The Beginning

Posted in Audio by - July 10, 2019
The Beginning

Released November 2013

To mark the monumental fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, Big Finish and writer Mark Platt turn to the very foundation of the Doctor’s adventures through space and time with the aptly-titled ‘The Beginning.’ As the Doctor and Susan escape through Gallifrey’s cloisters and leave their world behind in an old Type-40 Time Travel Capsule, they soon find that they are not alone as a dangerous universe of adventure opens up before them.

The first few moments of ‘The Beginning’ revel in everything that makes this relatively-unexplored era so fascinating, and with references to Gallifreyan familial structure from Platt’s novel Lungbarrow, to the Hand of Omega from ‘Remembrance of the Daleks,’ and even to Clara convincing the Doctor and Susan to take another capsule from ‘The Name of the Doctor,’ long-time fans will find plenty of continuity threads to enjoy that give an immense amount of scope to the Doctor’s fledgling and continuing adventures alike. Sadly, the actual reasoning for the Doctor deciding to leave Gallifrey is left rather vague beyond a simple suggestion that the Doctor being in favour of some form of Gallifreyan interference throughout the cosmos had led to trouble. This is perfectly befitting of both the Doctor and the Time Lords as they would come to be written in the early years of the programme, but ‘The Beginning’ does miss the very unique opportunity it possesses to truly delve into the initial impetus for the Doctor to become the wandering do-gooder that the universe would come to know and admire.

Interestingly, the Doctor and Susan soon find that the TARDIS they have entered is in the process of being decommissioned with Quadrigger Stoyn still aboard. Although he does serve something of a formulaic purpose here to provide a traditional Gallifreyan contrast to the Doctor by insisting that he only wants to return home without interfering, he does become something of a sympathetic character as the Doctor’s actions inadvertently cause him harm, and Terry Molloy gives a commanding performance that offers more nuance to the character than there initially seems. Stoyn may not become a memorable Gallifreyan in his own right in this story alone, but he is nonetheless an intriguing presence who, though not up to the Doctor’s intellectual standards, should still provide a unique presence to carry the remainder of the trilogy of stories to follow.

Of course, as the Doctor and Susan quickly come to learn of Earth and the history of humanity, the Archaeons he comes upon who are looking to seed the planet with life that will adhere to their standards also represent the first non-Gallifreyan force against which the Doctor can rebel. The Archaeon presence offers a fairly fascinating perspective about Earth’s history and the consideration that humanity may be nothing more than an experiment, one that assuredly has the right to exist even if the aliens were trapped in a stasis field after trying to disassemble the TARDIS while the species and planet continued to evolve without their guidance. While the story again misses a chance to really delve into the Doctor’s psyche as he considers truly interfering for the first time, this is nonetheless a vital moment in the franchise’s mythology that carries the necessary impact while concluding with a fitting retaliation that likewise hints at just why the Doctor would come to be so enthralled with this planet and its primary denizens.

‘The Beginning,’ then, is a surprisingly traditional story that neither develops the Doctor’s earliest and most important decisions nor offers the type of innovative storytelling approaches that made William Hartnell’s tenure so unique. However, the characterisation of the two leads is strong throughout, and Carole Ann Ford gives a tremendous performance that captures the requisite apprehension of these first-time travelers as they take the plunge into the unknown wonders and dangers of the universe. The direction and sound design help accentuate the very visual nature of the script, but overall this is a suitable but average attempt to capitalise on the very foundations of this franchise that shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.

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