It’s a new year and that means even more new Monthly Adventures from Big Finish will hit our ears. This January they have gone big in concept with their first release, ‘Dark Universe‘. Categorically this is a Seventh Doctor story but it’s more about Ace. Oh, and the Eleven. It’s a premise and a cast that must be heard and here’s why…
‘Dark Universe‘ takes place, seemingly, today. Ace has grown up and though we don’t know the full details of how she got to this point in her life, she’s in charge of ‘A Charitable Earth’. An organisation designed to make the world a better place. We’ve actually seen some of this in promotional videos for the upcoming Blu-ray release of season 26. There’s even a book titled ‘A Charitable Earth’ due out soon. The big difference is that in the Big Finish world, Ace isn’t happy with the Doctor.
Very early on Ace gives a speech which anonymously calls the Doctor an abuser. It’s certainly an interesting angle for plot development but it’s also honest. In a day of calling out powerful men for their treatment of young women it has a real world connection. Without getting political though, Ace is so angry at the Doctor, retrospectively, that she’s willing to work with the Eleven.
The plot seems simple enough. The Eleven approaches Ace knowing that she’s upset with the Doctor and pleads a case to get back at the Doctor by using her organisation’s clout to get to a place that most people can’t. Slowly details are revealed until a surprising cliffhanger separates the story into two very different ways.
The pacing and story development is a mixture of traditional audio drama with dollops of narration. There’s some skipping back and forth and it’s never exactly clear or specified when things are happening but it works. A surreal experiment in some small way. The Doctor is both powerful and vulnerable. He’s respectful of Ace’s decisions and feelings but still attempts to connect positively. There’s a new villain which will most certainly make future appearances as ‘Dark Universe‘ feels like a potential pivot point for future stories to be told.
There’s a real freshness here. Sophie Aldred‘s adult Ace is (as always) nobody’s fool and it’s evident the actor still loves playing the character. I can only imagine how exciting it must be to play a well loved character you’ve been playing for years but now with the shackles off and into different directions. She can be within her age range and give even more to the character than she already does. Added to this is Mark Bonnar as The Eleven feels rejuvenated, despite only being a fairly recent regular character. How he plays off Aldred and McCoy is simply exquisite. Already the man feels as though he can do no wrong and here he’s madder than ever.
Rounding out the cast is the lead himself, Sylvester McCoy. Sure he’s third fiddle here but oh how he shines! He’s the ultimate Shakespearean fool. Feste meets Falstaff. As mentioned earlier he’s both powerful and vulnerable. We’re all accustomed to the Seventh Doctor being a clever manipulator, who despite appearances is never truly cornered, but here he really is out of his depth. It’s exciting as a listener not knowing what’s to come next. ‘Dark Universe‘ has a spark within it that has the potential to bring in a new era to the Seventh Doctor on audio.
It was great to hear writer Guy Adams cite American comic books as a source of inspiration in the behind the scenes. It feels very much like what DC Comics are currently battling with a dark multiverse. Of course the two are vastly different in their approach and intention but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want more.
I had placed some dangerously high hopes on ‘Dark Universe‘ and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I think fans will be thrilled with this title. Not only is it fun, but filled with enough substance, room for speculation and growth that this could become a range of its own. Ace as a character has developed dramatically which also gives more room for a new style of story. While I fear this could be a one and done story (potential trilogy?), I think the creative forces at Big Finish have more than deliberately found themselves a new playground and Guy Adams should be the man to lead it.
Head over to the Big Finish website to pick up your CD or Download.
The Eleven has a plan. A grand plan. An appalling plan. A plan that endangers all life in the cosmos.
With Ace working for the enemy, the Doctor must rely on scheming Time Lord Cardinal Ollistra for help. The stage is set for an epic confrontation.
Because the Doctor has a plan to stop the Eleven. A grand plan. An appalling plan. A plan that endangers all life in the cosmos.
Whichever one of them wins, the Dark Universe won’t want to lose…
- Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
- Sophie Aldred (Ace)
- Mark Bonnar (The Eleven )
- Carolyn Pickles (Cardinal Ollistra)
- Owen Aaronovitch (Gabriel)
- Damian Lynch (Rasmus)
- Glen McCready (Tribe Leader)
- Lin Sagovsky (Dark Citizen)