Audio When this second series was originally broadcast on BBC7, some months after the cd release, it was without the final two-parter which my old review of Sisters of the Flame suggests was because of content not being suitable for the tea time slot which is interesting when you consider that (a) it's an audio (b) there aren't any sex references and (c) The Skull of Sobek is much more "graphic". Sisters would eventually turn up a whole year later at 11pm on the 31st October with the second half of the story receiving its single BBC7 appearance at 6pm on the 18th December, about six weeks later (though other Who related material was broadcast in the meantime). After 2008, I'd pretty much decided that I was going to simply wait until I'd caught up with the novels and comics before carrying on with the audios. Little did I know that it would take another eight years to get here. But yes, from now onwards I'm going further than I've ever been before.
Or #whyileftlondon It's actually an interesting choice for an opening episode, given that the Doctor and Lucie are separated for two thirds of its duration and it's a relatively complicated story (albeit that a version of it is now being played out in MARVEL's Secret Wars with New York instead of our nation's capital though for somewhat different reasons). That said, the teaser is a stormer, writer Pat Mills capturing the Eighth Doctor at his bluff absurdist best and given the title the tone is kept relatively light throughout. Plus this sounds like London, or at least the version of London I have in my head when I listen to the silence or Parliament Square at the end of PM on Radio 4 just before the bongs of Big Ben. Cast includes a returning Clare Buckfield, Katarina Olsson (whose something of a rep player this season) and Aliens of London's Rupert Vansittart as the antagonist and sounding just like Ian McNeice. Yes I did. Again.
Hating fucking Top Gear as much as I do, you'll be unsurprised to know how much I enjoyed this gentle skewering of the format and especially its presenters, unflinching in its veiled criticism of especially its central figure playing up to his public image as a sexist, racist cretin. Graeme Garden, James Fleet and Duncan James (yes from BLUE) are perfect as um, Geoffrey Vantage, O'Reilley and Timbo the Ferret, Fleet in particular's tragic mimicry is flawless. But this being a Jonathan Morris script with its Douglas Adams influences watermarked through every page, all of this takes place against the backdrop of a giant galactic war, foregrounded by a murder mystery with the Doctor in full on Ford Prefect mode as he geeks out over spaceships, much to Lucie's bewilderment. Bits of this are laugh out loud funny and there's one key jeopardy scene (all I'll say is rodents) which is easily one of the funniest in the franchise's history.
Brave New Town
Three episodes in and this season's already a joy. Since I don't want to spoil this episode's killer twist, stop reading now because I'm about waste a line or two providing a buffer though I'm going also not mention the elephant so I'll just assume you've gone and say what I joy it is to hear the plastic pals it's unfun to be with on audio in apparently their only appearance, but it's a killer premise which again I'm amazed the tv show hasn't appropriated (though there are elements in The Pandorica Opens of all things). Jonathan Clements's Sapphire and Steel like script is an absolute corker with loads of space for the Doctor to give big speeches, Lucie to be funny (notably in a hilarious bathroom scene) and there's the sound of the literal handgun opening in exactly the same sample utilised on tv a few years later. The guest cast includes Derek Griffiths and Adrian Dunbar (another two actors who you would have thought would have been in Who already) in their absolute element.
The Skull of Sobek
For once I probably stand behind my original review of this. There is an uncertainty of tone in which Marc Platt doesn't seem to know if he's being deadly serious about the thing or trying for some pythonesque parody and as it oscillates wildly between the Hinchcliffe and Williams eras, somewhere in there it forgets to simply tell a good Eighth Doctor story. Which isn't to say there are a couple of useful character beats, notably about how Lucie is starting to get used to the life (in way that's reminiscent to Jackie's warning to Rose in The Parting of the Ways) and on reflection the scene in which the Doctor falls out of the window on to someone's livelihood is funny. But generally there's a sense of rushing through a bunch of stuff, not least Lucie's possession, which possibly needed ye olde four episode format or even a novel to deal with properly.
Grand Theft Cosmos
Another Eddie Robson special. Of course all the way I assumed I was listening to the sequel to a Big Finish audio I hadn't got around to yet featuring some earlier incarnation like Sixth (feels very Sixth) but like Timelash (sorry) we're yet to hear that adventure should we ever. Did anyone ever go back and write that adventure? There's nothing in my original review I'd disagree with, though I'd entirely forgotten the trivia from Beyond The Vortex that due to scheduling Paul and Sheridan recorded on different days, the latter her whole part in about forty-five minutes. It really doesn't show. She is a GODDESS. Effectively what we have here is something which tonally I think many of us assumed Time Heist or Mummy on the Orient Express would be in the Capaldi season. Sadly not. Project note: the pocket universe concept seems to be exactly as imagined in the novels, notably in relation to the multiverse of Gallifreys.
The Zygon Who Fell to Earth
Another excellent adventure which would be considered one of the all time greats if it had been produced for television. Apart from the eccentricities of the visiting Zygons, played by Malcolm Stoddard and Tim Brooke-Taylor because why the hell not, this sees Paul Magrs reigning it (it being is expected stylistic concerns) in to tell a superbly drawn domestic drama with epic implications. Well, I say rein it in, it does have a Zygon called Trevor and a Moffat loop the implications which could be huge. Arguably it's unfortunate to have Lucie possessed again this season, but if one has an actress of this range, one does not simply have her asking the Doctor what he's going to do next. Quite unexpectedly there's also a reference to an EDA, The Bodysnatchers, which either the writer managed to sneak in or Big Finish had already begun the softening process in regards to continuities. This was recorded in August 2007, a whole year before The Company of Friends.
Sisters of the Flame / The Vengeance of Morbius
Romping bit of Holmesian Time Lord hokum from Nick Briggs which also now acts as an inadvertent piece of foreshadowing for Night of the Doctor. Although I appreciate some people find Gallifreyan politics and the universe being threatened from before time (that sort of thing), generally because of the way it was treated during the JNT era, as with Neverland and Charley, Briggs orbits the whole adventure around Lucie and takes a relatively (for Doctor Who) realistic approach to how a human would react to the notably the jargon, mostly misremembering, substituting familiar objects (Harmony Hairspray thingsy). His father having appeared in last year's Phobos, here's Samuel West giving us his Morbius, just the sort of rasping fellow you'd expect this walking science experiment to be. The finale is just the sort of cliffhanger the television series wouldn't dare attempt (not least because it would make the months between series tricky for merchandisers). Onward to the future!