An underwhelming but commendable nod to the forgotten gender of Dr Who.
International Women’s Day was as good a day as any to celebrate the many wonderful females that have inhabited the Doctor Who universe. Big Finish are to be commended for putting together a package that features a predominantly female touch both in front and behind the microphones.
The four stand-alone adventures are all written by women (Lisa McMullin, Lizzie Hopley, Gemma Langford, and Sarah Grochala) and are all directed by the experienced hand of Helen Goldwyn. They feature many of the Doctor’s famed companions and friends as they all do battle on the same day at various points in time and space.
The first story (Emancipation) sees River Song (played, as always, with aplomb by Alex Kingston) team up with Fourth Doctor companion Leela (the ageless Louise Jameson) as they try and figure out how to prevent a royal kidnapping. The two are in great form and this story is easily the best of the four.
The Big Blue Book sees Seventh Doctor TV companion Ace (played by the wonderful Sophie Aldred) and audio and book companion Bernice Summerfield (played by Lisa Bowerman in excellent form) join forces to stop an alien from using people as a power source.
Inside Every Warrior sees the first appearance on audio of the entire Paternoster Gang consisting of Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Sontaran wet-nurse Strax (Dan Starkey). All three are clearly enjoying their time back together even if the script (about werewolves and human experiments) is nowhere near as strong as some of the other entries. This story is a prelude of sorts to a full set of adventures by the trio to be released later in the year.
The final story, Narcissus, sees UNIT regulars Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and both versions of Petronella Osgood (the always on-point Ingrid Oliver who staggeringly manages to clearly distinguish between the two Osgoods during this story) deal with an alien who uses a dating service as a front to kidnap humans.
Along the way, these fine actors are joined by an equally impressive cast which includes James Joyce (Josh Carter), Tracy Wiles (Jacqui McGee), Lucy Pickles (The Hanovari/Receptionist/Kitchen Maid), Orlando Gibbs (Harvey), Julie Atherton (Hodge), Nigel Fairs (Cornelius Pinch), Louise Faulkner (Laeticia), Alix Dunmore (Female-Jordan Love), and Dan Blaskey (Male-Jordan Love). They all contribute positively to the story.
The sound and music mixes by Howard Carter, Joe Kraemer, and Nigel Fairs is up to the usual high standard we have come to expect from Big Finish. There is also a lengthy bonus disc of interviews with all the major players from this production.
However, despite the excellent cast and production team, too much of this set feels like missed opportunities. Some of the stories seemed rushed and in desperate need of another draft (or two) to iron out the kinks. There is loads of potential throughout this set but little is realised. Still, it is a noble idea and a great way to celebrate the importance of the feminine gender in Doctor Who. Perhaps future releases on this day will more fully capture that spirit.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: March 2019
RRP: $46 CD, $20 Digital Download