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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from the latest TARDIS team of The Sixth Doctor, Constance Clarke and Flip, with Static having been released in 2017. It’s a shame because they are one of my favourite audio teams, so I greeted the news that they were returning for an audio-trilogy, with glee earlier in the year and Cry of the Vultriss is a nice way to kick things off.

The opening moments might be a little confusing for those listeners who aren’t familiar with Constance Clarke or what happened in the previous story Static. I believe I’m right in saying she was killed, brought back the way the Static brought the dead back to life, with all her memories intact, just in a cloned body. So Cry of the Vultriss does continue with Constance trying to get to grips with her new state of mind. Of course, she has to put aside any worries about that for the next few hours as they find themselves on the planet Cygia-Rema and at the mercy of the Vultriss, bird-like aliens about to meet aliens for the first time as they have requested an audience with the Ice Warriors to make an alliance with them.

Cry of the Vultriss
Cry of the Vultriss

At first glance, Cry of the Vultriss does feel like a pretty standard affair, the type of Doctor Who story that’s been told loads of times: the Doctor arrives on an alien world, he and his companions are separated from the TARDIS and they have to solve a problem on the planet before they can get back to it. But on reflection, Cry of the Vultriss has a lot more going on. Amongst the very well realised Vultriss thanks to the brilliant sound design from Simon Power, author, Darren Jones makes sure to give Cygia-Rema a completely alien feel. It’s a rare planet in Doctor Who where everything feels completely alien, allowing the Doctor and companions to really shine, taken away from anything familiar.

Jones also makes sure to keep things interesting by giving us a rather unstable political situation on the planet. While other stories would have been content giving us a tyrannical leader a band of rebels fighting the good fight, here though, things aren’t quite that black-and-white, with neither side really being the good-guys things are much more grey and it does sort of force the Doctor and Companions to decide who they can trust on both sides and which members of society are just and who aren’t.

This is helped along by two people who think they are the rightful rulers of the planet who are both equally flawed and both feel like they are driven more by personal desires to rule the planet rather than being the right people for the job. It all does make for a nice change to the good vs evil plotline.

It was also nice that Jones gave both Constance and Flip a lot to do. Both companions are very different from one another, Constance is from the 1940s, while Flip is every-bit a modern companion. While it would have been easy for the writers to make them argue constantly, instead, they use their differences to make the best friends and despite not having many stories together, they have come to get something of a sisterly-bond, with Constance taking Flip under her wing, teaching her how to grow up, while Flip is teaching Constance how to let loose a little and have some fun.

The cast behind the scenes
The cast behind the scenes

Jones makes the right choice in throwing them both into the unstable environment and while Constance does understand the politics involved as the battle is similar to WW2 where everyone has to deal with different moral questions. It’s a situation that Constance does understand more than Flip and while doesn’t cause conflict between the pair, you can see Flip struggling to understand Constance’s outlook. I really like though how Constance is a much quieter companion, Flip is loud and gets stuck in the action, every-bit a modern companion as she has taken inspiration from the likes of Ace and Tegan, but Constance reminds me of characters like Barbara, Zoe and Liz. She listens to everything going on, takes a moment to breathe and forms her opinions. Both companions work brilliantly and I hope this trilogy isn’t going to be the last we hear from them.

The Sixth Doctor works well here too. Colin Baker quickly became one of my favourite Big Finish Doctors as well as one of my favourite on-screen incarnations thanks to the audio drama’s he’s been in and he is on fantastic form here. He brings the Doctor to life so easily and works brilliantly with Constance and Flip. I always look forward to an audio drama with him in!

Cry of the Vultriss also blends the classic and modern eras together perfectly with the inclusion of the Ice Warriors. Here they are much more like the ones we saw in Curse of Peladon, where they are much more diplomatic and looking to make peace with the universe at large. Of course, as mentioned in the Peladon stories there are Warriors who don’t believe in their race being peaceful and this is where Adele Lynch’s Vextyr comes into play. Lynch previously played the Ice Warrior Empress in Empress of Mars and she plays a similar character here. It’s an element of the story that plays with both eras of the show and one that shows how well they can work together when handled by someone with a strong story.

Cry of the Vultriss is another strong entry into Big Finish’s output. It kicks off the new Sixth Doctor trilogy well and Darren Jones manages to pack a lot into the two-hour runtime. It isn’t a story without its faults, there are moments that feel much longer than they should be and moments in cliffhangers which drag on a little too long. But they are just little nitpicks in an overall strong and interesting entry to the Sixth Doctor’s era!

Earlier this year, Star Trek: Picard allowed us to revisit a character whom we’d last encountered 18 years ago. Jean-Luc Picard was physically frailer but that didn’t stop the writers from flinging him across a thoroughfare, over a desk, across the galaxy on a rickety old spaceship, the list goes on.

And yet, underneath all the explosions, gunfights and space battles, this was a story about ageing and a man making peace with himself as he approaches the end of his life. I bring all of this up, because there are similarities to be drawn with Big Finish’s latest release in their Time War range – Susan’s War.

Cover artwork for "Susan's War"
Cover artwork for “Susan’s War”

We last saw Susan Campbell on-screen in 1983, since then she’s had some (rather bleak) adventures in expanded universe fiction and is now called upon to save the universe – meeting old friends along the way. The first of those old friends is Ian Chesterton, recruited by the Timelords to assist Susan on a diplomatic mission back to the home of the Sensorites in Eddie Robson’s Sphere of Influence. The Timelords believe that, since he convinced the pacifist Thals to take a stand against the fascist Daleks, he can convince the soft-shoed whispering telepaths to join the Time War. If you were crying out for a Daleks v.s Sensorites smackdown then this is the audio play for you, my friend! It’s essentially a flimsy excuse to have the two surviving members of the original cast back together, with Ian’s incredibly meta-textual speech on how the Second World War influenced his actions on Skaro sounding more like it’s come from the pages of an Elizabeth Sandifer text than spoken and believed by the character himself.

Having Ian and Susan together again is a strange experience – for a lovely moment like Ian remembering he’s no longer the teacher, there’s also a clunky moment that doesn’t land. For example, Susan catching Ian up on the incredibly bleak backstory she’s had during the Eighth Doctor audios feels at odds with the post-war optimism and positivity of the early days of the show. It’s not all bleak though, there’s an excellent running joke about the Sensorite’s noise sensitivity. A gag which will soothe the ears of listeners like me who find all those explosions and Dalek rasping a bit grating. That said, it builds to a climax centred around old men and their mobile phones, it’s funny and very “Doctor Who” but it highlights a larger issue. Namely that the casting of a clearly elderly William Russell and the inclusion of various references to his advancing years muddies the “haven’t aged a day since 1965” romanticism of The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ nod to Ian and Barbara.

A small niggle perhaps, but as we’re dealing with one of Russell T Davies’ finest creations – The Time War and eventual destruction of Gallifrey – the muddied continuity does distract. We’re on safer ground in Simon Guerrier’s The Uncertain Shore, as Susan and her Timelord handler Veklin arrive on a world with a looser connection to established mythology. Posing as keen painters, the pair are on the formerly peaceful paradise world of Florana to root out a Dalek spy. It’s here that Susan’s strengths in a Time War hone into view – her empathy allows her to easily inveigle her way into the lives of Florana’s colourful range of visitors in their attempt to identify the spy.

There’s a strange mixture of Rosemary & Thyme and Casablanca at play here, which is by no means a criticism, Guerrier balances the tonal differences well. The first half’s breezier tone of a cosy ITV whodunit emphasises the darkness and high-stakes jeopardy in the second. Ultimately, this is a story about the innocent people caught in the crossfire and of how their stories can lay the groundwork for a resistance movement. It’s easy to accept the older Susan, who left to rebuild the Earth, as a keen founder member of such a group but the Timelords have other uses for her.

L to R: Damian Lynch as Cardinal Rasmus, Carole Ann Ford as Susan and Beth Chalmers as Veklin
L to R: Damian Lynch as Cardinal Rasmus, Carole Ann Ford as Susan and Beth Chalmers as Veklin

Lou Morgan’s Assets of War finds Susan’s empathy, telepathy and morality put to the test as she’s sent to a Gallifreyan weapons facility to approve the latest addition to the Timelord’s arsenal. The Orrovix are a race of deadly predators torn from the time vortex and bred for the battlefield. Susan understandably finds the whole thing abhorrent and warns of the obvious dangers with such a scheme leading to a good old fashioned base under siege story. Running underneath such a tried-and-tested Doctor Who format is a more interesting story about class inequality and of those we expect to sacrifice themselves in our name. The class structure on Gallifrey has always been something sketched out rather than filled in but Assets of War goes further to explore what it means for the recruitment of front-line soldiers.

Susan’s empathy for those that are caught in the crossfire between the Timelords and the Daleks leads to some distrust from her senior officers, not helped by her own Grandfather’s refusal to take part in the conflict. Whilst he helps out in his own way on the fringes of the conflict, Susan believes that she can actually help on the front-line. This dichotomy between grandfather and granddaughter’s approaches leads to the final entry in the set – Alan Barnes’ The Shoreditch Intervention.

Caught up in a Dalek plot to change the course of history, Susan is reunited with the 8th incarnation of her Grandfather in London 1963. The Dalek plot and the various timey-wimey shenanigans involved in averting the fateful journey of the Hand of Omega occasionally feels less like a story needs to be told and more like an excuse to get to the Doctor and Susan’s family argument over the Time War. Paul McGann and Carole Ann Ford play their scenes together beautifully, reverting back into their roles as chastened child and irascible curmudgeon. There’s still a warmth and a love there, too, and references back to the losses that both experienced in the emotionally devastating fourth series finale To the Death remind long-term Big Finish listeners of just how far we’ve come.

The Wife and the Granddaughter
The Wife and the Granddaughter

And yet, far though we’ve come, there’s a nagging sense that we’re running out of road. The Time War was such a great creation by RTD because it left a massive gap in established continuity for our imaginations to play around in. In the execution though, it appears that there’s only a finite number of stories to tell about the conflict. A diplomatic mission with an old friend, a peaceful planet about to be ravaged by conflict, a deadly uncontrollable weapon and an attempt to change the course of history. They are all plots dealt with comprehensively by the other sets in the range – The War Doctor, Time War, Gallifrey: Time War and The War Master.

There’s certainly a fresh perspective lent to proceedings by the inclusions of the Doctor’s empathetic granddaughter and her hope that the Timelords don’t lose sight of themselves in pursuit of victory against the Daleks should lead to interesting character conflicts in future sets. There’s promise here, and the hope is that this conflict and Susan’s unique perspective will be enough to raise material that is often overly familiar.

The News

Emotional one this week as we look at the “Farewell, Sarah Jane” video and TARDIS magazine is making a return.

