The Doctor Who Book GuideBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

The Doctor Who Book Guide
Written by Chris Stone
Published by Long Scarf Publications
Published July 2013
Over the course of the last few decades I've amassed a large clutter collection of books relating to Doctor Who, and whilst many of the reference books of recent times are available to hand on a nearby bookshelf, the multitudes of fiction novels and redundant non-fiction volumes are lurking in boxes up in the loft, piled precariously on bookcases upstairs, or strewn haphazardly in columns in premium floorspace. However, the bigger question isn't on where they are but, more importantly, what have I actually got?!!

In one of my rational moments I did create a spreadsheet so that I know which book is in which box (though not necessarily where the box is in the loft, oops), but that only tells me what's actually there - the "known knowns" to coin a phrase - it doesn't indicate what I might be missing and still need to track down (the "unknown unknowns"). However, this predicament may have a solution in the form of The Doctor Who Book Guide, a book compiled by Chris Stone that aims to list every publication relating to the Doctor's travels in time, space, and bookshops.

The book is split into several sections, covering fiction and non-fiction publications, which are again split into their 'series' where applicable. For fiction, annuals and graphic novels are also included as well as the novels, as are fan publications. Similarly, non-fiction sections include the gamut of reference works, but also items such as Doctor Who Discovers, plus a summary of other factual books organised by publisher. Books that are related to spin-offs like Torchwood are also included in their own section.

Whether this book would be of use to you really depends on whether you are looking for an in-depth reference work delving into the history of Doctor Who literature, or if you are looking for a tome that you can use to keep track of your own collection. This book falls firmly into the latter category, as the author states in his opening paragraph: "This book is designed as a checklist for any Doctor Who Book collector.". So, if you were looking for a detailed history of Target books, for example, then you'd turn to The Target Book from Telos - what The Book Guide provides is a list of each publication of those novelisations. Taking the first entry as an example, The Abominable Snowmen details nine British 'incarnations' from the 1974 first edition from Universal/Tandem through to the 2011 reprint by BBC Books, noting things like which have a Chris Achilleos or an Andrew Skilleter cover - the overseas versions of the novelisation are also included in their own section. In my case, I've collected three such editions, my original 1978 edition which is well-read and well-thumbed from my youth, a copy of L’Abominable Homme de Neiges, and then a 'pristine' first edition I picked up much later. However, it's clear that if I were to pursue all of my 'known unknowns' then my existing storage facilities would be very hard-pressed very quickly!

Though I found the listings to be quite exhaustive and, as mentioned, a way to check off which editions I already have (the book does have a handy checkbox column for those who don't mind "desecrating" a book in that way!), its large format means that it falls into an "keep on the shelf" type book rather than a "take out on the field" type, which I actually think is the more useful function in the proactive pursuit of filling those holes in the collection. There are often times when I'll go into a second-hand bookshop and there'll be a pile of Doctor Who novels staring at me from the shelf, but I don't know exactly what I've got; having this to hand would be a godsend in those cases but it would be a bit impractical to carry the physical A4 book about - for that, I think a smaller 'Rough Guide' type size would perhaps be more useful. Actually, this sort of book begs to be turned into a mobile app which would make the task even easier - something for the author to consider for the next edition, perhaps!

In summary, this isn't an in-depth reference work on the history of Doctor Who books, so might not meet everyone's needs, but if you want as comprehensive a list of book releases as you can get (up to May 2013) then this book more than adequately provides that - and name a fan who doesn't like lists! However, I personally would have liked a format that could be used more 'pro-actively' (on-the-hunt) rather than 'passively' (checking off what you've got).

The Doctor Who Book Guide is available to purchase through E-Bay.

FILTER: - Books - Factual

Remembrance of the Daleks at the BFIBookmark and Share

Sunday, 28 July 2013 - Reviewed by Anthony Weight
I love Remembrance of the Daleks. It is a story that runs through my own personal fandom like the name of a town through a stick of seaside rock. It's one of the first stories I have very clear memories of watching on television, at the age of four. A couple of years later, the Target novelisation was, as far as I can recall, the first "proper" book I ever read.

It may well be the Doctor Who story that I have seen more and know better than any other, but that didn't stop me taking the opportunity to see it again when good fortune gave me the chance to attend yesterday's screening at the British Film Institute, the latest in its Doctor Who 50th-anniversary season. And I'm certainly very glad that I did go along.

It's an excellent choice of story to represent the era of the Seventh Doctor, for many reasons. There are the high production values and excellent script, of course, along with the very strong cast. But it's also a story that combines a celebration and exploration of the history and mythology of Doctor Who with an open and accessible plot - you gain something if you have a good knowledge of the series, but you aren't excluded if you don't. And if you're anything like me, then the sense of it being a part of something larger, a teaser of so much more mythology to explore, only makes it all the more appealing.

It had actually been a very long time since I'd last been to any kind of Doctor Who-related event. I was quite heavily involved in the local fan group in the Brighton area when I was a teenager, and attended two one-day mini conventions run by the group. Since I moved away to university just over a decade ago, however, my fandom has tended to be pretty much online-only, becoming involved in debates and discussions on forums, but not actually going along to any kind of events or gatherings.

It was an interesting experience to see fans together en masse for the first time in such a long time. As Ben Aaronovitch noted from the stage in the panel session that followed the screening, "You've changed a lot in the past twenty-five years!" If you were a fan back in the 1990s, as I was, you could certainly see what he meant - many more female and younger fans than would have been the case in decades past, although I suspect that this would probably be no surprise to anybody who, unlike me, has attended an event since the series returned in 2005.

My only experience of any vaguely similar kind of screening to this was when the local arthouse cinema in the city where I live screened the film version of Quatermass and the Pit last year. That had been a slightly disappointing experience, because rather oddly the majority of the audience were clearly not on the side of the film - there had been much mocking laughter at some of the more archaic elements of the production and screenplay.

Pleasingly, there were no such problems here. The large audience - which included ever-present BFI Who attendee comedian Frank Skinner, ex-Adric actor Matthew Waterhouse, and Remembrance OB lighting man Ian Dow - were entirely behind the story, eager and excited to see it, whether for the first or the hundredth occasion. There was even an oddly charming moment when the Special Weapons Dalek earned a little ripple of applause after its first appearance blowing two Renegade Daleks into dust in episode four. Perhaps it was because the Abomination had made the effort to come along in person (in replica form, at least!), and was sitting in the BFI foyer, happily posing for photos . . .

I'd never actually seen an episode of Doctor Who shown on a big screen before, and wasn't sure how well 4:3-framed 625-line video material would hold up under such scrutiny. In fact, it looked very good indeed, perfectly sharp and at such size I found myself noticing little details I hadn't spotted before, such as the graffiti figure on the school gate next to The Girl, as she watches the Doctor and Ace in episode one.

It was curious how, even having seen the story so many times, I found myself getting quite excited as the lights went down and that gloriously menacing and enigmatic pre-titles sequence came up on the big screen, followed - of course - by the famous theme tune, which can still take me back to being a small child in an instant. I know others have their views on the McCoy era theme tune arrangement... and I don't care, frankly. For a generation of children my age, this was our Doctor Who, and the sound of it evokes an excitement and an air of mystery even all these years later.

There was one technical element of the screening that I did find slightly curious, in that it wasn't the broadcast version of the story that was used. This was only really detectable in the first scene in the cafe, where Mike sees Ace for the first time. Usually, this is accompanied on the soundtrack by a clearly very carefully-selected part of the song Do You Want to Know a Secret?, which fits in with the enigma of who Ace is as Mike watches her. Even on the original DVD release, when the rights to The Beatles' version were unavailable, the Billy J Kramer version of the same song was used. Here it was a completely different song, which is a shame - it may seem such a small thing, but that little scene loses something with its absence.

As well as not having been to any kind of Doctor Who event for such a long time, this was also my first visit to the BFI - and I doubt it will be my last. To sound boringly pedestrian, I was pleased (and relieved!) at how well-signposted and easy-to-find the place was, and the whole organisation of the event seemed to be very smooth. The tone of the day was right as well - there was a respect for the series, but not a po-faced reverence of some serious film seminar. It was supposed to be a fun and entertaining event - a celebration, of course - and it certainly managed that.

Epitomising the sense of fun was the introduction of a mystery guest for a short pre-screening interview via a showing of the K-9 and Company titles, which received much laughter and, touchingly, applause for the late Elisabeth Sladen. John Leeson had been unable to attend the Fourth Doctor screening earlier in the year, but he was here as an extra guest on the basis that he provided the voice of the Battle Computer in this story, and it was certainly nice to see him.

There were also interesting little chats with effects designer Mike Tucker and special sound wizard Dick Mills between episodes, but the main focus of discussion was the panel afterwards, with Aaronovitch, Sophie Aldred, and Sylvester McCoy, which was well-handled by the BFI season's co-curator Justin Johnson. All three Who alumni gave the impression of being very proud of their work on the series, but there was also the slightly bittersweet feeling that they had been cut down in their prime - they could have done so much more had they been given the time and the opportunity. Time at least has justified the faith they had in the power of the show, and Remembrance does feel like a pointer to what would come in the future. With its fast pace, strong characterisation, and high-quality effects, it does feel almost like a new-series story before there was ever a new series.

Perhaps my personal highlight of the day, however, came after the main event itself was over. Aaronovitch was in the foyer signing books, and I was able to get him to sign for me the very Target book I read as a six-year-old, some 23 years ago. It's battered and creased and dog-eared, but it's one of the few books I've kept with me wherever I've lived all these years later, and it can't be very often you get to meet and thank the person who wrote such an important book in your life.

After I'd had the book signed and was walking away from the queue, I was stopped by an elderly Indian couple, who were curious as to who everyone was queueing up to see, and what event had just been taking place. I explained that it had been an anniversary screening for a long-running series called Doctor Who, and that the man at the table signing books was one of the writers of the series.

"Ah, Doctor Who!" the gentleman of the couple replied eagerly, recognition flashing across his face. "Yes, that has been going for a very long time... I remember it when I visited this country in 1967..."

Doctor Who means so many different things to so many different people, whether it's a fleeting experience of it on a visit to a foreign country, or something you have loved all your life, which has become a part of who you are. I am not in the least surprised that the BFI screenings have proved to be so popular this year, as on the basis of the Remembrance screening they recognise and celebrate the fact that Doctor Who is, as Andrew Cartmel once noted, "for everyone." Fan cliques or eager children, all were represented, and I think all came away having very much enjoyed their afternoon.

If you get the chance to attend any of the remaining screenings, I urge you to take it. It's a fine way to join in with the anniversary celebrations, and especially enjoyable if they happen to be showing one of your very favourite stories.
Paul Hayes

FILTER: - Screening - Seventh Doctor

Destiny of the Doctor: ShockwaveBookmark and Share

Saturday, 27 July 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton

Destiny of the Doctor: Shockwave
Released by AudioGo
Produced by Big Finish
Written by James Swallow
Directed by John Ainsworth
Released: July 2013
This review is based on the CD release from AudioGo and may contain minor spoilers.

"So, seventh time lucky then. Hello, me! I’m sure you remember getting the previous six of these, so you know the drill- I’m in an awful bind, and I need your help to get out of it. In fact, I need all of me to!"

As listeners move into the seventh instalment of AudioGo’s Destiny of the Doctor series, they’d be forgiven for having initial concerns that a predictable and less compelling experience may await them within. Indeed, when James Swallow’s Shockwave opens to a dystopian-esque intergalactic society on the brink of collapse, with the Seventh Doctor and Ace forced onto a rescue cruiser in an attempt to escape an oncoming apocalypse, it’s only natural that an inherent sense of déjà vu begins to kick in.

Nevertheless, once Shockwave moves past its premise and into deeper and darker territory, it becomes far more than the sum of its predecessors’ parts, evolving into a great standalone release in its own right. At times, it channels recent episodes of post-2005 Doctor Who such as The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, The God Complex and even The Rings of Ahkaten, yet equally the approach here regarding faith and moral dilemmas around it feels fresh when placed in the context of the Seventh Doctor’s era. It’s arguable that just as last month’s Sixth Doctor tale Trouble In Paradise managed to break through the confines of the televised era on which it was based, so too does this month’s outing benefit from a lack of financial and perceptual constraints to great success.

