Big Finish’s Doctor Who 60th anniversary series continues with Once and Future: Time Lord Immemorial.
Christopher Eccleston’s appearance in a Doctor Who anniversary story feels rather unexpected – but then, he’s reprised the role for three audio series, more than we would have ever believed just a few years ago.
Part of the draw here for Eccleston, we understand, was the chance to work with the late David Warner whom he held in high esteem. A titan of both stage and screen, with numerous genre roles to his name, Warner gave memorable performances on audio as the alternate-universe Doctor. First he was paired with Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier in the Doctor Who: Unbound series. In latter years, he enjoyed New Adventures with the first lady of Big Finish, the futuristic archaeologist Bernice Summerfield.
However, there’s more than just a meeting of Doctors afoot. Here’s what we made of ‘Time Lord Immemorial’…
The Sands of Time
‘Time Lord Immemorial’ follows on directly from the plot thread left dangling; the Ninth Doctor follows up on the clue thrown to him by Missy in ‘The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50’, seeking “The Union” – a planet rich in psionic sand.
However, before he gets much further – even before the credits roll – he finds David Warner’s alternate Doctor materialising in his TARDIS. Or rather, from the alternate Doctor’s point of view, the Ninth Doctor has materialised in his. Regardless, neither are best pleased about the fact!
Meanwhile, at a holiday resort, Liv Chenka meets the deeply annoying, slightly unhinged “good” Master, The Lumiat. They’re soon wrapped into the story as the sea drains away and the sand men appear from the beach.
Once united, the four realise that there’s a threat to the very fabric of the multiverse itself…
Two for the Price of One
Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is very quippy here, despite the high stakes, and that works well against Warner’s more curmudgeonly character. In fact, the pair make a rather good team, which makes the whole affair even more poignant.
Although The Lumiat was a one-off foil for Missy in her original appearance, she clearly had bags of potential. That’s capitalised on admirably here as she finally meets the Doctor. Of course, he instantly distrusts her when he realises her true identity. Gina McKee shines with the material and you really feel for her at the end of the story.
As always, Nicola Walker’s Liv Chenka fulfils the role of the sardonic everywoman – a useful character to have around amid all these Time Lords. Interestingly, Liv has met the Ninth Doctor before – but clearly not at this point in her time. As ever, we’ll assume she doesn’t remember events here when ‘Flatpack’ rolls around for her.
Robert Powell’s titular Time Lord Immemorial imparts imposing lines of narration throughout. At first, we though they were just a narrative device but they do later have bearing on the plot. It was a surprising choice to distort Powell’s famously sonorous tones and to be honest, it left us a little nonplussed. He also voices the creepy sandmen too. Quite how Powell has never had an invitation to Doctor Who before boggles the mind!
Once again, the story here is really just an excuse to bring some favourites together but then, isn’t that what an anniversary special is all about? Multiple Doctors and some previously unheard-of Time Lord mythology? ‘Time Lord Immemorial’ ups the ante with a threat to the multiverse thrown in for good measure too.
There’s also a further nudge towards the ongoing storyline, and an ending which leads straight into the final instalment.
In truth, there’s no getting away from the fact that this cast is stellar and Lisa McMullin’s tale cleverly shifts the pairings around throughout, making the most of them. She also uses some vivid imagery, from broken hourglasses to the literal sands of time. It’s potent stuff! However, for us, it’s all about the interaction between Eccleston and Warner – and that’s simply magic!
We listened to the Special Edition version of ‘Time Lord Immemorial’ which comes with 36 minutes of extras featuring contributions from the whole cast, as well as the writer and the production team. There’s a genuine camaraderie between them, with talk of early Doctor Who memories and the show’s enduring appeal.
There’s also talk of the cast’s previous collaborations such as Our Friends in the North and The Thirty-Nine Steps. Plus, there’s the usual music suite from composer Howard Carter too.
Next: The Union
Later this month the mini-series concludes (for the moment) with Doctor Who – Once and Future – The Union by Matt Fitton.
Doctor Who – Once and Future: Time Lord Immemorial is available on Collector’s Edition CD (+ download), and digital download from Big Finish.