The Merch

Nothing of note this week.

Review story this week is: Kinda

Not one we generally talk about from Davison’s era but has it grown to be entertaining over the years? Creepy and head scratching, what do we think to this one?

Thank you all for listening this week. Next week our review is the Torchwood story – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Until then have a great week, take care of yourselves, stay healthy and remember – Allons-y!

Has there ever been a better time for Big Finish? As a massive fan, I would say that every moment in okay to listen to some audiobooks, but in these dark times, Big Finish is proving to be a bright and shining light, keeping us entertained throughout the isolation period.

I’ve recently started my own Big Finish re-listen, trying my hardest to listen to all their audio dramas/books, mainly from Doctor Who, but I’ve got some from their other ranges that I’m looking forward to hearing again.

What better time then to start a new series of articles, in a similar vein to The Great Virgin Adventures Review range we do here, to delve into the Doctor Who audiobooks, including the spinoff’s from the main range in a series of look-backs and reviews?

A small disclaimer, I hope to cover the Bernice Summerfield range, only their in my attic in one of the hundreds of boxes, so I’ll give them a listen again eventually!

The Sirens of Time

Written By: Nicholas Briggs

It’s hard to believe now that once upon a time, Big Finish had trouble trying to get the rights from the BBC to produce proper Doctor Who audio dramas. However, that’s a long and convoluted story that spun out of the success of the Bernice Summerfield opening series. The BBC would then call Big Finish back and tell them of a great idea; “What if you produced Doctor Who audiobooks?” For the long-time fans that work at Big Finish, this was the realisation of a dream come true and as a result, in 1999, the main Doctor Who range kicked off with The Sirens of Time, a story that sees three-incarnations of the Doctor team up to stop the titular Sirens before they destroy the time-stream and lay waste to Gallifrey.

Let’s get this straight right off the bat, The Sirens of Time isn’t an excellent story, it’s not even a good story but it certainly isn’t a terrible outing. What it is, is strong indicators of the love and affection that these creators were going to give the legacy of the, at the time still cancelled, show. Each episode features a different Doctor until the fourth and final part which sees all three come together. Long before the days where Tom Baker and Paul McGann had joined the cast, these Doctors were Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. What The Sirens of Time is also able to do is set up a few future spin-off series like Gallifrey and a hint of Dalek Empire.

The Sirens of Time
The Sirens of Time

The Seventh Doctor kicks off the opening episode and unfortunately, some of the kinks that they’ve since ironed out are on display from the moment he leaves the TARDIS. Heavy exposition scenes were the bane of early releases and this one is no different, giving the Chris Chibnall era a run for its money. Perhaps worse though is that nothing really happens apart from the Doctor meeting with a woman he could’ve sworn he’s met before. It is nice though to hear the glorious Maggie Stables in a small role in this episode before she became the fabulous Sixth Doctor companion, Evelyn Smythe.

The second episode is a different affair, which held my interest throughout. The Fifth Doctor lands in a German submarine and meets Helen, a woman who like him, shouldn’t be there. It also expands upon the mysteries taking place on Gallifrey, with Coordinator Vancill deciding it would be best to kill the Doctor as the Sirens seem to have latched onto his time-stream and are breaking through to our universe through the Doctor. The third episode sees the Sixth Doctor arriving at an intergalactic conference where he meets a woman called, Ellie. For me, the third episode is my favourite, mainly because it does have a similar vibe to Terror of the Vervoids, one of my favourite Sixth Doctor stories. There is also plenty of action to keep you interested.

It’s a shame then that it all comes a little undone in the final episode. While much of the selling point is hearing these three Doctors come together, and their scenes are fantastic, largely down to the brilliant performances from Davison, Baker and McCoy. And it seems that none of the Doctors has forgotten their different personalities come into conflict with one another, a large appeal to stories like The Three Doctors.

Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison at the recording of The Sirens of Time
Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison at the recording of The Sirens of Time

The story’s plot though is less satisfactory, with much of the information being told to us with character’s standing around, and giving us more exposition and explanation than we need. The Sirens would return in the recent 20th Anniversary Big Finish audio, The Legacy of Time and they impressed me about the same as they did here, mainly not very much. As villains, Big Finish has done a lot better, though they do allow for the introduction of the Knights of Valyeshaa, a group that would come into play more in the Dalek Empire series.

But as I said above, if The Sirens of Time manages to achieve anything it is proving that Doctor Who was in very safe hands, even if for the first couple of years, as Big Finish found its feet as a company, the stories didn’t really have many stand-outs. The Sirens of Time isn’t an amazing story but its a solid opener, the best was yet to come…

Phantasmagoria

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Following on from the rather lacklustre The Sirens of Time, Big Finish quickly improved their game with Phantasmagoria, written by none other than Mark Gatiss. I’ve always enjoyed Gatiss’ contributions to Doctor Who with stories that weren’t written for the screen the exception being The Unquiet Dead, where Charles Dickens name-checks this adventure.

I’ve got two reasons for really liking this story, the first of which is that its a nice blend of The Talons of Weng-Chiang – minus the racism – and The Awakening – minus the village setting – both of those stories are some of my favourite Doctor Who stories ever written, so it’s nice to hear Big Finish giving us similar vibes here.

The other reason I like this story is that it kick-starts the trend of giving the Fifth Doctor historical stories. And though much better were to come for the Fifth Doctor and companions when they journeyed back in time, Phantasmagoria is a brilliant Victorian outing.

