Audio A masterpiece. There's no other words for it. As I've discovered time and again, one of the benefits of Doctor Who as a multi-platform franchise spread across fifty-odd years, for all the disappointments, there are often pockets of adventures, a run of books or comics or television or in this case audio which can stand TARDIS and lampstand above the best other fictions have to offer. Whilst, as you've read, I've had reservations about some of its constituent episodes, as a run of four seasons, these Eighth Doctor stories represent the best Doctor Who has to offer with experimental storytelling and characterisation and innovations not just in how Big Finish tell his stories but which must surely have still influenced the television series. In this final run (including The Earthly Child) we find Briggs, Barnes, Edwards, Robson, Platt and Morris at the height of their powers transitioning between comedy and tragedy perfectly.
There's an odd passage during the Russell T Davies book The Writer's Tale (which admittedly has a lot of odd passages) where he tells Ben about being interested in a particular actress for a companion role (I'm sorry I can't be more specific because I don't have my copy to hand for the moment) and the way he says it, I've always assumed he meant Sheridan Smith (I think he talked about annoying a few people which I always took to mean Big Finish who had only recently written her into their version of the series). She's a national treasure now thanks to some key television roles, and her Doctor Who recordings happened during the period when she turned from being Janet in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps to the queen of ITV Drama but in the final interview on To The Death it's clear that she loved the character and loved the process of recording and her final moments, indeed her final two episodes, demonstrate the subtleties of her performance as she remains the same character but has matured, the war with the Daleks having taken its toll.
Quick project note: The Four Doctors is not available to Big Finish's non-subscribers and massively expensive in the secondary market, so I'll wait. It's worth mentioning here that even after I've caught up with the Big Finish release schedule, there's a whole array of short stories and bits of audio which I'll still need to fetch and I do intend to write about for completion sake. But a lot of those are in the massively rare Big Finish short trips books or old DWMs and the like so it'll be an interesting process to track them down. Fortunately the TARDIS Datacore has a comprehensive list of appearances including sources to work from. Turns out the recently published The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who has a Justin Richards short within (as well as a host of stories by authors most of whom wrote for the EDAs and audios) and this Paul Magrs Companion Chronicle The Elixir of Doom, even though it has Pertwee in the cover.
Death in Blackpool
An Earthly Child
I found his treatment of women tiresome but some of his stories enthralling. In Nevermore, Alan Barnes appropriates some of the structural narrative techniques from the author and creates a kind of enmeshing of the celebrity historical within a futuristic setting, where it's about the influence of the author on setting. There are flashbacks, of memory to Mary's Story and it seems to the Earth arc from the books, if this Poe encounter is supposed to correlate with the one mentioned in The Dreamstone Memorial. The Doctor's mode of speech certainly sounds archaic enough to correlate.
The Book of Kells
Deimos / The Resurrection of Mars
Well that explains my reservations about Tamsin then. Imagine the television series introducing a companion, going through the business of publicity (as Big Finish did) then having her bug out with the villain having successfully been propagandised against the Doctor. In a series where everyone's bringing their A-game, here's Jonathan Morris underscoring and emphasising what makes the Eighth Doctor different, cleverly referencing the machinations of his preceding incarnation, the shift from "time's champion" to "life's champion" which was also crucial in the novels. The notion of people assuming the Doctor has the right to choose who lives and dies, and his own distress over the matter was also the the central theme of Tenth's regeneration which would have been around the time these were recorded (though this was released a year later). All of this amid an Ice Warriors story which features David Warner as an expert pre-figuring Cold-War...
Prisoner of the Sun
Lucie Miller / To the Death
The big one. Even after been comprehensively spoiled in some respects since the release of this story, it's so powerfully written and directed by Nick Briggs and acted, I hung on ever moment and word. Designing the first half to be structured roughly like a Companion Chronicle just underscores the absence of the Doctor making his late arrival all the more tragic. Perhaps the strongest element is how it manages to draw together continuity, not just from the past four of these series but also from elsewhere including Briggs's own Patient Zero which in a way means that Charley's obliquely present even if he doesn't presumably remember that adventure as the Sixth Doctor in that way, all without once making the listener feel as though they missed something. But it's noticeable through all that how Briggs also skillfully manages to keep some of the franchise furniture intact without it feeling like a cheat. Since Moffat is such a supporter of Big Finish, if he does bring Susan back, will it be in such a way as to not contradict what happens here?