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Classic Who now on UK streaming service BritBox plus the overnight viewing figures for Spyfall parts 1 and 2.

Merch Corner

The Official Doctor Who Joke book is out in July.

Review story this week is: Spyfall

It feels like more than a year since Series 11 wrapped up but it’s finally here! We dive into Spyfall parts 1 and 2. Has the Chibbers taken on board the fan feedback and delivers a belter or are we back to square one?

Thank you all for listening this week as we kick-off 2020. Our review story next week will be the Series 12 – Orphan 55. Until then have a great week and remember – Allons-y!

Rounding out the Big Finish main Doctor Who releases in 2019 was Blood On Santa’s Claw, an anthology release of four adventures for the  Sixth Doctor, Peri and new companion, Joe, who we are introduced to as Peri’s boyfriend.

Blood on Santa’s Claw: Written by – Alan Terigo

The set opens with the titular adventure, Blood on Santa’s Claw, playing with the title of the Hammer Horror movie, Blood on Satan’s Claw. Alan Terigo throws a lot at us for a story that runs for thirty minutes. We’ve got evil Father Christmas’, characters from Shakespeare and The Wind in the Willows, religion and a hefty message on how one person’s faith and religious beliefs shouldn’t be more important than someone else’s. It’s a strong message that Doctor Who has rarely touched on for a larger extent and maybe for a good reason because its a topic that could offend people. But Terigo handles it deftly using Shakespeare’s work and characters and those figures from Wind in the Willows as metaphors for the different religions that exist today.

Understandably a lot of the world-building has to go somewhat out of the window when there is this much plot and so little time to set it all up but Terigo does an excellent job of giving us enough information at the beginning and continuously throughout the script to keep us up to date with the affairs of the planet and the lifeforms on it. We also get the first hints of something else going on and it won’t be until the final story, that elements of these adventures will come into play properly.

Cover art for Blood on Santa's Claw and Other Stories
Cover art for Blood on Santa’s Claw and Other Stories

New companion Joe doesn’t really do anything here and to begin with, I found it very strange but as the set of stories reaches its conclusion it all makes sense. That doesn’t mean I really liked the character though. I felt he was a little too snarky, confrontational and sometimes down-right mean, not only to the Doctor but also to Peri. However, it wasn’t until the final episode everything came together, however, if we’re supposed to be having these four stories with him, we need to like him and listening to the character without any knowledge of what will be happening in the end, might leave you feeling confused or annoyed by the character. But the actor, Luke Allen-Gale does a pretty decent job, especially in the final two episodes where the writers actually gave him something to do!

Where Terigo shines though is in his characterisation. The Doctor and Peri feel very authentic to the period they are from and he has a great handle on the guest characters, even if some of them were just made up of religious zealots stereotypes. I really enjoyed the inclusion of Ratty, Mole and Toad though.

Here’s a little known fact, years ago I played Toad in a production of Wind in the Willows in my local theatre. It’s a role I’m still known for around the area I live and that production must be pushing over ten-years ago now! In this story, Roger Parrott played the role of Toad and he did a tremendous job. So from one Toad to another, great job, you did the character proud!

The Baby Awakes: Written by – Susan Dennom

The second story of the set, The Baby Awakes is another tale with a strong relevant message, this time concerning the idea of designer babies and that parents can make sure certain genetic traits are either included or removed from their unborn children. It’s another heavy topic and this is the first time that I’ve seen or heard it used on Doctor Who and it posed some interesting events throughout its half-hour runtime.

Joe feels particularly cold-hearted and cruel here, though that isn’t Dennom’s fault, but yet another unlikable trait of the character. This is a story though that belongs to Nicola Bryant’s Peri, who gets the audio-time in a number of heavy scenes and shows that she can do the serious side of acting just as well as she can do the double-act with Colin Baker. In fact, the Doctor also puts her in something of a cruel position, making her go to investigate the mysterious Ishtar institute. Although they are robots, the Institute let her see what her children could be like before they get taken away from her at the end of the story. It’s quite painful stuff to listen too and Bryant acquits herself brilliantly, proving yet again why Peri is one of the best companions to come from the original run of the show.

The Baby Awakes also introduces us to some concepts that will also come into play in the final two parts and overall is a strong piece of fiction and fits perfectly into the thirty-minute format, and is quite a dark outing for the Doctor and a Christmas story. But it’s brilliant nonetheless.

The cast enjoy the recording in the famous Big Finish carpark!
The cast enjoy the recording in the famous Big Finish carpark!

