Big Finish #169 - January 2013 | Previous - Next | Index of Miscellany
Getting Started With Big FinishHere we go, into the world of Big Finish Productions. Because I was getting within striking distance of catching up to all the TV stories, so might as well give myself another constantly growing to-do list I'll never reach the bottom of.
There are hundreds and hundreds of Big Finish titles, and I'm just starting to realize how tangled their continuity is just within themselves, and then with how they interact with the Virgin New Adventures novels, never mind how they reconcile with the TV series, so there is basically no way I'm ever going to catch up on all the story arcs.
"The Wrong Doctors" was only the second Big Finish I've listened to when I began this post, so my scope in writing about these will be limited, especially here as I'm getting started, but I'll put links at the bottom to additional resources and reviews if you're looking for deeper knowledge of the Big Finish ranges. As with my write-ups of the TV series stories, I'm not looking to do plot synopses or get into detail about technical aspects of the production either. The link that leads the post will get you that, and the other reviews/resources I've linked will give you all the details you could need. So, if not the obvious things, one might reasonably wonder what is it I'm after with these?
What I hope to do is answer a few simple questions: Is the story under review worth the time of a fan of the TV series who isn't necessarily looking to be a completist with regard to the audios (as, indeed, I'm not even sure I'm so inclined) but is curious enough to consider giving a few a try? Does it have anything to say beyond: "This is more Doctor Who for those who haven't had enough yet"? Is it interesting enough that it could it be the basis of an adaptation for the current cast, or, if the BBC decided to make or license an animated series that would be canonical, would it be a good fit?
Redeeming SixA big part of why I'm doing this is that I really *want* to like Six, ol' Sixie, and the TV show simply doesn't leave much room for it. Colin Baker is a lovely man, by all accounts, but he had the misfortune of being cast as the Doctor when things had pretty much gone to shit. The series was, on virtually every level, a shoddy production. Poorly written, under-funded, and mismanaged it was, like Six's stroke-inducing technicolor patchwork costume, omnishambles.
Colin Baker got to make eleven stories as the Doctor, if we break up "Trial of Time Lord," and one could make a case that at least eight of those eleven are among the worst stories to air in history of the series. More than any other actor, he deserved a shot to redeem his Doctor. Based on what I've heard so far (which is "The Light At The End," this one, and since I started this post in draft, "Spaceport Fear") I'm going to get what I'm looking for on that front. A fondness for Colin Baker being the impetus for finally deciding start down this path, it makes sense for me to start with a story that has double the Six.
Random ConnectionsJumping around, not watching in order, has been part of my approach to the TV show, so what happens is I often find myself thinking about stories in tandem with another I've just watched, read, or now listened to, that may have no real connection. For instance, while I was listening to this, I was also reading and watching what I could of "Shada," so these two stories are now linked for me, by no devising of their creators, just by accident. But they do have one thematic element in common that I'll touch on, and let that be thing I base my recommendation of this story on -- my contribution beyond the excellent write-ups you be familiar with if you already follow Blogtor Who or Doc Oho.
In this story, the Doctor(s) and Mel(s) meets some alien business consultant/jargon-slingers facilitating, they think, an invasion of Earth, or at least setting up a mining concern for some fancy element or other. In "Shada," the action starts at Skagra's Think Tank ... a term that wasn't a neologism in 1979, one that had started gaining traction in the 1960s. The role and jargon of business consultants and the purpose and means of Think Tanks aren't so distant. Think Tanks represent they're Very Serious People Doing Serious Work while business consultants are a little closer to the front lines of capitalism's day-to-day operations. Where Skagra in "Shada" (say that five times fast) has a grandiose plan for universal totalitarianism; Petherbridge, the villain of this story, is really just using people to escape his existence in the Time Vortex. If Petherbridge succeeds, the Doctor would disappear along with the cauterized pocket of time Mel's home town has been sealed off in, which would have wider consequences, but it's still a smaller-scale story of villainy in keeping with being snarky about lower level capitalist operatives.
Think tanks would be expected to give sophisticated arguments that CEOs could use to justify the decision to use their corporation's assets to lobby for laws that make it easier for them through reduced legislation and tax breaks to pay for exploiting labor in countries without the means to defend their citizens from predatory concers. Meanwhile, the business consultant will find a less distressing word for slaves, such as non-voluntary micro-budgeted labor, as we hear in "The Wrong Doctors." Terminology that will help middle managers persuade their staff to ignore the pangs of conscience they might feel when displacing the locals to strip mine their grazing land. They'll puff themselves up by claiming to provide leadspiration, etc.
Mel Reconsidered, If Not Untangled From ContinuityThis story begins with an older Six than we knew from TV, who had been traveling with a companion named Evelyn for some time, feeling lonely and considering it may be time to finally meet Mel, whom he knew he'd eventually travel with due the events of his trial. Now, here's the thing, I don't mind a fair amount wibbly-wobbly, but the trial made such a hash of things, introducing Mel as an in-flight companion during a look-ahead, then having her leave with the Doctor and witness his regeneration into Seven, then travel with Seven for a while. And, apparently, this story contradicts another story that offers a different account of her meeting Six. There's no satisfactory way to make sense of this. This is me refusing to expend the effort to discover or construct a narrative that makes Mel's timeline with the Doctor coherent.
Coming to this motivated to like Six, I didn't have any such desire to hear a Mel story at all, or see her character get a redemptive treatment. Yet, as much as Mel grated when Bonnie Langford played her, perhaps having nowhere to go but up, it turns out she's a much better character in this context than she ever was on TV.
Odds and EndsThis Evelyn character has quite a history with the Doctor outside of the TV series. Like Bernice Summerfield, though I gather not to the same extent, she's got her fans and all I can say about her now is I know I've got a lot to learn ...
The poultry puns fly. Twelve draws a line in the sand on puns, in "The Woman Who Lived," but if it’s wrong to enjoy them, I don’t want to be right.
It’s not difficult to imagine this as television production, an animated Doctor Who would do well to adapt this, wouldn’t it? So let's consider that for just a moment, because I think the delay between series of DW is cruel and unusual. DW should be on almost all the time, summers off or something, but this twelve or thirteen weeks a year is hard on us fans. A canonical animated series produced or licensed by the BBC, featuring Doctors and companions other than the current cast would be a great way to get more DW on TV without taxing the current flagship crew. There are so many novels, comics, audios, etc. out there, there should really be no shortage of source material. (Not to mention the possibility of entirely new stories.) On lark I started imagining what a hypothetical Doctor Who network would show to fill a 24x365 schedule without running the classic and new series into the ground. One or more animated series would be an obvious choice to seed the network with fresh content. In one of these Big Finish posts I'll chase that idea little further ...
It's a crossing-the-times streams story, so of course the Blinovich Limitation Effect is referenced.
Characters in this story find themselves not thinking about the things that give them trouble when attempting to reconcile with what they know. Doctor Who fans have to sympathize and must surely recognize similar thought processes in themselves when thinking about canon and continuity. Real and fictional people both willing to gloss over a difficult reality in order to merely carry on.
Summing UpHow might a fan of the TV series best prioritize giving this story a listen?
[x] Recommend visiting Big Finish to order yourself a copy
[ ] See if a friend or your local library has a copy you could borrow
[ ] Skip and re-watch an episode of the show on the telly
How would this best be adapted, if at all?
[ ] Should be adapted for TV with current cast
[x] A good candidate to remade as part of a wished-for animated series
[ ] The audio is quite enough, best left as-is
- TV Tropes Page
- TARDIS Wikia Page
- Doc Oho Review
- Big Finish Forum - Discussing the relationship between BF and VNA.
- Reddit Continuity in Big Finish discussion