Monday, June 09, 2014

The Doctor's Big Finish

As I said when I tried my little dance around Doctor Who, the audio plays by Big Finish had always intrigued me. I don't know why. I have had a vague interest in them going as far back as before New Who started. I think it was just the fact that the franchise was being kept alive in such a way. For someone who became a big Star Wars fan in the early 90s, it held a certain romanticism.

I've investigated starting them a couple of times since New Who, but considering they deal with four (actually five now, but Tom Baker is a recent addition to their output) Doctors across multiple series makes it pretty bloody dense to get into. However, with a new understanding of Classic Who I finally felt ready to dive in. The fact Big Finish gave ten shows away for free as part of the 50th Anniversary last year helped a little.

I'm not going to lie. My main aim here is Eight, since it's one of the few places I can actually get into his adventures. I guess this goes back to the romanticism of the franchise being given a second life. Here's a Doctor who had one adventure. And not a particularly well liked one at that. Yet somehow he's got his own audio drama series. In fact he's got quite a few. So it's pretty funny then that I've not actually listened to a single one of his adventures yet. No, the first I listened to was one with all three of the other main players.

The Three Doctors redux or, as it's properly known, The Sirens of Time. Of the free entries this caught my eye the most after Dark Eyes part 1 (which I haven't listened to because of its placement compared to the rest of Eight's audio adventures). A team up of Doctors Five to Seven was a brilliant idea, and of course this was the first that Big Finish released. How else do you get the public to take notice of you? With the three Doctors who never met. Sure Five met his predecessors, and Six met Two, but Seven never even met one of them. It's a brilliant move. Thankfully it's a pretty good story too.

Another race of Time Travellers has decided to take out the Time Lords, and because the Doctor is never at Gallifrey, he's in the perfect place to stop them. Because the problem is time related it manages to attract the attention of three of him too. The structure is quite different to previous Doctor team-ups we've seen on the show. Usually they are all thrown together relatively quickly so all the actors get a fair whack at screen time. Here, each is given their own episode, each quite distinct from the other. It's a unique way of approaching a multi-Doctor, and one I wish the TV show could do, but the problem of ageing and actors wanting screen time does slightly spoil that ever happening. Though it does remind me of the idea that Matt Smith and David Tennant thought up about potentially sharing a season between them.

Anyway, The Sirens of Time. The Seventh Doctor is pulled onto an alien planet and is lost in a jungle where he meets a young lady in trouble, and Sancroff who is under house arrest for war crimes a long time ago that he know hates himself for. The fifth Doctor accidentally boards a Nazi submarine with another stowaway, a young British girl with a name strangely similar to the one the Seventh Doctor met, and the two manage to stop the U-Boat from torpedoing a ship. Finally the Sixth Doctor arrives on a huge spaceship during a peace conference, and realises that a 'Galatic Wonder' is actually a prison for an ancient being which he aims to free.

Everything during these three parts is held together by two threads. The lady each Doctor meets is remarkedly similar and there's clearly a mystery to be solved there, while meanwhile on Gallifrey we have Vansell and the Lord President slowly trying to figure things out/stop the Doctor in an ill-advised move.

That obviously doesn't work, taking us to the fourth part where the three Doctors team up and solve everything. Seems their actions in the previous parts actually changed history (perfectly summed up with the ship the Fifth Doctor saved being the RMS Lusitania, the sinking of which helped convince the US to join WW1). Because of their time meddling the Knights of Velyshaa have taken over Gallifrey led by the guy the Seventh Doctor saved. This is all linked to another character that is actually a Siren of Time who feed off of temporal distortions.

It's a big, rollicking, timey-wimey adventure that is perfect to introduce listeners to Doctor Who and Big Finish. Each of the Doctors get their own adventure while still adding to the big picture and a balls out finale. A special shout out though for the Sixth Doctor. The fact I listened to this before I even watched Trial of the Timelord and it gave me a lot more respect for Colin Baker's Doctor than I think the show would have given me. I especially love how he ends the conflict in this, and really solidifies that Doctor in my mind.
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