The fifth instalment of Big Finish’s Doctor Who 60th anniversary series is Once and Future: The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50.
The latest chapter of Once and Future provides another cocktail of characters drawn from different eras of Doctor Who – but is it a pleasing mix?
Five chapters into the audio celebration of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary and the mini-series is unloading the big guns – with a decidedly post-2005 slant, the leading Doctor here is David Tennant’s Tenth incarnation. He’s pitched into an HG Wells inspired setting, from The War of the Worlds, to face off against Missy, Michelle Gomez’s maladjusted take on The Master, and she’s co-opted The Paternoster Gang for good measure too.
From One to Ten
The action begins with the First Doctor arriving in what appears to be London after a Martian invasion and victory. Our guide to this world is the journalist, Jessamy Moore, who seeks to join up with a remaining rebel faction.
Stephen Noonan’s performance as the First Doctor is highly entertaining and far more than just a cameo. He enjoys a good stretch at the start of the play, and despite the promise of the Tennant/Gomez clash, it was a shame to hear him go. However, David Tennant arrives with all guns blazing, kicking up the tempo.
We’re keen not to blow the story details – but suffice to say that there are tripods stalking the streets of London with plenty of red weed covering the ground.
When it comes, the interaction between the hyperactive Tenth Doctor and the misanthropic Missy is a delight; both characters are notoriously verbose, and they spark off each other brilliantly. The Paternoster Gang are well deployed too, with Jenny (Catrin Stewart) under Missy’s hypnotic influence and Vastra (Neve McIntosh) kept in chains, her compliance assured on the promise of her wife’s safety. Meanwhile, Strax (Dan Starkey) takes on the role of The Artilleryman, leading to a great David Essex gag. Interestingly, the Swiss-cheese memory of the Doctor means he knows Vastra and Jenny, but not their Sontaran butler. There’s another point for continuity fans to puzzle out!
Our main viewpoint onto this world is the only non-Doctor Who regular, Jessamy Moore played by Hannah Geneisus. She delivers a perfectly pitched take on the novel’s journalist who continues to narrate at points – much to the bemusement of those around her!
Writer Jonathan Barnes, the regular writer of Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes adventures, is on firm ground. His love of The War of the Worlds is evident and he jokes about the story’s various retellings. Puppets anyone?
Like the others in this series, ‘The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50’ is a jolly good excuse to bring a few favourites together. It is bizarre to think of post-2005 Doctor Who having eras – but there’s a whole Doctor between Tennant’s departure and Gomez’s debut. With a well-plotted story, a setting drawn from classic science fiction and some great performances, this instalment of Once and Future really sings.
In terms of the overall series storyline, events here do push things onward too in a revelation that we won’t spoil. There’s also confirmation that the unstable Doctor’s whole outfit (and sonic) changes – he’s a complex space/time event apparently!
We listened to the Special Edition version of ‘The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50’ with 38 minutes of extras featuring contributions from the writer and the cast. We enjoyed hearing David Tennant, Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart’s reflections on watching the show as children – as well as the writer, producer David Richardson and script editor Matt Fitton speaking about the story’s development. In addition to the interviews, there’s a 10-minute music suite from the story too.
Next month: ‘Time Lord Immemorial’ & ‘The Union’
October brings parts Six and Seven of Doctor Who – Once and Future – ‘Time Lord Immemorial’ by Lisa McMullin and ‘The Union’ by Matt Fitton.
Doctor Who – Once and Future: The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is available on Collector’s Edition CD (+ download), and digital download from Big Finish.