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.

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 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

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 2, Part 1

After the success of the first series of the the Eighth Doctor Adventures, a second series was inevitable – and the adventures of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller continue with a second series that takes a more serious look into Lucie’s backstory and presents a more mature depiction of the Doctor-companion relationship than the one we saw in Series 1 – Lucie’s impromptu introduction meant that her story was somewhat rushed in the first series, and Series 2 takes the opportunity to tell some light-hearted stories early on before delivering some darker and more heavy-hitting stories in the second half.

2.1 – Dead London

Just like the first series, the second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures jumps right into the action, as the Doctor and Lucie are separated inside a bizarre alternate version of London where different zones from different time periods have been stitched together and the inhabitants of each zone can actually see and interact with each other. This bizarre setting lends itself well for some interesting ideas and narrative elements that could be explored, but unfortunately the audio spends a great deal of its runtime explaining the alien influence behind the time-fractured London and this leaves little time to explore time-fractured London itself. Although many of the EDAs benefit from their short run-time, allowing them to tell fast-paced stories in a quick and concise manner, Dead London is an example of an EDA whose story would have probably been better explored in a Main Range story with 4 25-minute episodes.

Nonetheless, Dead London is a great introduction to Series 2 of the EDAs, as we are reintroduced to the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller individually before they are reunited in the final act. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are exceptional, the supporting cast are great, and the sound design is fantastic – the only slight issue is that the main theme has been replaced with a very odd remix of the original Delia Derbyshire theme that has been affectionate nicknamed the ‘Blender Remix’ by fans due to its weird, disjointed nature – Big Finish briefly use this theme for the EDAs before switching back to the far superior David Arnold version.

Overall, Dead London is a fun listen, though it is perhaps let down by the short runtime and although the supporting cast are fun, with Spring-Heeled Sophie being a particularly nice addition to the main cast of this story, this one suffers from not taking full advantage of its setting and a weak main villain, who sometimes sounds like Voldemort from the first Harry Potter movie and seems to just be evil for the sake of being evil. It’s certainly no Blood of the Daleks, but Dead London serves its purpose as a series opener.

2.2 – Max Warp

The most important thing to mention about Max Warp is that it is a not-so-subtle parody of Top Gear, with the entire show being recreated in a futuristic setting – even down to parodies of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. The pastiche of Clarkson shuns political correctness and constantly puts down the James May caricature, and the Hammond character is involved in a horrendous crash – as such, this audio is not only somewhat dated but also comes across as a bit crass at times. However, there are some great moments of genuine comedy in this story, and although it is intended to be taken as a more light-hearted adventure, there is a genuine mystery as the Doctor and Lucie decide to investigate the murder of the Richard Hammond character as he is killed in a live demonstration of a Kith spaceship.

The element of seriousness in this story is derived from the Kith themselves, who hold a tenuous peace with the Varlon race that is jeopardised by the crash, which the Doctor identifies as being no accident. As such, there is an interesting story in here, but unfortunately it is somewhat overshadowed by the bizarre setting – the cartoonish representation of Jeremy Clarkson is not only over-the-top but is also overbearing on the story but is completely unbelievable.

Ultimately, Max Warp tries a lot of things, and ends up being a foray of hit-and-miss attempts throughout the runtime. However, its always fun to hear the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller interacting, and the best aspect by far is the sound design and soundtrack, so from that point of view this audio is still worth a listen. Don’t expect anything too spectacular from this one though, as it is only really memorable for being ‘the time Doctor Who did Top Gear’.

2.3 – Brave New Town

This audio begins with a really creepy concept – a British town stranded in the middle of a vast, dry wasteland, with the residents living the same Sunday in 1991 over and over again, with the same song staying as number one for all eternity. The Doctor and Lucie attempt to find out what is going on, as the only seemingly interesting thing happening in the town is that the Newsagents daughter has gone missing, so the two of them split up to investigate the goings-on in the area. This audio does a great job of emphasising the bizarre nature of the setting, as the inhabitants of the town seem to be completely unaware of their predicament, almost completely ignoring the fact that the sea is completely missing.

As Lucie is captured by armed forces and the Doctor wanders the wastelands searching for the missing girl, the plot does seem to accelerate as the inhabitants of the town hear a mysterious voice that gives them commands. There is of course something more at work here, and in many ways it is unfortunate that this story was not a Main Range audio, as there could have been more time spent on the premise of the stranded town and the ‘big reveal’ could have been the cliff-hanger to part one. This audio is great because it holds back its many twists for a while, and the main plot of the story in itself is somewhat of a spoiler, so skip to the next review if you do not want to read spoilers.

The primary twist of the story is that the entire town is populated by Autons, and the Nestene Consciousness is attempting to direct the Autons in the town to do its bidding. However, the Doctor discovers that the Autons living in the town have been there for 17 years, and they are capable of running independently – as such, they have free will and as such are able to make their own decisions. Overall, Brave New Town is definitely a more serious audio than the previous two, and this coupled with the fact that it features the Autons makes it the best audio in the series so far.

2.4 – The Skull of Sobek

The Eighth Doctor and Lucie encounter a Blue Desert located on a perfectly symmetrical planet, with a temple in the middle of the desert dedicated to imperfection, to counter the planet’s ideal alignment. All is not as it seems, however, as the temple is inhabited by a cult who worship a race of crocodile-men called the Crocodilians who hail from the planet Sobek, and the eponymous Skull of Sobek originates from their ancient civilisation. The Skull contains the memories of the leader of the Crocodilians, as there is a scheme abound to return the Crocodilians to their former glory.

Unfortunately, this audio takes a while to get going, and once it does the plot moves along at a fairly slow pace – ironically for the series known for its fast-paced stories, this EDA could arguably have been a Short Trip as even with the reduced runtime compared to most other Doctor Who audios this one is a bit of a drag. Nonetheless, the sound design is excellent, Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith are excellent, and the supporting cast do a great job with the material.

Overall, this is probably among the weaker stories in the second series of the EDAs, which is a shame considering it was written by Mark Platt. There are some great ideas here, and despite their bizarre nature the Crocodilians are an intimidating threat, but ultimately this one is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite. However, it is still a fun listen, as the Doctor and Lucie fighting against bipedal crocodile-men is definitely a novelty, and it has enough intrigue to ensure that the story is engaging throughout.

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

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 1

Following the resounding success of the TV revival series of Doctor Who that launched in 2005, peripheral Doctor Who mediums quickly adapted to capitalise on the huge increase in potential fans that would want to explore other mediums separate from the TV series. Big Finish were no different, and they launched the immensely successful Eighth Doctor Adventures in 2006 starring Paul McGann as the increasingly popular Eighth Doctor and Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller. These audios swap out the format of previous Eighth Doctor audios – stories divided into four 25-minute episodes in a format similar to Classic Who – in favour of the New Series story format – single 45-minute episodes, with the occasional two-part story. This means that, if the New Series is a format that you are more accustomed to, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are an excellent jumping-on point because they not only share a similar tone to the modern TV Series, they also use a familiar approach to character and story development, such as recurring story arcs that feature in every story, and a companion who originates from what was the modern day at the time.

