Big Finish’s latest ‘Doctor Who’ audio stories reviewed: January 2017 round-up

A new year brings a new trilogy of main range stories, this time for Peter Davison, with his Season 19 line-up of Nyssa, Tegan and Adric for a full on space adventure with ‘The Star Men’.

Meanwhile, the Fourth Doctor Adventures reunite the Doctor, Romana II and K-9 with the perennially popular ‘Jago and Litefoot’ for ‘The Beast of Kravenos’ and Nicola Walker narrates the Liv Chenka Short Trip, ‘The World Beyond the Trees’.

Also chock full of Doctorly goodness, though it actually snuck out at Christmas, is the second season of The Diary of River Song, paring Alex Kingston with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. In the wider Whoniverse, we were also treated to the tale of Torchwood One: Before The Fall, starring Tracy Ann Oberman as Yvonne Hartman and the ever popular Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd).

Finally, although not Doctor Who, the late John Hurt took on the role of ‘The Invisible Man’ to kick of Big Finish’s year long HG Wells season.

 

Main Range #221: ‘The Star Men’

As the author of Adric’s first story, Andrew Smith seems an appropriate choice for a tale which brings Matthew Waterhouse’s boy genius to the main range for the first time (although he has previously worked with this team in 2014’s ‘The Fifth Doctor Box Set’‘).

After a disastrous TARDIS flying lesson for Adric, the Doctor brings his companions to the edge of our galaxy, hoping to see humanity’s first steps into the wider universe.

Instead, they find Gallius Ultima under attack from enemies within the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, enemies who have turned the base’s exploratory craft into a missile – the first move in a violent invasion plan for our universe.

The story makes good use of all the regulars, pairing them in various combinations, but this is primarily Adric’s tale. He meets his match, and a potential love interest in fellow child prodigy Autumn (Sophie Wu), the Base Commander’s daughter who he impresses with his mathematical skills and heroics.

We particularly enjoyed the setting, with the use of real astronomical locations such as the LMC and the Tarantula Nebula, and the ruthless Star Men themselves are a fascinating creation, with various forms and abilities that make them a complex threat.

While ignorance of the Time Lords makes their origins interesting too, their resource hungry lust for power soon sees them eying the TARDIS, as so many of the Doctor’s enemies do, and while it seems appropriate for the era, if we are honest it left us a little cold.

Amusingly, the striking appearance that gives the Star Men their name is doubtless better rendered on audio than it ever could have been in 1982 – but we are sure the commanding presence of Peter Guinness, who voices their aggressive leader Rovus, would have outshone any cromakey nightmares!

This is a fine start to a new year of adventures, with some lovely character development for a much maligned companion. We would not be adverse to encountering the Star Men again either!

 

The Fourth Doctor Adventures 6.01: ‘The Beast of Kravenos’

Justin Richards starts the ball rolling on another season of Fourth Doctor Adventures with The Beast of Kravenos, a one-disc tale for Tom Baker and Lalla Ward as the second incarnation of Romana. If this weren’t enough listening pleasure, we also have Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot in attendance, ably played as ever by Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter.

For regular listeners it’s been nearly four years since Jago & Litefoot last met the Fourth Doctor and then he was in the company of the first incarnation of Romana, leading Jago to remark upon how strange it was the Doctor had so many friends with that name.

If that weren’t sufficient, we also have John Leeson back as K9 and Conrad Asquith returning as Inspector Quick. The story is now crowded, and Ed Stoppard makes a good job of bringing the only the only new character to our ears, Sir Nicholas Asquin.

By the time we’ve met all the players, enjoyed the entertainment of K9 on the stage of the New Regency, there’s little time left for a complex plot. Instead we have some great entertainment and a story that balances the need to be a Doctor Who adventure with the fact that the Doctor and TARDIS crew are visitors to the well-established world of Jago & Litefoot. Nick Briggs directs with his usual aplomb, and there are worse ways to spend an hour.

 

Short Trips 7.01: ‘The World Beyond the Trees’

The 2017 season of Short Trips, those half hour stories read by a character from the show, kicks off in real style with Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax, Unforgotten) reading Jonathan Barnes’ ‘The World Beyond the Trees’.

For those who don’t know, Nicola plays the part of Liv Chenka, a MedTech from the future travelling with the Eighth Doctor and for the purpose of this story, living in Baker Street in the 1970s.

The story centres starts on a mysterious day in London, the Doctor is absent with the TARDIS, her house mate Molly O’Sullivan is unavailable and she enters a strange reality where she is the only person who can help, if only she can make sense of a message.

It is an eerie and charming tale, and within a few minutes listeners will want to hear further tales of Liv’s time with the Doctor, her particular slant on history and people, and what’s more Jonathan Barnes dovetails this story with other Liv stories, but in a way entirely invisible to anyone who has not heard all the rest.

It is a delightful way to spend just over 34 minutes and a great start to another season of Short Trips.

 

What was your favourite Doctor Who release from Big Finish this month? Let us know below…

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