Might-Have-Beens and Never-Weres


Review of Neverland (#33)
Big Finish Release Date: July 2002
Doctor/Companion: Eight, Charley, and Romana II
Stars: Paul McGann, India Fisher, and Lalla Ward
Preceding Story: The Time of the Daleks (Eight, Charley)
Succeeding Story: Spare Parts (Five, Nyssa)

It's been diverting to broaden my Big Finish horizons and listen to some adventures with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, but I found I was missing the Eighth. Thus I've returned to the last of his adventures recommended to me from the first fifty releases in the Main Range.

Charley has visited a couple more interesting points in space and time with the Doctor since last I joined them. We do not, however, start with the two of them—instead, we are on Gallifrey with Lord President Romanadvoratrelundar—known to the Doctor (and us) simply as Romana. Someone is reading out historical facts revolving around Charley's anomalous survival of the R101 crash and her subsequent travels, but the recitation soon becomes garbled. The paradox appears finally to be too much for the Web of Time to bear.

When we do return to the Doctor and Charley, though, it's clear things aren't stable in the TARDIS, either. The Doctor tries to tuck Charley safely away in some backwater corner of the universe (to his credit, it is at least one helluva party), but she refuses to be fobbed off so easily. They end up on Gallifrey together, where they discover the universe is being threatened by an incursion of anti-time—all because of Charley.


Turn Turn Turn


Review of Seasons of Fear (#30)
Big Finish Release Date: March 2002
Doctor/Companion: Eight, Charlotte "Charley" Pollard
Stars: Paul McGann, India Fisher
Preceding Story: The Chimes of Midnight (Eight, Charley)
Succeeding Story: Embrace the Darkness (Eight, Charley)

I'm not familiar with many of Paul Cornell's stories, but Father's Day and Human Nature / The Family of Blood are both interesting and nicely self-consistent narratives. Knowing that Cornell wrote this story with his wife Caroline Symcox therefore gave me an optimistic outlook.

But despite the fact that it began with a direct continuation of the longer plotline centering on Charley's experiences—the impetus behind the choice of audios I'm currently consuming and reviewing—I was immediately put off by a stylistic decision by the writers. Rather than the usual "film with sound" format I'm accustomed to for an audio drama, we get a voiceover. The Doctor is narrating the events in retrospect, telling us about the first time he met a character who becomes integral to the plot of the entire play.

Although the reason for this approach becomes clear some two hours later, at the end of the story, I personally found it distracting. I'd be rolling along with the narrative as the Doctor and Charley grappled with whatever setback currently faced them, and the Doctor's voice would roll in with exposition. It pulled me out of the story every time.

Aside from that irritant, the story itself unfolds in typical, roundabout fashion. Something happens at the very beginning to send them haring off through time, getting embroiled in a good old-fashioned time paradox. I'll admit to having been led (purposely?) astray at the end of Part 1, when I thought we were getting a hint at the identity of the mysterious "masters" our antagonist served. However, what I thought I heard turned out not to have been what I heard at all, and that particular mystery didn't get resolved until the end of Part 3.

I always love Paul McGann's characterization of the Doctor in these audios, and the writers have provided him with a couple of memorable lines to deliver with his own particular relish. Two, in particular, stand out in my mind.


Chills at All Hours


Review of The Chimes of Midnight (#29)
Big Finish Release Date: February 2002
Doctor/Companion: Eight, Charlotte "Charley" Pollard
Stars: Paul McGann, India Fisher
Preceding Story: Invaders from Mars (Eight, Charley)
Succeeding Story: Seasons of Fear (Eight, Charley)

There's something deceptively luxe about an audio drama. Because all the visuals happen in your own head, the production values are higher than anything one could ever hope to see on screen. It's like the intersection between reading a fabulous book and watching a fantastic film.

The more Big Finish (BF) audios I listen to, the more I love the format. In part, it's undoubtedly because I've taken recommendations and chosen some of the better adventures available, but I suspect that the quality doesn't vary as drastically in this medium as with television. Those with broader audio experience can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd be surprised to learn there was a BF equivalent of, say, Timelash that gets almost universally panned.

A review of a BF audio, then, comes down almost entirely to story. Certainly if there were a voice actor that grated on the nerves for some reason, that might be something to mention, but for the most part, all I can think to critique for my readers' edification is the plot. Spoilerphobe that I am, this fact leaves me in a bit of a predicament.

How much can I reveal to my readers? I certainly wouldn't want everything spelled out for me in a review, especially if I were reading it to decide whether or not to listen to a particular adventure myself. Yet how do I describe the depth of the mystery presented to the Doctor and Charley if I don't detail at least a few little plot points?


Confession #61: I Want a 50th Boxed Set


Over the weekend, reports surfaced that The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot; the unofficial-but-officially-sanctioned half-hour special written and directed by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and co-starring Colin Baker (Six), Sylvester McCoy (Seven), and (briefly) Paul McGann (Eight); would at some point be released on DVD. The source of this information is apparently C. Baker himself, sharing the news at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society event. Details are ridiculously sketchy, pretty much only including the fact that it's slated to happen and that it will be part of a "special set" focused on Matt Smith.

Folks are already speculating wildly about what will be on this rumored set, though most (like me) seem to have settled on the idea that it will be something 50th anniversary-related. My favorite overly enthusiastic and admittedly too optimistic list of items that might be included encompassed everything from the Proms to Hurt interviews to a specially created farewell to Eleven.

Admittedly, if it does turn out to be an anniversary set, there is a lot of material from which to choose. A lot of material was only available in one part of the world or another (e.g., the aforementioned Proms, or the Doctors Revisited series which didn't make it to the UK until mere weeks before the anniversary). But how likely do we really think it is that BBC Worldwide would include videos of panel interviews, for instance? Realistically, there's a pretty short list of what they're likely to use.


Launching a New Chapter


Review of Storm Warning (#16)
Big Finish Release Date: January 2001
Doctor/Companion: Eight, Charlotte "Charley" Pollard
Stars: Paul McGann, India Fisher
Preceding Story: The Mutant Phase (Five, Nyssa)
Succeeding Story: Sword of Orion (Eight, Charley)

Welcome to my new series of reviews! As of today, I'm officially adding Big Finish audio adventures to my repertoire. Bowing to the will of reader poll voters and using the advice of friend and podcaster Paul Greaves, I'm starting with Eighth Doctor Paul McGann's first foray into audio.

I've heard Paul say, when asked, that he started fresh with his characterization of the Doctor when he began audio work. He'd not really had a chance to develop Eight much in The Movie, so it makes sense he'd jump at the chance to explore the character further. Every once in a while, I could hear a tinge of the Doctor of the TVM here, but for the most part, I have to concur that Eight is a "new man" on audio, and it's a man I quite adore.

You may remember from my previous post about Big Finish that I've heard a few adventures before (most of the four series of Eighth Doctor Adventures, Dark Eyes (the first set; the second still awaits its turn in the earphones), and two or three individual stories with other Doctors). I'd also managed to get my paws on Storm Warning before—though it's been a couple of years—so as I listened this time, I mostly knew what was coming.

That's not to say it was dull, though. Rather, it made things more interesting from the get-go for an American like me who had never heard of the airship R101 before this story. Luckily the context is explained later, so that I wasn't in the dark long the first time, but it gives a little extra chill up front when we witness the launch if we know its historical fate.



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