The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance
Audio / June 29, 2017

Released November 2010 The First Doctor Box Set concludes with ‘The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance,’ a one-off story written by Morris Farhi as an example of his talents for original script editor David Whitaker to see. The result is one of the most intimate and personal stories Doctor Who has ever achieved, highlighting a very different side of Morris’s writing than the historical intrigue of the preceding ‘Farewell, Great Macedon.’ Through deft descriptions and dialogue, Fahri is able to paint an incredible picture of the alien world of Fragrance, a world in which the concepts of war, hunger, and strife have been eliminated. However, the price for this paradise is a high one, and though everyone is happily married by the age of thirty, a feeling of love must be reciprocated to keep death at bay. While it’s perhaps unsurprising that Barbara should be the unknowing cause of unrequited love, thus inadvertently signing a death sentence for one of Fragrance’s populace, Rhythm, it’s the characterization of these two as they try to traverse their feelings and the resultant consequences that truly shines, allowing for truly magnificent and emotional sentiments and dialogue that ring hauntingly true in a fashion that…

Farewell, Great Macedon
Audio / June 28, 2017

Released November 2010 Following an overall successful exploration of what could have been for a theoretical season twenty-three featuring the Sixth Doctor, Big Finish turns its The Lost Stories range to other eras’ tales that never made it to production. A logical starting point for this approach would be at the very beginning, and Nigel Robinson adapts two scripts from Moris Fahri for The First Doctor Box Set, following much in the vein of The Companion Chronicles and utilizing narration and a limited cast rather than trying to fully recreate that bygone time. ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’ opens the set and provides a perfect example of the slower, more methodical historical adventures that populated Hartnell’s early tenure, and having the Doctor cross paths with Alexander the Great as he returns to Babylon and the fabled Hanging Gardens is a fascinating conceit rife with dramatic potential. Though the narration likely slows the pacing down more than intended and possibly takes away from some of the individuality of the conspiratorial characters, the story is nonetheless written in such a way that the motivations of both friends and foes are so clearly prevalent that these never become an issue as the intrigue of the…

An Earthly Child
Audio / May 29, 2017

Released December 2010 ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ marked the first departure of a companion from the TARDIS as the Doctor intentionally left behind his granddaughter Susan so that she might know stability and set roots with David Campbell in the aftermath of the Daleks’ conquest of Earth and eventual defeat. Yet as famous as the Doctor’s speech proclaiming that some day he would come back is, the TARDIS has yet to ever allow the reunion of family members on screen. While this long-awaited meeting was attempted with rather tepid reviews in the BBC Eighth Doctor novel range, Big Finish and stalwart writer Marc Platt now offer their own version of an event some forty-five years in the making. Even without the Doctor’s promise of returning, the notion of revisiting Susan thirty years following the Dalek invasion is a fascinating one, finally allowing both the Doctor and the audience to determine if he made the proper decision in leaving her behind and if she managed to make a name for herself in the intensified time of rebuilding. While she and her now-deceased husband certainly did play a vital role, the Earth is once more regressing, and Susan boldly takes it…

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…

The Age of Endurance
Audio / September 20, 2016

Released September 2016 The Early Adventures has been a revelation for Big Finish, affording the eras of the First and Second Doctors a chance to flourish, crafting new full-cast adventures while staying true to the tone and very essence of those times. ‘The Age of Endurance’ marks the beginning of the third series and sees the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara land aboard a seemingly empty spaceship that soon leads them to the very heart of an impossibly old war. Without question, one of the biggest talking points of ‘The Age of Endurance’ will be the recasting of Barbara Wright. While there is a natural trepidation whenever a beloved character must be recast due to the unfortunate passing of the original actor or actress, Big Finish has certainly proven adept at doing so while paying homage and due respect to the original performances with the previous decisions to cast Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor and Elliot Chapman as Ben Jackson. Following her wonderful turn as Jacqueline Hill in the fiftieth anniversary special An Adventure in Time and Space, Jemma Powell is a perfect decision to take on the role of Barbara in The Early…

The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Episode / August 5, 2016

Aired 21 November – 26 December 1964 Just as ‘The Daleks’ is arguably the most important post-premiere episode, introducing an incredibly popular foe while showcasing the scope of the programme, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is likewise an unequivocally vital story that still has its footprints on the show all these years later. This is the first story to feature a recurring foe, the first story to send off a companion, and the first alien invasion of London itself. Yet despite its iconic status, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is also a flawed story, short bursts of progress in plot dampened by long stretches of padding that bear little relevance to the overall story. The Daleks’ testing of the Doctor’s intelligence is an intriguing concept, but they already know that he has an uncanny intelligence beforehand, taking away the dramatic impact that separating him from the others may have had otherwise. Similarly, the Slyther creature at the mines and the reptilian creature in the sewer both serve to heighten the danger but ultimately their appearance and implementation seem rather ineffective, simply another means of extending the story along with several chase and capture sequences. However, using the individual episode tiling…

Planet of Giants
Episode / August 2, 2016

Aired 31 October – 14 November 1964 ‘Planet of Giants’ is a bit of an anomaly, kicking off Doctor Who‘s second series with a rare story that focuses on relative dimensions rather than time travel. Notably, this was supposed to be the first adventure after events in the pilot episode, but behind-the-scenes issues kept it from ever manifesting until much later. While the end result is certainly still not perfect, suffering from strange choices in editing, it’s still very much a unique story in the programme’s run, one that sees the crew miniaturized as the TARDIS technology go wrong. Of course, it takes time for the Doctor and his companions to realize the truth of their situation as they first come upon giant dead insects before coming upon towering versions of everyday items such as matchbooks, and it’s perfectly fitting that the First Doctor recklessly heads out to explore their surroundings without a second thought. There’s a wonderful moment of realization when the camera pans out of the canyon in which they find themselves to reveal a typical English house with stone walkway, giving a sense of scope to proceedings. The prospect of returning to normal size is quickly dropped,…

The Reign of Terror
Episode / July 28, 2016

Aired 8 August – 12 September 1964 The first series of Doctor Who ends with ‘The Reign of Terror,’ another step back into history as the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara visit revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1794. While the first run of episodes certainly has its ups and downs, the progressive characterization of the leads- most notably the Doctor himself- has been a thematic undercurrent throughout each of the successive adventures. Unfortunately, without any real reason or explanation given, the Doctor regresses to his arrogant, temperamental, and curt personality really only seen in ‘An Unearthly Child.’ The story even has him go so far as to twice club an individual on the back of the head, a true defining moment of the anti-hero status in the premiere but further going against the softening development and evolution that highlighted his early time in the TARDIS. Despite everything the characters have been through and the trust that developed over the televised year, the Doctor is keen to get rid of Ian and Barbara so that he can continue exploring the universe untethered, not even bothering to check where or when he has landed for the apparent departure point. Fortunately Ian…

The Sensorites
Episode / July 22, 2016

Aired 20 June – 1 August 1964 Following the superb historical adventure with the Aztecs, Doctor Who again takes off in a completely different direction, this time going back into the depths of space while exploring an alien mystery in ‘The Sensorites.’ While this story does not hold up in terms of plot or pacing as well as the first trip into space in ‘The Daleks,’ there are still some clever ideas and character development to be had. For the first time, the lead characters take a moment to reflect on what they’ve seen and how far they’ve come since first meeting, showcasing early character development with particular focus on the Doctor himself who has become a much more heroic and steadfast figure than initially. This is a man who still puts the safety and well-being of Susan above all else, but he is also learning to accept Ian and Barbara as stand-in family members as well. Perhaps learning from his overconfidence in ‘The Daleks,’ the Doctor does not rush in to explore the spaceship with its seemingly dead crew, instead trying to usher his companions back into the TARDIS and avoid the situation altogether. This sort of non-intervention policy…

The Aztecs
Episode / July 20, 2016

Aired 23 May – 13 June 1964 Following the resounding success of ‘Marco Polo,’ Doctor Who returns to the historical genre with ‘The Aztecs,’ a story that not only survives in the video archives but is also definitively worthy of classic status. Once more there is no alien nor technological menace, different cultures and viewpoints providing all of the drama necessary. The four-part nature of the story keeps events moving at a brisk pace, but all of the subplots are given ample time to breathe. Notably, ‘The Aztecs’ is the first story to bring up the question of the TARDIS crew potentially changing history, the history teacher Barbara believing that she may be able to steer the Aztec culture away from its more barbaric tendencies and therefore avert its extermination at the hands of the Spanish. This understandably creates the core of the episode, and Jacqueline Hill ably proves that she is able to fully carry a story when thrust into the spotlight. Her scenes with William Hartnell are mesmerizing, and he hints at his own history as well as his own desires as he agonizingly explains that not one line of history can be rewritten. This is, of course,…