Torchwood Returns in New Six Part Series

Torchwood was the breakout series from Doctor Who that firmly introduced swearing, sex and bloody violence into the Doctor Who universe.

Created by then Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies TORCHWOOD originally ran from 2006 to 2011 over 4 series.

Torchwood: The Conspiracy will start September 2015!

Torchwood: Conspiracy
Torchwood: Conspiracy
TORCHWOOD RETURNS ON AUDIO
SIX NEW STORIES FROM BIG FINISH PRODUCTIONS?

Big Finish Productions is delighted to announce a new series of Torchwood audio productions, in a licensing deal with BBC Worldwide. The six stories will be performed by members of the television cast, and the range will be launched in September with the return of John Barrowman as the irrepressible Captain Jack Harkness.

Conceived as a spin-off from Doctor Who, Torchwood was created by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, Cucumber, Banana, Queer as Folk) and made its debut on television in
2006. The top secret organisation Torchwood saved Cardiff (and often the world) from alien menaces and terrible forces, trying to keep the city safe from the inter-dimensional rift that ran through it. In charge of Torchwood was Captain Jack, a man who has been called: “A companion to the Doctor, a rogue Time Agent, an immortal, a dangerous con-man, and very good at parties.” Captain Jack can’t be exterminated or trusted, and there’s just no stopping him.

The new series of audio dramas will each focus on different members of the Torchwood team, exploring the impact that a mysterious event has on them. Starting off the range will be John Barrowman, who stars in The Conspiracy, a deadly thriller by David Llewellyn.

Torchwood creator Russell T Davies says: “Torchwood has been to the Moon, and America, and the Himalayas, but now I think it’s finally coming home, to the brilliance of Big Finish.”

“What’s great about Torchwood is that it is as unstoppable as Captain Jack and just as persuasive,” says producer James Goss. “Torchwood has been a ratings success on nearly every BBC channel, and it’s one of the few UK series to translate to America. It’s already been a series of iPlayer-topping audio plays, and we are thrilled to continue it. It’s

just so exciting to be starting off the range with a drama starring John Barrowman – he leapt at the chance to display a whole new side to Captain Jack.”

Executive producer Jason Haigh-Ellery says: “It’s fantastic that we will be bringing Captain Jack back to life (for perhaps the thousandth time!) with Big Finish. There are many new Torchwood tales to be told and I can’t wait for Jack and his team to defend the Earth once again. I am very grateful for the continuing faith that both the BBC and Russell T Davies has shown in us and very excited to enter into a new world for Big Finish.”

Executive producer Nicholas Briggs says: “Torchwood is something we’ve wanted to do for ages. It has great characters and there are many stories to be told. Our mission is to bring a whole new series of dramatic adventures to life. We’re starting off with these more intimate, focused releases and will then move on to bigger casts and even wider scope. We’re very much looking forward to working with all the cast and it’s been such a pleasure liaising with
Russell T Davies about this. He couldn’t have been more supportive and helpful. Our Torchwood producer, James Goss, has really hit the ground running and his tangible enthusiasm is already proving rather an inspiration to us.”??

Additional cast members for the series will be revealed later. Torchwood: The Conspiracy will be released in September 2015, with the remaining five installments following monthly from January 2016. For many more details, watch this space over the coming months.

The Prisoner Returns Thanks To Big Finish!

The Prisoner Due 2016 from Big Finish
The Prisoner Due 2016 from Big Finish
The Prisoner returns on audio, produced by the award-winning Big Finish Productions Ltd.
Big Finish is proud to announce that it has entered into a licence agreement with ITV Studios Global Entertainment to produce a series of full-cast audio dramas based on the world renowned, cult classic 1967 TV series, The Prisoner — bursting with state-of-the-art sound design and a brand new dramatic score.

January 16th 1967. A secret agent suddenly resigns from MI6, then wakes to find himself imprisoned in ‘The Village’ — a bizarre community with a cheery veneer, but an underbelly of threat and mystery. Re-branded as Number Six, our agent must enter into a battle of wits with the sinister Number Two, whose sworn aim is to discover why Number Six resigned. But Number Six refuses to divulge his secrets and must fight off increasingly outlandish and deadly attempts to break him, as he fights to escape and find out…

‘Who is Number One?’.

Big Finish Productions are perhaps best known for their Doctor Who audio drama series (released on CD, download and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra), which has been running for over fifteen years. Other acclaimed audio drama series from Big Finish include The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, Dark Shadows, The Omega Factor and Survivors.
The new audio series of The Prisoner is to be written and directed by Big Finish’s co-executive producer, Nicholas Briggs. Nick has been working with the company since the very beginning (as an actor, writer, sound designer, composer, director and producer). He is also known for his voice work on the Doctor Who TV series as the voice of the Daleks and other monsters.
Recently, he wrote and directed the Doctor Who story Dark Eyes, which won the BBC Audio Drama Award for best online drama.

The new audio version of The Prisoner will be very much based on the original, which starred Patrick McGoohan. ‘It won’t simply be a slavish retelling of all the original episodes,’ explains Nick.
‘But aficionados of the original series will certainly recognise much of what they loved about it. A lot of the familiar iconography will be there, but my aim is to push the boundaries, all the while pursuing McGoohan’s stated agenda of the fight against rampant progress and dehumanisation.’

No casting decisions have yet been made. ‘For Number Six, we’re looking for someone who can portray that vital determination and anger, creating a lethal package of dynamite charisma’ says
Nick. ‘They need to be compelling and powerful as well as having great enthusiasm for the series.’
The initial release of a lavish, collectors’ edition box set of five CDs (four hour-long episodes and a behind-the-scenes documentary, with full-colour, souvenir booklet) is set for January 2016, with other box sets to follow. You can pre-order it here

Important Doctor Who Audio Announcement

Final part of the Destiny of the Doctor series, The Time Machine
Final part of the Destiny of the Doctor series, The Time Machine

Now that AudioGO have entered administration. The future of the “Destiny of the Doctor” audio Doctor Who series was in question. Now Big Finish has acquired the rights to release the final part of the Destiny of the Doctor series, The Time Machine, and the box set containing all the stories plus a ‘making of’ documentary.


23 November 2013. In an Oxford laboratory, graduate Alice Watson helps Professor Chivers assemble the final pieces of an impossible machine. A time machine.
The scientist and his assistant believe they are making history, little suspecting that the project’s completion will threaten the existence of the entire universe. But someone has sensed the danger, and when the mysterious Doctor arrives, Alice is taken on a desperate race from libraries and dreaming spires
all the way to the nightmare world of Earth’s future.
The monstrous Creevix are coming. They seek control of time itself and are certain that the Doctor is already too late to stop them. But can the key to saving the future lie in the Time Lord’s past lives?

Buy from BIG FINISH

Pathfinder Legends RPG Audio Dramas From Bigfinish!

Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Audio Series
Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Audio Series
Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Audio Series

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s publisher Paizo Publishing, LLC has announced a partnership with Big Finish to create Pathfinder Legends a range of audiobook and full cast audio dramas  set in the world of Pathfinder.

Big Finish will produce full-cast and dual spoken word audiobooks in collectible CD and digital download format. The first 6-episode Pathfinder Legends series will be a new full-cast audiobook drama based on the highly popular Rise of the Runelords storyline, with Chapter One, Burnt Offerings, expected to release January 2014.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Big Finish,” says Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. “Their work with properties like Doctor Who has shown the care, attention-to-detail, and quality we know Pathfinder fans have come to expect, and we’re excited to hear the adventures of Valeros, Seoni, and our other iconic characters as they venture through Pathfinder’s most famous campaign, the Rise of the Runelords!”

“The moment we saw the spectacular Paizo booth at the Gen Con event last year, company Chairman Jason Haigh-Ellery and I knew that the exciting worlds of Paizo’s best-selling, award-winning Pathfinder would be ideal inspiration for exciting audio productions,” says Big Finish executive producer Nicholas Briggs. “We’re really excited and proud to be working with such great stories and characters.”

