In their second set of stories blending so-called classic Doctors with new series monsters, Big Finish has mixed things up to an extent. There are still four stories, but a slight change to the set of Doctors, and one monster appearing twice.
First up John Dorney brings us Night of the Vashta Nerada, bringing the ruthless shadow predators from Silence in the Library to the attention of the fourth Doctor. Tom Baker is without companion and looking for some entertainment on the planet of Funworld. There is little fun to be had as all the workers have been killed and the owner Georgia Donnelley (Lorelie King) is on the prowl with a group of trophy hunters led by Amada Steele, played brilliantly by Pam Ferris. The body count quickly rises as the Doctor tries his best to save as many people as he can, whilst unfolding the story of just why the Vashta Nerada have turned against humanity.
Scott Handock puts the fifth Doctor in an ethical dilemma in his story Empire of the Racnoss. Although only appearing in one TV episode (the Runaway Bridge in which Catherine Tate first appeared, and Sarah Parish played the Racnoss), they have a clear place in Time Lord history as a race they were at war with once. Scott takes the Doctor to this war, and he finds himself trying the help the Empress (Adjoa Andoh) and the Emperor (Niglel Planer) and save his own life. Again there is no companion, but we do have a tale where doing the right thing is not obvious, and every move is the wrong one.
Simon Guerrier moves us to 1980s England and a village fair in The Carrionite Curse. It’s traditional stuff, jam making, tea, book stalls, and of course the obligatory witch trial. In this tale the everyday is pivoted into a strange horror mixed with the surreal as the sixth Doctor (again with no companion) deals with the Carrionite witches fans last met in the TV story The Shakespeare Code. There’s a lot of witchery, clever uses of words (and of course Colin Baker’s Doctor excels at this) and a very human story. A great cast includes local community leader Eileen Nelthorpe (Adèle Anderson), Rev Duncan Bell (Michael Fenton-Stevens) and his daughter Katy (Maya Sondhi). Of all the stories in this set, Katy is the almost-companion most suited to joining the TARDIS and has great chemistry with the Doctor. Of course, the witches have their own ideas!
We skip to the eighth Doctor and Paul McGann teams up with Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) in Matt Fitton’s Day of the Vashta Nerada. While connected to the opening story, this is an all action tale of perfidy and scientific manipulation, as the researchers on Synthesis Station weaponise the already deadly Vashte Nerada. Matt’s story gives plenty of fresh angles on these relentless creatures, and the Doctor must take extreme measures to save the day. It’s a very well-paced story and in its overlap with the Time War promises much for future stories from Big Finish.
As a set the four stories entertain and fans will be disappointed at the lack of any news of further instalments.