Big Finish celebrate Doctor Who‘s 60th Anniversary with the story of an impossible meeting between Omega, two Doctors… and two versions of Sarah Jane Smith!
While audio producers Big Finish were frenetically degenerating Doctors in the monthly-released saga Once and Future, the show’s 60th Anniversary itself saw the release of a more traditional multi-Doctor tale.
In fact, ‘The Box of Terrors’ is a sequel (of sorts) to the show’s 10th anniversary celebration ‘The Three Doctors’. That story saw the incumbent Jon Pertwee meet up with his predecessors to take on the might of Omega. The bombastic solar engineer, one of the architects of Time Lord civilisation, exists trapped in a universe of anti-matter.
Lizzie Hopley’s story brings us a further encounter with Omega for the Third and Fourth Doctors. If that wasn’t enough, each travels with their own Sarah Jane Smith. In our fevered fan imaginings, this story could have kicked off Season 14 in September 1976. Perhaps cheekily slotted in as an early 15th anniversary tale?
The Box of Terrors
The tale, which runs across six episodes (in 535 minutes of narration) begins with the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane. After an opening which sees the Master drawn into the action, the Doctor finds himself caught up in the fate of refugees preserved in a comet’s trail and the miners who can save them. However things don’t go to plan – the Time Lord is accused of being responsible for the destruction from which people are fleeing.
Then, the action shifts to the Fourth Doctor who is trekking across the desert with his Sarah. They’re accompanied by various alien dignitaries, heading towards something called a Sandbox beacon. With Rocket Men and desert-adapted Orgons vying for control of the mission’s security, matters notch up a gear when the Third Doctor’s TARDIS crashes into the mix.
Forced to work together, the two Doctors and their respective Sarah’s begin to unravel the mystery. Lizzie Hopley’s tale is one of truly epic scope with universal implications which see Masters, Doctors and other familiar characters from the show’s history thrown together amid plenty of action. With all that said, it’s some of the quieter character interactions that really shine, such as the two Sarah’s learning to interact and appreciate each other’s strengths. The same can be said of the two Doctors, who learn to work well as a team too. For sanity’s sake, the younger retains the moniker Sarah Jane while the (slightly) older keeps to Sarah.
We’ve heaped praise on Jon Culshaw before, but that’s no reason not to do so again. Not only does he provide excellent renditions of both Doctors, but he knows the rest of the characters well enough to bring them to life too. Benton is but a bit-part player but his voice is captured entertainingly, and Culshaw impresses with a hoard of villains – not least the booming Omega himself!
With Once and Future and The Box of Terrors both celebrating the show’s 60th, we were surprised at some areas of repetition. Not only a form of living sand, but the identity of one of the villains too. It’s odd when there’s a whole universe to play in!
The Box of Terrors is an absolute treat – it has the feel of an anniversary special, albeit one granted an impossible feature-film budget. There’s a lot going on, with so many elements to keep track of, but if you’ve got nine hours to get lost in the worlds of Doctor Who to celebrate the show’s six decades, this is a great way to spend them.