Big Finish Review: The Eighth Doctor in Sword of Orion

The Eighth Doctor Whips One Out Proper

cover of Big Finish's Sword of Orion

Big Finish Main Range #17

Sword of Orion

Marvelous! It’s only my second dip into Big Finish‘s Doctor Who audio dramas, and I am in love.

Not only is the story gripping and easy to follow, the supporting characters identifiable and memorable, but there are Cybermen! Hurrah! I figure that’s not quite a spoiler 14+ years after its release, right?

CyberYes

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to stumble upon a Cyberman in a story, as I’m usually Team Dalek. ­­­Sometimes I just don’t feel the threat of Cybermen, as horrific as the conversion process is. (And yes, Daleks can be overused as well, but they’re just so cute and sassy that I still enjoy them.)

But this time, under the fierce direction (and acting) of Nicholas Briggs, the Cybermen bring genuine tension to the trapped-on-a-broken-spaceship setup.

Along with our metal villains is an interesting look at an android vs. human war going on in the area of space Charley and the Doctor are visiting. Humans –> androids –> Cybermen? Precisely why I am skeptical of biohacking.

Fill in the Blank

Speaking of Charlotte “Charley” Pollard—the Eighth Doctor’s early 20th century human Companion—how doth she fare in this second adventure, you might ask?

Relatively well. She made one particularly snarky comment that endeared her more to me.

Her background still isn’t discussed, which, in fact, bothers me—but it must come up eventually. There’s a whole arc about her disruptive place in space-time from what I’ve read, and maybe something about her parents?

Hopefully then, tidbits about her life before the Doctor will begin to be sprinkled throughout the next few adventures so it doesn’t feel abrupt or forced when we get to her big character moments.

One thing that distressed me was that the Doctor doesn’t hunt down Deeva but leaves her to be only possibly discovered—by others who may or may not have good intentions towards her.

I do understand these audio dramas are jampacked into a two hour length, sometimes less, working with only dialogue and sound effects. Which is a pretty impressive and daunting thing to think about, as a writer.

I just felt the Doctor wouldn’t have given up so easily.

Verdict

Sword of Orion is an exciting listen, which fans the flame of my hope for the rest of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures. I just heard somewhere that he takes Mary Shelley for a whirl in future stories??

I must try to listen to at least one or two a month from now on.

Big Finish Review: The Eighth Doctor in Storm Warning

Zeppelins in Space!

cover of Big Finish's Storm Warning

Big Finish Main Range #16

My First Big Finish

For my first foray into the world of Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, I chose Storm Warning (2001).

It was the first Big Finish production to feature the Eighth Doctor, ever so charmingly played by Mr. Paul McGann, as well as new Companion, Charlotte “Charley” Pollard, inhabited by Ms. India Fisher.

Starting at number 16 of the Main Doctor Who monthly range might seem an odd jumping off point for a first timer. Why not #1, The Sirens of Time, released almost two years prior and featuring the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors?

Why Start Here?

Alas, I must admit I am a completionist—at least about Doctor Who stories, that is.

I have seen most everything from the 1996 TV movie forward (excepting Scream of the Shalka and Dimensions in Time), but I’m still only at the very end of the First Doctor’s run as far as Classic Who is concerned. (There have been a couple of mourning pauses post-Barbara + Ian and Vicki. Oh, and one post-Susan pause of indignation.)

I can’t, in good conscience, develop a fan relationship with the Second through Seventh Doctors without first absorbing their silver screen narrative arcs. I am strangely concerned with following the proper timelines of a show largely about time travel and disrupted timelines. Go figure.

Beyond that, though, is the fan wisdom that the Eighth Doctor is the perfect bridge between Classic and New Who.

With this, I must agree. If you’ve only started watching Doctor Who since the 2005 revival but would like to test-drive some audio stories—start with the Eighth Doctor. His stories will be modern enough in tone yet still exciting because, well, it’s a new Doctor to discover!

Storm Warning

As far as an introduction goes, this one is pretty unremarkable.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s fine. The plot’s all over the place, a few side characters are noticeable caricatures (Rathbone, Tamworth), and we barely learn anything about Ms. Charley Pollard, the Doctor’s new companion, other than she was craving adventure in her presumably patrician life. But it’s entertaining enough.

I adore dirigibles, and the setting of pre-WWII Europe casts a lovely sepia feel over the story.

The Doctor is well written and his conversations suitably quick and lively. Though I’d have liked more background on Charley, she definitely comes across as someone I could see traveling with the Doctor—fast on her feet and insatiably curious.

Being a historicals fan, this should be right up my alley; the R101 was a real airship of the British Empire that tragically crashed on its maiden voyage over France. I find there’s a lack of real emotional tension, however, and I am not at all convinced by the aliens, the Triskele. (Are they Celtic Reconstructionists?)

I do not feel threatened by them one bit, nor am I worried for the Doctor or Charley or anyone else.

Alien Sympathies

Actually, no—I am concerned for two characters: Ramsay the Vortisaur, and the alien passenger, Engineer Prime.

Both of these creatures’ portrayals elicit more sympathy and emotional investment, I believe, because their stories are fraught with misunderstandings and persecution based on their appearance and status as an “other.”

And based upon how shitty the humans in Storm Warning treat them. Hell, Ramsay is basically a time vortex pterodactyl who flies around and bites a lot, no lines other than screeches, and yet I was so thrilled at the end he was going to get home.

