The second half of the third series of the EDAs is noticeably darker and grimmer than the earlier stories, and it represents the beginning of the evolution of this series, as it moves away from emulating the New Series and incorporates more of the experimental ideas that Big Finish is known for. The Eighth Doctor’s character has also change massively since his earlier audios, both from his 600-year long exile on Orbis and his changing attitudes towards humanity and its influence on the universe.
3.5 – The Scapegoat
This audio has a bizarre premise – the Doctor and Lucie arrive in Nazi-occupied Paris, and the Doctor (in classic fashion) is quickly arrested for not having the right papers. Lucie, in the meantime, is abducted by a family of goat-headed people who perform a macabre play each night in which a man is executed via guillotine in front of a crowd, only to be later brought back to life using alien technology. Although this audio feels like something from the Eighth Doctor’s early adventures, Lucie is a highlight in this one as she responds in her usual manner to all the inexplicable events taking place, whilst also showing a great deal of compassion for the man, Max Paul, who is forced to die on stage over and over again.
The terrible theatre performance is packed-out for the sole reason of the prospect of seeing a real execution, which makes this concept all the more sickening to consider. One issue with this story is that the supporting characters are quite unpleasant, but there are some great performances by the cast, so it isn’t a chore to listen to. In fact, hearing this bizarre tale play out is quite fun, as the creepy Goat-headed ‘Baroques’ are great villains.
Although this audio makes good use of the pacing throughout most of the story, unfortunately it starts to spiral out of control a bit towards the end as the Doctor is captured and escapes several times, and Lucie is embroiled in trying to save Max Paul from his final death only for the Doctor to miraculously step in at the last second to spout a speech to the crowd. Overall, this is an entertaining listen, but it is definitely not one of the strongest of the series.
3.6 – The Cannibalists
This audio is set in the Haven Station, a huge star-city crewed by robots waiting for Human settlers to arrive. However, they have been waiting so long that many of the robots have gone insane, and the eponymous Cannibalists roam around the facility destroying other robots and stealing their parts. The opening scene to this audio is particularly gruesome, as an innocent robot is torn apart by its insane counterparts as it screams in pain. As it turns out, each of the robots has a specific personality, and this leads to a lot of quirky robots that, at times, somewhat meld into each other – the Doctor and Lucie being the only characters in the story that do not speak in an electronic voice can get a bit grating.
The plot for this story is strong, and the idea of the protocols of a space station’s repair systems becoming something akin to a religion over thousands of years of neglect is a creative one. The Cannibalists makes great use of its run-time and the story doesn’t feel padded at all, although there is perhaps a lack of focus – there is a lot of potential with the idea of insane factions of robots populating a city, but unfortunately the concepts explored seem somewhat lacking, and the story seems obsessed with scenes of robots being ripped apart.
Ultimately, this audio is an interesting listen, and the conclusion is thought-provoking. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are great in this audio and that is reason enough to give it a listen, and for what it’s worth the main robot character, Servo, is a character that could have been taken on as another companion, as a robot who writes poetry about his experiences is an idea that could have been given more room to grow in different contexts.
3.7 – The Eight Truths
The first part of the two-part finale is a stinging critique of cults and organised religion, as a mysterious cult called the Eightfold Truth kidnaps Lucie and brainwashes her into leaving her life with the Doctor and embracing their bizarre cultish lifestyle, living together in the former BBC building and drawing energy from crystals. Lucie’s former friend Karen shows up in this audio, as she claims that the Headhunter dumped her and that she joined the cult to get her life back on track, and this is an interesting parallel to unfortunate cases in real of cults taking advantage of vulnerable people and essentially indoctrinating them – in that capacity, this audio does a great job.
The Doctor, in the meantime, is attempting to track a lost probe, and works with some scientists who are receiving strange signals from the probe that suggests it has been claimed by extra-terrestrial forces. It soon becomes apparent that the two plots are intertwined, as the Eightfold Truth is using the crystals used by the Great Ones – the giant spiders from the Third Doctor TV story Planet of the Spiders. The audio holds back their reveal for quite a while, although the fact that there are spider legs on the cover somewhat gives it away.
The Eight Truths is everything you want from the first part of a two-part finale – it sets up an interesting mystery with a convincing group of villains who aer working to recruit humans to their cause on behalf of the inevitable alien threat. Lucie being hypnotized and working as a villain is also a great twist, Sheridan Smith does a fantastic job in this role, as evil Lucie has some great moments of pure evil leading up to a fantastic cliff-hanger ending that is resolved in the next story.
3.8 – Worldwide Web
Worldwide Web is all about Lucie – after being packed away inside her own mind as the Queen of the Eight Legs takes her over, she begins to poke holes in the matriarch’s psyche by constantly distracting her by fighting against the control, proving just how strong a person Lucie is, as the Queen of the Eight Legs soon finds herself with a civil war on her hands and her minions begin to doubt her effectiveness as leader. The stellar manipulator that destroyed Orbis has now reached Earth, and with the Headhunter’s help the Queen of the Eight Legs has acquired the Controller, directing the sun-like device towards Earth over many years.
The inclusion of the Headhunter is interesting, as initially her motivation seems unclear. The Eight Legs’ plan hinges on two things, the stellar manipulator and the mind-control crystals, and the Headhunter provides them with both, meaning that although the Eight Legs are the primary villain of the story, technically the Headhunter is the one responsible for the entire plot. Her motivations are never truly explained, and unfortunately it seems like a bit of an anticlimactic conclusion to the character.
As a finale to Series 3 of the EDAs, Worldwide Web serves its purpose, though of all the series finales of the EDAs it seems to be the least impactful. Despite the fact that the population of Earth and many other worlds are under threat of being brainwashed by giant spiders, the stakes just don’t seem very high, and the audio misses a trick by not including the most important aspect of the Eight Legs from their appearance in Planet of the Spiders, which is the Doctor’s fear of them. One of the things that made the Third Doctor’s final story so compelling was that the Doctor was genuinely afraid of the monster, but for some reason that critical element isn’t utilised here. At the end of this story, the status quo is restored and the Doctor and Lucie fly off to Blackpool, meaning that unlike Series 2 there is no ‘series cliff-hanger’. However, the next series mixes things up from the very beginning, as the light-hearted adventures of the Doctor and Lucie Miller have, at this point, come to an end…