Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 4

The Dark Eyes saga draws to a close to a final series of audios that tie up several loose ends from the previous sets. After the departure of Molly O’Sullivan at the end of Rule of the Eminence, Liv Chenka has now taken over as the Eighth Doctor’s main companion having had several adventures with him in previous audios. In many respects Dark Eyes 4 is somewhat of a farewell tour for the saga, as unfortunately Ruth Bradley was unavailable so Molly is recast and the story shifts its focus away from her for perhaps the first time, and this is arguably for the best as it allows for some much-needed development of the Doctor and Liv’s relationship.

4.1 – A Life in the Day

After being utilised as a substitute companion until Molly’s departure, Liv Chenka finally gets a chance to develop as a character in her own right in A Life in the Day, which provides a refreshing change from the usual fast-paced antics of the series by opting to tell a small-scale story about death and time travel. The Eighth Doctor is taking care of the brother of one of Molly’s old friends, as he detects some temporal machinations in his house and is intrigued. Liv, in the meantime, gets some light-hearted scenes out on a date to a cinema and a restaurant in a period of Earth’s history that, for her, is ancient history.

Stories about temporal shenanigans are always interesting, and this one is no exception. The concise runtime allows for tight pacing that ensures that not a moment is wasted, and the small cast allows for a sharp focus on the story with some great character interactions that are brought to life beautifully by the cast. Nicola Walker finally gets a chance to show her range as an actress after being limited to a mostly supporting role in most of her stories up until this point, and although this isn’t her first audio as the Doctor’s only companion, it is the first of her audios to truly focus on her in the way that a Doctor Who story utilises a companion, and as such Liv is finally given the character focus that she deserves.

The story itself is a poignant one that makes this a really memorable opening story for Dark Eyes 4. Of all the Dark Eyes box sets, this one probably has the strongest opener as it not only sets up some plot points that will be picked up in later stories but it also proves that Big Finish can still deliver impactful standalone stories that utilise the best elements of Doctor Who in new ways. This audio keeps the references to surrounding Dark Eyes stories to a minimum so it is easy to listen to as a one-off story, which is great because A Life in a Day is easily one of the best offering in the Dark Eyes saga, particularly because it leads directly into the next story, another of the best stories in the Dark Eyes series:

4.2 – The Monster of Montmartre

A classic Dalek romp that harks back to The Great War from the first Dark Eyes box set by using the Daleks as a sinister creepy threat operating behind the scenes and exterminating people from the shadows, The Monster of Montmartre is probably the best Dalek story in the Dark Eyes series. The Daleks haven’t featured since Eyes of the Master despite being heavily involved in the marketing for the saga, but they have a strong presence here which is made clear right from the pre-credits sequence, which showcases the fantastic sound design that Big Finish is known for. The use of the Daleks as a sinister force that operates from the shadows is rare among Doctor Who stories, so that along makes The Monster of Montmartre stand out from other Dalek stories.

The Doctor and Liv are in Paris, still in 1921 after the events of the previous audio. Upon arriving, they soon discover that there is a monster stalking the streets of Montmartre. This audio tells a story that is sinister in several ways, one of which being that the alluring atmosphere of the entertainment in Paris at the time seduces young destitute artists into bars and nightclubs, such as the ‘Red Pagoda’, actually a damaged Dalek ship that has replaced the Moulin Rouge, which is run by the mysterious Madame Adelaine Dutemps, a creation and puppet of the Daleks.

The intrigue and mystery of this audio culminates in an encounter with the Dalek Time Controller, damaged and isolated after his last encounter with the Doctor, who is converting humans into ramshackle Daleks from within the Red Pagoda. The Dalek Time Controller decides to create a council of Dalek Time Strategists, who become important to the Dalek Empire much later on during the Time War, and the Time Controller also mentions that the Dalek Paradigm from Victory of the Daleks is causing the Dalek timeline to fluctuate, a nice touch. There is also a fantastic scene towards the end between Liv and the Dalek Time Controller that is by far the best scene in the whole audio.

4.3 – Master of the Daleks

Featuring one of the best cold opens of any Doctor Who audio drama, Master of the Daleks sets its bar high, featuring the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans in the penultimate audio in what has essentially been a 16-part space opera saga. Unfortunately, however, this audio immediately jumps to two well-known tropes of the Eighth Doctor audios – expositional dialogue, and the Doctor suffering from amnesia. There are some humorous scenes due to this situation as the Doctor mistakes a Dalek for one of his companions, but it cannot be denied that at this point the amnesiac Eighth Doctor trope has become a tired, worn-out trait of the character that only exists due to the bizarre plot of the TV Movie and has plagued the Eighth Doctor’s era ever since.

The main plot of this audio is interesting, as the Master and the Dalek Time Controller team up to take over Earth, Sontar and a significant portion of the Galaxy using a combined Dalek-Sontaran army. Naturally, this alliance is an uneasy one at best. Alex Macqueen’s Master seems to be great at playing off other villains, one of the things that makes him so great in the Monthly Adventures story The Two Masters, and this is never more true than here as Macqueen and Nick Briggs work really well together. The character of the Time Controller is capable of a lot more expression than a standard Dalek, so this audio has room for some great dialogue between the two characters.

The obvious elephant in the room with this audio is that Molly is recast, having aged several years and now living in the Dalek-occupied timeline working as a nurse in a worker camp. Molly, now called Mary Carter, is played by Sorcha Cusak who does a great job playing the character. Dan Starkey also features in this audio, and does a great job playing all the Sontaran characters who battle with the Daleks at the end in a climatic conflict that requires some broad imagination to picture but is exciting nonetheless. A battle between the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans is a fan’s dream come true, and Master of the Daleks does a great job of realising this concept in the best possible way without straying too far into the realm of confusing plotlines.

4.4 – Eye of Darkness

Despite the bizarre title (‘Dark Eyes: Eye of Darkness’) this audio presents some really interesting ideas for a story, such as a damaged and desperate Dalek commander trying to herd prisoner while also maintaining its casing’s structural integrity, and a planet dedicated to providing a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for its patrons. Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic job playing the Dalek Time Controller, a very unique Dalek who displays a lot more personality than even the most ambitious Supreme or Emperor. The Time Controller is easily one of the most memorable Daleks we have ever had in Doctor Who and it is clear that the Dalek characters in the Daleks! animated series for Time Lord Victorious are somewhat based on the personality and mannerisms of this specific Dalek. Its interactions with Liv are a key element of this audio, and the two play off each other well as Liv questions the Time Controller’s every ruthless move.

In many ways, this audio represents the culmination of the Dalek appearances throughout the saga. They started off as the mysterious entity behind everything, with the Time Controller pulling all the strings, and now they return, once again as a sinister entity, but with the Time Controller very much on the back-foot. Listening to this deranged Dalek attempt to claw his way back into power is fascinating, and there are some great sequences involving lesser Dalek questioning the Time Controller’s authority, as his constant meddling with the timelines has lead to the Dalek Empire cutting him off, and we see the fall of the saga’s main villain which is definitely an important aspect of this climactic conclusion to the Dark Eyes saga.

Most importantly for the finale of Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor and Molly O’ Sullivan get a reunion in this audio at last, as the plot finally allows the two character’s paths to cross after all the build-up of the previous story. There are other links to the previous box sets as well, as this audio features the return of the creator of the Eminence as the deadly gaseous entity plays one final role in the saga before its conclusion, and we are finally given the last pieces of the puzzle to understand their true origins. Whilst the final end to the saga is somewhat swamped in technobabble, ultimately Eye of Darkness delivers a satisfying conclusion to the saga that end’s Molly’s story on a strong note whilst taking the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka into a new era, starting with the first box set in the Doom Coalition series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Doom Coalition 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 3

Following his introduction in the previous box set, Alex Macqueen’s Master takes centre stage as the main villain of this next phase of the saga. After his defeat at the end of Eyes of the Master, the Master continues his quest to gain control of the Eminence and as a result he appears in many of the later Dark Eyes stories. In this sense he is similar to his predecessor Roger Delgado, as his incarnation of the Master would appear often to antagonise the Third Doctor in his quest to escape Earth. Macqueen’s incarnation seems a lot more dangerous, however, as he possesses an element of the unpredictable madness of John Simm’s incarnation. As the events of this series unfold, Alex Macqueen’s incarnation quickly proves himself and he is without doubt one of the best incarnations of the Master in any Doctor Who medium.

3.1 – The Death of Hope

The Doctor meets Narvin, a Time Lord who is prominent in the Gallifrey spinoff series, and through a matrix projection he is able to witness the Master, Dr Sally Armstrong and a hypnotised Molly arrive on a planet called Heron’s World that has been conquered by the Eminence, and is an audience to the ensuing events that follow without being able to actually influence what is happening. This is a somewhat unusual setup for an audio, especially the first part of a box set, as the Doctor is completely separated from the main plot and serves merely as a bystander to events, commenting on them in a manner similar to the courtroom scenes in The Trial of a Time Lord. Whether or not you enjoy the ‘characters watching characters’ element of that TV story will likely determine whether or not you will enjoy this audio.

This audio also presents a bizarre mirror-image of the Eleventh Doctor’s look for Series 6 of the TV series, as the Master dons a Stetson and plays the ‘hero’ in order to infiltrate the human society hiding out on Heron’s World. It is fascinating to listen to, not least because Macqueen does such a fantastic job of making the character his own but also because you can really tell that the Master revels in impersonating the kind of character that the Doctor is by nature. For that reason, The Death of Hope subverts a lot of the classic Doctor Who story tropes, making it an interesting listen to say the least.

Ultimately, The Death of Hope is an intriguing opening story to Dark Eyes 3, and like any good opening it poses a new set of question regarding the Master, the Eminence and how the Time Lords are embroiled in the conflict. The interplay between the Master and Dr Sally Armstrong is great, as are the conversations between the Doctor and Narvin about the events unfolding. While this story is somewhat bleak, which is a given considering the fact that the title is The Death of Hope, it is ironically one of the most enjoyable audios in Dark Eyes overall.

3.2 – The Reviled

The Time Lords direct the Doctor and Liv to a planet on which human colonists are currently facing an uprising by the native species, the scorpion-like Ramossans, during the height of the Eminence War. This audio stars Sacha Dhawan, the Master from the Thirteenth Doctor’s TV stories, as one of the Human colonists who are being held prisoner by the Ramossans, which is an interesting piece of trivia that makes this audio that bit more fun to listen to. The Ramossans also have a very odd audio design, as they are apparently giant scorpions with translators fixed to their mandibles, so their voices are suitably intimidating and it is clear that the voice actors had a lot of fun with them.

In many ways The Reviled is a parallel for a lot of Human-vs-Alien stories in science fiction, as the Humans hold a fair degree of animosity towards the Ramossans, calling them ‘roaches’, and the Ramossans are intent on keeping the Humans contained, killing any who attempt to leave their designated areas. Like the Series 9 TV story The Zygon Inversion, the Doctor is put in the position of mediator in a conflict between humanity and another powerful force, and this audio does a great job of reflecting the good and bad things that both sides have done, just as how in a real conflict neither side is wholly innocent.

This audio also showcases just how ruthless and dangerous the Eminence really are, and they have a profound effect on the Doctor in a way that, up until now, only the Daleks, the Cybermen and perhaps the Master have been capable of. The Reviled does a great job of telling a self-contained story that is also an essential part of the wider narrative, and there are many aspects that are clearly inspired by the New Series in both tone and pacing. So far Dark Eyes 3 has been the most cohesive box set in the series so far, as the central theme of the Master’s grand plan with the Doctor working to stop him in various points across time and space is a great story arc for a series that this audio utilises very well.

3.3 – Masterplan

This is the audio where many of the questions throughout the last 2 box sets begin to be answered, as we get more information about the Eminence and this incarnation of the Master to provide some context at last, as well as some fan-service in the form of a fantastic conversation between the two characters. Trapped together as a result of one of the Doctor’s traps, the Master and the Eighth Doctor get some time to talk things over, and we are treated to some great honest conversation between the two that closely resembles the interplay between the Delgado incarnation and the Third Doctor in the ’70s. Each Time Lord tries to outwit and deconstruct the position of the other, both while thinking of how they can escape, and it makes for great listening. For anyone who has yearned for a modern story in which the Doctor and the Master sit down and have a nice hearts-to-hearts chat, this is the audio for you.

Liv, in the meantime, competes with Dr Sally Armstrong to influence the scientific research that would eventually create the Eminence, and Liv gets some excellent character development as she delivers some stinging criticism to Sally about how the Master is clearly using her for his own ends, and that she will be killed as soon as she outlives her usefulness. The tragedy of Dr Sally Armstrong is that, in the original timeline of Dark Eyes 1, she wanted nothing more than to travel with the Doctor before she was tragically exterminated by the Daleks. In this new timeline, however, she has been corrupted by the Master and is now seemingly just as sadistic and utilitarian as he is.

Overall, Masterplan is a fantastic story that is well-written and well-executed, with wonderful performances from all the cast that is only enhanced by brilliant sound design. As the story develops and inches closer and closer to the eventual conclusion the tension builds and builds, and of all the stories in the Dark Eyes saga thus far this one is the most intense.

3.4 – Rule of the Eminence

This audio presents humankind with its ultimate challenge, a politician who gets himself elected on empty promises and recycled rhetoric, a man who exploits the populist mentality to broadcast his own polluted agenda, a politician who takes advantage of a bad situation to ensure that he remains on top and the people beneath him suffer. No, it isn’t Boris Johnson, it is something slightly less evil, The Master, up to his old tricks. This is perhaps the Macqueen incarnation at his most evil, and it is clear that Matt Fitton has a clear understanding of the character of the Master and writes his appearances as naturally as any of the writers of the Jon Pertwee era. When is comes to high-stakes Doctor vs Master stories, there are few that can compare to this audio.

The idea of a world controlled completely by the Eminence, which is in turn controlled by the Master, is probably the most devious means that the Master could use to conquer the Earth, as unlike in the Classic series where the Master often wanted to destroy humankind or in the New series where the Master seems to be more focused on converting humans into slaves or puppets, this audio shows what the world would be like if the Master achieved his original ultimate goal of controlling all of humanity but in a subtle, behind-the-scenes way. In this case, the Master has literally grown a politician to use as a vessel to control the human race and everyone is hypnotised by modified Eminence gas that has permeated through the entire population. The Doctor is trapped amongst all this and tries desperately to regain some kind of sanity in the human characters he encounters, and listening to the Doctor evading the mind control of the Master as the two try to outwit each other is always fun.

We are also left with one of the most fundamental changes in this era, as Molly leaves the Doctor and Liv takes her place as the primary companion. This has been hinted at for some time, as Liv had accompanied the Doctor for many adventures before taking over as the main companion. Molly’s role in the story is not over, though her time in the TARDIS concludes in this story and as such it feels like the conclusion to the Dark Eyes saga has come a bit early, despite there being one more box set in the series. However, there are some loose ends that Rule of the Eminence leaves for Dark Eyes 4, as it focuses a lot of its attention on the Master which is important as Macqueen’s version is a relatively new incarnation who needs time to establish himself before the proper finale at the end of the next box set. Overall, Rule of the Eminence is a strong conclusion to Dark Eyes 3 that shakes up the status quo and concludes story arcs that have been running since the start of the era.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 4

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 2

Following the success of the first Dark Eyes box set, Big Finish began to increase their focus more on multi-part boxed sets rather than individual stories. Dark Eyes 2 represents the transition period between box sets being an experiment and box sets being the norm for Big Finish, so the writers go to a great deal of effort to try and sell Dark Eyes 2 as the next chapter in what would be an ongoing saga that lasts for a total of four box sets, making one long 16-part story arc. Whilst the first Dark Eyes was its own self-contained narrative, Dark Eyes 2 begins a story that picks up where the first box set left off and explains some things whilst also posing its own series of questions.

2.1 – The Traitor

This story introduces one of the Eighth Doctor’s longest running companions, Liv Chenka, who had previously appeared in the Seventh Doctor audio Robophobia. By this point she is working as a medical technician on Nixyce VII, under the supervision of a Dalek occupation. In a unique twist for a companion introduction story, Liv proves herself more than capable of dealing with the Daleks before she even meets the Eighth Doctor, and she is easily the standout element of this story. As the eponymous ‘Traitor’, Liv works with the Daleks for the greater purpose of providing medical care to slave workers on the planet, and when rebels attempt an incursion she is mixed up in helping them.

The Doctor, in the meantime, is infiltrating the same facility disguised as a roboman whilst being hunted by the Dalek Time Controller, and the story uses its runtime well to keep the intrigue present throughout and move the plot along quickly and logically. Unlike the previous Dark Eyes stories, there is less reliance on technobabble and instead we are treated to a classic Dalek runaround, which is a welcome change and a promising start to the series. The conflict between Liv and the rebels brings up the interesting question of whether reform or revolution is the best path to take, as Liv uses Dalek technology to help the wounded whilst the rebels kill slaves to hurt the Daleks.

Another thing worth mentioning about this story is the character of the Dalek Time Controller, who returns once again and is as devious as ever. Nick Briggs does a fantastic job voicing this Dalek, the voice is unlike any other Dalek we have heard before, almost sing-song like Dalek Caan yet as arrogant and domineering as any Supreme Dalek. By this point the character of the Dalek Time Controller has been fully realised, and he is a refreshing new twist on the Dalek leadership that allows for more flexibility of storytelling as his motivations deviate from that of other Dalek Supremes. In many ways, this is reflective of The Traitor itself, as it is in many ways a standard Dalek story but it is different enough to be refreshing, and the New Series should definitely look to stories like this for ways in which they can use the Daleks in new ways.

