A fine release highlighting the wonderful skills of Freema Agyeman that fans will enjoy.
The Doctor is trapped onboard a giant flying airship above Earth, having been aged to the point of uselessness by his old foe The Master, who has taken command of the planet Earth. The only person between him and total victory is a young woman named Martha Jones whose family, along with the Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness, are at the mercy of the renegade Timelord.
It is one of the most convoluted plots that Russell T. Davies created whilst helming the modern revival of Doctor Who. That being said, it was a great vehicle for the then-current Doctor (played by David Tennant) and The Master (played by John Simm). It also gave another great vehicle to showcase the acting prowess of young Freema Agyeman who had spent the whole season alongside the Doctor as Dr. Martha Jones. Since her run on the show ended, Agyeman has become very busy in both the UK and the US on a number of hit shows including Law and Order: UK, Little Dorritt and most recently the film The Matrix Resurrection. All this is to say that for Agyeman to return to Big Finish to reprise a role she played in 2007 is a very big coup for the company (to add to the already impressive list of wonderful actors they have lured back in recent years, which includes both Tennant and Simm).
The Year Of Martha Jones is ostensibly set during the third season finale while Martha is hiding on Earth from the Master and his minions known as the Toclafane. Her job is to roam the planet and spread the word about the Doctor by telling stories of his adventures. If this sounds like a very tenuous point to hang a plot line on to you, you would be correct. The idea to utilise Agyeman in a standalone Martha story was certainly worth trying but the execution lacks a lot of action for the most part.
But Agyeman is not the only “big name” to appear in the set. Star Trek: The Next Generation alumni, Marina Sirtis, appears in the first episode as Karen—the co-owner of a diner where Martha finds herself. The Last Diner by James Goss is a relatively calm way to begin the series with Martha telling a story about her and the Doctor stopping a group of people from a distant planet dying because of an approaching asteroid. The framing technique is used well here and the plot switches between the two stories relatively well. Adding to Sirtis in the guest cast is Adjoah Andoh who returns to play Martha’s mother, Francine, as she did on television, along with Ewart James Walters as Karen’s brow-beaten husband, Tucker, who is absolutely delightful.
The second story (Silver Medal by Tim Foley) is perhaps the weakest of the three adventures presented in this set. Martha, her best friend Holly (played beautifully throughout this set by Serin Ibrahim), and Francine find themselves at the self-proclaimed best resistance camp on the planet—run by the heavy-handed Jessie (played with sneering dominance by Lorelei King). This time, Martha tells a story of when she and the Doctor visited the same location 100 years earlier where they met the ageing prospector Baby Lizzie (played wonderfully by Ellie Darvill). The balance between the two stories is not as good as the first episode and it falls very flat despite the ramping up of tension. It is very hard to cheer for the “good guys” when their leader is so utterly unlikeable.
The final story (Deceived by Matt Fitton) is a better episode and climaxes the set well by losing the storytelling element of the struggle by Martha to not be caught by the ever-present Miss Beecham (played with menace by Julie Graham). The ending sets up a potential second set but gives us enough resolution to stand on its own.
Behind the microphones, Big Finish continue to utilise their top-drawer talents extremely well. Director Scott Handcock has an absolute ball with his cast throughout and brings as much to the material as he can. Howard Carter’s sound and music design is also up to his usual very high standard.
This is one of those releases that is better left for those that know the era of the show it is from rather than raw beginners. Fans of Martha Jones will no doubt be delighted at this set despite the flaws in parts of the writing. The guest cast alone is well worth the money here. One can only hope that we hear Martha and the Doctor together again before too long.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: December 2021
Approx RRP: $38 CD, $18 Digital Download