When we first heard that Big Finish finally had the rights to use characters from the modern series of Doctor Who, one of the first things fans were excited for was the chance to have classic Doctors go up against 21st century monsters. As you can probably guess from the title, this new boxset grants that wish. Thankfully, it does so with aplomb.
Phil Mulryne’s Fallen Angels kicks things off in style. Wisely, the Weeping Angels are kept to the background in favour of a modern-style ‘celebrity historical’ episode. It’s difficult to adapt such a silent monster to audio but a tense, Murray Gold-esque score from Howard Carter successfully takes the place of the show’s visual scares. There’s a great supporting cast, too – with Diane Morgan as one-off companion Gabby and Matthew Kelly as Michelangelo. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the Fifth Doctor, the host of Stars in their Eyes and Philomena Cunk face off against the Weeping Angels, this is the audio drama for you.
Judoon in Chains by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris keeps up the quality with its intriguing premise. It sees the Sixth Doctor befriending a rogue Judoon who has somehow expanded his mind beyond usual Judoon-ery. It’s an effective Flowers of Algernon type story with a great vocal performance from Nicholas Briggs as the unusually sensitive Doctor Who monster, Captain Kybo. It’s also often hilarious – the bizarre image of a Judoon doing yoga can’t help but elicit a giggle.
Unfortunately, the Sycorax’s status as a good old-fashioned invading alien menace means there isn’t too much reinventing of the wheel in Harvest of the Sycorax by James Goss, which pits the Seventh Doctor opposite the skeletal scoundrels. Instead, the most interesting element of the story is the future human race’s dependence on drugs to mask their emotions – very reminiscent of David Tennant episode Gridlock it may be, but it’s still an interesting theme to explore. That said, the overall familiarity of this one does make it probably the weakest of the boxset.
Things return to form for The Sontaran Ordeal, which casts modern TV Sontarans Dan Starkey and Christopher Ryan opposite a late-in-his-life Eighth Doctor. The drama makes use of an interesting contrast between the Sontarans desperately wanting to join the Time War, while the Doctor wants to run from it. This isn’t a Time War story, however, and is mostly about the underused honourable side of the Sontarans and how they do possess shades of grey. It’s good enough to make you forget that this one is a bit of a cheat – the Sontarans are a classic series creation, after all.
Overall, these four great listens form one of the very best boxsets Big Finish has released this year and a real must-buy for fans. This is exactly what the audio company is for – expanding something seen on the TV screen in interesting, inventive ways. Hopefully it will get a follow-up. Who wants to see the Fourth Doctor face the Ood next time?
DOCTOR WHO: CLASSIC DOCTORS, NEW MONSTERS VOLUME 1 / DIRECTOR: BARNABY EDWARDS / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / STARRING: COLIN BAKER, PETER DAVISON, SYLVESTER MCCOY, PAUL MCGANN / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW