Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Trouble In Paradise

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! We’re continuing our look at the eleven-volume Fiftieth Anniversary series, Destiny of the Doctor, produced by Big Finish in conjunction with AudioGO. Today we’re listening to the Sixth Doctor’s contribution to the series:  Trouble in Paradise, read by Nicola Bryant and Cameron Stewart, and written by Nev Fountain. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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This episode differs from its predecessors right from the start. Rather than finding it incidentally and later, we get an appearance by the Eleventh Doctor right at the outset, as he uses the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits and viewscreen to contact the Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown. He makes it clear that he is a future incarnation of the Doctor (with Peri at first reflecting that he is what she would expect from the Doctor’s son, if he had one), and compliments his previous self; and then he makes a request. He wants the Sixth Doctor to obtain an omniparadox, a most dangerous item. After he leaves, the Sixth Doctor explains that an omniparadox is a sort of power cell, created by the conflict between two versions of time, much as nuclear power is created by smashing atoms together. The omniparadox, however, possesses energies that, if misapplied, can destroy the universe.

The Doctor constructs a device to track the signal of an omniparadox; it does so by mimicking the signal to create a resonance. Tracking, they land aboard a ship—not a spaceship, but a sailing ship—and find the paradox hovering above the TARDIS. However, they are quickly captured by a most unlikely man and his crew, and find that they are in the presence of the famed Christopher Columbus, aboard the Santa Maria; and he has just sighted land. He assumes they are natives of the island he has discovered, and that they have somehow come aboard to worship the invading Europeans. (The fact that he can converse with them without trouble seems to be lost on him.) The misunderstandings are interrupted, however, when it is revealed that a man on board is dying—and claims to have seen the devil.

Unfortunately, Peri has seen it too, albeit briefly. The Doctor gives her the TARDIS key to fetch a medical kit; and en route, she sees a demonic creature in the shadows for a moment. The Doctor determines that the man is dying of tuberculosis; he has the ability to cure him, but refuses to do so, as introducing modern medicine to the year 1492 could be disastrous. Enraged at him, Peri runs off through the hold where the TARDIS is parked, stopping only to throw the key at the Doctor.

Moments later, we find that Peri—intending to just stand at the prow and think—has fallen overboard. The Doctor panics, and tries to enter the TARDIS to save her, but cannot find the key. He is diverted, however, when he sees that the omniparadox is now gone; and shortly thereafter, the universe begins to unravel, violently. The Doctor realizes that something has caused the paradox to be removed, which means that the Eleventh Doctor’s mission in the future will fail, bringing about this destruction; but he stabilizes the situation briefly with his tracking unit, using its false signal to “trick” the universe into stability. It will not last, however, and he has about an hour before things fall apart. Columbus, having had his beliefs challenged repeatedly, now believes the Doctor is a wizard, and orders him to find the key and fix the situation; if he does not do so in twenty minutes, Columbus will cut off his hands, a punishment that history attests he used often on the native populations.

Peri, meanwhile, is not dead. She finds herself washed up on the shore—and is immediately captured by natives who are under the control of a monster. The monster is the devilish figure she saw; it confronts her, and reveals itself to be the Herd Leader of the Bovine race, a race of intelligent buffalo. Once they ruled the continent, and the primitive humans worshipped them; but then the herd leader was trapped in ice. Without its mind, the herd regressed into common buffalo, and were hunted to extinction. In the future, when the herd leader thawed out, he found he had no herd to lead. Adopting time travel technology which had since been developed by humans, he traveled back to conduct experiments which would save his people. He believes that Peri and the Doctor were sent to stop him.

The Doctor determines that a goat in the hold has eaten the key. However, he retains a psychic connection to it; and he is able to telepathically connect it to the TARDIS despite the goat (and much to the goat’s alarm) and get the door to unlock. With Columbus in tow, he determines that Peri is alive, and travels to her location; unknown to him, Columbus—now convinced the Doctor is a superior explorer—plans to kill him out of jealousy.

Arriving at the Herd Leader’s time machine, they learn its plan. It was the herd leader that led Columbus to the new world—Columbus being an incompetent navigator on his own—in hopes that the Europeans will exterminate the native Americans, thus preventing them from exterminating the Bovine herd. In that way he can return to the future and resume his place as herd leader. They are shocked to see another Herd Leader appear and interrupt, however; or rather, the same one, but older. The second leader says he is from the future, and has come to stop the experiment, because it will be a failure—the Europeans, too, will hunt and control the Bovine. The Doctor uses this opportunity to surreptitiously remove the time element from the machine. Warned by Peri, he dodges out of the way as Columbus tries to kill him with a sword; Columbus misses and destroys the time element by accident. The second herd leader vanishes, being unable to have time-traveled without the machine; the first is forced to flee. After removing the time machine, the Doctor, Peri, and Columbus return to the ship.

Columbus is forced to acknowledge that the Doctor and Peri are not natives after all; this does not change his plans, but he debates recording these events. He sends his men ashore to hunt down and kill the herd leader, convincing them it is not a devil, but an animal. The Doctor sees that the omniparadox has returned, and collects it; he theorizes that it disappeared because of the likelihood of Peri’s death. Without her to warn him of Columbus’s strike, the timeline would have been vastly different; and it was the collision of the timelines of the two herd leaders that created the paradox in the first place. Having a final change of heart, he cures the man with tuberculosis, and then they depart.

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Dating this story is easy; the date is clearly given as October 12, 1492. Dating the point of origin of the herd leader is a little harder; however, as he states he gets his time travel technology from the humans of the future, it is likely at least the 50th century. In fact, I would place it definitively in that century, as time travel exists, but not in the more compact and refined form of a vortex manipulator, which is known to exist by the 51st century; the machine here is apparently bulkier, and involves a time element large enough to be struck with a sword. From the Doctor and Peri’s point of view, this episode must occur prior to the past-time events seen Trial of a Time Lord, part two, Mindwarp, as that episode involves Peri’s death (later overturned, I know, but their travels here are clearly prior to that occasion). I would further suggest that it is at about the midpoint of their time together; Peri is not the frightened child she was for most of their early adventures, but neither is she fully her calm, collected self. Still, it’s hard to be precise.

Continuing the tradition started by Carole Ann Ford in Hunters of Earth, Nicola Bryant proves to be a versatile voice actor, doing an excellent job of catching the Sixth Doctor’s mannerisms and speech habits. Her take on the Eleventh Doctor is not as convincing, though still effective. I had never heard her speak without the affected American accent she uses for Peri; and now, hearing the contrast between her reading voice and Peri’s voice, I realize she’s incredibly skilled at this type of work. It would be very easy to assume that two different voice actors were involved. Cameron Stewart displays similar skill; he voices Columbus and the herd leader, two very different voices.

This story departs from the established structure significantly. In the previous stories, the Eleventh Doctor took advantage of adventures that were already under way for his past incarnations, using those situations to obtain what he needs. Here, he is the reason for this mission in the first place; but given the seriousness of an omniparadox—as an object the Doctor would not ordinarily seek out—I think that’s a fair strategy. We get a bit of the occasionally-recurring theme of whether it’s okay to change history here; Peri is in favor, the Doctor is not, but in the end she gets her way. As it turns out, however, the change they make is minor; he cures the sailor with tuberculosis, but doesn’t leave any indication of how it was done.

This has been my least favorite story in this series so far. Although I like the Sixth Doctor, and his audios are usually very good, I’ve always felt that Peri is the weakest of his companions. Rather, I should say, it isn’t that Peri is weak; it’s that I think she is not a good match with Six. Had she been able to stay with Five, they would have done much better together. Still, none of that is to say that this is a bad story; I think it’s weakened in part by Peri’s presence, and also by having its focus primarily on the larger story arc rather than the local story, but I think neither of those things ruin it completely. As part of this series, it’s still vital, and still worth a listen.

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Next time: We join the Seventh Doctor and Ace on Tarsus Six in Shockwave! See you there.

All stories featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story’s purchase page is below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

Trouble In Paradise

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: The Apocalypse Element

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Apocalypse Element, number eleven in the main range of audios—and for once, it lives up to its name! The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe have their work cut out for them this time…with a little help from a long-lost old friend. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t listened to this audio!

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The Time Lords aren’t the only race to develop time travel. In fact, twenty such races—and by default, twenty of the most powerful civilizations in the universe—are gathering on the planet Archetryx for a conference regarding time travel and its limitations. Archetryx’s monitors get a strange reading before the conference, but there is an explanation: the Monans, whose time vessels are even more highly powered than the Time Lords’ TARDISes, have arrived, and their ship’s powerful engines created a disturbance in Archetryx’s temporal defense shields. It’s done more than that, however; it has dragged in a straggler, the TARDIS occupied by the Sixth Doctor and his companion, Evelyn Smythe.

They shouldn’t be there, but they are saved from trouble by Coordinator Vansell of the Gallifreyan Celestial Intervention Agency, who declares them part of the Lord President’s entourage. Nevertheless, there’s no time to rest, because strange things are still happening.

Twenty years ago, the nearby planetoid of Etra Prime—the oldest planetoid in the known universe, coincidentally—vanished from time and space. It took with it five hundred scientists, mostly from Gallifrey, including the newly-elected Lord President Romanadvoratrelundar, Romana for short. A year later, three hundred of them reappeared on Archetryx, dead and distorted by time. To avert an accusation and a war, Archetryx agreed to host this conference, which has now come to fruition. Romana, however, is still to be found. Now, the Archetryxans detect that Etra Prime has returned—and it is on a collision course with Archetryx! And worse…it becomes clear that the Daleks are behind it.

The Doctor begins to investigate, at the behest of the current Lord President, who was raised to the post when Romana failed to return; he is also loyal to Romana, and tries to uphold her decisions. The Doctor quickly finds that the Daleks have agents among the Archetryxans, operating under mind control. They kill themselves, but not before the sensors and shields are sabotaged, letting the Daleks into the complex. Another spy also destroys an exterior wall, allowing them in, and unintentionally trapping Evelyn. Vansell, accompanied by the Archetryxan Monitor Vorna, rescue her, but can’t stop the Daleks. However, rather than attack directly, the Daleks steal the Monan time ship. It is not dimensionally transcendent like a TARDIS, and so only a few Daleks fit inside; the rest move deeper into the building and self-destruct, blocking all the delegates from escaping.

The Doctor goes to the gravity wells in the facility to effect repairs and raise the shields. He is attacked by Daleks—but not their machines. The mutants have left their casings in the zero-G environment of the wells, and are attacking personally.

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Inside Etra Prime, Romana has been a slave for twenty years. The years have weighed on her, but she retains her identity and sanity by force of will. She and another slave, a Monan engineer named Vrint, are pulled out to cannibalize the Monan ship; they are instructed to use its engines to build a temporal centrifuge. Etra Prime contains a ridiculously rare element, which, when refined, has fantastic power over space and time; the Daleks call it the Apocalypse Element. As they work they overhear the Daleks’ plans. Later, they finish the centrifuge, but sabotage it; they then use a nearby transmat to escape to Archetryx. The transmat is destroyed in Dalek crossfire. Romana takes with her a strange crystal; it a communicator of sorts, used by the Daleks to telepathically communicate with their spies, so as to avoid detection of conventional signals. It is a rare item, and the Daleks want it back, as it has another purpose—and is vital to their plan.

The Doctor escapes the Dalek mutants, and rendezvoused with Evelyn; she helps him escape, but it’s only temporary, as he must go back in. Meanwhile, the Daleks are stealing technological secrets from the various time machines (though, presumably, the TARDISes have sufficient security to resist entry). The Black Dalek leading the force also tells the delegates that attacks have been launched on their homeworlds. Evelyn volunteers to help clear the way to the ships. Vorna goes with her, and Romana joins the Doctor. The delegates also attack the Daleks. The Doctor gives back the crystal, and the Daleks evacuate, clearing the way; the delegates escape. The Doctor, Evelyn, Vorna, and an Archetryxan security agent named Trinkett escape in the TARDIS immediately before Etra Prime crashes into Archetryx, destroying both worlds and killing everyone remaining behind.

The President and Vansell arrive on Gallifrey before the Doctor. Immediately they learn of a Monan ship seeking refuge there; the President and security Captain Reldath are suspicious, but Vansell, hungry for the Monan’s time travel secrets, persuades them to allow them in. It is a ruse; the Daleks, possessing their own version of a chameleon circuit, have created an illusion of the Monan ship to hide their own ships. Now inside the transduction barriers, they invade Gallifrey.

Romana, whose presidential codes have never been revoked (unlike the Doctor’s), links to the TARDIS telepathic circuits to gain entrance to the Gallifreyan citadel. The Daleks have taken the TARDIS cradle area under the citadel, and have harvested the eyes of a dead soldier to defeat the retina scans on all the security doors. Being forced to get by the Daleks, the Doctor prepares to try his luck; but Romana offers them her presidential codes if they will spare them. It is a ruse, but they fall for it; they need the codes to take down the barriers and allow invasion en masse. She links with them telepathically to transmit the codes; but instead, she unloads twenty years of pain and hatred into their minds, stunning them and allowing her and her companions to escape. They force her out of the link, but she senses enough of their plan to get an inkling of their plans for the Element…

Reaching security control, the Doctor has Vansell erase every Gallifreyan retinal print from the Matrix, and install Evelyn’s human retinal print instead. As she is the only human around, she is now the only key to any door—and the Daleks do not have her, nor can they risk killing her. The Doctor sends her with Vansell to rally the guards. He then seals the bulkheads on the TARDIS cradles, trapping the Daleks there. Evelyn and Vansell meet up with Trinkett and Reldath, but are cut off as the Daleks burn through the wall of the cradles.

The Black Dalek learns that the Element is ready, and sends a Dalek with it to the center of the Seriphia galaxy—four times the size of the Milky Way, and heavily populated—to prepare to ignite it. The Black Dalek demands the help of the Time Lords, as the Element, once ignited, can only be controlled via time distortion—essentially, a bubble time continuum around its field of effect. Otherwise, it will quickly consume the entire universe in a massive chain reaction, ending everything. The President thinks it is bluffing—and so the Black Dalek ignites the Element in Seriphia. Now the Time Lords are forced to act to contain it.

The Doctor and his group make their way to the Eye of Harmony (or rather, its main interface in the Panipticon. He sends Evelyn and Vansell to collect power boosters, which he will need to create enough power from the Eye to contain the Element.

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The Daleks discover the Element is proceeding far faster than they predicted. They realize that they must work with the Time Lords to be able to contain it, or they will be destroyed too. They strike an uneasy bargain with the Lord President, allowing them to land at the Citadel. Evelyn and Vansell get the boosters, but Evelyn is wounded by a Dalek and temporarily paralyzed; she sends Vansell ahead, trusting that the Daleks won’t kill her, as they need her eyes. However, this undoes the president’s plan; with her in custody, the Daleks don’t need his cooperation to get inside, and they kill him. With Evelyn’s forced cooperation, the Daleks already in the citadel shut down the transduction barriers, allowing the fleet to land, and marking the fall of Gallifrey.

The Doctor and Romana use the boosters with the Eye, but it is not enough. The Black Dalek, however, via one of the communication crystals, adds the combined mental might of all the Daleks on Gallifrey to the Eye. The combined power is enough, and the Element is contained; moreover, the containment field has been modified to accelerate time within. This not only burns out the Element, but also leads to the creation of a new galaxy from the rubble—billions of stars and planets, all unoccupied…and all ripe for occupation by the Daleks. The sacrifice of the Daleks on Gallifrey, it seems, was not as altruistic as it appeared. A new Dalek Empire will soon be born.

With the president dead, Romana—who was never removed from office—is now Lady President. Evelyn’s retinal print is removed and replaced with Gallifreyan prints; but the Doctor suggests that traces of it may remain. Romana promises help to any survivors of Archetryx and the Monan homeworld, but there is nothing to be done for the dead of Seriphia. She also promises intervention against the Daleks in that galaxy, and promises to strengthen Gallifrey for the future.

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This story was a roller coaster from start to finish. As the DisContinuity Guide states, “there’s a lot going on here.” It’s most notable for two events that have major impact on continuity (and also on the future of Big Finish’s spinoffs): the return of Romana (subsequent to her original return from E-Space in the VNAs), and the establishment of the Dalek Empire. Romana will feature heavily in the Gallifrey audios, and the Dalek Empire in, well, Dalek Empire. There are some other references worth noting, as well; Evelyn’s temporary paralysis at the hands (plungers? blasters?) of the Daleks echoes a similar wounding of Ian Chesterton in The Daleks. The Daleks hollowed out a planet for a weapon in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Reldath appeared previously in The Sirens of Time. Evelyn mentions having a specialty in creating feedback loops, previously noted in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. The Doctor mentions his presidency, most recently seen in The Five Doctors, and also in The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion of Time (coincidentally also involving a successful-but-temporary invasion of Gallifrey), but he has since been removed from office. Most interestingly, this story accounts for the use of a human retinal print in the television movie; some trace of Evelyn’s print remains. (Though occupying a human body, the Master could not open the Eye, as his eyes had been changed by his possession of the body, and possibly by remnants of the Cheetah virus from Survival.) These Daleks appear to be post-Davros-arc Daleks that did not originate with his Imperial faction, as they are led by a Black Dalek and refer to Skaro.

The Sixth Doctor is truly at his best here; the action in this story is much more like what we’d see under, say, the Tenth Doctor, with a frantic pace and lots of yelling. Evelyn takes a bit of a backseat, but that’s to be expected in a story that showcases Romana; of course Romana gets the lion’s share of the attention here, although I don’t mean to compare the two as companions. Evelyn can hold her own easily in that regard. Romana is a hard character compared to her previous appearances; she’s been shaped by her years of slavery. Twenty years may be a blink of the eye to a Time Lord, but it’s still a lot of torture and hard labor.

We’ve seen universe-threatening forces before, and the phrase “destroy the universe!” gets thrown around quite a lot. This time, though, it truly comes across as serious. The Apocalypse Element is frightening in a way that most threats can only dream about; it says something that even the Daleks are frightened of what they’ve unleashed. While they weren’t being altruistic in helping the Time Lords, the fact that they would ally themselves at all speaks volumes. The Part Three cliffhanger is quite the wicked trap: Either lower the barriers and lose Gallifrey, or keep them up and lose the universe.

I’ve been trying for some time to date Dalek stories in one specific sense: do they possess time travel or not? In this story, they are mentioned as having it, but not until near the end. Is this the moment when they acquire it? It’s curiously vague on this point. Still, they have the chance to steal technological secrets from a variety of time vessels, so I think this is a likely candidate—unless I’m contradicted later, of course. It is very like the Daleks to steal and modify the technology rather than develop it on their own. This is borne out by the fact that no Davros story in the classic area—again, unless it happens in audios I have yet to hear—involves Dalek time travel. Related: They DO possess dimensional transcendent technology, but interestingly, I think they stole that from the Time Lords at some point in the past—the Genesis Ark in Series Two would seem to indicate as much.

