The 2012 Seventh Doctor main range trilogy from Big Finish was a triumph in writing and production, the latter due to the challenge of Sylvester being off filming The Hobbit in New Zealand. This then was the back-drop to the trilogy of Protect and Survive, Black and White and Gods and Monsters that showed the Seventh Doctor at his manipulative best, gave plenty of space for four companions (as shown in the picture – apologies to Amy Pemberton, the original was cropped on the BF website) and explained the genesis (and destiny) of the Black TARDIS. We even had the white TARDIS turn blue again!
All this including battles with elder gods and the return of a foe from the TV era! Stay close, we’re in for an exciting ride!
NB – there are major spoilers below – please do not read on if you haven’t heard the stories yet.
Protect and Survive by Jonathan Morris: a virtually flawless introduction to the trilogy that has Ace and Hex leave the White TARDIS and end up boarding the black TARDIS complete with its own crew. In the mean time they are caught in an increasingly sinister version of Groundhog Day meets When the Wind Blows (there is even an allusion to a Raymond, reminding us of Raymond Briggs). The core tale of an elderly couple (Peggy and Albert) attempting to ward off the after effects of nuclear war with Ace increasingly desperate for the Doctor to appear. The performances of Sophie and Philip are very good in this story and we (almost) don’t miss the Doctor at all
Black and White by Matt Fitton is the title track for the trilogy and here we get the story of where the black TARDIS came from, how it was crewed and its final destination. As a bonus we also get the white TARDIS turning back to blue. This is coupled with some great dialogue as Ace resents the Doctor having a separate crew in the form of Lysandra Aristedes (Project: Nirvana, Project: Destiny) and Sally Morgan (House of Blue Fire). Ace resenting Sally and Hex getting friendly is very amusing (Sgt. Barbie and Nurse Ken quips galore) and if that wasn’t entertaining enough we get the true story of Beowulf and learn how it became the tale that is studied in schools today. Meanwhile the Seventh Doctor intersperses the story with the rhyme of the black TARDIS (my vague ideas were miles removed from the truth) and it all ends with the four companions on board the TARDIS (now blue) on their way to help the Doctor; unfortunately this isn’t what the Doctor intended!
Gods and Monsters by Mike Maddox and Alan Barnes wrapped up the trilogy and several other episodes. It warrants a review all on its own but suffice it to say that not only does the Doctor get to face off to Fenric again with his four companions, but each of them get something relevant to do, we get the return of Peggy and Albert, an arabian prince, an ancient one and then more threads from past stories woven in than I can count. There are direct links to Angel of Scutari, we release that there is a web of connection running to Hex, Sally and Lysandra (we already know Ace was one of Fenric’s playthings) and the Forge. There are also references to other TV episodes and suggestions that there has been a massive story arc at play with another god (Weyland) being Fenric’s opponent not the Doctor.
What makes Gods and Monsters particularly strong is the way that so much is crammed in yet it doesn’t feel crowded. We have lots of black & white chess motifs, we don’t know which side is ‘good’ and which ‘evil’ and every character undergoes a trauma. To top it all off as we feel the story is reaching a conclusion we get the shocking (SPOILER) death of Hex (thought the after credit sequence has him disembodied playing cards with Fenric and Weyland.
A wonderful trilogy well directed, cast and performed. The plotting was tight and yet felt comfortable and the key players all had traumatic experiences to absorb and move on from. How this gets followed up particularly with Ace I can’t begin to speculate. This just shows you what can be done with care and conviction and the overall effect way far less forced than the TV shows often seem.