A change of pace for Paul McGann’s Doctor and it seems not a moment too soon.
In his eighth incarnation, the Doctor and his companions Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair have barely survived the events of Ravenous (an earlier 4-volume set) and escaped the crucible, but it comes at a cost. The TARDIS is drained of all power and the Doctor finds himself stranded on Earth with his two companions until he can find a way to power up the TARDIS again. In the meantime, there is a whole bunch of residents living in his house that he had bought for just such an emergency. Can the Doctor live on the slow path for a while?
This innovative set from Big Finish is a stark contrast to previous sets featuring Paul McGann’s Doctor and deliberately so. Producer David Richardson decided that after a large number of high octane adventures with the eighth Doctor that the collective pulse needed to be lowered. The result is an adorable set of adventures that is a little slow to begin with but then settles into a nice groove across the four adventures.
Writers Matt Fitton, John Dorney, Lisa McMullin and David K Barnes have found an extremely good balance between slower character scenes and some fast-paced moments to keep the action from becoming too stagnant. They have also infused the set with a fair amount of humour and some wonderful romantic scenes, with a genuinely touching romantic coupling taking place.
McGann is wonderful as the bored-out-of-his-mind Doctor who is desperate to get back to life as he knows it, while Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan as his long-suffering companions manage to pretty much hold the set together with their stellar performances. They are surrounded by some outstanding casting including Rebecca Root (Tania Bell), Tom Price (as Torchwood’s Sergeant Andy Davidson), Joel James Davison (Robin Bright-Thompson) and Clive Wood (Mr Bird).
For many though, the inclusion of former Doctor, Tom Baker, as The Curator (his role in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor) is the cherry on the cake. Although only appearing in the first episode, he makes a meal out of every moment that he is there.
Director Ken Bentley has helmed this mammoth project and achieved an excellent blend of comedy, action and drama as well as eliciting some magnificent performances from his cast. Jamie Robertson’s music beautifully underscores the set (and is also included as a separate suite of tracks) and the sound design of Benji Clifford is up to the usual top standards that we have come to expect from Big Finish. A number of bonus interviews are included throughout the set as well.
This is a project that could have become a lugubrious mess but instead, it is a charming and emotional rollercoaster. Fans of Paul McGann’s Doctor will not be disappointed at all and even newer fans to the franchise will find much to enjoy here.
Savour the slow path while you can.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: June 2020
Approx RRP: $45 CD, $20 Digital Download