As part of its continued foray into the new-Who license territory, Big Finish has released The Ninth Doctor Chronicles. It comprises four stories, with Nick Briggs narrating and voicing the Ninth Doctor in the absence of Christopher Eccleston, and also with Rose (and no Billie Piper). In style it’s like the Companion Chronicles mixed with the Short Trips range, but not quite. In many ways it’s an experiment: we know there’s a Tenth Doctor Chronicles and Eleventh Doctor Chronicles planned in the same format, yet none of them are labelled volume/series one.
Will it continue? I think so, it serves a need and exposes characters who might otherwise not get the coverage this brings. Is it worth getting? Read on and form your own opinion…
The Ninth Doctor Chronicles
Cavan Scott starts the ball rolling with The Bleeding Heart. Cosmic Nine news reporter Adriana Jarsdel (Claire Wyatt) is on Galen, the planet of peace reporting on a conference. Of course there’s more going on and it takes the arrival of the Doctor for Adriana to get to the bottom of things. It’s a pacey story with some great ideas, though heavily informed by the Time War, perhaps more so than the actual show itself was at the time. Cavan is in his usual top form in his alien world creation, and there are some red herrings and a lot to enjoy. Adriana is a good candidate for a companion, should Big Finish ever have that luxury.
Una McCormack’s The Window on the Mooris heavily informed by Wuthering Heights (one of my favourite novels of all time), with Laura Risborough playing Emily Brontë. It’s an epic fantasy (of sorts) and in my mind I was reminded (in a good way) of many of the Michael Moorcock novels I read in the mid-1970s (specifically the Prince Corum and Dorian Hawkmoon, if you want details). The story was different, didn’t try to explain everything and had a poignant ending. It avoided the trap of being too much of an influence on Wuthering Heights, though I might have liked a bit more of this. Writers haven’t ended up in the TARDIS very often (see Mary Shelley, example), and this story also has Rose, again voiced by Nick.
Scott Handcock brings back Adam Mitchell in The Other Side. It’s no fault of actor Bruno Langley that Adam didn’t stay long in the TARDIS. He wasn’t established as an easy to like character, and it’s to Big Finish’s credit they don’t gloss over this, but give Adam a chance to be useful, even if he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable still. In this ghost / time travel story set in an abandoned cinema, Adam has an important task to perform. Scott captures this nascent TARDIS team with great skill, and I’d be very happy to have more like this in any future set.
James Goss closes the set with Camille Coduri back as Jackie Tyler, busy making money selling the newest craze, the Glubby Glubbs, in Retail Therapy. As Jackie finds a way to have some real success, it takes the Doctor and Rose to pop her balloon by pointing out she is also the vanguard of an alien invasion. This is James Goss at his best, with irony, wit, and some neat social comment. Both Camille and Nick shine in this story (take a deserved bow director Helen Goldwyn), and Jackie is at the heart of the resolution. The whole story feels authentic and very well crafted.
From my own experience (and looking at the Divergent Universe forum thread [warning spoilers]), people have taken time to get used to the format, and are still mixed about it, yet have enjoyed the stories. The most popular and the final two, no doubt due to the familiarity of the companion characters. I don’t decry the use of new characters for the first two stories, but wonder if they could have done one this way, and had Camille voice two stories. I assume Noel Clarke wasn’t available to bring back Micky, despite Noel’s other work for Big Finish. The crowded Short Trips schedule could also bring Jackie Tyler back. We can but wait!
What did you think? Let me know, and if you still can’t make your mind up, check the trailer on the Ninth Doctor Chronicles page.