Continuing my exploration of The Virgin New Adventures world and all that that entails, we’ve come to the end of the Timewyrm series with Apocalypse and Revelations which is where the books got really adult. Gone where the days when a family could sit down and watch a safe television series and these were days when child murders and bad language littered these pages. They were about as far from the much-loved Target novelizations as you could get!


For some fans of the series, Apocalypse seems to be held as one of the worst books in the range. For me though, I thought it was a pretty decent story, even if it took a little while to get going as the first few chapters really jump around a lot.

The Virgin New Adventures also introduced us to the idea that the Doctor was in fact, Time’s Champion, an element to the books which became much more prevalent in the latter end of the series. But here we get a number of elements like that which don’t really get explained. The main one being a character referring to the Doctor as “Much more than just a TimeLord.” We never really know what she means by that and it might be possible that Virgin was putting these pieces in place as far back as the third novel. But I suspect, like many of the other pieces of this book, it was just a throwaway line, with nothing to do with the later releases and as much of this book, something that never really comes to anything.

We also get a rather bizarre reference to Logopolis at the beginning of the book. With the final CVE having finally closed, it places the time period of the book somewhere towards the end of the universe. But no reference is made to it ever again. It seems like far too an obscure reference to then go absolutely nowhere with and the idea and threat of the universe would have given the book some needed tension and might have even added an extra and needed element to the otherwise bland story.

Timewyrm: Apocalypse
Timewyrm: Apocalypse

What also poses a rather big problem is that this is the second book in a row where the Timewyrm is secondary to the main plot. It’s troubling because this is set of four books that are supposed to be connected by the creature. Introduced as Ishtar in Genesys, she at least played something of a role in the previous book Exodus. Here though, she gets a couple of lines and that’s really it. In fact, the evil plans of the Panjistri have only been taken over by her, not created by her. While it didn’t bother too much as the book went on, it does begin to pose something of a problem when you think that this is supposed to be a quadrology.

Where author, Nigel Robinson does a really good job is in the characters. The Doctor is back to the master manipulator he was in his final season but here at least he actually cares about Ace. The previous two books made him feel a little too cold and heartless. Robinson gets the balance just right. And this time it isn’t Ace he manipulates but Raphael, a character who befriends Ace into his final act of self-sacrifice. That act seems to be putting Ace and the Doctor at opposition with each other, something which I know comes into play in a few books time. But here it feels like the perfect lead into the test of friendship that provides the backbone of the next book, Revelation.

Ace also feels like Ace and that isn’t a bad thing. She is running around, leading uprisings and blowing things up. While the books went to great strengths to give her some great character development, one of my favourite being continual after-effects or the Cheetah Planet, it feels like a nice story to go back to classic Ace and it isn’t hard to imagine Sophie Aldred in the role here.

Robinson’s secondary characters also feel a lot more than just stock-Doctor Who cannon-fodder with each one having a character arc, not something that’s easy in a relatively short book. We’ve got Revna who, as well as being Raphael’s childhood friend and perhaps more, gets jealous of his friendship with Ace and this leads her down her eventual path of revenge and villainy. The Doctor befriends Miril, a teacher who comes across as so much more. He is someone who has plenty of regrets but is someone who is willing to do something about them. While making up for those mistakes and regrets leads to the end of his life, it’s nice that he doesn’t consider it to have been a mistake to try.

Huldah is too concerned with making himself wealthy and it leads to his downfall while the leader of the Unlike, Arun, is torn between her desire for change and revenge. Reptu, considered a great leader, is nothing of the sort when he meets his real boss but it is Raphael who gets much of the action and our sympathies. He falls for Ace and his feelings aren’t completely unreturned but this is what leads to his downfall.

As a television serial, Apocalypse would have made a decent filler episode in a wider arc. As a book, it doesn’t quite manage that. While its entertaining thanks to its great character work, which Robinson bases much of the actual story around, the linking thread of the Timewyrm isn’t really picked up so much as it is knocked to one side. Had it just been a book on its own, maybe it would have stood more a chance? But its definitely worth picking up and reading, even if it is only once, you might find yourself actually enjoying it and wondering what its reputation is all about…


The quadrology of Timewyrm books comes to a conclusion with Revelation by Paul Cornell in his first contribution to the Doctor Who mythology. This is also where many fans and readers decided that the range went from suitable for teenager fans of the show to a more adult readership. It’s also a rather strange entry, which will leave you much like I was, unsure as to whether you’re enjoying it but not wanting to putting it down. Oh and it sends the characters to Hell…

It won’t take you long reading this book to work out how complicated and convoluted the thing is. There are so many twists and turns, sometimes right after one another that might actually work to the book’s detriment now that I think about it. Perhaps the problem is that they come in such short succession they don’t give each one room to breathe.

Timewyrm: Revelation
Timewyrm: Revelation

What is interesting is that much of it takes place in a mind-scape of the Doctor’s design and each different sector is inhabited by a different incarnation of the Doctor. We even get to look into a different room of the scape where Ace sees a number of hidden forms that represent future incarnations and a near-miss with a forced regeneration when she wakes up the Eighth Doctor. And I think some of them were female. Even in the 1990s, they were playing with the seeds of the idea of a female Doctor.

One of the books other strengths is how it addresses the Doctor manipulative tendencies, not just those of the Seventh Doctor but other incarnations too with companions like Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric and Peri, seemingly working against the Doctor they once called a friend. It is an interesting way to look at the Doctor and the book almost makes him the villain, though this is the plan of the Timewyrm all along.

Ace gets some nice development being forced that she both loves and hates the Doctor. Getting herself into the trouble, the Doctor has to deal with this revelation but goes back to save her anyway because of her faith in him and that leads to the downfall of the Timewyrm. We also learn a little more about her past, in particular, her primary school days when she was nearly killed by a bully called Chad Boyle, a demon from her past her older self has to face here. But Lieutenant Hemming’s, a particularly nasty character from Exodus is along for the ride with the Timewyrm and he wants revenge on Ace for what she did to him in that story.

It might seem like I have no problems with this story but there was an air about it which I didn’t like particularly. I know that sounds vague but maybe it was just the complexity of the whole piece which required your full concentration that I didn’t like. I certainly couldn’t read huge chunks of it, as I do with other books, because it made me tired as my brain tried to understand what was going on!

Cornell makes sure to give the Timewyrm a great send-off, in a way that only the Doctor could manage and for a such a seemingly dark story, it is one of the rare examples of everyone living. Each character, apart from the Timewyrm, gets to live at the end which is sweet as Cornell makes sure he goes to great pains to make you care about them. And there is the rather interesting imagery of a church stuck on the moon!

As the cover might suggest, this really is a book where the Doctor dances with death. Ace’s faith has been restored in the Doctor but it makes his ultimate betrayal of that trust all the more bitter in Love and War, another Paul Cornell contribution…


Hey Who fans. We’re back! In this week’s show…

The News

No decent news of any substance but we do chat about that so-called announcement that turned out to be a debunking of a rumour. Gotta love Who fandom at times, lol.

Merch Corner

An awesome new collection of short stories is out in October in the style of the old Target books titled “The Target Storybook” which has a couple of interesting authors and the next documentary DVD from Reeltime Pictures is out this November called “More Monsters”.

“SJA – The Mad Woman in the Attic” Review

Poor old Rani, it looked like fate had dealt her a rotten hand and she was doomed to spend her days in the darkness in Bannerman Road but after some great storytelling, all’s not what it seems and the future is not set. It’s so great to be back on the SJA reviews so did this one continue our good vibes with the Attic crew?

On the next show, our review will be the 5th Doctor story – Arc of Infinity. Until then have a great couple of weeks and remember – Allons-y!

Recently I decided to read as many of the Virgin New Adventures novels as I possibly could, all in order. While some of the later novels you need to be a millionaire to buy, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to do, with these books confirmed at the time to be the continuation of the series at the end of Survival.

