Congratulations to all those involved for creating the Doctor Who Audio Annual, released December 2017. Short review: if you like the Big Finish Short Trips range, this is an easy purchase. It’s currently £11.49 on Amazon UK, which for six stories over two discs compares well pricewise.
The six stories (from Doctor Who Annuals mid-1960s- mid-1980s) are read by five different actors and cover the first six incarnations of the Doctor. You want more? Keep reading…
The Audio Annual stories
Peter Purves kicks off a 1966 essay Who is Doctor Who? then follow up with The Sons of Grekk, with the First Doctor very much on his own and more of an action hero than we might normally imagine him. It’s a good Doctor Who story, with misunderstandings, good intentions, technology and teamwork in the face of adversity. Peter reads with his usual skill, and it’s well read.
There’s a lot going on and daredevil stunts aside, it’s quite recognisable, even if the Doctor is continually referred to as Doctor Who and travels in his ship TARDIS.
Anneke Wills reads the 1968 essay The Phoenix in the TARDIS and I do feel the Phoenix motif is underused in the the show. On to the drama and it’s a Polly, Ben and Second Doctor story, The King of Golden Death. In my view the characterisations of Ben and the Doctor (still called Doctor Who) start off poorly, a shame given the rich setting inside a Pyramid, surrounded by riches.
As the story progresses it’s a solid ending, and Anneke does a good job of the three characters.
An odd choice for the Third Doctor, with Geoffrey Beevers reading a story without the Master! Instead we have UNIT, the Brig and Jo in Dark Intruders. There’s an alien invasion, plenty of mental combat and it’s very much a straightforward story of the frustration the Brigadier often felt when dealing with the Doctor.
Even if the Master is absent, Geoffrey Beevers does a great job with several accents. And the Doctor is still called Doctor Who!
Matthew Waterhouse reads the first of two stories, a Fourth Doctor, Adric and K9 tale called Conundrum. Reality is warped in so called Möbian space, and Adric’s grip of mathematics is somewhat variable in what is a hugely entertaining tale and now the Doctor is finally just called the Doctor.
Matthew’s reading captures the spirit of the Fourth Doctor and shows his talents as a voice artist.
Matthew’s back for the Fifth Doctor story The Penalty and the TARDIS also has Nyssa and Tegan onboard. The Doctor is ill and it’s all about who he deals with delirium and how his companions deal with him in this state. Looking back, it could be seen as prescient of the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration sequence, but that’s possibly a stretch.
It’s a decent enough story, and again Matthew brings it to life well.
The final tale is Nicola Bryant’s reading of The Real Hereward, a Sixth Doctor and Peri story set in post Battle of Hastings England. It’s a pure historical, even though not a version of history we might recognise. It’s set in the Fens and centres on the historic character of Hereward the Wake, an Anglo Saxon rebel, resisting the Normans.
So, six stories, six Doctors, five readers and more than two hours of entertainment, It’s not essential listening, but it is entertaining. There’s also plenty of other stories across the same annuals!