November 23rd 1963 proves to be a significant day in the lives of all eight Doctors…
It’s the day that Bob Dovie’s life is ripped apart…
It’s also a day that sets in motion a catastrophic chain of events which forces the first eight incarnations of the Doctor to fight for their very existence. As a mysterious, insidious chaos unfolds within the TARDIS, the barriers of time break apart…
From suburban England through war-torn alien landscapes and into a deadly, artificial dimension, all these Doctors and their companions must struggle against the power of an unfathomable, alien technology.
From the very beginning, it is clear that the Master is somehow involved. By the end, for the Doctors, there may only be darkness.
STARRING: Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Sophie Aldred (Ace), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master)
Over the last few months, I’ve been posting up my Big Finish reviews over at whatculture.com. I’ll still be doing a special, smaller review for them for this audio, but it’s such an important one that I thought I’d do a larger review for my blog.
So, anyhow, this is it! It’s the 50th anniversary story, as you might have gathered, and, oh, my is it a doozy. You can see from the cast list that we have all five of the living old series Doctors. We also get a companion for each, plus the Master. What you don’t see is that we further get cameo appearances by Ian, Susan, Polly, Jamie, Zoe, Jo, Tegan and Turlough. Plus there’s brief appearances by the First, Second and Third Doctors. Each is voiced, obviously, by someone other than the original actors, but still! There’s even some lovely Big Finish continuity featuring none other than Straxus.
Ignoring all the fan-wankery the cast provides, I’m also happy to say that this is an excellent story. It’s easily the best of any multi-Doctor story in any format. Now, sadly, that isn’t saying all that much, as things like “The Two Doctors” were, perhaps, not as good as they should have been. Even the best of them, “The Three Doctors”, is made great only due to the wonderful chemistry between the Second and Third Doctor.
But this one…writer Nicholas Briggs proves yet again that he’s one of the few active writers who really understands what makes the old series so great, and knows how to use that skill to great effect. This is a story that features plenty of little moments to make fans go “squee”, such as Leela and Charley meeting each other and the Sixth and Seventh Doctors bickering a bit, but it also features moments of profound sadness, such as when we find out what happened to one man’s family at the hands of the Master.
The best part is that all the Doctors each get something to do; no one really gets sidelined. You don’t have one Doctor tied to a chair for much of the story, for example, or one stuck on a TV screen. Or another one stuck on a TV screen. No, everyone gets to do at least something, and the companions aren’t shorted, either, at least the ones with major roles.
Additionally, all the actors are at the top of their games. I’ve mentioned before that in many of the Fourth Doctor stories, Tom Baker sounds more like “Tom Baker” than like the Fourth Doctor. That’s gone completely. India Fisher also does a great job of sounding like she did all those many years ago when she first played Charley, Edwardian adventuress. Same for all the rest of the cast, who do great jobs playing characters they last played on TV years or decades ago.
This really feels less like the culmination of 50 years of Doctor Who than it does the culmination of 14 years of it through Big Finish. That’s good, in that those 14 years have felt much more like old series Who than the new series has (which is, of course, obvious, but you get what I mean). It also makes me anticipate what the next 14+ years of Big Finish will bring.
I have a great feeling that the 50th anniversary TV show will disappoint; that it will be more of an 8th anniversary than a 50th. That no longer matters much to me. I’ve had the great experience of listening to this story, which I consider the real anniversary special. If the TV show is good, that’s a nice bonus, but if it bites, hey, I had this, and that’s enough.
If you’re a fan of the old series, especially in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctor’s eras, this is a must-buy, and it’s in three easily-affordable versions. Well, two affordable ones (the one linked to above and this one), and a vinyl version, because why not. The standard version in download-only format is only $13, and if you’re a true fan, there’s no excuse not to buy it.