Night of the Vashta Nerada
Audio , Website / July 28, 2017

Released July 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW With so many foes originating from the classic era of Doctor Who continuing to return to the modern incarnation of the series, it was only a matter of time until Big Finish inverted that formula and had foes of the modern series cross paths with classic regenerations of the Doctor. Met with unfettered acclaim last year, the first collection of Classic, Doctors, New Monsters proved what a resounding success the format could be as the likes of the Weeping Angels, Judoon, Sycorax, and newer Sontarans each appeared earlier in the Doctor’s timeline that previously known. To kick off the second box set, the Fourth Doctor happens upon the Vashta Nerada on Funworld, a proposed planet of joy where the construction and intended opening have been marred by mysterious reports of a predator and a complete termination of communications. ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ unavoidably shares several moments of similarity with ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead,’ but the reintroduction of the eponymous foe and their means of hunting and survival when their native forests is handled so well that it hardly matters. The fact that these minute piranha-like beings are normally…

The Valley of Death
Audio / July 13, 2017

Released October 2011 Tom Baker’s Big Finish debut in The Fourth Doctor Box Set comes to a close with ‘The Valley of Death,’ a story from the mind of Philip Hinchcliffe that was originally intended to air during the season after his departure from the franchise. As the Doctor and Leela join Edward Perkins on his expedition into the Amazon rainforest to find the truth behind his great-grandfather’s disappearance a century earlier, they soon find something sinister lurking within the city of the lost Maygor tribe as Godrin and the Lurons finally make their offer to humanity. ‘The Valley of Death’ is very nearly two tales of two parts each given how disparate the two halves are, the first featuring the search in the Amazon for the missing expedition and fabled golden city and the second featuring an alien invasion in London. This sort of dichotomy has been used to great effect in Doctor Who before, but the two stories are so distinct here that nothing from the first except for the introduction of Godrin and his ability to warp the speed of time carries through to the conclusion. Thus, the immensely visual buildup of the Amazonian environment with its…

The Foe from the Future
Audio / July 12, 2017

Released October 2011 After years of declining to reprise his iconic Fourth Doctor role in the audio medium, Tom Baker finally joins the Big Finish family with The Fourth Doctor Box Set in its The Lost Stories range, a collection of two tales stemming from the immensely popular Philip Hinchcliffe era. The opening instalment, Robert Banks Stewart’s ‘The Foe from the Future,’ was originally intended to serve as a finale for the incomparable season fourteen and shares at least some similarities with the story that would go on to replace it, ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang.’ As the TARDIS follows a twist in the time vortex to the village of Staffham in 1977 where apparitions and dead bodies turn up in equal measure, the Doctor and Leela soon find themselves embroiled in a plan two thousand years in the making that threatens history itself. As far as debut stories go, ‘The Foe from the Future’ is an incredibly strong one for Tom Baker that emphasizes the versatility and range that he brings to the role of the Doctor. There is a moodiness underlying the Fourth Doctor here as he effortlessly switches from morose seriousness to jovial frivolity, and his famed grin…

Subterranea
Audio / June 22, 2017

Released June 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The TARDIS materializes deep beneath the surface of an alien world, one in which the inhabitants live aboard giant burrowing Drill-Town machines while endlessly hunting for fuel and resources to survive. But as a Drill-Town engulfs the TARDIS with the Doctor and Romana aboard, they soon find that even the largest of machines can become prey to the Silex. As with the best two-part stories, writer Jonathan Morris expertly fleshes out the history of this world and the war of attrition against the relentless Silex that together form the crux of ‘Subterranea.’ With an initial premise that evokes elements of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Morris probably wisely instead chooses to go down a slightly more whimsical route with its sometimes larger-than-life cast of characters and the steampunk cybernetic Silex seeking to assimilate those who run afoul of them. At the same time, though, the Silex become one of the most distracting elements of the story, and that is simply down to just how very reminiscent of the Cybermen they are. The backstory of the foes is incredibly powerful and certainly helps to imbue them with a heightened sense of menace, but…

Night of the Stormcrow
Audio / June 6, 2017

Released December 2013 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The early Fourth Doctor era is renowned for its more horror-laden stylings, and while the first series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures have only lightly incorporated that beloved genre, Marc Platt’s ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ makes the most of its claustrophobic atmosphere and its sense of familiarity amidst an unknowable threat to create a tense tale that would be perfectly at home within producer Philip Hinchcliffe’s seasons at the helm. Intensifying the anxiety and conflict by not even having the Doctor know what is occurring is a familiar plot device occasionally used throughout Doctor Who’s lengthy history, and it’s employed to spectacular effect in ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ as well. Indeed, purposefully leaving an air of mystery around the Stormcrow, the No Things, and the seeming symbiotic relationship between the two that together somehow consume both matter and time maintains a sense of mystery and danger all the way to the very end. Of course, the isolated observatory and the strange orbiting object that no piece of equipment other than the optical telescope can detect sets up the story nicely, and the revelation that the Stormcrow is a scavenger that has been…

The Haunting of Malkin Place
Audio / May 22, 2017

Released May 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW After hearing strange footsteps in the Doctor’s house at Baker Street that leads them to search out the birthplace of Henry James, a chance encounter with a spiritualist on a train instead sends the Doctor and Romana on a ghost hunt, following the supposed trail of the most convincing stories of a genuine haunting ever heard. With strange movements and noises commonplace at Malkin Place, the intrepid duo quickly find their beliefs challenged as the scientific and the spiritual collide in spectacular fashion. The ghosts of Malkin Place quickly come into focus as the tormented Maurice is duly introduced, the denizen who has employed the spiritualist, Talbot, to help him make sense of the strange occurrences as he tries to understand his own past. Fittingly, Romana adamantly refuses to believe in the existence of ghosts even as she goads the Doctor on, but it’s clear as soon as the travelers arrive on the property that this is not going to be a light-hearted affair. The introduction of Talbot necessarily forms a significant portion of the first episode, but events truly pick up when Gunnar Cauthery is introduced as Maurice and his character’s mystery and…

Dethras
Audio / April 24, 2017

Released April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW The Fourth Doctor Adventures has long been one of Big Finish’s most conservative ranges, often pitching the stories so that they effortlessly fit into their intended era but sometimes sacrificing novelty and ingenuity in doing so. However, that pattern has slowly been changing over the past couple of years and especially with many of the early releases of this current sixth series. ‘Dethras’ as the latest release not only features an immensely intriguing core concept and setting to bolster its atmospheric and engaging mystery, but it also instills a sense of season seventeen’s lighter stylings into the more grave and earnest season eighteen period. Upon finding a World War II submarine adrift in space with only three crewmembers and a chimpanzee on board and no explanation for the rest of the missing crew, the Doctor and Romana immediately become entwined in a grand mystery as they try to make sense of the strange goings-on within the ship’s hull as well as of the strange noises coming from outside. The first episode is something of a slower-paced affair understandably more concerned with building up the mystery with compounding confusion, but this approach does at least…

The Helm of Awe
Audio / April 17, 2017

Released April 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Legendary producer Philip Hinchcliffe once more returns to Big Finish with another character-driven story intended to recapture the core essence of his televised era featuring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. Given the positive response for this small collection so far, it’s clear that the popularity and love for this era is as strong as ever, and the trickling of releases manages to maintain an air of spectacle and novelty even as they compete against Big Finish’s own The Fourth Doctor Adventures. With the fourth story across three volumes of Philip Hinchcliffe Presents, Hinchcliffe grounds his story on the Shetland Isle of Bothness as the locals prepare to celebrate the Norse fire festival of Up Helly Ya. Yet amidst the intensified blending of Scottish and Scandinavian roots, the Doctor and Leela find themselves tracking an ancient artifact of unimaginable power. Hinchcliffe and adapter Marc Platt brilliantly and perfectly incorporate elements of true Norse mythology to both drive the plot forward and to flesh out the superb environment and tightly-knit community, avoiding the pitfall of sacrificing pacing in order to explain the facts while doing so. The dichotomy between elements of 1970s modern life and the…

The Silent Scream
Audio / April 3, 2017

Released March 2017 Season eighteen of Doctor Who is remembered as one thematically full of entropy and decay, a somber precursor to Tom Baker’s regeneration after seven years as the Fourth Doctor. However, while these themes would come to predominate beginning with the Doctor’s accidental arrival in E-space, Big Finish has proven adept at filling in the spaces beforehand, allowing for a more optimistic return to this era. This trend continues with ‘The Silent Scream’ as the Doctor, Romana, and K9 arrive in 1920s Hollywood where silent film actors hoping to make a comeback are vanishing while strange creatures walk the streets. Writer James Goss has crafted a love letter of sorts to Hollywood’s Golden Age, managing to walk precariously close to the fourth wall on several occasions without ever veering over that boundary or eliciting too much of a sense of campiness or self-indulgence. Indeed, it seems rather fitting that the bombastic Fourth Doctor would have such a soft spot for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s silent film era, and his infatuation with starlet Loretta Waldorf who quickly finds her voice stolen as cellulose shadows reveal themselves provides a natural entry point to the mystery for the audience…

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…