2.2 – The White Room

The Eighth Doctor is reunited with Molly once again, and her dark eyes return as the retro-genitor particles from the previous box set appear to infect her once again. After living in the Doctor’s house until he shows up, she is involved in temporally-related intrigue as a sinister organisation begins abducting deserters and criminals to perform twisted experiments on them that render them almost completely translucent, and capable of limited time-travel. In the meantime, the Doctor hunts Molly down using the TARDIS after she is kidnapped by the insidious shadowy force at large.

The shadowy force turns out to be the Viyrans, a recurring species original to the Big Finish audios who were introduced in the Sixth Doctor Main Range story Patient Zero who are hunting various strains of alien virus that were scattered throughout the universe as the result of a Dalek incursion. Rather like the Judoon, the Viyrans are not necessarily evil but they are often willing to go to any necessary lengths to complete their task, which sometimes puts them at odds with the Doctor. In this case, the Viyrans are attempting to contain a controlled outbreak of a time-active virus, and are willing to destroy a sizeable portion of England in order to neutralise it.

The White Room is the first example of the Dark Eyes series telling a story that is not directly related to the overall story, and instead opts to use a pre-existing monster to tell a story that involves Molly and the Doctor reuniting, and the end result is very good. In fact, this is arguably one of the best audios in the Dark Eyes saga so far, as Molly is finally treated as an actual character first and a plot device second, and we also get a sense that the saga encompasses more than just the Doctor, the Daleks and the Time Lords. More importantly, however, it stands as its own story, and requires none of the context of the previous stories, unlike the next few stories which delve deeper into the series arc.

2.3 – Time’s Horizon

This audio is where the Dark Eyes story starts to get more complex, as the Doctor seemingly aids the Daleks in destroying one of their foes as he has knowledge of the other species that the listener hasn’t met yet and claims that they are in fact a greater threat than the Daleks themselves. The Doctor and Molly arrive on a spaceship at the edge of the universe, where Liv and a crew of humans have woken up from years of cryogenic sleep after fleeing the Dalek invasion. For Liv, this is set after the events of The Traitor, but for the Doctor those events haven’t happened yet, which presents an interesting situation for the two characters as Liv is still dealing with the aftereffects of that story. The intrigue that surrounds her and the other members of her crew plays an important part in this story, unlike many base-under-siege Doctor Who stories, the supporting characters are developed as actual characters instead of as throwaway pawns.

In many ways this audio is a turning point in the Dark Eyes series, as it not only introduces the newest recurring enemy of the saga but also shows the first meeting between Molly and Liv, and the disjointed order of the stories in Dark Eyes 2 so far begins to make more sense as the big threat is finally revealed known as the Eminence. This psychic, gaseous entity transforms living beings into bizarre entities known as Infinite Warriors, and is soon identified by the Doctor as a serious threat from the times he met them in Fourth and Sixth Doctor audios. The Doctor’s willingness to help the Daleks against the species that we now know to be the Eminence in The Traitor makes a lot more sense as they are arguably just as deadly a threat to humanity as the Daleks.

It is worth mentioning that there are some genuinely horrifying scenes in this audio, and the sound design, soundtrack and excellent performances from the cast come together beautifully in some really tense scenes surrounding the introduction of the Eminence and the Infinite Warriors. Interestingly enough, this audio features an eerie electronic remix of the Doctor Who theme used as part of the soundtrack, which is one of the few times in the entire history of the series that this is done. As one final treat, Time’s Horizon delivers an incredible twist that proves once again that Matt Fitton is one of the best writers Big Finish currently have at their disposal.

2.4 – Eyes of the Master

This audio culminates the wider story of Dark Eyes 2 whilst also rounding off several elements of the the original Dark Eyes, making it one of the most gratifying audios of the series as answers are finally forthcoming. However, this one is not for the squeamish as the Master has set himself up as an Optician and is literally harvesting the eyes of unwitting humans. Speaking of the Master, this audio features the first appearance of Alex Macqueen’s Master in the Eighth Doctor audios, and for many this is the first chronological story for the character that they will have encountered. In that sense it is unfortunate that the title spoils the reveal that Alex Macqueen is playing the Master, as it would have been an excellent reveal of it hadn’t been spoiled in advance. Macqueen makes an exceptional Master, and it is unfortunate that this incarnation has never had any appearances on-screen as he is a perfect blend of John Simm’s jovial insanity and Roger Delgado’s gentlemanly charm and seems to be tailor-made for the tone of the New Series.

This audio also features the return of Dr Sally Armstrong, another link to the previous Dark Eyes box set. Since the events of that series never happened for another other than the Doctor, Molly and the Dalek Time Controller, Sally is still alive, only in this timeline she has been recruited by the Master as an assistant. The Master’s plan is suitably ruthless, as he is quite literally harvesting humans with little regard for life, and this makes Eyes of the Master a suitably high-stakes finale. The Master’s shockingly domestic ‘optician’ personality is a great call-back to the very personal attacks on British home life that Roger Delgado’s Master employed, such as disguising himself as a rural vicar in The Daemons.

The Doctor and the Master get some great scenes in this one, and Alex Macqueen and Paul McGann are brilliant in their respective roles. The Master questions the Doctor’s decision to not destroy the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks, and then to spare the Daleks again in order to save Molly in the previous Dark Eyes box set. This questioning of the Doctor’s good nature is a crucial aspect of the Master’s character that Alex Macqueen absolutes owns, as his ability to chew the scenery whilst simultaneously retaining a villainous presence is showcased perfectly in this audio. As the conclusion to Dark Eyes 2, Eyes of the Master does a fantastic job of rounding off story points from the previous two series, slotting the final story points from the non-linear narrative of this box set as well as introducing Macqueen’s Master to the mix, making it one the most effective finales of the Eighth Doctor’s era so far.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 3

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 1

As the Eighth Doctor’s relatively lighthearted adventures with Lucie Miller came to a devastating end in To the Death, a new era for the character begins that takes a much darker path than his previous outings. The first audio in Dark Eyes, The Great War, introduces new companion Molly O’Sullivan, an Irish Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant played by Ruth Bradley who the Doctor meets after landing in World War 1 France. We also get an updated look for the Eighth Doctor, as Paul McGann took updated cast photos for use on the covers of newer audios that features a new outfit and shorter hairstyle. Overall, this is perhaps the biggest divergence for the Eighth Doctor since the Divergent Universe, and this new era wastes no time getting into the action.

1.1  – The Great War

This audio opens with the Doctor desperately launching the TARDIS towards the end of the universe, and also features a merciful return to the original theme for the Big Finish Eighth Doctor audios, composed by David Arnold. This theme is the definitive Eighth Doctor title theme for many, and it remains such to this day outside of the Time War audios. After the loss of Lucie, the Doctor is driven half-mad with grief, travelling to the end of the universe to try to gain some perspective on the suffering of the universe. Straxus arrives to dissuade him on behalf of the Time Lords, and sets him on a new mission: to find hope. This leads the Doctor to France during World War One, but unfortunately some old enemies are waiting for him. As the blurb states, the Doctor is searching for Molly O’Sullivan, the woman with the eponymous ‘dark eyes’, who is an experienced VAD tending to wounded soldiers on the front line. Her somewhat callous outlook on life is a result of the horrors she has witnessed during the war, and as such she is a wholly unique companion as the war has given her a very distinctive worldview. Although she comes across as standoffish and negative throughout, one cannot help but sympathise with her as by this point she has clearly seen some of the worst of the conflict already, whilst her younger peers have not. Through Molly’s letters home we hear her true thoughts and feelings, and we can begin to understand her as a character before she becomes a companion.

This audio is a fantastic example of the Daleks skulking around in the darkness, and spices up their appearance with some creepy scenes involving some fantastic sound design. It is nice to hear the Daleks being used to inspire fear, as it proves there are still ways they can be used that the New Series had not explored yet. Placing the Daleks in a historical setting is also a great opportunity for unique storytelling elements, and the idea of the Daleks skulking around the trenches of World War One invokes some very strong imagery, likely due to the similarity between the trenches of wartime France and the environment of Skaro during Genesis of the Daleks. Despite their appearance on the cover, the reveal of the Daleks is held back for quite a while, which makes their shadow that permeates throughout the story all the more intimidating.

As the mystery of this audio unravels, we begin to understand the story as the pieces fall into place, and like any good opening story of a series The Great War introduces the new companion and tells a concise, self-contained story all while making great use of its run-time to deliver a well-paced adventure that keeps the listener’s interest throughout. By this point Big Finish had definitely hit their stride when it came to setting up a story arc, particularly after the success of the EDAs, and this audio is a promising start to the Dark Eyes saga that poses several questions for later audios in the series to answer. Overall, The Great War is a great start to the series and sets up the story arc for the next era of Eighth Doctor audios excellently.

