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The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Buried Threats audio review

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Things get historical for Christopher Eccleston as he grapples with spectres of the past. 

As The Ninth Doctor Adventures continue in Buried Threats, he’s reunited with his former companion and archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield.

The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Buried Threats cover art

A Theatre of Cruelty

The set begins with a historical, bringing the innovative French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud into the life of the Doctor. While not quite a two-hander, Lisa McMullin’s story focusses in the struggles of Artaud, played by Alexander Vlahos, as the Doctor attempts to discover why the creative practitioner is played by dreams which become real.

The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Buried Threats: A Theatre of Cruelty cover art

Of course, there’s an existential threat from the dawn of time, but the real takeaway is how the story opens up another figure from history. Antonin Artaud is fascinating with his bold ideas of what we today call immersive theatre. Vlahos’ intense performance is neatly undercut by Eccleston’s levity as the Doctor, and while the playwright had his own demons, the story doesn’t head into ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ territory.

There’s also a neat meta-reference to fellow Big Finish writer Lizzie Hopley, who now therefore exists in-universe too. Oh, and the TARDIS gains a doorbell too!

The Running Men

The second story, from writer Mark Wright, takes place in the present day – although it too has historical links, in this case back to 16th Century Halifax.

Like ‘A Theatre of Cruelty’, this tale begins in the time vortex, where the Doctor is enjoying the experience of seeing its fauna – vortex amoeba. After that, a failed attempt to visit Anne Lister (of course she’s a friend of the Doctor – there’s a crossover story we’d like to hear) in Halifax lands him in the investigation of police sergeant Ambika Desai.

Together, they’re drawn into the plans of local businesswoman Annalise Avenley, whose grandfather was a local mill owner and who has substantial plans for Halifax’s redevelopment. She’ll stop at nothing to achieve her aims…

The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Buried Threats;: The Running Men cover art

‘The Running Men’ is a lot of fun, with Fiona Wade’s police sergeant making an excellent foil for the Doctor. She’s ideal companion material, if only he were in the market for one. The story makes good use of Halifax’s gruesome history, and Simon Rouse entertains as local history buff Frank (a far cry from his role in ‘Kinda’)!

For her part, Pooky Quesnel is on fine form as Annalise Avenley, giving a perfectly pitched performance as she goes toe to toe with the Ninth Doctor. Overall, this is an excellent adventure and the standout tale in a strong box set.

Ancient History

Matters concludes with the main attraction when the Ninth Doctor encounters his former companion, Bernice Summerfield! Although he begins by trying not to, hilariously undercover as one “Professor Fandango”.

Writer Matt Fitton brings us an older Benny, framed as out of date in comparison to modern archaeological methods which involve teleportation, rather than digging in the mud. However, she persists, accompanied by her own perky assistant and devotee, the gloriously named Finnda Twisk (Eliza Shea).

The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Buried Threats: Ancient History cover art

Naturally, it’s not long before the long-dead Korravin civilisation they’re looking into become a threat in the present day. Again however, this story is more about the character dynamics. Benny and the Doctor have some issues to resolve, notably why he was attempting to come and go unnoticed.

As always seems to be the case, Benny (Lisa Bowerman) finds a way to fit with a new Doctor. In this case, it’s interesting to see the post-Time War Doctor interact with someone else from his past, and she senses that he is a much-changed character – albeit with explicit Time War conversations remaining off the table. Oh, and we loved the gag about staying away from archaeologists at the end too!

In the wider cast, Rosalyn Landor entertains as Benny’s rival Cantiple while Gary Jordan brings pathos to the expedition’s AI George. Nabil Elouahabi is on double-duty as the shouty Korravin leader, as well as the expedition’s unwholesome financier Lomaz.

In Summary

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Buried Threats brings us another three thought-provoking tales. They’re all built on a solid foundation, as ancient threats rediscovered in the present day are a Doctor Who staple. Each of the three tales offer a different flavour – from emotionally wrought celebrity historical, to present day mystery, to a look at the changed nature of the Doctor through the eyes of an old friend.

It’s all entertaining stuff, and Christopher Eccleston’s restless Ninth is always a treat to listen to, but maybe it’s time to flex the format a little? The Ninth Doctor’s first audio series began with a fantastic (sic) three-part epic and ended with a Cyberman two-parter. Since then, it’s been single episode stories all the way with a new location (save for the carry across of one boy and his talking dog).

Perhaps the upcoming fourth volume of series 3 – currently the last announced – will contain a surprise or two? While the Doctor is keen to keep moving with no attachments, perhaps we listeners need someone consistent, from adventure to adventure, alongside him to root for?

In the meantime, all three tales in Buried Threats provide plenty of pacy storytelling, as director Helen Goldwyn bring in a mix of interesting cast members to keep thing fresh. It’s well worth dusting off your trowel for.

Four Stars

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Buried Threats is available now, on CD and download, from Big Finish.