Stranded 2.

Audio  First some housekeeping.  As you may have gathered from elsewhere, I've had the COVID which left me pretty devastated for about three weeks so this old blog thing went dark for an actual reason this time.  All my plans to have a massive Eighth Doctor catch-up were set to one side while I grumped about the flat eating ham sandwiches and watched endless YouTube video essays about topics I barely care about.  Now that I'm back to my usual 70% so expect a few more updates.

Having endured it now at least once and fortunately two years on from when it could have been absolutely devastating, there's something even more poignant listening to the talent in the making-of sections of Stranded talking about how this whole thing was recorded in people's homes, actors sitting in their child's closets or under duvets in a spare room.  Everyone is pretty uncertain about the future.  I wonder how they're feeling now that we're two years into it.

A few also notice the irony of recording a series like Stranded at a time when that's how they themselves felt.  But in this second instalment, the Doctor finally has the ability to travel in time if not space.  His arc in the first chunk of the series was about accepting his situation and his tenants.  Now we have him treating them like real friends, companions, taking them to the past and future, somewhat recklessly and on occasion risking their very existence.  You'd think he'd be a bit more careful.

Dead Time

When RTD created PC, sorry, Sergeant Andy as a foil for Gwen on Torchwood, could he have ever imagined that fifteen years later, he'd be time travelling with the Eighth Doctor at Big Finish?  But here he is, Tom Price somehow managing to retain the bobby's naivety about spooky-doos while simultaneously portraying weariness of a man who endured Torchwood's Miracle Day (and we all know how that feels).  Despite all of that it makes complete sense that his first trip in the TARDIS would lead to some queasiness.  Dead Time is pretty generic stuff, silly computers, potential destruction of an eco-system, companions walking off and getting themselves in trouble and a far future setting.  

UNIT Dating

I'll admit to an initial weariness about Jon Culshaw playing Brigadier, but having heard him on a few plays now, his studious performance is a tribute to Nick Courtney, simply stepping in for an absent friend.  He's utterly delightful in his scenes with Eighth which through Roy Gill's script offer a re-assessment of the slightly parodic figure who emerged in the latter years of the Pertwee era.  Otherwise this is Big Finish doing a more thematically substantial Eve of the Daleks a couple of years early, sensitively exploring being able to love the one you want to love in various times and coping when that person's personality and memory keep changing and there's nothing you can do about it.

Baker Street Irregulars

Good old fashioned historical romp with the Doctor putting right what he's accidentally managed to put wrong (as is so, so often the case).  Fans of Larry Miles's Interference will enjoy the sophistry deployed here in order to explain why the Doctor doesn't simply wade into World War II despite having stopped even more substantial wars on other planets.  If anything the B-plot in which Liv and Tania diffusing a bomb with the potential to freeze time in just one section of London is the more interesting and could have merited a whole episode and still could on television.  Imagine the visual possibilities of having a TARDIS crew trapped in a frozen pocket of reality as history continues around them.

The Long Way Round

Another masterpiece from one of the Eighth Doctor's audio auteurs John Dorney.  The writer was inspired to write something which would be easier to record in lockdown, a series of two handers telling one story.  But he builds that story superbly, crosscutting between playing to Tom Baker's strengths and having his Curator enjoying a charming conversation with a child (which includes an actual namecheck for Gemma Griffin!) and a series of interrogation sessions as the antagonist Houlbrooke speaks to each of the Doctor's friends in order of their closeness to him. slowly building our anticipation for the antagonist's final encounter with the Time Lord which doesn't disappoint.  Essential.

Placement:  After Stranded 1.