1.2 – Fugitives

A slightly more lighthearted audio than the previous story, Fugitives is Molly’s first run-around in the TARDIS and fills the role of bringing her up to speed with who the Doctor is, what he does and what to expect from being around him. Whilst this is crucial for kicking off the plot of the series, it does seem to be there for the purpose of taking Molly to different points in time and space, although fans of the William Hartnell TV story The Chase will appreciate the time-hopping nature of the story. Despite the somewhat contrived plot, this audio does give Molly a lot more room to grow as a character, as she is freed from the context of the First World War and given a chance to grow as a companion outside of her role as a VAD. In keeping with the idea of Dark Eyes as a space opera, we are treated to a plane chase involving flying Daleks going against a biplane, and the Daleks chasing the Doctor throughout time and space at the behest of the Dalek Time Controller.

It soon becomes clear that Molly is of some special significance to the story at large, as she is identified by the Doctor as the source of the hope he has been searching for. Although her introduction as a companion is somewhat sudden, her link with the Doctor is clear, as she recognises the TARDIS and seems to be able to operate the controls somehow, and the Time Lords believe that she is the result of an experiment by an as-yet unknown third party. As a result of his failed attempt to take them to Gallifrey, the Doctor accidentally takes Molly to World War Two, which results in some great scenes where Molly not only comprehends time travel but also sees some horrific visions of her future. Despite this she takes everything in her stride and proves herself a capable companion from the get-go.

This audio also introduces Doctor Sally Armstrong, a supporting character who works for the Ides Scientific Institute in the 1970s who receives a message from the Doctor with very specific instructions and funding of one billion pounds to create a time-space portal in the Doctor’s residence in Baker Street. Chaos ensues as a Dalek Time Squad invades London in pursuit of the Doctor, and the sound design for the Dalek attack is excellent, as it includes a medley of Dalek sound effects from across their history, from the 1960s to the 80s to the 2000s. Overall, Fugitives is a great first outing for Molly in the TARDIS and sets up some more interesting questions that add to the ongoing story arc, needless to say Dark Eyes gets off to an excellent start as the wider scope of this series is fully realised by the end of the second part.

1.3 – Tangled Web

After two stories of questions surrounding Molly, Tangled Web finally starts to give us some answers as to her origins. Laced throughout previous audios were eerie commands given to the Daleks by Toby Jones, who in this audio is revealed to be playing the rogue Time Lord Kotris. He is every bit as sinister and villainous in this series as he was as the Dream Lord in the Matt Smith TV story Amy’s Choice, so he was certainly a great choice for Kotris. This audio also progresses the relationship between the Doctor and Molly, as he is suspicious of her ability to pilot the TARDIS. Molly’s character setup is remarkably similar to the kind of story arcs for companions in the New Series for Rose, Donna and Clara, as Molly is introduced as the driving force behind the story who has been identified by both the Doctor and the Daleks as important, but the reason for this is as-yet unknown.

There is some remarkable imagery in this audio that draws on some bonkers concepts – the most striking is by far the idea of a Dalek city adorned with flowers, and Molly’s plea to the Doctor to attempt to see the good in the Daleks is definitely one of the standout moments for her character. The age-old question of the concept of a good Dalek is brought up again, and Molly’s personal experience with the horrors of war makes her just as anxious to believe that the Daleks can be good as the Doctor is. When presented with a bizarre reality in which the Daleks have dedicated themselves to humanitarian goals and discarded their evil ways, the Doctor is understandably sceptical, as is the listener, but it is a great setup and Tangled Web makes good use of its runtime to explore the idea of a Good Dalek City.

This audio begins the process of linking the Eighth Doctor’s timeline to that of the Time War, as although the ‘war’ mentioned throughout that threatens the Time Lords is not the Time War itself, it is a time war of sorts, and definitely serves as a prelude to the main conflict. Ultimately, the idea of the Daleks shedding their desire for conquest and retro-engineering themselves back into peaceful Kaleds does seem to be a promising conclusion for the Daleks, the ‘Final End’ envisioned back in the 1960s but one born out of peace, not destruction. Tangled Web presents one possible end for the Daleks, one that does present some hope for the universe, and that in itself makes the Doctor suspect that it is too good to be true. Overall, this audio is a great listen that answers a lot of questions posed by the previous audios and solidifies Molly’s status as the Eighth Doctor’s new companion.

1.4 – X and the Daleks

The Doctor and Molly find themselves on a planet in which Time Lord regeneration is impossible, and are soon embroiled in a conspiracy involving the mysterious ‘X’ and the Daleks, hence the title’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek riff on Doctor Who episodes that end in ‘the Daleks’. This story culminates many of the plot elements laced throughout this box set, and although the Dark Eyes saga is just getting started, it is safe to say that the first box set stands as its own self-contained story. Unfortunately, however, there are some issues with the conclusion, not least the significant amount of expositional dialogue and technobabble involved in explaining the plot. Exposition and technobabble are not necessarily bad in themselves, but when they are used in conjunction and in excess for too long it can make the story appear tedious and dense, especially in the audio format. Thankfully, the sound design is strong throughout, as with all Big Finish audios.

Ruth Bradley does an exceptional job as Molly, as she is not only a symapthetic character but also a great companion to fill the void left by Lucie Miller. Like Lucie, Molly has a spiky personality, but her native time gives her a temperament similar to that of Charley. In many ways, Molly reminds the Doctor of both of his previous companions, and it is for that reason that her friendship with him does not seem at all forced, despite the fact that the two were literally forced together by the plot. Toby Jones is also fantastic in this audio, as even though he is given a lot of ranting exposition his distinctive acting qualities make the character a treat to listen to.

The first box set in the Dark Eyes series comes to a satisfying conclusion with X and the Daleks, as Kotris’s plan makes sense and as it comes to fruition we see exactly why Molly was so important to him and the Daleks all along, and bizarrely Kotris becomes somewhat of a sympathetic character in the end. In hindsight the first part of Dark Eyes very much stands as its own entity, it is distinct from the previous era but is also separated from the other box sets in the Dark Eyes series as many of the saga’s wider story arcs hadn’t actually been written yet. This first box set completes its most important objectives, however, in that it introduces the new companion to great effect and lays the groundwork for the later Dark Eyes box sets to come.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Mary Shelley Plays

Following the conclusion of the EDAs, the Eighth Doctor returned to the Main Range in 2011 with a short series of audios set much earlier in his timeline, perhaps even shortly after the events of the 1996 TV Movie. Before he met Charley, the Eighth Doctor travelled with Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. This had been a recurring joke throughout the Charley era that was finally contextualised with Mary’s Story, a short audio included in the collection The Company of Friends, which told the stories of several expanded universe Eighth Doctor companions. Following this, the Eighth Doctor has several adventures with Shelley that each feature prominent Gothic themes.

#123 – The Company of FriendsMary’s Story

This audio is the final story in the four-part audio The Company of Friends, which dedicates one part to four of the Eighth Doctor’s companions, three of which originate from comics and novels, but the fourth explains a recurring joke that has persisted across all of the Eighth Doctor audios up until this point, which is that he is a close friend of Mary Shelley. Mary’s Story explains how the Eighth Doctor and Mary Shelley met, and as such it is set before the Doctor met Charley – in fact, it is one of the earliest audios in the Eighth Doctor’s timeline, chronologically speaking. It is worth mentioning that this story, along with many of the EDAs, use a particularly bizarre variation of the Doctor Who theme that was not very well-received by fans – in fact it sounds like the original Delia Derbyshire theme has been put through a blender. This theme was only briefly attributed to the Eighth Doctor, as most of his other audios use the vastly superior theme arranged by David Arnold that is considered the main theme of the Eighth Doctor. Strangely enough, the other three Mary Shelley plays use a completely unique variation of the theme with a distinct cowboy-theme that is not used anywhere else.

As a standalone story, Mary’s Story does a good enough job of introducing Mary Shelley as a companion – we of course get the iconic setting of that fateful night at Villa Diodati in 1816, and the characters of Polidori, Clairemont, Byron and the Shelleys are realised very well here. However, one cannot help but compare this story to the more recent The Haunting of Villa Diodati from Series 12, which is arguably the better of the two interpretations of this historical event, as it chooses to place a situation before Mary Shelley from which she can draw the inspiration for Frankenstein, instead of presenting all of the ideas to her on a silver platter like this audio does. One of Mary’s Story‘s biggest faults is that, due to its short run-time, it comes across as a whirlwind tour of tried-and-tested Frankenstein tropes, and although Mary’s character is realised well, the other elements of the story come across as cartoonish and hyperinflated.

