Takeover Ad
Takeover Ad
14 September 2020

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Steve Lyons, Jacqueline Rayner, Tommy Donbavand & Kate Thorman

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2020

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"Separated from his companions, the Doctor attempts to find solace in the history of his favourite planet – Earth – but instead discovers new threats lying in wait.

Travelling from twentieth-century East Berlin to sixteenth-century Strasbourg, the Doctor encounters creatures from other realities: monsters beneath the waves, and human beings determined to exploit their fellow man.

But how long can he survive without a friend?"

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

It’s that time of the year again: Big Finish’s “4x4 release”. Paradoxically, this annual affair arguably shows off the varying beast that is Big Finish best of all. On the one hand, it shows how quick they are to fall back and repeat themselves at the first whiff of success. Circular Time was released to critical acclaim in 2007 and so Big Finish have repeated the trick every year since rather than try anything new. On the other hand, by and large these releases have proven themselves to be some of the best they do all year, and 1001 Nights for the Fifth Doctor was especially strong. I guess sometimes you swing and hit.

Back last year (November 2019 to be precise) I reviewed Conversion, a two-part story for the Fifth Doctor which ended with him leaving his companions for a bit to mull over traumatic events. I commented then that it doesn’t really fit in with TV continuity at all, and while that’s not something that is necessarily an issue (after all, the Fourth Doctor in Big Finish isn’t a thing like the Fourth Doctor on TV, and most of the actors don’t sound like they used to, including David Tennant), it is something that jarred.

Skip forward to 2020 and we follow up the ending to that story. Sort of. We get four stories here with the Fifth Doctor on his own, but quite why he’s riding solo is never addressed. I feel this is probably the best way forward as it makes this release far more of a standalone affair, a welcome thing in the muddy waters of Big Finish internal continuity.

We kick things off with Ghost Station by Steve Lyons. Set in Berlin, it sees the Doctor encounter a lone soldier and try to solve a murder mystery. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll know the ending a few minutes in but it’s well acted and directed with some nice sound design to tie it all together.  Just don’t expect any surprises along the way.

The Bridge Master by Jacqueline Rayner is next, and it’s a lot of fun with a great central premise: the Doctor has his shadow sacrificed to appease evil, but it turns out that perhaps there is more to this than simple ritual and superstition when the Doctor finds himself falling ill after the operation. Rayner writes her supporting cast with a lot of character depth and the sound design again works well. This is all rather lovely. (Oh, and for all I’ve said Conversion last year doesn’t fit in with TV continuity, the references to The Great British Bake-Off here are at once more of a continuity breaker but also far less of an issue as they’re fun lines and not ones which give us incompatible character traits and stories.)

Third up is What Lurks Down Under by Tommy Donbavand, to whom this release is dedicated in a genuinely touching gesture. His story is a strange one: a celebrity historical in which you are never told much about the celebrity or why they’re important. If you don’t know who Mary Wade is, or why she is so important in Australia's history, you’re not going to come away any wiser and instead you’ll be wondering why the story is a companion introductory tale without the new companion staying at the end. Indeed, you’d be very easily forgiven for not knowing she was a real person in the first place (and seeing as Mary Shelley has travelled with the Eighth Doctor, there isn’t really any great reason that Wade couldn’t, too). It’s definitely a different approach and Wade comes across well, but it feels a little empty and lacking finality because of the lack of historical context we are given. Still, if it encourages people to research her story, that’s surely a good thing, and the inclusion of a play by Donbavand is really nice. The interviews included state how he always wanted to write a story for Big Finish, but sadly died before it was made and released. It’s a touching and glowing testimony to the company that we have it here.

We wrap things up with The Dancing Plague by Kate Thorman, which proves to be every bit as good as Rayner’s play: they’re by far the highlights of this release. Set in the midst of the infamous Dancing Plague, a strange historical occurrence where people started dancing for no readily apparent reason and then just… stopped, the Doctor is on hand to try and solve the puzzle, aided by the rather brilliant Margareta. Everything here just works: great choice of historical location, brilliant dialogue, fantastic cast acting their socks off, and a satisfying ending.

And so we come to an end. Some things muddled, some things you’ve heard many times before, and some things utterly brilliant: how very Big Finish overall. With the monthly plays soon changing format entirely, this may be the last time this particular structure has an outing for a while. All told, this is a strong release and a fine farewell to it.


+ Time Apart is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search