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 Four Doctors
Audio / June 1, 2017

Released December 2010 With Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann all reprising their titular Doctor Who roles for Big Finish since 2001 or earlier, it’s surprising that there has yet to be a multi-Doctor release that encompasses these four eras of the franchise. While Big Finish may be warranted in its unwillingness to highlight multiple incarnations simultaenously, having only dabbled in bringing together various combinations of the lead actors in a select few releases and casting the the earlier three in different roles for the fortieth anniversary special, the audio universe finally gets this monumental inevitability in 2010’s subscription-only Bonus Release ‘The Four Doctors.’ Probably wisely and certainly intriguingly given the setup, writer Peter Anghelides tells four small tales that weave into a cohesive whole, beginning with the Eighth Doctor landing on a Jariden space station where his Fifth incarnation is attempting to stop a dangerous experiment with time. As the Daleks appear with one Colonel Ulrik in tow as they seek a device within a shrouded vault, the story takes an unexpected turn as David Bamber’s Ulrik is thrust into the role of flawed protagonist by becoming the narrative link for each of the four smaller…

Alien Heart and Dalek Soul
Audio / April 28, 2017

Released April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW It’s been quite some time since Big Finish’s Monthly Range has toyed with its format and offered stories of any length other than the traditional four parts. For three consecutive release, though, Big Finish is offering two two-part adventures, one pair featuring each of its stalwart Doctors. The two-part story has been used successfully in The Companion Chronicles, The Fourth Doctor Adventures, and The Eighth Doctor Adventures ranges, but Stephen Cole’s ‘Alien Heart’ and Guy Adams’s ‘Dalek Soul’ mark the first two-part entries in Big Finish’s longest-running range. The use of the Fifth Doctor to introduce this string of releases is particularly shrewd as well, as Peter Davison’s tenure featured the final three two-part stories of thirty minute episodes, stories that were by no means classic but that highlighted just how strong and versatile Davison was in the role. With Big Finish effortlessly transitioning from its trilogy with the boisterous introductory era of Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric to the more earnest era that never reached television featuring just Nyssa alongside the Doctor, this first pair of stories again spectacularly highlights Davison amidst events of surprising scope. In ‘Alien Heart,’ the Doctor and Nyssa discover…

Planet of Fire
Episode / April 4, 2017

Aired 23 February – 2 March 1984 Writer Peter Grimwade was given an immense task when writing ‘Planet of Fire,’ effectively ushering in a definitive closure of sorts for the Peter Davison era following Tegan’s rather unexpected departure at the end of the preceding serial. Although the second half does devolve into a fairly generic tale, the fact that the script is able to so effectively introduce new companion Peri while also writing out Kamelion, Turlough, and seemingly the Master is a testament to the quality of the writing from the man who had delivered the less-than-stellar ‘Time-Flight’ the year before. While the Fifth Doctor never loses his more optimistic outlook on the universe, it is intriguing to note just how much the events of this third season have taken a toll on him physically and emotionally. The sheer brutality that the universe has thrown at him was, understandably, the reason that Tegan decided to leave so abruptly, and mercifully the ramifications of Tegan’s departure are dealt with in a much more meaningful fashion that previous companions’, Adric’s tragic death included. In some respects it is understandable that the Doctor cannot simply change course without second thought as he has…

Resurrection of the Daleks
Episode / April 4, 2017

Aired 8 – 15 February 1984 Many of Doctor Who’s finest stories have been scripted by its various script editors, perfectly encapsulating the tone and spirit of the specific era while incorporating clever ideas and wonderful characterization. In regards to capturing the spirit and tone of Peter Davison’s final year, Eric Saward’s ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ is unequivocally a standout success, managing to draw upon the franchise’s long history in its attempts to flesh out a darker and more complex plot starring a moral but fallible lead. Unfortunately, its reliance on spectacle and the past along with its inability to meaningfully navigate its many subplots with rather unhappy characters just as successfully highlights the flaws of the era as much as its positives. Following the unqualified success of ‘Earthshock’ that brought back the Cybermen amidst a bevy of nostalgia, it’s understandable that the same type of approach would be taken with the iconic Daleks. As a direct sequel to ‘Destiny of the Daleks,’ there are many aspects carrying over from that story that work incredibly well, and the fact that the Daleks have lost their war against the Movellans due to a biological weapon against which they have no defense…

