Written & Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Featuring: Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors
Released: July 1999
Gallifrey is in a state of crisis, facing destruction at the hands of an overwhelming enemy. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations – each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space. The web of time is threatened – and someone wants the Doctor dead.
The three incarnations of the Doctor must join together to set time back on the right track – but in doing so, will they unleash a still greater threat?
Brilliant individual turns by the three Doctors help to keep afloat a scatterbrain adventure trying to balance too many threads.
This is the first Big Finish audio adventure for Doctor Who and, to introduce a new era of the show for the fanbase, this episode gave each of the Doctors their own episode and narrative, before all of the threads and leads came together for the final part. I think this was a very good move, not least because Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy act like they never left and are easily the best aspect of this story. As these episodes feel wildly different in tone and content, it is perhaps appropriate to review them separately before coming up with a general verdict on the story.
Part One: The Knight of Velyshaa – Feat. Sylvester McCoy (7th Doctor)
From the outset we, the audience, are dropped into a crisis on Gallifrey, where the Time Lords are contemplating assassinating the Doctor to stop a menacing invasion from an unknown race. Instantly, we are gripped. What better way to kick off a new series of Who adventures than to have the Time Lord we love under threat from his own species? This is also a great way to link the show to the Classic Series. The first Doctor we hear is the bumbling yet witty seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy. The narrative he is placed in features an elderly knight held captive by a disgusting woman, spaceships crashing and a species being born from the wreckage. It is a shame that a lot of these elements were utilised for maybe a couple of minutes only in favour of a lot of discussion about the plot, but that is the risk when only dedicating one episode to this. In spite of that, it manages to set up a lot of the narrative well, and McCoy is charming as ever.
Part Two: Ship of Destiny – Feat. Peter Davison (5th Doctor)
The weakest individual Doctor narrative in this story arrives in part two, where the Fifth Doctor arrives on board a vessel on the verge of being attacked by a German U-boat in the First World War. Quickly distanced from his companions Tegan and Turlough (a neat trick to avoid having to bring the actors in for the roles), he teams up with a cockney-sounding girl to… defeat some Nazis, who are being possessed by the Time Lords to kill The Doctor? Even without this confusing plot point (it pales in comparison to Part 1 and 3 in terms of threat), its link to the final part just feels a bit rushed, like the writers wanted to have an episode set in the past. As a result, it feels like the only adventure that couldn’t be expanded into a fully-fledged narrative on its own. Peter Davison is solid in his role though, and there is far more action taking place in this story, so it can be likened to mucb of his tenure in the TV series. But overall nothing really stands out.
Part Three: Death of Wonder – Feat. Colin Baker (6th Doctor)
There are shades of Classic Who and science-fiction in this excellent part, starring Colin Baker. Even though he faced a mixed reaction when starring in the TV series, I found him to be full of energy and excitement here, reminding me of several Doctors who followed in the years after this. The concept of The Doctor arriving on a starliner that is heading into the Kurgon Wonder, a strange phenomenon. This allows him to have some amusing interactions with a medley of figures, including a waitress, an android and what I imagine is an Elephantine creature who acts, talks and dresses like an old English gent. The threat feels intelligent and sustained; it will take a miracle for The Doctor to get out of this alive. It is also the episode where the threads of the narrative start to come together and the closing moments are perhaps the most intense of the whole story. This is the most successful part and sets the scene up really well for the finale.
Part Four: Nexus Point – Feat. Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy (5th, 6th and 7th Doctors)
So the audience finally reaches the point where all of The Doctors meet and the stakes are at their highest, with the Time Lords being fed on for their energy and the universe dying of a plague. Except, for the most part, it doesn’t seem like much happens, if you discount going backwards and forwards to figure out a plan to save the universe. I would thus describe the narrative in this part as “Frantic”, rather than “Exciting”. The reveal of the true villain was pretty obvious from the second part onwards, even if you weren’t completely paying attention to the plot. Their true intention was an interesting twist that was staring at listeners for much of the audio book. On the other hand, despite apparently being all powerful and having control over Time, they were portrayed a bit too ordinary. In all honesty, the only thing holding the episode together were the three leads. If I thought they did a great job individually, together they made an explosive team who bounced off each other with ease, despite not really interacting with each other much before this story. It is worth paying money just to hear these three getting irritated and sharing jokes with each other.
Let’s be completely honest with ourselves, this is not a perfect story by any means. There are confusing plot points and features that are mentioned or seen for a couple of minutes and then sidelined in favour of talking about it, the main villains are weak despite having control over Time and the pacing was occasionally all over the shop. However, in between these faults come some sparkling moments of character and plot, and it is these that should be focused on in the first ever Big Finish audio adventure for the main Doctor Who franchise. The potential in having actors reprising their roles from the Classic Series brings a feeling of nostalgia, yet is exciting and new simultaneously. From this first story, many more have been released in the years up to now and the franchise on Big Finish has been expanded to include more Doctors, companions and villains than would have been thought possible. Hearing the potential in this particular story, it is no surprise.
Check out Doctor Who: The Sirens of Time from Big Finish.