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.)
LIES IN RUINS BY JAMES GOSS
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.
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 SPLIT INITIATIVE BY JOHN DORNEY
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.
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 SACRIFICE OF JO GRANT BY GUY ADAMS
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.
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.
RELATIVE TIME BY MATT FITTON
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.
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 BY JONATHAN MORRIS
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.
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.
COLLISION COURSE BY GUY ADAMS
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!
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!