The Last Adventure

Posted in Audio by - February 03, 2016
The Last Adventure

Released August 2015

It took until 2015, but Big Finish has finally tied up the last lingering plot point from the classic run of Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor’s swansong and regeneration. Whereas up until the release of The Last Adventure, fans had to settle for an inadequate explanation of the regeneration and were not even allowed to see Colin Baker properly regenerate. Much like 2013’s The Night of the Doctor provided a satisfying (and also overdue) send-off to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, The Last Adventure is a spectacular finale for a Doctor who has taken full advantage of the second life the audio medium has afforded him.

‘The End of the Line’ wastes no time with exposition and throws the Doctor and new companion Constance Clarke right into the proceedings. This is Constance’s first released adventure- although not the first in her timeline as her introduction will be saved for a later main release- and so it is a brave choice to limit information about her and to instead have her [rese as someone who has already earned the Doctor’s trust implicitly. This setup works wonderfully well, while still creating a sense of yearning to know more about the Doctor’s new strong leading lady.

There is a pervading sense of familiarity with the televised Midnight in that a small group of confined passengers experience an ever-growing sense of paranoia as the setting, occurrences, and even dimensions continue to shift around them. Strong villains (more than just the heavily advertised Valeyardo is very limited in this story) really help sell the sense of scope and danger, and as always Colin Baker delivers a masterful performance. The plan behind the strange occurrences is ingenious and it is a testament to Big Finish that everything is so clearly visualized with just an audio medium. Overall, this is a fantastic beginning to this important boxset.

Following a superb open act, ‘The Red House’ had a lot to live up to in terms of keeping the momentum moving while advancing the plot. Charlotte Pollard is the returning companion for this story, and her suspicious and not-quite-trusting relationship with the Sixth Doctor is recaptured perfectly within minutes. Unfortunately, Charley is not portrayed as the adept of companions in this story, but her actions do at least lead to some great scenes with the Valeyard and slowly start to reveal a little more of his ultimate plan.

The plot itself offers a clever twist on werewolf mythology, but that twist just isn’t enough to sustain the storyline for an hour; taking out the scenes that relate to the overall Valeyard plot leaves only a serviceable but never remarkable plot. Still, the leads are so engaging and well-written that they substantially elevate the story of what ends up being the weakest story of the bunch.

‘Stage Fright’ is perhaps the biggest gamble in this set, boasting quite a lot of continuity references, but it pays off immeasurably and offers an extremely satisfying experience. Using aspects of the Doctor’s previous regenerations and companions to tie into a theatrical arc, the Valeyard is out from the shadows and clearly front and center in this story, his unwavering menace present from the outset. As the Doctor points out, this is one of those times where he is at a distinct disadvantage as his enemy literally knows every move he will make.

Of course, with theatricality come Jago and Litefoot, and they unsurprisingly step back into their roles with exquisite ease and perfection. The companion this time around is Flip, one of the least-explored characters in the Big Finish range, and ‘Stage Fright’ does a magnificent time in bringing her to the forefront as well, the climax and denouement directly relating to a key point in her childhood. Flip is brave, reckless companion, and those traits and repercussions are put on full display here. There is not a wasted scene here, and the pairing of Litefoot with the Doctor and Jago with Flip are inspired choices that carry the story unfalteringly to the end.

The set concludes with ‘The Brink of Death,’ the story tasked with wrapping up the storylines from the preceding stories as well as providing a memorable farewell (at least in a chronological sense) to Colin Baker, a Big Finish stalwart.

It should come as no surprise that the Valeyard is so prevalent as his scheme continues to be unveiled, and Michael Jayston is enrapturing in the role. The Valeyard is completely ruthless and has the knowledge and desire to literally do anything make sure his plan succeeds. More surprising, however, is that Mel, while obviously present as the companion originally present at the time of regeneration, receives so little focus. She is little more than a background character, with companion status essentially being given to the affable and selfless Genesta. which the storyline essentially limits to a one-off appearance.

There is a true sense of despair here, partially because of the Doctor’s inherent disadvantage against the Valeyard but also because of the very real threat of time running out on him. Although he proves ‘victorious’ in the end with a grand sacrifice, the Doctor is never fully in control of the situation and is always trying to do his best for his companion more than for himself; at the end it is this heroic selflessness as a final that will linger in fans’ minds, contrasting wonderfully with the sometimes-brazen characterization on screen.

All in all, The Last Adventure delivers on its promise to finally deliver a worthwhile regeneration story for the Sixth Doctor. Featuring a whirlwind tour through the Doctor’s time at Big Finish, each story offers an interesting crux that comes to life thanks to superb casting, acting, and direction by all involved. Colin baker gives his all in this performance, and his last lines are truly fitting and memorable for such a strong character. Likewise, Michael Jayston recaptures the enigmatic, underhanded Valeyard spectacularly, again proving what a fantastic foil he can be for the Doctor. Featuring a great overarching plot with a superb (if saddening) resolution, The Last Adventure enhances the opening events shown on screen in Time and the Rani to a much loftier- if harrowed- level.

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