Big Finish
The New Eighth Doctor Adventures
Series One

Released 2007

Starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith

Synopsis: The Doctor has a new companion forced upon him...


Where The Cult Of Youth Meets The Ghost Of JNT by Stephen Maslin 11/7/11

In 2006, BBC7, the BBC's digital archive radio station, after airing some previously recorded Eighth Doctor stories, asked Big Finish Productions to produce a series of new 50 minute tales. There was to be a new companion, Lucie Miller. Big Finish wheeled out some of their most respected writers. The casts were, in radio terms, stellar and Paul McGann (one of the finest radio voices of his generation) was still in the lead chair. It all looked rosy right from the off. The remit seemed, understandably, to have been 'new series for the radio' but for all their lining up of the big guns, that tag is what made the NEDAs so much less than they should have been, slavishly adhering to the norms of new series TV, with its constant musical accompaniment, rather casual approach to slaughter, and with modern youth as something to be pandered to, rather than analysed or, god forbid, criticised. The Doctor is, for Lucie, more a figure of ridicule than one of mystery (for no other reason than he is older than she is). One doesn't expect a Victoria Waterfield clone in this day and age but had I been the Doctor, I would have booted her out of the TARDIS quicker than you could say "Turlough". (Actually, he does try to do just that quite early on.)

1.1-1.2 Blood of the Daleks Parts One and Two by Steve Lyons.

"Let's start with a Dalek story!" Okay, fine. Great introduction too, Steve Lyons skillfully putting everything we need to know right there in front of us. But within a matter of minutes, the bickering starts and Lucie is revealed to be a supremely annoying, selfish brat. Almost every other line is some kind of snide remark, no doubt meant to be hilarious but in truth not at all. Quite who this story is intended for, I have no idea. If Lucie was meant to appeal to a younger audience then there's bad news: hardly anyone under the age of 30 in Britain is going to tune in to a digital speech-only radio channel, let alone subscribe to Big Finish. All that Lucie and her attitude does is alienate the people who do. There are other flaws: the supporting cast is less than impressive (Kenneth Cranham completely overdoing Cardwell, and Klint and Asha so colourless as to be indistinguishable) and the script is really rather dull. The Daleks appearing to be helpful attempts freshness but one feels that the Daleks have been done to death. Indeed, the two breeds of Daleks has been done before more than once (as has Daleks-With-Feelings). To be honest, past-monsters-revisited seldom come off well in the NEDAs in general. (Oh, and Red Rocket Rising is a stupid name for a planet.) 3/10

1.3 Horror of Glam Rock by Paul Magrs.

There are a few funny moments in the script (it does start pretty well) and the cast ain't that bad, but it falls to bits pretty quickly into a melange of campery and cliche and when Trisha - the most engaging supporting character - is killed, it is not only sadly predictable but her death is then happily forgotten by everyone in no time at all. Since when did death become so easily shrugged off? 2/10

1.4 Immortal Beloved by Jonathan Clements.

Another great intro, in spite of Lucie's constant sniping. She and the Doctor materialise in front of a drippy couple bent on suicide and are mistaken for gods. Things look promising but then the music starts (far better than Murray Gold but still too much of it) and so does a lot of really unconvincing acting. When Ian McNiece as Zeus arrives on the scene, we are in a much better space in terms of performance (though we also then have to tolerate Paul McGann's son Jake as Ganymede, a contractual obligation methinks, as his speech impediment is a constant irritant). The central idea (the 'gods' maintaining their immortality by taking over a new body every couple of generations) is a good one, competently delivered by all concerned but the story as a whole is merely above average and not by much. 6/10

1.5 Phobos by Eddie Robson.

Some very effective situations for audio (caverns and caves, idiotically dangerous bungee-jumps) and, coming from the pen of Eddie Robson, the script is better than the norm but, with the exception of Timothy West and John Schwab, the supporting cast make you want to chew your own feet off and the resolutions of the last five minutes just cause you to gag with embarassment. 5/10

1.6 No More Lies by Paul Sutton.

Things really start to pick up at last. Messrs McKenzie, Havers and Chadbon are the best supporting cast of the series and even the unnecessary song is rather nice. It's good to see the vortisaurs back, though the Tar-Modowk really are an uninspiring bunch, their menace having to be underlined by the inclusion of a couple of needlessly graphic deaths (which are merely unpleasant and occassion not a whiff of regret). Still, at least we have a good story, with lots of exciting set-pieces. 8/10

