Mission to Magnus
Audio / June 11, 2017

Released December 2009 Following a successful encounter with the Celestial Toymaker to kick off The Lost Stories, Big Finish once more revisits Doctor Who’s past by commissioning writer Philip Martin to adapt his unproduced story ‘Mission to Magnus’ featuring both Sil and the Ice Warriors. Martin had, of course, written ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp,’ two of the stronger offerings from Colin Baker’s brief televised tenure, and so all of the elements were already in place for another strong and progressive outing as the Doctor and Peri arrive on the matriarchal planet of Magnus where so much of the Doctor’s past lays in wait. Like ‘The Nightmare Fair,’ ‘Mission to Magnus’ must be commended for perfectly recapturing the spirit and essence of the intended era, and Simon Robinson’s sound design and Lisa Bowerman’s direction are indisputable factors related to this achievement. What unfolds is very much a story of two halves which is perhaps wise given the elongated running time of each episode with only one cliffhanger at the story’s disposal, each half highlighting different aspects of the Sixth Doctor’s persona to grand effect. The inclusion of a bully from the Doctor’s Academy days who makes the Doctor cower in…

Empress of Mars
Episode / June 11, 2017

Aired 11 June 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Ice Warriors are indisputably one of Doctor Who’s most iconic and enduring races, but their five televised appearances have only hinted at the rich and deep culture at the heart of individuals’ actions. Along with the fascinating visual of Victorian soldiers on the surface of Mars, Mark Gatiss for the first time takes the television series to the Ice Warriors’ native planet of Mars to help fill in their backstory by looking to their past while sending them into the future. Doctor Who so often sees humans threatened and under attack that it’s quite shocking to actually see humans on the offensive at the expense of other species and worlds. The means by which the Victorian soldiers end up on Mars is relatively straightforward and sets the scene well enough, but the inherent conflict of the Doctor having to decide between his favoured species and the native species is unfortunately one that ‘Empress of Mars’ simply chooses to sidestep, the moral conundrum it initially draws attention to ultimately forgotten and doing nothing to challenge the Doctor’s usual mode of operation. Indeed, because the humans are so anachronistic, they pose no true threat…

The Monster of Peladon
Website / November 17, 2016

Aired 23 March – 27 April 1974 ‘The Curse of Peladon’ was one of the most important serials of Jon Pertwee’s tenure, not his Third Doctor’s first trip off of Earth but certainly the first one to create a vast and rich alien world that showed the true potential of the colourized programme’s extraterrestrial adventures. With how beloved that serial instantly became, it makes sense that Doctor Who would revisit the world of Peladon in a rare direct sequel, but ‘The Monster of Peladon’ does little new and instead seems content to revel in repetition as if celebrating the success of its predecessor. Set some fifty years after ‘The Curse of Peladon,’ ‘The Monster of Peladon’ asks the audience of believe that Alpha Centauri is still present on the planet, that the last surviving native creature Aggedor is still alive and well, that the rare trisilicate mineral has shown up in abundance on Peladon, and that the Ice Warriors are again involved in events. All of these plot points, aside from trisilicate’s abundance, are well-trodden and were used to good effect before, but it strains credulity to suggest that all of them would coincide for another tale. The script does…

The Seeds of Death
Episode / October 21, 2016

Aired 25 January – 1 March 1969 Following a run of relatively varied story types, Doctor Who returns to its trusted base under siege formula with ‘The Seeds of Death,’ once more showcasing the Ice Warrior race that had made such an impact just as the titular foe a year earlier. Although the story plays it relatively safe in regards to overall plot despite some rather forward-thinking and chilling segments, ‘The Seeds of Death’ certainly offers plenty of spectacle and ends up being another fine example of the Troughton era. Wisely, ‘The Seeds of Death’ uses a moonbase as the setting, tapping into the space race that consumed the public consciousness as the Apollo 11 moon landing neared. It seems superfluous to the story that such a significant portion of the beginning is dedicated to the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe experiencing the entire rocket sequence from takeoff to landing since the T-Mat transmat device is fixed before they even arrive on the moon, but this again shows just how exciting the overall prospect of rocket travel was at the time. Intriguingly and in a moment of prescience, the transmat technology has dulled humanity’s sense of exploration and ambition since instantaneous…

