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…
Doctor Who: Dark Universe by Guy Adams (Big Finish, 2020) Even if his schizophrenic personalities lack individual depth, the Eleven is a villain to be reckoned with and one of Big Finish’s great contributions to Who. Adams scripts a story of conscious bravura that deflates with the Seventh Doctor’s usual cop-out masterminding.
Doctor Who: Planet of Evil by Louis Marks; dir. David Maloney (BBC, 1975) The overlooked classic of the Tom Baker years. Planet of Evil makes the most of its premise, combining a nuanced script with tight direction and some seriously good acting (particularly from its leads). Roger Murray-Leach’s alien jungle set constitutes a series highpoint.
Doctor Who: Tick-Tock World by Guy Adams (Big Finish, 2019) A more-or-less successful mix of experimental SF and character overhaul. The production team at Big Finish still seem uncertain how to develop Susan—her emotions, maturity, competence and relationships fade in and out—but at least they’re trying. Well worth a listen.