There is quite an interesting time-travel plot going on here, as a future version of the Doctor (from a time in his future, after he has travelled with Charley and Lucie) arrives in Villa Diodati in a degenerated state, having been infected with vitreous time, and he ends up sending a message to his past self who arrives to provide assistance. This eventually leads to the past version of the Doctor taking Mary as a companion, which then leads to a short series of audios that are famous for their Gothic themes. Overall, this audio is a quick listen and provides the context for the series of audios to follow, but little more than that. However, there are some excellent audios to come, as fortunately the next audio in the series is one of the best Cyberman stories in the entire franchise.

#153 – The Silver Turk

Probably one of the most unconventional Cyberman stories out there, The Silver Turk utilises the horrific elements of the Cybermen exceptionally, which is no small wonder considering it was written by Mark Platt, who also wrote the audio that is considered to be the best Cyberman story – Spare Parts – and like that story, The Silver Turk involves the Mondasian Cybermen. In constrast to other Cyberman stories, however, this audio involves only a small number of Cybermen, and they are considerably weaker as the specimens involved in this story are all damaged refugees. An interesting angle to this story is that Mary feels great sympathy for the damaged and decrepit Cybermen that are present in the story, and there are several parallels to her inspiration for Frankenstein. Unlike Mary’s Story, the inclusion of Frankenstein references are far more subtle, and although The Haunting of Villa Diodati did a much better job of handling the historical figures present in the Villa Diodati, The Silver Turk is definitely a better Cyberman story. We see the Cybermen depicted as pitiful creatures, as they are damaged and stranded far from home. The setting of Vienna in the 1870s makes for a vivid setting that is brought to life with some excellent supporting cast.

Speaking of which, The Silver Turk benefits from a small cast and a concise story that invokes several horror elements – and not just from the Cybermen. There are more than a few nefarious characters at work in Vienna who want to make use of the Cybermen for their own gains, and the Silver Turk itself is arguably a victim more than a villain – it is not hard to pity the creature as Mary does, particularly as it is of the early Mondasian variety and has more of a personality than a standard Cyberman. This is definitely a good audio to listen to around Halloween, as like all of the Mary Shelley plays there are more than a few Gothic elements at play. The thought of a vicious, legless, three-armed Cyberman scuttling around the streets murdering people and stealing their eyes, as well as a mortally wounded Cyberman being used as a performing automaton in the Vienna Exposition, is truly terrifying.

Needless to say, The Silver Turk subverts many tropes of standard Cyberman stories, and is definitely one of the most unique and creative uses of the monster in Doctor Who history. There is a constant sense of foreboding as the presence of the Cybermen, and other malevolent forces, are ever-present. This audio plays on the idea of the philosophy and physiology of Cybermen corrupting the nature of humans and inspiring them to imitate the metal monstrosities, to the extent that there are two threats – the Cybermen, and the humans who want to imitate them. In some ways, this audio is similar to a Seventh Doctor novel that was based on a script for an unmade TV story, called Illegal Alien – both involve critically damaged Cybermen hunting people in the streets, and involve Cybermen displaced out of time. The best thing about The Silver Turk is how it embraces its setting and context, and utilises the Cybermen in a very classical-science-fiction manner that really shows how versatile the Cybermen are when used by the right writer.


#154 – The Witch from the Well

Continuing with the Gothic themes of the series, The Witch from the Well contemplates the possibility of medieval witches being the responsibility of alien influence – again, another plotline that was harvested for the Thirteenth Doctor era for The Witchfinders. Unfortunately, The Witch from the Well continues the less-than-stellar precedent set by Mary’s Story, in that the Doctor just outright tells Mary Shelley that she needs to write Frankenstein, thereby taking all agency away from her and implying that the ideas were not in fact her own. This is without doubt the worst way to handle a historical figure on Doctor Who, and it is a bad start to the audio. The characterisation of the side characters in this story is interesting, as the story discusses themes of not treating people from the past too harshly due to the prevalent views at the time, yet also depicts all of the townspeople as two-dimensional, generic characters who are basically just there to fulfil a purpose and get very little development. There is one character, Beatrix, who becomes a pseudo-companion for part of this story, but she is the only townsperson with any kind of development.

Speaking of which, this story features a murderous witchfinder called John Kincaid, who is very much a villain in this audio, though that is understandable as he represents some of the most loathed figures in history. The main threat in this story primarily comes from extra-terrestrial sources, though there is a constant reminder that the horrendous atrocities of medieval witch-trials were carried out entirely by humans. There are alien villains too, however, who are operating at the same time – the Doctor and Mary are separated, and each one has to work out pieces of both puzzles on their own. There is also a significant development in Mary’s character, as she is given the chance to read up on her own future during a trip to the 21st Century, and uses the TARDIS library to read up on the alien threat and devise a way to counter them, something that is very rarely seen on Doctor Who but makes a nice touch in this story, particularly given Mary Shelley’s connection to literature.

Overall, this audio is a fun listen, though it relies heavily on some hand-waving to explain away the ‘magical’ elements of the plot. The explanation that ‘Odic energy’ causes latent psychic powers among humans is an interesting concept, and the New Series has certainly implied that some humans are capable of seemingly supernatural abilities before with the infamous ‘four knocks’ prophecy. As such, The Witch from the Well is a decent addition to the Mary Shelley plays, and it employs more Gothic elements – including themes reminiscent of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers – to great effect. The satisfying thing about this audio is that everyone gets their comeuppance, and the body count of this story is surprisingly high. The characterisation of Mary Shelley as a companion is strong, though as previously mentioned there are some issues with the idea of simply handing the ideas for Frankenstein to her. Julie Cox does an exceptional job as Mary Shelley, but unfortunately her character direction could have done with some more work.


#155 – Army of Death

The final Mary Shelley story immediately gets the plot going with the city of Stronghaven on the planet Draxine, which is not only going through political turmoil but is also seeing attacks from skeletal bonemen following a war that completely devastated their twin-city of Garrak. Although described as a place of tranquillity and safety by the Doctor, it is clear that all is not as it should be in Stronghaven, and former citizens of Garrak who live in the city are ostracised and hunted down. This makes for a very dynamic setting for an audio, and as these basic plot elements are established quickly, the actual narrative gets going right out of the gate. The President of Stronghaven, Vallan, is initially painted as a villain, though it is clear that there is more at work than the machinations of a politician, and the Gothic themes of this story start to show as Vallan is haunted by the spectre of his recently-deceased predecessor. The Bonemen make for an intimidating threat, and because the Doctor and Mary get separated, the Stormhaven security forces prove to be more of a burden than a help.

As such, this audio is very much a case of the Doctor arriving in a situation and doing his best to save everyone, whilst also figuring out the mysteries surrounding the leadership of Stormhaven, and why the army of the dead is seemingly so intent on attacking the city. Mary begins to show doubts about her travels with the Doctor early in the story, as she admits that she is beginning to have romantic feelings for him that are contrary to her feelings for her husband, Percy. Another tragic romance is present throughout this story, as President Vallan is involved in a love affair with his Vice-President, who also happens to be a former resident of Garrak who moved to Stormhaven as a child. The intrigue that is woven throughout this story is another interesting factor, and there are some great settings brought to life with a great soundtrack, excellent sound design and talented voice artists.

Overall, Mary Shelley’s time with the Eighth Doctor is fun, and these audios are each unique in their own way. The focus on Gothic elements to match the themes of Frankenstein is a great idea, though there are some issues with the implementation of Mary as a companion. As previously mentioned, there are too many instances of Shelley simply being given key ideas or themes for Frankenstein instead of coming up with them herself, and these are too prevalent throughout the series to be given a pass. Considering that this is the shortest era of the Eighth Doctor with only four stories, each story has a role and each one implements Gothic elements with varying degrees of competency – Mary’s Story is mediocre but introduces the new companion well, The Silver Turk works very well as a standalone Cyberman story, The Witch from the Well is a fun listen with some issues but some great Gothic elements, and Army of Death serves as a good finale with some bizarre imagery and great character moments – the goodbye scene between Mary and the Doctor is particularly poignant, and she finally gives the Doctor her journal, thus fulfilling the near-decade long prophecy that was first mentioned as far back as Storm Warning. Ultimately, it is a shame that Mary Shelley’s time as a companion hasn’t been revisited in subsequent Eighth Doctor audios, and it is nearly ten years since we last heard from her. The ambiguous nature of the ending of Army of Death suggests that more stories featuring Shelley could be possible in the future, only time will tell if this eventually transpires.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 2

Having been separated from Lucie in the first half of Series 4 of the EDAs, the Doctor is now travelling with new companion Tamsin Drew, who has been an interesting replacement for Lucie and brings a completely different view of the universe to their various adventures. Although she has only been in the TARDIS for a short time, Tamsin seems to be picking up the ropes fairly quickly, and by all accounts it seems like the Eighth Doctor has found his new companion. Brace yourself though, as the final stories in the EDAs are a twisted subversion of the New Series formula that delivers a satisfying yet devastating conclusion to the era.

