This month has seen the first stories featuring post-2005 elements released by Big Finish, with UNIT: Extinction providing a spin-off for Kate Stewart and Osgood, while Strax the Sontaran makes a guest appearance in special Jago and Litefoot release.
Meanwhile the core Doctor Who ranges continue apace, with the Sixth Doctor and new companion Mrs Constance visiting 21st Century Arizona, a space bound Early Adventure for the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria plus a short trip for Jo Grant.
Main Range #206 “Shield of the Jötunn’
Drawn to a Viking burial mound, the Doctor and Constance begin to solve the mystery surrounding the ancient warriors before having to narrowly avoid being buried alive by a demolition crew.
The tomb falls within the site of a terraforming project, seeking to scrub the atmosphere clean with nanotechnology, and it is not long before this powerful system is taken over by an ancient force.
Writer Ian Edginton, a prolific 2000AD comic scribe (who also has credits from Titan’s Torchwood magazine strip), is new to the Doctor Who range and his tale has great scope – reaching back into the Viking backstory as well as dealing with a planet-threatening problem in the present.
There continues to be charming interplay between old Sixie and Constance; she is dismayed at the state of the planet after all the sacrifices made in her time but he offers hope. As ever, a more mature and confident companion works wonders for the Sixth Doctor’s temperament.
The American guest cast are strong, with some great comedy moments provided by Dr Hugo Macht (Michael J Shannon) who is paired off with the Doctor for a while and gets a great line when he’s unimpressed with the TARDIS – writing it off as “kinda 80s nostalgia”.
Equally, Constance gets to lead and element of the tale and pairing her with Professor Zetterling (Nell Mooney) offers the chance to further reinforce the mystery surrounding Mr Clarke and her desire to travel in the TARDIS.
The tale does have a fair wallop of backstory, but it is brought to life in an engaging fashion and even provides the chance for a cameo from director Louise Jameson, best known as the Fourth Doctor’s companion Leela and directing her first
A confident and engrossing tale, we hope both writer and director will be asked back for more!
The Early Adventures 2.3: ‘The Black Hole’
Simon Guerrier’s latest Early Adventures is a second Doctor story, The Black Hole. Companions are Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling), setting this early in the Troughton period.
The story quickly dives into plenty of science (and possibly more than was typical at the time) with some astrophysics and convenient time distortion effects (the inhabitants of a space station freeze, while the TARDIS queue are immune and walk around freely), then bad news for the Doctor with the arrival of Constable Pavo (played by Rufus Hound), a Time Lord keen to arrest the Doctor, just as soon as the matter of the black hole is resolved.
The first disc is all about having to work together, and co-opt the space station’s Commander Flail (Janey Dibley) as they sort out the stellar conundrum affecting the base. By the end matters are pretty much under control and Simon Guerrier has completely lulled the listened into a comfortable zone, all the better to spring a surprise. In the second disc the plot goes up not one but two gears and (avoiding spoilers) takes a solid if unremarkable story into one that will set fans speculating.
Not only is the plot good but so are the guest cast. Rufus Hound is larger than life and relishes his part, in many ways this is a better role than his recent TV appearance as Sam Swift in ‘The Woman Who Lived’. Janet Dibley is also strong and once more Lisa Bowerman directs a triumph.
One odd note – narration is done by David Warner; odd only in that typically Fraser narrates (and plays Jamie and the Doctor). This does balance out the voices for the listener so perhaps it is a deliberate change of style. Overall this is a fine story and another good advertisement for the range.
Short Trips 5.11: ‘The Other Woman’
Philip Lawrence (who wrote February’s Little Doctors) gives Katy Manning a chance to re-visit the Third Doctor in November’s Short Trips story, The Other Woman.
For Jo Grant it’s a bad day in the office as the Doctor falls under the spell of an intergalactic femme fatale. Seduced by the opportunity to repair his TARDIS (this is prior to ‘The Three Doctors’) it looks like the Doctor’s exile on Earth is coming to an end, but Jo is determined to stop him from making a mistake.
Although this comes across as a simple, linear tale, things are more than they seem and here Philip Lawrence is at his most convincing. The resolution feels very authentic to the early 1970s storylines, and Jo Grant is as fans will remember.
The Brigadier makes an all too brief appearance, but with the central tension between Jo and the other woman of the title driving the plot admirably this is understandable. There is even a suggestion of romance for Jo as well.
Overall, then, an enjoyable tale Katy Manning really gets her teeth into.
What was your favourite Doctor Who release from Big Finish this month? Let us know below…