A wonderful set that draws on the best elements of both the TV series and previous Big Finish sets.
In the midst of the Time War, Gallifrey summons Susan Campbell to serve the Time Lords and against the wishes of her grandfather, she complies. Susan and the Daleks go way back, but how far will Susan go to help the war effort and what will her grandfather do when he finds out?
In 2017, Big Finish published a short trip entitled All Hands On Deck in which Susan and her grandfather (in his eighth incarnation) argue over whether she should answer the call to Gallifrey. That ended with her leaving Earth to serve the Time Lords. This box set picks up right where that story ends and over the course of four episodes, we see Susan help the Time Lords to find a way to defeat the Daleks once and for all.
Carole Ann Ford reprises her television role, which she premiered back in 1963, and it is clear she adores the material she is working with. The older, more world-weary Susan is an absolute perfect fit for the ageless actress who relishes the great opportunities afforded her character in this set.
First story, Sphere of Influenceby Eddie Robson (who wrote the original short story), sees Susan pair up with her old friend Ian Chesterton (played, as he was back in 1963, by the equally ageless William Russell). Together they must convince the Sensorites to help with the war effort. This great sequel to a largely forgettable early Doctor Who serial gets the set off to a fantastic start and treads the line between fan service and storytelling very well.
The Uncertain Shore by Simon Guerrier sees Susan and her companion Commander Veklin go undercover on the planet Florana. Veklin is played, as she has been in a number of previous sets, by Beth Chalmers (who is such a great actress that she needs to be featured more regularly in these audios). This story is a little long in places and takes a while to get to the point but this is made up for in the second half when the story hits its stride.
Assests of War by Lou Morgan is the least accessible of the stories. Susan is asked to assess the capabilities of a race known as the Orrovix to be used as a weapon – the trouble is, they are very hard to contain and someone wants them let loose on the Time Lords. It is a story that has much potential but involves a lot of running around and screaming which can grate on a listener’s ear after a while.
The final story, The Shoreditch Intervention by Alan Barnes, rounds the set off nicely with a great call-back to the show’s origins as Susan finds herself back in 1963 on the trail of a mysterious package left by her grandfather. Paul McGann pops up in a welcome appearance as the Eighth Doctor and brings his usual war-torn portrayal to the role. His interplay with Ford’s Susan is impeccable and at times, very touching.
Lisa Bowerman continues to shine in the director’s chair keeping the pace rolling nicely for the most part and she is helped by the wonderful music and sound design of Howard Carter. The supporting cast are also exceptional with particular standouts being Damian Lynch (Rasmus), Louis Davison (Franko/Policeman), Dan Starkey (Yeorgi/Ogron 2), and Becky Wright (Alex/Lehena). Special mention must also go to Nicholas Briggs who not only brings his special Dalek talents to the set, but plays the wonderful cameo of Fyodor in the final story. There are also bonus interviews with the cast and crew after each story.
Although steeped in much Doctor Who and Big Finish history, there is a lot to be enjoyed in this set for both long time listeners and fans, as well as newcomers. There is room for the series to continue should there be demand for it. Let us hope we hear more of what promises to be a wonderful angle of the Time War that has yet to be covered.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: April 2020
Approx RRP: $47.50 CD, $20 Digital Download