The Curator’s Egg by Julian Richards
We start what we get to learn is a Volume two box set that started out as a companion chronicles project, so Ian Aitkens takes on the mantle and extends his tenure into the boxed set arena. So we begin with the rather ingenious Curator’s Egg story. Set after the Daleks War on Earth, the Earth itself is a little battered and bruised. Not a good mix when we have Zoltan Clarkson (Eccentric Billionaire, Cybernetics Tycoon, Museum Curator), who wants to create cybernetic dinosaurs for the earth, by utilising some ill discovered technology post the Dalek Wars.However Zoltan is laid up after being a victim of a failed experiment and the Doctor and Jamie are off to try and recover a sea dinosaur that has escaped, so that leaves Polly and Zoltan’s brother a scientist, in the truest sense whom is socially awkward and ill at ease with society to try and stop a catastrophe happening. Well, for me I had to listen to this several times. Mainly on the grounds that the concept of a pseudo Jurassic park style story, and relatively no second Doctor throughout the the drama made for a slightly different story telling experience than I have come to expect from these classic Who universe outings. Also the conceptual aspects of the story on first listen don’t for me at any rate really hit home, they seem like a mash up of old world meets nu who and I couldn’t tell if it was me or the story telling. The acting is excellent and throughout the whole drama, Anneke Wills who plays Polly really keeps you engaged, as does the acting skills of Elliot Chapman who takes on Ben, and Zoltan and Andrew Clarkson, the less slightly deranged brother. The story is well written and wonderfully acted, and the sound design certainly makes this stand out. But, you want honest, this feels like a companion chronicle on steroids, and for the most part it is an average story, Big Finish have done better. Its just a little mix muddled in concept for me.
Dumb Waiter by Rob Nisbet
Second story in, and we have Louise Jameson, lending a hand in two parts here, with her familiar role as Leela, and the rather peculiar character of Mrs De-Winter, I actually smiled in the manner in which Louise played this character as for me it was excellent, everything I imagined the rather cunning and devious Mrs De-Winter to be. That said once again this is a largely non Doctor story, with focus mainly being on the companions not on the main timelord himself. That said where I think the previous story was a mash up of concepts from the universe, this is straight of the page of your typical Who story. It works well it provides excellent story plot and sub plots to run at the same time and keeps you engaged throughout. What also is a stand out for this story is the meeting of Jamie and Leela, or little knife as she calls him, wonderful stuff. There is a real meeting of minds here, with two people with a similar background and abilities taking on the foe. The deception plot is really well done, and it makes for a rather decent story. As I have said this as more of a familiarity about that for me makes it a true Who drama, and does have any dalliance with concepts of mix and match.
The Iron Maid by John Pritchard
This is as true a story theme as you could take from the original Doctor Who series. History, a bit of science fiction thrown in, but only a smattering and then a rather huge dollop of sentiment. This works well very well and Pritchard as taken a theme, and lets face it a well trod one, but always a good one, and given us a modern day ghost story. This works so well, especially as it seems to bring out the best in the actors within the whole piece. This story had me gripped from the moment I started to listen until the moment it ended. In fact although my listening was broken up over a period of time, it was without question the easiest listen that I have had in this box set, the story was wonderfully easy to listen to and get completely involved in without any complexities. The theme of displaced time travellers other than the Doctor and his companions, who realise that they can exploit the situation that they are in for gain, is of course a commonality throughout a lot of Doctor Who, what is nice here is the execution. Also the fact that Pritchard as done some rather extensive research to enrich the tale, with actual factual information, and persons makes for that more authentically rich soup of a story, that I for one enjoy. For me the stand out of the stories so far.
The Tactics of Defeat by Tony Jones
So to the final tale, written by a person whom I have had conversations with, Tony Jones, a author, writer, and science fiction devotee. For whom it has to be said as a extended and in depth knowledge of Big Finish unlike most others. After all he writes like I do for his own review site, and also professionally as well. So he has a pedigree. Tony’s short story outing last year as a small triumph and it is good to see that that inroad into the main range or the bigger ranges like this are allowing the budding up and coming to have a go and a crack at writing for them. What has Tony given us, well, for one thing I was taken a back this story is rather different as it has Ruth Matheson UNIT character stuck in a Mayan tomb where a cybernetically engineered artefact collector is living, and has something of interest for UNIT in the shape of a ill gotten item that could potentially put the world at risk. What is tremendously clever about this story is that it’s a new story wrapped around an existing idea of the second Doctor canon and worked in rather ingeniously well. Tony is showing off all of his knowledge here to good effect. I found Tony’s offering rather good, and I hope that Big Finish offer him a more established role of story telling in future releases.
So what can I take from this release, well the first thing it is certainly a mixed bag, of story, content, and for me quality. It is a rather interesting mix of short and box sets, and for the main part 3 of the stories for me are well above par and better than I expected, let down by the first story which for me, personally does not work as well in comparison with the others detracts from the overall enjoyment. But you have to try things to learn, so maybe this is a for Ian the last of his companion chronicle outings before he starts on bigger ventures for Big Finish, either way if this is Ian swan song, it’s a nice way to bow out.