The Monans represent a disturbing implication. Many times in the new television series, the Doctor states that his TARDIS—being the last one—is the most powerful ship in existence. This makes sense, as it draws from the Eye of Harmony. However, the Monan ships are said to be far more powerful. That fact alone should give us pause—what is more powerful in terms of raw power than the Eye of Harmony? I’m interested to see if the Monans appear again in the audios.

My final verdict: This is a great story, one of the highlights of the early Main Range. Ordinarily I try to find some flaws, but I don’t see any here. Check it out!

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Next time: On Thursday we’ll continue the Destiny of the Doctor series with the Second Doctor’s contribution, Shadow of Death; and then we’ll return to the main range for The Fires of Vulcan, with the Seventh Doctor and Mel! See you there.

All audios in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below.  This and other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Apocalypse Element

Doctor Who Audio Review: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, the ninth in the Main Range of audios. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio!

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We open on a scene in the distant past. An alien being is conducting a survey on Earth when his ship—and partner—are called back to the fleet. It’s an automatic recall program, and can’t be overridden. The alien races back to the ship, but is attacked along the way, and forced to defend himself—and the ship leaves without him. Frustrated, and blaming his partner, he swears revenge.

Eighteen thousand years later, the TARDIS wheezes to a stop in the middle of a marsh. The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe emerge, arguing good-naturedly over why they are here—the Doctor insisting they were forced off course—before heading for the nearest buildings in the nearby valley. They determine they are in Cornwall, and their first contact with humans confirms they are in the late twentieth century—near Evelyn’s home time, in fact.

They meet a Mrs. Moynihan, out walking her dogs; she is the housekeeper for a local figure of minor note, Sir Archibald Flint. They also view a nearby fogou, a subterranean passage of Celtic origin, the like of which only exists in Cornwall. It sits near a tumulus, a stone age burial mound. Evelyn picks up a souvenir, a small stone of odd shape; then they are intercepted by Philip Ludgate, an archaeology student. He is using electrical equipment to take readings in the area; and the Doctor notices that the readings are oddly high. Ludgate takes them to his base of operations, the Lanyon Moor Archaeological Institute, which is located in Flint’s gameskeeper’s lodge. Evelyn finds the name familiar.

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At the lodge, they meet the very traditional lead archaeologist, Professor Morgan, who is mildly antagonistic toward Ludgate, and more so toward the Doctor. They also meet Flint, who is the patron and benefactor of the enterprise, but not an archaeologist himself. One more guest is also apparent, and he comes as a welcome surprise to the Doctor; it is an old friend, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, formerly of UNIT, now retired.

Over Morgan’s objections, the Brigadier takes the Doctor on to assist him, and admits that he is doing a bit of clandestine contract work for UNIT; he is investigating a history of odd occurrences on Lanyon Moor, which infringe on UNIT’s work in the area. He also mentions his wife, Doris, whom the Doctor has not yet met, and who is on vacation with family in Devon. Mrs. Moynihan excuses herself and leaves, ostensibly for a long vacation in Greece; this was her departure date prior to meeting the Doctor. The Doctor and the Brigadier go out to examine the fogou again, sending Evelyn to conduct some historical research in Flint’s library.

Evelyn is warmly received, and quickly completes her overview. As she leaves, Flint and an unknown visitor conclude that she is too inquisitive, and must be dealt with. On the path back to the institute, Evelyn meets a hiker named Nikki; they begin to talk, but are cut short. A small creature leaps out of the fog, and attacks, killing Nikki. It flees when confronting Evelyn, however.

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Ludgate finds Evelyn and gets her back to the instituted to rest. The Doctor and the Brigadier return as well, having discussed the local history of myths about imps and goblins, and the history of strange happenings. In the morning, the trio compare notes; the Doctor confirms that the imp on the path was unable to attack her due to the stone she carried, taken from the fogou. Morgan interferes, causing the Doctor to lash out at him; Evelyn agrees to rest, but only if the Doctor apologizes. He does so, and enlists Morgan’s help, and then leaves to get equipment from the TARDIS. The TARDIS, however, is gone.

Ludgate and Evelyn conspire to break back into the mansion and investigate, as Evelyn believes something strange is happening there. Inside, they find a hidden lab full of equipment…and Flint catches her there, and locks her up.

The Doctor improvises a piece of equipment to track the alien energy readings. He concludes that the creature is dormant, but still aware, and can jam the signal; to overcome this, the Doctor will have to link his mind to the signal, which could be dangerous. He has the Brigadier switch on the machine, and warns him to leave it on no matter how much pain the Doctor appears to be in.

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Flint tells Evelyn a bit of his plan to locate and use the powers on the moor; then he sets up a machine to destroy her eyes, as her eyes led her here. Before he can do it, however, the Brigadier switches on the Doctor’s machine, causing an outburst of power; as that power is also linked to Flint’s machine, the resulting feedback destroys Flint’s machine. He locks her in a study instead. As power lashes the institute, the Brigadier is forced to disobey and shut off the machine. The Doctor recovers, and reveals that he felt a second psychic field…in Greece. It seems Mrs. Moynihan is in on the plot. As it turns out, she has gone to recover an alien artifact, traded off by the Celts long ago and now residing in a museum in Athens. The Doctor and the Brigadier head for a nearby UNIT facility to obtain help in stopping her.

It is too late. She recovers the artifact and hops a plane to return home, bypassing the larger—and more secure—airports for a smaller one. The Doctor, meanwhile, has deduced the alien’s identity; it is a Tregannon, a very long-lived and hostile species which has the ability to use mental energy for many purposes. It even has the ability to discorporate into energy—its dormant form—and return, assuming it has a technological focus. The device that Mrs. Moynihan has retrieved will give it that focus, allowing it to return in the flesh.

Evelyn breaks out by smashing—to her chagrin—a priceless old stained-glass window. However, she is intercepted by Ludgate, who forces her back to the manor. Flint locks her in the cellar this time, and reveals that Ludgate has been working with him. Mrs. Moynihan arrives, causing the death of a soldier en route. She has fallen in with the Tregannon, Sancreda, as a means of restoring her honor and getting respect after her husband left her, and is quite blinded to anything else that may come of it. She places the device on the tumulus…and Sancreda is restored to life.

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Sancreda examines the device, and determines that a component—the induction loop—is missing from it; Mrs. Moynihan identifies it as the stone that Evelyn is carrying. She goes to get it. The Doctor has recognized it as well, and realized the connection, and determines to use it as a bargaining tool Meanwhile, UNIT has detected Sancreda’s Tregannon ship entering the solar system. The ship blinds UNIT’s satellite surveillance in the area.

Moynihan intercepts the Doctor and returns him to the institute, where the Brigadier waits; Morgan has gone to find Evelyn. Meanwhile, Sancreda arrives at the manor and kills Ludgate. Flint confronts him, thinking he can control him, but Sancreda kills him as well, and destroys the laboratory. Morgan arrives thereafter and frees Evelyn and takes her back to the institute to get the induction loop. A confrontation ensues, and Morgan is revealed to be Sancreda; the real Morgan was killed immediately after Sancreda arose from the tumulus. Sancreda causes Moynihan’s dogs to kill her, leaving only the Brigadier, the Doctor, Evelyn, and himself. He takes the three of them, with the induction loop, to meet his ship on the moor, and reveals he plans to punish his old partner—his brother Scryfan–for leaving him behind.

Sancreda finds that the ship is empty. The Doctor reveals the truth: Scryfan had long ago come out of the ship to help Sancreda, and was killed by Sancreda’s errant firing of his weapon. He has been dead for eighteen thousand years. Sancreda decides to use the ship’s psychic weapons to take revenge on Earth instead, and forces the trio out. However, as the ship rises into the sky, it explodes. The Brigadier reveals that while Sancreda was enraged—and distracted—he switched the focusing device for a roll of wire from the Doctor’s pocket. This caused the ship’s weapon to discharge inside the hull rather than outside, destroying the ship.

With the threat neutralized, the TARDIS rematerializes—it had vanished at the prompt of one of its security systems. The Doctor, the Brigadier, and Evelyn take this opportunity for a well-deserved break, a meal at a pub, and talk of old times.

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I was excited to get to this audio (if a bit delayed over the weekend). I’m unashamedly a big ol’ fanboy of the Brigadier, and I couldn’t wait to see his first outing in the main range. Nicholas Courtney is fantastic as always, and hadn’t lost anything over the years. With that said, however, there is a bit of difficulty with placement in the timeline here. The TARDIS wiki places this story in the year 2000, but I suspect that that is an error (the release date is also in that year). From clues within the audio, it seems that the story must predate Battlefield, if not by much, which would place it in the mid-1990s (Battlefield was set in 1997). The Brigadier seems to be a bit less retired now than in that story; he openly admits to doing occasional undercover work for UNIT, where in Battlefield he was quite going against his wife’s wishes in returning to duty, implying that it was no longer customary for him. He also has not introduced the Doctor to Doris, as he does in Battlefield; he mentions her for the first time (although this creates a bit of a contradiction, as that episode implies that the Seventh Doctor is unaware of her. We could handwave it a bit by saying that the Brigadier is unaware of the order of the Doctor’s regenerations, so he does not know at that point if the Seventh Doctor would remember this meeting or not). He has not met the Sixth Doctor before, but recognizes him by his fashion sense and manner of arrival, as well as the Doctor’s knowledge of him. (Full disclosure: the novel Business Unusual contains an earlier meeting between the Brig and Six, which would be earlier from the Brig’s point of view, but later from the Doctor’s; but it seems to be ignored here.)