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game builds on more than 10 years of system development and the largest open playtest in the history of tabletop gaming to create an unparalleled fantasy roleplaying experience. Players need only the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook to play, but Paizo Publishing produces a wide range of books and accessories to enhance your Pathfinder experience, from hardcover rules compendiums to complete campaigns to packets of beautiful full-color maps. For more information, visit paizo.com.

Paizo Publishing, LLC, publisher of the world’s best selling Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, announces today a new partnership with Big Finish, developer of full-cast dramas and audiobooks, to create Pathfinder Legends, audiobook adventures set in the world of Pathfinder.

Big Finish will produce full-cast and dual spoken word audiobooks in collectible CD and digital download format. The first 6-episode Pathfinder Legends series will be a new full-cast audiobook drama based on the highly popular Rise of the Runelords storyline, with Chapter One, Burnt Offerings, expected to release January 2014, with subsequent releases every two months thereafter. Single-CD releases will be priced at $15.99/£10.99, with digital downloads at $12.99/£8.99. BigFinish.com and paizo.com will offer subscriptions at a discounted rate.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Big Finish,” says Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. “Their work with properties like Doctor Who has shown the care, attention-to-detail, and quality we know Pathfinder fans have come to expect, and we’re excited to hear the adventures of Valeros, Seoni, and our other iconic characters as they venture through Pathfinder’s most famous campaign, the Rise of the Runelords!”

“The moment we saw the spectacular Paizo booth at the Gen Con event last year, company Chairman Jason Haigh-Ellery and I knew that the exciting worlds of Paizo’s best-selling, award-winning Pathfinder would be ideal inspiration for exciting audio productions,” says Big Finish executive producer Nicholas Briggs. “We’re really excited and proud to be working with such great stories and characters.”

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game builds on more than 10 years of system development and the largest open playtest in the history of tabletop gaming to create an unparalleled fantasy roleplaying experience. Players need only the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook to play, but Paizo Publishing produces a wide range of books and accessories to enhance your Pathfinder experience, from hardcover rules compendiums to complete campaigns to packets of beautiful full-color maps. For more information, visit paizo.com.

Paizo Publishing®, LLC is a leading publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, board games, and novels. Paizo’s Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game, the result of the largest open playtest in the history of tabletop gaming, is currently the best-selling tabletop roleplaying game in hobby stores. Pathfinder Adventure Path is the most popular and best-selling monthly product in the tabletop RPG industry. Paizo.com is the leading online hobby retail store, offering tens of thousands of products from a variety of publishers to customers all over the world. In the ten years since its founding, Paizo Publishing has received more than 50 major awards and has grown to become one of the most influential companies in the hobby games industry.

Blake’s 7: Lucifer

B7 Book 3 - Lucifer cover

B7 Book 3 - Lucifer cover
Blake’s 7: Lucifer By Paul Darrow
Published by Big Finish

There can be few fans of the original TV adventures of Blake’s 7 who haven’t speculated about events beyond the end of Season 4. With Vila, Dayna, Tarrant and Soolin shot dead and Blake’s body at his feet, Avon smiles at the surrounding Federation troops and raises his gun. Shots sound over the closing credits, and the fate of the show’s most complex character is forever unresolved. Until now.

It has taken the actor behind Kerr Avon, Paul Darrow, to construct the (presumably canon) story of what happened after that fade to black. The first part of a planned trilogy, Lucifer reveals a Federation broken by a vicious war against alien invaders, and replaced by a ruling Quartet of dysfunctional individuals. Behind them, however, the figure of one time President Servalan still looms large.

The opening third of this novel is a thrilling read, detailing several attempts by Quartet soldiers to forcibly extract Avon from the planet Gaius 7, where he has been stranded for years. From then, we flashback to the events immediately following the episode Blake. I won’t reveal what happens here, only that the violent treatment of the bodies of Avon’s colleagues seems rather sadistic. That could make for some interesting conversations in the Big Finish green room when the cast regroup for new audios later this month.

Sadly, the novel devotes too many of its 200 odd pages to the machinations of the Quartet, which seem to play out over an interminable number of dinner parties. Most of the new characters lack any real depth, and there is rather too much planet hopping in the final third of the book. Most disappointing of all, the telegraphed reunion of Avon and Servalan is at best perfunctory.

Darrow really needed the guiding hand of a collaborator, or maybe a firmer editor, to punch up the prose. Reading Lucifer, I was frequently reminded of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars sequels, which had a similarly hefty backstory to shoulder with new and unfamiliar characters, yet did so with significantly more narrative drive. Hopefully Darrow and Big Finish can address this for the remaining books in the trilogy, and give Avon the rich afterlife that both the character, and his fans deserve.

1960s Lost TV Episodes Resurrected.

The Avengers: The Lost Episodes
The Avengers: The Lost Episodes – Audio Series From Big Finish
Sorry if you read the title and thought Doctor Who, but we have exciting news from Doctor Who Audio production company Big Finish and STUDIOCANAL!

Big Finish Productions is delighted to announce that it has signed a licence with STUDIOCANAL to produce full cast audio productions of 12 lost episodes of the classic TV series The Avengers.

The Avengers first launched in 1961, and starred Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel and Patrick Macnee as the elusive and suave John Steed. Beginning with the murder of Keel’s fiancée, and his sworn intent to avenge her death, that first year comprised 26 episodes. Sadly, only two of them exist in their entirety as film prints (Girl on the Trapeze and The Frighteners), while just the first act remains of the opening episode, Hot Snow.

Working from the surviving scripts, Big Finish will be presenting the adaptations in three four-disc box sets. The scripts will be adapted, with minimal changes, by John Dorney, the director is Ken Bentley and the producer is David Richardson. The executive producers are Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

“We are absolutely thrilled to add this wonderful series to our catalogue,” says David Richardson, “and we look forward to faithfully recreating those classic lost episodes. We have two brilliant, high-profile actors for the roles of Dr Keel and John Steed – look out for an announcement of the casting once recording begins in July.”

“This opportunity confirms the enduring appeal of this classic TV series and the resonance of the SC collection in the context of British Film and Pop culture,” says John Rodden, General Manager Home Entertainment at STUDIOCANAL.

Volume 1 of The Avengers: The Lost Episodes will be released in January 2014 (and includes a full recreation of Hot Snow), with Volumes 2 and 3 following in July 2014 and January 2015.

Doctor Who: Vengeance of the Stones

Doctor Who: Vengeance of the Stones
Doctor Who: Vengeance of the Stones

Written by Andrew Smith

Published by Audio Go and Big Finish

This monthly series of Destiny of the Doctor releases goes from strength to strength with a gripping Third Doctor adventure that tells of Mike Yates’ entry into UNIT. The Doctor is called to Scotland to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an RAF jet, and uncovers a long dormant alien threat with links to the region’s standing stones.

Writer Andrew Smith has penned an evocative tale which makes the most of the Third Doctor’s derring-do approach – flying jets, flooring Bessie’s accelerator, and developing his kung-fu skills. Impressive sound effects bring several bravura sequences to life, and the story provides a delightful backstory for Mike Yates.

Richard Franklin, narrating the tale and revisiting his TV role as Yates, gives an excellent reading with a near perfect imitation of Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier and a solid voice as the Doctor. If I have one grumble, it is that support actor Trevor Littledale’s voice as the alien Garlin is very similar, leaving me wondering why Franklin didn’t handle all the parts.

A cameo from a later Doctor helps to bring the Destiny story arc slightly more clearly into view, and there are nods here to future flying UNIT base The Valiant and, for listeners of a certain age, to the final Quatermass serial of 1979. With eight releases still to go, this series is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the 50th anniversary celebrations. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, do start listening now.

The Other 11 Doctors – Female Doctor Who

(With thanks to Pete Strover and Craig Oxbrow for playing this game on Twitter last night)

So, the Doctor. The Oncoming Storm. DOC-TOR. Call him what you want, but regardless of what you call him he’s always…him. A female Doctor is an idea that’s been floated more than once, with The Curse of Fatal Death giving us a brief appearance by Joanna Lumley as the Doctor, Big Finish releasing a single disc in their Doctor Unbound series based on the premise that when a Time Lord kills themselves they regenerate into the opposite gender and Helen Mirren going on record as saying she’d love the role. Oh and Stephen Moffat polling a convention about it a little while ago and the entire audience essentially telling him they’d stop watching if he did it.

Now, whilst I have my doubts about that, the truth is that right now it’s not really on the cards. Which is a real shame because, HELEN MIRREN! COME ON, MAN! She’d be awesome! But what if it wasn’t an issue…because it was never an issue? What if, in this the 50th Anniversary year, we were celebrating five decades of a show about a female Doctor? Come with us now on a journey through time and space as we explore a very different 50 years of Doctor Who, and a very different 11 Doctors…

1st Doctor- Joyce Grenfell

Doctor Who began as a show with the odds stacked against it; a crew of mavericks put together so the BBC could say they’d given them a fair chance before firing them. However, instead of bowing to the seemingly inevitable, the crew decided to take their once in a lifetime opportunity and work it for all it was worth. The end result was Joyce Grenfell being cast as the first Doctor.

Best known as a perky, cheerful figure in post-war Britain, Grenfell relished being given the opportunity to play a darker, more mercurial role. Her Doctor was a chaotic figure, a cheerful nanny one moment and a stone eyed matriarch the next. Over time, the show even came to play with this, especially in Dalek stories where Grenfell would alternate between the schoolmarm role she was best known for and the darker, intense element she grew to revel in to tremendous effect.  Signing onto the role amidst a sea of criticism, when she left, the BBC were flooded with tributes and pleas for her to come back. She never returned to the role, although remained proud of it for the rest of her life.

2nd Doctor-Hattie Jacques

Grenfell’s replacement was no less controversial a choice. Hattie Jacques had made her name as a comic radio actress and was involved in the Carry On movies, frequently as a matronly figure. However, anyone expecting a continuation of Grenfell’s approach was in for a surprise as Jacques took the role in a radically different direction. A wildly eccentric, deadpan,  puckish Doctor, she used her reputation and physical stature to create an astonishing take on the character; a cosmic clown who could bring a tear to the eye with nothing more than a change of posture. On taking the role, decades later, Miranda Hart would cite her as a major influence.

3rd Doctor-Honor Blackman

Fresh off her success with the Avengers, Blackman took the show in a very different, far more physical direction than Jacques. Her Doctor was an action heroine, the stories filled with car chases, explosions and fist fights. Many fans welcomed this with open arms, whilst many more felt the show had become The Avengers with occasional aliens. Despite this, her run was extremely successful and is notable for a series of appearances by Vanessa Redgrave as the Mistress.

4th Doctor- Penelope Keith

The show returned to the controversy that had defined it’s casting of Joyce Grenfell with Blackman’s replacement. Penelope Keith was best known as a comic actress, and to make matters worse was in line for a leading role in The Good Life, a highly favoured sitcom being put together for the following year. In an immensely controversial move, Keith was awarded both roles and, in doing so, became the face of BBC TV for close to a decade. Her run as the Doctor was, and still is, regarded as the definitive version of the character by many fans, mixing her naturally arch, upper class comic timing with a tremendous flamboyance, laconic wit and theatricality. She attacked the role with a gusto not seen since the Grenfell years and proved such a success that jokes were dropped into The Good Life, hinting, strongly, that Margo and the Doctor were one and the same. However, behind the scenes, Keith freely admitted that the double duty and newfound celebrity was taking its toll and, ultimately, she asked to leave both shows. By the time she regenerated at the end of Logopolis (And a cheeky final line was dropped into The Good Life about Jerry and Margo popping out to Joddrell Bank for a picnic),  she had played the role far longer than any of her predecessors. That record remains intact today and Keith was recently attracted back to the role for a new range of audio dramas.

5th Doctor- Joanna Lumley

Another former Avenger, Lumley was given the thankless task of succeeding Keith in the role. She responded to this with aplomb, opting to go in the exact opposite direction to Keith’s performance, whilst at the same time keeping her inherently British approach. Dressed in cricket whites and with an air of the polite swashbuckler to her, Lumley’s 5th Doctor was arguably the nicest version of the character, a woman desperate to save everyone and shown, again and again, that she could not. Despite this, Lumley continued Keith’s sense of humour in the role and both were major influences on Perkins’ performance, with Lumley appearing alongside her in Time Crash.

6th Doctor-Miriam Margoyles

Margoyles’ performance was, at the time, widely criticised for being both too broad and too similar to earlier takes. Whilst this is debatable, it’s clear she suffered from script problems from the outset and this tainter her entire time on the show. With the advantage of time and distance however, her run as the Doctor is actually one of the most interesting. Margoyles plays her as a truly mercurial, unpredictable figure, mood changing scene by scene and with an unfettered arrogance the role had never had before, making the tragic events of several stories all the more effecting. Whilst her run was widely regarded as the least successful in the show’s history, Margoyles’ Doctor has enjoyed over a decade of new life on audio, giving her the critical acclaim she lacked, and deserved, during her time on television.

7th Doctor-Siobhan Redmond

Redmond came to the show with one remit; to give it back the edge many had felt it had lost during the Lumley and Margoyles runs. She did this almost straight away, using her natural Scottish accent, her distinctive build and red hair and dressed, very deliberately, in male clothing. She played the role with absent minded, academic charm and razor sharp comic timing. This was tempered by a tremendous natural authority and age that she could call on to chilling effect. Despite being the actress in the role when the show was cancelled, her run remains one of the most fondly remembered and critically acclaimed.

8th Doctor-Helen Baxendale

The 8th Doctor’s arrival was met with massive amounts of hype, with the unprecedented stunt casting of Julia Roberts as the Mistress overshadowing the entire production. It came and went with little fanfare, with Roberts vowing never to do TV again and British star Helen Baxendale largely, and unfairly, overlooked. However, the 8th Doctor would have the last laugh as Baxendale continues to enjoy huge success recording audio adventures for Big Finish, with current guest star companion Will Mellor.

9th Doctor-Suranne Jones

The 9th Doctor had everything to prove and the first trailers for the show demonstrated the exact level of bravado needed. Footage of Jones, in jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket, sprinting away from an explosion were intercut with a monologue in the TARDIS control room where she not only trailed the show but made it clear just how dangerous things would be. Despite being around for just one season, Jones’ take on the Doctor is regarded by many new fans as the definitive one; her combination of Northern flamboyance and desperate, desperate need to atone for the sins of the Time War make it an electrifying season, with her chemistry with Rose and Captain Jack pushing these 13 episodes into contention for one of the greatest seasons in the show’s history.

10th Doctor-Sue Perkins

Fans still reeling from the 9th Doctor’s surprise exit were more than a little surprised to see Sue Perkins step into the role. In stark contrast to Suranne Jones’ mercurial, often grim take on the role, Perkins brought a lightness of touch and cheerful eccentricity that hadn’t been seen since the Grenfell years. Complete with brainyspecs, a new found joy in her work and remarkable chemistry with Rose, the 10th Doctor was a massive hit. The burgeoning romance between Rose and the Doctor, heartbreakingly cut short in ‘Doomsday’ and revived in ‘Journey’s End’, was praised by fans and critics alike, as Perkins became the first openly gay Doctor in the show’s history. Her final episodes, featuring the return of Sheridan Smith as the demented Mistress (Having regenerated from an award-winning cameo by Dame Judi Dench as Professor Yana), remain two of the highest rated episodes in the show’s history.

11th Doctor-Miranda Hart

The first real accusations of stunt casting since Catherine Tate’s bravura run as Donna Noble accompanied the announcement that well known comedienne Hart would be stepping into the role. However, just like Tate, Hart rose above the increasingly personal nature of the attacks and claimed the series as her own. Her combination of ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ style upper class jollity, physical comedy and surprising emotional depth meshed seamlessly with the role and led to an early run of fantastically well regarded episodes. Later seasons have seen the character take a slightly different, alien turn that many fans have had trouble dealing with, but Hart remains a rock solid core for the show. Rumours that she will leave in the as yet unannounced New Year’s 2013 special, to be replaced by Sophie Okonedo, remain unconfirmed.

So there you go, an alternate, female history of the Doctor. I would happily have watched any of these actresses in the role and who knows, one day I might. Hart does have something distinctly Gallifreyan about her…

Doctor Who Post 50th Anniversary Update

Doctor Who: The Wrong Doctors

Doctor Who: The Wrong Doctors

Written by Matt Fitton

Published by Big Finish

The first in a new trilogy for the Sixth Doctor and Mel Bush plays havoc with the timelines and memories of Who fans.

The Doctor sets off to pick up Mel for her first adventure. When he arrives, he quickly runs into his younger self dropping off Mel after her testimony in The Trial of a Time Lord. The appearance of a dinosaur in Pease Pottage quickly alerts the Doctor, and the listener, to the fact that some even more extreme time meddling is afoot.

As someone not too familiar with Colin Baker’s time on the TV show (there, I’ve outed myself now), I sped to the Tardis wiki for background on Mel’s fractured timeline. In fact, I needn’t have worried, for the main story can be readily enjoyed without this knowledge, and writer Matt Fitton uses the confusion for comic effect, making this the funniest audio for Sixie since The Fourth Wall, Spice Girls jokes and all.

Both Baker and Bonnie Langford give great performances here, subtly distinguishing between their younger and older selves. They are well supported by the other actors, most notably James Joyce as an 18th century farmhand taken out of time and revelling in the ’emancipated women’ of the 80’s. At times the plot twists do take some serious concentration, but as Fitton pointed out to me over Twitter, a plot diagram would have to be created in five dimensions.

Amid the action and comedy, there are some touching moments too, particularly when a resetting of the wayward timelines leaves everyone facing up to their originally intended fates. In all, this is most enjoyable two hours, and the stage is left set for the older Doctor and Mel to continue their new adventures in February and March.

Doctor Who: 1001 Nights

Doctor Who: 1001 Nights

Written by Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, Jonathan Barnes, Catherine Harvey

Published by Big Finish

This audio drama featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa was the Big Finish Christmas release. And what a gift is inside its 120 minutes, with three short tales interconnected into a longer bridging narrative.

The Doctor and Nyssa are seeking an alien beacon that is summoning an unknown race to a Sultan’s palace. When the Doctor is imprisoned by said Sultan, he finds a fellow inmate with a secret. Meanwhile, Nyssa negotiates for the Doctor’s release with a series of tales about their travels.

So far, so portmanteau. But as this audio progresses, the image of a Russian Doll comes to mind. There are characters within characters, tales within tales, and Doctors within Doctors. The first of Nyssa’s stories finds her and the Doctor in a futuristic asylum, where a solitary man is kept chained and tortured by a mysterious warden. The second takes place in a Victorian house where the Doctor has sheltered Nyssa while she harbours a demon. The third story within a story is set on the planet of Fabula, where stories are currency that can be bartered and sold on the black market.

A diverse range of tales then, as befits this audio’s four writers. But director Barnaby Edwards ensures the wealth of ideas form a cohesive whole, with the company of actors taking two or three roles each. One or two characters fail to fully form in their limited time, but most hit the mark, with Alexander Siddig excelling as the Sultan with his own terrible secret. Sarah Sutton adds to her CV with a demon straight out of the Exorcist movies.

There are a few teases along the way, not least when it seems we might get a Fourth Doctor story set before Logopolis (one for the 50th year, maybe), but this is a rich tapestry of story, character and ideas that deserves several listens to fully appreciate its beauty.

(As if this wasn’t enough of a Christmas present, subscribers got a further gift in their stocking with 1001 Nights – an actual Fourth Doctor tale continuing his adventures with Leela. Night of the Stormcrow will get a general release in December 2013. Trust me, it’s worth the wait).

Doctor Who: Voyage to the New World

Doctor Who: Voyage to the New World

Written by Matthew Sweet

Published by Big Finish

This sequel to the recent Voyage to Venus picks up from the latter’s cliffhanger ending, which left Professor Lightfoot, Henry Gordon Jago and the Sixth Doctor facing hostile natives in late 16th Century America.

The story details the fate of Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement on Roanoke Island, where settlers and the indigenous population have been affected by a mysterious illness. The Doctor and his companions are quickly blamed, and have to uncover the secret of the children of Croaton to get to the truth. Meanwhile, the Tardis is transported back to England and an inquisitive Raleigh.

What starts as a fairly straight historical adventure, rich in period detail, soon takes an eerie, even melancholy air, with strange children manifesting themselves on the island. Once Jago is afflicted by the strange disease, and starts to lose physical substance, we are firmly in the realm of the otherworldly. Strong writing and performances make this sequence of the tale most affecting.

The resolution of the mystery involves some intriguing twists and turns, though the Doctor’s own role in this is somewhat overshadowed by a large cast of strong characters. That said, Colin Baker once again proves the Sixth Doctor to be a more natural foil to the Victorian duo than the Fourth.

A coda to the drama leaves Jago and Litefoot in 1960s London, setting up their forthcoming new series of Doctor less adventures. But on the strength of both voyages to Venus and the New World, I hope their paths cross again with the Sixth Doctor’s before long.

Doctor Who: The Acheron Pulse/The Shadow Heart

Doctor Who: The Acheron Pulse

Written by Rick Briggs

Doctor Who: The Shadow Heart

Written by Jonathan Morris

Published by Big Finish

Two very different audio dramas play out the latest Big Finish trilogy, which features the Igris as introduced in The Burning Prince.

The Acheron Pulse opens with the Sixth Doctor on the planet of Cawdor, where the Drashani are mining Galdrium. When a strange ship approaches the planet with a devastating weapon, the Doctor must lead a rescue mission aboard the planet’s encircling space station.

The frenetic pace of the opening story slows considerably here, allowing several new characters to develop fully in the listener’s mind. Chief among them are Duhkin and Teesha, whose relationship develops from initial suspicion to a satisfying conclusion. The mysterious Tenebris (played by James Wilby) is somewhat less engaging, and his true identity is unlikely to surprise any regular Big Finish subscribers.

What does fascinate in this story are the Igris. Reintroduced initially as the unstoppable killers we loved in The Burning Prince, the backstory that emerges here gives fresh insights to the race. The concept of an Undervoid, where the Igris’ better nature is banished, is intriguing if underdeveloped.

By comparison, The Shadow Heart changes story gear back into First, with the Seventh Doctor pursued by Vienna Salvatori, a bounty hunter tasked by the Igris to capture the Time Lord and discover the secret location of Tenebris.

Presumably recorded after his Hobbit duties, this lively story gives Sylvester McCoy more to do than other recent releases, as he enlists the help of several rather comedic characters to evade Salvatori (played by Chase Masterson) and reach Tenebris before the Igris. The latter have morphed into a Judoon-like race in this tale, albeit with rather more murderous tendencies.

Taken as a trilogy, this sequence of stories is less satisfying than the previous Fenric arc, though The Burning Prince remains a standout release. The Igris have proven they have legs, and teeth, which may yet bring them back to the Big Finish universe, and Masterson’s Salvatori already has her own spin-off series in the wings.

Here’s hoping that after the inevitable Christmas confection, the Doctor gets another meaty multi-generation story arc to celebrate his notable birthday in 2013.