March 2011 saw the end of the Big Finish Eighth Doctor Adventures with the concluding part of Series 4 – To the Death. This series has been completely brilliant and I thought I would mark it with my own spoiler filled sycophantic appreciation sprinkled with a couple of minor gripes. Suffice it to say that overall this has been a joy to listen to, and we now wonder what the future holds when the Eighth Doctor returns to the main range, and will any future spin-off be as good (thought with Tom Baker looming for 2012 the anticipation is rising!)?
The Story Arc
For me this series breaks into four stages that overall give one wonderful story arc that doesn’t even become apparent until part-way through. For the sake of labels I have called the stages:
- Bye bye Lucie
- Hello Tamsin
- The End.
What follows is my lightning tour round the episodes.
Bye bye Lucie
Until this run the format for the Eighth Doctor Adventures was one episode per month for eight months then a gap; this time the sequence would be ten episodes, and we had a short gap from the end of the third series, one episode for Christmas, then a long gap until the remaining nine stories. We therefore turn our attention to…
Death in Blackpool: from the outset this was intriguing, an isolated story to be released and set at Christmas and with such a grim title which should have given plenty to be concerned about, given that Blackpool is Lucie’s home town. Even the livery of the CD is in the purples of the previous series adding to the sense that this is almost the last episode of Series 3. The tale unfolds with death, Aunty Pat (ending a trilogy of Horror of Glam Rock and The Zygon who Fell to Earth, and finally Lucie leaving the Doctor with a sense of betrayal and frustration. Cue the long wait for Series 4 to start in earnest.
Situation Vacant: as reviewed in depth here the next stage of Series 4 kicked off with an action and fun packed episode wherein a new assistant was chosen, this being Tamsin Drew who duly set off in the TARDIS in search of horizons new. Several other possible companions were left by the wayside – who knows if we shall see them again?
At this stage Tamsin seemed set for the duration; how wrong we were!
Nevermore: and so to the first Tamsin Drew story, set on a planet scale prison and for my tastes over saturated with Edgar Allen Poe to the extent that I didn’t feel Tamsin received any real opportunity to come to life as a character.
We also had a mysterious cat interlude that (writing this whilst waiting for the penultimate episode Lucie Miller) I now realise I had forgotten about.
The Book of Kells: in this tale of monks and scared books we reach about half way through and realise that Tamsin is beginning to develop a distinct persona, and are also spoilt by the return of the Meddling Monk wonderfully portrayed by Graeme Garden.
Little do we know what is about to happen…
So there we are, just winding down from the Book of Kells when we realise that all along the Monk’s companion has been none other than Lucie Miller! Cue collective intake of breath!
Deimos: part one of two concerning Ice Warriors and all things Martian, great overlaps with other Big Finish stories (Red Dawn and Isskar) and a wonderful performance from Tracey Ann Oberman. This tale of sleeping Warriors and escaping humans then dives straight into a cliff hanger concerning, yes you guessed it, Lucie Miller.
It’s almost as if she never left!
Resurrection of Mars: we are now treated to a full on Doctor vs. Warriors in the style of Seeds of Death and also the departure of Tamsin and the (but for how long) return of Lucie to the TARDIS. Does life get any better?
Well a lot of people did get killed, and we also get a new slant on the Doctor’s interference in destiny but overall another strong tale!
Relative Dimensions: a great Christmas story which manages to follow on from Resurrection of Mars, and Death in Blackpool and also Earthly Child (which technically could be part of this season set between Death and Situation). A wonderful (and dangerous) Christmas in the TARDIS, with great music, Lucie, Susan and Alex.
What’s more Lucie leaves again to wonder off with Alex and the Doctor is once more on his own.
Prisoner of the Sun: Rather interrupting the flow, or more likely giving we listeners a chance to take stock is yet another excellent tale which finds the Doctor sitting in the middle of an erratic star with a sequence of guards and would be rescuers dancing around inside a prison along with some rather unsettling Lucie Miller androids. It looks odd written down but was great fun. The story then ends with a desperate message from Lucie…
Lucie Miller: So with all the pieces moving towards the end game, we have a tremendous re-staging of the Daleks Invasion of Earth managing to fold in Lucie, Alex, Susan, Daleks, big holes in the ground, plague, the Monk and Tamsin! The Doctor even makes an appearance himself! Meanwhile Lucie has taken centre stage as we come to terms with the impact of plague on her body and the terrible events befalling the human race. As a piece of drama this starts black and gets darker, and is predominantly a poignant first person narrative from Ms Miller. Breath is held as we await… (most spoilers yet to come)
To the Death: or indeed Deaths. Here we have no happy ending; first Tamsin dies and re realise that in some way the Monk and Tamsin have formed a kind of broken mirror image of the Doctor and Lucie. Once this happens we know more is to come but are still shocked at the passing of Alex and then, via a link back to Patient Zero we have the death of Lucie Miller and the series ends (and indeed the whole Eighth Doctor Adventures ends) with the Doctor in the TARDIS listening to a recording of Lucie and Susan left behind on Earth mourning the loss of her soon. Well made and no magic wand to unwind it all (take heed TV series!).
A strong series almost all the way through, and more coherent by far then had been anticipated. The parallel sequence of Eighth Doctor Adventures now draws to a close and we reflect on a set of well paced (and mostly single episode) tales that have taken us to Mars, encountered the Cybermen, we had the Headhunter, Max Warp and a whole host of well made tales that also made their way onto BBC Radio 7. The seasons were topped and tailed by the Daleks, the Meddling Monk returned and we briefly got to know Tamsin Drew. In the end though these tales of space and time belong to the one and only Lucie Miller!