The Dark Planet
Audio / August 3, 2017

Released September 2013 The fourth and final series of Big Finish’s The Lost Stories kicks off with Brian Hayles’s ‘The Dark Planet,’ a reunion for William Russell and Maureen O’Brien in a tale originally intended to air during William Hartnell’s second season. As the TARDIS lands on a world lit by a dying sun in the earliest days of the universe, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki quickly find themselves in a civil war between the planet’s two ages-old denizens, those of light and those of shadow, as escalations rise and nothing is quiet as clear as it seems. Had ‘The Dark Planet’ made it to broadcast, it would have yielded a marked contrast to many of the stories around it, placing the heroic travelers directly into the conflict and exploring the many facets of each side gradually and logically to paint a satisfyingly complex picture of events on this dying world. Although the story itself cannot quite sustain six episodes’ worth of material and as a result does suffer from padded scenes and irregular pacing, the heavy atmosphere created to explore this most primal and direct of battles is immense and easily helps to sustain interest even when there…

The Masters of Luxor
Audio / July 26, 2017

Released August 2012 The Lost Stories turns back the clock once more to the First Doctor era, a time when the rules and conventions of Doctor Who were anything but set. Originally set to be the second serial in place of ‘The Daleks’ which rocketed Doctor Who to its status as a cultural phenomenon and thus becoming the holy grail of lost stories, Anthony Coburn’s ‘The Masters of Luxor’ offers a far more cerebral and contemplative tale than its replacement and features surprisingly religious undertones, hinting at a wholly different trajectory the burgeoning adventures of the Doctor may have taken. Within Doctor Who’s long history, the First Doctor era unquestionably challenged its viewers with resonant moral dilemmas and thoughtful insights the most, and ‘The Masters of Luxor’ seamlessly follows that trend as both the meaning of life and what life entails come to the forefront. Joe Kloska is superb as, among his many roles here, the Perfect One, a machine with dreams of becoming human, and this is perhaps the most thought-provoking and poignantly mature of any storyline the franchise has ever offered. This personal plight is brought to life wonderfully as this machine attempts to find his place in…

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…

The Five Companions
Audio / June 3, 2017

Released December 2011 Whereas 2010’s Bonus Release ‘The Four Doctors’ took a rather novel approach to a multi-Doctor story by focusing on a new character traversing the Doctor’s personal timeline, 2011’s fuses different eras of Doctor Who together in an altogether more traditional fashion, though still with its own unique twist. As Ian, Steven, Sara, Polly, and Nyssa find themselves brought together and confronted with Daleks, Sontarans, and dinosaurs, ‘The Five Companions’ finds the Doctor directly confronting his past in a thrilling but also very personal tale of survival and reflection. Writer Eddie Robson borrows from ‘The Five Doctors’ and suggests that these past companions are in another part of that serial’s Death Zone on Gallifrey and that the Doctor has been pulled out of his transport to the Capitol to appear at that same area. However, though this is a Fifth Doctor story, the tale wisely focuses on the returning companions themselves, certainly not shying away from the fact that they have aged since leaving the Doctor and allowing moments of reminiscence while showcasing the unique element that each brought to the series while traveling aboard the TARDIS. Obviously Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles range has kept the earlier…

The Fifth Traveller
Audio / October 16, 2016

Released October 2016 The Early Adventures continues with Philip Lawrence’s ‘The Fifth Traveller,’ revisiting the era of the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara Vicki, and Jospa. Jospa, of course, is the orphan from the slums of Earth’s future that pickpocketed the Doctor and then joined the TARDIS team, forming a powerful sibling-like camaraderie with Vicki along the way. Only, the audience knows that none of that happened, and the mystery of how this man came to insert himself into established continuity forms the driving force of this intriguing release. The early years of Doctor Who is famous for occasionally allowing ambition to trump what could realistically be achieved on a minimal budget, and ‘The Fifth Traveller’ certainly channels that sense of ambition with its scope. After Jospa discovers an organic jellyfish-like creature that should allow the Doctor to finally control the TARDIS with much greater precision upon the planet of Vavidic, the story proper takes place in the jungles of Arunde. This vegetative world and its golden primates’ culture and structured society are both fleshed out and described wonderfully, the incidental music and sound design helping with the former and telepathic communications of the latter adding incredible depth to these creations.…

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 Chase
Episode / August 25, 2016

Aired 22 May – 26 June 1965 ‘The Chase’ is an odd Doctor Who serial, clearly an attempt to profit off of the Dalek craze of the time but also quite brilliant in its own way. Written by Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, ‘The Chase’ in a way follows the format of his previous six-parter ‘The Keys of Marinus’ in which there are several near-standalone stories with an overall link. Here, the Daleks pursue the Doctor and his companions through time and space to several different locales, in the process encapsulating the fluid and experimental nature of early Doctor Who perfectly. It’s quite easy to dismiss ‘The Chase’ as an overall pointless episode, especially since Terry Nation admitted that public demand rather than narrative need spurred the story making it to screens and since it falls into the easy pattern of the Doctor and his companions arrive somewhere, battle against the Daleks, and then leave. However, there are several small intricacies thrown in that make ‘The Chase’ a very worthwhile viewing whether one holds that viewpoint or not. The opening of the story is particularly important, not only because it finally shows that the TARDIS has become home to…

The Space Museum
Episode / August 23, 2016

Aired 24 April – 15 May 1965 There are few who would consider ‘The Space Museum’ to be a classic Doctor Who story, but as a concept it is incredibly interesting and certainly pivotal to the programme as a whole. The idea of interfering with and changing time is certainly not a novel one, having been referenced in almost every historical tale to date, but here it is the TARDIS team’s own future and fate which hangs in the balance. Harkening back to the events of ‘The Edge of Destruction,’ eerie noises and direction that give a sense of disorientation dominate the beginning of ‘The Space Museum.’ The crew soon discovers that they have somehow jumped a time track, leaving them unable to interact with their environment in any meaningful way. The Space Museum itself is brought to life by some incredible model work, but it should be noted that the actors’ shadows do detract from the sense of scope the sets are aiming to achieve. Regardless, as the Doctor and his companions wander through the Museum while trying to avoid the patrolling the Moroks, the sense of unease is only heightened as each room seems to be identical, the…

The Crusade
Episode / August 21, 2016

Aired 27 March – 17 April 1965 Following the more light-hearted and comedic undertones of ‘The Romans,’ Doctor Who returns to a more serious tone with its historical outings in ‘The Crusade,’ a harrowing look at the Third Crusade in twelfth century Israel. Intriguingly, although the TARDIS crew once more becomes embroiled in events rather quickly, they find themselves this time between two men, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, who both simply desire peace. David Whitaker’s script wisely avoids pointed Anglophilic bias, showcasing both the rights and wrongs of both sides of the struggle as well as the shortcomings of the prominent individuals. Richard is quite prone to temperamental outbursts, especially when his plans are questioned or need to be modified. Yet rather than allowing the character devolve into a totally unlikable wretch, actor Julian Glover adds an intrinsic air of nobility and righteousness to his character that better defines Richard and keeps him both powerful and believable. Bernard Kay also does tremendous work as Saladin, the antagonist of Richard but a man who is still presented as very dignified and intelligent. There is, of course, the obvious fact of the makeup required to bring the non-Caucasian character to life,…