4.5 – Deimos

This audio is the first in a two-part story that features the return of the Ice Warriors, in a memorable opening cliff-hanger set in an Ice Warrior tomb on Deimos that has since been converted into a museum following human colonisation of the moon, and a team of Ice Warriors emerge from suspended animation to attack the guests. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Tamsin are taking part in a tour of the Deimos museum, and as soon as they discover that there are living Ice Warriors at large, the Doctor immediately attempts to open communications with the Ice Lord. In many respects this audio is similar to the later TV stories Cold War and Empress of Mars, as the Doctor recognises that the Ice Warriors are capable of diplomacy and compromise, one of the things that makes them a unique enemy.

Tamsin is also given more of a chance to develop as a companion in this story, as while the Doctor plays hostage negotiator, she gets a chance to operate independently and it is nice seeing her moving the plot forward of her own accord as up until this point Tamsin has been swept up in events surrounding her since she was accepted as the Doctor’s new companion. She is put in a situation in which she disagrees with the Doctor on his handling of the situation, as the Ice Warriors are intent on killing all the humans on Mars but the Doctor constantly passes over opportunities to destroy them. This audio does a good job of creating a moral dilemma for the Doctor as he is once again put in the position where he must take lives in order to save more lives, a situation that never sits right with him.

The sound design in this audio is excellent, and the return of the Ice Warriors is well-realised. Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic job with their voice, and the use of authentic sound effects from their TV appearances in the Second and Third Doctor eras makes this all the more immersive. The supporting cast are great, and there are some memorable side characters in this story who are reminiscent of the kind of characters from classic Second Doctor base-under-siege stories. This one also ends on a great cliff-hanger which weaves the plot of this story into the overall plot arc for the series as a whole.

4.6 – The Resurrection of Mars

Lucie Miller’s reintroduction into the series is an unexpected twist in this two-part story, as we get an insight into her experience since she left the Doctor, which includes a brief period travelling with the Monk. After he buried a village under an avalanche as part of one of his schemes, Lucie left him, and she was dumped on Deimos just as the Doctor was about to detonate the explosive to destroy the Ice Warriors, hence her unexpected appearance at the end of the previous audio. The Resurrection of Mars also solves several other unanswered questions, such as why there was a time-travelling companion X-factor in Situation Vacant, and why the Monk was in 1006 Ireland in The Book of Kells, so it resolves many of the plot threads running through the series so far whilst also setting the stage for the final set of audios in the series.

The cliff-hanger to part one of this story delivers quite an effective gut-punch, as it seems all hope is lost for the Doctor, though he is reunited with Lucie in a heart-warming reunion, and thankfully her involvement in the Monk’s plans are completely circumstantial – in fact, the Monk used Lucie to derail the Doctor’s plans to defeat the Ice Warriors, and then tricks Tamsin into travelling with him by framing the Doctor as an irresponsible meddler. This audio does a great job of exemplifying the Doctor’s moral sense of right and wrong, as initially the listener might disagree with his decisions initially but through the Doctor explaining his actions his true intentions become clear.

Paul McGann does a fantastic job with these sorts of scenes, as his portrayal of the Doctor lends itself well to long musings on his morality and motivations as his character is a romantic at heart, and this audio captures this essence of the Doctor perfectly. The ending to this audio mixes up the status quo of this series a fair bit, though soon all becomes clear as the events of this story tie directly into the finale. Overall, The Resurrection of Mars is essential listening both for its importance to the overall series arc of the final series of the EDAs, but also for its numerous twists and turns that keep the listener guessing until the very end and deliver an exciting outing for the Ice Warriors as a final cherry on top.

4.7 – Relative Dimensions

This audio is another Christmas special of sorts, and focuses around the Doctor’s efforts to create the perfect Christmas for Lucie after her last one in Death in Blackpool didn’t turn out as expected. As such, they choose to have Christmas in the TARDIS, and the Doctor invites his granddaughter Susan and his great-grandson Alexander. This is definitely a cozy story, as the thought of the Eighth Doctor’s gothic Victorian library TARDIS decorated with a huge tree, warm lights and shining tinsel, with Christmas carols echoing through the hallways is a lovely setting and it is odd that the New Series has not decorated the TARDIS for Christmas in any of the Christmas Specials.

Lucie and Alex get a chance to explore the TARDIS, as the Doctor unlocks several old rooms to let Susan revisit her old bedroom. This leads to some excellent sequences where we get to explore a corridor of rooms belonging to several old companions, and there are some great interactions between the Doctor and Susan which fans of the early First Doctor TV stories will appreciate. As the cover of this audio suggests, there is a threat in this story – a gigantic electric fish is stalking the corridors of the TARDIS, feeding on the bat-like pests that inhabit the high-chambered halls, and the sound design illustrating the creature stalking its prey in the corridors is exceptional.

This story starts as a whimsical Christmas story and unfolds into a temporal tale of predestination and the importance of family. One of the most compelling aspects of this story is the Doctor’s growing relationship with Alex, as he starts to view his great-grandson as a surrogate heir, which is an interesting aspect of the character to explore. By the end of the story, it really seems like Lucie, Susan and Alex are the family that the Doctor has always wanted, and fans of the early Moffat era of the TV Series with Amy and Rory acting as a sort of Earth-grounded family for the Doctor will appreciate this story. As a nice cherry on top, there is even a nice reference to the very first ‘Christmas Special’ of the series, The Feast of Steven, which aired in 1965.

4.8 – Prisoner of the Sun

This is a very interesting audio that makes good use of the premise that the Doctor is travelling alone now and can therefore be caught up in longer-running conflicts than he could with a Human companion. In this case, the Doctor has spent years imprisoned in a facility by a trio of creatures made of mercurial liquid, in order to maintain equipment that keeps a sun stable to prevent the deaths of 2 billion people. However, a group of rebels attempt to infiltrate the facility to rescue him, and the Doctor is unsure who he can trust. This is an intriguing exploration of the Doctor being imprisoned by his own sense of responsibility, as the Doctor is capable of escaping at any time but feels obliged to protect the people on the two planets in orbit around the sun.

Another great aspect to this audio is the Doctor’s ‘assistant’ – an android who he has reprogrammed to sound like Lucie Miller and, through several ‘expansion packs’ installed during her activation gives her some human-like qualities, making her essentially his surrogate companion for this story. Not only is this a great illustration of the fact that the Doctor needs companions in order to stay sane, but it also reflects how much the Doctor still misses Lucie after she decided to stay on Earth with Susan and Alex.

This audio keeps a sense of intrigue throughout, and there are constant twists and turns that make every character’s motivations questionable. Like the Doctor, the audience aren’t sure who to trust, and there are a few surprises in this story that make it a fun listen. Overall, for a low-key story Prisoner of the Sun is one of the stronger audios of the EDAs, setting the stage for the incredible yet devastating finale.

4.9 – Lucie Miller

This audio is a devastating opening to the two-part finale, that depicts the second post-present day Dalek invasion, as a horrendous plague sweeps across planet Earth and wipes out a significant portion of the population. This is particularly devastating as Susan has spent her life helping the human race rebuild after the first Dalek invasion, only for everything to come crashing down again. The disease has topical relevance today that the writers at the time could not have imagined, so this audio is even more gruesome to listen to than before. This audio portrays a Dalek invasion just as ruthless and apocalyptic as the one seen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, only this time the Doctor’s companions live through it – alone. The tension throughout this audio is intense, as Susan, Alex and Lucie are in constant danger and as characters are killed all around them it seems that any of them could be struck down at any minute.

As Lucie is the central character in this story, her personal journey through the Dalek-devastated Earth is gripping. With help from Alex and Susan she is able to send a message to the Doctor, though he does not arrive for some time and the trio eventually flee to caves with rebel forces in order to survive. Eventually, they are able to link up with other rebel forces and launch a desperate attack on the Daleks, though the Daleks have an unexpected ally who helps tip the balance in their favour. Ultimately, this audio tells a story about a desperate attempt to retake the planet from a hostile occupation, and it doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to depicting the horrors of war.

The Daleks themselves are depicted very strongly in this story, with the Supreme Dalek speaking in a hysterical screech as it directs extermination patrols from its control room. They attack Earth as well as its alien allies, wiping out an entire fleet of starships before instigating a complete takeover of the planet, transforming Earth into a huge factory and enslaving the Human race. When it comes to depictions of a Dalek invasion, Lucie Miller is one of the top contenders, and it almost comes close to outdoing its inspiration, The Dalek Invasion of Earth. As a first part to the finale of not just Series 4 but the EDAs itself, Lucie Miller is a fantastic story.

4.10 – To the Death

The Eighth Doctor’s adventures with Lucie Miller come to a cataclysmic end in To the Death, arguably Big Finish’s most ambitious Doctor Who finale to date, and perhaps one of the greatest finales in the history of Doctor Who. The plot elements that have been laced throughout the series come together magnificently, as the Doctor, Lucie, Susan, Alex, Tamsin, the Monk and the Daleks are all thrown into the mix – and not everyone gets out alive. The deaths in this audio are devastating to listen to, and without spoiling anything, it is safe to say that the Doctor is deeply traumatized by the events of this story. The last story of the EDAs represents a huge character shift for the Eighth Doctor, which has a lasting impact on future stories.

