There are a lot of things going on at Big Finish, with their Lost Stories, and Companion Chronicles lines, but for now I am focusing on Big Finish’s monthly range, as they start a new three story arc featuring the Seventh Doctor, (Sylvester McCoy) and his companions Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Hex (a Big Finish original character, played by Philip Olivier)
The recent stories featuring McCoy lately have been a bit different. They seem to be set in the future where the Doctor been traveling alone in a black TARDIS. How did it turn Black? And does that have anything to do with why the TARDIS that he, Ace and Hex had been traveling in turned white back in 2009’s Angel of Scutari? Where are Ace and Hex? What is going on? Well all the answers are being promised in this latest trilogy.
Things start with Ace and Hex, discovering they are alone in the TARDIS, in Protect and Survive, by Jonathan Morris.
Where is the Doctor? How did he leave the TARDIS while it was in flight? And what will happen to Ace and Hex after they get separated from the time machine, and find themselves apparent trapped in 1989, right as the Cold War is turning hot, and Britain is finding itself on the verge of nuclear attack.
This story reminds me of the “Doctor-Lite” episodes of the modern Doctor Who era, with the companions finding themselves on their own, and perhaps out of their depth. When those episodes work, like in the case of Blink (one of my favorite episodes of the modern era) they are very good, but then sometimes they can be Turn Left (not my favorite. itis not a bad story, per say, it does give Catherine Tate some find acting moments, but I felt it was hindered by clunky plotting, and as a story, it it’s dependent on the viewer’s being familiar with over 2 years of WHO)
This story is more of the later, than the former.
Ace and Hex have both had some issues with the Doctor, especially in the case of him keeping secrets and the way he operates. Remember how he was bringing Ace to places to confront her childhood tramas (Ghost Light) and her issues with her mother (The Curse of Fenric), and given the Doctor’s involvement with Hex’s personal history, and how Hex eventually found out, (in Project: Destiny) you can imagine the resentment he may have developed. Ace and Hex often end up being the last to know what the Doctor is up to, and now they find themselves caught up in one of the Doctor’s traps, with no clue how they can escape.
Big Finish has worked very hard to build a strong sense of continuity and character arcs in their stories, and this current trilogy is the result of over 3 years of planning, with plot elements going all the way back to Project:Twilight, which came out in 2001, and even The Curse of Fenric. So this is not a “jumping on” story. I often find that draw back to Big Finish’s offerings, obviously Big Finish are fans of the classic series, but sometimes the desire to create a rich, dense continuity, with long plot threads that weave through multiple story arcs, is hard too much. It’s combination of lot of things (the time between story arcs, as Big Finish recent Main Range format, has them rotating between Doctors 5-8 in three story arcs, the length of the material (90+ minute stories) and the very nature of the audio format all work against such complex world building.
Like Turn Left, I felt that this story was bit clunky, as a stand alone piece, but as a part of a larger story it serves it’s purpose, as an opening act. The story gets the most interesting as it ends, setting up act 2 of this trilogy, and brings in a couple of unfamiliar faces, leaving us with more questions than answers, and nothing seems to quite be black and white.
Doctor Who – Protect and Survive
Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Ken Bentley
My Score – C+
Black and White picks up right where Protect and Survive ends, with black TARDIS turning up, and Ace and Hex surprised to find not the Doctor, but two soldiers at the console.
Again, you have to have been paying close attention to the Doctor Who Audios to know who these two strangers in the black TARDIS are.
Welcome back Private Sally Morgan (Amy Pemberton) and Captain Lysandra Aristedes (Maggie O’Neill)
Wait, Welcome back?
Attentive listeners will remember we first met Sally Morgan in House of Blue Fire, one of the more recent stories where the Seventh Doctor traveled alone in the black TARDIS. At the end of the story she does leave with the Doctor, which seem to indicate the Black TARDIS stories were being set later in the continuity of Seven.
We met Capt. Aristedes in Project: Destiny. In that story she was a hardline member of Department C4 (a/k/a the Forge) and not the biggest fan of the Doctor, and it’s not clear how she joined the Doctor in the dark Police Box, yet.
So now we have four companions, traveling in two different (but the same?) TARDIS and no Doctor. The Doctor-Lite story arc continues, as the threads of the last few years of Big Finish’s Seventh Doctor story arc begin to come together. And in a series of flashbacks, we finally get to see what the Doctor has up to and where the black TARDIS came from.
Oh, and we also get to meet Beowulf, did I forget to mention that? The Doctor and his friends all get caught up in the 6th century events that inspire the saga of Beowulf! This was my favorite part of this episode, and went a long way to making me enjoy it more than the previous outing. Of course here the creature that Beowulf fightsm is an insectoid alien species’ battle droid, in the hands of an amphibious toad-faced arms dealer named Garundel, delightfully camped up by Stuart Milligan, who you may remember as President Richard Nixon, in The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon last year.
Just by listening to this story, Protect and Survive becomes a better story too, as part of the greater events going on. But like it’s predecessor, it’s hampered by a little too much continuity for casual listeners, and we are denied the ultimate resolution of the story, which will be told next month’s finale, Gods and Monsters.