It’s notable to recognise that much of this release’s success derives from the strength of its central narrator. Sophie Aldred’s Ace was a divisive companion to say the least in the final years of Doctor Who’s ‘classic’ era, yet here she gives a stunning performance both in character and in terms of relaying the action of the storyline. From her cavalier and apt rendition of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor to her adaptive style of narration that suits the varying pace of the tale, Aldred boasts an incredible range of talents over the course of her contribution that won’t soon be forgotten by this particular listener. Ian Brooker provides fine support in the role of a courageous captain whose implications on the wider Destiny arc are still to be revealed, but it’s undeniable that this release’s returning cast member is its star.

In the past few months, the matter of the Eleventh Doctor’s various cameos in these Destiny tales has been a point of contention for this reviewer. Shadow of Death, Babblesphere and Trouble In Paradise all boasted effective uses of the pseudo multi-Doctor nature of their narrative structure, while lacklustre instalments such as Vengeance of the Stones showed that some writers on the roster found integrating the latest Time Lord more of a challenge. To its credit, Shockwave’s use of Matt’s incarnation is handled in an intriguing manner, posing more hints at what shape the November finale The Time Machine could hold for the incumbent eleventh incarnation than we’ve heard before. Sufficed to say that if Matt Fitton doesn’t manage to live up to expectations with the aforementioned final instalment in four months’ time, it will truly be a crying shame given the success of building such an ambitious arc.

However, despite a wealth of successes in terms of effective moral dilemmas and a strong narrator, Shockwave isn’t devoid of blemishes. This reviewer has their own qualms with Ace as a character moreso than Aldred as an actress, and at times Swallow’s script affords the final televised classic companion a few lines of dialogue which portray her in an extremely childish and foolish light unbefitting of her overall depiction here. Ace’s interaction with a young girl aboard the rescue cruiser perhaps echoes conversations witnessed in The Beast Below and Rings a little too heavily at times, and the listener may find himself or herself wondering whether Swallow utilised already established source material rather than his own imagination to inspire their discussions. A reluctance to innovative such as this is by no means a proverbial deal-breaker, but should be taken into account nevertheless so as to at least provide a critique on what this release as a whole could have improved.

If a single word can be used to assert the overall effect of Shockwave on veteran followers of the Destiny arc, it would likely be ‘reinvigorating’. While as an audio drama and a new instalment of classic Doctor Who it has its imperfections, this is yet another sterling release in an impressively consistent season which has yet to provide us with any truly dismal or lacklustre experiences. Whereas Trouble In Paradise perhaps felt somewhat too familiar, lulling the listener into a worrying sense of fore-knowledge barely halfway through the run, Shockwave takes the listener’s expectations and throws them out of a metaphorical window, innovating upon what we know while raising some superb moral dilemmas along the way with a strong level of ambiguity to boot. More than anything, Shockwave does seem to reinvigorate the Destiny franchise as a whole, leaving this particular listener ecstatic to hear what the final four monthly instalments have to offer.

FILTER: - Seventh Doctor - 50th Anniversary - Audio - BBC Audio - 1471311732

The Ripple Effect (Puffin Books)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

Doctor Who - The Ripple Effect
Written by Malorie Blackman
Puffin Books
UK release: 23 July 2013
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK edition of the ebook. 

This is undoubtedly a bit of a scoop for the world of Doctor Who publishing; it’s not every day that the Children’s Laureate pens a story featuring the seventh Doctor and the Daleks. Even in this anniversary year, replete with Proms and Celebrations and previously unknown incarnations of our favourite Time Lord, it’s good to know that Who can still break new ground in its literary guise. A perfect companion to the BFI’s July screening of Remembrance of the Daleks, this novella (also featuring Ace, and referring to her prior adventures with that baseball bat) might almost be dubbed ‘Amnesia of the Daleks’. Because something terrifying and vastly alarming has happened: nobody other than the Doctor and Ace seems able to recall that the Daleks are a force for evil. In this alien universe, the Daleks are instead skillful geneticists (“I bet they are!” mutters the Doctor darkly at one point), surgeons and philosophers dedicated to keeping the peace. The concept of Daleks as academics is highly intriguing, and as might be expected from a writer as skilled as Malorie Blackman, this is impressive stuff.

Of course, given the brief word count there’s little scope for an intricate series of twists and reveals, and the basic mechanics of this storyline are fairly guessable. But the chief pleasures of The Ripple Effect aren’t really ones of plotting. Instead, the thrill here is that this short story comes about as close to being one kind of ‘anti-Doctor Who’ as is possible without causing brand management to implode. Challenging the central tenets and structures of Who, this is akin to a moment from Genesis of the Daleks expanded to novella length, or an instant from Dalek vigorously elaborated upon. In The Ripple Effect, Blackman sets up a startling moral question and pursues it to the very brink: what if the Daleks really were good, and the Doctor was prejudiced against them, unable to let go of a counterfactual past that he remembers all too well?

Readers are warned that this isn’t going to be a conventional tale when we begin with exaggerated stasis. The TARDIS is trapped, for once, and could remain so for the rest of time. The Doctor’s usual ingenuity doesn’t appear to be working, leaving Ace worried that she might be forced to live out her days inside the time machine. It’s the kind of opening you could imagine a script editor querying, but Blackman is free to engineer her own scenario here. Indeed, she has expertly explored prejudice before in a science-fictional setting, particularly in the award-winning Noughts & Crosses book series. By pushing artfully at the boundaries of what makes Doctor Who, well, Doctor Who, the Children's Laureate is reiterating and extending some of her characteristic concerns. And if ever there was a Doctor who we might doubt, I guess it’s Time’s Champion, the Machiavellian and manipulative seventh incarnation.

In line with stories like Power of the Daleks and Victory of the Daleks, readers might expect that The Ripple Effect’s well-behaved 'monsters' will eventually prove to be scheming their way to galactic domination. We sympathise with the Doctor at first because he’s still behaving as if he’s inside a conventional Doctor Who story, and his reactions make sense in that template. But then doubts begin to magnify: what if this story isn’t patterned after Power or Victory after all? What if, this time, the Doctor really is trapped in old-fashioned and obsolete beliefs, left following the wrong script?

The Ripple Effect offers a viewpoint figure in order to dramatise its challenge to the Doctor’s moral superiority and good sense, and this is Tulana from the planet Markhan. A student of the Daleks, Tulana is appalled by the Doctor’s refusal to accept her universe as it is, and tells him so. Occasionally this means that Blackman’s moral lessons are voiced very directly rather than left to echo uncannily and uneasily through the world she’s created. And when matters eventually come to a head then they do so very rapidly, something that left me wishing for much more of this universe and its Dalek gentlemen-scholars.

Malorie Blackman's contribution more than maintains the high standard set by recent Puffin stories from the likes of Philip Reeve and Richelle Mead. And although you get the feeling that, ultimately, the author isn’t able to push things quite as far as she’d like to, The Ripple Effect thoroughly deserves to resonate out through the larger Doctor Who mythos. I’d be amazed if it doesn’t end up being a high water mark for this particular series. Well suited to the novella format, this is an entertaining parable that enables the Doctor and the Daleks to pose serious questions of (unearthly) prejudice. Essential reading!

FILTER: - Seventh Doctor - eBook - 50th Anniversary - B00B5N35JY

Voyage to the New World (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 16 July 2013 - Reviewed by Andrew Batty

Voyage to the New World
Big Finish Productions
Written by Matthew Sweet
Directed by Ken Bentley
Released December 2012
Following their eventful voyage to Venus, the Doctor, Jago and Litefoot are looking forward to a celebratory pint, but the TARDIS has brought them astray. Stepping onto the shores of a new world, they are immediately embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of the colony of English settlers on Roanoke Island. Who are the ghostly children that haunt this unfamiliar land? And what do they want with Jago?