This is Evelyn Smythe’s second appearance. We have skipped a few offscreen adventures with her; she refers to having seen alien worlds. However, it hasn’t been long since her first appearance in The Marian Conspiracy, as the Doctor is just getting over a cold he contracted in that story. She’s quite at ease with the Doctor, despite not having known him long as yet. She remains as snarky as ever, and continues to be a good match for the Doctor’s wit—better than Peri ever was, in my opinion, though not for lack of trying on Peri’s part.

The story references several others in various media. The Brigadier states that the TARDIS previously became invisible, which occurred during The Invasion with the Second Doctor. In discussing the archaeological efforts, there is a reference to Leamington-Smith from The Stones of Blood (Fourth Doctor) and Sir Percival Flint from the backstory of The Daemons, who proves to be an ancestor of Sir Archibald Flint in this story. It’s a shame it worked out so badly for all of them. The Doctor uses a Shlangiian power cell; the Shlangiian first received mention in the VNA novel Original Sin, featuring the Seventh Doctor, Bernice Summerfield, Chris Cwej, and Roz Forrester (in fact, it was the first appearance of the latter two). Though it’s not an actual reference, it’s worth noting that there’s yet another occasion in which the Brigadier first tells the Doctor of his marriage (bringing the total to three), in the novel The King of Terror. Finally, the Doctor is revived by the power of tea; though I am sure this was not in any way intended to be a connection, we’ll see this again post-regeneration in The Christmas Invasion, where the fumes from spilled tea give renewed focus to the Tenth Doctor’s recent regeneration.

The acting is top-notch in this serial. Given that it’s a darker, more gothic mood—very reminiscent of The Daemons–the voice acting does much to set the tone, and I consider it a success. In my experience, Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier excels at this type of story; he’s droll but not over the top. He gives an air of solidity that a story like this needs. The Brigadier is very much the kind of man who faces the mysterious, sighs, shrugs, and sets his shoulders to plow through it. He’s long past the point where he would fail to believe the Doctor’s wild stories—he fully accepts them now—but his approach is the same: “What needs to happen? Very well, let’s get to it.” And in the end, he’s the one who saves the world, by pulling the device from the ship. Maggie Stables, as well, continues to thrive as Evelyn; she may not be young, but she’s no kindly grandmother. She can be sharp and cutting when she needs to be, and diplomatic when the situation calls for that. (Sometimes I wonder if I’m talking about the character or the actor here…) And of course, Colin Baker is long since at home in the role, even if his part here is a bit reduced compared to his co-stars.

On the down side, I was disappointed to see yet another mad-scientist type for the villain. There’s a bit of bait-and-switch; you expect Morgan to be trouble, but in the end it’s genial Flint who is the real problem. Still, it’s not enough, and I at least saw it coming. Like so many other Doctor Who villains of this type, he wants to use the arcane and yet newfound technology—in this case, Sancreda’s power—to gain power of his own, and it’s just tiresome. He’s one-dimensional enough that it comes as a bit of a relief when Sancreda kills him. I was, however, caught off guard by both Ludgate and Moynihan; I didn’t expect either of them to be in collusion with Flint or Sancreda, and I was even more surprised to see that Moynihan fell in with Sancreda apparently without Flint’s involvement. Sancreda himself is a bit stereotypical; he kills from a sense of vengeance, and without discretion. It can be perhaps forgiven in that he had ten thousand years of discorporation in which to go mad, and also in that his race is known to be violent and hostile anyway; but again, none of this is new to Doctor Who, and ancient threats are a dime a dozen. One almost expects to hear that Sancreda is the last of his kind.

Overall, it’s a good story, riding on the strength of its protagonists. The Sixth Doctor’s main range entries continue to get better with each installment, and this is no exception. It’s a great addition, as well, to Evelyn’s time as a companion, and anything involving the Brigadier is always welcome. Check it out if you haven’t—you won’t be disappointed.

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Next time: We finish season one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Human Resources, and we return to the Main Range with #10, Winter for the Adept, with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa! See you there.

All audios in this series are available for purchase at Big Finish; this and many others can be found on Spotify and Google Play.

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Whispers of Terror

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Whispers of Terror, the third in the Main Range of audios. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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The date is unknown, but sometime in the relatively near future. The Sixth Doctor and Peri land inside a curious edifice: the Museum of Aural Antiquities. It’s a facility devoted to the preservation and curation of sound, including speeches and other voice clips; and it’s curated by the eccentric Gantman, who is supremely suited for a job involving sound, as he is blind. He and his assistant are assembling a recording of the final, unbroadcast speech from one Visteen Krane, and actor-turned-politician who committed suicide shortly before he would have announced a highly-anticipated bid for the presidency.

The Doctor and Peri arrive in the middle of this, and are quickly brought to Gantman. He explains that an associate of Krane, Beth Pernell, is coming to the museum to broadcast the speech, which will provide support for her own presidential bid. Almost immediately, however, something goes wrong: A strange collection of voices and other noises begins to haunt Peri and others in the museum…and a man is killed.

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It becomes apparent that the voices are more than just sounds: they are an intelligent creature, existing only in aural waves. The creature has the ability to travel in any sound, no matter how quiet; and it wants to escape the museum. It is guilty of the murder; and strangely, it is discovered to be a remnant of Visteen Krane!

Beth Pernell arrives on the scene at the worst possible time, intent on making her broadcast. However, the Doctor and Peri discover that her intentions are not what they seem. After capturing the creature, they at last piece together her plan: She is subtly altering the speech to make it appear to support her, when in fact it was delivered in direct opposition to her. The Doctor captures the sound creature; but it is tortured, and then unintentionally released, by Pernell. It allies itself with the Doctor to bring an end to her scheme by first preventing the broadcast, and then by allowing it to happen–but with changes that further make it clear that Beth is not to be trusted or elected. In addition, the edited broadcast makes it clear that Krane’s death was no suicide, but rather, a murder plotted by Beth and carried out by her accomplice, Hans Stengard. Pernell flees the museum, but dies when her vehicle explodes, a final gift from the sound creature. The creature–or rather, Krane’s echo–now restored to sanity by the Doctor, opts to remain in the museum, being supremely suited to helping Gantman with his curation duties. The Doctor and Peri then depart in the TARDIS, leaving the blind Gantman to remark, appropriately, “Well, now I’ve heard everything.”

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After a rocky start in The Sirens of Time, this is a good solo outing for the Sixth Doctor. Although by necessity this is still early in his lifetime (that is, given that Peri is the companion), he is far less abrasive than in his televised appearances, yet he retains his quick wit and a degree of arrogant self-possession. More striking is Peri’s performance here; I’ve often stated that for most of her televised run, she had the demeanor of a trauma victim or a sufferer of PTSD, but there is none of that here. Instead, she’s the sunny, confident, and somewhat snarky Peri that we first met alongside the Fifth Doctor, and perhap even more capable. It’s a good turn for her, and makes me wish that we had seen her this way on television.

The science behind the aural creature stretches credibility a bit; I kept thinking, “What if it just gets quiet? Won’t he die?” However, the idea of a non-corporeal creature that lives in a form of transmission is not new to Doctor Who, and would much later be explored onscreen in The Idiot’s Lantern and The Bells of St. John. The Krane creature is interesting to me; upon being tortured, it becomes the monster that it has already been believed to be, but is healed–completely inadvertently–by the very cancellation wave that is meant to destroy it.

I liked the pace of this serial. The episodes ran about twenty minutes each, a bit shorter than the television episodes of the comparable era; but there was no trouble following along as I experienced with The Sirens of Time. It felt like a quick story, but that was not a problem; it was coherent and well-done. The voice acting is excellent as well; although I suspected from the beginning that Beth Pernell was more than she seems, her true character stayed well hidden until it was time to reveal it. The same can be said for her accomplice, Stengard. Overall, this serial is excellent, and I recommend it.

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Next time: Land of the Dead, starring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa! See you there.

 

All audios reviewed in this series can be purchased here from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below.  This and many other audio dramas are also available on Spotify and Google Play.

Whispers of Terror

Final Thoughts: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch

Heads up, folks; this is a long one.  The alternative was to split it up over a few days and a few posts, but we all have things to do, so we’ll just put it all up at once.  Here we go!

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Eight months ago, give or take, I started something that was, for me, pretty ambitious. I decided to watch all of the classic series of Doctor Who. It was a lot to take on; I’m not good at following through and completing a series, even if it’s all available for streaming at once. I can’t count the shows I’ve attempted and then quit halfway. But Doctor Who is different, I told myself; it’s the show of my childhood, and besides, I had already seen the entire revived series to that point (or almost anyway; I held off on a bit of Series 8 for my girlfriend to catch up, and likewise with Series 9). So I decided to give it a try.

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

Now here we are, eight months, twenty-six seasons and one movie later, and it’s over. I missed a collective total of about thirty minutes, I think; there was a single episode (not a serial, just one part) I couldn’t locate, plus about seven minutes missing from another. Of course many of the early episodes are only available in reconstructions, but I was able to find recons for all of those missing episodes. So, I wanted to put together a final thoughts post for the series, and see what people think. I appreciate all the comments (and karma) from the previous posts; this fandom is great, no matter what anyone outside it may say, and the discussion is what I was after most of all. I’ve learned a lot about the series just from the conversations that have resulted, and it’s convinced me to give Big Finish and the various novels a try, as well. If this gets a little long—and who am I kidding, I know myself, of course it will—I’ll split it into parts, but I’ll post them as quickly as I can. (If you’re reading this on my blog, some of what I’ve just said may not make sense; I’ve posted these reviews on Reddit.com’s /r/Gallifrey subreddit, as well, and some things are specific to that site.) With that, let’s get started!

