In recent years, Big Finish have been expanding their Doctor Who output to include elements from the new series as well as the old, including the Torchwood series as well as spin-offs featuring River Song and Kate Stewart’s UNIT team. The highlight for many, however, was last year’s The Tenth Doctor Adventures, a full New Who-esque box set featuring the return of David Tennant’s Doctor. Those who prefer the northern tones of the Ninth, however, have been left waiting – until now.
Well, not exactly. Christopher Eccleston is still refusing to return to his role, and Billie Piper is also conspicuously absent as Rose Tyler. Big Finish have pushed ahead anyway and produced four Ninth Doctor stories in the style of their Companion Chronicles range, with two characters voiced by their original actors – Camille Coduri and Bruno Langley return as Jackie Tyler and Adam Mitchell – while the bulk of the stories are narrated by Nicholas Briggs. Briggs is a talented raconteur, for sure, but his impressions of Eccleston and Piper are far from a match for the real thing; in fact, his Ninth Doctor sounds frustratingly dopey.
As to the actual stories... the set starts strongly with “The Bleeding Heart” by Cavan Scott, which sees the Doctor travelling alone and teaming up with a reporter to investigate strange events at peace talks between two alien races. It’s a sad story that touches on the scars left on the Doctor by the Time War; Scott handles his theme of depression sensitively and commendably.
Next is Una McCormack’s “The Window on the Moor”, in which the Doctor and Rose visit a fairytale-esque world embroiled in a power struggle. There’s also a portal to the Yorkshire Moors, where they meet Emily Brontë. It makes sense in context. Sort of. It’s the weakest story, with the fairytale elements being gratingly twee and the historical figure underused.
“The Other Side”, by Scott Handcock, is set immediately after the TV episode “Dalek” and sees the Doctor try to return Adam Mitchell home, only for the three travellers to end up in a cinema ravaged by time distortion. The plot’s overly reminiscent of various stories we’ve seen before, including one Ninth Doctor TV episode, but does allow for a development of the awkward relationship between Rose and Adam.
Finally, James Goss’ “Retail Therapy” is the best of the bunch. Jackie Tyler has become a success selling Glubby Glubs – not just a fad, these strange objects help people sleep well and feel healthy. Of course, the Doctor has questions. Though ostensibly a comedic story, this takes a turn for the emotional when Jackie opens up to the Doctor about why she gets annoyed by him.
These four stories all fit neatly into the Ninth Doctor’s one TV series, and three of them even feel like they add something substantial to its story arc. Nevertheless, the absence of the series’ two stars is undeniably felt, and the not-quite-there Eccleston impression doesn’t help.
DOCTOR WHO – THE NINTH DOCTOR CHRONICLES / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / DIRECTOR: HELEN GOLDWYN / STARRING: NICHOLAS BRIGGS, CAMILLE CODURI, BRUNO LANGLEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW