The Dark Planet
Audio / August 3, 2017

Released September 2013 The fourth and final series of Big Finish’s The Lost Stories kicks off with Brian Hayles’s ‘The Dark Planet,’ a reunion for William Russell and Maureen O’Brien in a tale originally intended to air during William Hartnell’s second season. As the TARDIS lands on a world lit by a dying sun in the earliest days of the universe, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki quickly find themselves in a civil war between the planet’s two ages-old denizens, those of light and those of shadow, as escalations rise and nothing is quiet as clear as it seems. Had ‘The Dark Planet’ made it to broadcast, it would have yielded a marked contrast to many of the stories around it, placing the heroic travelers directly into the conflict and exploring the many facets of each side gradually and logically to paint a satisfyingly complex picture of events on this dying world. Although the story itself cannot quite sustain six episodes’ worth of material and as a result does suffer from padded scenes and irregular pacing, the heavy atmosphere created to explore this most primal and direct of battles is immense and easily helps to sustain interest even when there…

The Masters of Luxor
Audio / July 26, 2017

Released August 2012 The Lost Stories turns back the clock once more to the First Doctor era, a time when the rules and conventions of Doctor Who were anything but set. Originally set to be the second serial in place of ‘The Daleks’ which rocketed Doctor Who to its status as a cultural phenomenon and thus becoming the holy grail of lost stories, Anthony Coburn’s ‘The Masters of Luxor’ offers a far more cerebral and contemplative tale than its replacement and features surprisingly religious undertones, hinting at a wholly different trajectory the burgeoning adventures of the Doctor may have taken. Within Doctor Who’s long history, the First Doctor era unquestionably challenged its viewers with resonant moral dilemmas and thoughtful insights the most, and ‘The Masters of Luxor’ seamlessly follows that trend as both the meaning of life and what life entails come to the forefront. Joe Kloska is superb as, among his many roles here, the Perfect One, a machine with dreams of becoming human, and this is perhaps the most thought-provoking and poignantly mature of any storyline the franchise has ever offered. This personal plight is brought to life wonderfully as this machine attempts to find his place in…

The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance
Audio / June 29, 2017

Released November 2010 The First Doctor Box Set concludes with ‘The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance,’ a one-off story written by Morris Farhi as an example of his talents for original script editor David Whitaker to see. The result is one of the most intimate and personal stories Doctor Who has ever achieved, highlighting a very different side of Morris’s writing than the historical intrigue of the preceding ‘Farewell, Great Macedon.’ Through deft descriptions and dialogue, Fahri is able to paint an incredible picture of the alien world of Fragrance, a world in which the concepts of war, hunger, and strife have been eliminated. However, the price for this paradise is a high one, and though everyone is happily married by the age of thirty, a feeling of love must be reciprocated to keep death at bay. While it’s perhaps unsurprising that Barbara should be the unknowing cause of unrequited love, thus inadvertently signing a death sentence for one of Fragrance’s populace, Rhythm, it’s the characterization of these two as they try to traverse their feelings and the resultant consequences that truly shines, allowing for truly magnificent and emotional sentiments and dialogue that ring hauntingly true in a fashion that…

Farewell, Great Macedon
Audio / June 28, 2017

Released November 2010 Following an overall successful exploration of what could have been for a theoretical season twenty-three featuring the Sixth Doctor, Big Finish turns its The Lost Stories range to other eras’ tales that never made it to production. A logical starting point for this approach would be at the very beginning, and Nigel Robinson adapts two scripts from Moris Fahri for The First Doctor Box Set, following much in the vein of The Companion Chronicles and utilizing narration and a limited cast rather than trying to fully recreate that bygone time. ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’ opens the set and provides a perfect example of the slower, more methodical historical adventures that populated Hartnell’s early tenure, and having the Doctor cross paths with Alexander the Great as he returns to Babylon and the fabled Hanging Gardens is a fascinating conceit rife with dramatic potential. Though the narration likely slows the pacing down more than intended and possibly takes away from some of the individuality of the conspiratorial characters, the story is nonetheless written in such a way that the motivations of both friends and foes are so clearly prevalent that these never become an issue as the intrigue of the…

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…

The Secret History
Audio / December 31, 2016

Released June 2015 The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki land in the Italian city of Ravenna in the year 540 as the Byzantine General Belisarius continues to lead his army’s march. With Steven quickly ending up on a boat bound for Constantinople, the Doctor must mount a rescue operation while finally discovering who is sabotaging his personal timeline and putting both his life and the history of Earth at risk as the Fifth Doctor is sent into his First incarnation’s time. As opposed to the previous two stories in this Locum Doctor trilogy, the Fifth Doctor is quite easily able to convince Steven and Vicki that he is a younger version of their Doctor, his amiability and honesty in response to his former companions’ intellectual and sensible questions serving him well. Astoundingly, Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien still sound exactly as they did during the Hartnell years, lending an incredible air of realism to the core concept behind this story, and the script marvellously captures Vicki’s mischievous nature as the ideals from her time come crashing down in a past full of such uncertainty as well as Steven’s adventurous and physical prowess as he comes to terms with the potential of…

The Sontarans
Audio / December 21, 2016

Released December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Sontarans are, of course, one of the most well-known enemies in the Doctor Who universe, a clone race focused on the glory and honour of warfare and caught in an ages-old battle with the shape-shifting Rutan host. Even allowing for the Second Doctor’s wiped memories following his interactions with the Sixth Doctor in ‘The Two Doctors,’ the Third Doctor seems keenly aware of the Sontarans when he first comes upon them on television in ‘The Time Warrior,’ intimating that they have crossed paths at an earlier time. With the advent of The Early Adventures, writer Simon Guerrier has crafted a stupendous first encounter between the First Doctor and the early sons of Sontar, one in which the futuristic companions of Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom are one step ahead of the Doctor with their knowledge of the tales of and deeds of their foes. ‘The Sontarans’ manages to achieve an incredible amount in its four episodes as the Doctor comes to understand these new enemies and their unique mindset, strengths, and glaring weakness. What starts off quite simply as a tale of a battle between human Space Security Service soldiers and a group…

The Ravelli Conspiracy
Audio / November 22, 2016

Released November 2016 While the televised Doctor Who has long since shied away from the true historical genre, opting to include otherworldly beings or technological anachronisms in its jaunts to the past, Big Finish has generously kept the genre alive and well, proving time and time again that solid drama in any medium has the potential to be just as engaging as the flashiest of special effects. The Early Adventures gives Big Finish the opportunity to more thoroughly explore Earth’s past with the original TARIDS teams that most frequently did so, and ‘The Ravelli Conspiracy’ bravely follows the First Doctor, Vicki, and Steven into the ever-increasing conspiracies of 1514 Florence with astounding results. Dennis Spooner left his role of script editor in early 1965 and is responsible for fully introducing Steven in ‘The Time Meddler,’ his final solo script. However, despite the chronological placement of ‘The Ravelli Conspiracy,’ writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky have managed to channel the distinctive voice of Spooner in this comedic drama that quickly sees Steven and Vicki captured and Niccolo Machiavelli trying to re-establish himself in the House of Medici, the script emphasizing Machiavelli’s lofty reputation while not discounting the fact that his theories…

The Three Doctors
Episode / November 8, 2016

Aired 30 December 1972 – 20 January 1973 The first serial of Doctor Who’s tenth series does something the franchise has never attempted before, namely bringing together all three televised versions of the titular Time Lord for one adventure. Also the story which sees the Third Doctor’s exile on Earth end, ‘The Three Doctors’ is an incredibly important part of Doctor Who mythology that both redefines the character of the Doctor and once more reinvigorates the sense of freedom for his travels and adventures that was so important in the first two Doctors’ eras. Strangely, or perhaps purposefully, ‘The Three Doctors’ does nothing to act like a tenth anniversary special. The serial still airs in four weekly installments and little pomp is given to the arrival of the First and Second Doctors, the story only momentarily pausing to explain their identities and reasons for their presence. Even if the story does somewhat feel like the anniversary elements were inserted into a more standard episode at a later time, there’s no denying the joy that arises from seeing both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton reprise their roles. The entire concept of regeneration and what it actually means to the Doctor was…

The Fifth Traveller
Audio / October 16, 2016

Released October 2016 The Early Adventures continues with Philip Lawrence’s ‘The Fifth Traveller,’ revisiting the era of the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara Vicki, and Jospa. Jospa, of course, is the orphan from the slums of Earth’s future that pickpocketed the Doctor and then joined the TARDIS team, forming a powerful sibling-like camaraderie with Vicki along the way. Only, the audience knows that none of that happened, and the mystery of how this man came to insert himself into established continuity forms the driving force of this intriguing release. The early years of Doctor Who is famous for occasionally allowing ambition to trump what could realistically be achieved on a minimal budget, and ‘The Fifth Traveller’ certainly channels that sense of ambition with its scope. After Jospa discovers an organic jellyfish-like creature that should allow the Doctor to finally control the TARDIS with much greater precision upon the planet of Vavidic, the story proper takes place in the jungles of Arunde. This vegetative world and its golden primates’ culture and structured society are both fleshed out and described wonderfully, the incidental music and sound design helping with the former and telepathic communications of the latter adding incredible depth to these creations.…