If there are two things I feel are overused in current Doctor Who expanded universe material, it’s the Tenth Doctor and the Daleks. So, it’s kind of weird that I’d find myself so excited for Dalek Universe, the newest series of Tenth Doctor audio boxsets from Big Finish Productions. Truth is, I’m interested in it because it reminds me a bit of the (infamously missing) First Doctor story, “The Daleks’ Masterplan.” That story was, partially, an attempt to flesh out the Dalek universe, introducing The Space Security Service, multiple planets/governments, and a universe that’s constantly at war with the Daleks. It’s one of those Doctor Who things that has always begged for further exploration, and it’s bonkers to think that the show has never really returned to it. This is why it was so exciting to see Big Finish leaning into it as hard as they are with Dalek Universe. This first volume of Dalek Universe feels like a prelude for stories to come. It’s an exciting, sweeping space opera that reintroduces elements from Classic Who into the world of New Who. It features fantastic sci-fi ideas, David Tennant’s best Big Finish performance to date, and a captivating throughline that makes me eager to hear the rest of the series. Plus, if you’re like me and a bit tired of the Daleks, then fret not. The Daleks barely appear in this. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: There will be minor spoilers for Dalek Universe 1. Nothing major is spoiled, but read at your own risk.
Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1 (written by John Dorney and Andrew Smith) Time has gone awry. The Doctor is lost, without his TARDIS. But he’s not alone. The Space Security Service agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven haven’t always been on his side in the past, but now they are here to help him. And he’s going to need them – because the oldest foes of all are waiting to strike. Ready to take down their greatest enemy…
The Fourth Doctor is probably the most popular Doctor from the classic era of Doctor Who. Similarly, the Tenth Doctor is probably the most popular of the modern era. So, it only makes sense that Big Finish, who has the license to make audios with all Doctors but the 13th, would finally make an audio drama where these two beloved incarnations meet. The result? Out of Time, the first in a series of audios pairing classic Doctors with the Tenth Doctor. Written by Matt Fitton, Out of Time is a fun romp with two fan-favorite Doctors. Featuring great performances from Tom Baker and David Tennant and a fun and intriguing plot, it’s a great listen for all Doctor Who fans. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.)
Doctor Who: Out of Time 1 (written by Matt Fitton, directed by Nicholas Briggs) The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.
Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only this time he’s already there from several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.
And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors (Tom Baker and David Tennant) must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!
Making an audio adaptation of The Sandman seems like a great idea. There’s a lot of ways to convey fantasy settings using just sound and it feels like the perfect medium for The Sandman. I mean, it’s a series about the power of stories and what better way to experience the story than to close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you, right? And, in all honesty, that’s basically what Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman is – though, I’d argue it skews a bit closer to an audiobook than a true audio drama, but for most people, that’ll be just fine. For me, I enjoyed the adaptation but I wish it embraced the power of audio dramas a bit more than it does and relied less on narration to explain the “missing” visuals. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: Mild spoilers may follow.)
The Sandman (written by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs) When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus—the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination—is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer (Michael Sheen), chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including: Inmates of Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare (Arthur Darvill), and many more.
I haven’t read a single Star Wars novel since 2016’s Bloodlines (which was genuinely one of the best Star Wars stories, in general, and should be read by all Star Wars fans). It’s not that I don’t have any interest in them, although I did find it a little frustrating that so many of them were being published in the eras of the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy instead of during the era I was more interested in reading about – the Sequel Trilogy. It’s just that I didn’t really have the time to read these books that might get invalidated in a few years by another canon overhaul alongside all the other books I wanted to read. So, many Star Wars books fell by the wayside. But when I heard about Dooku: Jedi Lost, I was immediately interested. I love audio dramas and I have really enjoyed Cavan Scott’s work on various Doctor Who titles, so I was definitely intrigued. Unfortunately, having read the script and listened to the audio drama, Dooku: Jedi Lost feels more like a lost opportunity than a truly good audio drama. It’s got a good plot but the story doesn’t work well in this medium. (Spoilers follow!)
Star Wars – Dooku: Jedi Lost (by Cavan Scott)
Darth Tyranus. Count of Serenno. Leader of the Separatists. A red saber, unsheathed in the dark. But who was he before he became the right hand of the Sith? As Dooku courts a new apprentice, the hidden truth of the Sith Lord’s past begins to come to light.
Dooku’s life began as one of privilege—born within the stony walls of his family’s estate, orbited by the Funeral Moon where the bones of his ancestors lie interred. But soon, his Jedi abilities are recognized, and he is taken from his home to be trained in the ways of the Force by the legendary Master Yoda.
As he hones his power, Dooku rises through the ranks, befriending fellow Jedi Sifo-Dyas and taking a Padawan of his own, the promising Qui-Gon Jinn—and tries to forget the life that he once led. But he finds himself drawn by a strange fascination with the Jedi Master Lene Kostana, and the mission she undertakes for the Order: finding and studying ancient relics of the Sith, in preparation for the eventual return of the deadliest enemies the Jedi have ever faced.
Caught between the world of the Jedi, the ancient responsibilities of his lost home, and the alluring power of the relics, Dooku struggles to stay in the light—even as the darkness begins to fall.
I read this play, and the “memoir” it was based on, a few years ago, when the Sean Hayes production was making its way (back) to Broadway. It was a delightfully charming play; short, effective, hilarious. As is often the case when I read a good play, I found myself longing for it to be filmed and released in some manner – just so I could see and hear Sean Hayes reading this engaging dialogue. Imagine my surprise when, three years later, I heard Audible was going to turn it into one of their Audible Originals, bringing Sean Hayes back into the fold and finally recording this fantastic play so those who couldn’t make it to Broadway (or LA, where Hayes had previously done the show) could hear his take on it. And, I gotta say, it’s so nice getting to hear these words read aloud. (This review will cover both the script itself and the Audible adaptation.)
An Act of God (by David Javerbaum)
The One with the first and last word on everything has finally arrived to set the record straight. After many millennia, and in just 90 minutes, God (assisted by his devoted angels) answers some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation.
I enjoy stories about the Doctor’s companions. The Doctor is always great and all, but they frequently pick up some pretty stellar companions, too. And some great friends in general. This year, on International Women’s Day, Big Finish Productions released a box set featuring four stories celebrating the ingenuity and all-around wonderfulness of the Doctor’s friends and companions and, I gotta say, it’s another home-run for the studio. This box set is great, featuring a variety of stories all showing off the power and brilliance of the women of the Doctor Who universe.
Scattered through all of space and time, there are many women whose paths have crossed that of the Doctor.
Some were once fellow TARDIS travellers, some staunch allies defending the Earth, and one was the Doctor’s wife…
From Victorian London, to an intergalactic convention, from the offices of UNIT, to an impossible university library – on the 8th of March, four very different adventures will unfold.
I adore Missy (Michelle Gomez). She is, perhaps, my favorite incarnation of Doctor Who in the history of the entire show. Literally, every episode of the Peter Capaldi era that featured her was immediately made better by her being in it. Gomez brings this wonderful energy to the role, balancing genuine pathos with the Master’s typical crazy, evil behavior. So, when Big Finish Productions announced they were giving Missy her own series, I was absolutely excited for it. Four stories with Missy as the main character? Sign me up! These stories – A Spoonful of Mayhem by Roy Gill, Divorced, Beheaded, Regenerated by John Dorney, The Broken Clock by Nev Fountain, and The Belly of the Beast by Jonathan Morris – make up this utterly superb first series of audio adventures for Missy. Each episode has a completely different tone and method of exploring Missy as a character – and I adore each of them.
Missy… alone, unleashed and unfettered. What does she get up to when the Doctor isn’t around? Well, Missy has a plan. And to carry it out, she’s going to have to break some rules. And people. And planets. Look out universe, Missy is on a mission. And nobody is going to stop her…
Over the years, River Song (Alex Kingston) has had adventures with every (living) Doctor from the classic run of Doctor Who and those adventures have been a whole lot of fun. With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until she started meeting some of the Doctor’s biggest enemies. And now, she meets, perhaps, the Doctor’s greatest enemy. And several incarnations of them, to boot. Namely, Missy (Michelle Gomez), the Burnt Master (Geoffrey Beevers), the War Master (Derek Jacobi), and the Master from the TV movie (Eric Roberts). With this lineup of actors and characters, you’d expect quite the exciting set of adventures and I’m happy to report that this box set is every bit as good as you’d hope it would be.
The Doctor isn’t the only Time Lord River runs into on her travels up and down the timeline. The Master, in all of his – or her – guises, also has a chequered history with Professor Song. And whenever they meet, it’s a close call as to who comes out on top… It’s something River must get used to: there are three people in her marriage – at the very least!
H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has always been a better premise than it has been a story. The premise is just so interesting and malleable that it can be adapted and readapted into any number of different permutations. It’s this ability, more than the content of the actual story, that has allowed the novel to stand the test of time. Most of the well-known adaptations of the novel bear strikingly little in common with it – Orson Welles’ radio drama moves the action to America in the 1930s, and the two major film versions do the same thing, just in different time periods. One of the most well-known adaptations – that also skews pretty closely to the content of the original novel – was Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of the story. First released as a concept album in the 1970s, his adaptation has seen massive popularity in multiple worldwide tours. On the fortieth anniversary of the original release of that adaptation, Audible has released a new adaptation of Jeff Wayne’s musical – an audio drama featuring music from the musical and a new script. Is it as good as the musical? Well, I’m not sure I’d quite go that far, but it is pretty darn enjoyable.
When H. G. Wells first published The War of The Worlds in 1898, the novel quickly became a sci-fi classic. The story of extraterrestrials from Mars invading Earth captured the public’s imagination, inspiring a famed 1938 radio broadcast with Orson Welles, several feature films, countless video games, and a best-selling musical concept album by Jeff Wayne in 1978, among others.
Immersing listeners in a world that is as thrilling as it is desolate, Jeff Wayne’s eerie and pulsating score brings the suspense, drama, and urgency of Wells’s original novel to a fever pitch in this Audible Original Drama. Michael Sheen headlines an ensemble cast of talented performers that also includes Taron Egerton, Adrian Edmondson, Theo James, and Anna-Marie Wayne.’
The War Master: The Master of Callous is one of my least favorite box sets from Big Finish Productions. It’s a shame, too, as I really love Derek Jacobi as the Master and I enjoy stories that focus on the Master doing dastardly things. I enjoyed the first War Master box set, Only the Good, quite a bit, mostly because it felt like the writers had something to say about the War Master and had something for him to do. That box set went a long way towards tying the Master from the classic series (and Eighth Doctor audios) and the Master from the revived TV series together. This box set, on the other hand, features none of that interesting writing. Here, it doesn’t feel like the writers had anything new to say about the character, nor did it feel as though the character actually had anything to do. In fact, he’s barely in two of the four stories! Needless to say, I’m not a fan of this box set. (NOTE: There will be spoilers ahead.)
(Written by James Goss and Guy Adams)
On the mining colony Callous, Elliot King struggles to meet the demands of its governor, Teremon. The odds are stacked against him, and his options are running low. The world that once promised dreams now offers only despair. A wild Ood stalks the forests, carrying an antiquated phone. The caller promises much – he claims he can change the world – but he always speaks a devastating truth. He is the Master and the Ood will obey him… but to what end?