Missy: Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated by John Dorney (Big Finish, 2019) John Dorney’s first contribution to the range is an exuberant run-around that pits Missy against the Meddling Monk (a most welcome addition, played superbly by Rufus Hound). An overabundance of repartee makes for great fun yet leaves little room for dramatic substance.
Missy: A Spoonful of Mayhem by Roy Gill (Big Finish, 2019) A well-considered introduction to the series, stripping Missy of her ability to kill and thereby transforming her from Machiavellian villain to insouciant anti-hero. She’s even given two temporary companions who are held in thrall to her mystique (much like the Doctor’s are).
Doctor Who: The Moonbase by Kit Pedler; dir. Morris Barry (BBC, 1967/2014) An effective story for the first two episodes, which are spent building the tension and establishing the (vital but ludicrously understaffed and without built-in redundancy) moonbase. Then the Cybermen bust out their dance moves and some very, very daft plans. Logic, schmogic.
Doctor Who: The Demon Rises by John Dorney (Big Finish, 2018) Continuing on from ‘The Mind Runners’, Dorney twists the plot from SF noir to (Doctor Who stylised) horror. The underlying concept is quite ghastly but the big confrontational dialogue again tends more towards exposition than drama. A slightly flat Ark in Space.
Doctor Who: The Mind Runners by John Dorney (Big Finish, 2018) Dorney engages in capable SF noir world-building while scripting lovely dialogue for Tom Baker and Louise Jameson (both of whom are in fine form). The story, however, is not self-contained, and its antagonists are in the usual advanced stages of expository megalomania.
The Black Archive #40: The Underwater Menace by James Cooray Smith (Obverse Books, 2020) An intelligent and impeccably researched reappraisal of the somewhat maligned Patrick Troughton story. Cooray Smith not only considers the production on its merits but also takes into account the historical circumstances behind its coming to lodge unfavourably in Doctor Who fan consciousness.
The Sarah Jane Adventures, Series 3 (BBC, 2009) Series Three maintains a good mix of serious and silly SF, shifting the focus slightly away from Sarah Jane and towards her young companions. The stories are imaginative but at their weakest where mainstream Doctor Who elements (K9, the Tenth Doctor) feature.
Doctor Who: The Crowmarsh Experiment by David Llewellyn (Big Finish, 2018) Leela is attacked during one of her adventures with the Doctor, and wakes up in a research institute for implanted dream consciousness. Which of her realities is genuine? Perfectly pitched performances by Louise Jameson and Tom Baker. A nice idea cleverly executed.
Doctor Who: The Sons of Kaldor by Andrew Smith (Big Finish, 2018) There’s nothing new here, as such, but Smith has scripted a nuanced small-scale Kaldor robots story that feels fresh even while treading the familiar ground. The acting is up to scratch and the lack of big action holds the soundtrack in check.
Doctor Who: Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker & Robert Perry (BBC, 1997); audiobook read by Sophie Aldred (Bolinda, 2016) Blandly written and at least twice as long as it needed to be. Great chunks of the story involve treading water, running around pointlessly, and building up characters (both major and minor) that turn out to be nothing more than gross…