From the Mary Celeste to the Loch Ness Monster, Doctor Who has long delighted in creating its own solutions to notoriously unexplained events. Here writer Matthew Sweet has turned his eye to a somewhat obscure historical mystery, the English colony of Roanoke, which was found deserted in 1590. The play is also (as the new series would put it) a ‘celebrity historical’ with Sir Walter Raleigh putting in an appearance, and many of the other characters based on real life figures. This being a lesser known section of the past, a history lesson from the Doctor would have been useful at the start of the play, rather than at the end, when he assures his companions that history is back on the right track.

With three lead characters and only an hour’s running time Litefoot takes a back seat in this adventure, leaving most of the interesting stuff to Jago and the Doctor. The scenes of Jago being haunted by the sinister children are the play’s highlight. Creepy kids are one of the standard horror movie convention, and one that Doctor Who has used surprisingly little in its 50 year history, and they are effectively used here, with their presence signified by unsettling indistinct giggles.

While the chemistry between Jago and Litefoot is typically strong, their pairing with the Sixth Doctor doesn’t feel right. The Sixth Doctor has propensity for pomposity and grandiose turns of phrase, traits he shares with Jago and they don’t quite work together. Wisely Matthew Sweet separates them for most of the play, teaming the Doctor with the more sedate Litefoot.

The play is oddly structured, which can at times be confusing. The pre-credits see the TARDIS arrive on Roanoke and a flash forwards to later events in England. Following the credits there is an ellipsis with the audience left to piece together what has happened in the gap. This is a trick the current TV series often uses, and here it feels rather clumsy and confusing. Rather than a clever trick to speed up the narrative or play with narrative structure, it feel more like a judicious cut has been made to get the story to fit its running time, especially as the rest of the play unfolds at a normal speed. The 'flash forward to England' scenes exacerbate the problem, as they further fracture our sense of what is happening when.

Like many recent Big Finish plays, the plot hinges on what we’ve come to call ‘timey-wimeyness’. Such plots are hard to get right without the audience feeling cheated, which is sadly the case here, especially as the plot all hinges on the TARDIS, rather than a force separate from the Doctor. The conclusion feels rushed and unsatisfying, and after listening to it twice I’m still not sure it makes sense.

Despite these faults this is a well produced play which is strong on characterisation, performance and atmosphere. The previously mentioned scenes with the children, especially the exposition scenes of Jago and fellow captive Eleanor are decidedly creepy. Overall it’s an average slice of Doctor Who, (which neatly leads Jago and Litefoot on to their next series of adventures without the Doctor) but not one of Big Finish’s greatest offerings.

FILTER: - Sixth Doctor - Big Finish - Audio - 1844359794

UNIT: Dominion (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 8 July 2013 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton

UNIT: Dominion
Released by Big Finish
Written by Nicholas Briggs and Jason Arnopp
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released: 2012
“This is the Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before, and fall so much further.”

When it comes to creating a sense of foreboding in Doctor Who adventures, few do it better than the show’s current helm Steven Moffat - indeed, the section of dialogue above from his enigmatic construct River Song skilfully demonstrates this dramatic ability. Nevertheless, in Jason Arnopp and Nicholas Briggs, scribes of Big Finish’s audio drama UNIT Dominion, the acclaimed showrunner may have yet found his equals. This thrilling Seventh Doctor piece brings across the oncoming darkness of the Time Lord’s subsequent incarnations with powerful effect, lending new emotive and tonal resonance to an often criticised era of the programme.

Dominion does not simply echo the sentiments of Melody Pond tonally, though. In fact, that metaphorically vivid concept of ‘rising higher than ever before’ only to then ‘fall’ on the same scale applies to the structure of this production too. For any listener with even the faintest recollection of Castrovalva, Utopia or other past adventures containing a consistent narrative trend, the central narrative ploy presented here will come neither as a surprise nor as a satisfying development of proceedings. Perhaps it is the curse of the Whovian to anticipate the unexpected with hindsight of fifty years’ worth of stories, yet equally it seems justified to expect today’s Doctor Who writers to innovate with new storylines and shocks, regardless of the format of their episodes.