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day: Written By – Andrew Lias

This is the story where it all starts to come together. Arriving on a space-station where it seems the same Christmas party has been going on for the last three years, the Doctor, Peri and Joe find themselves stuck yet again in the 59th century an era that all the stories of this set have taken place in, much to the Doctor’s disdain as its one of his least favourite centuries.

With Silver Robots guarding the Christmas decorations against being taken down, the trio quickly discovers that things aren’t as they first appear and it begins to call into question the Doctor’s previous actions throughout the other stories in the set.

Rightly though, Lias allows the story to belong to Peri and Joe and the script actually gives Gale some time to really develop his character of Joe. I didn’t really like his character up to this point but Lias makes sure that this story shows us that he allows Peri to have a different angle to her persona that we haven’t seen before. Joe also poses her an interesting question as to whether its time to leave the TARDIS and begin a new life with him. It shows us how much Peri has grown through her travels but also how much she has left to learn and once again Bryant rises to the challenge and has brilliant chemistry with Gale.

The story ends on a cliff-hanger that you won’t see coming, even though the hints were littered through the scripts of the previous adventures.

Brightly Shone the Moon that Night: Written by – Nev Fountain

Fountain has made quite a name for himself writing stories for the Sixth Doctor and Peri in particular so it seems right that he should be the one to wrap this anthology up. And he does a tremendous job. What makes this one really stand out is that gone is the humour that Fountain is normally known for and he instead gives us a story where the stakes seem ridiculously high. With the Doctor seemingly out of action and Joe having revealed his true colours, it all hinges on Peri.

This is a story that introduces us to the Were-Lords an ancient Gallifreyian secret from their earliest times and the Vampire wars. The Doctor has been played throughout the previous outings and everything’s lead here. And what is fun is that the Doctor doesn’t work it out, Peri does. Some realise that Joe didn’t want to go down into the silver mines in the opening stories and what causes the robot children to mutate in the second outing was his DNA and the woman he was talking to in the previous tale was actually his sister in the pack.

It’ll be up for debate whether the revelation of Joe’s nefarious actions impact the actual threat of Were-Lords because it does stop them from feeling like a full-on threat as much of the runtime is taken up with Peri facing off against him. But overall their backstory and their abilities to regenerate indefinitely do pose a credible threat for the Doctor and Peri. And the resolution of the story once again shows us that the Doctor isn’t afraid of taking matters into his own hands and giving the villains a less than happy ending if he has too. And Baker really shines in these final moments, giving these Were-Lords a sort of eternal death.

Overall Blood on Santa’s Claw and Other Stories is a great set of stories that in beginning feel completely separate from each other but in the end, work together to tell one exciting adventure for the Doctor and Peri. Joe will grow on you as the revelation of where he comes from is revealed and Gale really shines in the role. In fact, despite my misgivings about the character in the beginning, I’d quite happily have a trilogy of adventures in the future with these characters because, not only is it interesting for there to be a companion who the Doctor doesn’t actually like, knowing that Joe is up to something dodgy in the end might offer us some interesting future adventures. Big Finish did it when they introduced the Seventh Doctor and Elizabeth Klein, one of my favourite audio companions and it would be great for them to do it again here.

The scripts from all four writers are strong enough to stand on their own two feet as well as working as a cohesive whole. While not every aspect might work as well as others, it’s still a great set of stories to listen too and feels suitably Christmassy for the time of year. Knowing the outcome, it’ll be a release I look forward to rediscovering next year to see if I enjoy it even more than I did this time. Definitely one to be checking out.

Daughter of the Gods is an ambitious story from Big Finish and I think this story offers a wide appeal to any classic Who fans fitting as it is as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of Big Finish.  Two Tardis teams are brought together for this story which for good measure includes a dead companion.

The story puts in the mix one of the most interest generating elements of Doctor Who: the Daleks with references to the epic 12-part classic Who story “The Dalek Masterplan” and also presents a grave moral dilemma.

The Clown and the Crotchety Old Man 

I really love the idea of celebrating the early years of Doctor Who by bringing together the first two incarnations the Doctor. It’s a well-used idea pinched from the success of  “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors” The abrasive nature of the 1st Doctor and the bluster of the 2nd Doctor here gives ample opportunity for comedy as well as drama between two very different incarnations. The 2nd Doctor can be quite childlike at times, acting the fool but I enjoyed that he was quite thoughtful and initial frightened by the initial collision. This isn’t a Doctor yet who has become used to bumping into his former selves.

The 2nd Doctor is played by Frazer Hines who also plays his character Jamie McCrimmon and whilst Frazer gets certain 2nd Doctor mannerisms spot on I did find myself distracted at times when it didn’t sound quite right. Peter Purves is much more successful playing the 1st Doctor though as well as Steven Taylor though conquering the brash tones of his Doctor.

