Big Finish Review Round-Up: 2019 – Part 3

Feature by Gustaff Behr.

The Third Doctor Adventures, Volume 5

I’ve come to admire the TTDAs over the years. The inclusion of Jon Culshaw as a stand-in for Lethbridge Stewart certainly helps. Fans of Liz Shaw will welcome her return in Primlord. There is a chance her characterization might be a little off-putting, but I assure you it’s all in the service of the narrative, which is both exciting in the sense that Liz Shaw is given so much to do, and the fact that the entire story is a sequel to Inferno, a fan favourite.

The Scream of Ghosts follows on strong with a ghost story, that isn’t really a ghost story, shrouded in science that very often doesn’t feel science-y. The threat isn’t very original but the spin given to it is enough to make it look and feel fresh enough. It’s also very nice to hear Sgt. Benton in action alongside the Doctor, the Brig and Jo.

Status: Highly Recommended

  • Primlord -- 7.0
  • The Scream of Ghosts -- 8.0

The Tenth Doctor Adventures, Volume 3

David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back, and this time they are dragging Wilf and Sylvia with them. Much like the other volumes, this one isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough that I would recommend picking it up. No Place is shrouded in mystery that paints its leading characters in a negative light some times, but the reason for this is worth sticking around for to understand why. It’s damp and dark and a little spooky that combines the best bits from Hide and Knock Knock.

One Mile Down feels like it should’ve been the first story in the line-up as it’s difficult to outperform its predecessor, even with the Judoon present. There are some great ideas at work here, but some blatant social preaching loses the episode a couple of points. You’ve got to love Donna though. She actually has a line that goes “Don’t be rude to my racist friend,” and it’s probably the funniest one in this entire box set.

The Creeping Death mixes famous historical event with alien threat. While not in the league of The Fires of Pompei, this title does explore some fascinating concepts, teaches listeners about a real historical event that seems interesting today, but would’ve been scary at the time and still manages to make the monster of the week fit into all of this like a children’s jigsaw puzzle.

Status: Recommended

  • No Place -- 8.0
  • One Mile Down -- 6.0
  • The Creeping Death -- 7.0

Torchwood: Gods Among Us, Volume 3

Despite a few bumps here and there, Torchwood finishes its sixth series in style with a box set that feels straight out of season one. A Mother’s Son feels very much like a spiritual successor to Random Shoes, pushing the main Torchwood members out of the spotlight in order to show the devastating aftermath of the last box set from the point of view of an innocent bystander. Scrapjane is another filler episode that just barely manages to tie into the plot while Day Zero and Thoughts and Prayers tie the entire series into a neat little bow. Thoughts and Prayers ranks as one of the better season finales that also manage to set up the next season.

The season in general explores the concept of collateral damage and what the effects are on ordinary people. Torchwood receives the Spider-Man treatment by saving the day, but receiving the blame for it as well, while Andy plays a more prominent role here as his relationship with Yvonne is strained. The box set shays away from the soap opera romancing that was very much on display in the previous box set.

Status: Recommended

  • A Mother’s Son -- 7.0
  • Scrapejane -- 5.0
  • Day Zero -- 7.0
  • Thoughts and Prayers -- 8.0

The Lives of Captain Jack, Volume 2

Even if you haven’t listened to it, the image of Jack Harkness in the Sixth Doctor’s coat was all over social media, and with good reason. Pairing the two up is a stroke of genius and the story itself is wonderful. The Doctor’s regeneration fails him and Jack is forced to take on the mantle of heroic Time Lord. We follow his exploits as he tries to be the man he met in World War II. There is a strong balance of humour and drama with some serious questions asked not just at Jack, but the audience too. Overall it’s a wonderfully fun romp!

What have I Done feels very much like the film 1917. Jack helps another soldier survive a hellish night on the battlefield as they cross enemy territory. It is a spectacular character piece that is steeped in drama and internal reflection that ultimately proves to be a great follow up to Peace of Mind.

Driving Miss Wells caps off the series by not featuring Jack as the main character, instead following Trinity Wells. If you don’t know who this is, she is the recurring American newsreader from the Russell T Davies’ era. Why follow her around? Well I can’t answer that question without spoiling things, but I can say that not only is this a decision a bold one, but it’s also interesting and ends the series on a satisfyingly high note.

Status: Super Recommended

  • Peace of Mind -- 8.0
  • What Have I Done -- 9.0
  • Driving Miss Wells -- 8.0

The Paternoster Gang, Heritage 1

After years of wishing, Big Finish finally answers the call and gives us an entire spin-off featuring this lovable trio. Unfortunately, much like their introduction in The Eighth of March earlier, this box set often feels like a cheap Jago & Litefoot.

