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Sunday, 31 May 2015 -  
The Worlds of Big Finish (Credit: Big Finish) Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Starring: Ciara Janson (Abby), Laura Doddington (Zara), Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Katy Manning (Iris Wildthyme), Chase Masterson (Vienna Salvatore), Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield)
Released: May 2015
Last year’s celebratory release The Worlds of Doctor Who weaved a linking story through various spin-offs from the Big Finish Doctor Who range. The Worlds of Big Finish follows a similar premise, this time telling a story linked by six half-hour episodes of Big Finish’s original ranges. It is not the first time some of these characters have interacted given that despite their status as original series, several of these characters made their debuts within the Doctor Who universe. Dorian Gray first appeared in the Bernice Summerfield play Shades of Gray and went on to interact with Sherlock Holmes in the 2012 release Ghosts of Christmas Past. Each episode is presented as a standalone with its own unique title theme and all a very much in keeping with the series they are part of.

All six episodes have been written by David Llewellyn who manages the overall continuity extremely effectively. He also captures the widely varying styles of the six ranges very well.

The set begins with Graceless: The Archive, there are some very obvious continuity pointers which place this story during the third (and until recently seemingly final) series featuring Abby and Zara. Any listeners who have not heard Graceless before may find themselves feeling initially confused however once the story proper gets going it proves to be an enjoyable murder mystery set in a vast library of the distant future. Janson and Doddington reprising their lead roles have a great rapport so despite the series having appeared to reach a definitive ending in 2013, this listener is pleased to learn that Graceless IV has been commissioned to be released next year. The story ends with an important book being transported back to Earth in the mid-nineteenth century, thus setting the scene neatly for the next episode.

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Bloomsbury Bomber is a neat little adventure in which the world famous consulting detective comes out of retirement in 1911 to assist his brother Mycroft by investigating a series of bookshop bombings in Bloomsbury. A neat continuity touch is the casting as Mycroft of David Warner, who had previously played the character in the 2008 Bernice Summerfield play The Adventure of the Diogenes Damsel. The initial scene between Nicholas Briggs and Warner as the two sparring brothers is possibly one of the highlights of this boxset. The outcome of the adventure is not entirely satisfactory for Holmes but it dovetails very neatly into the next episode.

Dorian Gray: The Feast of Magog picks up the ongoing story in 1927 and relocates the action to Tredegar House near Newport, which will be familiar to filming location savvy Doctor Who fans. A character from the previous episode returns, still intent on recovering a certain book which has terrible consequences. However, like Sherlock Holmes before him, Dorian remains in the dark as to the truth behind the ongoing mystery.

If anyone from the worlds of Big Finish were to save the Earth from a mysterious threat from another universe, the last person you would expect to fulfil that task would be the trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme. However, despite a lighter, more comedic tone than the three darker episodes that have preceeded it, Kronos Vad’s History of Earth (Vol. 36,379) proved to be possibly the most enjoyable of all the six episodes. Katy Manning’s Iris gets some genuinely funny lines and whilst the plot may seem a little linear it does serve to tie up a notable loose end from an earlier episode and set events in motion that will be picked up in the remaining two parts.

And so we reach the penultimate episode, Vienna: The Lady from Callisto Rhys. This listener has not encountered Vienna before so this means nothing to me. However, Chase Masterson’s bounty hunter character was likeable enough that I may consider reviewing her previous adventures in the near future. A few hundred years into the future on an inhabited Mars, Vienna is hired to track down a woman who has fled taking with her a certain rather important book. Typically there is an element of double-cross and a neat surprise appearance by a familiar voice to set the scene for the final part of the story.

The story finds its conclusion in Bernice Summerfield: The Phantom Wreck. I’ve listened to all of Bernice’s many audio adventures that have been released since 1998 and so Lisa Bowerman’s presence is naturally reassuring. This final episode very much belongs to her and to Terry Molloy’s Captain Quinn. As an individual episode this makes for an enjoyable listen but without wanting to spoil the ending for the whole boxset this listener found the denouement to be slightly disappointing. A small consolation is to be found by the story concluding with an extended version of a new arrangement of the Bernice Summerfield theme tune which is a definite improvement on the most recent of its many iterations.

Overall, The Worlds of Big Finish fulfils its brief cleverly and avoids causing any headaches by keeping all the main characters within their respective continuities, rather than having period based characters such as Sherlock Holmes travel to other worlds. Each of the standalone episodes works well as an advert for the six ranges they represent and the linking story provides a satisfying listen for Big Finish fans.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - 1781785732