Phantasmagoria
Phantasmagoria

Phantasmagoria also marks the debut of Mark Strickson as Turlough in the Big Finish landscape. Certainly, one of the stranger companions the Doctor has had over the years, Turlough might be a strange choice as the first real-on-screen companion to be in Big Finish. One would think it would be someone like Katy Manning or Elisabeth Sladen. However, Strickson recaptures the role excellently, and Gatiss really writes well for Turlough, giving him much more of the action than he ever got on television.

The gap between Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire is still a mine that Big Finish hasn’t really explored, only giving us a handful of stories for the Fifth Doctor and Turlough, especially in the early years of the range. However, there is something magical and very enjoyable about the two characters, probably down to the seemingly odd pairing the two make. Still, its one of my favourite Big Finish pairings and it would be nice if Big Finish could give us more solo Turlough adventures in the future!

Peter Davison also shines here, really grabbing the material and running with it. What helps is that he is the only Doctor here and, like many characters, Big Finish have used over the years, this the beginning of the Fifth Doctor makeover. I think this improvement in his character comes from the fact there aren’t so many companions hanging around as this allows for much more Fifth Doctor action. Davison has always been my favourite Doctor so its great to hear him getting a lot more material to work with here and it’s a story that fits perfectly into Series 21.

Gatiss, as well as handling the Doctor and Turlough well, gives us an interesting story filled with highway robberies, hauntings, gambling and then throws a house of horrors into the mix to keep things interesting. Where the story doesn’t hold up too well for me is in its side-characters, one of whom feels a lot like the fun Richard Mace from The Visitation but I had a little trouble telling the others apart as they all sounded like one-another, though whether this down to the writing or the similar clichéd Victorian accents and performances is anyone’s guess.

Overall though, Phantasmagoria is a marked improvement from The Sirens of Time. It’s still not a perfect story by any means but you’ll have a lot of fun giving it a listen, if only for the fantastic pairing of the Fifth Doctor and Turlough!

Next Time: The Sixth Doctor and Peri in The Whispers of Terror and the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in Land of the Dead

For the past month we have been trialing out Discord as a place for Who fans to hang out and considering we’re in for more lockdown we’re opening it up to all.

We’ve been on the socials since starting the podcast and that’s obviously great for interacting with our listeners and readers but that’s spread across multiple channels. I wanted to have a central place where people could hang out, chat all the Who they wanted and feel safe doing so.

It’s also cool to chat with myself and our writing team directly 👍

Join the Big Blue Box Discord server
Join the Big Blue Box Discord server

We already have a great community building and we’d love to see you there. There are various channels to discuss modern and classic Who; events and conventions; Big Finish and plenty more. We also announce new podcast episodes and articles.

You’ll need a Discord account (which is free) and the app itself which is available on pretty much everything. Once you’re sorted with that head to the link below and you’ll be in…

https://discord.gg/8jZ42Qg

Thanks Who fans and will see you over there.

It’s very rare to get a Third Doctor and Sarah Jane story these days, probably because of how linked she is with the Fourth Doctor and its easy to forget sometimes that she was a companion for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor in his final series. Not even in the books from the 1990s and early 2000s did we get much from 3 and Sarah and even Big Finish haven’t really gone into that era.

Personally, I really like the pairing, especially how he treats her much differently from the way he did Liz and Jo. Gone are the scientists and parent dynamics he had and I would say he saw much of an equal in Sarah, especially as she took no guff from him.

Decline of the Ancient Mariner
Decline of the Ancient Mariner

This is an element that Rob Nisbett makes sure to carry on within The Decline of the Ancient Mariner, based on the real-life events of 1974, when NASA lost contact with a probe for a little while. Of course, this is prime material for a Doctor Who story and we get a tale of robotic duplicates and the Doctor and Sarah stopping them in the 30-minutes that NASA has no contact with their probe.

This story is pretty typical of the Third Doctor era, with something going wrong at a scientific research laboratory, though he never helped NASA on screen, and the Doctor is called in to solve the problem. But it isn’t a formula that is boring, something about the Third Doctor makes it brilliant to see him taking down the overbearing bosses of these types of establishments is really appealing and while that doesn’t happen here, it does make you wish that there was more to this story. But Nisbett makes sure through in a few of the now staple timey-wimey elements to keep things interesting and stops it from becoming another typical-Pertwee adventure.

But despite the story, which is a nice addition to the continuity of the show and doesn’t outstay its welcome, for me, Nisbitt must be praised on his handling of Sarah Jane. When she was introduced in The Time Warrior, she was a passionate feminist and took that to the Medieval period. But that was toned down much more as her time went on, while she never turned into a shrinking violet, she wasn’t as much of a feminist with the Fourth Doctor as she was here and it was nice to hear her telling off a NASA representative because he didn’t think the Doctor could be a woman. It’s nice to know that Sarah would be perfectly fine with having adventures with the Thirteenth Doctor!

The Decline of the Ancient Mariner also plays with the unique dynamic that Sarah and the Third Doctor seemed to have and makes it a part of the plot, with the Third Doctor enjoying himself pushing Sarah’s buttons, while never betraying the respect they had for one another. It was also nice to hear Sarah’s attitude towards the NASA representative change over the course of the story when a robotic duplicate of the man is cruelly aged before her.

With a cracking story that explores the untapped potential dynamic of the Third Doctor and Sarah, The Decline of the Ancient Mariner does feel quite different from any other Sarah Jane stories on audio, while fitting perfectly into the television continuity. Can we please have more from the Third Doctor and Sarah at some point? I really like them together!

The News

We say goodbye to Pip Baker and Rory is back with a small diary scene.

The Merch

Nothing of note this week.

Review story this week is: The Sarah Jane Adventures – Mona Lisa’s Revenge

In this Sarah-lite story the gang is trying to stop a miffed Mona Lisa from inflicting fire and rage on the world. What do we think of this one? More brilliant SJA or watching paint dry?

Thank you all for listening this week. Next week our review is the 5th Doctor story – Kinda. Until then have a great week, take care of yourselves, stay healthy and remember – Allons-y!

This is going to sound like a very strange comment but I’ve never been a massive fan of audiobooksI love to read and the idea of having someone read me a book has never sat well with me, particularly as I love to imagine what’s happening, something I don’t get listening to books.

The only exception was Louise Jameson reading Horror of Fang Rock, one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, I loved that one. When Tropical Beach Sounds, (which we’ll call it from now on!), was announced, I was intrigued, but never guessed it would be such a great story, even if the idea of a single narrator reading me a story, rather than a cast, didn’t necessarily appeal to me.

Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4
Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4

Having finished the audio drama, I wondered why I was so conflicted in the first place. Big Finish has really upped their game with Torchwood in the past couple of years and I don’t think I’ve heard a single one I didn’t like in some capacity. Tropical Beach Sounds was another fantastic outing from author Tim Foley, with its narration from Sir Michael Palin.

In recent years, the internet, YouTube, in particular, has been taken by storm with ASMR, the idea of certain sounds playing loudly to produce a tingle in the back of your neck and head. Apparently it’s relaxing, but the sound of someone crinkling a crisp-packet up loudly makes me want to punch someone! However, its a strange craze that’s surprisingly not been featured in the Doctor Who universe as of yet.

Taking the form of a self-help tape, Foley makes sure to paint a tranquil image for the listener, something that the soothing and calming voice of Palin helps to emphasise and it doesn’t take long for you to be drawn in. But in true Torchwood fashion, things soon take a turn for the worse, and Palin’s voice darkens perfectly to accommodate the change of pace.

What started out as a soothing relaxation tape quickly becomes something else, with you having to infiltrate the Torchwood Hub and interact with the team, as you learn different skills, including trickery, seduction, and the ability to open doors using your head. Not really skills that people need to learn to any great capacity and did I mention that in this tape you get to be Captain Jack? That’s probably for the best when this audio tape gets you to open doors by smacking your head against it and other gruesome tasks.

Sir Michael Palin at the recording session
Sir Michael Palin at the recording session

To my surprise, the calming addition of Sir Michael Palin’s voice adds an overall creepiness of the whole thing. He starts out nicely, giving us the sort of tone one gets from a relaxation tape, (something else I’ve never found particularly relaxing), but when the script demands it, he manages to become dark, creepy, sinister and wholly evil. Even more surprising is that they got him to swear, I never thought I’d hear Michael Palin swear, but when the alien he plays gets mad, he gets mad, threatening you with an eternity of anguish. He’s a fantastic addition to the world and the Big Finish company. Hopefully, we get more from him at some point!

If there was one thing I didn’t like too much when I listened to it, it was the fact that the alien and its invasion wasn’t really explained. But thinking about it now, I suppose that adds to the strangeness of the whole thing and I don’t think that we are supposed to understand the alien and its plans just that it is a deadly threat. But Foley does a great job at painting how violent and evil these monsters are, even if we never know what they are. And I suppose that plays into the idea of these types of relaxation types, the sort of message that comes across that we may never know who our enemies are, just that they exist and we have to deal with them. Obviously this is Torchwood though so that idea is taken to its most shocking extremes!

Despite its very long title and its one narrator, Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4 is one of the most experimental Big Finish releases to date and stands apart from much of their other excellent output as one of the strangest, yet brilliant audio’s I’ve heard in a very long time.

As I move into my pitch for a hypothetical third series, the stories and relationships for the Doctor and companions will become much more challenging for the time-travellers. With Elisabeth having perished at the end of the previous series, Series 3 will have a new sense of danger, as George and Nate have been awoken to the real dangers of time-travel and while it is a wonderful gift to be given, it doesn’t come without a cost.

You may have also noticed that over the last couple of series the two perhaps biggest villains of the series have been notably absent, the Daleks and the Cybermen. I’ve always seen them as the monsters the Doctor fears the most and should be treated as something to be afraid of. The end of series 3 will bring back the Daleks in a big way, as well as see the return of Davros and the time-lock around the Time-War beginning to break down…

The Main Players

The Doctor: Still quirky and brash, the Doctor suffered a terrible loss and shock when Elisabeth Watts died at the end of the previous series. The Doctor had grown reckless and had endangered the lives of his friends in the process. Following Elisabeth’s death, this is a Doctor who is much more careful, never really letting his companions out of his sight and always making they aren’t in any danger in any situation they find themselves in. As a result, the desire to keep his friends safe sometimes angers and endangers the lives of the guest characters around him. But this Doctor still has hearts in the right places and still cares about everyone. His reckless streak has gone, now replaced by a sense of fear and dread throughout their travels, something that will change the way the Doctor looks at the universe around him.

George Atkins: George had his eyes opened to the real dangers of time-travel throughout the last series. While for him, the first series of adventures could be scary, it was ultimately a lot of fun, getting to meet historical figures and visit the future. During the second series as the adventures grew more dangerous, he struggled to keep his optimism up, especially when they were faced with the idea of having to live in the 15th century. Following the death of his friend, he abandoned the Doctor, choosing the Valeyard instead to take him home. He does feel a sense of guilt both about Elisabeth’s death and his treatment of the Doctor. But series 3 will find him rediscovering the sense of wonder and excitement for the universe he previously had. Though he does grow a little weary of the Doctor’s newfound sense of over-protection and that does add a sense of tension at the end of this series.

Nate Wallis:  Nate is still relatively new to this lifestyle and is still finding his feet somewhat. Like George, Nate had to face the dangers of time-travel in the previous series and isn’t too sure its for him, even though he does enjoy it. Like the Doctor, Nate comes into these adventures with a little bit of a nervous streak, handling the situations much differently to George who throws himself into the action. Nate and George are still in a loving relationship, even if their different approaches to their adventures sometimes put them at odds. However, throughout the course of this series and going into the fourth series, he does begin to gain a sense of excitement and realises what a gift the Doctor has given him but choosing him to travel with them.

The two-part finale will see the return of Davros and the Daleks
The two-part finale will see the return of Davros and the Daleks

Supporting Characters

Susie Atkins: While Susie still doesn’t understand George’s new lifestyle and hasn’t really accepted that he is travelling throughout the universe, she was there for George and Nate when they came back to Earth and she had met Elisabeth and helped them through their grief at losing their friend. However, she does whole-heartedly support their relationship and wouldn’t let anyone hurt her son, despite what emotional-distances there might be between mother and son. She calls George to help when people begin to die under mysterious circumstances in the fourth episode and later meets up with her son in the eighth and eleventh episodes when the TARDIS returns to modern-day. She gradually sees the good the Doctor, George and Nate are doing and finally accepts that George was missing excitement in his life and thanks to the Doctor for giving him a zest for life again.

Madeline and Simon Wallis: Introduced in the third series is Nate’s parents. However, unlike Susie, they haven’t accepted their son. This will allow for some commentary on LGBT subjects and offer views on them. However, they do love their son, but their lack of acceptance has pushed their son away. Nate doesn’t even really call them his parents anymore. We’ll meet them in the fourth and eleventh episode, though they won’t play a big part in the overall plot of those episodes like Susie does and this will help add to the distance between them and their son. However, they do but heads with the Doctor over his open-minded approach to life.

Davros: While he doesn’t really appear until the final two-episodes, Davros will form a large part of that plot. While the Daleks are still the Daleks, a terrifying force of extermination, this is a much more scheming Davros. We also these Daleks in the Time-War as the time-lock surrounding the events are breaking down. Davros will do anything to save himself and the Daleks and destroy the Time-Lords. And he’ll harness the pure power of the Nightmare Child to do it…

The Series

The first series would run for thirteen episodes, the second twelve. This third series will go back to running for thirteen, including the Christmas or New Year’s special. Over the course of the series, we’ll see a lot more horror-orientated episodes, simply because I love the horror genre so much and I think Doctor Who is at its absolute best when it can, if you pardon the expression, send people diving behind the sofa!

Series 3 will see the return of the strange Blue Angels, first seen in the Christmas Special for Series 1, O’ Little Town of Bethlehem in the third episode as well as The Earworms, strange creatures that travel through musical sound-waves and destroy human brains, they will appear in the fourth episode. Also being introduced is the Mechanicals, a group of androids who require winding up and harbour a deep-rooted hatred for anyone organic, they will feature in episodes six and 7 which will form a two-part story. And finally, we’ll be introduced to The Krell, in episodes nine and ten, which will form another two-part story. The Krell are carnivorous reptile creatures who will infest a world and gradually subjugate and destroy the population of a planet they conquer.

And we’ll be seeing the return of some classic villains alongside Davros and the Daleks. They include the Daemons, Fendahl and the Ice Warriors. This series won’t feature any pure historical adventures, though when handling real historical people, they’ll stay faithful to their real-life counterparts. Each episode below features a blurb.

1. The Witchfinder General

Arriving in a small village in Suffolk in 1646, the Doctor and friends find the villagers in the grip of terror. Livestock is being killed and there are rumours of a coven of witches who hold their sabots deep in the surrounding woods. So terrified are the villagers that they’ve called in an expert on these matters, someone who will put a stop to whatever is happening permanently.

But the Doctor, George and Nate are newcomers to the village and are immediately under suspicion and when rumour spreads that they arrived out of thin air in a blue carriage straight from the gates of hell, they find themselves imprisoned. When the Doctor is freed by a mysterious cult who take him into the woods, he must face down the power of the Daemons, whose experiments are currently being conducted, seeing how far human fear will go.

George and Nate meanwhile have to fend for themselves as Matthew Hopkins rides into town, determined to do the lords work and take out his own sadistic tendencies on the locals who called him in. And it isn’t long before George and Nate find themselves pitting their wits against the infamous Witchfinder General…

2. Core of the Fendahl

Narrowly escaping the vicious actions performed by Matthew Hopkins, the Doctor sets the TARDIS to send them far away. The TARDIS team and flung into the far future when future archaeologists are investigating the remains of a long-dead species on a long-dead planet. Each one of the skeletons as a pentagram scratched into their skulls.