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My very first observation as I started this rewatch is that the series has changed immensely since William Hartnell was the First Doctor. I suppose I expected that, given that the show is fifty-three years old; but I wasn’t expecting it to have changed in the ways I saw. It’s gone from being a somewhat-educational children’s show to being a family show with adult overtones; but it’s more than that. The Doctor we first met was not a nice guy, nor likeable. He really wasn’t even the hero of his own show—that would be Ian Chesterton. (All respect to Barbara and Susan, but it was the 1960s—women weren’t often the heroes of anything on television. They were great, and I liked them, but they existed to support Ian, mostly.) The Doctor was there, basically, to put Ian and Barbara and Susan into a bad situation every week, and occasionally offer a solution. Nowadays that would never fly—he’s the Oncoming Storm, the Madman with a Box, Time’s Champion, even the Time Lord Victorious. He’s the star of his show, now.benpolly

It might be tempting to say that that change happened with the revival, but it was happening long before that. I’ve theorized as I watched—well, it’s not so much a cohesive theory as just an observation—that there’s a visible pattern of growth to the Doctor as the series goes on. Every incarnation adds to his character, makes him something new—he doesn’t just change, he increases. The First Doctor was hardly the Doctor at all for most of his life. He became the Doctor, I believe, in The War Machines. I’ve talked about this a few times before, and I can’t claim total credit for the idea—sorry, I’ve lost the link to the original post that inspired the idea—but my headcanon is that the Doctor didn’t consider himself to be the Doctor until he met Ian and Barbara. (The short version is that Ian mistakenly calls him Doctor, and he lets it stand so he won’t have to tell them his real name; eventually he sees noble qualities in Ian that he wants for himself, and takes the name on as a promise to himself to live up to that example. Then, later, his name leads to the use of the term for a healer—it’s a bit of a paradox, but hey, this is Doctor Who, paradoxes are what we do here.) I think the turning point onscreen is when he faces down the War Machine in the street, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary to save the others—but confident that he can meet the challenge.

The War Games

And then, not long after, he regenerates. Patrick Troughton is the Doctor right from the start, there’s no doubt about it. For him, growth means learning not to let things go to his head. He’s just learned all this confidence and taken on this self-assigned responsibility; now he has to be humble. And the Second Doctor is definitely humble. He does all the things that a class clown does: He’s self-effacing, he uses humor to redirect attention, he’s always evaluating everything and everyone. He moves from passive to active: He’s not just a wanderer in time anymore; instead, he’s getting involved, making things happen. And he cares, far more than the first Doctor ever did. My first memory of the Second Doctor—before I started this rewatch—is from The Mind Robber, with the Doctor running through the Land of Fiction, frantically searching for Jamie and Zoe because he’s so utterly worried about what might happen to them. He comes across as sullen, sometimes, simply because he worries so much.

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And then, he gets caught. The runaway gets dragged back home to an as-yet-unnamed Gallifrey. His companions get their memories removed—what a waste!—and get sent home, and he is forced to regenerate again. In Patrick Troughton’s place, we get John Pertwee, the Third Doctor. Further, he’s banished to Earth; the newly-named Time Lords pull out parts of his TARDIS and parts of his mind so as to keep him there. He’s immediately scooped up by UNIT, so he’s not homeless or purposeless; but his wandering days are over for now. This Doctor is the responsible one, but it chafes him to be that way. He wants to be free, but he has to learn patience. In the meantime, he’s calm, dignified (mostly), and smooth. He’s cared for his companions before, but this is where he learns to love humanity in general; when he first lands, he looks down on them. He knows he’s smarter, knows they’re not on his level. But by the time he gains his freedom back, he doesn’t look down on them anymore—in fact, his opinions are reversed; in Planet of the Spiders, he’s happy with his friends and companions, and looking down on himself for his own foolishness. It’s humility, but a different kind of humility from that of the Second Doctor: He knows he’s not infallible.

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All of that seems to go right out the window when Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor comes on the scene. Several times I’ve called this his adolescent phase. He’s the rebellious teenager here. He’s no longer content to meet his responsibilities; he wants to get out and see the universe. He spends a lot of episodes trying to run from duty, whether it be to UNIT, the Time Lords, the White Guardian, or his companions. He works on his TARDIS the way some teenagers soup up their cars. He gets so rebellious that he has to have a nanny, essentially, to keep him on track, and so Romana joins him. He’s changeable and moody and high-strung and unpredictable. He’s faced with huge decisions and freely admits he isn’t ready to make them. Genesis of the Daleks shows his immaturity (where rather than make the right decision, he more or less blunders into it); it’s not until The Armageddon Factor, when he dismisses the Key to Time, that he begins to grow out of it. And then, near his death, he gets Adric, and becomes something of a mentor to him. I feel like that relationship is what leads him to subconsciously choose the pattern of his next incarnation. He dies doing what he never could have done at the beginning: being a real hero, sacrificing himself for not just those close to him, but the universe at large.

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Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor takes that mentoring aspect and cranks it up to eleven. Young though he appears to be, he’s the fatherly type; he treats his companions less like friends and more like family, or like his own children. Adric’s death in Earthshock breaks him, and he becomes a little harder afterward; but instead of giving him a dark side, that hardness just makes him try that much harder to be the protector, the mentor, the leader. This is the phase of his life where he becomes, as Ohila will later say to the Eighth Doctor, the good man. He finds something of an equal in Nyssa (though it’s never a romantic relationship), but she ultimately leaves out of goodness—she chooses to stay behind on Terminus to help the survivors of Lazar’s Disease. He takes Turlough under his wing, and saves him; he tries to do the same with Kamelion, but fails. It hurts him quite a bit when Tegan leaves; he tries to make it up with Peri, and ends up dying to save her.

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I want to say that Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor came as a reaction to something about the Fifth Doctor. I want to say that, but I can’t. I labored over the question of why he should be the way he was—at first at least—but I just couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. It just seems that when you’re changing personalities with every regeneration, every once in a while you get a dud. It’s almost a reset, a throwback to Tom Baker, but with the bad qualities exaggerated and the good minimized. How often do you get a Doctor that tries to kill a companion? Not often. That, at least, is how he starts out. But if this were elementary school, I’d give the Sixth Doctor the award for “Most Improvement”. The change between the beginning of his (admittedly short) era and the end is just amazing. While he never stops being arrogant, it goes from unapologetic and vicious to self-aware and, well, able to laugh at himself. While he started out thinking of himself as being supremely capable in any circumstance, he really wasn’t—think of all the times he was outwitted by his circumstances, or the times he tried and failed to fix the TARDIS. Yet, by the end, when he learns not to focus on himself as much, he really IS capable—it’s almost like a bit of humility unlocked his abilities.

And then he’s unceremoniously dumped by the BBC. Oh. Well, that’s not good.

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Sylvester McCoy, as the Seventh Doctor, didn’t get the benefit of any buildup whatsoever. He had to step into the role and be the Doctor with no in-universe preparation. He met that challenge; no other Doctor has so immediately been the Doctor. From the minute he wakes up in the Rani’s lab, he commands the role, and never looks back. That’s literal as well as figurative; he’s the only Doctor never to be involved in any capacity in a multi-Doctor story, at least in the classic series. As far as the classic series is concerned—and with its end approaching—he is the pinnacle of the character: Capable, smart, mysterious, caring, wise, powerful, cunning. He meets his match in Ace, who is likewise the pinnacle of what a companion should be: Energetic, realistic, versatile, adaptable, happy, devoted, and above all else, human. With them, we get some of the best stories—and we get the difficult task of closing out the series for cancellation. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly.

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It’s unfortunate that the Seventh Doctor dies as he does—in gunfire and pain—but one thing that was NOT unfortunate was Paul McGann’s selection as the Eighth Doctor. This Doctor is the hinge on which the classic series turns, paving the way for the new series; and as such, he’s a little of both. He’s a survivor, but also a lover, at least to some degree. He puts thought into what it means to BE the Doctor—and he takes a stand accordingly. He dies trying to balance those aspects of himself, fighting destiny all the way to the end—and in his ashes is born the War Doctor. We’ll talk more about him somewhere much further down the road.

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I made a point as I watched of looking for similarities and connections between the classic series and the revived series. Many of those, I pointed out as I came to them. It was interesting to see how plot points reappeared, and how relationships and personalities in one series mirrored those in the other. I suppose it’s inevitable that a five-decade series would repeat itself, but it’s uncanny sometimes; clearly the writers didn’t plagiarize, but they hit the same notes just the same. It never feels repetitive, somehow; instead, it just goes to make these characters feel like real people, with real personalities that stay consistent from one appearance to another. That’s no small feat, considering that there have been dozens (if not hundreds) of writers, and that it was almost certainly unintentional.

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One specific connection I looked for was the various ways in which later Doctors drew inspiration from earlier Doctors. I didn’t research the subject; I know some modern actors have spoken about how they designed their portrayal, and in at least one instance (Ten with Five from Time Crash) it’s actually canon; but I didn’t look into that. These are just my guesses and opinions based on what I saw of the characters. With that said, Nine doesn’t owe much to anyone—or rather, he’s a little bit of everyone. That makes perfect sense, considering he’s a brand-new Doctor, fresh off the Time War, and in a sense the first of his line. He had to carry the weight of the revival single-handedly, and so it made sense for him to show a little something from everyone—the harshness of Hartnell, the energy of Troughton, the severity of Pertwee, the willfulness of Tom Baker, the paternalism (sometimes) of Davison, the mercurial whims of Colin Baker, the determination of McCoy, and the responsibility of McGann. His costume didn’t even relate directly to anyone; it was something new, although we would eventually find that it relates to the War Doctor.