1.1 / 1.2 – Blood of the Daleks

The first story in the Eighth Doctor Adventures is a two-part story that introduces new companion Lucie Miller as well as depicting the Eighth Doctor’s next encounter with the Daleks. It does both fairly well, though the introduction of Lucie is over very quickly before the main story begins to unfold. This is perhaps the quickest companion introduction Big Finish have attempted thus far, and this is probably due to the fact that the EDAs were designed to mimic the style and tone of the New Series, which had only recently released when this series of audios began in 2006, so things move a bit faster than in the Main Range audios. The premise is simple – the Doctor and Lucie materialise the TARDIS on the planet Red Rocket Rising, which has been recently devastated by a meteorite impact. The remaining human population is scrabbling to survive amongst the ruins of their society, and a rampaging mob is hunting down the Acting President Eileen Klint and another woman called Asha, as it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. Another survivor, Tom Cardwell, is considered an insane tinfoil-hat prophesier of doom by his fellow citizens, but despite his appearance Cardwell also knows more than he is telling, as he has created defences against the acid rain and frequent dust storms.

The plot revolves around Professor Martez, an insane scientist who was using human remains and living human specimens to harvest samples for genetic experiments that were intended to improve the people of Red Rocket Rising. Martez and his assistant Asha were arrested for their violations of human ethics, though Martez later died and his assistant was freed by Klint in the hopes that the two of them could try to restart the society of Red Rocket Rising. There is an incredible scene where the two of them are rummaging around in the ruins of Martez’s laboratory and they reactivate a receiver, only to hear the grating voice of the Daleks sending signals down to the planet. Although there are several twists in this story that can be seen coming from a mile off, there are some others that are very well-hidden and there are some great reveals that are very well-executed. If there is one thing that Blood of the Daleks does well, it is that it does an exceptional job of illustrating the incredible devastation that the Daleks can dish out, particularly when they find the actions of a planet or culture particularly offensive. In this case, the Daleks seek to root out and destroy Martez’s work because they see it as any attempt to imitate the Daleks as an affront that must be destroyed.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that, due to circumstance, the Doctor and the Daleks end up briefly teaming up – it is always fun when the Doctor and the Daleks work together, and this story is a great example of why. It is also worth noting that Sheridan Smith does an exceptional job voicing Lucie Miller, for her first audio the new companion is immediately likeable in much the same way as Rose was in the first episode of the New Series. Although Lucie Miller is similar to Rose in that she is a relatable young female companion, there are distinct personality differences between the two, and Lucie often feels more similar to Donna than Rose as she has a much spikier personality. It is great that Lucie’s first audio is a Dalek story, as she is put in the unique position of having a harrowing adventure the first time around and then having more light-hearted travels later on, whereas for most companions the adjustment goes the other way. It is particularly harrowing hearing the Doctor relive memories of the genesis of a Dalek species, as there are a lot of parallels between the events that happen on Red Rocket Rising in this audio and those that happen on Skaro in Genesis of the Daleks. Overall, Blood of the Daleks is a fantastic opening to the EDAs that sets the tone of the series perfectly, introduces Lucie Miller as the Eighth Doctor’s newest companion and tells a fantastic Dalek story.

1.3 – Horror of Glam Rock

The title of this audio is a humorous reference to the Fourth Doctor TV story Horror of Fang Rock, and although there is no direct relation between the two stories, this one does have a distinct 1970s feel. The Doctor and Lucie arrive in 1974, and quickly discover the body of a man described as a ‘Glam Rocker’ who had been murdered by a savage beast, before the creature starts attacking a nearby diner. This story is notable for starring both Una Stubbs and Bernard Cribbins, and needless to say the supporting cast put in an excellent performance that really brings this story to life. The sound design is also excellent, with the soundtrack taking on a bit of the Glam Rock feel. There are some tense scenes in this story, and there are some sequences that are reminiscent of Tooth and Claw from the TV series. Instead of one werewolf, however, the Doctor and Lucie are up against several bear-like creatures with scales, with just the resources and occupants of a 1970s diner for backup.

The use of the stylophone as part of the setup is great, not only because the unique instrument has its own distinctive sound but also because it is used in a really creative and creepy way in this story that really adds to the atmosphere. The creatures use the stylophone to possess the musician who plays them, and the creatures eventually use this to undermine the Doctor’s efforts to protect the people in the diner. Arnold Korns, the manager of a band called the Tomorrow Twins who is played by Bernard Cribbins, proves himself to be particularly cruel and ends up doing more harm than good by attempting to save himself, purely so that he can make his appearance on an episode of Top of the Pops. Another of the side characters, called Pat, turns out to be Lucie’s auntie in her youth, which creates a fair bit of intrigue as Lucie gives away too much to her without realising the implications.

As Lucie’s first trip to the past, Horror of Glam Rock is a great audio that takes full advantage of the shorter format to deliver a punchy story that would not have felt out of place in the Russel T. Davies era of the TV series. We get to hear more of the Doctor and Lucie interacting as their friendship strengthens, and at the conclusion of this story there is a heartwarming moment where the Doctor asks Lucie to travel with him as a full-time companion, instead of as a temporary passenger. We also get more of a development of the series arc that was hinted at in the conclusion of the previous story, as the mysterious Headhunter searches for Lucie Miller in the diner after they have left, proving that she is chasing the Doctor and Lucie through time and space.

1.4 – Immortal Beloved

This audio deals with the concepts of young love and religion, and thrusts the Doctor and Lucie into a bizarre society styled after Ancient Greece that exists on a planet in the 34th century. They meet two lovers, Sarati and Kalkin, who at first appear to be attempting suicide, though it is clear that there is more going on than it first appears when military helicopters arrive to intervene. The society is run by two individuals, called Zeus and Hera, who seem to be part-ruler and part-god, worshipped by their subjects. Other high-ranking figures in this society have names inspired by Greek mythology, such as Ares and Ganymede, and the architecture of the planet is also inspired by Ancient Greece. Though this might seem a strange choice, all becomes clear as the story of this audio unfolds. As usual the sound design is excellent, and it is interesting to note that Paul McGann’s son, Jake McGann, appears in this audio, and it won’t be his last role in the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

At this point, Lucie Miller has been firmly established as a companion, and Sheridan Smith does a fantastic job of actualising the character. Lucie is a great companion who is very different from Charley, and this audio is a great showcase of how she reacts to situations differently. Although she and the Eighth Doctor didn’t get on initially, by now they have become close friends and have learned to trust each other. They are confronted with an interesting dilemma in this story, as the society has been constructed around the concept of the members of the ruling class transferring their consciousnesses to younger clones of themselves who they raise as children. As such, there is a constant cycle of life and death as the older rulers rear their young only to steal their bodies. The original crew of the colony ship who brought the settlers to the planet continue to do this in order to preserve the society that they have created, as they believe that without their guidance the carefully-crafted civilisation would fall.

This audio is definitely an interesting listen, not least because it deals with the bizarre implications of a society built by body-hopping consciousnesses who have set themselves up as gods. They have transferred their minds so many times under their fake god names that they can barely remember who they originally were, and although all talk of the worlds outside the planet are banned, the ‘gods’ are quick to turn to drastic measures to try to find the parts for their cloning machines and mind-transference devices that, after thousands of years of use, have started to decay. Faced with the downfall of their civilisation, it is clear that the former humans masquerading as gods will go to any lengths to ensure their own survival.

