Big Finish Productions have been creating new Doctor Who stories for 20 years. Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time is an epic, six part adventure celebrating this 20th anniversary. The story continues with the second episode, The Split Infinitive.
One of the most impressive things about Big Finish is also the most daunting. There’s just so much of its rich and varied history to go around. As a celebration of that history, featuring several of Big Finish’s most successful ranges interacting together in its jigsaw puzzle plot arc, there was a danger that The Legacy of Time would prove impenetrable to all but the most dedicated fans.
Two episodes in, however, and any fears listeners may have for six hours of head scratching are disproved. On paper this may be a huge three-way crossover between the Seventh Doctor and both the Counter Measures and The New Counter Measures ranges (and if you’re wondering how that’s even possible, don’t worry – so is Chunky Gilmore for most of the episode), but in practice it’s as accessible as you could possibly wish. The Seventh Doctor and Ace are reunited with the same team they met in TV’s Remembrance of the Daleks. That team have continued investigating the strange, the alien, and the inexplicable ever since. Established two scenes in, it’s all you need to know.
In a mashup of B-movie heaven, tough talking gangsters appear alongside a monster so bizarre you can almost hear the CSO fringing.
The case before the Counter Measures team in The Split Infinitive is about as inexplicable as they come.
Robberies and murders across two decades are taking place in buildings that should be impossible to access, with no sign of anyone entering or leaving. The victims are being aged to death (in the 1960’s) or simply vanishing into thin air (in the 1970’s) and only the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) have any theory as to how. Splitting up, Ace teams with Gilmore (Simon Williams), Rachel (Pamela Salem) and Alison (Karen Gledhill) in the 1960’s while the Doctor meets them again in the 1970’s. The result is a heady mix of classic sci-fi and gangster B-movies with more than a dash of 2010 Doctor Who Christmas Special A Christmas Carol, as the Counter Measures team in the 1970’s find their memories continuously being overwritten by Ace’s actions in their personal pasts.
Against them are ranged a set of casually brutal criminals similarly split across time. Criminals of no great ambition beyond enriching themselves, with no Davros style rants about universal conquest. But ruthless enough, and so very good at hurting people, they represent a genuine threat to our heroes. Certainly Vince Leigh, as their leader Kazan, seems to relish the role almost as much as Kazan relishes any opportunity for violence.
The Split Infinitive defies its complicated concept to present a clear and exciting story.
The resulting parallel plots work incredibly well despite the obvious potential for confusion. That’s a testament to the sprightly yet intelligently coordinated script by John Dorney. At this stage Dorney himself is almost as much of an icon of Big Finish as the characters themselves and his slot in this set is more than well deserved. In fact, there’s a sense of The Legacy of Time functioning as a celebration of some of the greatest and most prolific Big Finish writers, and their styles, from the past twenty years. The Split Infinitive feels in some ways like ‘the Dorniest Dorney’ (as the Third Doctor might have said). With its massive, complicated concepts and plots expressed with deceptive ease, it’s about as good a summing up of the oeuvre of the writer of The Crooked Man and My Dinner with Andre as you could wish for.
By the end, long time fans of Counter Measures should be more than satisfied to see their place of honour in the Big Finish hall of fame cemented like this. While, undoubtedly, many previously unfamiliar will have thoroughly enjoyed their company and be seeking out more of their adventures in their own series. Gilmore’s rather pathetic attempts to conceal the fact he and team mate Rachel are dating are hugely endearing, for instance (“Yes, she has… or, ah, um, so she tells me,” he splutters when someone asks Rachel if she’s ever been to the Post Office Tower’s revolving restaurant.) Meanwhile the mix of diligent investigative professionalism and seat-of-their-pants improvisation when it all goes pear shaped gives them their own unique flavour. There’s certainly a group you’re left wanting to see more of.
Don’t forget to visit BlogtorWho.com again as we continue to review Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time.
An epic six-part adventure celebrating 20 years of Doctor Who at Big Finish!
Time is collapsing. Incidents of temporal chaos and devastation are appearing throughout the many lives of the Doctor and his friends – fallout from one terrible disaster.
The Doctor must save history itself – and he will need all the help he can get.
1. Lies in Ruins by James Goss
2. The Split Infinitive by John Dorney
3. The Sacrifice of Jo Grant by Guy Adams
4. Relative Time by Matt Fitton
5. The Avenues of Possibility by Jonathan Morris
6. Collision Course by Guy Adams
- Tom Baker (The Doctor)
- Peter Davison (The Doctor)
- Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
- Colin Baker (The Doctor)
- Paul McGann (The Doctor)
- Tim Treloar (The Doctor)
- Sophie Aldred (Ace)
- Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield)
- India Fisher (Charlotte Pollard)
- Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams)
- John Heffernan (The Nine)
- Anna Hope (DI Patricia Menzies)
- Louise Jameson (Leela)
- Alex Kingston (River Song)
- Katy Manning (Jo Jones)
- Ingrid Oliver (Osgood)
- Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart)
- Hugh Ross (Sir Toby Kinsella)
- Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen)
- Georgia Tennant (Jenny)
- Lalla Ward (Romana)
- Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore)