‘Doctor Who’ audio review: Volume 1 of ‘The Tenth Doctor Adventures’ is a triumph

In the last six months or so, Big Finish has treated us to a wealth of modern Doctor Who related titles, including Torchwood, Churchill, The War Doctor and River Song.

Now the stakes are raised with the much-anticipated return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, complete with Catherine Tate as Donna Noble.

And a true return it is; David Tennant in the past appeared in many Big Finish releases in various guises before he first went into the TARDIS; now he’s back and we are overjoyed to say it all works very well.

The first story is ‘Technophobia’ by Matt Fitton. Of the three, this is the most reminiscent of the style of the Russell T Davies period. It focusses on a modern gadget and adds a twist – in the case a plague of inability to use technology.

As the Doctor and Donna explore the get help from a temp (harking back to Donna’s roots) named Bex, played by Niky Wardley. Niki has been in Big Finish before, as a companion to the Eighth Doctor, and also on screen as sidekick Lisa Jackson to Catherine Tate’s Lauren Cooper. The tale has a solid main narrative with an engaging twist.


The second tale is ‘Time Reaver’ by best-selling author Jenny T Colgan. In setting this is an enormous adventure, set on the planet-sized spaceport of Calibris, where gangster Gully (the ever reliable John Banks) holds court in the smuggler’s tavern of Vagabond’s Reach.

It all manages to avoid just being a clone of the Star Wars cantina, and instead is a tale packed with rogues and action amidst an outlandish and varied alien landscape. The cast is packed with quality and also includes Terry Molloy, Dan Starkey making up the cast of villains. The narrative centres on a young woman, Cora played with charm by Sabrina Bartlett and her involvement in the supply of illegal weapons.

The set concludes with a James Goss creation, ‘Death and the Queen’. This takes Donna centre stage as bride-to-be once more. This time she is marrying a prince, and will be Queen. All she has to do is survive the attentions of Death (Alan Cox) and his invincible army of skeletons. If not a tale that could be easily told on TV, it is a romp nodding in the direction of various tropes, entertaining and perfectly cast.

Blake Ritson plays the groom, Prince Rudolph, Alice Krige is hugely horrible as the Queen Mum and Beth Chalmers a joy as Hortense. With Donna leaving the TARDIS to settle down, is it time for Hortense to step up and take her plate. An absolute joy from start to finish.

Doctor Who David Tennant Tenth Donna Catherine tate

As a set these are three great stories proving you don’t need an overreaching arc to entertain and engage. It’s an immense thrill to hear the Tenth Doctor’s theme music, a delight to hear David Tennant in character and Catherine Tate impresses as Donna, perhaps even more so than she sometimes did in her one season on screen.

The three stories are available individually, or as a limited edition box set with a fourth disc of behind the scenes extras and a full-length documentary on Big Finish.

An unqualified triumph; fingers crossed the licence extension to 2025 gives us many more such treats.


Released in May 2016 by Big Finish.

> Follow Tony Jones on Twitter.

What did you think of the box set? Let us know below…

  • Daniel

    Have listened to Technophobia. Story was fine, if a little generic, and found the secondary characters equally Big Finish generic. Given the huge publicity splash Big Finish had with these and the price, I was hoping for something that popped a bit more. Going to leave the next two for a few days. Tate and Tennant were sparky and fun, but putting aside the novelty of hearing them again, was a little disappointed TBH. Three stars at best and that for having Donna and 10 back in the Tardis. Maybe the other two stories will make up and perhaps I will lower expectations a little when I listen to them.

    • MargaretL

      I’d say 2 stars at best. I only downloaded Technophobia as it sounded like the most straight sci-fi one. I enjoy most of the Big Finish series with 8th doctor as a personal favourite, but not at all a fan of the 10th doctor on television. Still, I thought after the great job Big Finish did with the War Doctor and River Song launches and given the passage of time since Tennant left, I might change my view when the 10th doctor got the Big Finish treatment.

      Unfortunately, there is nothing special about this story, the sound landscape or the performances. There is maybe a half hour of story itself stretched out by wads of indulgence to Tate and Tennant. I will admit that Catherine Tate does a pretty good job on this, but David Tennant is as irritating as he ever was on television and rather than give us a straight reading of his part, we get too many silly voices and high pitched squeals. I was hoping for a bit more effort put into this and some creativity, but seems I was wrong and we get cod 10/Donna sniping and yelling at each other. A missed opportunity to reinvent the 10th doctor as a more substantive character in the Big Finish universe. Maybe this set might bring in some new listeners for Big Finish, but think I will stick to the current range and won’t be bothering downloading the other stories. After such a big build up, the end result was distinctly underwhelming and highly unlikely to convert anyone who wasn’t a fan of Tennant’s doctor or Donna already.

  • Marcie

    Reasonably enjoyable but definitely overhyped. Only found Time Reaver to be a success. Although Tennant and Tate are the main draw (and they are fine as far as it goes and any rough edges in their performances – Tennant really struggles to scale down his performance for audio – should be forgiven as this is their first outing), the actual stories aren’t as strong as hoped, with Technophobia far too thin and Death and the Queen a touch too silly. It’s a pity this isn’t as strong as it should be, as the first new Who box sets – River Song and particularly War Doctor – were outstanding. This certainly doesn’t measure up to those. If this is a financial success though, it may encourage Big Finish to then move to 11th doctor where hopefully, the greater scope for story telling if the more interesting and vibrant TARDIS team of Amy, Rory and River might allow them to take a few more creative risks. Unless you are a huge Tate/Tennant enthusiast, it would be hard to wholeheartedly recommend forking out for the entire set. If you still want to give it a go, I’d suggest just buying Time Reaver.

    • Daniel

      I think there was a little bit of caution by BF when they commissioned this, so they haven’t really pushed the boat out in taking risks with the story lines. I can understand why there is quite a bit of disappointment being expressed, but if sales do well with this, BF may try something a bit more ambitious with say, the first 11th doctor run or even a second 10/Donna set. Matt has made it clear he is very keen, so maybe once he finishes his play in London this summer, he might do a similar box set with Karen, Arthur or Alex depending on their availability.

      It’s hard to gauge how this set is going in terms of sales. The reviews on GB are mixed but more positive than negative but just so little buzz. Even the GB forum threads are pretty well crickets, compared to other BF release threads or general chatter and not much on other Who sites either. I know BF had poor pre release sales and the 5000 limited edition still hasn’t sold out yet, so maybe just too much BF and early word of mouth not good enough to get in the level of sales expected?

      Personally, I ‘d recommend getting at least one. Haven’t had time to listen to Time Reaver or Death and Queen yet but look forward to this weekend.

      • badblokebob

        I’m curious about where the information on poor sales comes from? Big Finish’s site went down for a couple of hours on Monday thanks to people trying to download these, which surely suggests a higher-than-normal level of demand.

        • Daniel

          There was quite a bit of discussion about pre sales on boards which are BF focused which expressed surprise about the level of demand prior to release and that the limited edition set had not sold that well. I think people on the fence may have been waiting to see if these were going to be good as both 10 and Donna are marmite within fandom and don’t have a BF pedigree. The site going down on Monday appears to have been entirely coincidental. Nick Briggs twitter mentioned something about it because the timing was so bad when people were trying to download the new BF audios and it looked as though that might have been the cause, when it wasn’t. Be really interested to see if BF do mention sales. The fact that they aren’t crowing about it already to try to boost more sales and social media buzz makes me think the set hasn’t quite met their expectations. Still, perhaps people are waiting for the weekend or the next Bank Holiday and there might be more business then. If you do hear anything would be really interested. I quite enjoyed Technophobia but didn’t think it as strong a start as either the War or River Song sets and look forward to setting aside time this weekend to hear the rest. Cheers

  • Intothevervoid

    Everyone is taking this too seriously. There is no story arc and if maybe not as compelling a listen as the more inticately plotted War Doctor or River Song sets, the three stories wouldn’t feel out of place for series 4, and are all good solid fun. Tennant and Tate’s enthusiasm is infectious. Like Death and the Queen the best – Donna absolutely rocks. Worth a listen even if you aren’t a fan of the 10th Doctor or Donna. Four stars from me.

