Latest from Big Finish

Doing these in internal Whovian chronology (in terms of history, since four are set on earth and the fifth in the far future, it would be Freak Show, The Suffering, Klein’s Story, Hollows of Time and then Survival of the Fittest.

Jacqueline Rayner is a bit variable in her Who stories; the ideas are usually good but the execution sometimes wobbly. The Suffering brings Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien as Steven and Vicki to England, just before the first world war, for an encounter with Piltdown Man and the suffragettes, and a feminist alien. I have to say that the gender politics of the plot, while not quite as skeevy as The Next Doctor, are not really a proof of the proposition that Doctor Who audio plays are an effective means of exploring the power relationship between the sexes. I am largely inclined to forgive it, however, a) because it’s not as crashingly bad as Mission to Magnus and b) for the coup of getting Purves and O’Brien together again after 35 years; the story is set immediately after The Time Meddler, recently out on DVD, so fairly accessible.

The latest Doctor Who magazine offers subscribers a free download of another Big Finish companion story. Now, I’m a bit dubious anyway about the way that the Companion Chronicles, originally just to bring back the first four Doctors, have expanded to include companions from later eras, and I wonder about the wisdom of showcasing a Turlough story to try and tempt subscribers into the range. Also the plot has been done before – James Swallow’s Ten/Martha novel Peacemaker has alien influences in the Wild West; Gary Hopkins’ Big Finish play, Other Lives, with Eight, Charley and C’rizz, has a male companion being kidnapped for exhibition in the circus. (Given the title of the piece this is not really a spoiler.) Having said all that, I think Mark Strickson does a fine job here, let down by a somewhat rushed ending.

Speaking of Mission to Magnus, the latest Lost Story isn’t quite as good as last month’s Leviathan, but would certainly have made a better Sixth Doctor story than most that made it to the screen. Christopher H. Bidmead wrote Hollows of Time as a sequel to Frontios, so it has Tractators, time tunnels and the Gravis, this time in a contemporary English country village with a villain called Mr Stream who, for licensing reasons, is not the originally planned anagram. Like all Bidmead’s stories it’s a bit incoherent and we really do miss the visuals (despite the smart framing device of Six and Peri telling each other the story once safely back in the Tardis) but there is some lovely characterisation; Susan Sheridan, the original Trillian from the Hitch-hiker’s Guide, plays both an old lady and a young boy very effectively.

The story of Elisabeth Klein continues (by rather odd coincidence, I know an Elisabeth Gross; she is a rather different character). For the first time (I think) BF have done a single-episode story followed by a three-parter. The singleton, Klein’s Tale, fills in the gaps for us between Klein growing up in a world where the Germans won the second world war, because the Seventh Doctor was cut down in a hail of bullets in 1943, and her unintentional screwing up of her own time line by appearing in Colditz. I thought it was a really neat idea – particularly when the mysterious Johann Schmidt turns up, with his knowledge of the Tardis, played by a very familiar voice. I don’t know if it will appeal to listeners who aren’t familiar with the back story, but I liked it a lot – my favourite of this month’s releases.

Can’t quite say the same for the companion play, Survival of the Fittest, which attempts to treat genocide and fascism about as successfully as The Suffering did with gender oppression. The aliens were decent enough but the political analysis not even up to undergraduate level.

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1 Response to Latest from Big Finish

  1. duck2ducks says:

    I did indeed start with Quinnis! It restored my faith in Marc Platt’s writing. (I loved “Ghost Light”; really didn’t care for Time’s Crucible.)

    And yeah, I figure new entries are bound to slip into my wake as I progress forward; that’s bound to happen, right? I’ll just have to be okay with listening to those as they’re released. 🙂

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