Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers cover art crop

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers audio review

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In his ninth box set of audio adventures, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor encounters humanity’s Pioneers in various guises.

The stories that kick off his third audio series take us from space in the far future, to the frozen Arctic wastes and finally the birth of a national obsession.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers cover art

The Green Gift

Writer Roy Gill begins where he left off, with Callen (Adam Martyn) and his talking assistance dog Doyle (Harki Bhambra). The pair survived ‘Red Darkness’ and remain in the TARDIS while the Doctor finds a place to drop them off.

Arriving on a generational ship, which acts as a living seed bank, he may well have found one. However, there is a horribly familiar rotten secret at the heart of the Greenwood’s laudable environmental mission. ‘The Green Gift’ cleverly develops elements of ‘The Green Death’, with its themes just as relevant as ever.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers - The Green Gift cover art

The Doctor is well-matched by the ship’s leader Fiacra – Louise Jameson gamely sporting a Leeds accent – and sparks fly between them. There’s no shortage of chemistry elsewhere either, with a budding romance for Callen and Tay Lothlor (Maddison Bulleyment), one of the Greenwood’s citizens, as well as between Doyle and her non-talking dog.

We also loved the world building, with the ship’s mission evolved into a well-rehearsed litany. Naturally, the Doctor leaves the situation resolved, and the Ninth travels solo, but it would be great to see what becomes of these characters.

Northern Lights

Fridtjof Nansen is not a name we were familiar with, but Robert Valentine’s ‘Northern Lights’ provides some illumination. Like ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ in the Hidden Depths box set, this is a thoughtful exploration of a historical character.

Up against a multifaceted alien threat, voiced impressively by Ginnia Cheng, we learn of Nansen (Ian Conningham) and his compatriot Johansen (Gerard Kearns), and their remarkable feat of survival. Nansen makes for a fascinating subject and once the threat is resolved, we learn about the remarkable man and his life afterwards.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers - Northern Lights cover art

In a wise effort to avoid distraction, the two Norwegian scientists are presented with a Salford accent. It works well – the gift of the TARDIS matching its pilot – but it does create what you might call an ‘Allo ‘Allo effect; when Nansen briefly interacted with a Brit at the end of the tale, it prompted an unintended laugh.

The Beautiful Game

The set’s final tale offers more of a comic adventure, with the Doctor seeking to visit the meeting which gave birth to the football league. Unfortunately, he arrives a week early and manages to bring trouble with him.

Katharine Armitage’s tale is fast and funny, suffused with football puns, as well as an obsessive alien threat. It’s not all japes though, as the story also embraces the theme of women’s suffrage and highlights the sexism threaded through the history of the sport.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers - The Beautiful Game cover art

The villain of the piece, the Strike, is a slightly bonkers idea, but its conception has something to say about the obsessive nature of fandom. Becky Wright renders the creature’s vocalisations remarkably, mewling and screeching, it’s quite unlike anything we’ve heard before!

In the guest cast, Rachel Fenwick and Andrew Ellis make a charming couple as Daphne and Donald, who work below stairs at the hotel, while Raymond Coulthard amuses as the bumptious William Sudell.

We’re not sure what the football/Doctor Who venn diagram looks like, but there’s an entertaining tale here regardless.

In Summary

Director Helen Goldwyn marshals another solid set of stories for the Ninth Doctor. There’s real variation in tone, but all are well-cast and engaging to listen to.

Christopher Eccleston continues to shine, with this box set celebrating a couple of his personal passions. For us, however, it’s ‘The Green Gift’ which truly sparkles!

Four Stars

Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Pioneers is available on Collector’s Edition CD (+ download), or download only from Big Finish.