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Ten, of course, owes much to Five; that much is official within the series. He gets his wit from Four, but his attitude toward his companions is all five—in fact, his companions themselves have a lot in common with Five’s companions. Rose is his Adric (though it eventually went to romance more than mentoring); Donna is his Nyssa; Martha is his Tegan, right down to the “I can’t do this anymore” departure; and Wilfred is his Turlough. Astrid Peth, in her one appearance, is his Kamelion—the one he tried to save, but failed; or you could make the same observation about Lady Christina de Souza, as she was both hero and villain.

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Eleven owes his characterization to the Second Doctor, but also—oddly—to the Sixth. Bear with me. He shares Two’s general humor, many of his mannerisms, his flawless loyalty to his companions, and his calm self-assurance (which admittedly is the ONLY thing calm about him). At the same time, he has a proud and arrogant streak that is pure Six; sometimes he’s even as fickle as Six. He also has a scene at his tomb that parallels Six’s scene at his ostensible tomb in Revelation of the Daleks, though Eleven’s attitude about his impending death is much more mature than Six’s (and understandably so). Having a few audios with Six under my belt now, I see the way that character grew offscreen, and I can’t help thinking that Eleven is what Six might have been if he had had to face the Time War.

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Then there’s Twelve. I’ve been vocal in various comments sections about my disappointment with the Twelfth Doctor thus far. I have the utmost respect for Peter Capaldi; his acting chops are second to none. What I don’t like is the direction the character has taken, mostly due to Clara Oswald. With that said, it was harder to nail down influences for him; but I feel like he mostly owes himself to the First and Third Doctors. He shares One’s disdain for his companions, or in his case, companion; I don’t mean that he hates Clara, but there is a lot of rivalry there, and also some looking down on her when he feels she’s inadequate. (It’s only fair, I guess; she does the same to him.) He also has One’s arrogance and willfulness, though it’s not as pronounced as, say, Six. He shares Three’s flair and fashion sense (sometimes anyway), love for tinkering, chafing at restrictions (Three toward the Time Lords, Twelve toward Clara), and sense of responsibility toward Clara and toward UNIT.

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We fans of the show are fond of declaring a certain Doctor to be “MY Doctor”, and that’s fine; I’ve done it too. Now that I’ve seen them all, I thought I would try to rank them according to my preferences. This ranking isn’t any kind of evaluation of their qualities; it’s strictly a ranking of who I liked, most to least, though I may make a comment or two along the way. I’m including the new series Doctors as well, because it’s a short list, and I feel like it’s best judged with everyone included.

  1. Tenth Doctor—David Tennant. I didn’t expect him to unseat Tom Baker, but what can I say.
  2. Seventh Doctor—Sylvester McCoy. I was surprised at just how good he was. The series ended in good hands.
  3. Fourth Doctor—Tom Baker. I grew up watching him, and he was always the standard for the Doctor, in my opinion. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see him slip in my personal rating.
  4. Eleventh Doctor—Matt Smith. He gets a lot of controversy among fans, but I thought he was great.
  5. Third Doctor—John Pertwee. Just a great performance all around.
  6. Fifth Doctor—Peter Davison. I wanted to be more impressed with him, and he wasn’t bad; but he wasn’t as good as I expected at first.
  7. Ninth Doctor—Christopher Eccleston. Great guy, great Doctor, but all too soon gone.
  8. Second Doctor—Patrick Troughton. I liked him, but for reasons I can’t pin down, I had trouble following a lot of his episodes.
  9. Eighth Doctor—Paul McGann. Just not enough material to rank him higher, though what we have is pretty good.
  10. First Doctor—William Hartnell. It was a different time; the First Doctor is easy to respect, but hard to love.
  11. Sixth Doctor—Colin Baker. Such a victim of bad writing and bad politics. I really feel like he would have done much better with more time.
  12. War Doctor—John Hurt. Great performance, but very little screen time.
  13. Twelfth Doctor—Peter Capaldi. Yes, I know, placing him last is controversial. I hope he’ll improve with a new companion. I have high hopes for him next series.

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So, there you have it—if I can call anyone “my Doctor”, it’s David Tennant.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get.  From top left:  Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I really don't know who that last one is.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I’m unsure, but I think that last one is supposed to be the personified TARDIS.

Finally, companions. As this list is considerably longer, rather than talk first about the various companions, I’ll just put this in ranking order, and make comments along the way. If you’ve read this far, congratulations! But this last part is likely to be the longest—the Doctor has had a lot of companions. As with my Doctor ranking, I’m including NuWho companions as well. I’ve mostly followed the Wikipedia list, but with a few exceptions for totally arbitrary reasons: I’ve left out Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton because they only appear with the Brigadier for the most part, and lumping them together with him doesn’t really change his ranking. I’ve included Chang Lee even though he was technically a companion of the Master, because he ultimately sided with the Doctor and was mostly inseparable from Grace Holloway. I’ve listed the two versions of Romana separately because the performances were very different; by the same logic, I’ve combined the two K9s into one entry. I didn’t include Jackson Lake because he (for all practical purposes) functions as a separate Doctor, complete with companion of his own; or Adelaide Brook, because she more or less traveled under duress, and clearly did not want to be with the Doctor. I also have left off incoming companion Bill, since we don’t know anything about her yet. In every case, I’ve tried to give the most complete name that I can; in some cases a surname wasn’t given onscreen, but has arisen in other materials. I’m using the versions that can be found on the TARDIS wiki. In total, using this ranking, there are 46 companions; 15 are male, 29 are female, and 2 are robotic. So, without further adieu, here’s my companion ranking.