“When Zoe reattaches an old piece of equipment to the TARDIS console, she, Jamie and the Doctor are very lucky to avoid a collision. But the place they find themselves in may be even more dangerous – because there they encounter another Doctor, a space pilot named Steven… and a young woman called Katarina who really shouldn’t be there…”

The most recent Doctor is the one to see his predecessor first and that is a great hook creating an air of mystery. Writer David K Barnes creates an interesting idea, a reminder, that the 1st Doctor is logically younger than the 2nd Doctor. I suppose we have always taken the 1st Doctor’s appearance as a crotchety old man to heart and the scene where he discusses with Steven Taylor meeting with pals, going to parties and having a jolly good time is a prod in our consciousness that he isn’t always as responsible as he should be. The contrast with Steven’s devotion to duty working at the spaceport and the Doctor’s nonchalance of it reveals a wilful streak of selfishness in the 1st Doctor reminiscent of a younger man.

Daughter of the Gods from Big Finish
Daughter of the Gods from Big Finish

The volatile first meeting of the 1st and 2nd Doctor with the former furious at the 2nd Doctor for the calamity caused by the collision and refusing to believe Katarina’s eventual fate also shows a dangerous impetuousness. His later accusation of the 2nd Doctor as some kind of traitor does feel shocking, unexpected. Given what I’ve seen on TV I don’t know if I fully believe this stance entirely but it is a subjective opinion.

The 1st Doctor gave up his precious granddaughter Susan which hurt him (although her future wasn’t being dead but a chance to live a normal life). Here there will not be an opportunity for him to see Katarina again. His attitude, however, allows an interesting contrast with the 2nd Doctor who has a greater perception of the future, fixed events and the repercussions if things stay as they are.

Katarina being alive is an unlikely theme but this story meshes ancient belief and destiny in a thought-provoking way. The idea, in a “Turn Left” way, that one small action diverts predestined events and creates an alternative future. Katarina must always be the sweet but doomed handmaiden companion of the 1st Doctor. Known more as the first companion to die her tenure was only a few episodes in the tv series ( now mostly missing ) so her impact then was probably less than it would be where she was a companion today.

The fact that the production team of the time saw a limitation in writing for an ancient historical character and abandoned her to a deadly fate might make you think that there is nothing new to explore. However, this is a welcome opportunity to explore a what-if scenario. Ajjaz Awad does a nice job to portray convincingly Katarina’s devotion in her beliefs and trust of the Doctor. I think it is quite hard to give Katarina huge depth as a character but the storey succeeds because of the affection that her other companions have for her and how they react.

Splitting the characters up

David K Barnes writes the companions well successfully capturing their essence. Zoe Heriot, for me, is probably the least sympathetic but she works well paired with the 2nd Doctor and then Steven as their shared intelligence enables them to work together against the Daleks. Zoe gets impatient with Jamie’s lack of technological knowledge so the pairing of Jamie McCrimmon and Katarina works well. Both characters being from the past share a natural affinity but also are different enough to create interest. Where Jamie attempts to take charge, Katarina matches him in courage. Jamie uses the evidence of his eyes to judge situations and is quite logical. There is instinctive chivalry and protectiveness within him which is allowed to come out with Katarina but is absent around Zoe.

L–R: David Richardson, Laura Elphinstone, Frazer Hines, Peter Purves, Ajjaz Awad, David K Barnes and Wendy Padbury
L–R: David Richardson, Laura Elphinstone, Frazer Hines, Peter Purves, Ajjaz Awad, David K Barnes and Wendy Padbury. The cast of Daughter of the Gods

Katarina

I enjoyed Katarina’s slightly different relationships with each of the Doctors. The 1st Doctor takes a scholarly interest in trying to educate Katarina in the differences between science and belief. However, he appreciates he will not be entirely successful. Katarina believes the Doctor a god and although at times is persuaded that the Doctor is mortal and that she is alive the realisation doesn’t last. She isn’t unintelligent but will always be a product of her time with her interpretation of the invasion of the Daleks as a punishment from the gods. Katarina clings to her beliefs to help her understand the world she is flung into.

Ancient Greeks did believe in multiple gods and it is understandable that as she fears for her soul all she wants to do is be assisted to reach “her place of perfection” The later discussion where the 2nd Doctor patiently, sorrowfully explains what the future should be to Katarina reflects a mature understanding of how he feels the remorse of her death. The 2nd Doctor requires forgiveness from Katarina but also knows her passing will prevent the deaths of countless other millions. The moment where she decides her fate does break your heart.

A God may choose many faces” Katarina

Boo hiss villains

I greatly enjoyed hearing two separate perspectives of the same event then the story merged into the fallout and a battle for survival against the Daleks. As a listener its satisfying to be privy to knowledge before the characters. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Daleks in audio as they have a presence that works far better visually. Never the less they are suitably menacing in the story.  The Daleks are particularly dangerous and ruthless due to the success of the time destructor in this reality and merrily go about killing various inhabitants of Kouria city. There are also characters who sacrifice their lives within the story which highlights how important it is to set events back to where they should be.

My Highlights

The 1st Doctor eating toast and behaving badly

The Dalek’s first transmission to Kouria City and the governor

The 2nd Doctor’s conversation with Katarina.

For those of you drawn in by the emotional heart of this story, there is much to enjoy 8.5/10

As a self-imposed tradition, I wanted to throw some love to all of our listeners and readers with a big thank you for all your support in 2019 and what’s coming in 2020.

Overall, 2019 was a great year for us albeit with a couple of niggles along the way. It always amazes me year after year the appetite for Doctor Who content both audio and the written word. When I started this podcast back in March 2014, I expected it to be around for a year, maybe two, then fade away but alas, we’re still going strong.

The Podcast

As I mentioned, it amazes me just how much Doctor Who fans want to consume additional content when there’s no new Who on the telly box. I listen to a bunch of Doctor Who podcats every week and some of them have been going for years. I never compare our show to others but I often reflect on just how long we’ve been podcasting for. This year will be our sixth year. Six years podcasting about Doctor Who! That’s crazy to me and whenever I mention it to Adam his reaction is the same: “blimey, has it been that long?”.

The reason we’ve been going this long is due to the amazing listeners we have. You lot. You guys that download and listen to our show every week. We love doing the show of course but what drives us to keep going are our listeners. We love and appreciate every single one of you who take the time to listen but also interact with us by sending us a review for the story we’re doing that week, posting a review on Apple Podcasts (or whatever podcast app/network you listen on) or just tweeting us to say hi.

Since we started in 2014 our listener numbers have gone up significantly each year and last year was no different. 2019 was our best year to date which I was surprised at, seeing as we went for roughly a year with no new Who. With nothing coming from the BBC the general awareness of Who tends to drop (unless you consume plenty of stuff from Big Finish) which is why, I guess, lots of you tend to seek our podcasts, YouTubers etc.

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Obligatory con pic… #doctorwho

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It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Adam and I hit a couple of road bumps in the last half of 2019 due to life changes and commitments: Adam was away from home for a couple of months, I moved house, Adam found new employment which changed our recording schedule, I was travelling a bit and work as also busy. These things combined threw some challenges and we couldn’t put out the podcast in our normal schedule.

You guys came through though. Not only did you not mind when we missed weeks (well, you did a little bit 😉) but you supported us and stood by us. Our listeners/downloads/subscriber numbers didn’t drop. You kept us going which we’ll always be grateful for. Thank you all so much for that.

Moving into 2020 we’ll carry on our weekly schedule (we’ll miss the odd one, that’s bound to happen) of reviewing Classic, Modern, SJA and Torchwood. We’ve still got tonnes of Classic Who left to review along with the new series starting today(!), more 10th and 11th Doctor stories and the rest of SJA and Torchwood.

Outside of the podcast, we’ll also be out and about at various comic cons, events and screenings as always and will enjoy having a good ol’ natter over a pint with you lot. You never know, we may even start that “Big Blue Box TV” YouTube channel this year!

The Articles

At the end of 2017, I opened the doors of the TARDIS to you and took on a bunch of writers to contribute reviews, editorials and general articles. To say that they have put out plenty of awesome content is an understatement. We’ve had loads of Big Finish reviews, books and events. Editorials on Who collecting and general various subjects.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those guys. With nothing more than their love of Doctor Who and in their own time (they’ve also had their own life challenges which is even more remarkable), they put out articles regularly. Maria, Jordan and Mark (and some of our earlier writers who were with us briefly) – thank you all so much. Love ya! We’ve had great feedback and comments and I can’t wait to read your articles this year.

Early this year I’ll be opening our doors once again on the lookout for a couple of contributors so keep your eyes peeled for that.

In summary

In closing, thank you all so much for listening to our show and/or reading our blog this year. You guys are awesome and really do make what we all do worth it. 2019 has been a blast and I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring. With the new series kicking off today it’s an exciting time and for the rest of the year, we’ll be here, bringing you Doctor Who content as always.

From Adam, our writers and I, here’s to a great New Year and once again thank you. Thank you all so much ❤️