Written By: Andy Lane, Steve Jordan, Alan Flanagan, Tim Foley
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Yasmin Bannerman (Roz Forrester), Travis Oliver (Chris Cwej), Liz Sutherland-Lim (Maratuk), Vikash Bhai (Sydyck), John Heffernan (Honos), Mina Anwar (Forsetti), Janine Duvitski (Alpha Wheeler), Leonie Schliesing (Zsa Zsa Straus), Franchi Webb (Eleanor Blake), Rupert Young (Binkum Fray), Silas Carson (Arbuckle), Sara Powell (Contessa), Olivia Morris (Green), Connor Calland (Blue), Jacob Dudman (Cannon), Melanie Kilburn (Hooley), Rhian Blundell (Isabel), Elaine Fellows (Annabel), Ellie Darvill (Willis). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
I missed the "Virgin New Adventures" era of Doctor Who. That strange time when the show was off the air, and the biggest thing keeping the show alive was a series of novels that continued the adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace following the shows cancellation. Eventually Ace moved on, and he gained new companions, most notably Bernice Summerfield (who continued the book series after Virgin lost the rights to Doctor Who, and was actually used as the test pilot for Big Finish to prove their worth and GAIN the Doctor Who license), but also a couple of future space cops named Roz and Chris. But while I was too young tto really experience the Virgin line at the time, I've long had an interest in it. So when Big Finish adapted some books into full cast audio plays a couple of years ago I sampled them. Two of the adaptations starred the afforementioned Chris and Roz...and now Big Finish has launched a new boxset starring the Seventh Doctor with these two characters...but instead of just adapting books, this time they are exploring these characters in brand new original audio plays.
The set begins with The Trial of the Time Machine, Doctor, Roz, and Chris debating law and order...discussing whether certain laws are constants, or whether laws on arious worlds are unjust...but they must face these questions head on when the TARDIS crashes into another Time Ship, and because of it's own sentient nature, is put on Trial for the crime. I really loved that premise...it isn't any of the occupants of the TARDIS on trial for an odd crime, but the TARDIS itself. I also found it interesting that a time travelling being within the story also has the Doctor question his own relationship with the TARDIS. Does the ship enjoy their travels together, or has he just enslaved her for his own galavanting across the cosmos. It's really a small moment, but I found this introspective pause from the Doctor to be really well done.
The second episode, Vanguard, involves the TARDIS landing on the Planet Vangard, and find that a war between two factions has lead to the destruction of most of the planet's occupants. The TARDIS team are all separated, and must do their best to end the War and bring the people together, in order to be reunited themselves...though each faction is looking for escape and hope to use the Doctor and/or the TARDIS for escape. It's a rather generic plotline for Doctor Who, but it is well exectued and enjoyable enough to listen to. I doubt I will remember much of it a week from now, but I can't say it annoyed or bored me while I listened to it.
The third entry (The Jabari Countdown) fared better, as the TARDIS lands on a ship during World War II full of mathematicians heading towards a remote island on a secret code cracking mission. But the mathematicians haven't actually been recruited to crack any code related to the war, but have instead been recruited by an alien to find a cure to a math related virus, a virus which makes the infected speak only in numbers. This is at least a unique concept, and the creepy atmosphere and Second World War setting make it an enjoyable listen.
The set closes out with Dread of Night, which is an "Old Dark House" story with a sick girl, her worried sister, a seemingly overbearing nurse, and some kind of psychic monster. It is well executed and a good creepy listen...though if I had a complaint this had one of the only instances of awful sound design I can remember in a Big Finish play. A woman was whispering so quietly, and I could barely hear what she was saying, so I had to really crank the volume...only to suddenly be surprised by a loud "jump scare" moment...thus violently hurting my eardrums in the process. The jump scare didn't really do it's job. I was slightly alarmed for a moment, but I wasn't scared...I was just irritated that I had to crank it for some seemingly important dialogue only to get punished by this loud moment...and that has never been an issue with Big Finish before. Their sound design is some of the best of any audio plays I have ever heard. No one comes close to them on the regular...but man that moment annoyed me! Otherwise, I thought it was a really good story.
Overall, I'd say this set is quite a good listen. McCoy's Doctor is always a bit better than I often remember it to be, and his companions in this set are decent, if a bit forgettable. I think my biggest complaint of the set on the whole is that Chris and Roz lack personality. I enjoyed them in the earlier plays based on the novels they originally appeared in, but in this set I never truly feel like I got a grasp on just who they are. They could've been exchanged with any generic companion, and it wouldn't have changed the story one lick. They aren't awful or annoying or anything...they are just completely bland. That is a shame.