  1. Ian Chesterton—First Doctor. I have a lot of respect for Ian. He’s a good man, even before the Doctor proves himself to be one as well; and he set the pattern for many companions to come. I would love to see William Russell reprise the role in a few episodes of Class, as Ian is hinted to be on the Board of Governors for Coal Hill School.
  2. Dorothy Gale “Ace” McShane—Seventh Doctor. I earlier described her as the pinnacle of what a companion should be, and I stand be that. She was fantastic in every regard.
  3. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart—Second, Third Doctors, plus several cameos. Possibly the most loyal of all companions, in the sense that his loyalty existed in spite of having a clear view of just how crazy the Doctor could be. Every single appearance onscreen is great. Has a wit that cuts like a knife.
  4. Jamie McCrimmon—Second Doctor. More episodes under his belt than any other companion, and I’m still angry that he had his memory wiped. He’s the only companion to ever be present for a Doctor’s entire run (with the exception of Clara, if Series Ten goes as planned).
  5. Donna Noble—Tenth Doctor. Hands down, my favorite NuWho companion, and just as tragic at the end as Jamie. She was the one true equal in personality that the Tenth Doctor ever met.
  6. Nyssa of Traken—Fifth Doctor. If Donna was Ten’s equal, Nyssa was Five’s. They both essentially give up their life with the Doctor for the sake of saving people, though Donna doesn’t know it. Nyssa was the loyal, stable one while Adric and Tegan—and later, Turlough and Tegan—were fighting it out.
  7. K9—Fourth Doctor, and a cameo with Ten. A companion’s companion, literally, in that he ended up with Leela, Romana, and Sarah Jane in various incarnations. I loved K9 as a kid, and still do; his obliviousness and bluntness plays perfectly against Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.
  8. Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw—Third Doctor. She didn’t get enough credit, and didn’t stay long enough. She was a much better match for Three than Jo Grant ever was, though he would never have been able to be paternal toward Liz like he was to Jo.
  9. Wilfred Mott—Tenth Doctor. Wins the award for “most lovable companion.” He summarizes how the rest of the universe relates to the Doctor—they want to trust him, but they can’t keep up with him, and in the end, they just want to survive and live a good life.
  10. Leela—Fourth Doctor. It always bothered me that the Doctor treated her rather badly, when she didn’t deserve it. Still, their relationship wasn’t all bad, and she was loyal and strong to a fault.
  11. Sarah Jane Smith—Third and Fourth Doctors, plus a cameo and two spinoffs. If I had only had her classic run to look at, I would have ranked her lower; she’s fairly whiny and weak. She gets a great redemption, though, in School Reunion and in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  12. Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet—First Doctor. Likeable, fun, and energetic. Her tenure felt very short to me.
  13. River Song—Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, with suggestions that she met them all. River generates a lot of controversy, but I always liked her, even when she was being infuriating.
  14. Romana II—Fourth Doctor. Lalla Ward is the definitive Romana. Once the character and the Doctor learned to get along, they made a great team (and of course their real-life relationship added some chemistry, both good and bad).
  15. Vislor Turlough—Fifth Doctor. He’s another who gets some criticism, but I liked him once he stopped acting like a spoiled child and started standing up for himself.
  16. Jack Harkness (just as a companion, not based on his Torchwood performance)—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Jack has a unique gift for grasping the situation instantly and adapting to it. A good man to have in a fight, and of course he’s charming as can be. Early Jack is almost more interesting than his Torchwood portrayal.
  17. Martha Jones—Tenth Doctor. There’s only one Martha, and I’m so glad she didn’t end up in a relationship with the Doctor. She turned out much better for walking away.
  18. Susan Foreman—First Doctor, plus a cameo. Susan gets a bad reputation because she was poorly written, but I always felt like the character had so much potential. I want to see her come back and get a regeneration scene while Carol Ann Ford is still with us.
  19. Zoe Heriot—Second Doctor. Zoe gets credit for matching so well with Jamie. They were a great duo, and together they perfectly balanced the Second Doctor. I wish she had stayed longer.
  20. Victoria Waterfield—Second Doctor. This was always going to be a difficult role to play; she was essentially a teenager with PTSD. Nevertheless, the role was executed well.
  21. Jo Grant—Third Doctor. I gave Jo a lot of flak in my reviews, but she turned out fine; I was just feeling burned by the loss of Liz Shaw. In the end, she made a great choice and picked a great cause when she left the Doctor. She grew on me over time, but I admit to thinking she was stupid at first.
  22. Harry Sullivan—Fourth Doctor. Harry is one of those incidental companions who never chose this life; he’s just along for the ride. He absolutely makes the most of it, though, and isn’t scarred by it at all—kind of a rare thing among companions.
  23. Adric—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Not the first death in series history, but the most traumatic. He had a great arc, with considerable growth…and then, dead. Just like that.
  24. Romana I—Fourth Doctor. I liked Mary Tamm’s performance, and though I also liked Lalla Ward, I was sorry to see Romana regenerate. She was excellent at reining in the Fourth Doctor.
  25. Mel Bush—Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Mel was the best thing to happen to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. After the doom and depression of Peri’s final appearances, Mel was a breath of fresh air, and it clearly made a difference to the Doctor. Her performance was good enough that the transition to Ace felt like a handshake between friends rather than a change of watch.
  26. Tegan Jovanka—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Tegan loosened up considerably after leaving her job; it was a great direction for her character. Unlike many companions before her, she didn’t leave because she missed home, or found other involvements; she left because of the horror of what life with the Doctor could entail. I compared her to Martha Jones in that regard, and I still think it’s a fair comparison.
  27. Grace Holloway—Eighth Doctor. Such a short performance, and unfortunately we’re not likely to get her back in any capacity. She may not have been a good long-term match for the Eighth Doctor, but she was certainly what he needed at the time.
  28. Chang Lee—Eighth Doctor. An excellent counterpoint to Grace. Had the show persisted, I could have seen him becoming another Adric. A good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  29. Mickey Smith—Tenth Doctor, though also present around the Ninth. Often rejected from lists of companions, but I feel that’s unfair to him. He had a difficult path to walk, watching Rose reject him in favor of the Doctor, and yet still focusing on the bigger picture of saving the world (two worlds, actually!). He ended up with Martha, and I can’t imagine a better ending for him.
  30. Rory Williams—Eleventh Doctor. It’s difficult to tie yourself to a person with a very strong personality, but there’s no question about his love for Amy. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He could teach the Doctor a thing or two about being a good man.
  31. Craig Owens—Eleventh Doctor. And now, here’s an everyman! It may be a bit stereotypical, but Craig played the part perfectly. I’m not sorry he only had a few appearances; making him a regular would have ruined him, and that’s a fate I don’t want to think about.
  32. Amy Pond—Eleventh Doctor. I wanted to hate Amy for a long time. She ordered the Doctor and Rory around constantly, and just made life miserable. Then we got Clara, and I realized I never knew how good we had it with Amy. She’s by no means a bad character or a bad person, but she’s headstrong to the point of death, possibly literally. She did improve with time, though.
  33. Astrid Peth—Tenth Doctor. Earlier I called her Ten’s Kamelion, because of her short term and her death. Also like Kamelion, she had been manipulated by a worse villain, but she absolutely made good on it.
  34. Vicki Pallister—First Doctor. Vicki was quiet and unassuming, and basically just there—and for her, those were good things. She made no demands, just quietly worked and helped and served. I really appreciated her for that.
  35. Steven Taylor—First Doctor. I recall commenting that Steven was the victim of having his parts written initially for someone else. As a result, his character was all over the place. It’s a pity; he had the makings of greatness, but he just never had the chance to shine, being caught in the middle of things.
  36. Barbara Wright—First Doctor. I only ranked her low because she was the victim of her time. A female character in 1963 was pretty much doomed to do a lot of screaming and make a lot of bad decisions. Her heart was in the right place, though, and she had some good moments.
  37. Lady Christina de Souza—Tenth Doctor. We’re reaching the point where characters just don’t have enough material to rank them higher (well, with a few upcoming exceptions). Lady Christina deserved a redemption story arc, but she never got the chance to get it.
  38. Rose Tyler—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I’ve been very hard on Rose over the years, mostly because of her love affair with the Doctor. While I’m not of the camp that says the Doctor should be asexual and anti-romantic, seeing this eighteen-year-old child fawning over him was just sad. She had a lot of good moments, but mostly they were the ones that didn’t involve the Doctor. We do owe her something for being the first companion of the revived series, but I feel like she squandered it.
  39. Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown—Fifth and Sixth Doctors. Poor Peri. She started out happy and hopeful, and then the Doctor tried to kill her. She never recovered from it. For the rest of her tenure, she’s a trauma victim; she’s paranoid, easily frightened, distrustful, and whiny. I hated that for her. It was almost a relief to see her go.
  40. Ben Jackson—First and Second Doctors. I’m ranking Ben and Polly (you never get them separately) low chiefly because I don’t remember a lot about them. They came and went fairly quickly, and though they were present for some good stories, they didn’t make much impact on me. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong about them.
  41. Polly Wright—First and Second Doctors. Polly didn’t even get a last name onscreen, which tells you more about her character than I could say in a paragraph. She was definitely underused.
  42. Clara Oswald—Tenth, Eleventh, War, and Twelfth Doctors, with cameos with all of them. Yes, I’m ranking her low. She’s the only companion ever to inspire me to rage. I will give her credit for her early appearances with Eleven; from Asylum of the Daleks to The Name of the Doctor, she was fantastic and compelling. The “Impossible Girl” storyline was great, and had a great resolution, introducing the War Doctor as well. After that, she took over the show and turned the Doctor into her lapdog. I’ve ranted extensively about this in other places, so I’ll let it go for now.
  43. Katarina—First Doctor. Just too short a term to say much about her. She was in over her head to begin with. However, she did make a noble sacrifice in the end, thus becoming the first companion death.
  44. Sara Kingdom—First Doctor. Has the dubious distinction of being the second companion to die in the same episode as another. She could have been a good character, given enough time; and she was the first enemy to then become a companion.
  45. Adam Mitchell—Ninth Doctor. I kept him on the list because the idea of an evil companion is fascinating, but let’s be honest, he’s slimy and despicable.
  46. Kamelion—Fifth Doctor. Ranked last for his severe underuse. It’s not his fault; it’s hard to use a prop when no one knows how it works. Unfortunately he came and went with barely a blip on the radar, although The King’s Demons is a good—if insane—story.

The last thing I wanted to mention are my favorite serials for each Doctor (or the first seven, anyway—not enough material for choice with McGann, really). Someone had asked about this; I tried to get into it season by season, but really ran out of time in most cases. Anyway, for better or worse, here were my favorites for each Doctor, and a bit about why:

  • First Doctor: The Space Museum. I know, it’s an odd choice, especially when I’ve talked so much about The War Machines. But favorites aren’t just based on seminal moments in the series; they’re based on how enjoyable they were. This serial gets a lot of flak for various reasons, but it was fun to watch, and it created a few ideas that have shown up again in surprising places, like the idea of a mind probe device, or the idea of being out of sync with time. And Hartnell is at his funniest here, which is awesome.
  • Second Doctor: Oh, man, so many good choices. Patrick Troughton really is the Doctor who defined the role. But when all is said and done, I’d choose The Tomb of the Cybermen. It’s full of iconic scenes and moments, and brought the Cybermen back from what seemed like the dead after the end of The Tenth Planet. In some ways, Cybermen have always been scarier than Daleks; all a Dalek can do is exterminate you, but the Cybermen can make you one of them, and steal away your humanity.
  • Third Doctor: Inferno. Again, probably an uncommon choice, but hear me out. Here you get the Doctor in extremis; he’s alone, in a hostile world, racing the clock, feeling the burden of not one but two worlds, with no TARDIS, no companions, no UNIT—and he wins. Yet, even as he wins, he loses some people he would rather have saved, and it’s clear he’s not perfect, and he can’t do everything. Also, it’s a bit downplayed, but there’s some suggestion that the Leader in the inferno world is the Doctor, or rather, what he would have become had he accepted one of the forms the Time Lords offered him in The War Games.
  • Fourth Doctor: Again, so many choices! But I’m going with The Face of Evil. Not only did it introduce Leela, but it also showed us just what happens if the Doctor has to go up against himself (or rather, the computerized version he left behind). It’s an irresistible plot, and one that would be mined again under the Eleventh Doctor (Nightmare in Silver). This is one from my childhood, too, so there’s some sentimentality there as well.
  • Fifth Doctor: I’m tempted to say The Visitation just based on the awesome Richard Mace, but the rest of the story wasn’t that strong; and it cost us the sonic screwdriver. So, I’ll go with Kinda. There’s not much to hate about it; the Mara are a great and unique villain; Tegan is fantastic here; and it is dealt with chiefly due to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions, which is the essence of what the Fifth Doctor is about. I didn’t enjoy Snakedance quite as much, but it was also a great complement to this story.
  • Sixth Doctor: No, I’m not going to say Trial of a Time Lord; that would be cheating. If it were going to be that season, I’d break it down into its parts. Actually, in general I do prefer that season over the preceding one; but for an individual story, I’m going with Revelation of the Daleks. It’s the first place where the Sixth Doctor really started to come into his own, and Davros is one of my favorite villains.
  • Seventh Doctor: Battlefield. No hard decision here. Yes, I know it was rated low, but this is my list, so there. It’s the seventh Doctor at the top of his game; UNIT and the Brigadier still at the top of theirs; an actual battle scene, which is something we rarely ever got in UNIT stories for some reason; a great take on the King Arthur legends; Ace being fantastic; and Bessie, who we all know is my one true love. Just kidding. Still cool to see the car again, though.

So, there it is. Twenty-six seasons, one movie, eight Doctors, thirty-two companions (classic series), one hundred sixty stories, and one blue box—classic Doctor Who in its entirety. There’s far more that could be said, and has been; after all these years, there’s no bottom to this well. Still, this rewatch has given my thoughts on these decades of stories; now, what are yours? This has always been about discussion, and I love seeing everyone’s thoughts and reactions. Feel free to comment!

Season 26 feature

Some future plans: I’ve already begun an occasional series of reviews of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, and I intend to continue it. It won’t have anything near the regularity of this series; it will just be as I manage to listen to the audios. That series is open-ended; I don’t have a goal in mind, as Big Finish is constantly adding new material. Nor will it be in any particular order; as they add materials for all Doctors, it’s not practical to take them in numeric order as I did with the television series. As I can get my hands on the novels, I may do the same with them; but that series is likely to be even more infrequent than the audios. I have given some thought to continuing with a rewatch of the revived series, and I may do that; but I don’t want to get it mixed up with /r/Gallifrey’s official rewatch series, so I may wait a bit and title it differently. If I do continue, I won’t do an entire season in a single post; there’s just too many stories per season for that. I’ll probably do about three episodes per post.

Doctors banner

Thanks for reading! I’m glad this series was well received, and I look forward to everyone’s comments.

 

All seasons and episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Note that these links are not the individual serial links I have previously posted, but rather, links to the entire collected seasons, arranged by era. For convenience, I have included links to the revived series as well.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell, 1963-1966

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, 1966-1969

The Third Doctor, John Pertwee, 1970-1974

The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, 1974-1980

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, 1981-1984

The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, 1984-1986

The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, 1986-1989

The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, 1996, 2013

No episodes dedicated solely to the War Doctor have been produced.

The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, 2005

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, 2006-2010

The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, 2011-2014

The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, 2014-Present

Audio Review: Trial of the Valeyard

I’m trying out something different today. As my reviews of the seasons of Classic Doctor Who seem to have been fairly well received—at least on Reddit.com, where I’ve cross-posted them, and possibly here on the blog as well—I want to do an occasional series of reviews of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio dramas, as well. I say occasional, because I’ll most likely be irregular in obtaining the audios and listening to them; unlike the classic television series, I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) get them for free. Big Finish is a relatively small company (though their output is prodigious), and I fully approve of what they’re doing, and therefore I’m perfectly fine with paying their asking price. On the other hand, I’ll be buying them just as I can afford to do so, which is irregularly.

As a consequence, I expect I’ll be obtaining them in no particular order, just based on what interests me. With various ranges to explore, establishing an “order” for these audios is a bit insane anyway. I loosely intend to follow the “main range” of Doctor Who stories, but I’ll insert others as they catch my attention. To that end, and following my review of (television) season 23’s Trial of a Time Lord, I’ve started with the audio sequel, Trial of the Valeyard, which I’m covering today.

I haven’t yet decided on a particular format for these reviews. For my television reviews, I’ve covered each serial of the season in order, and discussed the setting (place and time), the protagonists (which Doctor and which companions), antagonists (including discussion of previous appearances), a short plot summary in most cases, connections and similarities to other television stories (past and future), and my likes and dislikes. Some of that will carry over to the audios, I’m sure. As resources, I’ll have the television series, Big Finish’s site with its summaries of the audios, and the TARDIS wiki; the books I’ve used for reference for the television series mostly predate the audios, and won’t be of much use here, but I may refer back occasionally for some clarification. When it comes to connections with other events in the series, I’ll probably have to refer mostly to the television series, at least at first; I don’t know enough yet about the audios or novels to make those connections. If this series works out well enough, I may eventually expand to cover some of the novels as well.

I intend to keep these entries short, since they cover single stories as opposed to a season; future entries won’t have the introductory section above. With that said, let’s get started! (Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio.)

Trial of the Valeyard cover

Trial of the Valeyard begins with the Sixth Doctor again being pulled by the Time Lords to their space station/courtroom, again sans companion. He reacts in typically overblown fashion, but calms down a bit once he finds out that he isn’t on trial this time. The date is, as usual for Gallifreyan scenes, unknown; it appears to be some time after The Trial of a Time Lord, as there has been time for the Valeyard to enact other schemes and be apprehended. The station (apparently called Zenobia, according to the wiki; I know there’s a history there, but I haven’t looked into it yet) is orbiting a gas giant called Etarho, pronounced “Eta-rho”, as in, the Greek letters (equivalent to a long E and the letter R). It’s the Valeyard in the dock this time, for crimes that—crazily even for Gallifrey—are not permitted to be announced. Neither is the Valeyard’s true identity allowed to be stated—an issue which dances around the matter of the Doctor’s true name, given that he is known to be a form of the Doctor—and neither is the previous incident on Ravolox allowed to be mentioned. (The Doctor, of course, plays this up for comedy as often as he can.)

The Valeyard, once the Doctor’s prosecutor, now makes an outrageous demand: He wants the Doctor to be his defense. It seems preposterous at first, but it makes sense; the Doctor, being given over to justice, will see the trial prosecuted as fairly as possible. If the Valeyard is innocent, it works in his favor; if not, at least the truth will come out. The Doctor is enticed, because at the least, he wants to preserve the Valeyard’s life; only the Valeyard can shed light on his own origin, which is a fate that the Doctor is keen to avoid.

The Valeyard goes on to force discussion of his origins as much as possible. He states that at a point in the Doctor’s personal future, the Thirteenth Doctor, having gone mad, will experiment on himself to extend his life and regenerations. The result is the Valeyard. The planet they are now orbiting has a moon, on which the experiments took place, in proximity to a door into the Matrix; this is where the Valeyard was allegedly discovered as a child, and where, just before the trial, he was arrested. The moon, however, has subsequently been destroyed by the Time Lords, for classified reasons. The Valeyard says he was there in search of those secrets, as he himself cannot regenerate any more without intervention. He further says that as a child he was sent to a hidden Shadow House, where Time Lords suffering from failed regenerations are hidden away. He claims—heretically, to the Time Lords—that Rassilon imposed the twelve-regeneration limit. Now found guilty, he is sentenced to immediate execution, and the sentence is carried out.

Leaving the trial, the Doctor forces his way into the moon’s displaced timeline using his TARDIS, and heads down to the surface. There, he finds things to be much as the Valeyard had said. He finds a mad old hermit, whom he quickly deduces to be his own final incarnation; and with the hermit, he finds a sealed box that is keyed only to his biodata. The Inquisitor and other Time Lords arrive to claim the box; it is revealed that they want the secrets of immortality supposedly hidden inside, but that the Valeyard refused to open it. The Doctor deduces that the box contains a bomb, and that the alleged Thirteenth Doctor is the Valeyard in disguise; he escaped the execution by turning the machinery into a matrix door. This entire plot, it seems, has been a revenge scheme on his part. He triggers the bomb on a short delay, and escapes back into the Matrix; the Doctor and the Inquisitor escape in the TARDIS, and return to the courtroom. The Doctor posits that it is impossible to know which parts of the Valeyard’s stories were truth, and that he will try again; and further, that the Valeyard had help from within the Council. The Inquisitor promises a full judicial inquiry.

I’m failing to do justice to the events of this story in my summary. The arguments used by the Doctor, the Valeyard, and Inquisitor Darkel are complex, but change quickly; for a courtroom drama, the pace is quite fast. It demonstrates the difficulty required to write a new Doctor Who story, given that one must balance all the various bits of knowledge we have about Gallifrey, the Time Lords, the Doctor, and so on. Still, it’s a good story, and adds a bit to the Valeyard’s narrative and character; it manages to do so without locking down the character’s backstory, which is important given the possibility that he may yet reappear on the television series. (I’ve stated several times that I would love to see that happen; I favor the idea that the Metacrisis Doctor becomes the Valeyard.) Michael Jayston is fantastic as always; I felt it was even more clear here that there is a connection between him and the Doctor, in that he behaves much more like the Doctor than in his previous appearance. He’s clearly devious, but he’s also clearly intelligent and quick, with a trick always up his sleeve. Colin Baker puts in a good performance as well, with all of the energy of his time onscreen. This is a more mature Sixth Doctor; he still acts like a fool, but he does it strategically, using his buffoonery to his advantage. Lynda Bellingham (RIP) is even better than the first time around as Inquisitor Darkel (her name having been given in another audio rather than on the show); she seemed a bit beaten down by the circumstances during Trial of a Time Lord, but here, she is more than a match for both the Doctor and the Valeyard in terms of wit. John Banks rounded out the cast as the mad hermit; and though his lines were few, they were well-delivered. It was with the hermit that we get several of this story’s references; he mentions Polly Wright, Totter’s Yard, and the “fish people” from The Underwater Menace. The Doctor himself mentions various other characters, such as the Monk, the Master, and the Rani; and the Valeyard makes reference to the Seventh Doctor’s scheming and the Eighth Doctor’s frequent struggles with death. (This should have given the lie to the Valeyard’s claims about his origin; he claims to have had no knowledge of himself when found, but here claims to remember those lives.)

All in all, not a bad introduction to the world of the audio dramas. I enjoyed it; and I’m looking forward to more. Next time: if I stick with my current plan, we’ll be covering The Sirens of Time, the first audio in Big Finish’s main range, with the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors. See you there!

All audios reviewed in this series may be purchased here from Big Finish; link to this story is below.

Trial of the Valeyard