The Ice Warriors
Episode / October 9, 2016

Aired 11 November – 16 December 1967 The fifth series of Doctor Who is often broadly descried as a practice in base-under-siege monster stories, five of the six stories utilizing that format to some extent. While there is no doubt that Troughton and his companions often come upon an isolated group of people that encounters a dangerous alien menace looking to defeat them or to gain control and power, there’s also no denying that the format produces some genuinely classic tales when taken in isolation. Produced shortly after the Mariner 4 probe allowed humans their first up-close look at Mars, ‘The Ice Warriors’ taps into the popular consciousness and romantic sentiments of space at the time, suggesting that Earth’s closes neighbour was once home to a sentient and powerful species of its own. As a foe, the Ice Warriors are quite unique. They do suffer from the more cumbersome and trudging pace that plagued so many of the classic villains, but their strength and power is undeniable and the twist on little green men from Mars is intrinsically intriguing. The hints of their backstory here offer a tantalizing look into a very complex culture as well, one certainly that is…

Key 2 Time – The Judgement of Isskar
Audio / August 3, 2016

Released January 2009 The start of 2009 sees Big Finish attempt something new with its release format, offering three-story mini seasons that feature the same Doctor and an overlying plot thread. The first of these seasons is Key 2 Time which sees the Fifth Doctor and a new companion scour the universe for the segments of the Key to Time just as the Fourth Doctor and Romana did in the televised season sixteen. The first installment of the trilogy is ‘The Judgement of Isskar,’ unenviably tasked with setting up the entire premise as well as telling an engaging story in its own right. Perhaps wisely, however, writer Simon Guerrier doesn’t spend too much time introducing the Key to Time and all that it entails, relying on listeners’ previous knowledge. Still, he does offer further insight into its creation by the Grace and posits an intriguing suggestion that the Fourth Doctor’s use of the synthetic segment in ‘The Armageddon Factor’ has caused another imbalance that needs correcting. All the more interesting is the new companion for the trilogy, Amy played by Ciara Johnson. Guerrier does a wonderful job subtly portraying the development of this living segment tracer, a complete blank at…

The Bride of Peladon
Audio / June 23, 2016

Released January 2008 Big Finish delves into the depths of Doctor Who by offering a return journey to the planet of Peladon, a planet not visited since the Third Doctor era on television. This story will best be remembered for departure of Erimem from the TARDIS, but ‘The Bride of Peladon’ is a very rich story on its own merits, full of intriguing characters and celebrating the vibrant history of the programme. An arranged marriage has been proposed between Peladon and Earth in order to form an alliance in order to ensure the safety and continued success of Peladon, but Peladon is soaked in internal confusion and strife as the King’s mother has recently died in a riding incident and the trisilicate miners are threatening to stop work after several strange deaths. The original ‘The Curse of Peladon’ is regarded as somewhat of a classic, full of interesting concepts, a strong script and atmosphere, and plenty of unique alien species. While the sequel ‘The Monster of Peladon’ fails to live up to those lofty standards, often recycling similar ideas, ‘The Bride of Peladon’ learns from both of those previous stories to offer something similar but unique at the same time.…

Frozen Time
Audio / June 10, 2016

Released August 2007 ‘Frozen Time’ is a strong offering from Big Finish, again exploring the latter era of the Seventh Doctor’s era as he travels alone. Featuring truly great performances from all involved, relentless action, and the return of the Ice Warriors, all of the individual concepts come together fluidly to showcase the audio offerings of Doctor Who in a story that will appease long-time and new fans alike. In Antarctica, an archaeological team is directed to dig in a specific area, away from the intended site to look for another ill-fated expedition from earlier. Unsurprisingly, they stumble upon something much greater than they could have ever imagined, finding a group of bipedal reptiles, a human, and even an old English police box perfectly preserved in the ice as the true purpose of the expedition starts to become clear. The Doctor, having survived frozen in the ice for millennia and still fully cognizant, suffers from amnesia at the beginning of the story, unable to remember the exact sequence of events that led to him being encased in the ice. McCoy does sterling work showing just how alien and resourceful the Seventh Doctor can be even without his full set of…

Red Dawn
Audio / February 21, 2016

Released May 2000 For the second consecutive release, Big Finish revives one of the Doctor’s classic foes, this time switching focus to the Ice Warriors. Featuring an underused lead pairing in the Fifth Doctor and Peri and written by the proven Justin Richards, all of the pieces are in place for a fantastic tale. Unfortunately, ‘Red Dawn’ fails to live up to expectations and marks a definite misfire for a range that has generally been growing in confidence and overall quality. The reintroduction of the Ice Warriors is handled very well, and their unerring sense of morality and their code of honour comes across very well in the audio medium. Still, it’s apparent that this meeting between humans and Martians is not going to be a cakewalk as Zzaal attributes a human’s death to a misunderstanding, creating an inescapable sense that one mistake could prove fatal to everyone involved. Paul Webster’s agenda independent of the mission controller’s threatens matters even further and leads Zzaal to attack the NASA Mars module, putting- amongst others- Peri in peril. Ultimately, it is down to the Doctor’s understanding of the Ice Warriors’ code of honour and then willingness to show mercy when he has…