Virgin kicked the new series of books off with the opening set of four stories being linked by the titular Timewyrm, an alien being that hunts the Doctor and Ace throughout time and space. Here I’ll talk about the first two, Timewyrm: Genesys and Timewyrm: Exodus, written by John Peel and Terrance Dicks. Even just a glance at the covers will confirm that these books are far removed from the television series but they give us a good glimpse into the face of Doctor Who in the 1990s. And it is fair to remember that these books kept the show alive, so no matter on how you feel about them, their importance can never be understated…


Kicking the series off in 1991 was Genesys, written by John Peel, a name that will be familiar to fans of the show towards the late 1980s and into the 1990s as he not only novelised Power and Evil of the Daleks for the Target range which coming to its natural end, but a number of novelizations of other stories and brand new contributions for both the New Adventures and Missing Adventures from Virgin Books but also the Past Doctor Adventures and The Eighth Doctor Adventures from BBC Books ranges, two ranges which ran right up until the end of 2005.

I brought this book years ago but having heard so much negative feedback about it online, I was hesitant to read it, believing them all to be full of bad-language and other adult themes. And some of them are, but Genesys isn’t really like that. In fact, the tone doesn’t feel all that different from the later McCoy era on screen. With Ghost Light, Curse of Fenric and Survival taking on a much more adult vibe, Peel rightly keeps that tone going here but never goes too far overboard, even if there are a couple of passages that might upset people. And perhaps the book does go a little too far into the world of sex and violence, with Peel entering The Epic of Gilgamesh in a Doctor Who story without constraints.

The Full Cover for Timewyrm: Genesys
The Full Cover for Timewyrm: Genesys

Where the book really succeeds though is in its characterisations, particularly the way that Peel handles Ace as throughout the novel he takes the time to give us insights into how she feels travelling in the TARDIS and the Doctor, the good and the bad things about it and it really works in making her a lot more relatable.

As I stated above, where the book doesn’t quite succeed is in how far it is allowed to go in other directions. We’ve got people having their entrails being cut out, a teenage prostitute who walks around topless most of the time and Ace even has a couple of nude scenes which feel entirely out of place and take you out of the story. While it is clear that Peel had gone to great strengths to set up the feel of that time-period these elements don’t have any place in a Doctor Who story, no matter how ‘adult’, the books were supposed to feel. I had similar feelings about the recent episode Rosa and the multiple usage of a terrible derogative word. Some things have no place in Doctor Who and unfortunately, this book has plenty of elements like this.

Peel’s interpretation of the Seventh Doctor is a little strange too. While on screen he was manipulative and put Ace in danger and used her as a pawn against his enemies, he always knew when he had gone too far and always apologised for his actions when she called him out. Here though, while it isn’t hard to imagine Sylvester McCoy delivering the lines, he just comes across as cold and uncaring, even calling Ace out for calling him out on pressuring her to spend time with a known rapist and murderer because it would just inconvenience him if she were around. It is a strange way to handle the Seventh Doctor and it just works as a way of keeping these novels out of the main continuity of the franchise.

The villain of the piece is interesting though. Ishtar as she is known here may come across as just another megalomaniac trying to conquer the Earth but she is honest about it. Peel doesn’t waste any time in trying to convince us she is anything other than that and as a result she comes across a lot better than some of the other baddies we’ve seen over the years.

It is also interesting that she doesn’t have any grand plans she just wants to cause pain to the people of Earth and she may be completely insane, she is methodical and intelligent and makes her more than a match for the Seventh Doctor. So much so it is a shame we never got a villain like her on the television series proper. As you might have guessed by now, the end of the book sees her becoming the titular Timewyrm but her transformation is unexpected and done rather well. She also manages to bring out a different side of the Doctor, one that is quite happy to sacrifice himself and Ace if it means Ishtar is stopped.

Genesys is a great way to kick the series off, even if it was a little controversial upon its release and even it sounds like I didn’t enjoy it! I thought it was quite a good book when all things are said and done. It is certainly going to feel strange if you are heading into it believing it to be something akin to the television series, with its mature themes and language which will no doubt put some readers off.

But we can forgive it if it feels like it’s trying too hard, this was the book that not only had to kick off a new series of novels but restart the Doctor Who franchise. And in that respect, it succeeds. If you can find it for a cheap price online it is definitely worth picking up, even if it just for curiosity value.


