This is the third incarnation of the outstanding collection of eleven stories originally produced for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary in 2013. It was originally released monthly from January to November of that year then as a full box set soon after. This re-release in September 2016 features new packaging and a 12th disc of extra features.
Matt Smith was playing the Doctor at the time of the television show’s 50th anniversary, so it is only fitting that he should be the bind that connects all the stories. The history of the series, which premiered back in 1963, is rich and varied, and Destiny of the Doctor pays tribute to every Doctor, including eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, whose only television appearance until the 50th was the 1996 American telemovie of Dr Who.
Featuring stars from all eleven eras of the television series, Destiny of the Doctor is a collection of enhanced book readings with multiple actors, sound effects and music. Each story is individual but comes together in a surprising final story. It’s clever stuff. Blink, however, and you’ll miss the eleventh Doctor’s appearance on each CD.
Running about an hour each – give or take 10 minutes – each chapter of Destiny of the Doctor is read from one of the stars of the era – usually a companion, rather than the actor who played Doctor at the time. Welcome back Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Lalla Ward (Romana II), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Sophie Aldred (Ace), India Fisher (Charlie), Nicholas Briggs (Daleks), Catherine Tate (Donna) and Jenna Coleman (Clara)
Right now, fanboys will be fainting.
Director John Ainsworth does a sensational job bringing so many actors back to their original roles and helping them to channel their Doctor’s personality and quirks. We often joke about the quality of television acting in those early days but each storyteller is surprisingly good and it’s a bonus to hear the real speaking voices of some of the performers, particularly Nicola Bryant, an English actress who played an American in the series.
The most controversial thing about Destiny of the Doctor is the lack of classic enemies that helped to make Dr Who so great. The Master makes an appearance, but there’s no Daleks, Cybermen, Autons or Sontarans. They’re not missed, mind you, because the writing is so good and the new foes are worthy adversaries to the Doctors and their companions. Kudos to the writing team of Nigel Robinson, Simon Guerrier, Andrew Smith, Jonathan Morris, Steve Lyons, Nev Fountain, James Swallow, Alan Barnes, Cavan Scott & Mark Wright, Darren Jones and Matt Fitton.
The excellent sound design is by Simon Hunt, Steve Foxon, Matthew Cochrane, Howard Carter and Jamie Robertson. One criticism often levelled at Big Finish is that their sound design can overtake a story and drown out the cast. Not so here. The balance is spot on.
Equally good is the music by Simon Hunt, Steve Foxon, Daniel Brett, Howard Carter and Jamie Robertson, which adds to the excitement, comedy and drama without overpowering the story.
Destiny of the Doctor is a box set of 12 CDs, running approximately 12 hours. Its recent re-release is a welcome reminder of Doctor Who’s history and a loving TARDIS ride down memory lane.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: September 2016
RRP: $48.01 CD box set, $25.00 digital download