The third series of the EDAs is an interesting blend of completely original stories and ‘sequels’ to Classic Who episodes that use the same monster – in this series the Krynoid, the Wirrn and the Eight-Legs return for a rematch with the Doctor, making it quite the menagerie of call-backs. This is juxtaposed with a selection of stories featuring original villains that vary dramatically in tone and quality. Series 3 of the EDAs is similar to Series 2 in terms of story structure and overall character development, and it builds on the strengths of the second series to deliver an exciting series of audios, even if they seem to be somewhat inconsistent in tone.
3.1 – Orbis
The opening to Series 3 is a seemingly comedic story involving the Doctor playing Sheriff in a society of giant jellyfish-people while the Headhunter kidnaps Lucie sixth months after the events of The Vengeance of Morbius and takes her in the TARDIS to recover the Doctor. This whimsical audio masks a more serious story beneath, as the Doctor is not only working to defend the jellyfish-people from a hostile force of aggressive alien oysters, but he also seems to have completely forgotten who Lucie is after spending six hundred years on Orbis.
Whilst it is a strong opener with some great dialogue between Lucie and the Headhunter, as well as a great scene where Lucie realises that the Doctor doesn’t remember her, Orbis suffers from once again revisiting the classic ‘the Eighth Doctor has amnesia’ trope, as well as being a bit too ham-fisted with the Doctor forgetting Lucie – although it is theoretically possible that the Doctor could forget about her after 600 years, he seems to forget literally everything, including the Daleks, Cybermen, Time Lords and the majority of his companions, and it not only seems to come out of nowhere but the justification is weak at best.
Although the Molluscari are a laughable foe, their leader definitely a megalomaniac, as it attempts to alter the climate of Orbis in order to force its inhabitants off the planet and it claim the world for itself. Another highlight of the audio is Selta, one of the jellyfish-people who becomes the Doctor’s de-factor companion for the story while he is separated from Lucie. Orbis is a comedic audio that provides a satisfying resolution to the cliff-hanger of the previous series, and it takes a dark turn towards the end that flips the seemingly whimsical setting on its head. The highlight throughout is the Headhunter, who has proven to be one of the best original villains Big Finish have created.
3.2 – Hothouse
This audio features the return of the Krynoid, but unlike their debut story, the Fourth Doctor TV story The Seeds of Doom, Hothouse takes a far more direct approach to the invasive creatures. Set in the future when climate change is having a severe impact on Earth, a radical eco-facist party is attempting to use the Krynoid to reduce the human population by deliberately infecting living people. The Doctor and Lucie infiltrate their organisation with help from Hazel Bright, a member of the World Ecology Bureau, and as soon as the Krynoid are discovered the Doctor is immediately panicked that if even one Krynoid seed escapes, humanity would be doomed.
Unfortunately this audio doesn’t really live up to the legacy of The Seeds of Doom, as it comes across as an over-the-top attempt to replicate the environmentalist themes of the original episode. The political subtext is hardly subtext at all, in fact it is one of the most overtly political audios in the series, though the implementation is very heavy-handed. The villain, though claiming to have good intentions, quickly devolves into a cackling maniac, and other than Hazel the entirety of the supporting cast in this one are forgettable.
Although the sentiment that humankind is a plague on planet Earth that is destine to destroy the ecosystem is a theme that is as relevant today as ever, Hothouse does a subpar job of capturing the essence of the crisis, instead it uses the eco-crisis as a vehicle to manoeuvre the characters into place so that the Krynoid can take hold. There is one thing that Hothouse does right, however, and that is the characterisation of the Doctor, as his experience living on Orbis for centuries has clearly changed his view of humanity and the state of Earth in general. We see an inkling of the more cynical personality of the Eighth Doctor that is yet to come.
3.3 – The Beast of Orlok
We return to classic EDA adventures with The Beast of Orlok, as this is another monster runaround: an ancient legend surrounds the town of Orlok, as a horrific monster is said to stalk the forest around the town. The Doctor and Lucie arrive in 1827 only to discover the mutilated remains of the beast’s victims, and are soon embroiled in an investigation that is clearly being set up by a third party. The unwitting population of the town is being manipulated, and the Doctor quickly suspects that something is amiss. However, it soon becomes clear that the threat at work is far more intelligent than a simple monster, as there are a few twists and turns in this story that keep it interesting throughout.
The Doctor and Lucie get some great moments in this audio, and the plot overall is strong – this is certainly the strongest story of the third series so far. This one invokes some Gothic elements that suit the Eighth Doctor era very well, in fact that audio feels like it could have fitted in the Early Charley era of the Main Range had it been extended to four parts. Even so, The Beast of Orlok makes great use of the runtime and also features a great cliff-hanger to the first part.
The small subplot about Lucie learning to fly the TARDIS is also a really strong aspect to this story, as it not only demonstrates just how capable Lucie actually is as a companion but it also contributes to the overall arc as the Doctor has forgotten crucial aspects of flying the TARDIS due to his time on Orbis. The Beast of Orlok is definitely an enjoyable audio as what seems at first to be a standard Doctor Who formula is almost turned on its head in favour of a much more interesting plot focus.
3.4 – Wirrn Dawn
The giant insectoid Wirrn from the classic 1975 Fourth Doctor story The Ark in Space make a return in this audio, though the context for their appearance is completely different. The easiest way to illustrate how this audio differs in feel and tone is that fans have drawn parallels between the general premise and atmosphere of The Ark in Space and the 1979 film Alien, Wirrn Dawn draws most of its elements from Aliens, the more action-orientated sequel to Alien, and unfortunately the results seem fairly derivative – we have the space marines, the assault rifles, the firefights, which actually makes for quite an exciting romp, particularly as the Wirrn have a very distinctive and creepy sound design that is well-executed in the audio format.
This audio has a great supporting cast that includes Daniel Anthony, who played Clyde Langer in The Sarah Jane Adventures, who does an exceptional job playing Delong, easily the most likeable of the military characters in this story. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are also excellent in this story, and there are some great scenes between the Eighth Doctor and Lucie that capture the same kind of comedic energy as the New Series. It is also strikingly similar to one of my favourite films of all time, Starship Troopers.
Wirrn Dawn is a great listen, and although the story is nothing to rave about the atmosphere, setting and characters make it a gripping experience – the lack of visuals definitely lends itself well to this kind of story, as the listener can imagine huge space battles, burning starships and the empty vastness of space much better than a BBC budget could ever present on-screen. The ending ties the various plot threads together nicely and, although the final act does seem a bit rushed, overall it makes good use of the run-time. If you’re a fan of The Ark in Space, Aliens or Starship Troopers, chances are you’ll appreciate this story.