1.7 Human Resources by Eddie Robson.

Startling for being so much better than the rest of the series in every way. Script, cast, production, you name it. Part One is just excellent, the nauseating minutiae of contemporary business caught to a tee (Roy Marsden as Hulbert is particularly fine), paralleled by the Time Lords' own officiousness. The revelation of the true nature of the work environment, a somewhat visual moment, is nonetheless beautifully captured. The music's fab and finally Lucie has something more to do than just be irritating. Part Two is not quite as good, with the Cybermen rendering it more of a conventional monster story, and it is capped off by Lucie indulging in an infuriating piece of smart-arse oneupmanship right at the end, which incites one to even greater heights of loathing. Still, a superior send off to a patchy first series. 9/10

If one could have dispensed with the first three stories, one would have had a very promising run of stuff to look forward to. As it is, there is only just enough interest cultivated. Just. So, first half poor, second half good (and at least Series One has the proper Eighth Doctor theme music. Sadly, that would be replaced...)

A Review by Matthew Sychantha 14/4/13

When last we left the Eighth Doctor, he'd been beaten with a stick of unfortunate coincidences. He's managed to lose everything he'd had in the wilderness years with all of the great running stories he'd had, gotten saddled with a blah of an off screen death by way of the new series, his producer had jumped ship to go try and dig his hands into the New Series pie, and his new producers were killing off his best friends. Sounds like a pretty raw deal to me.

So, how to you solve this one? How do you come back? You say "Screw it!", take the lemons you're handed, and come out of the gate with a new series and a sack of lemons to swing at anyone dumb enough to get in your way. Paul McGann does that, because he needs to. Because we need him to. And to be honest, Big Finish needed him to too.

The Eighth Doctor coming out and off like a bit of a stuck-up jerk is fitting at this point. By December (this range launched in January before), our man will have lost both of his best friends, and be trying to keep up appearances. And he does to Lucie, from the moment she walks into his TARDIS. This is notable, for you see, with the benefit of the ability to finish the main range going into the nEDA's, the characterization choice makes sense.

But perhaps it's even more fitting considering the fact that, coming into this, the EDA book range had ended quite strangely, with a much darker Doctor than the Big Finish main range diving into an uncertain future. Perhaps because of this, it's very possible to see elements of both Eighth Doctors shine through.

And, for the record, Sheridan Smith being a loud, snarky woman is perfect. These are the Eighth Doctor adventures, not the New Series! We're dedicated fans who don't need someone to hold our hands and be our godforsaken, pinheaded surrogate who screams a lot. So why not have a character to keep our favorite air-headed ponce in check and hang some lampshades? The Eighth Doctor could use an independent character anyway. After all, what would the first third Doctor episode be without Liz Shaw? ...oh yeah, Rose.

And so our first story, Blood of The Daleks, is a fantastic story, not because it's fantastically executed, but because both McGann and Smith come out swinging! Indeed, having a Dalek vs. Dalek bloodbath isn't a new concept, but it's perfect for this range because of the role they take: the Daleks are, in this case, a static element by which the Doctor has a new characterization to match against and Lucy Miller can find her ground.

The Doctor is still a quick-on-his-feet, hands-on chap; but now there's a sort of darker feel to it. A good friend of mine described the characterization as "The Eighth Doctor, after he realized not to touch the stove while it was on." And that's fitting.

Lucy Miller, on the other hand, is his polar opposite. Loud, rude and eager. But the one thing that she doesn't come across as is apathetic, and that's what makes the pairing work.

Indeed, the two stories are like showcase pieces: Lucy gets the greater characterization in part 1, and Eight gets to work out his own characterization in part two.