The second book under the title of Timewyrm was Exodus, written by Doctor Who legend, Terrance Dicks, who takes us back to World War 2, just not the way we might remember…

Right off the bat, this book will challenge your knowledge of World War 2 and have your brain rushing to try and remember what you learnt at school. But Dicks seems to know that and the whole thing is written in a way that means you don’t have to research the events that unfold here. What did surprise me here though was how readily the book was to have us meet the big players in WW2, including Hitler and Goering and Himmler. With the Classic Series seemingly avoiding the conflict altogether, even stories like Curse of Fenric felt far removed from the conflict it was set in, even the modern series has only just started to really show the horrors of the conflict so it might take some by surprise to see the Doctor and Ace have to pretend to be friends to the Nazi party.

But Dicks never once slips up, keeping the Nazi’s as an evil force that almost conquered the world. Ace is disgusted by the whole thing, even if the Seventh Doctor here still feels a little strange and cold. But he doesn’t tell her to shut up about the shocks of this time period. Instead, he works at manipulating Hitler and his posse into making sure the correct history is played out.

Textless cover for Timewyrm: Exodus
Textless cover for Timewyrm: Exodus

Ishtar, or the Timewyrm as she goes by now has taken over Hitler’s mind, going for the maddest person in the room. Her plan is still causing the most pain and misery to the planet as she can and with WW2 being the worst of the worst, she comes very close, especially when the real villains of the piece turn up. The War Lords.

Originally created by Dicks and Malcolm Hulke in the 1969 adventure, The War Games, the War Lords, once more lead by the War Chief, were defeated by The Doctor, Jamie, Zoe and the Time Lords and they headed back to this time to make sure that the history of planet Earth was radically changed. Whereas in the last story they wanted to create a massive army of the best soldiers, this time they use the Nazi army in their plans.

They are a brilliant inclusion and Dicks gets their characterisation just right and they really come into their own in the last part of the book with the War Chief coming across brilliantly. One wonders why they never turned up again in Doctor Who proper as this book proves how great they could have been as a proper invading force.

Ace would leave in a few books time with Love and War proving to be her last solo adventure with the Doctor, though she would travel with him once again with Bernice Summerfield later in the range. But the seeds of her departure are sown here with some of the Doctor’s treatment of her, though he does apologise about it and Ace takes it in her stride. But the Doctor must have known the danger she was in, especially when they are in Nazi-Germany. But Ace is her usual brilliant self, throwing herself around and beating people up, even if she does break character once when does a traditional companion scream. But she was going to be sacrificed so I suppose we can forgive her for it!

Dicks also goes to some lengths to make Hitler, Himmler and Goering feel like characters and not just terrible historical figures and he once again shows us how deft his writing is as he doesn’t humanize them, rightly keeping them as the horrible people they were but giving us some interesting takes on the reasons behind their actions. It might take some readers by surprise to see these three historical figures get such inclusion in a book, I did me, but overall it works reminding us that these events should never be forgotten so that nothing like that can happen ever again.

Timewyrm Exodus is another fine book, a lot stronger than its predecessor, mainly thanks to it being written by a Doctor Who legend like Terrance Dicks. But it is just a cracking book and one of the range’s earliest successes.

And unlike its predecessor, Dicks manages to pull off the horrors of the time without it ever becoming lurid and truly nasty. He handles the subject of WW2 like a pro and for what was really the Classic Era’s first proper foray into the period, it was a success with Dicks proving once again why he is held in such high regard by the Doctor Who community!


It’s hard to believe that its been 20 years since Big Finish began to produce the fantastic audio adventures that we take for advantage these days. From Bernice Summerfield: Oh No It Isn’t! and The Sirens of Time, there were many years when Big Finish were the only major contributors outside of BBC Books who were putting out brand new adventures for the many Doctor’s and his many, many friends. But their popularity didn’t dwindle when the show came back in 2005. In fact, it was the complete opposite, with the company going from strength to strength, not only producing Doctor Who audio adventures anymore but adventures from many other properties.

Nowadays it is hard to imagine a time without Big Finish but in 1999, they were just budding fans, dipping their toes in the waters of Doctor Who. Nowadays they are veterans of the franchise giving us some of the best Doctor Who adventures out there.

It was only proper then that they should release something to celebrate the occasion and the result is a hefty tome-like release, bigger than any other boxset that Big Finish has ever put out. We’ve got six brand new adventures, plenty of Doctors, reunions, companions, friends, cameos and punch the air moments to explore. So let’s get into The Legacy of Time.

(As much as I’ll try to avoid them, there may be spoilers ahead.)

Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time
Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time


The set kicks off in high gear with a brilliant adventure from James Goss. Lies in Ruins sees the return of Big Finish’s first lady, Bernice Summerfield and another meeting with Professor River Song. From the beginning, the pairing is excellent, with Bernice and River both rubbing each other up the wrong way, despite actually having a tremendous amount of respect for one another.  Goss adds a great layer of character when he says that Bernice actually taught River at the Luna University which we know she studied at in a couple of flashbacks in Series 6 of the modern era. For some listeners, it might just be a throwaway line. But for listeners like myself, who relish these little winks and nods to both eras of the show, it is a brilliant moment.

Niftily avoiding the catfight that Rose and Sarah-Jane had when they met, Goss instead decides to allow the pair to learn from each other and they really come together in how they handle the Eighth Doctor, a completely different man than we know and love. This is because Goss has set this story right in the middle of the Time War and the Doctor has had enough of it. Travelling with his new companion, Ria, someone who might seem annoying at first but plays a big part in the second half of it and actually gets to be one of the major twists and emotional moments, concerning how desperate the Doctor is at this point in his life, the story poses the question of will the Doctor finally go too far this time.

Alex Kingston and Lisa Bowerman
Alex Kingston and Lisa Bowerman

It is that knife-edge that we find River and Bernice trying to keep the Doctor from walking across and it’s great to hear them both trying to stop the Doctor from going too far, despite both of them being characters who have made incredibly tough and dark decisions in the past.

With a number of great twists and turns, some of which you might see coming, some you won’t, Lies in Ruins is a great way to kick the set off and one that will leave you wanting to devour the rest of the set right away. And make sure you listen to after the credits as it gives us the return of one of Big Finish’s oldest adversaries…


The Counter-Measures team has always been one of my favourite Big Finish series and so I was very excited to find out that the gang would be returning for a new adventure that bridged the gap between their two eras with the Seventh Doctor and Ace.

While the blurb might make this adventure sound slightly confusing, it is actually a great way to structure the story, allowing us to play around with time a little bit in the process. It also sees the return of the classic Big Finish villains, the Rocket Men, a group I wasn’t that keen on, to begin with but found myself wanting to hear more of their past appearances by the time this story wrapped up.

Sophie Aldred, Simon Williams, Pamela Salem, Karen Gledhill and Hugh Ross
Sophie Aldred, Simon Williams, Pamela Salem, Karen Gledhill and Hugh Ross

What really makes The Split Initiative a great way to spend an hour is its cast. The Counter Measures gang have always been great and this gives each member a time to shine. As a spin-off its hard to understand why these guys never got another television appearance and Dorney goes to great lengths to try and tie up one of the biggest continuity niggles the show has ever had with an amusing result.

I’ve often wondered why Counter Measures never did too well in terms of sales because they have been one of the strongest series to be put out. And The Split Initiative is another great example of why we need more from the Counter-Measures team in the near future.


The third adventure of the set is perhaps the most emotional because not only does it feature, as the title suggests, the sacrifice of Jo Grant but a reunion between and man and his daughter.

Using the older version of Jo Grant/Jones, Adams builds on the story of Jo and Osgood becoming great friends and Jo actually bringing Osgood out of her shell a little and as such, the story kicks off at a water park and the pair are planning to go paintballing in the future. But when fractures in time open up across a quiet village, UNIT finds themselves called in.

Katy Manning and Jemma Redgrave
Katy Manning and Jemma Redgrave

But in traditional Doctor Who fashion, things go wrong and Jo and Kate find themselves transported back to the early seventies where we get a reunion between Jo and the Doctor, once again played by Tim Trelor. I took a while to warm to Trelor’s performance as the Third Doctor, to begin with, but over the years he has done a great job of both honouring Jon Pertwee and making the character his own. Adams makes sure he gets plenty of Third Doctor action here and gives Osgood and Nicolas Briggs as a Captain in present-day UNIT plenty to do with dinosaur skeletons coming back to life.

