For some of STARBURST’s readers, Tom Baker will be the definitive Doctor. For others, it’s Sylvester McCoy or Peter Capaldi. But for a whole generation of fans, David Tennant is the Doctor. 2006 was the year that the revived show spread its wings and showed it could be as much of a cultural phenomenon as anything that came before. And so it’s difficult not to be excited about Big Finish returning to this era, giving us three full-cast audio stories starring Tennant and Billie Piper – the Doctor and Rose are back together!
The box set kicks off with Infamy of the Zaross by John Dorney, and with an added returning guest star – Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler, Rose’s unstoppable mum. Jackie’s visiting a friend in Norwich when the city is invaded by the warthog-faced Zaross, but another alien race are operating from behind the scenes with an even more sinister plan. It’s a medium-key invasion comedy with a sharp edge of satire, in the vein of Russell T Davies episodes like Smith and Jones, though perhaps would work better if the pre-titles scene didn’t give away the big twist.
Next up is Sword of the Chevalier by Guy Adams, in which our time travellers meet the Chevalier d'Éon, a transgender superspy who got exiled from her native France and so lived among the British Regency nobles as an expert fencer. That’s quite the life story, and this fascinating true-life character is as fun as you’d expect when paired with the enthusiasm of Tennant’s Doctor. They join forces to deal with the threat of a three-faced alien slaver, a nicely gothic story albeit with a slightly too convenient ending.
And finally, Matt Fitton’s Cold Vengeance. The Doctor and Rose visit a cold storage facility in space and, as with every time the Doctor goes near large blocks of ice, it turns out there’s Ice Warriors in them. This is the least exciting story of the three, in that it hits ‘base under siege’ and ‘Martian honour’ tropes that we’ve done before, and the Ice Warriors themselves can feel indistinct with Nicholas Briggs voicing every one of them. There are some cool supporting characters in the space pirates and the recycling collector who get drawn into events, though.
So while all three stories have their flaws, there’s a lot to enjoy in each and they work well together as a slice of RTD-esque Who – the crossing of one present-day story with a historical and a future one feels very 2006. What really shines across the set, though, is the performances of Tennant and Piper, who don’t struggle at all to recapture the joie de vivre that defined the first half of their run together; none of the angst and doom of later Series Two here, this is a classic and much-loved TARDIS team, back at their peak.
DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES – VOLUME TWO / WRITERS: JOHN DORNEY, GUY ADAMS, MATT FITTON / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: DAVID TENNANT, BILLIE PIPER, CAMILLE CODURI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW