Big Finish Thoughts: The Fourth Doctor Adventures

Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.06)Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite by Nicholas Briggs

While I don’t begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating when the script assumed you’ve listened to not only every release from one particular range, but also every release from the entire range of stories. Or that you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of that range of stories that you can easily call upon in order to understand the current story.

I’m doing well enough to keep my encyclopedia knowledge of televised stories up to date, much less that based on audio and literary adventures.

And so it is that I probably didn’t enjoy Destroy the Infinite as much as others who are more familiar with the range probably did. I came to find out from the extras on the disc that this story is a prequel to a previously released sixth Doctor story, Spaceport Fear. It seems that the alien race known as the Eminence made their first appearance there and that events in this story help set up that one. On the one hand, I’ll give Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish props for using the nature of time travel in a similar way to what the television series has tried to do. But on other hand, when I got to the end of this story, I was expecting it to be touched upon in the next several fourth Doctor stories and it never was.

It all led to my being more frustrated than entertained by this story — and curious to see out Spaceport Fear and see what happens there.

Doctor Who: The Abandoned (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.07)Doctor Who: The Abandoned by Nigel Fairs
After directing an entry in the Companion Chronicles line earlier this year, Louise Jameson tries her hand at writing with The Abandoned.

And while her directing debut was a winner, I’ll have to admit that her script debut is a bit hit or miss. There are some intriguing ideas here, including an exploration of the nature of the TARDIS and some depth to the relationship of the Doctor and Leela that we couldn’t necessarily see in the classic era, but I’m not sure that the story as a whole translates well into the audio arena. Jameson is quite good as Leela and gives herself a lot of stretching to do. But there are moments during The Abandoned that I felt might work better on the TV screen or printed page — whether it be a straight text story or a comic book adaptation.

That puts the fourth Doctor adventures third season at two stories in a row that had some promise but didn’t quite gel together for me. It also makes me begin to doubt very much if the range will deliver on the promise from the early installments of the season that had me eager to hear the next story. I feel like the range has dropped the ball a bit.

Doctor Who: Zygon Hunt (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.08)Doctor Who: Zygon Hunt by Nicholas Briggs

There are certain monsters and villains that lend themselves well to audio and some that don’t. The Zygons probably fall somewhere firmly in the middle since their ability to disguise themselves as various people in the story can be more easily realized in the audio landscape. But then again, the Zygon voices also suffer from the same thing that the Dalek voices do — they can be a bit grating to listen for an extended period of time in an audio release.

And so it is that we come to Zygon Hunt, the final release of the current fourth Doctor adventures and a story that worked far better than I initially thought it could or would. I’ll say that the story suffers a bit in comparison to how superbly the Zygons were used in the fiftieth anniversary story, but overall I can’t help but feel that this current run of fourth Doctor stories has gone out on a solid note, even if it never delivered on the early conflict between the Doctor and Leela that we saw in The Kings of Sontar.

The Doctor and Leela arrive on the planet Garros where they meet up with expedition that is hunting the Zygons for sport. But the question quickly becomes who is hunting who and just how does this play into the Zygons’ plan to conquer the Earth? As I said before there are doppelgangers and questions of loyalty abounding in this story, but once those big reveals are stripped away, I’m afraid the overall story does quite hold together. Part of it that the supporting cast aren’t really all that interesting or memorable so it’s hard to really care much about who is human and who is a Zygon in disguise.

Overall, I feel like the latest fourth Doctor season started out on a high note and that it was all a downhill slide from there. Certainly Zygon Hunt isn’t as disappointing as the last two entries in the range, but I still came away feeling a bit letdown overall by the season.

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Filed under Doctor who, non-book, review

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