Five Big Finish plays

Since I completed my run through the complete BF series of Doctor Who plays a couple of months back, they have continued cranking them out. Here’s my thoughts on the latest (Seventh Doctor) audio from their main series, the almost latest (Second Doctor) of the Companion Chronicles, and the first three of the new Eighth Doctor plays.

Matthew Sweet wrote an earlier Doctor Who play, The Year of the Pig, which brought the Sixth Doctor face to face with Marcel Proust in Ostende. Thomas Mann doesn’t make as overt an appearance in The Magic Mousetrap, but by mooring his story in Mann’s Magic Mountain, Sweet has managed to take a lot of the things that tend to annoy me about Seventh Doctor plays – the Doctor as arch-manipulator, the pocket-universe-under-siege plots – and turned them into a rather good piece. The identity of the chief baddie came as a pleasant and well-executed surprise to me (I’d downloaded it without reading the blurb), and although it’s a rather silly concept it is executed well. Recommended, but not for the novice fan.

The second CD also includes the first installment of The Three Companions, an ongoing series featuring Anneke Wills as Polly, Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and John Pickard as Thomas Brewster. Brewster is certainly my least favourite of the audio companions, but the other two are sheer delight, and I found I had something in my eye as Polly and the Brigadier exchanged notes on their time with the Doctor.

Anneke Wills had already returned to the role of Polly (as well as playing Charley Pollard’s mother, Lady Elspeth, in a number of Eighth Doctor Stories). In Resistance, she tells the story of landing with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Ben in France in early 1944, where to her mixed delight and dismay she meets the airman uncle who she never knew. It’s a very good Polly story – she is practically the first companion along the lines of Rose / Martha / Donna, coming from and rooted in contemporary England (poor Dodo doesn’ really count) and Resistance gives her a bit of New Who treatment, exploring her family background and her relationship with the Doctor. I can forgive a couple of plot holes.

I’m becoming less of a fan of the Eighth Doctor audios, I’m afraid. Orbis has the Doctor suffering from amnesia yet again, and Andrew Sachs playing an evil invertebrate ruler for the second time in twelve months (OK, the first time he was playing Adric controlling the invertebrates). Sheridan Smith does well as Lucie, not having faced these situations before, but we the audience have and this didn’t seem very new.

Hothouse is almost a direct reprise of The Seeds of Doom, Krinoids and all, but done with great verve and double-crossing. Ex-Young One Nigel Planer doesn’t seem quite to know what he is doing, but the rest of the cast, regulars and guests, are great.

This is a story where Miriam Margolyes (on top form) invents the Black Forest gateau. It seems at first as if The Beat of Orlok is going to be a straight Frankenstein pastiche, but then goes in an unexpected direction. The plot is great and so is Margolyes but I was not so impressed with the rest of the team.

So, of this lot I think Hothouse is the most accessible for the general listener. Both The Magic Mousetrap and Resistance have their strengths too.

One thought on “Five Big Finish plays

  1. Portsmouth is a city in England. I don’t understand what you’re saying (see the word “unsophisticated” above).

    Perhaps I am missing a joke.

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