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…

Arc of Infinity
Episode / March 12, 2017

Aired 3 – 12 January 1983 The mantra going into the twentieth season of Doctor Who was that every story would feature a returning villain from the past, the intent being to imbue the anniversary year with a sense of celebration and nostalgia. Fittingly, the tenth anniversary villain from ‘The Three Doctors,’ Omega, is the first to be revisited as the exiled Time Lord continues his quest to cross back into the real universe from his exile with the help of the Doctor’s body. Omega is inherently one of the most fascinating villains ever conceived, one who is intricately linked with Gallifrey’s past and Time Lords’ powers and abilities. However, ‘Arc of Infinity’ relies too much on his initial appearance ten years earlier, using only one line of dialogue to begin to hint at Omega’s true motivations and psyche. As a standalone story, it simply does not flesh out the villain enough or even begin to explain how the Doctor and Omega know each other or how Omega has reached his current state. With the Doctor’s appearance, Omega is at least afforded some degree of sympathy through Davison’s mannerisms and acting prowess, but the sheer potential that Omega brings with…

The War Doctor – Casualties of War
Audio / March 5, 2017

Released February 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The introduction of the War Doctor in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ opened up an incredible wealth of potential development and drama for an ever-changing lead character centuries old and fifty years in the public consciousness. A shrouded incarnation who had forsaken the moniker of the Doctor because of his chosen life embroiled in the almighty Time War, Sir John Hurt brought a gravitas and sorrow to the role in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ that added incredible nuance to his resolute determination and desire to do good and instantly made the War Doctor an undisputedly worthy addition to the canon. However, the fiftieth anniversary special would- by necessity- be the only televised episode to delve into this past incarnation’s exploits, offering a tantalizing glimpse of just what could have made his future incarnations shun him so fiercely. Fortunately Big Finish was willing and able to better fill that void in continuity, commissioning four three-story box sets to better highlight the character and era in question. With the release of The War Doctor – Casualties of War and the unhappy passing of Sir John Hurt, the War Doctor era officially comes to a close…

The Abandoned
Audio / February 24, 2017

Released July 2014 Co-written by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs, ‘The Abandoned’ takes The Fourth Doctor Adventures out of the realm of nostalgia and gloriously into the unexpected. Within the depths of the TARDIS, one of its oldest secrets is about to be revealed as someone long-forgotten is ready to reappear, threatening to change the very foundation of the universe itself as the Point of Stillness draws near. ‘The Abandoned’ is brimming with wonderfully intriguing concepts, and the Point of Stillness itself is certainly one of the most fascinating. The decimal point in Gallifrey’s galactic coordinates, it is the heart of the storm created by the Big Bang and is forbidden to even be discussed for fear of it being defiled and the blurred barrier between fiction and reality breaking. As the Doctor and Leela become gripped by madness and something that defies definition, the claustrophobic setting of the TARDIS interior is used to great effect. Likewise, the loaded history of Marianna is handled deftly, and what could become overcomplicated as a being with the greatest weapon ever devised and a nanosecond away from absolute power who was tricked into manifesting a coma-inducing drug that was used against her instead…

The Invasion of Time
Episode / January 9, 2017

Aired 4 February – 11 March 1978 Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor demands to be instated into the position of President of the High Council of Time Lords after inexplicably signing a treaty with enemy aliens. After banishing Leela to the wastelands and disabling the planet’s defence barriers to welcome an invasion, the hidden agendas of both the Doctor and the Vardans come into question as another familiar presence lurks in the shadows. The Fourth Doctor has always managed to carry a bit of a darker persona about him no matter how jocular or frivolous he at times seems, and the first half of ‘The Invasion of Time’ wonderfully exploits this aspect of the character as it seems that he has turned against his own people. Baker excels in bringing out a truly frightening menace as events progress, and the manner in which he scorns his former mentor, Borusa, and verbally abuses his companion, Leela, gives credence to the prospect that he really has forsaken the Time Lords in favour of the Vardans whom he manically and gleefully introduces. Of course, there is a method to his madness, and moments such as his pained look as he must keep his…

Cold Fusion
Audio / December 24, 2016

Released December 2016 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE 1996 MISSING ADVENTURES NOVEL ‘Cold Fusion’ was a significant release in the days of the Virgin novelizations, the first multi-Doctor story in its catalogue and the first time that the Fifth and Seventh incarnations officially featured together in any form. It also firmly cemented Lance Parkin as one of the premier Doctor Who writers after his strong debut with ‘Just War,’ and here he proves unafraid to delve deep into the expanded mythology of the Doctor and Gallifrey to once more offer a completely enthralling and satisfying tale that has made the transfer to the audio medium spectacularly. Landing on a desolate world of ice that is precariously close to war as rebels target the ruling elite, the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric quickly find themselves entwined in an ever-deepening mystery that could threaten the entire universe. With the Seventh Doctor also present as he conducts investigations into the Earth Empire’s dangerous energy experiments, the story and its need to focus on no less than seven leads certainly had the potential to fall apart under its own weight and ambition. However, by positioning the Seventh Doctor into his…

