The latest volume of Tenth Doctor adventures from Big Finish return David Tennant to 2008, paring him again with Catherine Tate’s indomitable Donna Noble. This time it is a family affair too, as the first story also stars Donna’s acidic mother Sylvia, as well as her beloved Gramps Wilfrid Mott too.
First up is an amusing mashup of early noughties television formats, as Most Haunted meets Changing Rooms in “Haunted Makeovers!” – with the Doctor, Donna, Sylvia and Wilf posing as a family who have taken on the spooky Morley Manse as a renovation project.
Presented by the sceptic Justin Valentine, things soon get out of hand with Sylvia (Jacqueline King) fermenting rebellion in the television crew while Wilf uncovers long buried secrets in the back garden.
Writer James Goss provides hilarious repartee for Tennant and Tate, with the Doctor and Donna posing as a nauseatingly lovey-dovey couple who indulge in over-the-top displays of affection. For his part, Joel Fry (You, Me And The Apocalypse) ties the piece together with a series of superbly observed pieces to camera as the disillusioned, and increasingly paranoid presenter Justin.
Undeniably, the star of the show here is Bernard Cribbins’ Wilf who loses none of his sparkle on audio and there is a particularly beautiful moment where he describes the Doctor as though “… he’s dancing between us the stars, saying it’s all going to be okay”
With a haunting, and in places terrifying, score from Howard Carter, No Place is a lot of fun.
One Mile Down
The second story brings us to an alien world for an undersea adventure. Much has changed since the Doctor’s last visit to Vallarasee, with its ancient city now under an air dome, and under the control of the Intergalactic Trust.
While the Doctor is a reluctant tourist, Donna is enthusiastic, and they are soon embroiled in a tale of sabotage. Not only have the Trust engineered the eviction of the local Fins to make way for hotels and forced them to wear helmets while working to maintain their own city, but they have now brought in the Judoon to enforce order.
Jenny T Colgan’s story balances the epic and the personal, with the Doctor focusing on the political and structural elements of the tale while Donna fights to survive alongside her fellow humans; Patricia (Eleanor Crooks), is set to marry one of the local Fins, while the obnoxious Garth (Robert Whitelock), represents the worst of us with his odious species-ist attitudes – and gets gloriously shut down by the Doctor at one point!
Representing the Intergalactic Trust is the ostensibly benevolent Andrea, a perfectly pitched performance from Rakie Ayola (Midnight, Shetland) while Nicholas Briggs extends his remarkable vocal talents to a new strangulated level with the new, junior Judoon officer Clo.
With the theme of exploitation at its core, this is a terrific disaster movie with plenty satire at the expense of western tourists abroad. The presence of the Judoon, while not essential to the story, make for a great added link back to this period of the show.
The Creeping Death
Bound for the swinging Sixties, the TARDIS instead lands amid the deadly London smog of 1952. Promptly split up, the Doctor heeds a call for help from Ivy, a cinema usherette, while Donna falls in with Terry who is off to meet a friend.
Caused by a combination of weather, geography and human ignorance, the smog is a historical tragedy in which as many as twelve thousand may die and the Doctor cannot change that. Instead, this imposing environment – where the visibility is minimal and the dangers are all too real – becomes the backdrop for a vivid character piece; the time travellers endeavour to help a mismatched group survive while they battle something insidious which is taking advantage of the deadly pea-souper.
Amid the crisis, writer Roy Gill creates a band of vivid characters – from the confused love triangle of Ivy, Terry and Richard, to Alice (Helen Goldwyn) the snobbish actress and Malcom (Stephen Critchlow), who finds parallels to his wartime experiences. He also writes brilliantly for Donna, making good use of her transferable skills and granting her plenty of agency. We loved the moment where she questioned if the psychic paper needed batteries too!
Atmospheric, heartfelt and with an epic denouement which we would not dare spoil, The Creeping Death is certainly the high point in this entertaining trio of stories. Also it must be in contention for one of the best Doctor Who story titles ever.
Cultbox found the first volume of Tenth Doctor Adventures to be a triumph and these stories maintain that high standard. Bold and imaginative, we could easily visualise the earthbound tales as if they had been made for Series 4, and it is not too much of a leap to do the same for One Mile Down, though we imagine it might have troubled the effects budget to visualise.
Each of the tales is accompanied by a music suite from composer Howard Carter, and it is great to hear his work in isolation – from the disturbing and discordant sounds of Morley Manse to the sweeping grandeur of the underwater alien city and the intense strings of which accompanied the fog.
Throughout the three stories, David Tennant returns effortlessly to his Doctor, while Catherine Tate’s Donna remains as fun and feisty as ever. We hope they can be coaxed back for another outing soon!
The deluxe 5 disc Limited Edition release of The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 3 comes with a comprehensive package of extras: one disc features cast and crew interviews from all three stories, while a further disc charts David Tennant’s history with Big Finish through interviews surrounding his various projects, pre and post Tenth Doctor. Alternatively, each of the three stories are available individually on both CD and download.
Now, how soon can we look forward to some Short Trips read by Bernard Cribbins?