1.5 – Phobos

This audio starts with one of the best cold opens in the series so far, set in a ski resort that has been constructed in a bio-dome on the surface of Phobos, the innermost moon of Mars. As the blurb on the back of the CD points out, ‘Phobos’ is the Ancient Greek word for ‘fear’, and it quickly becomes apparent that some kind of creature is stalking skiers on the resort, despite the extreme nature of the setting. Rumours are abound amongst the staff of the resort and the adrenaline-junkies that bizarre monsters stalk them in the night, and this audio does a great job of using the setting to create some really tense scenes set amongst the howling winds of the icy environment and some very creepy imagery. The Doctor and Lucie find a woman shivering from fear, not cold, and next to her lies a mutilated body that kicks off the mystery.

Phobos is another monster run-around, though it is distinctly different from Horror of Glam Rock in both setting and tone. The soundtrack is excellent, as is the sound design, and Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith put in excellent performances as always. Unfortunately, the supporting cast are not very memorable, and apart from a few exceptions they are mostly interchangeable. There are a few surprising twists in this story that make it an interesting listen, though it does seem to resemble Scooby-Doo at times, with Lucie even dropping a reference that confirms this. That is a suitable analogy for this story -if you enjoy classic monster run-arounds with overblown sci-fi concepts then this is the ideal story for you, so from that point of view it somewhat resembles a Third Doctor story.

Arguably the only downside to this story is that Lucie Miller is not given much to do as a companion, as the quick pacing means that the vast majority of the plot advancement is spearheaded by the Doctor, with Lucie seemingly just tagging along for the ride. As such, the Headhunter appears but is played more for laughs than an actual serious threat, though it seems certain that the next story will feature the long-awaited encounter between her and Lucie Miller.

1.6 – No More Lies

This audio has an interesting opening, as we see an adventure already in progress with the Doctor and Lucie pursuing a man called ‘Zimmerman’ who is attempting to collect rare time-travel technology and has attracted the attention of several time scavengers in the area. One thing that is notable is that it appears that some time has passed, as Lucie is now confident and capable enough to chase down a villain through a time ship while the Doctor waits in the TARDIS, and then helps fly the ship by typing in co-ordinates, proving that her and the Doctor have been travelling together for some time and have come to rely on each other greatly, and Lucie is more willing to discuss ‘sciencey’ and technobabble-orientated dialogue, whereas in previous stories she has often shrugged it off.

The setting of this story is interesting – a seemingly unintentional time-loop has trapped Zimmerman, aged 30 years older than he was when the Doctor and Lucie met him, in an endless dinner party along with all the guests – this provides some great opportunities for interesting narrative elements involving such a bizarre temporal anomaly, and despite everything it soon becomes clear that Zimmerman has changed somewhat in the 30 years since he last met the Doctor – he has a human wife, for a start – and as the Vortisaurs and Tar Modowk close in, the Doctor has to figure out if he believes Zimmerman’s stories of redemption and forgiveness, and indeed if the time loop is the result of any insidious action at all.

As always, the sound design of this audio is incredible, and No More Lies is particularly memorable because it features guest stars Nigel Havers and Julia McKenzie as Nick and Rachel Zimmerman. This audio keeps you guessing throughout and delivers a satisfying conclusion, making good use of its runtime to present a well-paced story. The Headhunter also makes her triumphant return in this audio, having literally fallen off her bike in Phobos she has a much more effective presence here, arriving at the last second to snatch Lucie just before she enters the TARDIS.

1.7 / 1.8 – Human Resources

Having been abducted by the Headhunter at the end of the previous story, Lucie is transported to what initially appears to be a boring office – the same one that she was supposed to be started her first day at in the prologue of Blood of the Daleks. The Doctor is sent after her by a Time Lord called Strax, who makes his first appearance in this story but will become more important later, via a Time Ring that is given to the Doctor by the Time Lords. It soon becomes clear that there is more at work in this office than meets the eye, as the office workers and phone operators discuss co-ordinated battle tactics in the same manner as a standard company staff would discuss ordinary day-to-day activities – the Doctor infiltrates the company and soon discovers that they have been commissioned to attack targets on a planet, and the office is in fact a huge mobile structure – the entire staff have been brainwashed to think that they are still on Earth but they are in fact aboard a walking weapons platform. This is a great setting for the first part, and the office environment is really brought to life, complete with overbearing sexist bosses and mundane PA announcements. Lucie soon finds out the hard way that staff who are fired get ejected from the building and have to join the war going on outside, or scavenge among the ruins in order to survive. The Doctor, in the meantime, pretends to be a client looking to instigate a planetary invasion – there is an amusing scene in which the Doctor bluffs his way into the bosses’ confidence by arranging a military coup on Gallifrey, and although he certainly isn’t serious it gives the impression that he has given the matter some thought in the past.

Naturally, the Doctor heads into the situation with the intent of taking down this company, as the thought of reducing the process of planetary invasion to a business arrangement doesn’t sit right with him or Lucie. However, as events unfold and part one draws to a close it becomes clear that there is something that has not been accounted for – the Doctor steps in to defend the inhabitants of the planet under attack, without thinking to investigate who they are and why they are being attacked in the first place. As it happens, the race under attack is the Cybermen, and part one ends with a fantastic cliff-hangar that, due to the two discs being released separately, came as a complete surprise to the listeners at the time. The Cybermen in this story are a variant of the late-Second Doctor era Cybermen who have settled on the planet Lonsis, though they also seem to share many elements with the Cybus Cybermen including stompy feet and a very similar voice, making these Cybermen an interesting hybrid of Classic and New Series Cyberman traits.

The Headhunter is also utilised excellently in this audio, as her motives and character become clear almost immediately. Hired by the company to recover Lucie Miller when she was abducted by the Time Lords, the Headhunter has no real affiliation with them, and so when the Cybermen invade one of the weapons platforms, she agrees to help Lucie to save herself, which makes perfect sense for the character as she is not inherently evil, just motivated by monetary gain. We also learn a bit more about how the Time Lords are beginning to take an interest in interfering with the interstellar wars scattered throughout time, but their willingness to intervene in order to combat the Cybermen foreshadows more serious conflicts to come. Establishing the Celestial Intervention Agency as an even-present threat that has been influencing events leading up to this point is important for later audio stories in the Eighth Doctor’s life, and it is particularly interesting that Straxus is introduced alongside this concept, which is some brilliant foreshadowing for events later in the series. Overall, Human Resources is a great finale to the first series that answers many questions about the ongoing story arc of the EDAs but leaves enough plot threads hanging that, although it provides a satisfying conclusion to the series, it also establishes many of the plot elements for the next series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 2, Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Late Charley Era Part 1

Following the abrupt cancellation of the Divergent Universe storyline when the New Series was announced in 2004, Big Finish shifted the next wave of the Eighth Doctor audios into a completely different gear. However, it seems in hindsight that they did this without giving the writers of each individual story enough time to compensate, because a big criticism of a lot of the audios in this initial wave of post-Divergent Universe audios is that they were clearly written for that setting, and although some measures were taken to retroactively slot them into the pre-existing Doctor Who universe by including the TARDIS and some other familiar concepts, these audios are so bizarre and dreamlike that they clearly beyond in a pocket dimension. Still, they represent some of the most unorthodox of Big Finish’s story ideas to date, and are an important chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s life…

#72 – Terror Firma

The post-Divergent Universe era kicks off to an incredible start with Terror Firma, easily one of the best outings of the Eighth Doctor against the Daleks that you are likely to find on audio. The previous Eighth Doctor Dalek story, The Time of the Daleks, was an entertaining romp in its own right but it did not live up to the expectations set by previous Dalek audios such as The Mutant Phase and The Apocalypse Element. However, between The Time of the Daleks and Terror Firma Big Finish released several excellent Dalek audios – including Jubilee and The Juggernauts – as well as the classic fan-favourite Davros, and Terror Firma continues the run of great Dalek and Davros stories by picking up Davros’ story where it left off from Remembrance of the Daleks. Terry Molloy is fantastic as Davros as always, and here we see him combating the personality of the Dalek Emperor that is beginning to assert itself over Davros, playing off the idea that Davros had set himself up as Emperor of the Imperial Dalek faction in the final Classic Who Dalek story.

This audio is full of references to past stories, particularly past Dalek stories – Genesis of the Daleks gets a nice call-back in this, there are references to Storm Warning, Zagreus and Creed of the Kromon, and there are some great plot developments that re-contextualise the entire Eighth Doctor era, this one is definitely the kind of audio that needs to be experienced first-hand. The direction, editing and pacing is excellent – and there are some exceptional performances from Paul McGann, India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas. There are really some exceptional scenes in this, especially between the Eighth Doctor and Davros, which showcase how truly evil and twisted Davros is – spending hundreds of years alone in an escape pod has not helped Davros’s sanity.

This is also a great showcase of the Daleks themselves, as these are a race of brand new Daleks that Davros has created post-Remembrance of the Daleks, removing the distinction between Imperial and Renegade Daleks and creating his own faction. This means that both the Daleks and Davros are quite mad, making for some great scenes that make this audio distinct from any other Dalek story. In a lot of ways this audio is mad, it makes no attempt to fit into the continuity of either the wider Doctor Who universe or the Dalek timeline, and trying to locate when and where this audio was set either in Earth’s history or in the timeline of the Daleks is unknown, as the plot threads of Earth being conquered by Daleks, the majority of humanity being transformed into Daleks, and Davros physically transforming into the Dalek Emperor have never been revisited. Some fans have pointed out that the plot point of using humans to create Daleks parallels The Parting of the Ways, leading to Big Finish officially confirming that Davros does not become the Dalek Emperor seen in that two-part story. In many ways, Terror Firma could easily have been set in the Divergent Universe, something that is apparent about the next three post-Divergent Universe stories.

#75 – Scaredy Cat

A huge shift in tone and setting from the previous story, Scaredy Cat presents an interesting premise – two planets, one populated, one empty, with the population of the inhabited planet pledged to prevent anyone from ever setting foot on their untainted sister-world. As the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz soon discover, however, not all is as it seems on the pristine world of Endarra, as there are scientists from Caludaar performing experiments on the native life forms. The story deals with the morality of good and evil, and explores why criminals are motivated to commit horrendous crimes.

Scaredy Cat utilises the same fragmented story structure as Terror Firma, though the end result is not as effective as in the previous story as we are not familiar with the characters – juxtaposing the Doctor and his companions with scenes involving Davros works because we already know who Davros is, but in this case Scaredy Cat uses original characters which are not known to the audience, so establishing the context for the cutaway scenes is difficult. Scaredy Cat also suffers from a lack of general background context, and relies on throwaway terms like ‘political activist’ without any real establishment of the basis on which we can judge characters based on their political motivations alone.

Unfortunately, this audio has some serious issues, and its bizarre pseudo-scientific explanation for the strange happenings going on throughout the story mean that this audio could have been better utilised as part of the Divergent Universe saga – likely because it was originally written as an audio set in the Divergent Universe, and was hastily re-written to accommodate the fact that the Divergent arc was brought to a premature close. Overall, it is definitely an interesting listen, and it gets points for its creativity – but it can’t hold a candle to some of the next few stories that share the same ethereal post-Divergent Universe atmosphere.


#77 – Other Lives

This is an interesting audio as it is a pure historical – the only one of its kind that Paul McGann has recorded as the Eighth Doctor to date – and as pure historicals go, this one is strong but ultimate quite predictable. Pure historicals usually range from being either focused on a particular figure from history, or take extra care to set the scene for where and when it is set. Other Lives does both, whilst also taking full advantage of the setting of the Great Exhibition of Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851. The Crystal Palace makes for a dynamic setting, and there are some great characters that are brought to life by a host of talented voice actors.

The main premise of the story involves the trio being separated by a series of increasingly bizarre circumstances (including the TARDIS being stolen by a pair of rich French couple) and the Doctor is soon accused of murder and kidnapping. Unfortunately, C’rizz and Charley are not given much interesting to do, and several of the characters some off as somewhat cliched, if it were not for the Doctor’s plotline being slightly more interesting, there would be little much to say about the first two parts plot-development wise. Charley and C’rizz both spend a lot of time interacting with characters that amounts to very little, and overall their escapades contribute little to the overall story.

Despite its status as a pure historical, Other Lives still retains the ethereal nature of the Divergent Universe arc – it is telling that these first few stories were originally destined for the Divergent Universe. There are some interesting elements, such as the focus on the horrors of Victorian freakshows, but there is a severe issue with pacing and overall the plot is very low-stakes compared to others in the series. Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting listen for fans of the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz, as they are each separated and faced with unique situations and India Fisher, Conrad Westmaas and Paul McGann deliver exceptional performances as always.

#80 – Time Works

Although its becoming a tired criticism at this point, Time Works feels like the breaking point of the post-Divergent Universe arc – it is obvious that these plays were supposed to be set in the Divergent Universe, so the writers had to jump through hoops to make them somewhat grounded in reality in order to set them in the prime universe – it is a shame to see really creative ideas stymied in this way. Nonetheless, Time Works is an immersive experience that presents a very interesting setting for the listener – there is a lot of clock and clockwork imagery involved, making the setting familiar enough that visualising the setting is easy as it leans on concepts that we are very familiar with – clockwork and castles spring immediately to mind – although its attempts to be overly enigmatic do occasionally fall a bit flat.

It is worth noting that this audio has a fantastic soundtrack, as the score contains several haunting melodies that help to illustrate the otherworldly setting. Speaking of which, the setting depicts a society that runs with a strict adherence to timekeeping, and it also features Clockwork Robots that are similar to, but not the same as, the ones seen in The Girl in the Fireplace and Deep Breath, and are also not in any way related to the Clockwork Men from the Ninth Doctor novel The Clockwise Man. Nonetheless they make for effective villains as the concept is particularly creepy, especially when paired with the incredible sound design.

Overall, Time Works deals with some interesting concepts coupled with exceptional direction and sound design that make it one of the strongest audios in the post-Divergent Universe series. Whilst there are a lot of elements that were clearly intended for the Divergent Universe, this story stands in its own right as an exceptional audio, and listened to in isolation it offers a fully-realised world with exceptional execution. Unfortunately, it is brought down somewhat by the others in the series, as they are sadly bundled together as the ‘what could have been for the Divergent Universe’ collection, with Time Works being the series finale. For good old-fashioned Doctor Who escapism, however, Time Works delivers on every front.

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Divergent Universe Arc Part 2

The bizarre excursion through Big Finish’s Divergent Universe continues, as the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz search for the TARDIS among a myriad of disjointed worlds existing in a universe without time. As the setting of this arc has been firmly established at this point, the latter few Divergent audios aim to fill in the essential gaps that remain in the story that explain the nature of the Divergent Universe itself. Doctor Who thrives on imaginative, inventive and inspirational storytelling, and the Divergent Universe provides a great setting for new and creative story ideas.

#61 – Faith Stealer

This sentiment is illustrated perfectly in Faith Stealer, which deals with some thought-provoking concepts. A society in which dozens of separate religions exists in peaceful co-existence by regulating spirituality and congregational numbers in the same way that human economists monitor the stock market is a fascinating idea that Faith Stealer aims to explore – after being redirected to a hub of spirituality by the beings that guide the Doctor and his companions through the Divergent Universe, the trio begin to unravel the sinister machinations of the bizarre cults that inhabit the realm of Multihaven. Faith Stealer also delves further into the backstory of C’rizz, giving us more insight into his character and history that was only briefly alluded to in previous stories. The fact that C’rizz had to murder his lover to prevent her from becoming a Kromon breeding queen takes its toll on him as he begins to relive the memory of her death over and over again, and this among other things drives the mystery of what is amiss among this spiritual sanctuary that is Multihaven.

The intrigue and political developments between the various faiths in Multihaven is an interesting concept, the only unfortunate downside is that this idea isn’t given as much focus as it perhaps deserves, as there are a fair few story elements in this audio that are running concurrently, as the Doctor and Charley are trying to locate the TARDIS, discover what has happened to C’rizz and get to the bottom of events unfolding in the Multihaven all at once. In many ways this audio depicts a shockingly realistic depiction of a poly-religious society, as those who are responsible for administrating the Multihaven are reluctant to impose any restrictions or limitations on any faith, yet are powerless to prevent a particularly infectious doctrines from converting as many adherents as they wish.

Overall, this audio is definitely one of the strongest in the Divergent Universe arc. Like many stories from this era, revealing too much about the story would spoil the experience of listening, but needless to say that this one is worth a listen. Not only do we learn more about C’rizz and the Divergent Universe itself, but we finally get a sense that the aimless wanderings of the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz within this strange universe actually have some structure to them, and over the course of the next few stories it is revealed just how truly bizarre and unlikely their situation is. Even without the context of the wider Divergent Universe arc, Faith Stealer is a great standalone story that has some very interesting things to say about the nature of faith, spirituality and religious conversion that prove just how diverse and wide-ranging the scope of the Divergent Universe stories can be.

#62 – The Last

The previous audio dealt with intrigue on a religious and pseudo-political level, but The Last takes political machinations to a whole new level. Set on a dying world in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, this bleak story is perhaps one of the most impactful stories in the Divergent Universe saga. In some ways this is perhaps the best audio in the entire arc – it keeps you guessing throughout the whole story, and as the pieces gradually fall into place it becomes clear that this story is dealing with some incredibly serious concepts. The Doctor, Charley and C’rizz find themselves in a wasteland surrounded by the ruins of a devastated city, and are soon separated – the atmosphere that this audio generates is spectacular, and the sound design effectively conveys the horrendous conditions in this desolate land. Big Finish often deals with settings and story elements that would not be seen in the TV show, and The Last is a great example of this. A story populated with horrifically insane characters, twisted by war and lies, in a way that surpasses even the legendarily grim Genesis of the Daleks.

The Last gives a great opportunity to develop the relationship between Charley and C’rizz, as there are several scenes of the two spending time together that solidify the two as friends who care about each other – in fact, this audio solidifies the notion that C’rizz feels more for Charley than just friendship, and through this dynamic we learn more about his character. The desperation and horror of the setting provides an intense situation that forces the characters to make difficult decisions, and there are some shocking twists and turns in this story that make it an incredible listen from start to finish. Speaking of which, the sound design for this story is exceptional – the howling winds, the creaking of glass and girders, and the eerily creepy music make a fantastic combination.

Needless to say, this audio is quite a heavy listen, and is not to be taken lightly. The Last is easily one of the most mesmerising audios in the Divergent Arc, and it is a quintessential lynchpin in the wider narrative for many reasons – we learn more about C’rizz, the Divergence and the nature of the universe in which the Doctor and Charley are trapped in. Overall, this is a fantastic listen, and there are few audios in the Divergent Arc – indeed, the entire run of Eighth Doctor audios so far – that can compare to this one. In terms of tone, emotional weight, atmosphere and intrigue, The Last is one of the best Doctor Who audios out there, and it definitely ranks in my top 10 most unsettling Doctor Who stories of all time, across all mediums. From beginning to end there is a constant feeling of unease, tension and horror that makes it a great listen.


#63 – Caerdroia

As the penultimate story in a series based on mystery and the fear of the unknown, Caedroia is where we finally start getting some answers. The first part is dedicated to an interview between the Doctor and the Kro’ka, the being who has been shunting the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz from location to location throughout the arc. After a great intro we start to find out more about the universe that the Doctor and Charley are in, which is refreshing after being kept mostly in the dark about the lack of the concept of time that has been a recurring motif throughout the Divergent Universe series. The Doctor is able to locate the TARDIS, and the trio set off to recover it by manipulating the interzone portals to direct them to a place called Caedroia, or the ‘fortress of many turns’.

In the process, the Doctor is split into three people, his ‘usual’ self, a jovial Doctor that Charley names ‘Tigger’ and a brooding, depressed Doctor who Charley calls ‘Eeyore’, and the three Doctors split up with C’rizz following Tigger and Charley going with Eeyore, which makes for some comical scenes in part two as each companion interacts with their respective version of the Doctor. Credit has to be given to Paul McGann for his ability to pull off voicing three identical characters, distinguishing between them simply by the tonal shifts in his voice. An interesting and slightly meta detail that I decided on while listening to this audio was to picture the three separate Doctors as the three versions of the Eighth Doctor that we know – the more jovial and happy-go lucky version dons the classic Wild Bill Hickok look, the regular Doctor has his Divergent Universe attire (allegedly a variant of the Fifth Doctor’s costume according to the comics) and the brooding, darker Doctor dons the Dark Eyes attire, though that was just an indicator that I included in order to easily differentiate between the different Doctors.

As a rule the voice acting and sound design in the entire Divergent Arc is excellent, but there is a significant improvement in the creativity of the music in the final three stories, The Last, Caerdroia and the final story, The Next Life. This audio scales back the cast, with the main characters being the Doctor, his two companions and the Kro’ka, with very few other characters – this allows for a sharp focus on the story and interactions between the main trio, as well as the other Doctors. There is a small twist near the end of the story that is delivered excellently, and there is no shortage of dark moments in this one that make it a great listen from start to finish. Overall, the final act of the Divergent Arc has been a significant improvement in quality, this one delivers a satisfying ending that dovetails perfectly into the finale.


#64 – The Next Life

The Divergent Universe saga concludes somewhat abruptly with The Next Life, a six-part audio that is vaguely reminiscent of Zagreus, but only for the fact that it is somewhat abstract, it involves Rassilon, and that it goes on for far too long. The Next Life ironically feels like it is juggling several ideas that belong in separate audios, yet at the same time it manages to be very slow-paced at times with lots of padding. This is not entirely the fault of the writers, as it is clear listening to this audio that it was patched together as a means of providing a satisfying conclusion to the Divergent Universe arc when it became clear that plans for a third and final ‘season’ of audios set in the Divergent Universe were scrapped due to the announcement of the 2005 TV revival. Big Finish wanted to capitalise on new listeners who might give the audios a try having seen the new TV series, and as such they made the decision to return the Eighth Doctor to the ‘normal’ universe as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, The Next Life wears its behind-the-scenes issues plain for all to hear, and despite an appearance from Daphne Ashbrook as a character who is unfortunately not Dr. Grace Holloway from the 1996 TV Movie and a fantastic performance from Don Warrington as Rassilon, The Next Life failed to impress. As a finale to the entire Divergent Universe arc it does raise some interesting metaphysical questions but these are sadly not the primary focus of the story as one would expect, and the revelation that Rassilon was behind everything had already dawned on most listeners before this audio was even released due to his frequent appearances in previous audios. As such, the finale falls somewhat flat, which is a shame as the Divergent Universe certainly had a lot of promise that could have been explored with greater detail had there been another series produced.

One saving grace of The Next Life is its stellar cliff-hanger ending, listeners had to wait a full seven months for the conclusion to this one back in 2005 but thankfully we know from hindsight that the first adventure that the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz embark on when returning to the ‘normal’ universe involves Davros and the Daleks, bringing this TARDIS team quite literally crashing back to their home reality only to be immediately confronted by their worst enemy – the inclusion of Davros in particular is interesting, as for the Doctor the destruction of Skaro in Remembrance of the Daleks is still a recent memory…

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Late Charley Era Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Early Charley Era Part 2

Concluding the first series of Eighth Doctor audios, we resume our review of the Early Charley Era with the second ‘wave’ of audios that was released in 2002 and 2003. This was a fascinating turning point both for Big Finish and Doctor Who in general, as audios were quickly establishing themselves as a fundamental aspect of Doctor Who in their own right. The audios in this list are famous for defining the Eighth Doctor’s early era and dazzling fans with a wide variety of creative concepts and thought-provoking stories that question the very nature of Doctor Who itself.

#28 – Invaders from Mars

We begin with a cult classic, Invaders from Mars, by Mark Gatiss. This is a fascinating audio with a very creative story idea – the story revolves around the historic broadcast of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds on a 1938 broadcast of the American radio show The mercury Theatre on the Air directed by Orson Welles that allegedly misled many listeners into believing that the Earth was actually under attack by a real-life Martian invasion, and essentially asks the question of what would happen if aliens were actually attempting an invasion at this time – only to be tricked into believing they had been beaten to the planet by an even more powerful race of aliens. This audio also features an incredible cast that includes Simon Pegg, Katy Manning, Jessica Hynes and Mark Gatiss, so it is a fascinating listen for that alone, and fans of Orson Welles will appreciate that he is included as a historical figure in a Doctor Who story.

Written by Mark Gatiss, this audio features the customary fun and wonder that would later become a recognisable trait of episodes of the New Series penned by Gatiss, so fans of his work are bound to enjoy this one. It’s got just enough murder mystery and New York accents to be called a Noir, yet this story also stays true to its science fiction roots to create an interesting blend of genres that makes for a great listen. It’s certainly one for those who enjoy the more light-hearted approach to Doctor Who but it is not short of atmosphere or suspense.

#29 – The Chimes of Midnight

The famous ‘Christmas Special’ of the Big Finish audios, The Chimes of Midnight should, despite its setting, be considered a Halloween special more than anything – this is without a doubt one of the most atmospheric and creepy Big Finish audios starring the Eighth Doctor. This audio highlights the backstory of Charley and continues the story arc revolving around her being saved from the R101 when in reality she was supposed to have died, whilst at the same time delivering a fantastic standalone story that makes for essential listening every time the festive season comes around. Although the ‘haunted house’ is a tired trope at this point, The Chimes of Midnight gives a fresh new take on this concept and also advances Charley’s story by exploring the temporal consequences of a house with occupants that should not exist.

This audio is not for the faint-hearted, and it deals with issues that the televised series would not be able to tackle in such a head-on fashion – there are several scenes that some listeners might find upsetting, a testament to how well the audio executes its central premise – and one of the main reasons why this audio has become an enduring classic that fans listen to time and time again is that it creates a spectacular atmosphere that, to date, has not been replicated in any other form of Doctor Who media to quite the same extent. Subsequent episodes of the televised series have attempted to utilise the ‘haunted house’ setting to varying degrees of success, but The Chimes of Midnight has a distinctive identity that cannot be imitated.

To reveal more about The Chimes of Midnight would spoil some essential aspects of the story, and it won’t be the only audio in this review that is difficult to discuss in writing as we will see later, but for those who enjoy creepy Christmas stories about haunted houses that also involve raspberry jam and copious amounts of plum pudding then this is the story for you. It is easily one of the best Christmas-themed pieces of Doctor Who material out there, especially for those who appreciate a festive ghost story.

#30 – Seasons of Fear

Despite being a franchise that revolves around the concept of time travel, there are actually very few Doctor Who stories that use time travel as a central concept to the story, instead the process is mostly used as a means of transportation rather than a plot device within the stories themselves – there are some exceptions, of course, but generally speaking this pattern holds true for Doctor Who TV episodes and audio stories alike. However, Seasons of Fear is a rare example of a story that not only spans multiple timeframes in a single narrative, but also utilises time travel in a way that is unique among Doctor Who stories.

One of the most refreshing aspects to this story, which is a driving force behind the narrative, is its exceptional villain – Sebastian Grayle is a great example of an original villain who fits into the Doctor Who mythos as if he was introduced in the 60s. The interesting thing about this story is that although Grayle is presented as maniacal and arrogant from the beginning, he is also a tragic, almost sympathetic character as over the course of the story we witness his deterioration as he becomes more and more obsessed with killing the Doctor and sacrificing the Earth to his ‘masters’ in order to achieve immortality.

This story also develops the relationship between the Doctor and Charley and hints at a romantic relationship developing between the two. Although the hints have been fairly strong throughout the series, it is here that the notion becomes less of an implication and more of an inevitability. There are those who find the idea of the Doctor having romantic relationships with their companions to be distasteful, but Big Finish did an excellent job of writing Charley to be an intellectual equal to the Doctor, but it is India Fisher’s exceptional performance that sells Charley’s wonder and sense of adventure, and that is what draws her and the Doctor together.


#31 – Embrace the Darkness

If The Chimes of Midnight somehow wasn’t spooky enough for you, this series delivers yet another excellent ‘scary’ episode in Embrace the Darkness, a story that takes full advantage of the format of the audio dramas by telling a story set in almost complete darkness for the majority of the runtime, with creatures who have adapted to live in the dark and who take the eyes of the Human inhabitants of a science station. One of the best things about the early Eighth Doctor audios is the diverse variety of experimentation in storytelling that is displayed throughout, and that is clearly demonstrated by audios like Embrace the Darkness.

A highlight of this story is ROSM, or more specifically Rescue Operational Security Module G723, voiced by Ian Brooker – an AI operating several assault units designed to carry out search-and-rescue – at any cost. The other supporting characters are very clearly defined, though their more grating personality traits can get tiresome, especially the persistent pessimism from the Humans in the base – something the Doctor actually comments on. Nonetheless, Embrace the Darkness is a memorable audio that has its fair share of chilling scenes, and is one of the first choices for a ‘scary story’.

The best thing about this audio is Paul McGann, who by this point is firmly established in the character of the Eighth Doctor. This era of Big Finish invokes a sense of nostalgia for fans who listened to them on release, as the early Eighth Doctor audios were, at that time, the only source of ‘new’ Doctor Who, as in stories set after the TV Movie aside from the various novel and comic series, and Big Finish did an excellent job of establishing their new era of Doctor Who, and to this day the early Eighth Doctor audios stand as a truly unique era of experimentation for the audio series.


#32 – The Time of the Daleks

The first Dalek story starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor is unfortunately quite a lacklustre one, as although this audio is the fourth and final instalment in a story arc that ran through the three previous Dalek stories produced by Big Finish (The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element and The Mutant Phase) this audio does not share the same space-opera quality of those audios and instead opts to retell the events of The Evil of the Daleks with a subplot about the Daleks attempting to remove Shakespeare from history, among other things, and the end result is less-than-stellar. Recycling plot elements from The Evil of the Daleks has been a common occurrence in the past, likely due to the fact that many fans have reached the conclusion that the episode is lost forever, but unfortunately every attempt to rewrite this story – from this audio to the Eleventh Doctor TV story Victory of the Daleks – has been lacklustre.

Fans of the Daleks will be able to appreciate this audio, not least because of the excellent voice work provided by Nicholas Briggs. As this is the fourth audio featuring the Daleks to be released by Big Finish, by this time the iconic Dalek voice that fans know from the New Series had been well-established. Unfortunately, as the weakest of the ‘Dalek Empire’ story arc this story doesn’t give the Daleks much to do, although there are several scenes of the Daleks quoting Shakespeare that is perhaps the most memorable aspect of this story.

There is an appearance from the Dalek Emperor, however, which is always welcome – although featuring most prominently in The Mutant Phase, the Emperor appears here using the same booming, authoritative voice that Nicholas Briggs used for the later appearance for the Dalek Emperor in The Parting of the Ways in 2005. Overall, the final part is fairly strong so this audio is definitely worth a listen, and fans of the Daleks in particularly will enjoy this story. However, it is not among the strongest stories featuring the Daleks that Big Finish have produced.


#33 – Neverland

Lovers of Gallifrey lore will feel right at home with Neverland, as this story is perhaps one of the most interesting insights into Time Lord society since The Deadly Assassin. It also stars Lalla Ward as Romana II, continuing her story from the Sixth Doctor audio The Apocalypse Element and establishing her role as President of Gallifrey that becomes a central plot point to the Big Finish Gallifrey spinoff box sets. This audio has generous helpings of intrigue, critical plot revelations and a fantastic story – as the penultimate story of the first wave of Charley-era audios, Neverland delivers on every front. The Doctor and Charley’s relationship reaches its most critical point as the Doctor realises the full extent of the damage that saving Charley from the R1-01 has done to the Web of Time, and we empathize with his desperation to find a way of saving Charley without destroying the universe.

The characters in this story are very interesting, as nothing is as it seems – without delving into too may spoilers, Neverland deals with the consequences of one of Gallifrey’s darkest secrets, and presents a very interesting interpretation of the concept of time that allows for some very creative narrative developments. The performances given by the cast are all excellent, but standouts include India Fisher and Paul McGann, as always, as well as Lalla Ward who always delivers a great performance as Romana that makes me wish she had appeared in the Monthly Adventures series more often, although she would go on to play the primary role in the Gallifrey spinoffs leading right up to the Time War.


#50 – Zagreus

Writing about Zagreus is difficult because it is rather like trying to describe a dream you had when you don’t fully understand what the dream was supposed to mean and find it extremely disturbing yet fascinating to consider how it might have subconsciously affected you. The three-hour long audio was produced in celebration of Doctor Who’s 40th Anniversary, and all of Big Finish’s regular cast from the Monthly Range of Doctor Who stories were creatively cast in different roles in Zagreus, meaning that Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy all appear as well as all of the other recurring cast from Big Finish’s range of Doctor Who stories, and they are all playing different characters which is a very unique and fun feature of this audio.

The story itself is steeped in Time Lord lore, as well as the lore of the show in general, though this is not a traditional ‘Anniversary celebration’ episode – in fact it is quite unlike any other Doctor Who story ever produced, but it is for each individual listener to decide if this is good or bad. There are a few often-repeated phrases describing Zagreus that pop up in reviews and essays related to the drama, these are that it definitely doesn’t need to be four hours long and that it is almost completely impenetrable to newer listeners. Although it was marketed as a 40th Anniversary celebration story, it definitely requires a lot of contextual listening in order to have any chance of understanding the story.

Describing too much about the story will spoil crucial plot developments, but the basic overview of the audio is that Charley and the Doctor are separated and wandering among the many rooms and corridors of the TARDIS, as she generates holographic representations of real-life events happening elsewhere in time in an attempt to guide Charley through the story. Overall, Zagreus is a bizarre listen that can only be fully appreciated if the entire Eighth Doctor and Charley arc up until this point has been listened to at least once, if not multiple times. Zagreus itself often requires a few listens in order to fully understand the plot, and it is not recommended for newer listeners to the audio genre. As a rule, Zagreus is best listened to knowing that the project was perhaps an example of Big Finish overextending themselves. Still, having a main cast filled with cast members from Classic Who is always a treat.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Divergent Universe Arc Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Early Charley Era Part 1

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts in which I will be reviewing all of the Eighth Doctor audio dramas produced by Big Finish from beginning to end. This series will serve as part-review, part-guide for those who want to get into the Eighth Doctor audios but aren’t sure where to begin. The Eighth Doctor audios started in 2001 when Paul McGann starred in his first audio for Big Finish’s Main Range, titled Storm Warning. Until then, McGann’s only performance as the Eighth Doctor was in the 1996 TV Movie, and although he has gone on to become a cult fan-favourite due to the huge number of audio stories he has since starred in, back in 2001 the Eighth Doctor audios were seen as experimental, allowing the writers free reign to write about more expansive concepts as they were not tied to writing stories for the ‘Classic Era’.

