The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles brings Big Finish into Doctor Who’s recent past for more partially-narrated adventures. The first foray into this era outside of the fully narrated Short Trips range, these stories star Jacob Dudman, the remarkable vocal mimic who has also lent his voice to both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He is joined in each tale by a guest star, a couple of whom reprise their on-screen roles.
The Charge of the Night Brigade
Amid the rain and mud of the Crimean war, Jamaican “Doctoress” Mary Seacole runs the British Hospital. Largely ignored by the Army, she feeds and ministers to injured soldiers with her traditional remedies and home cooked food. After a rare request for a consultation, on a corporal with a mysterious ailment, she encounters another Doctor on her property. Attending the patient, who seems beyond help, they catch his final words – a plea for sanctuary.
Writer David Llewellyn’s script vividly conjures the horrors of this particular war; from the relentless rain to the rats, it is all reinforced with terrific sound design. In a story replete with historical detail, we loved how the elements dovetailed beautifully into the denouement… granting us the glorious image of the Doctor astride a camel!
Guest star Mandy Symons gives a terrific performance as the formidable Mary – with her no-nonsense attitude, she is certainly more than a match for this less than user-friendly Doctor.
Writer Mark Wright pens the first audio appearance of Clara Oswald’s ill-fated beau, maths teacher Danny Pink. With Clara away shepherding a residential trip, Danny discovers the TARDIS in the Coal Hill stationery cupboard. Seeking to confront the Doctor, he soon finds himself in the midst of an alien battle zone. With Danny injured, the Doctor works as a surgeon while he recovers. Meanwhile, his patient discovers a mystery among his bedfellows on the ward.
The script again captures the difficult early Twelfth Doctor as he spars verbally with Danny. Pleasingly, it also sees him deploy some Venusian Aikido, endorse Johnny Cash and recall owning a hover car. Samuel Anderson returns effortlessly to the role of Danny. It was good to explore more of his military background, as well as to deepen his complicated relationship with the Doctor.
The third tale brings the Doctor to present day Rochester, when the TARDIS delivers him to the ruins of the town’s historic castle. The story focusses on troubled young tour guide Cameron, who has begun to hear voices. With the Doctor, she is pulled back some eight-hundred years into the battle for the castle which was besieged by King John.
This clever tale, which develops in surprising directions, is full of historical detail. Naturally, it provides a pleasing reference to ‘The Kings Demons’ too. The guest for this tale is Emily Redpath, who delivers a confident performance in her Big Finish debut as Cameron.
UNIT science whizz Petronella Osgood, or one of them at least, finds herself recruited for a first TARDIS trip. On an alien world, she visits an intriguing virtual parliament where the Doctor plans to engage in some direct democracy. When plans go awry, the pair find themselves in the spy game, with Osgood going undercover at a casino and having to conquer her vertigo.
Writer Una McCormack provides a relatively straightforward tale, but with a pleasingly unusual angle, as the Doctor and Osgood attempt to battle corporate forces. As ever, Ingrid Oliver shines as fan favourite Osgood and we enjoyed her enthusiasm at finally travelling with the Doctor. Set later into his time, this was a slightly more relaxed Twelfth Doctor, complete with his sonic sunglasses. We also loved that the story deliberately did not address which Osgood was which.
These are four engaging stories and Jacob Dudman does the Twelfth Doctor justice, with a lively central performance. Additionally, he narrates and also creates a plethora of other characters, with a wide range of accents. In the extras, he talks about the effort required to find Peter Capaldi’s voice, as opposed to the more youthful tones of Doctor’s Tennant and Smith.
Under the assured hands of director Helen Goldwyn and script editor Matt Fitton, and in lieu of full-cast adventures, these Chronicles do a good job of expanding on the themes of the era. We look forward to more – surely it is time to bring Matt Lucas’s Nardole to audio!