The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time

Posted in Audio by - March 14, 2022
The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time

Released March 2022


From its earliest days, women have played an instrumental role in crafting Doctor Who into a beloved programme that has endured for generations and that continues to innovate and attract new fans. In 2019, Big Finish released The Eighth of March to coincide with International Women’s Day and to truly highlight some of the incredible female talent and voices involved in every aspect of the audio medium such as writing, directing, producing, and acting. Three years later, The Eighth of March returns with a second volume and three new stories to further highlight the wonderful women involved in Doctor Who.

Lizbeth Myles opens The Eighth of March: Protectors of Time with ‘Stolen Futures’ and Romana after her departure from the TARDIS in E-space to help the ancient and noble Tharil race. The time-sensitive and time-shifting Tharils are a fascinating race that have only featured on a very limited number of occasions, and Myles quite deftly delves into their loaded history of once enslaving humans before themselves becoming enslaved without ever detracting from the script at hand. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Doctor’s intervention in “Warrior’s Gate,” Romana now finds herself in the middle of a fractured vision for the future of the Tharils. Some would seek revenge on the humans and look to destroy all means of their space-faring capabilities, others would simply look to uncover more about their own past, and still others would look to assume total control and wield unimaginable power with the time winds. Central to these many visions for the future, however, are the literal visions of the future and the mirrors that guide the key players in these affairs to their intended locales while speculating about just how much of the future is already predetermined and what role individual choice actually plays. Sadie Shimmin is subtly powerful as the Seer who knows much more than she initially reveals, and although David Warwick and Nimmy March are perhaps a bit too human in their respective portrayals of Tyro who wants to return the Tharils to their days of conquest and Lupan who simply cannot forgive or accept humanity, they along with John Dorney in his second outing as Biroc for Big Finish help to fully flesh out the many shifting dynamics in play within the Tharil race at this time. That focus, of course, is shared with Romana, and although the Time Lady is more out of her element here than is typical when in N-space, Lalla Ward is fantastic as Romana strives to learn and understand everything around her. With John Leeson once more voicing K-9 brilliantly, ‘Stolen Futures’ very much feels like a natural extension of “Warrior’s Gate,” ending somewhat predictably but excellently highlighting a most unique race and asking plenty of poignant and resonant questions along the way.

Abigail Burdess turns the focus onto Jenny and Lady Christina de Souza, two strong women characters who each starred in just one episode of Doctor Who and whom Big Finish has continued to develop, in ‘Prism.’ Bringing together and doing justice to two of the less-established characters in one script is a tall task, and the end result it something of a mixed bag as Jenny and Christina experience two very different sides of a monumental threat. To be fair, there are some truly excellent ideas at the core of ‘Prism,’ and the tesseract inspiration that allows for a fairly poignant exploration of women consumers within an increasingly corporate and capitalistic world allow for some strong character moments and commentary that make the story more resonant that it might otherwise be. However, despite an energetic performance from the ever-charming Michelle Ryan, Christina’s portion of the story is far less interesting and far too disjointed from the far superior portion featuring Jenny to fully allow this split narrative to reach its true potential. Indeed, despite the presence of a dangerous artificial intelligence akin to Alexa or Siri, Burdess devotes too much of Christina’s allotted time to simply explaining who Christina is and how she came to be in this locale. The exploits of Jenny and Noah in a heavily corporatized world that has felt the influence of the Doctor before are wholly more engaging and enthralling, however, and Georgia Tennant and Sean Biggerstaff bring their established chemistry to this story to headline a somewhat cynical but sincere look at the pervading trends in society and the people that can disappear within those trends and the associated greed. Of course, the eventual meeting of Jenny and Christina more than meets expectations, and while it’s unlikely that these two will ever cross paths again, these monumental personalities work perfectly together and further highlight just how incredible so many of the women the Doctor has associated with in any capacity continue to be. ‘Prism’ is a disjointed story that certainly has some shortcomings, but its ambition and social messages are tremendous and help to smooth over some of those rougher edges to deliver another intriguing and engaging experience.

Nina Millns concludes Protectors of Time with another teamup, albeit this time one that has been seen before in The Sarah Jane Adventures, as Rani meets up with Jo Jones while investigating strange weather phenomena in ‘The Turn of the Tides.’ Even for those who are unfamiliar with Rani as a character, simply presenting her as an investigator with ties to Sarah Jane Smith is a succinct and effective means of introducing this beloved character into Jo Jones’s ecological efforts, and amidst plenty of poignant references to their former colleague, Katy Manning and Anjli Mohindra share an immense chemistry that perfectly brings together two very distinct eras of Doctor Who. Although Rani is ultimately given far less to do here than Jo who firmly takes hold of events and again proves just how much she has grown as a person and a leader since her first days at UNIT, there is little doubt that Big Finish could have another successful spinoff with these two as its stars. The story itself is at its strongest when dealing with the very real threats facing humanity and the genuine emotions those dangers evoke, and while it’s unsurprising that an alien influence is ultimately uncovered, the inclusion of UNIT is another intriguing element that ties together Jo’s time with the Doctor with her continuing adventures that eventually lead to the Moon itself. Granted, UNIT here is mostly used to provide the technology needed to progress the story, but the mention of Project Indigo and a strong performance by Jaye Griffiths as science officer Jac allow for a deeper sense of connection and cohesion with the larger universe outside of this individual story. It’s highly unlikely that Jac will be a one-off character given UNIT’s continuing prominence for Big Finish, and while there is still plenty of room for further character development, this is a suitably strong introduction to the character that adeptly manages to avoid being relegated to the background. Unfortunately, the story itself is a bit too predictable and suffers from the occasional misstep in pacing as its true threat becomes known. The alien race simply fails to fully develop into anything unique, and the interpersonal drama of its members that comes to define the conclusion isn’t quite strong enough to elicit the intended emotional response. Still, the human characters are very much the focus of the story as a whole, Jo most prominently of all, and the strong performances and developing relationships are a brilliant look into yet more of the incredible women this franchise has created and continues to create as it nears its sixth decade.

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