Looking on the bright side, however, this apt parallel at least highlights the strength of the first three-quarters of the story. While Dominion’s climax is lacklustre to say the very least, those fans of the mind-set that it is the journey rather than the destination itself which defines narrative quality will be pleased to hear that the journey here is sublime. Sylvester McCoy and Alex Macqueen play off one another enthrallingly as the Seventh and a potential future incarnation of the Doctor respectively, their interweaving narrative strands bringing with them a host of intriguing implications in terms of how a Time Lord can become corrupted by their prolonged experiences during their travels.

Indeed, as ever for a Big Finish production such as this, it is the central cast who inevitably shape the pleasures to be found upon an initial listen. Tracey Childs, for instance, makes a spectacular return to the realms of audio adventures, with her ex-Nazi professor Klein rendered in a redemptive new light in her work at UNIT in our universe. The Seventh Doctor’s dilemma regarding Klein and his own hidden agenda surrounding her destiny is fascinating to witness developing as events reach their crescendo, particularly for viewers who joined Doctor Who in the midst of its revival. Here, the listener essentially has the chance to experience a moral conflict not unlike that which David Tennant’s Doctor faced in his swansong, as he witnessed his companion Donna Noble devoid of her memories and the subsequent regret this loss had provoked.

Between cases of mistaken identity, impending invasions and those aforementioned moral dilemmas for the Doctor, it may seem a wonder that Arnopp and Briggs have compounded further companion characters into their mixture. Few could have blamed these two esteemed storytellers for electing to omit Beth Chalmers’ Raine from proceedings should they have so desired. Nevertheless, Raine is here to accompany McCoy’s Doctor into the darkest of days, providing suitable comic relief on infrequent instances while never going so far as to disrupt the effective pseudo-dystopian tone. Those listeners who glimpse the cast list before experiencing Dominion will discover that there’s even appearances awaiting fans from an ex-cohort of the Time Lord, and although this reviewer won’t spoil their identity, sufficed to say these cameo moments are as masterfully handled as the rest of the production.

When it comes to contrasting the innovation and dramatic power of the first three-quarters of Dominion with the predictable nature of its climax, the verdict of course lies with which of these two opposing factors holds the greater favour in tipping the balance. Certainly, the supposed piece de resistance of this proverbial dish, the revelation awaiting the listener as the fourth episode opens, fails to have its desired impact and thus robs the piece of its opportunity to venture beyond the ranks of Big Finish’s greatest works and into the esteemed ranks of Doctor Who’s own Hall of Fame. It seems this is where River’s analogy regarding ‘rising further than ever before’ comes to light, as we can perhaps speculate whether the pride of Arnopp and Briggs in creating an ambitious, screen-worthy piece of audio drama blinded them to the extent of dropping the ball during the final crucial act.

Pride comes before a fall, or so they say. If a moment of pride, hubris and crippling nostalgia contained in Dominion’s final act proves so detrimental, then, do we dub this Big Finish’s ‘darkest hour’? Of course not- the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, in attempting so boldly and (for the majority) successfully to match and surpass the televised adventures of the Doctor, Arnopp and Briggs have defined a terrific new benchmark in UNIT Dominion for future audio and on-screen tales alike. Whether it’s in Macqueen’s brilliantly enigmatic rendition of Theta Sigma, or in the subtler moments where McCoy’s ever-scheming Time Lord is left to contemplate the ramifications of his continued meddling, virtually every moment of this adventure serves as a spectacular indicator of how far this range of ‘classic’ sagas and storylines has come in the past decade.

“Well, then, soldier - how goes the day?” River’s next words to the audience again seem remarkably apt in the case of UNIT Dominion, for above all, this lengthy yet compelling audio drama is a mission statement, a call to arms for Big Finish playwrights to step up their game and rival even Steven Moffat’s televised Doctor Who works. By the time the credits have rolled here, the listener is left in no doubt that if future writers in the range can avoid the solitary ‘fall’ present in this narrative, then subsequent adventures may truly rise ‘higher than ever before’.

FILTER: - Seventh Doctor - Big Finish - Audio - 184435976X