Susan's War:
The Shoreditch Intervention.

Audio  As Eddie Robson explains in the behind the scene section of his contribution to Susan's War, when he wrote his Short Trip All Hands on Deck, it was with the expectation that it was to be her final adventure before the Time War with presumably the veiled references to her demise in the revival providing the melancholy conclusion to her story.

But understandably, with, as we saw with the Valeyard in the last Eighth Doctor box, Big Finish experimenting to see what happened to all kinds of supporting characters during this Whoniverse spanning moment, why not see how Susan Who would actually work for her people against the Daleks given that she's been away from her home planet for so long.

The solution is to turn her into a spy, of sorts, a kind of minister without portfolio probably being sent on the kinds of missions the Doctor would be if he'd agreed to work with them full time.  Initially diplomacy, then undercover, then as weapons inspector and finally as a CIA agent, each story demonstrates that her loyalties and ideologies have diverged from her grandfather.

The result is utterly superb.  From the first story which reintroduces her to the elderly Ian Chesterton (the timeline apparently having diverged since Death of the Doctor's concluding companion check-in) through the following invasion and base under siege, they're never less than exciting and nostalgic, sprinkling just enough kisses to the past without going to second Panopticon.

At the centre of proceedings is Carole Ann Ford.  With the exception of soap opera, are there any actors who've played a character so consistently across so many years?  Ford says that she had to keep reminding herself that she was playing the older Susan here, but that certainly doesn't show as we can still hear that she's the same person but with a new set of priorities.

The Shoreditch Intervention

When you see Alan Barnes's name on a story featuring the Eighth Doctor, you know it's going to be special.  As arguably Eighth's originator on audio, he always catches his voice so it's strange that this is the first time he's written the Time War version.  Typically, Barnes captures the Doctor's slight weariness at trying to keep to his own set of values intact while the universe crashes around him.

He also set himself the immense task of telling a story set between An Unearthly Child and Remembrance of the Daleks without sabotaging either of them and although it's sometimes challenging to have scenes from stories with twenty-five years between them in your memory, the fusion of classic, revival and wilderness mythology ultimately leads to something else.

Which isn't to say the story isn't a bit messy in place.  There are a couple of "What? What?!?" moments especially when causality goes out of the window which isn't something you expect to hear in an Eighth Doctor story.  Ahem.  But the reunion of Eighth and Susan helps to keep things grounded, their unlikely chemistry carried over from (jeez) nearly a decade ago.

There's also a good balance between keeping Susan prominent and giving Eighth his due.  One of the threads is in relation to her name.  Initially I thought this might be deep cut reference back to Sometime Never... but her TARDIS Datacore page suggests other shenanigans.  It's even suggested she might not be a Time Lord at all (which makes you wonder what she knows about the Doctor's origins).

Placement:  Perhaps around the time of his appearances with River Song and the War Master?

The Time War 3.

Audio Another winner. As I said last year, these Time War boxes are of incredibly high quality, as good a series of Doctor Who as we've seen across the decades. Unlike the boxes set earlier in his timeline, because they're threaded by an overall status quo rather than a plot shaped clothes line on which everything ultimately needs to be pegged, we're able to enjoy stand alone storylines that so far haven't become too bogged down in pointless chases for mcguffins or complex plots which are difficult to sustain across the nearly half decade release cycles they have now.  With the final box out towards the end of this year, I wonder what we'll hear next.

The box designs have changed ever so slightly on the website.  The first two boxes were called The Time War, but definitive article been removed for the cover now and then retrospectively edited for the first two and in a different font.  You can see why this has happened.  The first box had the Pertwee logo from the TV Movie emblazoned on it, the second the Whittaker logo from the Chibnall era and they wanted them to match the rest of the range too.  Plus Doctor Who merchandise wouldn't be Doctor Who merchandise if the spines matched.  It just wouldn't be right.  But I'm still keep the The in these post titles.  So nyer.

State of Bliss

By design, Bliss hasn't quite managed to gel in the same way as some of Eighth's previous travelling companions, mostly acting as a placeholder with some of the same mystery of Clara Oswald in her first eight episodes. Like Clara, State of Bliss makes her origins part of the antagonist's plot to trap the Doctor. The result is an ingeniously low key affair which mixes alternate realities and future probabilities in way which provides an expression for how the Time War is otherwise being fought.  One of those occasions when a relatively stand alone episode that's also connected to the overall theme of the series actually works.

The Famished Lands

Horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  Though I mean that in a good way.  For the most part this is pretty conventional "Doctor Who topples the morally ambiguous status quo" stuff but instead of burning down the house, he appreciates the difficult choices of the rulers and finds another way.  Who stories tend to include antagonists who're taking advantage of a situation for their own nefarious ways, to increase their political capital and power.  So it's an interesting change to find someone who is utterly awful yet you understand their point of view.  But the distinction is made with those who take such decisions for ideological reasons.

Fugitive In Time

Sometimes the ends don't justify the means.  The Doctor's in something of a bind.  He knows the Time Lords have become the despicable thugs that autocrats become in a war setting, but also that the Daleks are worse.  He can reason with his own people to some extent, whereas the pepper pots are just cunning exterminators.  Nevertheless there is a moment in here when you're not sure that he really trusts one of his fellow people or knows full well what she's about to do and lets her do it despite having spent half of the episode trying to stop them.  His open attempts to remain the benevolent alien are being stretched to the limit.

The War Valeyard

Superb.  One of the best aspects of the Time War stories is that it forces writers to ask what so and so would be doing during the conflict.  Some results have been more ingenious than others, but this is just about perfect.  On the one hand it's not really an Eighth Doctor story - he spends much it listening to exposition and only has a tangential part in the solution.  But it finally offers some idea of how the Valeyard both can and cannot exist and also how for all of his nefarious ways, the core being that is the Doctor remains the same no matter what outer shell and personality have been inflicted upon it.