Frontios
Episode / March 31, 2017

Aired 26 January – 3 February 1984 Although ‘Frontios’ eventually turns into a rather conventional tale whereupon the Doctor must save a planet from an aggressive alien power, it begins as a restrained but powerful reminder about the ever-darkening path that Doctor Who was beginning to explore during the John Nathan-Turner era. The franchise has never been shy visiting the future and exploring human outposts, but the last vestiges of a human colony struggling to survive in its adopted fascist manner at the end of the universe after receiving no answers to its pleas for help for thirty years is a dramatically darker take than the unbridled optimism for continued survival usually portrayed. Wisely, ‘Frontios’ withholds revealing any sort of alien presence until well into the story’s running time, adding a tense paranoia to the situation by doing so as Captain Revere is cast in a villainous light despite the colonists’ insistence that they must be under attack from otherworldly forces. Indeed, as the colony begins facing more trouble and law and order begin to crumble, ‘Frontios’ is set up to be a deep exploration of the threat that humanity poses to itself in a heightened situation. Even as it…

Zaltys
Audio / March 29, 2017

Released March 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Peter Davison era of Doctor Who saw a subtle shift in the types of stories told to ones featuring slightly higher-concept notions and more cerebral plots than in the past as the programme tried to redefine itself while aiming for a more mature audience that had grown up alongside it. Fitting perfectly into that mould, ‘Zaltys’ concludes the 2017 Big Finish Fifth Doctor trilogy, culminating a successful run of adventures revisiting the early Fifth Doctor TARDIS crew of Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan. Writer Matthew J Elliott proves that he is unafraid to drench his story with continuity, but he manages to do so without his references ever feeling intrusive or cumbersome while adding depth to the story in the process. Accordingly, the intimate discussions regarding Tegan’s aunt and Adric’s brother make perfect sense as, much to Adric’s amazement given the powers of the TARDIS and what it allows, Tegan continues with her quest to return to Heathrow. These opening scenes recapture the relationship between the two perfectly, and Tegan’s taunting of Adric while having him recall how much happier he was before Nyssa and Tegan joined adequately sets up the complex story as…

The Awakening
Episode / March 27, 2017

Aired 19 – 20 January 1984 ‘The Awakening’ is the third and final two-part adventure of the Fifth Doctor era, and like ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘The King’s Demons’ it represents a bit of a reprieve from the darker events of the stories surrounding it. With England of both the seventeenth century and 1984 somehow linked through time, ‘The Awakening’ features a great central concept among a bevy of clever ideas that are limited in execution only by the brevity of the story as a whole. The true star of ‘The Awakening’ is the excellent location filming, the three villages used to create the setting a superb backdrop for the temporal mischief as past and present collide. Whereas the studio confines and budgetary constraints often relied on viewers’ imaginations to help create an immersive alien environment, no such help is needed here as the production crew maximizes its time in familiar surroundings. Indeed, it is that sense of familiarity that pairs so well with the supernatural as a crack in an isolated village’s church threatens to unleash an ancient evil. Aided by some wonderful lighting choices, the concept of the Malus as a nonverbal entity having a war within itself and…

Warriors of the Deep
Episode / March 27, 2017

Aired 5 – 13 January 1984 The Fifth Doctor is an extremely intriguing incarnation, one with a gentlemanly and compassionate demeanour and a shrewd wisdom far beyond what his youthful appearance might suggest. However, whereas other incarnations seemingly had a knack for taking control of any situation with the utmost ease, the Fifth often runs into trouble when he tries to get those in positions of authority to listen to him. Accordingly, revisiting the iconic SIlurians and Sea Devils from the Pertwee era, prehistoric foes in two serials featuring humanity’s inability an unwillingness to seek a peaceful resolution to conflict, is a perfect fit for the version of the Doctor most looking for peace. Despite the inclusion of some clever notions, though, the script’s lack of philosophical depth along with gratuitous violence and budgetary constraints keep ‘Warriors of the Deep’ from delivering its intended moral impact. The seabase set is actually quite impressive for the most part, and its shining sterility manages to mirror the rather impersonal conflict at hand. Similarly, though the costumes for the Silurians Sea Devils are hardly among the best the classic series ever produced, the modest updates from the original designs work quite well and…

The Five Doctors
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 23 November 1983 ‘The Five Doctors’ represents the culmination of twenty years of Doctor Who, a feature-length special that does its best to bring the five distinct eras of the franchise together with a cavalcade of guest appearances by friends and foes alike. From the outset, it’s clear that writer Terrance Dicks is not striving to offer a meaningful story that explores the depth of the Doctor as a character or that fundamentally changes the core nature of Doctor Who, but ‘The Five Doctors’ is an unequivocal success when taken simply as a nostalgic celebration that focuses more on spectacle than on story. It’s interesting to note just how much attention is drawn to the questions regarding continuity that allow this adventure to take place, especially as continuity seemed to be pervading the programme more and more at the time. Part of this, naturally, is down to Tom Baker choosing not to reprise his role for the special after so recently departing. While the inclusion of scenes from the unfinished ‘Shada’ do at least allow a cameo of sorts for both Baker and Lalla Ward, it means that some of the resulting pairings of Doctors and companions are a…