Mark Shepherd on Doctor Who.


TV Inside of You is a podcast in which Michael Rosenbaum interviews actors and actresses who've tended to appear in cult television and film about their time on the shows and the business. Some of the chats are remarkably raw and candid. Rosenbaum is an attentive interviewer who speaks from a position of know having been Lex Luthor on Smallville for many, many years. The Mark Shepherd interview (in full here) goes into some detail about his time on Supernatural and why he left, but for a few minutes he talks about the casting process for Doctor Who which is clipped above.

Stranded 4.

Audio  And so another quartet of boxed sets ends, another "season" of stories.  Was it good?  I think it's best say there were some good bits but overall, like so much of this incarnation's era across media (right back to the BBC Books), its foundationally experimental nature leds to a loss of tension overall.  The main story arc is diverting, but it's also incredibly similar to 2002's Seasons of Fear which covered much the same ground in fourteen hours less.  Plus for all the potential of a whole new era that the opening four episodes suggested, the bottom twelve eventually became absorbed in the kinds of fractured time travel shenanigans which were the hallmark of every series in this "Dark Eyes" era albeit without interventions from the Gallifrey or Skaro.

If I've a prescription for Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Adventures 2022A Title TBA (which I notice from the Big Finish website sees a reduction in the number of discs to three per release for a slightly cheaper price, it's for a series of very stand alone stories punctuated by the odd connection ala the Lucie Miller era.  One of the problems is, I suppose, that unlike other corners of the Whoniverse, the Eighth Doctor's adventures lack a particular identity, which is their charm but can also cause it to become somewhat creatively untethered.  Too often the creators are trying to force him into stories which they wouldn't do with other Doctors, when actually the more interesting idea is to put him into a more traditional Doctor Who story and see how he responds.

Crossed Lines

All of which said, there are some tremendous stories in this boxed set starting with this script from Matt Fitton in which the Doctor has reached moment in Seasons of Fear when he decides to visit Sebastian Grayle earlier in his timeline in an attempt to steer him in a better, or at least a direction which isn't quite so lethal for the human race.  The best moment is clearly when the Doctor and the Curator (sounding like Colin Baker this time) tell the story of K'anpo Rimpoche and the Untempered Schism and how you can't save everybody and that's OK, just do the best you can.  There's also a scene somewhat like Avengers: Endgame in which the Doctor realises that on this occasion, everything he thought about time travel, the rules are wrong, at least in that moment.

Get Andy

Taking his story about the hermit to heart, the Doctor decides to use the current fungibility of space time to save one life and essentially do for Andy was he refused to do for Adric.  The Sergeant is at his most serious and realistic here as points out that the Doctor has a habit of picking of strays who're effectively trained to make sacrifices when required because as a space-time incident too important to the web of time to actually die he needs a human shield (it's not quite that blunt, I'm paraphrases).  Andy asks if the Doctor has some kind of ability to override his companions natural survival instincts, which makes you wonder about the supporting characters in recent TV episodes who literally sacrifice themselves for the benefit of a total stranger.

The Keys of Baker Street

It's TNG's Remember Me or Doctor Who's The Big Bang.  What to make of the Curator now?  The TARDIS Datacore page is a riot on this subject with the revelation, which surely must have been on the minds of Big Finish that in a spin-off from the Nest Cottage audios, Baker's End, the central figure "Tom Baker" dies and regenerates into "Colin Baker" and that Paul Magrs has since suggested that the character who appears in the Nest Cottage Stories is the Curator anyway (which would make *a lot* of sense of those mad old stories).  It's also implied in here that the version who gave Tania the keys to the house is an older version of the Eleventh Doctor and that the Curator is a kind of notional future for the Doctor who almost exists outside established continuity.  Absolutely bonkers.