But the main bulk of the story rightly takes place in the seventies and Jo is constantly telling Kate to use a walkie-talkie to talk to her father. Kate is worried about the fabric of time but we get a great moment when The Third Doctor works out who Kate is, pleased that UNIT is in safe hands in the future. And we get a brilliant moment with Jon Culshaw making another appearance as the Brigadier. The resulting reunion, of sorts, feels completely earned and is surprisingly effective in its emotional impact. And Jo’s sacrifice is played excellently too by Katy Manning and Tim Trelor who really sell the moment. To say any more to be to spoil a tremendous story but this is one not to be missed.


We’ve got another father and daughter reunion in Relative Time, in more ways than one. The story features real-life parent and child Peter Davison and Georgia Tennant playing the Fifth Doctor and his future-daughter, Jenny. Fitton brings back another Big Finish villain, the Nine, the mad Time-Lord who houses all the personalities of his previous regenerations in his brain. A Kleptomaniac, he sees something pretty to steal, but there are fractures all-around time and there is a ship that is travelling through them, to witness the deaths of universes.

Father and Daughter: Georgia Tennant and Peter Davison
Father and Daughter: Georgia Tennant and Peter Davison

It’s another fun story with a strong script from Fitton. The fractures in time come into play more from now on, playing big parts in the last two adventures and the use of them is an interesting one. What really makes this adventure worth the listen is the performances from Davison and Tennant and the pair are clearly having a whale of a time playing against one another.

A lot of the fun comes from the Doctor working out who Jenny is in relation to him and it is surprisingly emotional when he does so. The story also ends on a sort-of cliff-hanger which will probably lead into a future Jenny set. The Nine once again, as he did in Companion Piece, proves to be an effective baddie and another great creation to the Doctor Who mythos from Big Finish!


Avenues of Possibilities brings back a number of Big Finish favourites most notably the pairing of the Sixth Doctor with Charley Pollard and DI Patricia Menzies, played by Anna Hope. With more fractures in time opening around London and people from the past stepping into the future and vice-versa, Menzies has her work cut out for her. Luckily the Doctor is also on the case.

With a great guest cast, Morris plays this one as one part, exciting run-around and the other an interesting history lesson with the founders of the modern-day police force, playing a big part in the proceedings. It is also the story where the true villain is finally revealed with Charley coming face to face with them.

Anna Hope, Colin Baker and India Fisher
Anna Hope, Colin Baker and India Fisher

But in typical Doctor Who fashion, as if that wasn’t enough, it is also a story that deals with parallel universes and alternative pasts/futures. With a fun nod to the title of Brigade Leader from Inferno and some mentions of Dodo and Peri, Morris makes sure to keep us continuity mad-fans happy. We also get some sweet references to the late-great Maggie Stables with the villain of the piece being named after her. No doubt if she was still with us, this would have been a Six-Evelyn tale, but Charley Pollard was every bit as great as Evelyn so it is a happy trade.

Morris makes sure to keep Menzies the same funny, intelligent and inquisitive Detective Inspector as she always was and it makes for an interesting dynamic with a character who likes the Doctor to be included but doesn’t want to actually travel with him. All this leads nicely into the final story of the set.


Warning: Spoilers Ahead

It is all down to Guy Adams to bring this smashing set to a conclusion, something he does brilliantly in Collision Course. With the time-fractures having reached Gallifrey, Romana and Leela find themselves talking about one of their travels with the Doctor and find out they went to the same planet. While there is nothing really strange in that, what is strange is that they both describe the planet differently. Almost as if it went down an alternate future…

What ensues is a rip-roaring adventure which goes all the way back to the first trial test of a TARDIS and the first meeting of the Sirens and the Time-Lords. As you might have guessed, and the trailer did brilliantly, we get the inclusion of many Doctors, as well as Romana, Leela and Bernice Summerfield who is brilliantly annoyed at having to have gathered all the Doctors together. And when I mean all the Doctors, I mean pretty much every single one. Towards the end of this one, we get cameos from the First, Second and Tenth Doctors, played by David Bradley, Frazer Hines and David Tennant.

The Tenth Doctor’s reunion with Leela and Bernice was a punch the air moment, which had tears forming in my eyes!

Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward
Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward

But Adams makes sure the keep things light enough to be enjoyed in the same vein as the other multi-Doctor stories, with plenty of bickering between them all. We’ve got some really funny lines about the Doctor’s many faults including one about how it took the Fifth Doctor a year to get Tegan back to the biggest airport in the UK!

As the story and the set wraps itself up, we get some nicer quiet moments between the cast which genuinely feels like the actors are saying thank-you to Big Finish for the years they have gotten to play the Doctor again!


The Legacy of Time is truly a great way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Big Finish. Not only does it tie into things that have happened on audio but also to events that have happened on television. We get references to things past and present, including Jodie Whittaker’s era and plenty of cameos to keep everyone happy.

Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest crossover events of the year and no-doubt The Legacy of Time will go down in history as one of Doctor Who’s Endgame moments.

This set is truly not to be missed!

It seems like ages since we last had a proper Sixth Doctor and Peri adventure. We’ve had the occasional Short Trip but not a nice four-part main range adventure since The Rani Elite, all the way back in December 2014! But this year Big Finish have given us a special trip, not only have we got a brand new trilogy running up to September, we’ve got a new Lost Adventure in November and a Christmas adventure, which I believe will feature the Sixth Doctor and Peri, called Blood on Santa’s Claw. After years of waiting, we’ve finally got one of Big Finish’s best pairings back together again!

I’ve really enjoyed Roland Moore’s writing with Big Finish, mainly from my listening to The Omega Factor range where his stories always had more than one layer and were always human pieces about human desires, beliefs and lives. And this story is no different with Memories of a Tyrant focusing nicely on the horrors of war, people who are affected by it and even poses the question, should people be punished for things they don’t remember doing when its all over?

One wonders if it might be a topic that is a little too heavy for Doctor Who but that is what this show’s always been great at doing, taking heavy topics and giving them a sci-fi spin that really makes you think about the topics it is talking about. Doctor Who has also always done stories with war criminals and tyrants but Garius Moro feels very different from a lot of the other evil-doers we’ve met over the years. I think this is because Moore makes sure that Moro is a rather unassuming fellow. Crippled by the onset of dementia and being forced to remember he genuinely doesn’t, this is where Moore’s message really kicks in as to whether he should still be punished for doing an evil act he doesn’t remember committing.

It’s an interesting question to explore and Moore takes great delight in exploring both sides of it. We’ve got a fun return from the Space Security Services. For those who don’t know, Sara Kingdom, one of William Hartnell’s companions was an operative of the organisation. And we’ve got aliens on both ends of the spectrum, ones who suffered at the hands of Moro and ones who benefitted from his actions. But when Moro is the victim of an attempted assassination, one has to wonder if he really deserves it but at the same time, it makes you feel sorry for him as he doesn’t know the kind of man that he is. It puts the characters in an interesting position and also the listener as one has to ponder on the ethical questions this story raises through its two-hour runtime.

Memories of a Tyrant by Roland Moore
Memories of a Tyrant by Roland Moore

The Sixth Doctor and Peri are used excellently too. Set before Peri’s original departure in Mindwarp, Nicola Bryant get a lot of the best scenes. When the pair arrive at the aptly named Memory Farm, Peri wonders if she can use the machine to try and remember her father, who passed away when she was young. But the pair are thrown into the story’s main mystery before she gets a chance to use the machine. But it is Peri who figures out the mystery in the final two episodes, separated from the Doctor, she figures out who the real baddie is, their motives and why they did it.

Peri has always been one of the best Big Finish companions, thanks to Big Finish always being great at character work and it is clear how much Bryant has appreciated this over the years she has worked with them. Listening to this story, it felt very reminiscent of the early days for the pair at BF and Roland Moore has a great handle on the pair. I’d be very happy to see him writing for the pair sometime in the future.

We also get an interesting look at the Sixth Doctor who thanks to the machinations of the real baddie, believes himself to be Moro and is thrown into a mining planet until he gets a trial. Thanks to Moore’s writing and Colin Baker’s brilliant performance, you do really believe that he might be a genocidal intergalactic menace. So good it is the performance, one almost wishes he spent more of the story in this darker persona but this plot device is played for the perfect amount of time, giving Peri just the right amount of time to really shine as the person who works the whole plan out.

As a return for the pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Peri, Memories of a Tyrant is a great adventure, really showing us how brilliant Peri, was and is. She will always be one of my favourite companions and it is great to see Nicola Bryant getting great stories like this. But Memories of a Tyrant is also brilliant because of the ethical questions that it poses, a staple of Roland Moore’s work. It is handled brilliantly, not really giving a definitive answer, either way, instead of leaving it up to the characters and the listener to decide for themselves.

