Big Finish
The New Eighth Doctor Adventures
Series Three

Released 2009

Starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith

Synopsis: The Doctor has fallen to his death. His companion, Lucie Miller, has returned to her life on Earth, grief-stricken. Then, one night, an alien visitor arrives at her front door and shoots her.


Two Peaches, Four Lemons and Some Spiders by Stephen Maslin 13/2/12

The problem with writing a review of things you've already seen or heard, even a succession of cursory reviews like this, is that one has to return to things you know you'd rather not. There are, alas, only really a couple of Series Three stories that bear repeated listening. Some of the rest... Oh dear.

3.1 Orbis by Alan Barnes & Nicholas Briggs.
The pre-credits are bit of a downer, Lucie still being alive (only joking), but then we're in a lovely new environment for Paul McGann to work his magic in, with what seems to have Alan Barnes' golden fingerprints all over it. The Doctor having been stranded on an alien world for six hundred years is a nice idea and his relationship with the denizens of Orbis is rather special but all too soon it degenerates into farce when the Molluscari turn up (an uncomfortable mix of brutality and idiocy), with Andrew Sachs as Crassostrea out-hamming everyone in sight. The death of charming pseudo-companion Selta (along with the entire planet) comes as no surprise whatsoever and leaves one with an all-too-familiar bad taste in the mouth. An emotionally charged final scene, motives fighting against motives, comes too late to salvage a rather patchy story. 4/10

3.2 Hothouse by Jonathan Morris.
Hothouse labours under the shadow of a far superior TV story. In fact, it's pretty well a re-run of The Seeds of Doom, with some green politics thrown in. (Having a woman taken over by the Krynoid this time changes nothing. Another woman, Ondrak, is killed for plant food by what sounds like a chainsaw! In Doctor Who?!) For all its attempts at environmental relevance, Hothouse (like Wirrn Dawn later on) shows that previously successful aliens do not automatically make for a successful revival (and the resolution is decidedly unoriginal, owing more than a little to Fury From The Deep). Hothouse is worthy, relevant, thought-provoking and no fun at all. 3/10

3.3 The Beast of Orlok by Barnaby Edwards.
This is more like it. An outstanding story with some of Big Finish's best dialogue in years (the Doctor's working out the date is marvellous), coupled with an atmospheric setting and sound design. It feels like a two-hour idea forced into a one hour straight-jacket, but is a joy from start to finish. The end of part one is a perfect example of how 'scary' and 'entertaining' don't have to be mutually exclusive: the mix of a superb villain (Peter Guinness) with a superb lead (Paul McGann); of exceptional sound design with exceptional music (both Andy Hardwick); of great dialogue with great direction (both Barnaby Edwards) is absolutely stunning. And Part Two is no letdown, managing a coherent tying up of ends without putting a break on the entertainment. Brilliant, scary fun. Isn't that what Doctor Who is really all about? 10/10

3.4 Wirrn Dawn by Nicholas Briggs.
And things come crashing right back down again. It's no surprise (need I point it out) that the only woman in the spaceship crew is the one to be taken over by the Wirrn so that we have to put up with what sounds like a porn movie through an effects pedal as she undergoes transformation. The denouement - the Wirrn not really evil, just doing what they have to do to surivive - is as unsurprising as it is dull. Throughout, the sound design is grating and unpleasant and it's safe to say that, apart from Daniel Anthony as Delong, this has not one single redeeming feature. 1/10

3.5 Scapegoat by Pat Mills.
Mr Mills does it again! Even weirder than Dead London and just as good. Aiming for the Moulin Rouge in 1899, the Doctor and Lucie end up in Nazi-occupied Paris. The result is macabre, though not unnecessarily so, and with a quite unique premise, the author playing game after game with us (the TARDIS as a merry-go-round, the gradual inclusion of unexplained bleating, etc.). Scapegoat is extremely well-written: the build up to the horrific reality of the play within the play, intercut with the Doctor playing cat and mouse with his pursuers; a darkly comic interrogation when the Nazis finally catch up with him; the actual plight of the eternal victim... What the author does so well is that where exposition is needed, it is framed in a dramatic situation so that the pace never lets up. (For example, the only lengthy bit of spoken plot is given by the Doctor to the audience in the theatre.) No surprise that Samantha Bond is superb as Mother Baroque but so are Clifford Rose and Christopher Fairbank and, as an added bonus, this turns out to be one of Lucie's best stories. Parted from the Doctor for much of the play, she has room to develop and really does. Splendid stuff. 9/10

3.6 The Cannibalists by Jonathan Morris.
Another depressingly poor story. Whoever thought to cast Phil Jupitus as the friendly robot Servo really wasn't on top of their game; he is dreadfully out of place. (Are we really back to the JNT random celebrity casting couch after all this time?) The robots in general are all pretty poor and Minerva is a deus-ex-machina copout. But the biggest flaw is the ear-shredding unpleasantness of the sound of it all. (Bang, crash, shout, bang, shout, crash! Enough! Enough already!) More than once, I had to rip off my headphones for the sake of my hearing - and for something that's meant to be funny, The Cannibalists really isn't. Nor is the salutary ending anything that we haven't had hundreds of times before. Jonathan Morris has given us some really special Doctor Who novels and audios over the years but neither of his contributions to the NEDAs Series Three do him any justice at all. 1/10

3.7 The Eight Truths/Worldwide Web by Eddie Robson. One has come to expect efficient, professional scripts from Mr Robson and this two-parter (or is that four-parter?) does a much better job than, say, Hothouse, in dealing with contemporary themes. (Religious cults in this one, particularly Scientology by the sound of it.) The whole plot builds wonderfully, if a little slowly, and suitably for an end of season finale, it feels epic in scale. Not always the case in the NEDAs III, the guest cast (Sophie Winkleman, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Stephen Moore) are spot-on too. Yet there is one continuing problem of new Who confronting old Who: the off-the-peg nature of old adversaries. That they are there at all brings a dangerous cocktail of baggage and expectation, but how they are portrayed causes difficulties: to anyone who had seen Planet of the Spiders, the Eight Legs sound very authentic, but to anyone who hadn't, they must seem utterly ludicrous; and for those not fortunate to have caught them first time round, there is a lot of explaining to be done. Still, better than average, (though there's a rotten piece of Murray Gold-style 'heroic' music at the end to finish things off on a very cheesy note.) 7/10


One realises that a small company has to make money as best it can and I am still often delighted by some of what Big Finish produce, but the NEDAs as a whole are another example of a pool of talent stretched to breaking point. The same writers crop up again and again to lesser and lesser effect. (I hadn't thought it possible for, say, Jonathan Morris to produce a single poor story, let alone two.)

As usual, my own quality gauge is whether or not I decide to keep what I have purchased. Each series of the NEDAs had the same outcome: kept four, discarded four. Maybe that's a good ratio, considering all that the makers of these stories have to contend with. Or maybe it isn't.