Big Finish Reviews: “The Light at the End,” “The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs”

Doctor Who: The Light at the End (Standard Edition)Doctor Who: The Light at the End by Nicholas Briggs

While I loved just about every last moment of “The Day of the Doctor” (including getting a bit lump in my throat at a certain surprise scene), part of the classic Whovian in me was still a bit disappointed that we didn’t an appearance by all the remaining living Doctors. I realize that time has passed and that seeing the Doctors older might interfere with our memories of them (since they’re all ageless on the DVD releases), but I still think it would have been fun to see the Doctor run into some of his previous selves from the classic series run.

Leave it to Big Finish to fill in the gap with a year of connected audio stories, a series of adventures from the audio Doctors centered around the year 1963 and the jewel in the crown, “The Light at the End,” featuring all the remaining classic series Doctors and their companions in a huge, sprawling, convoluted and utterly enjoyable adventures that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary in style. The story even manages to find passable imitators of those Doctors no longer with us so we really can have a sprawling story featuring each of the first eight Doctors in a rousing adventures.

Interestingly, the story centers around November 1963 and several adventures by various Doctors all converging together. The script has just enough continuity nods and Easter eggs to the classic era, all while managing to tell a solid little tale. Of course, a lot of my enjoyment of this story could be the nostalgia factor alone and the realization that this is as close as we’ll get to the Doctors getting back together for one last reunion before we push on to the sixtieth anniversary.

Doctor Who: John Nathan-Turner, MemoirsDoctor Who: John Nathan-Turner, Memoirs by John Nathan-Turner

Every time I delve into the extra features on an 80’s era Doctor Who DVD release, I’m a bit saddened that John Nathan Turner passed away before he could fully participate in a couple of extras from his tenure as producer. I’d be fascinated to see what his thoughts on his (at times) controversial tenure were like as well as have some insights from his role as producer for the show during the turbulent era when the ratings declined and the show was cancelled, brought back and then put on hiatus that final time, leading to the wilderness year.

It would be interesting to hear Nathan-Turner get a chance to defend himself or at least respond to various criticisms laid at his feet in various commentaries and extras from that era.

The closest we’ll get is this two disc set of Nathan Turner reading his own memoirs that were originally published in Doctor Who Magazine. Listening to it, I’m struck by how much of a gentleman Nathan Turner was and his insights into certain creative decisions made during his long run as the show’s producer. Also of interest are his take on certain segments of the fandom who were extremely vocal about the perceived shortcomings of 80’s Who.

Nathan Turner proves to be far more a gentleman in discussing a certain script editor and his departure from the show than the script editor has been in certain interviews during that time. It’s interesting to see him take the high road and relate what happened from his perspective without necessarily taking others to task or getting into a game of “He said, he said” about the whole thing. We may never fully know what went on behind the scenes, but at least we get to hear JN-T’s side of things.

What comes across in the memoirs is first that JN-T loved Doctor Who and second that he grew weary of his growing niche at the BBC being the producer of the show for so long. The second disc seems to be a lot of JN-T’s attempts to step aside as producer and bring in some new vision to the show, only to have it implied that without him, the show won’t go on. And while there were clunkers from that era, it’s hard to imagine the show stopping before getting to some of my favorites like “The Caves of Androzani” or “The Curse of Fenric.” Even JN-T’s thoughts on averting “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” from cancellation make like him a bit more, if only because I consider that story an underrated classic.

For good or bad, JN-T was a big influence on Doctor Who and this audio memoir is a solid one. It probably won’t change the mind of those who are determined to dislike his era, but it certainly will give the rest of us an intriguing look inside the production of a tumultuous era in the show’s history.

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