Subterranea
Audio / June 22, 2017

Released June 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The TARDIS materializes deep beneath the surface of an alien world, one in which the inhabitants live aboard giant burrowing Drill-Town machines while endlessly hunting for fuel and resources to survive. But as a Drill-Town engulfs the TARDIS with the Doctor and Romana aboard, they soon find that even the largest of machines can become prey to the Silex. As with the best two-part stories, writer Jonathan Morris expertly fleshes out the history of this world and the war of attrition against the relentless Silex that together form the crux of ‘Subterranea.’ With an initial premise that evokes elements of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Morris probably wisely instead chooses to go down a slightly more whimsical route with its sometimes larger-than-life cast of characters and the steampunk cybernetic Silex seeking to assimilate those who run afoul of them. At the same time, though, the Silex become one of the most distracting elements of the story, and that is simply down to just how very reminiscent of the Cybermen they are. The backstory of the foes is incredibly powerful and certainly helps to imbue them with a heightened sense of menace, but…

Night of the Stormcrow
Audio / June 6, 2017

Released December 2013 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The early Fourth Doctor era is renowned for its more horror-laden stylings, and while the first series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures have only lightly incorporated that beloved genre, Marc Platt’s ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ makes the most of its claustrophobic atmosphere and its sense of familiarity amidst an unknowable threat to create a tense tale that would be perfectly at home within producer Philip Hinchcliffe’s seasons at the helm. Intensifying the anxiety and conflict by not even having the Doctor know what is occurring is a familiar plot device occasionally used throughout Doctor Who’s lengthy history, and it’s employed to spectacular effect in ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ as well. Indeed, purposefully leaving an air of mystery around the Stormcrow, the No Things, and the seeming symbiotic relationship between the two that together somehow consume both matter and time maintains a sense of mystery and danger all the way to the very end. Of course, the isolated observatory and the strange orbiting object that no piece of equipment other than the optical telescope can detect sets up the story nicely, and the revelation that the Stormcrow is a scavenger that has been…

The Haunting of Malkin Place
Audio / May 22, 2017

Released May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW After hearing strange footsteps in the Doctor’s house at Baker Street that leads them to search out the birthplace of Henry James, a chance encounter with a spiritualist on a train instead sends the Doctor and Romana on a ghost hunt, following the supposed trail of the most convincing stories of a genuine haunting ever heard. With strange movements and noises commonplace at Malkin Place, the intrepid duo quickly find their beliefs challenged as the scientific and the spiritual collide in spectacular fashion. The ghosts of Malkin Place quickly come into focus as the tormented Maurice is duly introduced, the denizen who has employed the spiritualist, Talbot, to help him make sense of the strange occurrences as he tries to understand his own past. Fittingly, Romana adamantly refuses to believe in the existence of ghosts even as she goads the Doctor on, but it’s clear as soon as the travelers arrive on the property that this is not going to be a light-hearted affair. The introduction of Talbot necessarily forms a significant portion of the first episode, but events truly pick up when Gunnar Cauthery is introduced as Maurice and his character’s mystery and…

Dethras
Audio / April 24, 2017

Released April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Fourth Doctor Adventures has long been one of Big Finish’s most conservative ranges, often pitching the stories so that they effortlessly fit into their intended era but sometimes sacrificing novelty and ingenuity in doing so. However, that pattern has slowly been changing over the past couple of years and especially with many of the early releases of this current sixth series. ‘Dethras’ as the latest release not only features an immensely intriguing core concept and setting to bolster its atmospheric and engaging mystery, but it also instills a sense of season seventeen’s lighter stylings into the more grave and earnest season eighteen period. Upon finding a World War II submarine adrift in space with only three crewmembers and a chimpanzee on board and no explanation for the rest of the missing crew, the Doctor and Romana immediately become entwined in a grand mystery as they try to make sense of the strange goings-on within the ship’s hull as well as of the strange noises coming from outside. The first episode is something of a slower-paced affair understandably more concerned with building up the mystery with compounding confusion, but this approach does at least…

The Helm of Awe
Audio / April 17, 2017

Released April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Legendary producer Philip Hinchcliffe once more returns to Big Finish with another character-driven story intended to recapture the core essence of his televised era featuring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. Given the positive response for this small collection so far, it’s clear that the popularity and love for this era is as strong as ever, and the trickling of releases manages to maintain an air of spectacle and novelty even as they compete against Big Finish’s own The Fourth Doctor Adventures. With the fourth story across three volumes of Philip Hinchcliffe Presents, Hinchcliffe grounds his story on the Shetland Isle of Bothness as the locals prepare to celebrate the Norse fire festival of Up Helly Ya. Yet amidst the intensified blending of Scottish and Scandinavian roots, the Doctor and Leela find themselves tracking an ancient artifact of unimaginable power. Hinchcliffe and adapter Marc Platt brilliantly and perfectly incorporate elements of true Norse mythology to both drive the plot forward and to flesh out the superb environment and tightly-knit community, avoiding the pitfall of sacrificing pacing in order to explain the facts while doing so. The dichotomy between elements of 1970s modern life and the…

