Shadow Planet and World Apart
Audio / June 22, 2017

Released June 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Big Finish’s Doctor Who Monthly Range sequence of double two-part releases comes to a close with ‘Shadow Planet’ and ‘World Apart,’ traversing back upon the Seventh Doctor’s timeline to a time when Hex was still fairly new aboard the TARDIS and still had flirtatious and romantic feelings for Ace. With both stories exploring the intricacies of Ace and Hex as individuals and using the planets as much more than simply generic settings, the secrets and unknown mysteries of these worlds rival those of even the Doctor’s most enigmatic incarnation. AK Benedict’s ‘Shadow Planet’ opens the release with Ace choosing to visit the planet Unity, a planet of psychic potential where one can confront and come to terms with one’s hidden, shadow self. However, as the promised safety of the Unity Corporation breaks down, an engrossing story of hidden motivations and deceit quickly unfolds as the shadows step into the light. Doppelgangers are certainly nothing new to Doctor Who, but the very concept of bringing out the aspects of characters they most try to hide allows for a fascinating duality during a very personal investigation of those involved, Ace and Hex in particular. ‘Shadow Planet’…

The Four Doctors
Audio / June 1, 2017

Released December 2010 With Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann all reprising their titular Doctor Who roles for Big Finish since 2001 or earlier, it’s surprising that there has yet to be a multi-Doctor release that encompasses these four eras of the franchise. While Big Finish may be warranted in its unwillingness to highlight multiple incarnations simultaenously, having only dabbled in bringing together various combinations of the lead actors in a select few releases and casting the the earlier three in different roles for the fortieth anniversary special, the audio universe finally gets this monumental inevitability in 2010’s subscription-only Bonus Release ‘The Four Doctors.’ Probably wisely and certainly intriguingly given the setup, writer Peter Anghelides tells four small tales that weave into a cohesive whole, beginning with the Eighth Doctor landing on a Jariden space station where his Fifth incarnation is attempting to stop a dangerous experiment with time. As the Daleks appear with one Colonel Ulrik in tow as they seek a device within a shrouded vault, the story takes an unexpected turn as David Bamber’s Ulrik is thrust into the role of flawed protagonist by becoming the narrative link for each of the four smaller…

Return of the Daleks
Audio / May 23, 2017

Released December 2007 The Third Doctor serial ‘Planet of the Daleks’ is hardly regarded as a classic, and it doesn’t instantly spring to mind as one of the tales most deserving of revisiting. However, as Nicholas Briggs takes over for Gary Russell in the role of producer and also takes on scripting duties for 2007’s Bonus Release ‘Return of the Daleks,’ he manages to seamlessly incorporate the more intriguing elements of that story into the expansive mythology of Big Finish’s own Dalek Empire series to great effect. It’s actually rather surprising that there has not been a story seeing the Daleks returning to Spiridon to reclaim their frozen army to this point, but now that they have once more arrived, Briggs also manages to integrate the light wave sickness that the planet’s natives’ natural state of invisibility causes them. While the Daleks’ motives here tie directly into Dalek Empire, the potential of the ensuing Dalek might also draws the attention and ire of the Seventh Doctor, here traveling alone but just as mysterious and enigmatic as ever as he tempts Karlendorf with secrets and snippets of the true reality around them. Even if it seemed odd to have such grandiose…

The Curse of Fenric
Episode / May 10, 2017

Aired 25 October – 15 November 1989 ‘The Curse of Fenric’ often finds itself in the discussion for best story of the classic era of Doctor Who, the perfect blend of script editor Andrew Cartmel’s plan to reinvigorate the mysterious nature of the Doctor while fully developing and exploring the companion by his side. Without even considering the actual plot, it’s clear that Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred have an immense camaraderie, and the relationship that draws parallels to a father and daughter comes alive wonderfully. Indeed, this is perhaps the most grounded relationship within the classic series, the Doctor encouraging Ace to observe and reach conclusions by herself while still being ever mindful of her propensity for jumping into situations head first and Ace trying to earn the respect of the Doctor while still trying to discover herself. Of course, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is the definitive Ace tale, and never before has a companion developed so much and been so hurt in such a short period of time. ‘The Curse of Fenric’ deals with surprisingly mature themes for a family programme, with Ace’s intimations about being able to use her femininity to her advantage and the metaphorical swimming…

Ghost Light
Episode / May 9, 2017

Aired 4 – 18 October 1989 ‘Ghost Light’ has garnered something of reputation for being a more cerebral or abstract adventure than is the norm for Doctor Who, some viewers and fans being turned off because it does require a greater commitment to piece together the many diverse elements into a cohesive whole. However, it also fits in perfectly with the gradual shift of the programme to put more focus on the companion as an actual person as well as to instill a sense of mystery into the character of the Doctor once more. Appropriately, then, ‘Ghost Light’ is very much a story about the inevitability of and need for change in order to ensure survival. As with any great story, the proceedings on display act as a metaphor for even larger events, and that certainly is the case when looking at Doctor Who as a franchise at the time. Josiah, assured that the British Empire is in decline and heading for anarchy due to lack of direction from the throne, plans to murder Queen Victoria in order to place himself at the head of a society in which the establishment and status quo remain untouched. Intriguingly, there is a…

