Ninth Doctor Into The Stars

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Into the Stars – audio boxset review

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Into the Stars is the sixth boxset of audio adventures for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.

Doctor Who The Ninth Doctor Adventures Into the Stars cover art

As the title suggests, this trio of stories see him travelling at large in the universe in contrast to the previous boxset of Earthbound exploits. Here, he meets a group of highly unusual Sontarans, becomes embroiled in a high-stakes alien card game and encounters Jack Frost himself.

Salvation Nine

A colony of peaceful Sontarans, apparently descended from a crashed warship on the moon of Salvation Nine. That’s the unlikely discovery which propels the Doctor to action in this tale, as he chooses to put himself between them and the hostile battle fleet poised to wipe them out

The Sontarans have always been broadly comic, with their fixation on humour and war beyond the point of common sense; in the modern era, that aspect was distilled into Strax, the field nurse turned Victorian butler. Here, Timothy X Atack’s script honours that comic tradition, but also renders a lost tribe of the species with pathos. It is a terrifically fresh take.

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Into the Stars - Salvation Nine cover art

As the Doctor explores this new Sontaran civilisation, there’s pleasing wordplay here too. We learn that elements of warlike language have been repurposed peacefully, like trooper and rifle. Atack’s not above a little continuity fixing either, providing an explanation for varying numbers of Sontaran digits though the years. We also loved the reasoning for some clones feminine characteristics too, creating a worthy addition to the species lore.

The guest cast are clearly having a blast. Dan Starkey is on multi-Sontaran duty while Josie Lawrence brings wisdom to the aged Gaznak. Unfortunately, the story has little time for the opposing military officers played by Pooja Shah and Lily Bevan but ‘Salvation Nine’ is a lot of fun – full of gags but beyond them, full of hope.

Last of the Zetacene

James Kettle’s tale evokes levels of alien oddness that exceed ‘The End of the World’. On the seedy Stage Three spaceport, akin to a space Las Vegas, the Doctor is mistaken for a vet. He’s roped in to tend to a gigantic beast – a Zetacene swine, last of an endangered species – the prize in a vile card game played by an unlikeable cabal of the super-rich.

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Into the Stars - Last of the Zetacene cover art

Naturally setting himself against the group, the Doctor soon recruits a young ally. Nel is up for an adventure and Alice Feetham shines as the sparky, intuitive and compassionate companion-du-jour.

Each of the guest cast creates a monster of sorts, with various levels of scheming, greed and gluttony. These are comic grotesques, but the star here is the cold-hearted, calculating Selo, played by Maureen O’Brien – a world away from her Hartnell era role as Vicki. She also does double duty as a dancing spider and, indeed, all of the guest cast take on a second role to fill out this colourful world.

Break the Ice

Onscreen, Christopher Eccleston missed out on a Christmas special as they became family festive viewing after his tenure. You can make a case for the ‘The Unquiet Dead’, with Charles Dickens and ghosts, but there’s no longer any need; ‘Break the Ice’ brings a mix of scares and festive warmth despite its summer release.

Set on Christmas Day, albeit on a scientific research station orbiting Venus, the story is a decidedly chilly affair. It centres on cryogenics – the process seen as the only way for humanity to endure long distance space travel. With a research team led by the Dr Lenni Fisk, the science is pushed to its limits. Further even, as their foolhardy actions put the whole station in peril when a test subject does not come back alone.

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Into the Stars - Break the Ice cover art

Writer Tim Foley drops exposition deftly into the dialogue, establishing this confined world. Dr Fisk (Thalissa Teixeira) is a compelling character, driven to complete her work despite overcoming her own personal challenges. We loved the use of her wife (Amy Manson) as the voice of her AI, providing both levity and much-needed emotional support.

The villain of the piece, Jack Frost, is a terrific, slightly camp creation from Pip Torrens while Simon Shepherd’s company man Pal Andrews charts a course from fool to tragic figure. Is his first name a sly Star Cops reference? There’s a show we’d like to see Tim Foley let loose on. On the subject of references, the Doctor appears to spin out a line from Hamilton too, which made us chuckle.

In Summary

Christopher Eccleston has said he feels that he never quite nailed the lighter aspects of the Doctor’s character onscreen. However, they’re here in abundance here. With his Doctor fundamentally earthbound during Series One, it is great to see this incarnation out among the stars.

Into the Stars is another confident boxset for the Ninth Doctor and Christopher Eccleston’s enthusiasm continues to shine through. Impressively cast, director Helen Goldwyn ensures all three stories maintain a good pace. They are doubtless destined for multiple re-listening – especially ‘Break the Ice’ when the winter nights draw in.

4.5 stars out of 5

Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Into the Stars is available on CD and download from Big Finish.

Hidden Depths

The next boxset of The Ninth Doctor Adventures is Hidden Depths:

Sometimes things lurk below the surface which only the Doctor can see…

From a moon with poison seas, to a 19th century health spa, even somewhere as everyday as a furniture store on a Sunday afternoon – there are always hidden depths and unseen dangers to uncover!

The stories are ‘The Seas of Time’ by Lizbeth Myles, ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ by Lisa McMullin and ‘Flatpack’ by John Dorney. While details are scant, we know ‘Flatpack’ features Eighth Doctor companions Liv Chenka and Tania Bell.

Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Hidden Depths is available to pre-order.