The same with the Engineer Prime. So glad he got out of captivity and away from being a pawn of the British Empire.

I had no such enthusiasm, good or bad, for the other characters’ destinies. Of course, I was happy the Doctor was unscathed, although we pretty much knew he would be, this being his very first story (in this format) after all.

As for Charley, I liked her well enough, or really felt rather neutral towards her. I can only assume her characterization becomes more layered as her story progresses. This I heartily look forward to.

Verdict

Overall, this is a breezy, milquetoast beginning to what I hope becomes a glorious run of Eighth Doctor adventures.

Doctor Who Bucket List

I’m a rather newishFire Poi fan of Doctor Who—got my start mid-2012 when I was dealing with some heavy emotional stuff and needed a distraction. What a distraction it was! :-) I instantly fell in love with the dramatic yet not-too-serious story arcs, the character of the Doctor, the non-technical (sometimes hand-wavey) science, and the TARDIS’ capability of traveling through both time and space, time travel always being a particular favorite of mine.

And while I quickly got caught up and current with the new series and 1996 movie, I only started to watch Classic Who earlier this year. What a delight! I quickly came to adore Barbara and Ian and am quite fond of Vicki and William Hartnell’s First Doctor. I’m still only on the third season (1965) but have realized I now have an ever-developing bucket list of Doctor Who-related items.

Doctor Who Bucket ListThe Next Doctor's Air Balloon Tardis

Actually quite a truncated list, no? The above are all things I believe I could reasonably accomplish. Writing an official novel or script, meeting William Russell, Jenna Coleman, Catherine Tate, John Barrowman, any of the Doctors… well, those are dreams which may or may not be Dream Crab-induced. The pics above are a couple things on my non-Who-related bucket list.

I’d love to hear what’s on your Doctor Who Bucket List!

Clara Oswald Was Always The Doctor

“Clara who?” –the Doctor

“Doctor who?” –Clara

—The Snowmen

Clara's Eyes in the Death in Heaven title sequenceClara Who

Some have been flabbergasted, others impatient and irritated that Clara featured so heavily in the series arc, almost supplanting the Doctor in the action. And she has most definitely been portrayed as being on more equal footing with the Doctor this time around. She even claims to be the Doctor in not one, but two episodes, most crucially in the finale, Death in Heaven. Jenna Coleman’s name soars by first in the credits, and it is her eyes–and fearsome eyebrows–not Peter Capaldi’s, that stare out at us from the final series 8 title sequence.

And you know what? I believed her. For a few minutes at least during Death in Heaven, I wracked my brain for possible solutions to how the Doctor could’ve been transplanted to or regenerated into or just somehow become Clara. Was Clara the Doctor all series or just recently? The clues were all there: the lying, the cleverness, not being able to give up life in the TARDIS, and the avoidance of consequences. Jenna Coleman played the evolution of Clara into a Doctor-like figure so well over the course of this series, I actually believed she might have become the Doctor. But was she ever really so different from the Doctor in the first place?

Oswin Oswald, at your service

Soufflé Girl

First up: Oswin Oswald, Junior Entertainment Manager of the starliner Alaska. I really, really liked Oswin–just the sort of cheeky genius who would be tons of fun yet wouldn’t moon about or let the Doctor get away with much. A kind of Donna 2.0, if you like. (Full disclosure: Donna is perhaps my favorite New Who companion. Rose, Wilf, and Captain Jack follow.) But then she had to die, albeit spectacularly. Brief though her appearance may have been, Oswin still managed to pull off some very Doctor-like feats:

  • Hacked into the Dalek asylum’s automated security systems
  • Was able to tamper with and alter said systems at will
  • Managed to maintain her identity and consciousness a full year after being converted physically into a Dalek
  • Erased all record of the Doctor in the Dalek Pathweb

Not bad, eh?

Victorian Clara Oswin Oswald

Undercover Governess

Next up: Clara Oswin Oswald, part-time barmaid at the Rose & Crown, regular caretaker of two Victorian children and their emotionally-wounded widower father, very perceptive and quick on her feet, with a brilliant sense of curiosity and adventure, and a knack for nurturing wounded souls without coming across as schmaltzy. I loved Clara O². (I am a sucker for historicals.) And you could tell the Doctor warmed up to her quite quickly as well; she managed to make him smile while still in the depths of his post-Pond despair. When her eyes misted over upon first entering the TARDIS and being invited to travel with the Doctor, I also teared up. Finally, a companion who somehow recognized the import of the moment! Needless to say, I was devastated when she perished at the icy hands of the previous governess. Why couldn’t she stay?

  • Very perceptive of her surroundings: noticed right away the snowman appearing out of nowhere and the fact that the pond hadn’t melted with the rest of the snow
  • Did not falter upon meeting a Silurian woman in Victorian garb, speaking English and asking her very pointed questions
  • But most Doctor-ish of all: lying to the children and Mr. Latimer to get what she wants (a respectable position and relative freedom)

Clara as the DoctorClara Prime

Next up: The ways in which Clara Oswald, or Clara Prime herself, has always had “Doctor potential.”

“The most important leaf in human history. It’s full of stories. Full of history. And full of a future that never got lived. Days that should have been that never were, passed on to me. This leaf isn’t just the past. It’s a whole future that never happened. There are billions and millions of unlived days for every day we live, an infinity. All the days that never came. And these are all my mum’s.”

—Clara, The Rings of Akhaten

(If that isn’t a Doctor-ish speech, I don’t know what is.)