Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Adventures: In the Bleak Midwinter

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Adventures – In the Bleak Midwinter audio review

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Lady Audacity Montague’s adventures continue with the Eighth Doctor and bring festive chills for all In The Bleak Midwinter

Retuning the Eighth Doctor to his early days, November 2023’s Audacity gave him a new travelling companion. Played by Jaye Griffiths, Lady Audacity Montague is a remarkable woman, with strong opinions and a wisdom beyond her years. Hailing from the Regency period, she also has plenty to catch up on.

At the end of that first set, the addition of Charlotte Pollard to this fledgling union of Doctor and companion disappointed us a little. Not that Charley herself could ever be unwelcome, but because we were enjoying the fresh approach. Regardless, In the Bleak Midwinter delivery three wintry-themed tales for the trio… and with the cat out of the bag, the box set boasts a revised cover.

Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Adventures: In the Bleak Midwinter cover art - version 2 adds Charlie Pollard

Twenty-Four Doors in December

Writer John Dorney sets himself another concept episode challenge. On this occasion, his festive tale plays out through the opening of an advent calendar – one door for each of 24 days. As the TARDIS arriving in the early noughties for a Baker Street Christmas, Charlie, Audacity and the Doctor opt to stay for the festivities. However, their lives soon become entwined with the fate of a struggling department store Santa.

That Santa is Al Norton, brilliantly played by Jason Watkins, who is haunted by impossible visions of two women he has yet to meet: Charley Pollard and Audacity Montague. What follows is an eerie, rather than horrific, ghost tale as the time-travellers attempt to solve the puzzle and save the reluctant actor.

The door opening device works well enough, but there’s enough to the story that it’s probably not really needed – it began to feel like one of those Chibnall-era specials which endlessly throws location captions at you. As well as the curious temporal element, there’s also some fun:  From her early 19th century perspective, there’s plenty that Audacity finds baffling about modern festive traditions – we chuckled as she puzzled the implications of it being Christmas everyday. Additionally, there’s a pleasing reference to the Rob Sherman’s superlative audio for the Doctor and Charley from way back in 2004: ‘The Chimes of Midnight’.

The Empty Man

The second tale brings the horror as writer Tim Foley presents a writer of chilling tales in the 1940s, stalked by something spectral. Nickolas Grace impresses as the wonderfully named Eldridge Brinkwood who finishes his festive radio broadcast, only to encounter something similar to one of his own creations brought to Earth by the TARDIS.

Playing with elements of classic ghost stories, The Empty Man is a disturbingly entertaining ride with a quite beautiful, bittersweet ending.

Winter of the Demon

Finally, we’re in Victorian Edinburgh. While the Doctor instantly immerses himself in solving a series of mysterious deaths, resulting in burned corpses, his companions pursue the mystery via an archaeological dig. Surely the famed industrialist who is about to bring electric light to the city couldn’t have sinister motives?

While it’s possibly the most traditional of the three stories, Winter of the Demon provides a cracking tale full of ancient demonic forces and just a little romance too. Big Finish’s go-to Scotswoman Lucie Goldie appears as archaeologist Maggie MacKenzie, while David Robb entertains as the misguided Donald Shaw.

In Summary

Any fears we had about the introduction of Charley Pollard into the Doctor/Audacity dynamic were soon put aside – Charley and Audacity get on famously, offering an interesting dynamic. While Charley is younger, she’s the more seasoned time-traveller. In fact, there are similarities to the mis-matched pairing of Leela and Margaret Hopwood in that regard. As well as bonding, together they challenge Paul McGann’s Doctor and keep him on his toes.

Across the three tales, there’s plenty here to chill the blood and warm the soul. This is another great trio of stories to bolster to our annual festive listening list.

Four Stars

Doctor Who – The Eighth Doctor Adventures: In the Bleak Midwinter is available now on Collector’s Edition CD (+ download), or download only, from Big Finish.