A new main range Doctor Who release from Big Finish features a brace of seventh Doctor stories, ‘Shadow Planet’ and ‘World Apart’. They star Sylvester McCoy, alongside Sophie Aldred as Ace and Philip Olivier as Hex.
Set early in Hex’s timeline, not long after he’s joined the TARDIS. These two stories are independent, and very different in tone and style.
AK Benedict (who also writes for the Big Finish Torchwood range) gives us a study in Jungian psychology as the TARDIS crew explore the psychic planet Unity in ‘Shadow Planet’. The titular planet allows people to come face to face with their hidden, or ‘shadow’ selves and this not only allows for a fascinating exploration of character, but also gives the actors a real challenge, particularly in scenes where they interact with themselves.
The cast includes Belinda Lang as Mrs Wheeler, driven to maximise the efficiency of the Unity operation, Sarah Thom as her beleaguered PA Sandy, Nikolas Grace as the inventor of the process, Professor Grove and Ben Mansfield as Loglan, one of the staff. With a real professor in the mix, Ace gets a surfeit of chances to use both Professor and Doctor in the same speech, and the characters are very well drawn, as is the overall tension.
The story does peter out slightly towards the end, and perhaps needed more time to breathe as it developed both the plot and the shadow versions of our heroes. A minor niggle, and not one to overly diminish the listener’s enjoyment too much.
Scott Handcock changes the tone with ‘World Apart’, and this is almost a three-hander as the TARDIS lands on the impossible planet of Nirvana. Scott stretches the tension, and plays with Hex’s emotions as he explores the early almost flirtatious relationship between Ace and Hex.
The setting of Nirvana is well realised and director Ken Bentley fills the stage with only three actors, and a large portion of the second part centres on Ace and Hex alone. Philip Olivier shows some great depth of emotion and Ace gets to be both angry and understanding, something Sophie Aldred does with aplomb.
It’s also worth mentioning Steve Foxon’s soundscape and superb music, both of which add to the enjoyment.
Subscribers to the main range also receive a bonus story with this release, in this case ‘The Horror of Hy-Brasil’, by sound engineer Russell McGee. Russell’s story is read by Stephen Critchlow and is a thirty-minute adventure for the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. Russell packs some real emotion and drama into this story set on the mythical island of Hy-Brasil, off the west coast of Ireland. Brigadoon-like, Hy-Brasil only appears for one day every seven years – the ideal setting for a Doctor Who story, and a credit to all involved for bringing it so vividly to life.
Extras: behind the scenes interviews and music suite. Subscribers also get the bonus Short Trips story ‘Hy-Brasil’.