic menace, ‘Cold War’ does a very good job in…