The Deadly Assassin
Episode / December 15, 2016

Aired 30 October – 20 November 1976 Following the departure of long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor returns to Gallifrey in ‘The Deadly Assassin,’ a boldly experimental tale that tackles and criticises Time Lord society itself. Likely intentionally referencing the assassination of John F Kennedy, the High President of Gallifrey is murdered during a high-profile event being widely broadcast, and the Doctor, found holding a rifle, is the initial suspect in an increasingly deceptive and conspiratorial plot that even brings in the CIA, the Celestial Intervention Agency. Of course, ‘The Deadly Assassin’ is a very important episode in many overt and subtle ways. Aside from establishing the means by which Time Lord High Presidents are chosen, this story also establishes that Time Lords are limited to thirteen bodies through the regeneration process, a core piece of mythology that looms large over the programme to this day. Intriguingly, ‘The Deadly Assassin’ also continues with the Fourth Doctor era’s slow deconstruction of the Time Lords who seemed so incredibly powerful during their introduction in ‘The War Games.’ The society is presented as quite overtly British in styling and the script is unafraid to criticise several British institutions along the way. It’s…

Doom Coalition 3
Audio / September 28, 2016

Released September 2016 After an agonizing wait, Big Finish has at last released Doom Coalition 3, four more stories continuing the ever more complex adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Liv Chenka, and Helen Sinclair as they battle both the past and future and once more cross paths with the enigmatic River Song. This review, by necessity, will feature fewer and fewer spoilers as the four stories are subsequently discussed and the more vital and crucial plot points leading into the fourth set are revealed. John Dorney’s ‘Absent Friends’ kicks off the third portion of the Doom Coalition saga with the Doctor concerned about why the TARDIS has landed in England rather than on Gallifrey as intended. Set just before the turn of the twenty-first century, the TARDIS team finds itself in a small village struggling with the advent of mobile telephones and mysterious calls, a large phone mast from the new telephone company Superville dominating their attention and view and causing plenty of scorn and consternation. As the Doctor tinkers in his TARDIS and soon finds that nothing is wrong with it and that he seems to have been pulled off course purposefully, Helen gives in to temptation and furtively…

The Light at the End
Audio / April 6, 2016

Released October 2013 Big Finish kicks off Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary proceedings a month early with ‘The Light at the End,’ its ambitious love letter to the programme and its fans that brings together each of the surviving classic Doctors along with a host of former companions, a touching cameo of sorts from the first three Doctors, and arguably the greatest nemesis of them all, the Master. The story begins as each of the Doctor’s first eight incarnations is stopped by a warning light on the TARDIS console, one that has never been noticed before by anyone and seems to correlate with the very specific address of 59A Barnsfield Crescent, Totton, Hampshire, England, on the inauspicious date of 23 November 1963. Multi-Doctor anniversary stories are a tricky concept to properly write and deliver, with varying levels of success achieved in ‘The Three Doctors’ for the tenth, ‘The Five Doctors’ for the twentieth, and even Big Finish’s own ‘Zagreus’ for the fortieth. Yet while there is, by necessity, quite a lot of exposition and even some repetition as each Doctor confronts the warning separately and becomes involved in the story, the actual flow and pacing of the story is very well…

Zagreus
Audio / April 2, 2016

Released November 2003 It had been eighteen months since the cliffhanger ending to ‘Neverland’ put the Eighth Doctor in a totally new and frightful position, and with no concrete information from advance publicity or trailers, nobody was quite sure what to expect from the fortieth anniversary special that was going to involve everyone who had ever played the Doctor or a companion. While there was undeniable trepidation that this would lead to an inordinate amount of fan service at the sacrifice of the story itself, writer Gary Russell assured everyone that would not be the case. Following a quite lengthy recap of the events of ‘Neverland,’ the first half of ‘Zagreus’ is essentially a series of virtual reality segments as Charley tries to learn about the Divergence. This ultimately ends up being a bit unnecessary given that almost everything is more fully explained later, but this is also the device that allows so many actors from the television series to become involved in events, unfortunately not always in the most interesting or well-rounded of roles. The one exception here, surprisingly, is Bonnie Langford, who is absolutely stellar in her evil cameo. The continuity references- for better or for worse- only…