I’m going to try and be more diligent about writing up my Big Finish listening next year, but for today here are notes on five audios that I have recently enjoyed.
First up is Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Seascapes #4, by Tim Foley, a Torchwood story recommended by my friend M. This is just glorious. It starts off like any other self-help tape narrated by Michael Palin, and gradually gets darker and darker, all told in the second person, present tense. It’s really audacious to put one of England’s best known actors on for an hour and eighteen minutes of dramatic monologue about Torchwood, but it works really well. My first story by Foley, not my last as we shall see shortly. You can get it here.
Next, Daughter of the Gods, by David K. Barnes is a multi-Doctor story with a twist: the First Doctor and Second Doctor meet in a slightly divergent timeline from the canonical Daleks’ Master Plan. Peter Purves plays both Steven and the First Doctor, Frazer Hines plays both Jamie and the Second Doctor, Wendy Padbury plays Zoe and Ajjaz Awad plays Katarina. The dynamic between the first two Doctors is written as very fractious indeed, and of course that makes total sense – they have no particular reason to like each other, and the First Doctor is wracked with guilt when he learns from the Second what will happen to Katarina – played by Ajjaz Awad, who must be forty years younger than the other three TARDIS crew actors, and successfully takes on a role that was written out of the show two decades before she was born. Again, Barnes was a new writer to me but I’ll look out for more of his work. You can get this here.
I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be by the first trilogy of Big Finish audios starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, released in May. The second trilogy, Respond to All Calls, came out in the summer and I am glad to say that I enjoyed it a lot more. There’s no common character between the three adventures apart from the Ninth Doctor himself, and although Eccleston loves a regular sparring partner, he’s also pretty good at one-off angst and heroism which is what we get here. Apparently there was a plan at one point to make these three the first Ninth Doctor box set from Big Finish; I think it would have been a good idea, but no doubt internal production constraints played a role. You can get the box set here.
The first of these, Girl, Deconstructed, is by Lisa McMullin whose other work I’ve enjoyed – I don’t seem to have written it up here, but she did a glorious Leela / River Song mash-up for the Eighth of March anthology, and also a couple of the recent Gallifrey: Time War series. This one is set entirely in Scotland in 2004, and apart from Christopher Eccleston, all the voices are Scottish, which makes a nice change. Fifteen year old Marnie has disappeared, and she’s not the only one; Mirren Mack as the missing teenager and Pearl Abbleby as the detective looking into it who uncovers some of her own secrets are very good, especially the detective / Doctor interactions with Eccsleston.
The second, Fright Motif, is by Tim Foley who also wrote Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Seascapes #4. It has a pretty damn good guest cast – Gemma Whelan, of Game of Thrones and Upstart Crow (a Big Finish regular of course); Adrian Schiller, who played the evil Uncle in the Hugo-winning Neil Gaiman Eleventh Doctor story The Doctor’s Wife; and Damien Lynch, another Big Finish regular who I’d most recently heard playing Leela’s love interest. I thought it was tremendous, and several times went back to listen to good bits again. Despite the fact that there are only four characters, they are all excellent, the Paris 1948 atmosphere is convincingly portrayed, and the alien menace convincingly threatening. Tim Foley is now on my must-buy list of authors.
The final part of the trilogy, Planet of the End, is set in the future rather than the past or near-present; the writer, Timothy X Atack, is I think new to me. I mostly listened to it navigating around an unfamiliar supermarket while shopping on Christmas Eve, so sympathised with the Doctor’s confusion as he tried to work out what was going on. Having landed on a mausoleum world, he is taken prisoner by the local AI on the instructions of the mysterious Incorporation, who then make extreme demands of him. I thought the plot maybe slightly over-reached, but it’s more than made up for by Margaret Clunie as the computer that gradually develops a soul through her interactions with Eccleston’s Doctor. I was also more than a little thrilled that half of the mysterious Incorporation is played by Jan Francis, who I loveed as Yvette in the first series of Secret Army, but in fact she isn’t given as much to do as I’d have liked. Still, it hangs together well enough.
Here’s a trailer for all three of the stories, which has nice visuals and music but not much content.
I have the third Ninth Doctor box set downloaded and ready.