The Doctor saw something similar a long time ago on Earth and warns them of what it could mean, the Fendahl are looking to break back into this universe and dominate the galaxy and planet after planet will fall in their shadow.

With members of the archaeology team dropping like flies and becoming Fendahleen, they need the Core of the Fendahl to manifest properly. The Doctor must dig into his knowledge of Time-Llord mythology to try to save the day, while the Fendahl have set their sights on George and Nate. And there is one thing you mustn’t do when it comes to the Fendahl, its look, all it takes is one quick glance to fall under their power…

Core of the Fendahl will see the return of the titular Fendahl and the Fendahleen
Core of the Fendahl will see the return of the titular Fendahl and the Fendahleen

3. The Haunting of Marsh House

Marsh House has a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in Britain. That’s why a group of amateur-Victorian-ghost hunters have decided to rent the home for a weekend, to investigate the claims of mysterious Blue Angels who roam the house.

The Doctor, George and Nate met the Blue Angels a long time ago in Bethlehem but stopped their invasion. The Doctor explains that ghosts are just a result of the friction of the reality when the boundaries between parallel universes collide. But the Blue Angels are using that natural occurrence to try and come back into the real world.

They also know that the Angels aren’t as angelic as they claim and have to put a stop to their plans of global domination but they have survived a terrifying séance first…

4. The Devil’s Track

When Susie Atkins calls her son and begs him to come home to help them, the Doctor and the gang are thrown into a strange plot hatched by the legendary Earworms. They are creatures who travel using sound-waves created by music and latch onto the pleasure centre of the human brain whenever they hear the music the Earworms are using. More frightening for Nate though is having to deal with his own parents which brings its own heap of trouble.

A tune, labelled The Devil’s Track is sweeping across the globe slowly turning those who hear it insane as the Earworms use the human brain as hosts. When the fully formed Earworms break free of the human body, the host dies and people are dying in their thousands.

Will the combined force of the Doctor, George, Nate, Susie and UNIT be able to halt The Devil’s Track and stop the Earworms once and for all?

5. Planet of the Robots: Part 1

Arriving on a strange new world in the distant future, the Doctor, George and Nate find a world of androids called, The Mechanics, who like wind-up toys of old, require winding up to function.

The Mechanics, however, have been kicked off Earth and its colonies following a series of deaths thanks to a malfunction in a batch of early androids.

Because of this, The Mechanics have a deep-rooted mistrust of humans and they have hatched a plan to destroy the planet earth. They have created devices to keep themselves chronologically attached the fabric of creation, while they’ll send a chrono-wave back through time to kill humans as it crawls out of the primordial soup…

The Ice Warriors will return in Red Snow
The Ice Warriors will return in Red Snow

6. The Rift-Valley War Part 2

With the Doctor, George and Nate having escaped the Mechanics world, they find themselves trying to protect the early ancestors of modern-day humans.

The Mechanics’ chrono-wave was averted but now they themselves are travelling back through time to destroy the race which created and rejected them. They intend to poison the water supply and kill ‘The First Family’, the current-carrying the poison out to other areas of early humanity.

The Doctor, George and Nate have to see the Mechanics plan halted, even if it means they have to sacrifice themselves to do it…

7. Red Snow

The TARDIS once again brings the Doctor and his friends to Russia, this time a little after the death of Rasputin and the end of the first world war. In the grip of a cold winter, they find themselves travelling to Siberia to where a team of explorers recently returned with a strange find.

In a makeshift laboratory, the Doctor finds himself coming face to face with the familiar form of an Ice Warrior. Grandmaster-General Ruddak has brought conflict to Earth and he intends to let the snow run red with the blood of his enemies, be them alien or human.

8. The Happy Dead

Having promised to visit more often, George returns to modern-day to see his mother and tell her all about his recent travels.

It doesn’t take long though before the Doctor, George, Nate and Susie are drawn into the strange goings-on at a nearby hospital and the Doctor has to play a battle of wills with the enigmatic owner of the hospital, the strange Billis Manger.

The dead won’t stay dead at St. Angus hospital. Zombies are beginning to break free and out onto the streets, a sinister smile plastered across their faces. Billis had previously harnessed the power of the rift to bring a demon through into our world. The Doctor wonders if he is doing something similar this time too…

The Happy Dead and Mists of Madness will see the arrival of the Torchwood villain, Billis Manger, in the Doctor Who universe proper
The Happy Dead and Mists of Madness will see the arrival of the Torchwood villain, Billis Manger, in the Doctor Who universe proper

9. Paradise Lost: Part 1

Following their recent adventure, the Doctor takes George and Nate to the paradise planet, Nirvana 3. But what they find isn’t the promised paradise. Gone are the hotels, the beaches, the amazing tourist attractions that bring millions of galactic tourists to the planet every year.

Instead, things are either dead or dying. The local population is fighting a war with the Krell, a vicious reptilian species who like to kill and eat their enemies. The Doctor has heard of the Krell and some of the ruthless actions they’ve taken over the years. He wasn’t expecting them to attack a paradise planet though and now the Doctor, George and Nate must band together with the survivors of the Krell attack to put a stop to them.

10. Paradise Found: Part 2

Following a sneak attack from the Krell, the Doctor, George and Nate were separated and in the chaos, the Doctor was captured by the alien aggressors. The survivors-come-freedom fighters are at the end of their tethers and decide the best course of action should be to surrender, even if that means subjugation and then death. George and Nate can’t let the survivors die and have to convince them that there is a better way to defeat the Krell rather than just giving up.