The Silent Scream
Audio / April 3, 2017

Released March 2017 Season eighteen of Doctor Who is remembered as one thematically full of entropy and decay, a somber precursor to Tom Baker’s regeneration after seven years as the Fourth Doctor. However, while these themes would come to predominate beginning with the Doctor’s accidental arrival in E-space, Big Finish has proven adept at filling in the spaces beforehand, allowing for a more optimistic return to this era. This trend continues with ‘The Silent Scream’ as the Doctor, Romana, and K9 arrive in 1920s Hollywood where silent film actors hoping to make a comeback are vanishing while strange creatures walk the streets. Writer James Goss has crafted a love letter of sorts to Hollywood’s Golden Age, managing to walk precariously close to the fourth wall on several occasions without ever veering over that boundary or eliciting too much of a sense of campiness or self-indulgence. Indeed, it seems rather fitting that the bombastic Fourth Doctor would have such a soft spot for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s silent film era, and his infatuation with starlet Loretta Waldorf who quickly finds her voice stolen as cellulose shadows reveal themselves provides a natural entry point to the mystery for the audience…

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…

Return to Telos
Audio / March 17, 2017

Released August 2015 ‘Return to Telos’ marks the finale of the fourth run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures and the conclusion to the more character-driven openness of ‘The Fate of Krelos.’ With the advertised return of the Cybermen and Jamie as the Fourth Doctor and Leela intrude upon the Second Doctor’s earlier adventure to Telos, it’s fair to say that ‘Return to Telos’ is one of the most eagerly-anticipated titles in the range to date. Nicholas Briggs both writes and directs ‘Return to Telos,’ and so it’s not surprising that the pacing and tension are so consistent as a seemingly unsolvable problem presents itself. Unfortunately, the script fails to capitalize on its immensely intriguing hook, instead choosing to focus on simply talking about potential devastating consequences with dialogue laden with clunky exposition and technobabble. Jamie’s kilt was a nice bit of foreshadowing in the previous adventure, but the realization that the deadly mistake made during ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ now wreaking havoc for the Fourth Doctor is that Jamie rubbed up against cyber-particles that have remained dormant in his kilt until now is rather underwhelming. There is the intrigue surrounding how those same particles have come to result in the…

The Fate of Krelos
Audio / March 17, 2017

Released July 2015 ‘The Fate of Krelos’ marks the opening instalment of the two-part finale to the fourth series of The Fourth Adventures, a run buoyed by some very strong releases amidst the expected sense of nostalgia that pervades the range. Surprisingly, writer Nicholas Briggs begins the conclusion with a rather minimalist piece intended to set the tone for the true finale, the rather experimental nature of the release readily apparent in the blurb that states that, while something gigantic is descending upon Krelos, the Doctor notes that the TARDIS could do with a good clean as Leela and he set off for a spot of fishing. The title of the conclusion makes no secret that the Cybermen are going to be involved in events, but ‘The Fate of Krelos’ does little to foreshadow their arrival. In fact, the story almost revels in its lack of plot and momentum, allowing for a more intimate exploration of the leads as they prepare for a holiday and then find themselves trying to comprehend the seemingly instant destruction of the city before them. Although there isn’t quite a strong enough sense of horror created to substantiate the sparse action, the mystery and intrigue…

The Cloisters of Terror
Audio / March 14, 2017

Released June 2015 ‘The Cloisters of Terror’ marks a return to the gothic horror of the Philip Hinchcliffe era for The Fourth Doctor Adventures following a run of more experimental tales that would not have so easily slotted into the established televised era. As the Dean of St Matilda’s College, Dame Emily Shaw, calls upon the police to solve the mystery of a missing student, the Doctor and Leela slowly uncover the secret behind the story of the former convent’s three ghostly nuns that reaches back a thousand years. As is the case with many stories in this range, the one-hour format doesn’t allow too much exploration of the characters or the setting, and the plot does end up feeling rather straightforward and somewhat rushed as a result. Nonetheless, ‘The Cloisters of Terror’ is exceedingly confident with its story, and the truth behind the geometric progression of the hushed disappearances of girls at the convent throughout the centuries revealing that they have been kidnapped to save the world from a crashed alien ship is a clever subversion of expectations that comes to life wonderfully. With the astral projections from the ship simply a smokescreen, writer Jonathan Morris is able to…