#16 – Storm Warning

The first Big Finish audio starring Paul McGann as the Doctor does a fantastic job of reintroducing us to the character of the Eighth Doctor (who listeners at the time had only seen in the 1996 TV movie up until this point) as well as introducing us to the new companion, Charley Pollard, and the series arc that continues throughout her time in the TARDIS. Charley, played by India Fisher, receives a strong introduction in this story, as her character as an Edwardian adventuress is well-established as she boards the doomed English airship R101 and subsequently encounters the Doctor. Charley is a wonderful companion original to the Big Finish audios who plays an important role in the early phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure, and she immediately proves her worth in her debut story.

Through Charley we are introduced to Paul McGann’s Doctor, who keeps many of the character traits present in the TV Movie but is given much more time to develop the characterisation and add many subtle nuances to his performance. The Eighth Doctor emerges in this story fully-formed, and although he goes on to experience several character shifts throughout the vast range of Big Finish Eighth Doctor stories, his character for the duration of the Charley era is firmly established in this story. This Doctor has the air of having gleaned a huge amount of knowledge and experience from their seven previous lifetimes, and yet is also very scatterbrained and is among the most human and relatable Doctors of the Classic era.

Storm Warning tells a wonderful story within its source material, as the era is brought to life in this story through a range of interesting characters who really help set the scene to flesh out the era of 1930, and there are great cliffhangers throughout that are punctuated by the new arrangement of the theme composed by none other than James Bond composer David Arnold. Although Storm Warning is not technically the Eighth Doctor’s first story, as he debuted in the TV Movie, those who have never seen that film will have lost nothing as Storm Warning does a brilliant job of establishing the new Doctor, new companion and new era for Big Finish.


#17 – Sword of Orion

The Eighth Doctor’s first outing with the Cybermen is written by none other than Nicholas Briggs, who takes inspiration from the Alien series for this audio to deliver a story that is both spooky and thrilling. Sword of Orion is essentially a space opera, with a variety of locations and characters to illustrate the diversity of the Galaxy in 2503, and also references several Classic TV Cyberman stories such as The Tomb of the Cybermen. The Cybermen themselves are depicted well in this story, which is a considerable feat as this was the first audio story to feature them. The voices are reminiscent of the more human-sounding voices of the earlier Cybermen, though there is also a hint of the 80s-era voice in some specific scenes, particularly involving rogue Cybermen. This story is suitably creepy, as its primary setting is a derelict Cyberman Star Destroyer which is excellently depicted by the fantastic sound design present in this story. Everything from ominous creaking bulkheads to distant shrieks of insane Cybermen makes this audio an unnerving one to listen to with headphones on at night.

There is a particularly creepy scene in which the Doctor finds an abandoned Cyber-conversion facility that still contains the remains of its last victims, which gives a chilling insight into the horrific nature of cyber-conversion. The supporting characters give this story a significant degree of depth, particularly as we spend a fair amount of time with the side cast before they encounter the Cybermen – we also get a fair amount of worldbuilding that explains the current situation of not only the Cybermen but also the Humans and their current conflict with a race of androids who rebelled against Human control and eventually conquered their own system – Orion. The introduction of the android race as a third party separate from the Humans and the Cybermen is an interesting dynamic that presents interesting questions about the nature of the Cybermen compared to humanity and a race of synthetics.

Overall this story is a great first outing in the TARIS for Charley, who demonstrates her impressive ability to absorb information and quickly adapts to the nature of space travel despite being from the 1930s. One of Charley’s most endearing characteristics which is prominent in this story is her investigative mind and curious personality, which combined helps her to keep up to speed with the intrigue developing between other characters in a story at the same rate as the Doctor – although she does fill the companion role of asking questions, Charley quickly establishes herself as among the most resourceful and adventurous companions.


#18 – The Stones of Venice

The first audio that Paul McGann recorded for Big Finish, The Stones of Venice is interesting because although it is set in the future of 2294, it often comes across as a historical story because of the manner in which a lot of the supporting characters behave. This story depicts a very stylised view of 23rd century Venice at the point in which the city is doomed to sink into the sea, and the population of the city has essentially resigned themselves to that fate. There is certainly a melancholy atmosphere to this story, though there are enough lighthearted moments to keep it from being too bleak. Although this audio is set in Venice it is a very different story from the more famous Doctor Who story set in the same place, the Eleventh Doctor TV story Vampires of Venice, though there are some unusual similarities.

This audio develops the relationship between the Doctor and Charley and firmly establishes the pair as a time-travelling duo – the best companions are usually established by their second or third story, and Charley Pollard is no exception. There is an amusing scene early on in which Charley criticises the interior design of the TARDIS (which retains the design from the TV Movie), arguing that the Victorian aesthetic seems very out-of-date from her perspective as a native of the 1930s – moments like these continue to reinforce Charley’s role as a companion viewing events through the lens of the past, and yet Charley’s character is as forward-thinking as any modern companion. The bleak nature of this story is counteracted by the dynamic interaction between the Doctor and Charley that keeps this one interesting, though the side characters have a tendency to hop between theatrically melancholy to dramatically over-the-top.

This is essentially an audio that reinforces the pre-existing characterisation of the Eighth Doctor and Charley – whilst it is by no means essential listening to understand the wider story of the series, those who skip this audio will miss out on some great scenes between Paul McGann and India Fisher that helps to firmly establish their characters as a unique Doctor-companion duo – in the unlikely event that you were unsure about the Eighth Doctor and Charley during Storm Warning and Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice completes the set and rounds off the first three Eighth Doctor audios with a strong audio that builds a rich world and offers some great moments for the Eighth Doctor and Charley.


#19 – Minuet in Hell

This story is intensely controversial among the fanbase for a number of reasons – the two most prominent are that the story uses several tropes that would become tired staples of the Eighth Doctor era, particularly the ‘amnesiac Doctor’ trope, and that it also sexualises Charley in a way that would be wholly inappropriate on the televised version of the show. In many ways Big Finish’s ability to write stories that do not conform to the family-friendly nature of the TV series is an asset, but this audio is a perfect example of how letting that become the driving force behind a story can detract from the narrative – at times it seems as though this audio is deliberately trying to be provocative or even borderline offensive, and to make matters worse the setting is so inconceivable and bizarre that the ‘adult’ nature of this audio seems utterly unearned.

For those who want to complete the set of Eighth Doctor and Charley audios then Minuet in Hell is interesting on its own merits – but for those who want to experience the wider story arc of the Eighth Doctor and Charley, then this audio is completely skippable. It is rare to encounter a Big Finish audio that has a negative reputation among the fanbase, so Minuet in Hell presents a certain fascination based on that fact alone, but it is quickly apparent why this audio has the reputation that it does among the fanbase. Arguably the only significant aspect of this audio is that it features Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, though he meets the Doctor only briefly.

This concludes the first series of the first era of Eighth Doctor stories, and although it ended on a bit of a misstep, overall the audios are promising. Paul McGann fits into the role of the Eighth Doctor perfectly, despite it being five years since his TV appearance. India Fisher is excellent as Charley, who is brought to life as a fully-formed companion out of the gate, and is without doubt one of the most iconic and memorable companions who are original to audio.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Early Charley Era Part 2