Meanwhile the Doctor, in the clutches of the carnivorous Krell is put to work in creating a terrible weapon of destruction. The Krell need him to complete their planet-buster, a devastating weapon that will tear an entire planet apart.

Can the Doctor escape the Krell and can George and Nate convince the survivors to make one final strike against the alien-killers? Or will they all perish this time?

11. Mists of Madness

Returning to present-day earth, the Doctor and gang find that a strange mist has descended across the city of London and is slowly creeping out across the country. The government are urging people to stay indoors because the mist seems to have psychotropic effects on anyone who breathes it in.

The Doctor and George, with the help of UNIT, follow the mist back to its origins at the rift at St. Angus Hospital and once again have to face off against Billis Manger, this time, once and for all. Nate, on the other hand, has to face horror in his home, when he has to face the wrath of his parents and some home-truths are cruelly revealed…

The Daleks will make their explosive return in the two-part finale, When Hope Dies and Empire of the Daleks
The Daleks will make their explosive return in the two-part finale, When Hope Dies and Empire of the Daleks

12. When Hope Dies: Part 1

The TARDIS, answering a distress call, brings the Doctor and companions to a ruined galactic space-liner in the future. It doesn’t take them long before the surviving crew imprison them, believing them to be robots sent by ‘them’. But when the real robots arrive, the Doctor, George and Nate are conscripted into the attack-force, fighting back against the aggressors.

The Doctor has a sense of dread that he knows who are being the robots he identifies as Robomen. He even thinks he knows when and where they have arrived. This is the star-liner Adamantium, currently stranded outside the Nightmare Child nebula. One of the worst atrocities of the Time War is about to be committed. But it’s impossible for the Doctor to be here now, the events of the War had been time-locked.

But the Doctor has worse things to worry about, the Daleks are coming, an empire of Daleks at the height of their power.

13. Empire of the Daleks: Part 2

With the Daleks attacking the Adamantium, the Doctor must get George and Nate away. But George and Nate insist they help the survivors, it isn’t fair that they get to go away while they have to die. When the Daleks invade the star-liner, the Doctor is cut off from the TARDIS and finds himself stuck once again, in the middle of the Time War, the last place he ever wanted to be.

Worse still is that Davros on the Dalek saucer and planning to use the energy from the Nightmare Child nebula to tear down the barrier of reality, allowing the Daleks to harness unlimited power to conquer the entire universe.

But the Doctor has one piece of knowledge Davros doesn’t yet. The Nightmare Child nebula is sentient, a god-like being that has to be reasoned with, to work on the side of the humans. But Davros has plans for the Doctor, a specialist Dalek squad designed to hunt down the Doctor and anyone associated with him. With the Adamantium set to self destruct, George and Nate cut off from the safety of the TARDIS, the Doctor has no choice to make a bargain with a literal god in an attempt to save everyone and stop the Time War from leaving the confines of its Time Lock. Can he do it in time or will this time, the Daleks finally win?

Masquerade: Christmas Special

Following from their recent battle with the Daleks and Davros and their narrow escape, the Doctor takes George and Nate to a Masquerade Ball in Venice. The TARDIS brings them to a Masquerade party just before the Fall of the Republic of Venice at the end of the 18th century. As the parties spill out onto the streets and George and Nate get to see the glory of the city, the Doctor starts to notice some odd things.

In a city wearing elaborate clothes, now isn’t the best time for the Zygons to be trying to infiltrate the planet, the Doctor needs to find George and Nate quickly. But they might have fallen prey to some doomsday cultists who foresaw the Zygon’s arrival. What do the Zygons want and why do the cultists seem to be terrified of George. This isn’t going to be a good Christmas…

The Christmas Special will see the Doctor take George and Nate to a Venician Masquerade and they'll come up against the Zygons
The Christmas Special will see the Doctor take George and Nate to a Venician Masquerade and they’ll come up against the Zygons

Overall thoughts

That’s a brief overview of what I would do with the third series of Doctor Who if I were ever lucky enough to produce the show. You may have noticed that there are plenty of returning villains and monsters but I think that’s because as a Who-fan, we’ve all got loads of monsters we’d like to see return again and some of them really do! But monsters like the Krell and the Harvesters from the second series will be returning throughout the last three series I have planned out. As well as some more new ones.

The Daleks will be a terrifying force in this series, but they won’t appear until the very end, unlike the previous series where we see the Rani and the Valeyard turning up throughout the courses of their series, though we don’t know it’s them until the finales. They formed a big arc for their respective series. However, in the modern era of the show, the Daleks and the Cybermen have been the big baddies behind many of the story-arcs, and, while these stories have been great, I love them when they just turn up and cause trouble! And with Davros with them, the Doctor, George and Nate will have their work cut out for them.

In the upcoming Series 4, each story will feature an old-returning villain, akin to the Series 20 in 1983, which featured an old enemy in each story. As well as the first of some modern adaptations of some of the proposed stories from the classic era, something that will continue until this era of the show closes out.

The News

We say goodbye to Honor Blackman.

The Merch

Nothing of note this week.

Review story this week is: Utopia

We’re running with the 10th Doctor, Marths and Cap’n Jack this week to find out what and where Utopia is and what’s the deal with this professor?

Thank you all for listening this week. Next week our review is the Sarah Jane Adventures story – Mona Lisa’s Revenge. Until then have a great week, take care of yourselves, stay healthy and remember – Allons-y!