Following last year’s box set of The Ninth Doctor Chronicles from Big Finish, the partially narrated format has been used again to give stories drawn from David Tennant’s tenure. This collection offers one tale with each of his regular companions, though Donna is replaced with her mother, and one from the time of the 2009 specials, providing a return for the one-off companion Lady Christina de Souza.
First up, it is important to say how eerily good Jacob Dudman is with his take on Tennant’s Doctor, both in the comic and the more dramatic moments. Also, his natural voice, used for the narration, is much further away from the Doctor than the other version Big Finish have recently employed and it offers a clear distinction.
The Taste Of Death
Director Helen Goldwyn also writes the first tale, which brings the Doctor and Rose to a resort planet with no agenda other than relaxation. Naturally, they are embroiled investigating a missing person within minutes, and the Doctor becomes highly suspicions of the food and Rose’s insatiable reaction to it.
The guest voice for this story is provided by Arinzé Kene (Our Girl) who plays Orentino, a likeable alien chef searching for his missing brother. It is no spoiler to mention the aliens behind the scenes on MXQ1, given their presence on the front cover, but suffice to say that they are handled well and without the noxious excesses of the original appearance. In fact, their scheme is pretty grotesque, enough to make even the most ardent carnivore think twice.
Matthew J Elliot’s tale features a story for the Doctor and Martha Jones as the TARDIS collides with a temporal sightseeing tour, helmed by the obnoxious Nathan Hobb – played by the multi-talented Jon Culshaw.
Featuring a couple of significant historical events, as well as providing the answer to a famous Suffolk UFO sighting, Elliot creates a very entertaining tale which allows Martha to use her medical skills and he also manages to feature one of the aliens from his Seventh Doctor main range tale Maker Of Demons too.
There are brief extras on the end of each tale, but Backtrack must be the highlight of these as it descends into multi-Doctor impressions when Dudman and Culshaw are prompted to talk of their excellent YouTube short The Great Curator.
When the Doctor plans to investigate goings on behind the scenes of a nursing home, he sets his sights on Wilfrid Mott as the ideal undercover agent. However, his daughter is having none of it, in case Wilf gets a taste for the high life, so we end up with the unlikely but glorious pairing of Sylvia Noble and the Tenth Doctor.
With the Doctor playing carer and Sylvia the resident, it is soon clear that all is not well; catatonic residents, locked doors and curiously vague staff. Is she relaxing into the slow-paced life and simply losing track of time – or is there something sinister afoot? And where exactly has the Doctor got to?
Writer James Goss plays with our fears about senior care and writes for Sylvia tremendously well – this becomes her story, with the Doctor taking a background role. Sylvia is relentlessly acidic, occasionally provocative and often dismissive and yet, like mother like daughter, there is more to her than just that frosty exterior and Jacqueline King’s performance allows us to see light through the chinks in her formidable armour.
Last glimpsed evading the long arm of the law in a flying bus, cat burglar Lady Christina de Souza returns for the final adventure in the set, from the pen of Guy Adams. With the Doctor is on his ‘farewell tour’ he has taken on a little side project, saving species from extinction at the hands of a rich and deeply unpleasant hunter.
With both his title and theme, as well as some rich and amusing narration, Guy Adams shows shades of a famous namesake with a story that is a great deal of fun. We particularly enjoyed the indignities the TARDIS was put through, housing wild animals and being repurposed as a boat.
Michelle Ryan slips instantly back into the role of Lady Christina – which augers well for her recently announced box set – and despite her ‘profession’, it is nice to see her taking a Robin Hood approach. We do have one minor grumble though – the constant referral to her as “Lady Christina” in the narration seemed cumbersome and began to irk us. We assume at least that will not be an issue in her full cast series.
Jacob Dudman is clearly a talent and in addition to his main roles as the narrator and the Doctor, he enlivens an entertainingly diverse range of supplementary characters, including Rose and Martha. Dudman is doubtless one to watch and it is great to see that Big Finish have recognised his talents. Indeed, he also has multiple parts in April’s Main Range release, The Helliax Rift.
While the full cast stories with David Tennant are terrific, the principal cast members from the show are busy people and there is always going to be an appetite for more. These Chronicles stories do a fine job of filling the gap keeping us going and there is clearly a place for both. They also create a place for a different sort of story; we are not sure anyone was clamouring for a Siltheen tale or exploits with Donna’s Mum, but in this format, they work really well. The tales are pacy and full of incident, and surrounded with music from Ioan Morris which evokes the era of the show.
In lieu of further full-cast tales, and fingers crossed they will come, these stories offer a great opportunity for Big Finish’s talented writers the chance to tom play in the RTD era.
For those interested in a further behind the scenes peek, Dudman’s Youtube short about the recording is quite fun too…