TV & Radio
REVIEW: CD review: Doctor Who - Destiny of the Doctor
(Big Finish Productions $10 each on CD or $6 each on download)
Matt Smith bowed out of Doctor Who on Boxing Day, but there are other ways to appreciate his Doctor apart from re-watching old episodes.
Smith's 11th or 13th Doctor, depending on how you count, is present in every one of the Destiny of the Doctor audio books released by Big Finish Productions in celebration of Doctor Who's 50th anniversary year.
It's a clever series comprising 11 stories. Each story revolves around one of the 11 Doctors who have appeared in the television show, so the Day of the Doctor's new 9th Doctor played by John Hurt doesn't get a look in. That's because this series was developed independently of the 50th anniversary show itself written and filmed in top secret conditions.
Destiny of the Doctor is a celebration, then, of Doctor Who down through the ages. And Matt Smith's Doctor appears in each story, manipulating past versions of himself as if he were a kind of Time Lord puppet master pulling all the strings.
These are not audio plays, featuring full casts, but more like a straight book reading. That said two or three voices are heard in each hour or so long story and there's a bit of incidental music too.
Hunters of Earth, which kicks the series off, is a first Doctor story read by Carole Ann Ford. Ford played first Doctor William Hartnell's granddaughter Susan Foreman and this story is set just before the first ever episode An Unearthly Child in 1963. Back then television was black and white, the Cold War was at its height, and the hunt is on for aliens.
Frazer Hines, who played second Doctor Patrick Troughton's Scottish companion Jamie McCrimmon reads Shadow of Death. It's a classic claustrophobic story, much like many of Troughton's, set in a remote base orbiting a peculiar pulsar which warps time. It quickly becomes a base under siege from a monster and the Doctor must save the inhabitants.
The third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, was marooned on Earth by the Time Lords for interfering too much in the affairs of others. Vengeance of the Stones, read by Richard Franklin who played UNIT Captain Mike Yates, sees the Doctor investigate the disappearance of an RAF fighter jet over North East Scotland.
Lalla Ward, who played 4th Doctor Tom Baker's Time Lady companion Romana and was married to Baker during the show, reads Babblesphere. Imagine what The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy's late author Douglas Adams would have made of social networks like Facebook and Twitter and you've got a good idea of what Babblesphere is about. Adams, of course, was script editor on Doctor Who when the floppy hatted scarf toting actor was in the role and filled the show with social commentary.
FIfth Doctor Peter Davison's sassy Aussie assistant Tegan Jovanka was played by Janet Fielding who reads Smoke and Mirrors, a fairground story featuring the Doctor's old friend Harry Houdini.
Nicola Bryant, who played sixth Doctor Colin Baker's American assistant Peri Brown, reads Trouble in Paradise. It's a clever tale set aboard Columbus's Sante Maria before it makes landfall in America in 1492.
Who else but Sophie Aldred, who played seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy's companion Ace, could read Shockwave. They head to Tarsus Six on a covert mission which must be completed before the sun, Tarsus Ultra, collapses.
Eight Doctor Paul McGann lives mainly in Big Finish audios and India Fisher, who plays Charlotte 'Charley' Pollard in the, reads Enemy Aliens. It's set in the West End of London in 1935 and suits McGann's Doctor down to the ground.
Ninth, or tenth, Doctor Christopher Eccleston refused to come back for the 50th anniversary but here's one more story featuring him and Rose Tyler. It's called Night of the Whisper and set in 23rd century New Vegas where organised crime is rife. Read by Big Finish's very own Nicholas Briggs.
David Tennants beloved tenth, or 11th and 12th, Doctor returns for Death's Deal. Read by the fabulous Catherine Tate, this story evokes its era probably more than any of the others. Perhaps it's because it's because Tennant's tenure is so recent. Death's Deal is the Deadliest Planet in the Galaxy, and only the brave, foolhardy or greedy would ever dare to visit.
It all comes together in the 11th Doctor, or is that 12th and 13th, story The Time Machine. Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara, reads a story set on November 23, 2013, in an Oxford laboratory. Coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the show.
Each story stands alone, but becomes more compelling when listened to as part of the series and in order.