  • Dr. Moo

    Enjoyable enough. Captures the tone of series four. Either Tennant has clearly got better with time or the writers at BF knew how to get the best from him; I’m going with both. A solid 8/10 overall.

    • Hanaha

      I liked this too, although thought Tate better performance overall. It’s a great chance for 10 to be rehabilitated and Tennant seems to be much better actor for audio than TV, so hope anyone holding off buying because they didn’t like Tennant on the TV show might give him a chance on audio. Bonnie Langford is another one who got on my nerves on TV but is great on audio. If sales no good and given how much Tennant and Tate would cost, it would be a huge shame if we didn’t get more of this pairing if BF lose money on this release.

      • Daniel

        I doubt they will be losing money unless Tate and Tennant demanded really high fees. Since they probably want to break into to being regulars for Big Finish, it wouldn’t be in their interests to demand too much.

  • Hanaha

    Hey, anyone heard anything further about sales? I just rec’d my limited edition box set which I only ordered after release and mine is around 3850. That seems way low given the publicity. Light at the End sold around 10, 000 limited edition sets plus tens of thousands more in downloads and sold out the limited vinyl release too. That’s obviously a bigger release but must say I am surprised sales are so poor to date for 10th doctor adventures with so much promotion. Signs of too much BF product or 10th doctor not as popular still as BF thought? Appears we will be getting a Captain Jack/Jo/Jackie set too hot on heels of new War Doctor. Are BF putting out too much?

    • Daniel

      I would be surprised if Big Finish ever expected this to be a really big seller like Light at the End, so if they sold around 3800 to 4000 of the 5000 run Limited Edition, they probably won’t be too unhappy. I’m more surprised by the lack of comment or buzz about the releases on the main DW boards. To be frank, neither Tate nor Tennant seem to have much on their plates at the moment work wise and nothing big on the horizon (apart from Broadchurch which is filming now and Catherine’s tour this summer), so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see both of them more often. After all, it’s good work and reasonable money for the effort involved and if they aren’t getting other work, it’s a great filler and I think they will fit nicely into the other Big Finish regular series.
      The holy grail though will be getting Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill all together in the one place – each of them have incredibly hot careers at the moment. I expect Nick Briggs is chasing their agents on an almost daily basis. That grouping is likely to be a bigger seller than Tennant/Tate I think, but probably much more difficult to arrange unless they record separately.
      The Barrowman teasing is quite intriguing as it isn’t Torchwood. If it turns out to be a 9th Doctor companion set, I’d be very happy about that. Barrowman is fantastic on audio and if Katy Manning is somehow involved, bliss indeed.

  • Greetl

    A bit disappointing for me. I’ve always liked Donna, but 10 not so much, so wasn’t sure whether the set would work for me. My main problem was that apart from Death and the Queen, the stories weren’t particularly strong and David Tennant didn’t seem to be able to do 10 effectively for audio. He was far too OTT for most of the stories and I had trouble hearing him in others. Could be a technical problem as much as his performance?. Catherine Tate was every bit as good as on television though and is the absolute star of all three stories. Time Reaver had too many additional sound effects and the villain was very hard to understand. Running through tunnels and vents isn’t exactly the best thing for an audio adventure. Technophobia was fine as far as it goes but nothing special. The actress playing the IT professional was very weak.
    I’d give the entire set about 6/10, mainly for Catherine Tate who really got right back into Donna’s shoes and for the writing in Death and the Queen. If they want to make a further box set, I’d suggest asking David to peg it back a few notches and give him some pointers about audio acting. Not everybody who works on television can do audio well and it could be he was out of practice being the doctor as much as bad technique. I’d also want a much stronger set of stories. Compared to the last War Doctor set, this set is really lacking in tension and excitement. Catherine Tate’s Donna though is always welcome back and perhaps ditch David Tennant if he isn’t up to scratch doing audio acting and pair her up with Bernard Cribbens and John Barrowman and do some companion chronicles instead. I’d buy that in a flash!