Big Finish
The New Eighth Doctor Adventures
Series Two

Released 2008

Starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith

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


Fifty-Fifty by Stephen Maslin 2/8/11

2.1 Dead London by Pat Mills. A real oddity, with an irregular, episodic structure and some highly unusual shifts and turns. It has quite an odd start too, especially for the beginning of a series: smack in the middle of a court scene with no preamble or links to previous stories, as if twenty minutes of set-up had been ruthlessly pruned. (No bad thing.) Though the sound design is a little dry, the fractured geography of the tale is very well captured (and amazingly, second-string heroine Sophie doesn't get killed off as is so often the case in modern Who.) If there is a downside, Sepulchre in snake mode is nothing to write home about (and the new arrangement of the theme tune is rotten) but generally, this radio cartoon works very well. 8/10

2.2 Max Warp by Jonathan Morris. A very funny take on "boys and their toys" and the television shows that flatter them (though, after a fresh approach to the character in Dead London, Lucie is, initially at least, back to her previous poisonous self). Paul McGann is again on top form, flitting from comedy to urgency with consummate ease, and he and Sheridan Smith do the secret investigator duo routine to a tee. The script is an object lesson in plot construction, with lots of fun little details (and the Kith's, shall we say, down-to-Earth accents make a welcome change from the usual). Lightweight maybe but very clever and very enjoyable. 8/10

2.3 Brave New Town by Jonathan Clements. A highly intriguing opening: a beach with no sea, a deserted village, the same day over and over, people who don't need to eat, no road out of town. Revelations come gradually and not until nearly half way through are we given any indication as to when and where we really are. In common with Mr Clements' other stuff, there is a lot of great dialogue, funny without trying too hard to be so and the cast are good all-round, Derek Griffiths deserving particular praise. (For all my misgivings about Lucie, Sheridan Smith's collapse after the tranquiliser dart is priceless.) All in all, intelligent, well-paced, compelling drama. At this point, it seemed that a really neat little series had finally fallen into place... 8/10

2.4 The Skull of Sobek by Marc Platt. Alas, a real let down, far and away Mr Platt's worst Doctor Who offering. It starts with two and half minutes of 'sword and sorcery', mixed with a less than original parody of Christianity ("lead us not into perfection, for never and never"), then another two and half minutes of it after the opening theme, followed by lots of descriptions of how blue everything is. As the story continues, it is dragged down by incessantly portentous dialogue ("Blood feeds on blood!" or "Revenge will taste good"). The alien menace are, don't laugh, "Crocodilians" and it just so happens that crocodiles are what scare Lucie more than anything else. The supporting cast are well below par (Barbara Flynn is great and Sheridan Smith puts in a pretty good show as her altered self but the rest are really flat) and the dialogue is never too far from dumb: "Unless it's a bone brain"; "...Lucie, who is in much danger from crocodiles"; "Your prayers balance out the dark of the skull's thoughts". Nerdy and naff. 3/10

2.5 Grand Theft Cosmos by Eddie Robson. Even though the first few seconds has Lucie yet again urinating on the Doctor's child-like enthusiasm, this is nonetheless the high point of the series. A suave little comedy, as enjoyable for the audience as it clearly was for the cast. No weak links there, not even Karen and the Headhunter's re-introduction seem in any way contrived, and the race for the 'diamond' is great fun. The music is effective, especially the repeated piano motif, the script littered with little gems like the default settings on the mind probe. Paul McGann, always capable of finding another gear when the script is any good, is at his very best. A minus mark for Lucie being able to beat up the Headhunter so easily but otherwise first class. 9/10

2.6 The Zygon Who Fell To Earth by Paul Magrs. Drivel. Attempts at humour fall flat again and again (though Malcolm Stoddard and Tim Brooke Taylor do their best with what little they have to work with). And, whaddya know, the only woman in the cast (other than Sheridan Smith) has her throat ripped out by a Zygon, only to survive as a male pretending to be a human female. (Am I missing something here?) The plot is painfully obvious, the dialogue a litany of stating-the-obvious and the love theme frankly embarrassing. Worst of all, the Zygons, one of the finest alien creations of the Tom Baker era, are rendered utterly ridiculous as you listen ("Milk the Skarasen!"). 1/10

2.7 Sisters of the Flame / Vengeance of Morbius by Nicholas Briggs. "Something terrible is happening in the universe. Any knowledge of it could be deadly..." is a bit of a cliche. "The survival of the Time Lords and the whole universe of space and time..." is another. As is an ugly-looking centipede turning out to be a good guy while a nice-sounding human female is actually a baddie. Lucie's lasting effect on said centipede, Rosto, is completely unconvincing and another one for the cliche list. Add a formerly defunct enemy not being dead. (No matter how totally expired a Doctor Who villain appears to be, they're never more than the stroke of a pen away if desperation dictates. The morally ambiguous Sisterhood of Karn also turn up and promptly do very little other than talk.) There are a lot more cliches throughout these two discs - a lot - though, to be fair, I think it's meant to be like that.

The second disc starts with a seven minute long re-exposition of the first disc, with a plot recap of The Brain of Morbius thrown in for good measure. And this is the story's real weakness: apart from at the very end, there's very little in the way of action. (The Doctor and Lucie in the dispersion chamber seems intended as something of a break from the verbiage but manages to be totally devoid of any suspense.) It's all very fact-fact-fact-fact and there's an ocean of technobabble.

On the plus side, Samuel West is brilliant as Morbius (when he finally turns up - for the last 25 minutes) but this is more than compensated for by Kenneth Colley's inexplicably daft performance as Zarodnix (as if someone had told him the way to 'do' a Who villain but hadn't done a very good job) and by the eponymous Sisters, as poorly realised as their inclusion is ultimately pointless. For the first and only time in the NEDAs, Paul McGann slips below the level we have come to expect and who can blame him? This is humourless in the extreme (apart from an unintentionally laughable fanfare) with not one glimmer of wit. Jokes, yes, funny ones, no.

If this is for an older audience, then it adds nothing to the myth of Morbius or to Doctor Who in general. If it's for a younger, TV audience then why should they care about any of it? Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. 2/10

Series Two is an infuriating set of stories, effortlessly careering between brilliance and tedium. What is worrying is that the producers can't seem to tell the difference.