The theme of moral questions and ethics seems to be what will tie this trilogy loosely together as the next adventure, which I’m really looking forward too, Emissary of the Daleks promises to ask more ethical quandaries. And as long as they are handled as well by Andrew Smith, which I’m sure they will, as they were as Roland Moore, we’ll have another stone-cold-classic on our hands!

Have you wondered what would happen if Torchwood had met Desperate Housewives? The perfect lawns, the white picket fences and happy families, aliens, guns, innuendoes and swearing. You’ll be forgiven if you hadn’t but as the recently released story, Serenity proves, it would have been a match made in heaven!

James Moran is no stranger to Torchwood and the Doctor Who world, though it might surprise you know that this is his first proper entry into the franchise with Big Finish. Having previously penned The Fires of Pompeii for Doctor Who and two entries for Torchwood: Sleeper and Children of Earth: Day Three, Moran is certainly very at home here.

As well as the cover which sees the reunion of John Barrowman as Captain Jack and Gareth David Lloyd as Ianto Jones for the first time in a while, Serenity is also a terrific story, which suits the Torchwood framework brilliantly. Rather than creating a new alien for the piece, Moran rightly uses his original creations from Sleeper, the Cell 114.

As villains, they work brilliantly here because Sleeper ended with a possible rematch somewhere down the line. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen on screen but here, Captain Jack and Ianto find themselves coming up against them once more.

What was so brilliant about the Cell 114 was that they had false memories and identities implanted into their minds until they were needed for the invasion. This led to some terrifying visuals on screen and I can vividly remember watching their trail of destruction when the original story aired in 2008. I was so scared of the guy who Jack and Gwen track to an army barracks and the destruction he causes. They also proved to have some rather interesting visual effects designs with arms that turned into long blades and had cogs and workings that you could see through the human skin. They certainly terrified me on screen but on audio, not so much.

Torchwood: Serenity
Torchwood: Serenity

Perhaps the problem with them on audio is that for some reason they were given strange voices. I understand why this was done, to help the listener, who might not know them from the television series, differentiate who was a sleeper agent and who wasn’t but for me, it wasn’t needed. Half the reason they were so scary in the original format was that they still had human voices, though they dead to all emotion. They were just senseless killing machines looking for another planet to inhabit. And while their plans haven’t changed here, they were a very visual creation but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun in getting to this point in the story.

Indeed a lot of the appeal in this story is seeing how Captain Jack and Ianto could have lived together and it proves to be an interesting look at how their lives could have panned out had the show gone down a different path altogether. Half the fun is hearing how the pair fit into the lifestyle at Serenity Plaza. Barrowman seems to fit in perfectly, though standing out because he’s Captain Jack but Lloyd is brilliant at showing Ianto’s frustrations about the whole thing. He regularly gets angry and makes a number of hilarious and sarcastic comments that Lloyd absolutely nails in a pitch-perfect performance.

James Moran also creates a number of great supporting characters, some of whom you really feel sorry for as the story rattles towards its conclusion and if you are familiar with shows like Desperate Housewives which was everywhere in the mid-2000s, then you’ll no doubt see all the little references and appreciate the tone. Listening to this adventure it isn’t hard to picture Teri Hatcher, Dana Delany and Felicity Huffman strutting down Wisteria Lane with blades for arms, stabbing everyone they come into contact with!

Captain Jack and Ianto come across brilliantly too, giving them a taste at what martial bliss could be like and as Barrowman says in the extras, it would have been interesting to see this story on the screen back in 2008/9 as attitudes towards same-sex relationships have really changed since even then. Moran makes sure the pair get plenty to do and it really helps that the pair could be together in the recording sessions rather than one in Cardiff and the other in LA. It really added to the feel of this story being a cooperative piece.

Overall, Serenity is a great way to spend an hour. While the villains aren’t so strong here as they were in their television persona, if you were as terrified of them as I was back in the day, then you’ll still get something out their inclusion so in that sense they still work brilliantly. But the main attraction is the reunion of Captain Jack and Ianto who have always been brilliantly brought to life by John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd. This is another one not to be missed!