2014 saw another light in the Doctor Who universe fade with the untimely passing of Paul Spragg, a man who had a lot to do with the world of Big Finish. Everyone who worked with him remembers him as being the heart and soul of Big Finish and he always dealt with new writers who were looking for a way into the company to tell the stories they wanted to tell.
2016 saw the birth of the Paul Spragg Memorial Opportunity which meant that the casual listener and hardcore Doctor Who fans could submit their own ideas for a new Short Trip story. Joshua Wanisko won with his submission of Forever Fallen.
(I, alongside a few other submitters, received an email from Ian Atkinson when he thought that our submissions were also strong).
2017 saw a number of even stronger submissions sent to the Big Finish offices but this time it was Selim Ulug who won with his entry, Landbound.
Landbound takes place all throughout the Third Doctor’s exile to Earth. But Landbound as the mixture of feelings from both the modern and classic eras of the show. While set in the classic era, its study of the Doctor’s feelings about his abandonment feels like a very modern way of looking at it. His wings have been clipped, he’s alone and bored and he longs to return to the cosmos. It’s the kind of storytelling that the classic era would have had trouble with but giving it a modern spin and viewpoint actually makes his exile all the more melancholy.
The story picks up with the Doctor fleeing UNIT, following the conclusion to Doctor Who and the Silurians. He finds himself in Whitby, just in time to stop a mugging. Stepping in to save the victim, Ronald Henderson, he makes a brief friendship and the pair share their stories. Like the Doctor, Ronald is a man who finds himself cast adrift as he has been refused captaincy of another ship following an accident with his previous one.
The Doctor reveals that Ronald actually had an unfortunate encounter with a translucent, ocean-dwelling, alien being who eat metal to survive. The pair, over their discussions, discover they have a lot more in common than they first thought.
The second half of the story picks up after The Three Doctors and with the knowledge of how to operate the TARDIS having been returned to him, The Doctor returns to Ronald’s life, now with the means to help him.
Ulug is clearly someone who knows the Doctor well. This is a glorious look at his character and Ulug takes the best advantage of the 30-40 minute format of the Short Trips range and weaves the tale through different points in the Third Doctor’s life, most notably when big changes occurred.
As per usual with these releases, Landbound is narrated by Nicholas Briggs who gives us a pretty decent impersonation of the Third Doctor, without outdoing the fantastic work Tim Trelor has been doing over in the Third Doctor Adventures range with Katy Manning as Jo Grant. Briggs captures all the different moods and feelings each segment of the story needs, not only from the Doctor but also from Roland, a man who is very haunted by his past. What the story also makes perfectly clear is that none of the Doctors has ever fully thought through the consequences of their actions and Briggs is particularly good at this Doctor coming to terms with some unexpected consequences.
The direction from Neil Gardener, allows the story to have the room to breathe and he brilliantly creates some interesting atmospheres for different moments in the tale.
Everything about this story adds up to make a tale that will stick in the memory long after the runtime is over. Ulug has given us a brilliant character piece for the Third Doctor, who is brought brilliantly to life. Landbound is a brilliant story for anyone, and given that it is a free download, you’ve got no excuse to not pick this one up…
He was the captain of a ship once. Since being stripped of his authority, he is lost. Landbound. Then he meets a kindred spirit, a man who has also lost something.
In a small seaside town, both Ronald Henderson and the Doctor want to move forward, but one of them must first come to terms with his past.
Written By: Selim Ulug
Directed By: Neil Gardner
Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)
Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs