Following my initial review of new Doctor Who release The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1 for CultBox, I’d like to give more detail as to why I think these three stories are so strong, why I believe they work and go deeper for the sheer joy of it!
There will be some revealing details (aka spoilers) but I’m sure we are all able to cope…
Once more unto the TARDIS
I’ll focus on the three stories, then wrap to talk production values at the end. Without further ado, allon-y!
Matt Fitton’s Technophobia is the opener for the set, and in my view is the most authentic of the three stories. It plays with an idea (technology progress/ tablets/ AI assistants) and turns it on its head. RTD similarly grounded the early series of the Doctor Who revival with technology, such as mobile phones and bluetooth headsets. Donna Noble is centre stage in this tale, and once she hooks up with Bex the temp, we are treated to a reunion of Catherine Tate and Niky Wardley and they have at least as much to do as David Tennant’s Doctor.
The story has some rough edges (a bit like life): at the start it seems to be all about Jill Meadows (Rachael Stirling) the techno-entrepreneur. In the end she became just a victim of the plot of the Koggnossenti. The Koggnossenti were a bit different as aliens go and their plan for domination could have fuelled a longer story. As it is we got David Tennant losing his mind, and the character of Kevin (Rory Keenan) who could have done a lot more in a longer story. These are observations not complaints — it’s a story that perfectly captures the energy of the season it is set in.
Jenny T Colgan’s story Time Reaver is up next, and my straw poll of random comments seems to have this just edging the public vote in terms of popularity. The Time Reaver itself is a classic MacGuffin just to give the plot something to focus on. What this story is really about is world-building. The world in question is Calibris, a fantastically realised, detailed planet of tunnels, aliens and underworld types. As a writer I can’t imagine putting that much care and dare I say love into a creation without expecting to return to it.
The centrepiece is the Vagabond’s Reach tavern, a Pirates of the Caribbean venue for ne’er-do-wells run by John Banks’ Gully. Other great characters include Terry Molloy’s Rone and Dan Starkey’s Dorn. Somewhere is a plot tucked in, and the story of young Cora (Sabrina Bartlett) along with tea and scones. Really though the world is the star.
With James Goss’s finale, Death and the Queen, Donna Noble takes centre stage, and in 2016 the idea of Catherine Tate the actress seems less of a juxtaposition than Donna’s surprise appearance in the TARDIS in 2007’s Doomsday. With its faux fantasy setting of a mythical forgotten empire, a prince (Blake Ritson), a queen mother (Alice Krige), Death (Alan Cox) and a wedding, this story connects back to Donna’s first appearance. Of the three this is the story I feel least likely to have been made for TV; it is also my favourite.
David Tennant is almost a spare part for much of the story, and when he does engage with the central mystery he is supported by Beth Chalmers, superb as Hortense the maid. There is a sub-plot of companions leaving, and Hortense being considered for TARDIS duty; given we are still waiting for Beth to return as Raine Creevy, this is an amusing in-joke. It also reminds us how well Beth performs as a companion.
The ending is not without some bloodshed and the whole piece is a joy to listen to.
Nick Briggs took director duties for this set of stories, no surprise given how long he has known David Tennant through his earlier Big Finish work, and, indeed, elsewhere. I’d say this was one of his better pieces of direction if that didn’t leave people wondering where he might have been less than immaculate. The whole production is up to standard, and the thrill of the theme tune is the icing on a superb cake.
Roll on the next set!