Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Five

In my last Best of Big Finish article I mentioned that I had finished most of the second series of Eighth Doctor audios, and I had only a handful of audios (including the infamous Zagreus) remaining in the Eighth Doctor’s first batch of stories. What makes these audios so fascinating is that, other than the less-than-stellar TV Movie from 1996 and the fantastic but brief Night of the Doctor from 2013, they are the only medium through which fans can experience the Eighth Doctor. Whilst we can all live in hope that one day the BBC will give Paul McGann a spinoff or mini-series of his own, in the meantime the stellar audios that he has been a part of can suffice for fans of McGann. All of these audios can be picked up on the Big Finish website for just £3 each, so they are definitely worth checking out.

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The Time of the Daleks

This audio is essentially a re-imagining of the lost Second Doctor episode The Evil of the Daleks, which is by no means a bad thing – since Evil can no longer be experienced, it makes sense to attempt a remake eventually – but the story is perhaps in places a little too close to Evil. Regardless, McGann and Fisher are brilliant as always, and the Daleks prove to be as menacing as ever.

What truly makes this audio worth the time is the fact that the Daleks quote Shakespeare throughout, something that is unnerving in context but hilarious to listen to, particularly since the plot revolves a fair amount around the Daleks attempting to remove all of Shakespeare from time, but in order to do that they have to learn Shakespeare themselves.

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Neverland

Neverland concludes the story arc involving Charley Pollard and the time-phenomenon that has pursued her and the Doctor since they met, and also leads into Zagreus, making it a fairly important audio in the Eighth Doctor’s early years. The audio features Lalla Ward as Romana II in her first encounter with the Eighth Doctor, and also features some interesting developments on Time Lord society, specifically their early methods of capitol punishment.

All in all, Neverland is essentially the ‘setup’ for the next audio, and given its successors infamous reputation it goes without saying that this audio is an important chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s adventures.

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Zagreus

As strange as it is, I actually quite liked Zagreus. I am aware of this audio’s controversial nature, and its placement as the ‘Marmite’ audio for most fans – they either love it or they hate it. To its credit, Zagreus attempts to do something radically different for a Doctor Who story, and it plays with some really interesting ideas. By far one of the best features of this story is the abundance of classic cast members, everyone from Louise Jameson to Jon Pertwee (the latter as a prerecording taken from a fan production). In a strange twist, however, the entire group of regular cast have been given totally random roles in this story, making it an interesting ride for those who are familiar with them all.

The first of two main weaknesses of Zagreus is the length – in fact, its length is its Achilles heel in many ways, as the second main weakness of Zagreus is the meandering plot – but the story could have been tightened up a lot more as the final product is a whopping four hours long – twice the length of a standard Big Finish production. True to Classic Who form, this means filler galore.

—- WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ZAGREUS TO FOLLOW —-

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Scherzo

This is a strange one. Scherzo is set directly after Zagreus and is the first in the ‘divergent universe’ arc that makes up the second major plot arc in the Eighth Doctor’s era after Charley. After the somewhat hectic and tragic conclusion to Zagreus, the Eighth Doctor and Charley end up in a totally new universe in which time no longer exists, and for most of the audio they cannot see or feel anything but each other – they are totally trapped in a universe in which the only thing that exists is sound.

This audio really showcases what the format of audio stories can do that the televised show could not, and really amps up the horror factor to the extent that this might be the scariest of the Big Finish audios that I have listened to so far, in a strange way. As the only two cast members, Paul McGann and India Fisher do a fantastic job here, and they are quickly becoming one of my favourite Doctor/Companion pairings.

So that concludes my thoughts on the next round of Eighth Doctor audios from Big Finish. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

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Author: Cameron Walker

Writer, Painter, Dalek collector, Walker, General Idealist but Political Realist, Fan of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Halo, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Ghost in the Shell, among other things. All Doctor Who discussion particularly welcome, but be warned, I am a huge nerd.

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