THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Neverland

Written by Alan Barnes Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity After The Telemovie.

Starring Paul McGann and India Fisher
Also featuring Dot Smith, Jonathan Rigby, Ian Hallard Lalla Ward, Don Warrington, Anthony Keetch, Peter Trapani, Holly King, Lee Moone, Mark McDonnell, Nicola Boyce.

Synopsis: Why are the Time Lords so keen to track the Doctor down? Exactly what lengths will the Celestial Intervention Agency go to in their efforts to retrieve something important from within his TARDIS? Who is the mythological destroyer Zagreus? And what has caused Imperiatrix Romanadvoratrelundar to declare war on the rest of creation? The Doctor seeks the answers deep within an entirely new universe and must face up to the actions not only of himself but the hundreds and thousands of Time Lords who have gone before.


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 17/7/02

The wonderful thing about new Doctor Who (and by this I mean 8th Doctor Who) is that you don't know where you will be at the end of the story. What has Big Finish and BBC Books got up its sleeve to astound us? It's this uncertainty - and all credit to Big Finish for keeping us in the dark so long - that drives Neverland.

Alan Barnes started this audio 8th Doctor and Charley off, with the pretty good Storm Warning. Because of the R101, and the fact that Charley should have died, the writers have had something to play with, something to get their teeth into. Consultation between writers provided the ongoing narrative to the 6-story season, but it wasn't a narrative that spoiled the individual segments. Each story could be enjoyed on its own merits, but there were also arc pieces in there for those of us who buy them all. Neverland is the place where things get resolved, and fittingly Alan Barnes is the writer again, he'd started so he'll finish.

Big Finish have chosen to give Neverland a Classic build up. Rather than being in 4 parts, it divides into 2, giving the thing a different feel - and a more expansive one. The length is huge - nearly 2 and a half hours. The subject matter, concerning Gallifreyan legends and other dimensions is Classic Who material - and re-establishes the Doctor's Home Planet's legends. It never lags - there's time for explanation (there's plenty of that), there's also time for action. It balances everything very well. Gallifrey, thanks to its legends, is once again the Mysterious and Interesting Place it once was. There was also a delay in its release, unforeseen but a delay that added immeasurably to the anticipation of fans around the world.

So does Neverland justify this impressive build up? Does it contain all the Classics of a Brilliant DW Story - and provide McGann's 2nd Season with a blockbuster finish? The answer must be a resounding yes, Neverland is a huge success.

Paul McGann is a magnificent Doctor, and in Charley Big Finish have the ideal companion for the 8th Doctor. The quality of the stories has been consistently high over these 10 stories, and the excellence of the 2 stars has never been in question. They are simply amongst the very best Doctor/Companion teams that DW has ever seen. The stories have been varied, but the writing for these 2 has consistently been excellent - it helps when you have 2 actors of the calibre of Paul McGann and India Fisher. The enthusiasm they both show throughout this story, and the preceding ones, is my abiding memory of these stories.

Neverland is a broad-sweeping story. The whole concept of Neverland is amazingly vast. Barnes uses the Audio medium to create marvelous pictures for the imagination. The canvas of the mind has rarely been given such rich colours to explore. The Gallifreyan legends, which I thought had been exhausted, are resurrected to stunning effect - resulting in a surprising offshoot of Gallifreyan morals. A story so much about Gallifrey legends is therefore surprising for its lack of theatre at the Time Lord residence itself. This story's setting is far more interesting - the Neverland of the title.

Whilst characterization is very high Barnes doesn't sacrifice the players at the expense of the story - like all great stories the characters move the story along, resulting in fascination both for the places and the personalities. There are plenty of quieter moments where the characters are built upon, the Doctor explaining what Charley means to him, Charley comparing the Doctor to Peter Pan. There's a stunning scene near the end where the anomaly that is Charley Pollard is faced head on by the Doctor and Charley, it's a triumphant scene - these are the magic moments of DW, and Neverland has them in spades.

The casting is excellent. Paul McGann and India Fisher are always excellent, but the guest cast are almost as good here. Lalla Ward is a more experienced Romana, but still the likeable Time Lady of the later 4th Doctor years. She gives the production a grace that further enhances it. Don Warrington is magnificent as the surprise Legend from the past - Big Finish hide who he is playing on the cover, so I will do the same. He's not in it as much as I would have liked, but what he does he does brilliantly. Vansell returns as well, and is better here than ever before. He gives more depth to the Time Lords, and the dubious character he portrays is one of the more interesting Gallifreyans we have ever seen, especially here.

Neverland is a triumph all round. With its resolution of the "Charley should have died" problem, with its incredible notion of Neverland, with its mythogical feel, it's an epic. There's also a conclusion that simply blows you out of the sky. It's rare in a programme that is so much about Nostalgia, recapturing the feelings of growing up, to find something startling new. The end had me open mouthed, totally in awe of the power of DW story-telling. It amazed me that after all this time DW and the wonderful imagination of its fans could come up with such magnificence.

I adore the Big Finish audios, they are the best kind of Doctor Who we have ever had. Neverland doesn't disappoint one iota - and the question of where we go from here is one of monumental interest. 10/10


The Biggie by Robert Thomas 8/8/02

A 6 month build up, arguably 18 if we're talking Storm Warning preceded this story, so is this any good? In short yes, very good, the mother of them all we were all hoping for. Sadly though this review is going to be bollocks because it brought the fan in me out to the hilt. I'd say this story is going to be impossible for a fan not to like.

Onto the story itself, surprisingly tight and at the same time a little bit epic. A few returning characters (I said before I avoid all spoilers so they wowed me and you didn't get the full affect if you knew they were coming for a few months) and a few original characters that turn out to be very surprising. A very original idea which could perhaps banish the boring image Gallifrey has. There's a few moments in here that will be magic for fans, reason alone to buy this and enjoy it.

The structure is surprising and took the listener by surprise - at one stage I thought we were in Holy Terror territory for the length. So much to be enjoyed and to shock you make this a must have. No faults anywhere and a must have for all.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 15/4/04

Neverland manages to deliver on the promise of concluding the Charley paradox arc and still captivates at the same time, largely thanks to strong performances from the cast. Paul McGann strikes the right balance between childlike enthusiasm and almost "parental" concern. Lalla Ward manages to convey the livlier Romana of old coupled with an edgier side in her role as President and India Fisher possibly puts in her best turn as Charley (who the story largely centres around) thus far. The guest cast are equally strong from Don Warrington to Nicola Boyce all putting in grat performances.

Storywise Neverland must have been something of a risk, (spreading a plot over 9 stories) but it pays off, with plenty of plot twists thats builds nicely to a shockingly effective cliffhanger and sets things up for future Eighth Doctor storylines. In short then a winner from Big Finish.


A Review by John Seavey 14/6/04

Alan Barnes has already said this himself, so I don't feel the least bit guilty saying it myself -- Neverland is way way WAY too long. When the run time is so long that you have to cut the credits to get the whole thing to fit on two CDs, that's a sign from God that you should seriously trim it. And loads of it is repetitive, too; too many repetitions of the 'Zagreus' rhyme, too many explanations of Rassilon's presence in the Antiverse that turn out to be red herrings anyway, too many lists (Romana didn't just play with her friends, she played with them in the fields of Mount Vertubulis catching the flutterwings and climbing the frimpletrees of Carabulus; it's not enough to mention the "other time-active powers", Vansell has to list them off by name each and every time they're brought up, et cetera)...just too much wittering about, which really distracts from the plot.

And the performances are all off-model, too. India Fisher milks her every line like she expects an audio spotlight, while Paul McGann rattles his dialogue off like he's hoping he can get through it before he realizes what rubbish he's talking. Lalla Ward talks to the Doctor like he's an ex who slept with the family dog, and in general the whole thing has an odd, bitter tone that really doesn't help any of it. And Rassilon showing up at the end is just plain gratuitous, and there's no getting around it. I have to agree with Alan Barnes, in the end -- just a read-through and a rehearsal, just one, would have resulted in a much tighter script and a much better production.


Fairytales... by Joe Ford 21/1/05

Things that are great about Neverland...