After last month’s Fifth Doctor double bill, Big Finish’s main range of Doctor Who audios brings us another pair of hour-long stories, this time featuring Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor alongside his companion Flip, with Lisa Greenwood returning to the role she recurred in from 2011 to 2014.
The first of these two stories, Vortex Ice by Jonathan Morris, starts out with the two travellers arriving in a mine underneath Mexico, tracking a signal from alien particles. They team up with the miners and find a cyborg creature trapped in a strange crystal. So far, so classic Who. But then there’s a very time-twisting, well, twist, which adds a whole new level of originality to the story.
It does get quite complex and may require a second listen to follow everything that happens, but Morris’ tight plotting certainly rewards the dedicated listeners who do so. We also hope it’s not giving too much away to say that you get to hear Colin Baker arguing with himself, which is as delightful as you might imagine.
And then there’s Cortex Fire by Ian Potter, which has almost the opposite setting – we’re no longer deep underground but in an alien city full of towers and flying cars that reach high into the sky. The Doctor’s taken Flip to Festin to see an astronomical light show, but all is not well here – people have been losing the will to live and then spontaneously combusting, causing chaos across the city.
It’s another strong story and one with an appropriately human edge to it, as we get to know some of the characters who inhabit this city. And, like Vortex Ice, it uses some well-known Who tropes as a springboard for original ideas and surprising twists.
This double-bill format is working well for Big Finish, then, allowing for short and snappy tales that are high on character and concept while low on padding. Next up is a similarly formatted release featuring the Seventh Doctor; if the quality is kept up, we’ll be hoping for more of this from Big Finish.
DOCTOR WHO – VORTEX ICE / CORTEX FIRE / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MORRIS, IAN POTTER / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: COLIN BAKER, LISA GREENWOOD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW