The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles

Posted in Website by - February 19, 2020
The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles

Released February 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With the Twelfth Doctor and his now legacy era of Doctor Who joining the Big Finish fold for further exploration, impressionist Jacob Dudman who found such great success bringing David Tennant’s Tenth and Matt Smith’s Eleventh incarnations to life in more Doctor-centric and narration-driven boxsets for the company now tackles the uniqueness of Peter Capaldi’s vocal mannerisms and energy in The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles.

David Llewellyn opens this set with ‘The Charge of the Night Brigade’ and the rat-infested camps of the Crimean War. A strange infection has taken hold and is spreading amongst the soldiers, turning them bluish in colour before killing them as a strange fluid comes from their mouths. With a blend of pathogen and fugitive plotlines that makes the most of this particular rainy setting both to heighten the visual atmosphere and to explain the spread (even if rats being the sole vector perhaps strains the plot’s logic too much), the Twelfth Doctor who is early in his life cycle and still learning to show kindness while all too eagerly showing contempt for soldiers in particular sparkles with a brilliant characterization and a perfectly captured voice. He certainly knows right from wrong, and pairing him with the no-nonsense but devoted contemporary of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, is an inspired choice that puts this version of the Doctor into a far kinder context as the two immediately form a respectful camaraderie. This ensures that the horrific truth behind these affairs and the startling visuals that accompany the threat’s methodology both from afar and within never become too much to bear. While Dudman isn’t quite as strong with Capaldi’s voice as with his earlier two Doctors, there is no denying just how effective and infectious his energy is while expertly capturing the necessary mannerisms, combining with Mandi Symonds here to easily carry the narrative weight through the limited supporting soundscape that is so representative of this range. While ‘The Charge of the Night Brigade’ may not ultimately do too much new with this Doctor who is still so new to the audio adventure realm, it’s well-paced and strongly-acted, offering a tremendous start and glimpse of what just may be possible for this era within the chronicle context.

Mark Wright pens Danny Pink’s Big Finish debut with ‘War Wounds’ in which the frustrated one-time soldier finds the TARDIS door open in a Coal Hill storeroom and can’t resist the opportunity to learn firsthand about the Doctor and Clara’s double life. Soon injured in a border strike on an alien jungle world, he finds himself an unwitting ally of the Doctor’s as the two must put aside their mutual disdain to survive and escape. Without question, the antagonistic relationship between these two is the highlight of this story that provides something wholly unique to these chronicles and that is perfectly true to the characterization on screen, and Samuel Anderson offers a commanding performance that taps into a range of emotions to bring Danny’s physical and mental plights vividly to the fore. Dudman is likewise afforded the opportunity to showcase more of the Twelfth Doctor’s emotional range, and Anderson and he quickly form a strong chemistry that perfectly evokes the tension that was so often present between these two characters on screen. The wartime setting provides a brilliant opportunity to explore who Danny is now compared to he used to be and the lingering feelings he still holds for that time of his life and whether he can ever truly leave it behind, and the poignant messages about the nature of war and how both sides composed of their own soldiers fighting for other people must be understood lend an incredible depth to these affairs that far outpaces the more audacious visuals of dinosaurs walking in battle attire. ‘War Wounds,’ despite an ending that undoes some of the immense characterization on display due to the constraints of continuity, is a brilliant example of everything this range can achieve, using Danny and all of his weighty backstory to perfection for a deeply personal journey that Clara’s time with the Doctor never truly allowed.

‘Distant Voices’ by Lizbeth Myles introduces another Big Finish newcomer in Emily Redpath as the Rochester Castle tour conductor, Cameron, who is haunted by strange voices she can only hope will go away. When the Doctor who can likewise hear the voices joins her tour, however, she soon finds herself a key component to the fracturing of time itself as the two suddenly find themselves in the middle of a siege with arrows flying past. As different moments of this castle’s history come into focus with the threat of King John and the constraints of recorded history looming large, the strongest soundscape and score of this set yet brilliantly bring to life the wildly differing shades of time within these confines. Being Doctor Who, this story of time collapsing upon itself and the crucial secret that Cameron holds is fairly predictable with events playing out more or less as expected from the outset, but Redpath quickly proves just how versatile she is as Cameron quickly becomes a dynamic presence while thrust into the middle of these dangerous and bizarre events so far beyond her control. Myles wisely keeps the plot intimately linked to Cameron to highlight her strengths, struggles, and compassion, and the strong chemistry between Dudman and Redpath perfectly captures the essence of a traditional companion relationship in the Twelfth Doctor era to easily carry these mysterious events through to their conclusion. With Dudman likewise providing his strongest impression of Capaldi yet as the Doctor’s emotions continue to stretch, ‘Distant Voices’ overcomes the more traditional foibles of its visual plot to offer a pleasantly engaging experience that gives an intriguing glimpse of just how far the plotting format can stretch within the two-performer chronicle banner. While perhaps not as strong overall as the preceding stories, ‘Distant Voices’ nonetheless captures the imagination and keeps the momentum going with only one story left in this set.

Una McCormack closes out The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles by finally delivering on the oft-teased potential of UNIT’s Osgood stepping into the TARDIS in ‘Field Trip.’ However, as visions of joining rebel forces to stop an alien invasion fill Osgood’s mind, she instead finds herself tasked with talking to politicians to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict at hand. With Big Finish currently the only source of new UNIT adventures, this opportunity to bring together the Doctor and Osgood for the first time since 2015’s televised Zygon two-parter is most welcome, and Ingrid Oliver and Dudman instantly recapture these character’s chemistry on screen which easily bolsters their extended time together. Oliver continues to let Osgood’s excitement and zeal underlying her shrewd intelligence shine through, and the continuing characterization afforded her as she must confront her fear of heights and prove surprisingly adept at infiltrating a casino while undercover lends yet another dynamic element to this plot and the corporate warfare and greed at its heart. Dudman, likewise, is supremely confident as he tackles a wide range of accented individuals, creating an immense sense of scope to these proceedings that could have fallen flat with such intimate casting in other circumstances. Brimming with vivid imagery and an undeniable energy that easily overcomes brief moments of wordiness and wandering in its plot, ‘Field Trip’ provides the perfect closing act for this set that has traversed so much of the Twelfth Doctor’s lifespan while dabbling in and expanding upon established continuity by finally offering Osgood and fans alike the opportunity of a lifetime. Another strong example of just what this narration-driven format can offer, ‘Field Trip’ likewise provides proof positive of just how much room for further exploration this era of Doctor Who has to offer no matter the means of storytelling or voices involved.

When and if Peter Capaldi will officially join Big Finish to reprise his beloved incarnation of the titular Time Lord remains to be seen, but as with the voices of David Tennant and Matt Smith, Jacob Dudman has once more proven just how adept his vocal skills are as he somehow manages to effectively channel the nuanced inflections and mannerisms in an accent and tone of voice so far removed from his own. Although naturally the stories featuring recurring characters seem to have an extra bit of energy behind them, The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles as a whole is a successful and respectful foray into this recent era that again proves that Big Finish is more than capable of expanding its reach within the Doctor Who universe whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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