Posted in Audio by - January 21, 2023

Released January 2023


In Lou Morgan’s ‘Vespertine,’ the Doctor is determined to make Cass’s first trip aboard the TARDIS one to remember. Even he could not anticipate arriving at a research base that should not exist above a long-missing ship that should never have been found, however, but that may be the least of their concerns given what these events may portend for the universe at large.

From the start, Cass has made it clear that she is an explorer at heart, and though getting a job on an unremarkable ship voyaging the stars has been the closest to achieving her dream she has yet managed to come, she has always revered the bravery and determination of historical figures such as Hudson Sage whom her father would tell her about at bedtimes so long ago. This is a man who discovered entire civilizations and who has been immortalized in the new periodic table multiple times, but he and his entire crew and ship went missing without a trace during an expedition to an icy world, leaving an immense unsolved mystery in their wake. At least, that’s how the Doctor remembers it being, for the ill-fated Vespertine has been discovered, and he and his companions are determined to discover the truth while the lone technician aboard the research station, Rin Martolo, waits for assistance to arrive and rescue to commence.

Naturally, Cass is front and centre throughout ‘Vespertine,’ and her innate curiosity and fortitude allow her to bravely confront any situation before her while continuing to ask questions to further her understanding. Cass is a strong complement to Alex who is, of course, more experienced and knows the finer details to look for in his surroundings, and Emma Campbell-Jones and Sonny McGann share a wonderful chemistry that hints at the shared respect and affection the two characters have already developed for each other. Given that Alex himself is still quite impressionable and is clearly trying to study the Doctor’s actions and to act like him, this unique layering of confidence, charisma, and forthrightness at these two companions’ formative stages is a tremendous strength of the story that will hopefully carry into future instalments as each continues to become more comfortable with each other and when confronting the mysteries of the universe.

Regarding its plot, ‘Verspertine’ is quite unremarkable given the truly spectacular and almost limitless possibilities that the Time War setting allows, but there are certainly some intriguing character moments and plenty of incredible imagery as the story slowly builds up to its final revelation that everyone’s timelines throughout the universe may have been altered. This leads to a powerful cliffhanger that Paul McGann delivers perfectly as visages of memories of this ship that he cannot place begin to make sense; still, that sense being based upon Alex’s assertion that he simply knows that the images he saw from Sage’s past involving the Doctor and Bliss whom the Doctor cannot remember are from his past rather then future is somewhat circumspect. Regardless, Alex is correct, and with Rakhee Thakrar unavailable to reprise her role as Bliss due to other commitments, ensuring her character remains involved through the Doctor’s inability to recall anything about her is a fascinating means of developing this overarching mystery.

Simon Shepherd is commanding and utterly human as Cass’s hero who has unknowingly been sealed in a time lock for so long, and the truth that slowly comes out regarding his motivations and the pressures put upon him allows for a strong piece of character development that ties in quite nicely with the perceived motivations of Martolo upon the station and the ultimate truths that she has kept hidden to this point as well. Again, the story takes an exceedingly long time to finally start putting all of these pieces into motion, but the meeting between Sage and the Doctor that only Sage can remember and the very physical evidence the Doctor has left behind that he has, indeed, been involved with Sage’s affairs previously remind everyone that even the Doctor is not a reliable narrator or infallible source of knowledge at this point in time. Cass makes another strong impression even if not too much more is learned about her character or this iteration of Alex, but the hints at the far larger mystery confronting the universe as well as the incredible visuals bringing this surprisingly traditional exploring ship to life truly elevate what for so much of the running time of ‘Vespertine’ is a surprisingly low-key affair for Big Finish’s Time War saga and the immense ambition is has so consistently shown.

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