If you were lucky enough to be a fan of Big Finish from its earliest days July 1999 was a landmark with the release of the first Doctor Who story Sirens of Time.
Fifteen years later how does it stand up?
First the synopsis:
Gallifrey is in a state of crisis, facing destruction at the hands of an overwhelming enemy. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations – each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space. The web of time is threatened – and someone wants the Doctor dead.
The three incarnations of the Doctor must join together to set time back on the right track – but in doing so, will they unleash a still greater threat?
The story starts with the CIA and the arrival on Gallifrey of Vansell in a state of panic desperate to destroy the Doctor before Gallifrey is overrun by an implacable foe.
The first part (The Knight of Velyshaa) centres on the Seventh Doctor as he is pulled towards a planet where he rescues Elenya. Together they find Sancroff (Colin McIntyre) being held prisoner by Ruthley (Maggie Stables) and served by robots called Drudgers. Sancroff is attacked by assassins who have come to kill war-criminal Sancroff. The Doctor is just collateral damage and so he seeks to defeat the assassins and thereby prolong Sancroff’s life.
The second part (Ship of Destiny) switches to the Fifth Doctor who gets locked out of the TARDIS on a merchant navy vessel. One of the crew, Helen, finds him and they survive being torpedoed by a German U-boat as this is World War I. The U-boat is commanded by Mark Gatiss and the Doctor claims to be a spy. Vansell interferes and tries to get the Doctor killed and the story ends with a return to the TARDIS and the U-boat retreating from oncoming British warships.
Cue the third episode (Death of Wonder) and the Sixth Doctor wakes on a massive starship after an explosion and finds a hostess named Ellie. The ship is orbitting the Kurgon Wonder which is being reviewed for Galactic Wonder status. Inside is a Temperon suffering an eternity of agony so, of course, the Doctor frees it…
All the Doctors come together on the ruins of Gallifrey where they meet Knight Commander Lyena who is part of the conquering Knights of Valyshaa a race of dying but long-lived humanoids draining the Time Lords very life-force. The actions of the Doctor in three incarnations led to their glory as he changed history. Events must be undone but whose side is Lyena on and is the Temperon on their side? Finally who are the Sirens?
Of course all ends well and the main range is launched!
I have seen criticism that this is over-simplistic and too influenced by Nick’s AudioVisuals stories. Yes Drudgers and Temperon are from that set of stories but I think most of us would do what Nick did and draw from earlier success. The three Doctors are kept apart to build the puzzle which is explained early in the final story. Even here it is mostly the Sixth and Seventh with the Fifth kept separate. There is action and there is some layering. The ending is no surprise but works. And Helen / Elenya / Ellie / Lyena (Sarah Mowat) is not well hidden in the plot.
A critic could argue that the style is straight-forward but this isn’t Nick’s fault – think how important this moment is. No TV Doctor, the first audio under licence, lots of help from Jac Rayner and Mark Gatiss. Consider though the influence of this on future stories, consider Mark Gatiss himself wrote a submarine story for the TV (Cold War) was it inspired by the strong third episode.
Nick also gets the voices of the Doctor pretty much spot on and avoids using Daleks (if the license was available which it possibly wasn’t). Sound is fine though the stereo mix is a bit unimaginative. Direction is solid (Nick again) in places though the whole piece under-uses most of the supporting cast. Again the third part gives a lie to this as a generalisation.
[pullquote]why not give it another listen[/pullquote]
I originally rated this a 6 on timescales but have uprated that to a 7; on another day I could focus on the flaws but having heard hundreds of releases this is better than many and could have shown much more in the way of apprehension than it did. If you have never listened then pick up a copy, if you haven’t heard for a few years why not give it another listen?
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