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.
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.
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