Big Finish rounded off 2015 in its main range with a series of standalone stories featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace – You are the Doctor and Other stories. I have been working on their earlier adventures in the main range in chronological order, so it was nice to take a leap forward to experience these adventures.
The framing device for these episodes is Ace learning how to drive the TARDIS, and I loved seeing the Doctor groused about how he wouldn’t mess up driving. We all know how that goes, eh?
You Are the Doctor by John Dorney
The first story on the disc is by far the cleverest one and actually requires user interaction. It’s the audio version of a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” where you are suddenly playing the role of the Doctor. Ace has accidentally landed you on an unknown ship instead of in Australia. There’s natural gravity and it smells like a sewage plant. What do you do? The choice is up to you, with the narration directing you to leap forward and back as needed in the title. As you navigate through the episode, you wind up getting entrenched in the nasty plot involving the Porcians, which is normal for being the Doctor. The wrong path just may kill you. Or not.
While my favorite place to listen to Big Finish adventures is in the car, I really suggest you listen to this one in a place where you can easily keep an eye on whatever device you listen to and can navigate the tracks. I really love the innovation at work here. If you can’t, you can still listen straight through and not miss a thing.
Come Die With Me by Jamie Anderson
Ace is 0-2 in her TARDIS driving, landing her and the Doctor in a spooky old house – a place she expresses an extreme distaste for. As they explore the house, the Doctor comes across Mr. Norris, the home’s owner that informs him that he’s hijacked the TARDIS so he can get the Doctor to solve a murder mystery that’s baffled 1,868 previous intellectuals. The winner gets the contents of Norris’ library. Meanwhile, Ace decides to go explore closed-off rooms against the Doctor’s orders and winds up on an adventure of her own.
Jamie Anderson pens a good old-fashioned mystery that’s evocative of Agatha Christie with the Doctor playing the role of Poirot. I also liked the mental imagery of the time scoop utilized in this episode, which makes me think a giant ice cream scoop scooped the TARDIS out of the vortex.
The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel by Christopher Cooper
Strike three in Ace’s effort to reach Australia finds her on trial accused of two murders — and is one of them the Doctor? As she is grilled, complete with the tolling of the cloister bell, we flashback to the Doctor and Ace arriving at the Grand Betelgeuse Hotel (pronounced like “Beetlejuice.”) While trying to figure out where they are, they stumble into a robbery in progress. But Ace’s interrogation reveals that something else could be afoot involving the “approaching inclement weather system.” It’s a fairly predictable plot once it begins to unfold, and the strength here really lies on Ace’s testimony on the stand and her faith in the Doctor. However, it is the weakest story out of the four, but considering the overall strength of the disc, it’s not that weak at all and still highly enjoyable.
Dead to the World by Matthew Elliott
Ace’s final attempt to take the TARDIS to Australia results in her and the Doctor winding up on the Daedalus, where this tourist ship is the only thing standing between a plague that liquefies everyone’s brains, and the planet Earth. One of the survivors, Cynthia Quince, would a rather smashing companion in her own right, as she buddies up with the Doctor while he’s separated from Ace. Witty exchanges make this episode, including a bit of foreshadowing the Doctor becoming president of Earth in his current incarnation and some musings over the gender assignment of a sonic screwdriver. There’s also some lovely continuity in play, as Ace demands that the Doctor keep her in the loop considering the events of “Signs and Wonders.”
While these stories are pitched as standalone, there is a common thread other than Ace’s TARDIS driving lessons tying them together. This thread sets up the next Seventh Doctor release, with the Doctor going on the hunt for an unknown person. Based on the clues dropped through the four episodes on this disc (and by taking a peek at cast list announced for the next of the Seventh Doctor’s appearances in the Main Range), I have a hunch as to this person could be. But with the next Main Range release not out until June and an as-of-yet unknown cast other than Sylvester McCoy, it’ll be interesting to see if this guess proves correct.
This is a highly enjoyable standalone disc, and I appreciate the efforts to push the boundaries of audio drama as presented in “You Are the Doctor.” If you want to introduce new fans to Big Finish, and to the Seventh Doctor and Ace in general, this is a pretty good disc to hand them.
Blogtor Rating: 9/10
Written By: John Dorney, Jamie Anderson, Christopher Cooper, Matthew Elliott
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Producer – David Richardson
Script Editor – Alan Barnes
Executive Producers – Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Jon Culshaw(Keith/Guard/Chafal), Kim Wall (Chimbly), Nadine Marshall (Katrice/Kordel), Amrita Acharia (The Resurrectionist/Clerk), Juliet Cowan (Bryer/Adriana Beauvais), Oliver Dimsdale (Morecombe/Mervyn Garvey), George Potts (Ruben/Guard), Vinette Robinson (Cynthia Quince)