And, because of that, the new odd couple deliver a brilliant debut, even if there's very little to remember about the plot besides a bunch of Daleks shooting each other (and the arc tease at the end of the story). 9.5/10

Horror of Glam Rock is a deconstruction, on the other hand. Here we find the basic premise of The Horror of Fang Rock, but we've turned it on its head. Character development is the name of the game. Suddenly, the aliens aren't out of nowhere! And yet, it's like a love letter to Fang Rock that a quality story can be retold like that and feel fresh. It's by no means a perfect story, but the ability to dive into Lucie's character is essential. Even if you don't enjoy the slower bits, and accepting that a bare-bones adventure like Fang Rock isn't a great premise to work with on audio, it's still an essential story to slog through, if only because the high points to completely outweigh the low. Oh, and an extra half point because the end theme sounds really cool. 7.5/10

Immortal Beloved works on three levels. First of all, we have a culmination where Eight and Lucie are working together as a unit now, and it shows. Lucie's snarking is a way of handling the strange situations she finds herself in, and now that it's pointed less at the Doctor, we as viewers can finally see so much more of Lucie's emotional center. But that wouldn't even be possible without such a great story and spirited performances being put on. In many ways, this gives Lucie so much more to bounce off, and it's easy to find an emotional center to her character. If I had one criticism, it's that the sci-fi elements are a bit heavy-handed and unnecessary here. It gets in the way of the drama at the center of the tale to know about generations of astronauts and their clones. It might even be better just to have had some quicker technobabble explanation. Taking away half a point though because the tone can get pretty jarring here. 8.5/10

Phobos. Where do I begin here? Phobos isn't a genius episode by any stretch of the imagination. It has a decent concept, but the villain is vague, the danger is vague and I'm left wondering sometimes why this is here, existing. Not because it's particularly bad, but because every other episode has something much more to offer. However, despite the vague threat and weak villain (robots meant to draw fear from an entity that feeds on...fear? what is this, The Mind of Evil?), I'm reminded that this season needs a breather. Heavy character development and emotional stories have been the norm so far and it's good to sit back and enjoy a story about being on vacation occasionally. That and.... HOLY CRAP THAT ENDING! I'd like to remind you that, even if we forget about the Doctor's other incarnations, putting the fear the Doctor has of the things he's done himself is cruel. The poor jerk antagonist in this episode likely saw scenes of the Doctor's mind being taken over by Zagreus, the Doctor leaping into the vore hive to destroy them, and much later what he would do in The Flood to wipe the Cybermen from existence and destroy all the Time Lords. All while the Doctor bungee jumped. Makes you feel bad when you remember that. 6.5/10

Next up is No More Lies. Now, how do you go about explaining this one? For one, that problem I had with Immortal Beloved was thrown onto the ground and stomped on over and over again. An emotional drama the likes of which New Who could take a serious lesson from, it's easy to see why this is such a good episode: it hits you with a wham, it twists the standard antagonist setting, and plays with your expectations. It even dares to have a subtle callback to the main range. The premise is solid and the cast is emotionally gratifying. So much so, that in many ways it reminds me of The Girl in The Fireplace for how such a beautiful, self contained story could be told, and yet have such a great impact. It stays exactly as long as it needs to, adds no extra/redundant plot elements, and brings out such a great flavor to our Doctor/Companion relationship. If I had one criticism, it's that when the actual antagonist comes in, they feel out of place, despite needing to be there. A bit more shading might have done them good. 9/10

Finally we get to Human Resources. I love this story. It is in fact my favorite story involving the Cybermen. More so than Tomb of the Cybermen, more so than Earthshock, more so than Spare Parts and The Girl Who Never Was. (And especially more so than than The Age of Steel. How could anyone mess up a retelling of Spare Parts?!?!?!?)

Why? Because frankly I didn't see the Cybermen coming. The beauty of the episode is that neither did the cast. And when the Doctor does find them, he lets them have it good! It's perhaps one of my favorite, and chilling speeches in Doctor Who when he berates a Cyberman for existing.

In fact, every plot element is incredibly well woven. A crystal that works out the probability in your favor for every situation? Genius! Lucie being some kind of ruthless dictator for the plot arc? Unheard of! Comanions never get a future, and when they do they reflect that the Doctor's meddling in it was for the worst!

Heck, if anything, this story presents a clear case that you can tell a compelling arc and story with the Time Lords involved. It makes a case for why Doctor Who can tell the greatest adventures in any medium ever and still be successful. And I haven't even scratched the surface. GO LISTEN TO THIS SEASON AND WHEN YOU GET HERE YOU WILL LOVE IT! 10/10