It is worth mentioning that Lucie’s theme, which has been used throughout the series. It is an emotive piece that fits her character perfectly, and it is used well for moments when Lucie genuinely opens up to the Doctor about how much their friendship means to her. Sheridan Smith does an exceptional job as Lucie Miller throughout this series but her performance in this audio is particularly moving. Her farewell to the Doctor is still one of the most impactful companion departures in the show’s history, and those who compare Lucie Miller to Rose Tyler are bang on when it comes to how deeply their departure influences the Doctor. In fact when we next see him in Dark Eyes, he is a broken man.

The Monk and the Daleks are used excellently in this audio, and the Daleks are as menacing as ever, racking up a significant body count by the end of the story. Those who were invested in the Monk and Tamsin’s subplot throughout the series will be satisfied by the ending, which illustrates how his meddling ultimately comes back to bite him, mirroring the fate of the character in his original appearance in 1960s Hartnell stories. We see that the events of this story deeply impact him as well, as this incarnation would later show up in the Fifth Doctor story The Secret History, blaming him for the events of this story despite the fact that, for the Fifth Doctor, it hadn’t happened yet. The Dalek Time Controller who first appeared in the Sixth Doctor story Patient Zero also features here, and the events of this story kick of a sequence of events which play into the story arc of later Eighth Doctor audios.

Overall, To the Death brings the EDAs to a close with one of the strongest conclusions to a story arc in the Eighth Doctor’s run so far. The Lucie Miller era is brought to a definitive close with a fantastic Dalek story that neatly bookends the era that began all the way back with Blood of the Daleks. The Doctor’s business with the Daleks is far from over, however, as the next series in the Eighth Doctor’s run begins the Dark Eyes saga, an ambitious 16=part space opera featuring Ruth Bradley as new companion Molly O’Sullivan. Before that, however, the Eighth Doctor’s run of audios takes an unusual turn, as between the end of the EDAs and the start of Dark Eyes, Paul McGann briefly returned to the Main Range to do a few more stories set before the Eighth Doctor met Charley, in a strange set of adventures in which he travels with none other than Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Mary Shelley Plays

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 1

Having concluded the last of the lighthearted adventures with the Doctor and Lucie Miller in Series 3 of the EDAs, Series 4 dives immediately into a far darker and more melancholy take on the ‘New Series’ style Big Finish had developed across the four series. This series is full of twists and turns, and requires a little more context than the others, requiring a Bonus Story to be listened to in order to understand the finale. This series of audios represents the pinnacle of Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith’s time together as Doctor and companion, though ironically the Doctor has a new companion, Tamsin Drew, for the majority of the series. Although it requires a fair bit of listening to reach this point, this is where the EDAs really pay off as Big Finish delivers a strong series of audios with some great excellent rug-pulls along the way.

4.1 – Death in Blackpool

This is a Big Finish Christmas Special, and it shows – from Lucie’s nostalgic recounting of the ‘perfect Christmas’ at the beginning, to the depiction of an actual Father Christmas. In many ways this audio is a deconstruction of the classic format of New Series TV Christmas Specials. This one is particularly bleak and taps into the more melancholy aspects of Christmas, such as the idea of the ideal Christmas being tainted by the loss of a loved one is a concept that is as relevant as ever. We revisit the character of Auntie Pat, who is actually still the Zygon Warlord Haygoth in disguise unbeknownst to Lucie, and Haygoth reveals to the Doctor that he is dying. Having felt guilt at the fact of essentially cheating Lucie out of mourning her Auntie, Haygoth now wishes to enjoy one final Christmas with Lucie before passing on.

This audio is a great outing for Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith, and we see the character of Lucie Miller pushed to the extreme as she discovers that the Doctor has been keeping secrets from her. Her psychological battle with the sinister entity attempting to steal her body is grim to listen to, but this is arguably second to her reaction to the horrific discovery she makes as the Doctor and Auntie Pat unwittingly reveal Haygoth’s true identity. It represents a huge step forward in Lucie’s character as she is forced into a decision that shakes up the status quo for the first time in the entire series.

An unexpected highlight of this story is Father Christmas, who initially comes across as a comedic character, rather like Nick Frost in Last Christmas, but as with that interpretation of the mythical figure, there is more to this than meets the eye. The villain, a ghoulish ‘Zynog’, is a great concept: a Zygon who has been reduced to a body-hopping entity after having its original form destroyed, due to the fact that it committed the Zygon sin of attempting to take the body print of another Zygon, and this presents a very personal threat to Auntie Pat. It goes without saying that Auntie Pat’s character arc is one of the best things about the EDAs, and the idea of a Zygon genuinely falling in love with its stolen Human life is a fantastic concept that this story concludes well, as Auntie Pat’s conclusion is one of the most heart-breaking things in the series.

Bonus Story VIII – An Earthly Child

An Earthly Child is a Bonus Story set after the events of Death in Blackpool, that depicts the long-awaited ‘return’ of the Doctor to 22nd-century Earth, to reunite with his grand-daughter, Susan. This audio introduces Susan’s son and the Doctor’s great-grandson, Alex Campbell, and depicts the Doctor fulfilling his promise and coming back to see Susan again.

Having been left behind on 22nd-century Earth at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Susan has married a freedom-fighter and built a life for herself as a politician, attempting to build alliances for humanity with alien races while facing a huge amount of anti-alien sentiment from the majority of survivors of the Dalek invasion. Even decades after the defeat of the Daleks Earth is still a mess, as people are still being discovered living in caves across the planet, cities are in ruins and the population is still recovering from decimation.

This audio fulfils a fan-favourite moment that has been anticipated for quite some time, to the point that it is odd that the New Series has not brought Carole Ann Ford back as she is excellent in the role and recaptures the character of Susan excellently. This audio is required to fully understand the finale to the series, so for that purpose it is ‘required listening’, but ultimately this is also a treat for fans so it is well worth listening to even without the context of the EDAs.

4.2 – Situation Vacant

This audio appears on the surface to be Doctor Who does The Apprentice, as the Doctor is interviewing potential new companions by giving them various tasks which eventually leads into a full-on alien invasion, so one would be forgiven for thinking that this is another throwaway comedy story, but it doesn’t take long to discover that this is far more than just a story based on The Apprentice. Not only is the setup suspicious at best, as it seems far too grandiose for the Doctor, but there are plenty of surprises in this story that make it a fun listen.

The supporting cast in this story is great, as it features James Bachman, Joe Thomas and Niky Wardley, who all do fantastic jobs in their roles. This audio takes a few bold turns with its main characters, as each of them are keen to secure the position of new companion and so the four of them are working to help the Doctor investigate an issue whilst also competing against each other, which is fun to listen to, to say the least. The most fun thing about this audio is the eliminations, in which the Doctor objectively analyses the performance of the candidates and selects who should be deselected, which is always entertaining.

The hints throughout suggest that there is more to this situation than it first seems – over the course of the story the events snowball, and the tension builds as it soon becomes clear that the situation is spiralling out of the Doctor’s control. Nonetheless, what follows is by far one of the most enjoyable stories of the EDAs so far, and if the New Series was ever to do an Apprenctice-themed episode for TV, we can only hope that it takes inspiration from this audio. We are also introduced to our new companion in this story, though from this point on we reach severe spoiler-territory, so if you haven’t yet listened to these audios and want to experience them for yourself, stop reading now and go listen to them!

4.3 – Nevermore

Nevermore deals with some interesting ethical dilemmas, as the Doctor and Tamsin arrive on the the planet Nevermore and meet its only living resident: convicted war criminal Morella Wendigo, who was condemned to spend her lifetime living on the planet that she destroyed, guarded by squawking mechanical ravens. There is a running motif of cats throughout this story, as one appears in the TARDIS seemingly out of nowhere at the start of the story and sets co-ordinates while walking over the console, bringing the Doctor and Tamsin to Nevermore seemingly by accident. This audio is steeped in the lore of Edgar Allen Poe, and those who have not read his works will likely be less appreciative of this audio than those who have. The designer of Wendigo’s prison, Senior Prosecutor Uglosi, has a bizarre obsession with Poe that permeates through the entire design of the prison.

This audio does some great character building for Tamsin, from a great scene at the beginning where the Doctor is showing her different rooms of the TARDIS to her desire to save the cat that inadvertently kicks off the plot of the entire story. She also reveals her acting skills came in handy by using her skills in escapology to untie some difficult knots – she ultimately proves that she is a suitable fit for the role of new companion. She is definitely a very different companion to Lucie, and her interactions with the Doctor are a treat to listen to as she learns the ropes of travelling in the TARDIS.

