Shadow Planet by AK Benedict
World Apart by Scott Handcock
Directed by Ken Bentley
Cast:Sylvester McCoy(The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Belinda Lang (Mrs Wheeler), Sarah Thom (Sandy/Captain Karren), Nickolas Grace(Professor Grove), Ben Mansfield (Loglan/Shadow Loglan)
Big Finish Productions - Released June 2017
The final instalment of this unlinked trilogy of double bill releases sees the welcome return to Big Finish’s Doctor Who range of long-running audio companion Staff Nurse Thomas Hector Schofield otherwise known as Hex, played once again byPhilip Olivier. After a decade of regular appearances alongside Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, Hex was finally written out of the range in 2014’s Signs and Wonders. He returns alongside his two regular co-stars for two very enjoyable stories set during the early days of his travels before he started to become wise to the Seventh Doctor’s manipulative persona and the beginning of the story arc featuring the black and white TARDISes.
Shadow Planet by AK Benedict finds Ace and Hex ignore the Doctor’s warning about visiting a seemingly innocent planet called Unity which they soon discover has recently been opened to visitors by a group of colonists who have developed psychic technology to separate shadows into separate personas. The Unity corporation is headed by Mrs Wheeler, played a great sinister edge by Belinda Lang. The supporting cast also includes the always excellent Nickolas Grace as Professor Grove and a well-judged performance from Sarah Thom as Mrs Wheeler’s long suffering PA Sandy who is also a central character to the plot as the revelations as to how the planet Unity was colonised are revealed. Aldred and Olivier also get to have fun by playing twisted shadow versions of themselves. Overall a very enjoyable opening two-parter which, in a similar fashion to Alien Heart / Dalek Soul, ends on a neat cliff-hanger which segues directly into the second story.
World Apart by Scott Handcock continues directly from the end of the previous story with the TARDIS encountering a mysterious planet in the middle of the vortex. After landing and discovering that there is no else alive on the planet there is a nice two-hander scene between the Doctor and Ace which culminates in a shock for the Doctor when he learns that they are on a planet called Nirvana. It becomes apparent that they need to leave immediately, but having allowed Hex to go off on his own Ace refuses to leave him behind. Unfortunately, they are then too late getting back to the TARDIS which takes off with only the Doctor on board. Finding themselves stranded on this inhospitable planet provides some great two-handed scenes between Aldred and Olivier which shows just why they worked so well as a companion team and indicates that even now there is still potential to tell more stories featuring this pairing.
Both stories featured in this release are very enjoyable with the second being one of the best of the six two-part stories that have featured over this trilogy, largely due its only featuring the three main characters throughout aside from a brief cameo in one scene. It is a credit to both authors that these stories fit so seamlessly into the existing canon of previous audio adventures, given that neither has previously written for this particular TARDIS team.
The Seventh Doctor and Ace are back alongside Melanie Bush for the next trilogy of releases which resumes the main range’s traditional four-part story format beginning with The High Price of Parking.