Review: Doctor Who: Big Finish Audio: 8th Doctor Adventures: Season 1

NB These reviews originally appeared as the CDs were released.

The Eighth Doctor and his reluctant companion Lucie Miller face Zygons, Greek gods, and Cybermen among many others…

Blood of the Daleks (reviewed separately here) sets up the relationship between the Doctor and his new companion, with some sparks promised between the pair.

Get past the awful title, and there’s a respectable old-style base under siege Doctor Who story hiding inside Horror of Glam Rock. The Doctor and Lucie are trapped within a service station with monsters prowling around outside, and a threat of alien invasion on its way – classic set up for a Troughton story.

As you might expect from Paul Magrs, there are plenty of bad puns and postmodern moments that act as speed bumps, pulling the listener out of the story. The guest stars perform pretty much as you might expect, none particularly stretching themselves, and after his sterling musical contribution to Doctor Who and the Pirates, maybe I was expecting more from Tim Sutton than his rather forgettable song for Stephen Gateley.    5/10

Immortal Beloved takes its time to get going but justifies perseverance. While the themes it explores have turned up within the classic series in both Underworld and Mawdryn Undead, it maintains a number of twists and turns that keep the listener interested. Author Jonathan Clements also leaves the audience wondering just how much the lessons of what happened to their “parents” has really been learned by the next generation.

Unfortunately affecting both plays, the antagonism between the Doctor and Lucie that was a key part of Blood of the Daleks seems to have suffered “Voyager syndrome” – critical to the success of the set up within the pilot but glossed over all too quickly in succeeding episodes. Let’s hope they don’t lose their spark.  7/10

It’s hard to believe that Phobos comes from the same writer as the Eighth Doctor adventure Memory Lane: the BBC7 story has the pace and characterisation that were sorely lacking from the earlier tale. Although there are certain elements that are slightly over familiar to long term Doctor Who fans (a criticism that can be levied at many aspects of this season), Robson takes concepts used as far back as 1971’s Colony in Space and spins them in a new direction.

Guest stars Timothy West and Nerys Hughes provide the misdirection that the story requires, keeping the listener interested right to the end while McGann portrays the weariness of someone who has fought innumerable battles, yet still has more energy in his performance than we’ve heard in the main range in recent time.

The ongoing backstory regarding Lucie has been pushed to the back burner in recent stories, although she has clearly not lost all of her initial mistrust of the Doctor, particularly after some of the revelations at the end of the episode. 7/10

No More Lies starts slightly confusingly, interspersing the Doctor and Lucie’s battle against a weapons dealer with the rather genteel preparations for a special garden party (apparently on contemporary Earth). Halfway through the two plots conjoin, as the time travellers realise that their target has landed thirty years earlier.

In many ways the sci-fi element to the story is a McGuffin in a tale about forgiveness and whether people can really change. Author Paul Sutton was responsible for one of Big Finish’s strongest Sixth Doctor and Evelyn stories in Arrangements for War. That episode was derided by some for its measured pace but scored strongly for its emotional resonances, a description which can equally be applied here.

No More Lies also shares some thematic links with an early episode of Angel, particularly in the villain’s motivation, but in Nigel Havers and Julia Mackenzie’s hands, what could have been trite becomes powerful.

The ongoing plot regarding Lucie finally takes a major step forward at the end of the episode, leading into the climactic two-parter. Let’s hope a second season features more scripts like this that play to Big Finish’s strengths. 8/10

Human Resources brings to an end an effective and highly enjoyable first season of BBC7 adventures for Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith. There’s some resolution to the ‘witness protection’ arc, which shows the Time Lords at their most devious and inefficient, and a welcome appearance by an old enemy to satisfy fan appetites.

Writer Eddie Robson lives up to the promise of his script for Phobos, crafting a two-part adventure that doesn’t overly rely on the presence of its surprise villains, yet still uses them to excellent effect. Once again McGann delivers a strong performance, while Sheridan Smith runs the gamut of emotions as Lucie is manipulated by various parties. Guest stars Roy Marsden and Nikolas Grace play to their respective strengths, too, with the former turning in a silky smooth performance. 7/10

When these reviews first appeared, I hoped that a second season would quickly be commissioned, and that this particular TARDIS team given a chance to build on their initial success. I also wondered if this might this be the place to listen out for more preludes to the Time War? Interesting what you can guess at… 

Season 1 overall:  7/10

Paul Simpson

Season 2 >>>

In addition to the links from each story here, Season 1 is available to buy complete here.

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