Big Finish have been creating Doctor Who audio adventures for twenty years. During that time, they have worked with multiple Doctors, most of the companions and a whole host of popular characters and villains from the television series, as well as creating a universe of their own.
As is traditional, this milestone is being celebrated with a multi-Doctor event. However, rather than a feature-length story, the anniversary is heralded by a six-part epic – an approach which grants each of the Doctors a chance to shine and allows room for a plethora of old friends to join the party.
Lies in Ruins
A dispirited Eighth Doctor emerges from the shadow of the Time War, with perky new companion Ria in tow, as a new world appears. Calling for the assistance of an archaeologist, two appear: Professor Bernice Summerfield and Professor River Song.
James Goss’s story provides a long wished for crossover, paring the Doctor’s two archaeologist friends, and while it is not “trowels at dawn”, the script offers plenty of sparky banter with an amusing take on the relationship between the pair, who work surprisingly well together.
While the story sets up a wider ongoing mystery, it also grapples with this Doctor’s position as a non-combatant while the universe burns around him, which makes for surprisingly dark territory.
The Split Infinitive
Reuniting us with the Counter-Measures crew (from ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’), writer John Dorney provides a puzzle in real time: two versions of the team attempt to tackle the same temporal anomaly, once with Ace in the Sixties and again with the Doctor in the Seventies, with events in the latter decade dependant those in the former, in real time.
While it may sound confusing, it is in fact a cleverly structured story which provides room for plenty of peril, including some heroic derring-do above the skies of London. There is even a cheeky attempt to justify one of the programme’s long-standing continuity niggles too, which provided us with a belly laugh.
The Sacrifice of Jo Grant
The emotional heart of the boxset, Guy Adams’ script unties two eras when UNIT’s Kate Stewart and Jo Jones (née Grant) fall thought a hole in time and encounter the Earthbound Third Doctor.
An affecting character piece for the older Jo and her Doctor, reinterpreted superbly by Tim Treloar, the story also offers an emotional dilemma for Kate – guaranteed to melt the heart of even the toughest of fans – plus some great moments for Osgood as she handles a present-day threat too.
Since her recent audio debut, it has seemed likely that Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter, would reconnect with her errant Time Lord parent. In true Big Finish fashion however, that reunion comes here with the Fifth rather than the Tenth Doctor.
Meeting when Jenny attempts to pilot a timeship in the vortex, fleeing a temporal explosion, they are not the only time travellers in the mix: the story also brings in the kleptomaniac Time Lord villain The Nine and forces the trio to work together.
Matt Fitton’s script has plenty of fun with the father/daughter dynamic, presumably fuelled by the real life one in the studio, including some great scenes with Jenny flying the TARDIS and is really the comic romp of the set.
The Avenues of Possibility
For those in the know, a sad shadow hangs over this story as it was originally to reunite the Sixth Doctor with those enduring favourites Jago & Litefoot, having been planned before Trevor Baxter’s passing. Instead, we meet another historical pair, Henry and John Fielding, the former a novelist and both magistrates, who formed the Bow Street Runners – commonly seen as forerunners to the Police.
The Fielding brothers make eminently suitable replacements and are woven into Jonathan Morris’ hugely entertaining tale of alternate timelines which involves not only the Sixth Doctor and Charley Pollard, but their old acquaintance DI Patricia Menzies too.
Guy Adams returns to corral the hints and clues seeded through the previous five tales into a suitably epic finale. The story begins on Gallifrey with the reminiscences of Romana and Leela: both of whom recall visiting the same planet at different times, each in the company of the Fourth Doctor.
To say much more risks spoiling the denouement, but it is a story which offers a satisfying conclusion to the saga as well as offering a few surprises along the way – with an entertaining final sequence which brings the various incarnations of the Doctor together, in all their bickering glory.
There is a point during the final story where Leela remarks to Romana that “time is silly” and she is not wrong. Luckily, it is also endlessly fascinating and these six stories play with the concept in varied and interesting ways.
Naturally, a celebration of twenty years’ worth of storytelling could not encompass every aspect of the Big Finish Doctor Who output, but the crossover aspect of the stories does serve as a showcase for their many ongoing ranges. It also highlights a few things – namely that Professors Summerfield and Song need, at the very least, to guest in each other’s adventures, and that Anna Hope’s DI Menzies return was long overdue.
Apparently pieced together over a period of approximately two years, this epic adventure has clearly been a complex endeavour from a production standpoint, and all credit must go to the team led by producer David Richardson and director Ken Bentley. As ever, they are backed by the talented Howard Carter who has provided both music and sound design.
‘The Legacy of Time’ is available in a Limited Edition eight-disc CD set with a deluxe slipcover booklet, as well as on download, backed by comprehensive extras featuring the cast and crew. For any devoted Big Finish fan, it is surely essential!