Paul McGann was the shortest lived Doctor, on screen for just one episode. On the other hand, he’s one of the longest lasting Doctors, being the central character of novels, audio plays and comics from 1996 to the present day.
Even with this, though, he’s probably the least well known Doctor, which is why it was a great idea by BBC7 in 2006 to commission Big Finish to create an audio series about the Eighth Doctor similar in style to the television series.
Here, Lucie Miller is the companion, and unlike most companions she doesn’t want to be one. The Time Lords put her on some sort of witness protection program, for reasons unknown, and she’s stuck in the care of the Doctor. The TARDIS can’t even leave without her. Personally, I think this created for a dynamic that’s pretty hard to beat (although Donna did).
Well, that’s enough of the introduction. One last thing – you might think 3 is very few stories to put as my favourite, but, actually, this season only had 6 stories, so 3 is quite a lot indeed.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d walked right into the middle of an episode when this one begins, but you’d soon realise this is just the beginning. The first ‘act’ of this story nicely juxtaposes the excitement of some sort of chase that the Doctor and Lucie are in (for once, though, they’re not the chased), and an extremely ordinary garden party in England. It’s intriguing, wondering what the two have to do with each other, but before you can frustrate yourself with confusion, the Doctor and Lucie end up following the man they were chasing into the very same garden party.
Generally, the second act is an extremely emotional story, which I won’t spoil for you, but I’d actually say my favourite thing about the story was the villains. The enemies in this story are a race of creatures that live in the Time Vortex, called the Tar-Modowk, and while they’re not the scariest villains in the world, they very much feel like traditional Doctor Who enemies. It’d be great to see them and the Voritsaurs (pterodactyl-like-creatures that live in the vortex) in the TV show one day.
It’s also worth noting that the audio play manages, by different background noises, to create a perfect image of the garden party in your mind – brilliant work on the part of Big Finish, I say.
The Doctor: I thought you wanted to save the world?
Gordon: I just didn’t envisage saving it by riding bareback on a pterodactyl named Margaret.
If No More Lies created the perfect image of the garden party by just sound, then in this story the moon of Phobos is perfectly created in one’s imagination by the sound and description alone. Here, Phobos is a planet of extreme sports, a place visited by adrenaline junkies, or ‘drennies’ as the characters put it. And on this planet lives a beast, lying in wait to attack.
Once again, I don’t want to spoil the story, but near the end the Doctor has to face his fears. And it’s not just fears of the past. The greatest fear that the Doctor faces is the fear of what he may have to do in the future. Now, think what you like, but that sounds suspiciously close to the end of the Time War to me.
This is the two part finale. Most of the story is set in what appears to be an office, but it’s filled with so many differences from reality that the first part of the story is just hilarious. Of course, there’s still something clearly wrong, so there’s a very creepy feel about this, but that just makes everything so much better.
In the second part, we have the return of the Cybermen. And they’re Mondasian Cybermen, at that, before they even discovered Telos. What’s lovely is that the voices are a very subtle blend of new series Cybermen voices, and old series Cybermen, which gives them quite a disconcerting sound.
In addition, this is, after all, the season finale, so we find out all about what this witness protection program for Lucie was. We also have some very major character development on the part of Lucie, and we catch a glimpse at the Time Lords, and the chaotic way with which they try to control the universe without actually interferring.
Plus, the manner in which the Cybermen was defeated was both incredibly ludicrous, and extremely funny. If anything else, you have to hear this episode for that.
These episodes can be purchased on Amazon, or on the Big Finish website.
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