Battlefield
Episode / May 9, 2017

Aired 6 – 27 September 1989 ‘Battlefield’ opens up what would become Doctor Who’s final season, following in the footsteps of the previous season opener and incorporating a look to the past while further defining the more complex characterization and storylines of the Seventh Doctor. Indeed, the Doctor here is at his most manipulative, a version of him from the future managing to use the current version as a pawn in one of his many grandiose schemes. The Seventh Doctor traveling around the universe to settle old scores and tie up loose ends had been gradually introduced over the previous year, but this is the first time that the Doctor’s personal past, present, and future have crossed paths, lending an extreme depth to the character and adding a degree of certainty to his future when the continuation of the programme was anything but certain. ‘Battlefield’ is actually quite successful with its blending of elements and imagery from different eras of both real-life and the programme’s history even if the production never quite meets its full potential. The notion of Arthurian knights invading modern-day Britain is an enticing concept and certainly helps to anchor the story on a visual level. However,…

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Episode / May 8, 2017

Aired 14 December 1988 – 4 January 1989 In an anniversary season that featured the return of the Daleks and Cybermen sandwiched around a piece brutal political commentary, it’s easy to forget that ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ is the concluding serial and just as important as any of the others, though for wholly different reasons. Instead of playing on nostalgia to cater to the fans, the serial instead wholly directs its focus inwards at what Doctor Who in general had become at the time after years of public pressure had slowly tempered the audacious and surreal imagination originally on display. As Doctor Who continued its fight for its very life as ratings continued to plunge, ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ is a biting and grim look at the 1980s era in general and the impossible situation it found itself in no matter what changes it made or stunts it employed. Without question, the family comprising the audience of the Psychic Circus that determines which acts survive or perish is the most overt metaphor within the serial, showcasing the struggle and sacrifices made to ensure the BBC’s approval of and continuation with the programme as a viable franchise.…

Silver Nemesis
Episode / May 6, 2017

Aired 23 November – 7 December 1988 To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who, producer John Nathan-Turner chose silver as a pervading theme, almost by necessity bringing the infamous Cybermen back to fill that stipulation as the story attempts to continue the darker and more mature stylings of this season’s predecessors. As a comet named Nemesis crashes near Windsor Castle, the Doctor and Ace find themselves in a race against several competing factions to reach it while the question of just who the Doctor is begins to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, ‘Silver Nemesis’ is something of a mess that simply throws too many ideas around as if hoping that some of them will find traction, resulting in a three-part story that seems like it has been haphazardly edited down from four parts. Worse yet, there is startlingly little actual plot to the story besides the quest, but it still comes off as cluttered because of the large supporting cast of Lady Peinforte and Richard, de Flores and the Nazis, and the squadron of Cybermen all in competition against the Doctor and Ace. The truth of Nemesis being a living statue composed of Validium that holds immense destructive capabilities…

The Happiness Patrol
Episode / May 5, 2017

Aired 2 – 16 November 1988 ‘The Happiness Patrol’ has enjoyed a surprisingly strong legacy since its airing, able to overcome the always-present dwindling budget and the often-ropey special effects to deliver a powerful allegory of England in the late 1980s. It’s no secret that new script editor Andrew Cartmel intended to more firmly ground his Doctor Who era by not shying away from political and social issues of the time, but ‘The Happiness Patrol’ calls into question Margaret Thatcher and her policies quite directly, ensuring it remains an enduring symbol of a time not so far past. Sheila Hancock does sublime work as Helen A, and it’s impossible not to see the parallels between Thatcher and her from the very start. Operating within an overtly-fascist regime, Helen A is simultaneously grating and enduring as she casually modifies the Bureau’s protocols to suit her own needs and maintain control over a clearly-oppressed underclass. Of course, as the workers protest for better conditions, Helen A is quick to point out that those same workers have nobody to blame for their situation but themselves, even as she strives to further subdue them while breaking up any formal groups or representation. Indeed, Helen…

Remembrance of the Daleks
Episode / May 4, 2017

Aired 5 -26 October 1988 Sylvester McCoy’s first year as the Seventh Doctor was a rocky one, but one nonetheless brimming with experimentalism as the show tried to rediscover itself on the fly with a new lead and a new mantra that looked forward more than backward. Strangely, although ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is very firmly entrenched in the past as the entire serial becomes a reference of sorts to the very first serial, ‘An Unearthly Child,’ and is littered with allusions to other past adventures, it’s clear from the start that Doctor Who has finally found firmer footing once more, taking a much more self-aware and sometimes politically-dissident approach as it presented generally much more intelligent stories. The sort of celebratory and nostalgic sentiments that pervade ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ can easily be forgiven for a story kicking off the franchise’s twenty-fifth anniversary, especially in a story that so expertly highlights the characterization of both the new Time Lord and new companion in the process. Indeed, this is easily Sylvester McCoy’s finest performance in the role to this point and entrenches his incarnation as a master manipulator with a much darker side than previously seen. At first debating the…