While it’s unfair to compare the two for having similar premises, this box set also suffers from average to semi-good stories; which is something that was non-existent in the Jago & Litefoot series. While none of these stories are inherently bad, certainly all of them are better than the entire 11 episode run that was Series 11, but none of the stories achieve the status of something you’d want to go back to after the first listen, something that can be said for most of the titles on here. Hopefully as this series progresses, this will change.

Status: Pick it up…if you want!

  • The Cars That Ate London 0
  • A Photograph to Remember  0
  • The Ghosts of Greenwich 0

The Legacy of Time

Celebrating 20 years of Big Finish, The Legacy of Time can only be described as a love letter to the fans. We have some of the company’s most prolific writers penning some of the most enjoyable, fanservicey episodes ever. River Song finally meets Bernice Summerfield, Kate Stewart and Osgood encounter classic UNIT, Jenny meets her father the list goes on and on. Lies in Ruins is perhaps the most passionate example of the Eighth Doctor we’ve ever heard, while The Split Infinitive is one of those super wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stories that feel right at home in the Seventh Doctor era. Not only that, but we also finally deal the UNIT dating controversy.

Relative Time pits the Fifth Doctor and his daughter against the Nine which is just a super fun romp, while the Sixth Doctor and Charley shake things up in a story where different avenues lead to different time zones. Collision Course finally ties together the overarching arc by giving the Fourth Doctor a mystery to solve that is so expansive, not only does he need Leela and Romana, but several other Doctors as well.

Legacy of Time is a fantastic jumping off point for new listeners.

Status: Super Recommended

  • Lies in Ruins – 8.0
  • The Split Infinitive – 8.0
  • The Sacrifice of Jo Grant – 7.0
  • Relative Time – 8.0
  • The Avenues of Possibility – 8.0
  • Collision Course – 9.0

The Eighth Doctor Adventures, Series 5

Also referred to as ‘The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller’, this box set saw the return of Sheridan Smith as fan favourite Lucie Miller, alongside Paul McGann’s Doctor in a new series of adventures set between the first and second series of audio adventures. The most important thing you should take away from this summary is that it’s great to hear Lucie again. Much like Donna’s return in Series Four, it feels like she never left. Of all the Eighth Doctor’s companions, Lucie is the gold standard.

What’s especially nice about this box set is that there is an on-going mystery to solve that plays throughout the four stories. The episodes themselves are entertaining with The Dalek Trap seeing the Doctor getting another dose of amnesia, while The Revolution Game sees the pair take part in a galactic roller derby and trying to help a colony from strange creatures who are not what people think they are. The House on the Edge of Chaos is by far the best of the lot, taking inspiration from classic haunted house stories and throwing a lot of SCI-FI in there with killer Nothingness.

Unfortunately, all of this gets resolved in Island of the Fendahl, which is a sequel to Image of the Fandahl. While the ongoing narrative is tied together nicely in a satisfying manner, the story itself veers a little too close to being uninteresting.

Status: Highly Recommended

  • The Dalek Trap – 8.0
  • The Revolution Game – 7.0
  • The House on the Edge of Chaos -- 8.0
  • Island of the Fendahl -- 6.0

The War Master, Series 3: Rage of the Time Lords

The War Master continues to struggle in his mission to bring an end to the Time War in this third series, this time taking him on a wild and inhuman scavenger hunt. The Survivor and The Coney Island Chameleon showcase his scheming machinations while also doing a good job of keeping the character in the shadows, but very much always in the listeners’ minds.

These stories do sometimes feel disjointed or as though Big Finish is trying to tell an unnecessarily long story, but these tiny episodes often paint the Master in his best light. Much like The Sky Man in volume one, getting the chance to experience how cruel the Master is from his victim’s viewpoint is more entertaining than observing it from over his shoulder. The Survivor is basically a story in which the Master manipulates events so he can leave an innocent woman behind to go insane and we get to suffer alongside her.

The Missing Link and Darkness and Light bring the Master’s schemes to forefront and also attracts the attention of the Eighth Doctor. The two-parter is a better send off than volume two, and listening to Derek Jacobi and Paul McGann face off against one another in Time Lord form is just another tick on the checklist of things fans didn’t know they needed, but ended up wanting more of by the end of it.

Status: Highly Recommended

  • The Survivor -- 8.0
  • The Coney Island Chameleon -- 7.0
  • The Missing Link -- 8.0
  • Darkness and Light -- 9.0

Join us tomorrow for the final round…