UNIT: Assembled
Audio / May 26, 2017

Released May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Through three boxsets, the UNIT audio range has already established itself as one of Big Finish’s most enthralling and engaging, perfectly blending the mannerisms and sensibilities of both classic and modern Doctor Who while proving more than capable of standing tall without the help of the wayward Time Lord. For the much-anticipated fourth set of stories, UNIT: Assembled seamlessly brings together members of both eras of UNIT, highlighting the similarities that span generations as Earth’s original ruling denizens once more awaken to wreak havoc. Matt Fitton’s ‘Call to Arms’ opens the set on a more reflective and personal note to allow the audience to become at least somewhat familiar with the post-UNIT lives of John Levene’s John Benton and Richard Franklin’s Mike Yates, the two who quite explicitly serve as a doorway to the much beloved Third Doctor era of Doctor Who here. As characters and Doctors move on, it’s rare to revisit past companions and acquaintances, especially in their more mature years, but even taking the small step to reveal that Benton moved on from selling cars to owning a pub is a welcome piece of information that further defines such a well-liked…

The Defectors
Audio / December 29, 2016

Released April 2015 As Big Finish approaches its monumental 200th Main Range Doctor Who release, the company has commissioned a trilogy of stories that pairs Doctors with past incarnations’ companions. Beginning with ‘The Defectors,’ Jo Grant and her inexplicably-changed Doctor arrive on Delphin Isle on a matter of national security as they learn of a highly classified incident dating back to the Cold War. As secrets manifest and bodies mysteriously appear in the harbour, the Pertwee and McCoy eras impressively collide. The crux of this concept is developing a story that feels like it comes from the earlier Doctor’s era, and the incredible atmosphere of Delphin Isle and the mystery of its oddly-acting locals certainly manage to evoke the core essence of the Third Doctor’s Earth-bound tales. Indeed, McCoy seems perfectly at home in this type of story that has so rarely been afforded to him, the secrecy of the Seventh Doctor complementing the burgeoning mystery of Delphin well. Indeed, Jo Grant acts as a stand-in voice for the Third Doctor, highlighting the different courses of action that these two Doctors take and keeping the tale true to her time on the programme. Katy Manning manages to evoke the youthful…

The Green Death
Episode / November 12, 2016

Aired 19 May – 23 June 1973 One of the trademarks of the Jon Pertwee era is its willingness to tackle important and sometimes difficult political and social issues. At least a small part of the reasoning for originally bounding the Third Doctor to Earth was to give him a chance to confront the issues that plague humanity on a daily basis, and that concept fortunately is not forgotten now that the Doctor has regained his ability to travel throughout time and space. Finally giving reason to the occasional references of Metebelis III over the past several stories along the way, the Doctor finds himself at least initially entwined in the battle between corporations and the environment in a story that very much feels like another early attempt at a more grandiose season finale. The core conflict is effectively set up early on in the small Welsh mining town of Llanfairfach, Global Chemicals responsible for the sudden appearance of a toxic green slime and giant maggots as the result of burying the toxic by-product from their highly profitable oil processing system. Led by the business-driven Stevens, the executives involved do at least show flashes of conscientiousness, making them a much…

Planet of the Daleks
Episode / November 10, 2016

Aired 7 April – 12 May 1973 The Pertwee era’s answer to ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ continues with ‘Planet of the Daleks,’ picking up from the cliffhanger ending to the exciting events of the space opera ‘Frontier in Space’ but strangely doing little to acknowledge that preceding serial with no resolution to the human and Draconian conflict offered. Unfortunately, while ‘Frontier in Space’ was able to mask its padding with intriguing characters and setting changes, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ is unable to replicate that feat. The story also oddly treats the revelation of the Daleks’ presence as a surprise, a fine plot point by itself but completely unnecessary since the Daleks appeared at the end of the last story and the title rather blatantly gives their presence away from the outset. The planet Spiridon is a fascinating setting, its climate changing from extreme to another during the course of a day and containing hostile and merciless vegetation. However, these intriguing concepts are employed more as distractions from the light Dalek plot than as actual plot points in their own right. Interestingly, the Daleks seem to have become quite adept at invisibility in the opening episode, significantly increasing their seeming power…

Frontier in Space
Episode / November 9, 2016

Aired 24 February – 31 March 1973 Assuredly a conscious decision to celebrate the return of the Third Doctor to his free and exploratory ways, ‘Frontier in Space’ sets out to form the first half of a twelve-part epic tale that is concluded in ‘Planet of the Daleks.’ While the two stories as a whole may not quite reach the lofty heights of the previous lengthy epic ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan,’ ‘Frontier in Space’ by itself is a wonderful example of Doctor Who on its largest scale, showcasing tremendous consequences in a vast space opera. As with any six-part story, there is occasional superfluous padding to fill out the running time. While having the Doctor and Jo shunted off as prisoners of different groups for the majority of the story may feel like a convenient plot contrivance, though, it also helps to ensure setting changes that keeps the pacing and revelations brisk enough to maintain interest without ever dragging excessively. In fact, writer Malcolm Hulke exploits the extended running time to effectively flesh out this future filled with galactic conflict. Few of the details scattered throughout the script directly relate to the plot, but it’s refreshing to see just how…

Carnival of Monsters
Episode / November 9, 2016

Aired 27 January – 17 February 1973 With the Time Lords lifting the exile of the Doctor at the end of ‘The Three Doctors,’ ‘Carnival of Monsters’ truly marks the turning point of Doctor Who as the Doctor once more officially becomes a man of time and space, for the first time in full colour. In essence, just as ‘Spearhead from Space’ was vital in establishing a new format for Earthbound adventures, ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is just as vital in shedding that more cautious though no less intriguing approach to the franchise, providing a love letter to the fans that is just as important to the tenth anniversary year as the preceding multi-Doctor serial. Although ‘Carnival of Monsters’ may not carry the panache of boasting multiple Doctors, the Daleks, or the Master like other stories of this series, it’s crucial in setting the bar for what the prototypical Doctor Who episode should be going forward. Looking past the dodgy special effects and costume design, this story reintroduces the TARDIS as a crucial component of the series while also highlighting the much bigger universe the show is treading into than that of the past three years. Cleverly, this story also draws…

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 Time Monster
Episode / November 7, 2016

Aired 20 May – 24 June 1972 In a series of stories filled with quite memorable villains such as the Daleks, Ice Warriors, and Sea Devils, Doctor Who tries to up the menace in ‘The Time Monster,’ a tale that has an incredible amount going for it on paper but, like ‘The Mutants’ before it, fails to live up to its intriguing premise. The story wastes no action in setting the scene as the Doctor has a nightmarish vision of the Master and links it to Jo’s news of recent volcanic action on the island of Thera. As events shift to the Newton Institute, the Master and the amusingly-acronymed TOM-TIT, Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time, experimental machinery take centre stage. This equipment allows for the transportation of matter but with several time-related side effects within its vicinity that include both advancing and reversing the aging process and freezing others in time. Regardless, the equipment brings the Master a powerful crystal from the lost city of Atlantis, giving him control of the powerful time-devouring Kronos as well as the ability to summon others form the past to help him achieve his goals and to protect the Institute from advancing UNIT…

The Mutants
Episode / November 5, 2016

Aired 8 April – 13 May 1972 The Third Doctor’s stories are certainly no stranger to moral and ethical messages, and ‘The Mutants’ offers perhaps the strongest message yet with its tale of colonialism and apartheid. With the Earth Administration announcing that its colony planet of Solos is to be given back its independence, the Marshall of Skybase on Solos takes matters into his own hands to ensure not only his continued rule but also that Solos will only be habitable for humans. Unfortunately, the execution of noble and grandiose plans significantly fails this story, ultimately making it a rather forgettable affair despite its good intent. To be fair to ‘The Mutants,’ the apartheid plotline as Solos prepares for independence after 500 years of virtual enslavement proves to be very effective, even if the segregated transportation booths may perhaps be a bit too overt. Likewise, the concept of Solos having a 2,000-year orbit and thus necessitating the complete transformation of its population every 500 years to handle the extremes is fascinating and generally handled and realized well as the transformations occur with different costumes and effects. These ideas are bolstered by strong direction, and the location work and studio work…

The Hidden Realm
Audio / November 5, 2016

WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Released November 2016 One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told. The Third Doctor and Jo return to Earth in ‘The Hidden Realm,’ journeying to the village of Bramfield New Town to explore the mysterious disappearance of the husband of Jo’s cousin, Peter. With an ominous group of magpies circling above, they soon discover a terrifying alien plot that reaches farther back into the village’s past than they’d ever anticipated. Doctor Who has always found remarkable success in subverting the sense of the familiar, and the cozy English village housing a dark secret is used to great effect here, effortlessly sliding into the Pertwee televised era in the process. Bramfield itself is brought to life wonderfully as landmarks and characters throughout the town are explored, and ‘The Hidden Realm’ in general is full of a powerful atmosphere and a menacing sense of foreboding that effectively drives events forward as very human sentiments and motivations slowly unveil themselves. In a town where nobody and nothing is as it seems, Jo teams with Alex Lanipekun’s DS Joseph to…