Best Year Ever

Sorry, but no, too soon.  Clearly the intention was the capture some of the energy and experiences of the cast and crew during the making of Stranded.  But with the trauma still continuing, I'm not sure we're ready for what amounts to an old school historical set during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, oscillating between jokes about toilet roll shortages and well established characters dying from the virus, especially since for story reasons the Doctor is rendered powerless, unable to interfere so as not to further disrupt the timeline.  Eventually Best Year Ever becomes so akin to a Radio 4 Afternoon Drama about grief during the pandemic, the Doctor sods off back to the TARDIS for months, effectively absenting himself from the series which has his name on the cover.  

Clearly this has been done with the best of intentions but the timing is horrendous.  Throughout I kept thinking about fans you've recently lost relatives to COVID or suffering from the disease themselves who might be listening to Stranded as a brief distraction or an escape only to find themselves and finding their favourite franchise going over the broad strokes.  I'm not sure how you could introduce a trigger warning without also spoiling the main plot, but perhaps that's the problem.  The synopsis for episode simply says "What happens if the world is actually fixed? There are times when even the Doctor cannot help" and although it was cagily mentioned on their website, the socials suggested "You may want to stay off the internet if you'd like to listen to the Stranded climax completely unspoilered."  

Stranded 3.

Audio  The premise set up in Stranded 1, the Doctor as landlord, probably could have sustained an entire series and however much I've enjoyed some of the individual stories in the subsequent boxed sets, I can't say I wouldn't have preferred a 2020 equivalent of Season 7 or the Countdown comics, with the Eighth Doctor investigating various shenanigans in the vicinity.  There must have been a way of doing this without him gaining foreknowledge, especially since a twist on the series story arc (I've been listening ahead) would be tailor made for it and probably could have been made to work without the time travel shenanigans which ultimately make Stranded feel very similar to earlier series.


Structured similarly to The Long Way Round (from Stranded 2) as a series of two handers, this purposefully brings together characters who haven't otherwise spent time alone together, revealing previously neglected dynamics.  So we have Liv and Andy, Helen and Tania supporting each other, as they wait for the Doctor to convince his Judoon pursuer to change his ways.  The big draw here is the huge piece of spin-off continuity which Eighth recounts to the talking Rhino, of the Doctor's sometimes wife, the titular Patience who first appeared in the classic DWM comic The Tides of Time, before surfacing again in Lance Parkin's novel Cold Fusion (recently adapted by Big Finish and The Infinity Doctors.  That's a big swing and works wonderfully.

Twisted Folklore

Another of Doctor Who's periodic metafictional discussions on the subject of its own narrative, Lizzie Hopley's script underscores one of the strengths of Big Finish - that it assumes the listener actually has a working knowledge of the franchise, its characters and how its structured and trusts us with the intelligence to play catch up when an episode effectively begins a situation in the middle.  Like a less batshit The Natural History of Fear, we find the TARDIS crew embedded in a society, sometimes in roles which seem out of character and listen diligently as the various strands focus.  A timely story of how autocratic regimes attempt to control the narrative in order to remain in power.


The gang visit the alternative 2035 in an attempt to see if they can gauge when things went wrong.  The TARDIS Datacore says that in 2035 "the First Doctor, John and Gillian defeated the Caterpillar Men who had captured Earth scientists to help them conquer the planet" (as seen in the TV Comic Annual 1966) and I can't say I wouldn't have preferred something tonally closer to that.  James Kettle's Snow is beautifully written and acted, has some poignant revelations, but still eighth months after Mum's death this is still a bit raw (I sobbed over some of the things she liked in M&S earlier), some of the elements too close to home.  At least there's a brilliant retcon that Sergeant Andy might once have worked crowd control for Amy Pond in her modelling days.

What Just Happened?

How many listeners like me thought there was something wrong with their download when they heard Hattie Morahan reading the production credits at the start of the episode?  Telling any story in reverse order on audio is a hugely bold idea but unfortunately I'm not sure it quite works because it's not attached to the story being told.  Most of the revelations have either been in other episodes or at the start of this and so much of the duration is spent listening to exposition which is already redundant.  A McGann voiceover interjecting with the time changes also has a Brechtian distancing effect.  The cast were apparently given a version of the script in which the action appears in chronological order and I can't say I wouldn't have preferred to listen to this more straightforward version.  

Placement:  After Stranded 2.