After the success of the first series of the the Eighth Doctor Adventures, a second series was inevitable – and the adventures of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller continue with a second series that takes a more serious look into Lucie’s backstory and presents a more mature depiction of the Doctor-companion relationship than the one we saw in Series 1 – Lucie’s impromptu introduction meant that her story was somewhat rushed in the first series, and Series 2 takes the opportunity to tell some light-hearted stories early on before delivering some darker and more heavy-hitting stories in the second half.
2.1 – Dead London
Just like the first series, the second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures jumps right into the action, as the Doctor and Lucie are separated inside a bizarre alternate version of London where different zones from different time periods have been stitched together and the inhabitants of each zone can actually see and interact with each other. This bizarre setting lends itself well for some interesting ideas and narrative elements that could be explored, but unfortunately the audio spends a great deal of its runtime explaining the alien influence behind the time-fractured London and this leaves little time to explore time-fractured London itself. Although many of the EDAs benefit from their short run-time, allowing them to tell fast-paced stories in a quick and concise manner, Dead London is an example of an EDA whose story would have probably been better explored in a Main Range story with 4 25-minute episodes.
Nonetheless, Dead London is a great introduction to Series 2 of the EDAs, as we are reintroduced to the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller individually before they are reunited in the final act. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are exceptional, the supporting cast are great, and the sound design is fantastic – the only slight issue is that the main theme has been replaced with a very odd remix of the original Delia Derbyshire theme that has been affectionate nicknamed the ‘Blender Remix’ by fans due to its weird, disjointed nature – Big Finish briefly use this theme for the EDAs before switching back to the far superior David Arnold version.
Overall, Dead London is a fun listen, though it is perhaps let down by the short runtime and although the supporting cast are fun, with Spring-Heeled Sophie being a particularly nice addition to the main cast of this story, this one suffers from not taking full advantage of its setting and a weak main villain, who sometimes sounds like Voldemort from the first Harry Potter movie and seems to just be evil for the sake of being evil. It’s certainly no Blood of the Daleks, but Dead London serves its purpose as a series opener.
2.2 – Max Warp
The most important thing to mention about Max Warp is that it is a not-so-subtle parody of Top Gear, with the entire show being recreated in a futuristic setting – even down to parodies of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. The pastiche of Clarkson shuns political correctness and constantly puts down the James May caricature, and the Hammond character is involved in a horrendous crash – as such, this audio is not only somewhat dated but also comes across as a bit crass at times. However, there are some great moments of genuine comedy in this story, and although it is intended to be taken as a more light-hearted adventure, there is a genuine mystery as the Doctor and Lucie decide to investigate the murder of the Richard Hammond character as he is killed in a live demonstration of a Kith spaceship.
The element of seriousness in this story is derived from the Kith themselves, who hold a tenuous peace with the Varlon race that is jeopardised by the crash, which the Doctor identifies as being no accident. As such, there is an interesting story in here, but unfortunately it is somewhat overshadowed by the bizarre setting – the cartoonish representation of Jeremy Clarkson is not only over-the-top but is also overbearing on the story but is completely unbelievable.
Ultimately, Max Warp tries a lot of things, and ends up being a foray of hit-and-miss attempts throughout the runtime. However, its always fun to hear the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller interacting, and the best aspect by far is the sound design and soundtrack, so from that point of view this audio is still worth a listen. Don’t expect anything too spectacular from this one though, as it is only really memorable for being ‘the time Doctor Who did Top Gear’.
2.3 – Brave New Town
This audio begins with a really creepy concept – a British town stranded in the middle of a vast, dry wasteland, with the residents living the same Sunday in 1991 over and over again, with the same song staying as number one for all eternity. The Doctor and Lucie attempt to find out what is going on, as the only seemingly interesting thing happening in the town is that the Newsagents daughter has gone missing, so the two of them split up to investigate the goings-on in the area. This audio does a great job of emphasising the bizarre nature of the setting, as the inhabitants of the town seem to be completely unaware of their predicament, almost completely ignoring the fact that the sea is completely missing.
As Lucie is captured by armed forces and the Doctor wanders the wastelands searching for the missing girl, the plot does seem to accelerate as the inhabitants of the town hear a mysterious voice that gives them commands. There is of course something more at work here, and in many ways it is unfortunate that this story was not a Main Range audio, as there could have been more time spent on the premise of the stranded town and the ‘big reveal’ could have been the cliff-hanger to part one. This audio is great because it holds back its many twists for a while, and the main plot of the story in itself is somewhat of a spoiler, so skip to the next review if you do not want to read spoilers.
The primary twist of the story is that the entire town is populated by Autons, and the Nestene Consciousness is attempting to direct the Autons in the town to do its bidding. However, the Doctor discovers that the Autons living in the town have been there for 17 years, and they are capable of running independently – as such, they have free will and as such are able to make their own decisions. Overall, Brave New Town is definitely a more serious audio than the previous two, and this coupled with the fact that it features the Autons makes it the best audio in the series so far.
2.4 – The Skull of Sobek
The Eighth Doctor and Lucie encounter a Blue Desert located on a perfectly symmetrical planet, with a temple in the middle of the desert dedicated to imperfection, to counter the planet’s ideal alignment. All is not as it seems, however, as the temple is inhabited by a cult who worship a race of crocodile-men called the Crocodilians who hail from the planet Sobek, and the eponymous Skull of Sobek originates from their ancient civilisation. The Skull contains the memories of the leader of the Crocodilians, as there is a scheme abound to return the Crocodilians to their former glory.
Unfortunately, this audio takes a while to get going, and once it does the plot moves along at a fairly slow pace – ironically for the series known for its fast-paced stories, this EDA could arguably have been a Short Trip as even with the reduced runtime compared to most other Doctor Who audios this one is a bit of a drag. Nonetheless, the sound design is excellent, Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are excellent, and the supporting cast do a great job with the material.
Overall, this is probably among the weaker stories in the second series of the EDAs, which is a shame considering it was written by Mark Platt. There are some great ideas here, and despite their bizarre nature the Crocodilians are an intimidating threat, but ultimately this one is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite. However, it is still a fun listen, as the Doctor and Lucie fighting against bipedal crocodile-men is definitely a novelty, and it has enough intrigue to ensure that the story is engaging throughout.