The backstory of Morella Wendigo is a compelling one – having doomed the planet of Corinth Minor with a virus that led the Time Lords to destroy the planet with a substance called the Red Death to prevent the biohazard from escaping, she was subsequently imprisoned on the planet, now renamed Nevermore, to serve a penance of eternal contemplation for her murderous crimes against the population of an entire planet. Overall, Nevermore is an interesting listen for many reasons, though those who are unfamiliar with Edgar Allen Poe may find it more dull as it is clearly intended as a love letter to that particular author.

4.4 – The Book of Kells

The Doctor and Tamsin arrive in Ireland, 1006 in the Abbey of Kells, as the TARDIS is dragged off-course by a temporally-sensitive individual currently at large in the area that is dragging other time-travelling entities, including an unfortunate Vortisaur, to the 11th century. It soon becomes apparent that someone wants to steal the Book of Kells, and the Doctor and Tamsin are caught up in a mystery of intrigue and deception. The cliff-hanger to part one is an interesting revelation that the temporally sensitive individual at large is none other than the Meddling Monk, though the context of the story is a dead giveaway to those who are familiar with the character.

This audio casts Graeme Garden as the Monk, and it is worth mentioning that he was a fantastic choice for the role. It makes sense that, should the Monk ever return to the TV series, they would be played by a comedian, and Graeme Garden brings that essential levity to the character whilst also maintaining the presence that a villainous Time Lord should have.

For those not in the know, the Book of Kells is a real historical artefact, and it was stolen from the Abbey in 1007 only to be found a few months later, and this audio plays off that event and makes several references to current events of this era, so history fans are bound to enjoy this one. In some ways it is almost a pure historical, were it not for the presence of another Time Lord. Though these stories have a mixed reception in the fanbase, The Book of Kells proves that the New Series would be able to do a pure historical in an interesting way.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 3, Part 2

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…

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 4, Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 3, Part 1

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.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 3, Part 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 2, Part 2

As the second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures unfolds, it becomes clear that Big Finish have ceased to look at this new era of the Eighth Doctor as a wacky experiment and instead begin building a whole new lore for their new series, including a stronger backstory for Lucie and development of her character. The greater focus on Lucie is definitely welcome, as unlike Charley she is given less time per story to actually develop as a companion. This next half of the second series of the EDAs demonstrates a turning point in the series, as the more whimsical aspects of the previous stories are lessened in favour of a more mature tone, reflecting the stronger stories towards the tail-end of the series.

2.5 – Grand Theft Cosmos

The Eighth Doctor and Lucie are travelling by train in Sweden in the 19th century, and encounter Karen from Human Resources who has been travelling with the Headhunter, the pair have become a time-travelling art thieves and are attempting to steal a priceless piece of art known as the Black Diamond. Unfortunately, the Doctor identifies the piece as a dangerous extra-terrestrial threat, so he and Lucie work to thwart the Headhunter’s plans and steal the Black Diamond from them. Although this is definitely one of the more comedic audios in the series, it is definitely an exciting ride as the two time-travelling duos face off in a game of intrigue.

Some of the most entertaining scenes in this audio involve the Doctor and Lucie playing spies, as Lucie’s alter-ego that she uses to fraternize with the various people of the time is one of the highlights of the story. The banter between the Headhunter and Karen is also fun, as it is clear that the two are working together and yet do not like each other very much to say the least. Their dynamic is one of the driving forces of this audio, as they make the perfect counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s warm, compassionate friendship.

Grand Theft Cosmos is a fun ride, and is easily one of the best light-hearted audios in the series so far. There is something to be said for an audio that manages to capture the perfect balance of comedic and exciting, and this one does a marvellous of it. Not only does this audio show how close friends the Doctor and Lucie are, but this is another example of Lucie doing an excellent job as an independent undercover operative, proving how far she has come since she joined the TARDIS at the start of the previous series.

2.6 – The Zygon Who Fell to Earth

This audio sees the return of Lucie’s Auntie Pat who previously featured in Horror of Glam Rock, and this time the Doctor and Lucie drop in on her in 1984 and quickly discover that there are Zygons present in the area – but all is not as it seems. Auntie Pat’s new husband Trevor is hiding a big secret, and although the Doctor and Lucie initially assume that Pat is completely ignorant of the events transpiring around her, she later reveals that she in fact knows more than she says. The idea of a Zygon who has ‘gone domestic’ and decided to spend the rest of its life living in the Lake District is fascinating, and a similar idea was later used for the Series 9 two-parter The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion.

As usual, Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are excellent, although Lucie once again comes across as crass by revealing a little too much about Auntie Pat’s future, inferring that she amounts to nothing by the 21st century. It’s a tragic thought that is only briefly dwelled upon in the story, but the implications are particularly dark, especially as she seems to remember the last time Lucie said something anachronistic to her. Auntie Pat becomes a more important character in this story that it first seemed when she made her debut in Horror of Glam Rock, as the influence she had on Lucie’s life becomes more relevant.

Ultimately, the end of this story is probably the biggest turning point in the entire series – whilst Lucie Miller is often used as a comedic character, she is given a very serious situation to deal with in this story and as such her relationship with the Eighth Doctor becomes more complicated for the first time in the series. Sheridan Smith does a great job in this story as Lucie is challenged in a way she has never been before, and needless to say this audio is definitely a memorable listen.

2.7 – Sisters of the Flame

This audio begins the two-part finale with an interesting investigative pair-off – Lucie teams up with Rosto, a Trell policeman who, like all Trell, resembles a giant centipede. He is investigating Lucie’s sudden appearance on a transport ship, after the TARDIS was raided by other Trell and the Doctor and Lucie were separated. As the cover suggests, this audio is primarily focused around Lucie, as she is given some time in the spotlight to have an adventure on her own. Whilst this is going on, Lucie is being pursued by the Sisterhood of Karn, who are attempting to acquire her for as-yet unknown purposes.

Lucie undergoes significant character growth in this story, as she carries the entire story whilst dealing with several forces at once – Straxus makes a return in this audio, as the Time Lords have particular interest in the events taking place and he comments that something is wrong with the universe itself, and all the while the Doctor’s TARDIS is pursued by a planet merchant called Cristophe Zarodnix, who has taken up residence on Karn. Lucie soon learns that the Sisterhood themselves have been pushed from Karn by the Zarodnix corporation, as his company purchased the planet and he has now transformed the world into his own private land.

The Doctor does make a short appearance near the end of this audio, as he learns the truth of the current situation of the Sisterhood of Karn as they deploy their secret weapon – a molecular dispersal chamber, stolen from the Time Lords. Straxus simultaneously reveals to Lucie that Zarodnix is in fact attempting to resurrect the ancient Time Lord Morbius, who fans of Classic Who will know from the TV story The Brain of Morbius. This story is definitely a rollercoaster, and although it seems like there is a lot going on, the plot elements weave together fairly well throughout, ending on a great cliff-hanger.

2.8 – The Vengeance of Morbius

After a huge amount of build-up in Sisters of the Flame, The Vengeance of Morbius jumps straight into the action, tying the lingering plot threads from the end of part one into the highlight of part two, which is Morbius’s resurrection – this entire audio revolves around the return of Morbius, an insane Time Lord who aims to transform Gallifrey into a military power that utilises time travel to ensure its dominance over the universe. The Doctor and Lucie are reunited, and travel to Karn in order to stop Zarodnix from resurrecting Morbius, though they are unfortunately too late – Straxus was stranded on Karn at the end of the previous story, and using his DNA Zarodnix has been able to resurrect Morbius by combining it with DNA recovered from Morbius’s buried remains.

As a series finale, The Vengeance of Morbius definitely delivers – not only is a classic villain brought back in a big way, but the entirety of Gallifrey is threatened by the return of one of their greatest tyrants. Morbius is a sinister threat, as he represents all the malevolence and chaotic potential that Gallifrey possesses. Morbius eventually gains control of Gallifrey, and spends ten years conquering the universe, devastating thousands of worlds on the wake of his intergalactic crusade. Straxus, who has been held prisoner all this time, is being used to feed Morbius’s constantly-decaying life-force. However, that also proves to be Morbius’s greatest weakness.

The second series of the EDAs ends on a strong story, as Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith do an excellent job, as well as Samuel West, who plays Morbius, Kenneth Colley, who plays Zarodnix, and Nikolas Grace, who plays Strax. There are some really compelling elements to this audio, as Morbius presents a very real threat to the fabric of time itself – imagine the Master’s invasion of Earth in Last of the Time Lords but magnified exponentially to cover the entire universe. This story ends on somewhat of a cliff-hanger, as Lucie is separated from the Doctor and left unaware of his fate. Sheridan Smith puts in an excellent performance as we are left on a devastating ending, as although the universe is saved, the Doctor and Lucie are apart, and the Time Lords return her to her original time and place.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 3, Part 1

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