A whole new era dawns for the Eighth Doctor Adventures as the TARDIS team leaves Baker Street behind for some classic stories

Big Finish are now stranger to concepts like fresh starts and jumping on points. The latest in the Eighth Doctor Adventures range Doctor Who: What Lies Inside? It’s certainly good timing. After all, he took just a handful of lines in The Power of the Doctor and doused them with so much raw charisma and silkiness that surely a whole new generation of fans want more of the guy who wears what he likes. But it uses none of the usual tricks of a new companion introduction, or some big new mystery. So it’s all the more remarkable that it’s one of the most effective relaunches yet.

What Lies Inside? picks the action up during the period what the Eighth Doctor likes to wear is a battered naval leather peacoat, blue jeans, and a white t-shirt. Perhaps matched with a fetching tan man-bag. (Though the fact he never seems to take anything in or out of it remains an enduring mystery). Yes, it’s the classic combination of McGann with Hattie Morahan’s Helen Sinclair, and Nicola Walker’s Liv Chenka. But it still feels like we’ve never heard them like this before. After four major story arcs, sixteen box sets, and sixty-four episodes, of the Eighth Doctor kept very busy by an ongoing narrative of overlapping universal threats, this is his chance to be… well, the Doctor. Following distress calls, landing in random wrong places. Getting into trouble of less than cosmic import. “Just jumping in and somehow finding a way” in that classic Doctorish way.

As breaths of fresh air go, it’s less opening the sitting room window, and more a bracing Autumn walk along an ocean-side clifftop. Just what the Doctor ordered.

Paradox of the Daleks bobs and weaves through time through its jigsaw puzzle plot, providing a superior start to the Doctor’s new travels

We kick off What Lies Inside? with the two hour Paradox of the Daleks. It’s a story which immediately resets expectations after the worthy, but often downbeat Stranded, by just being huge fun. It’s great to hear the trio actually enjoying their travels. Even Liv, though in her case she expresses that mainly through a stream of witty complaints. For the Doctor in particular, it’s like some great weight is gone from his shoulders. He’s free to get back to what he does best, interfering, and loving every minute. That’s what brings the TARDIS to a space station from which a unique temporal anomaly is flowing. But why the Daleks that have attacked and taken over the station are more “bronze and rivets” than any this Doctor has seen before is just the start of the mystery…

The story doesn’t actually do much with the Doctor meeting the Time War era Daleks for the first time. He muses idly about ‘the enemy’ they refer to, but it’s a thought put quickly on the back burner. Similarly, this being Helen’s first time meeting the Daleks (itself very odd to realize considering how long she’s been a companion) doesn’t make much on mark on proceedings. A few references to this being the infamous Daleks the others have told her so much about and that’s it. It’s a sign, maybe, of how eager Paradox is to not get bogged down in heavy drama or epic sweep but just tell a fun, exciting story.

 

The Eighth Doctor Adventures team of Hettie Morahan (Helen), Paul McGann (the Doctor) and Nicola Walker (Liv) (c) Big Finish Productions Doctor Who
The Eighth Doctor Adventures team of Hettie Morahan (Helen), Paul McGann (the Doctor) and Nicola Walker (Liv) (c) Big Finish Productions

With a superb cliffhanger, and beautifully unexpected reveals, John Dorney delivers one of the most fun Eighth Doctor stories ever

As you’d expect from the title, there’s a certain amount of wibbly wobbly timey wimey-ness at work in Paradox of the Daleks. That’s a difficult sub-genre to do well, but John Dorney’s script provides a superior example. Its looping, interweaving narratives deliver twists and revelations that are both impossible to guess at ahead of time. Yet they feel completely inevitable in retrospect. Meanwhile, we said last month that Scream of the Daleks arguably pushed the ‘Daleks say the darndest things’ trope too far. But this time out some of the lines Nick Briggs is called upon to bark out here are just delicious. These Daleks also give us one of Doctor Who’s all time great “how on Earth does our hero survive this one?” cliffhangers.

It makes for an outstanding start to what’s set to be an exciting new era for the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

The Dalby Spook is a lovingly creepy story of haunting mischief from The Grey Mare’s Lauren Mooney and Stewart Pringle

The Dalby Spook provides What Lies Inside’s final hour. It comes from the script writing team of Lauren Mooney and Stewart Pringle who previously thrilled Torchwood listeners with the ghost story for Christmas The Grey Mare. That brilliant and effective tale dealt with the real tradition of the horse zombie ghost… thing, the Mari Lwyd. The Dalby Spook similarly looks to the real world’s creepier corners for inspiration. The eponymous Dalby spook was an alleged ghostly mongoose that haunted the Isle of Man in the 1930s. In 1935, noted paranormal investigator Harry Price and his journalist friend Richard Lambert visited the island to uncover if Gef was, in fact a fraud.

Big Finish’s take on that investigation substitutes the Doctor, Liv, and Helen for Lambert. The trio masquerade as journalists as an excuse to tag along with Price’s mission. For the purposes of our story, Price himself is pushed into a more traditional antagonistic cynic role too. “There is so much less than dreamed of in our philosophies he rages at one point. Yet compared to other famed debunkers, the real life Price was quite open minded and even claimed that some true psychics did exist, with the Laboratory he was a member of alongside Arthur Conan Doyle dedicating itself to proving the existence of the real thing while exposing the frauds that confused the issue.

 

Harry Myers recording as the eponymous Dalby Spook, Gef (c) Big Finish Productions Doctor Who What Lies Inside Eighth Doctor Aventures
Harry Myers recording as the eponymous Dalby Spook, Gef (c) Big Finish Productions

Both stories in this set feature moments which expose the Eighth Doctor’s harder edge

But the changes to Price serve a purpose. His very presence stokes the fire of competition in the Eighth Doctor. In fact, he gets more than a little obsessed with getting to the truth of Gef’s existence first. And, despite the giggling, mischievous whimsy of Gef’s antics, it brings a Listen like edge to proceedings, as Helen and Liv grow increasingly concerned about the path the Doctor’s on. This set provides a timely reminder that under that bonhomie, McGann’s Time Lord is one of the most hard edged. In Paradox, he’s quite happy to blast Daleks here and there, even pausing for a throwaway bon mot over their squelchy corpses. And The Dalby Spook features him cold-bloodedly torturing Gef for information, just to satisfy his own curiosity.

In terms of the actual mystery, the listener may find themselves two or three steps ahead of the Doctor at times. But then that seems to be the point. After all, Liv and Helen are similarly vexed by the Doctor being atypically obtuse about what’s really going on. And it’s all delivered with a genuine sense of creepy atmosphere. Hats off to our guest cast, too, with Philip Jackson, Felicity Cant, Richard Earl, and Harry Myers bringing total conviction to their various roles as sceptic, spooky little girl, concerned father and ghostly mongoose.

kjhkjhhkj

The Dalby Spook, recorded last year, arrives with eerie timing too. The newly announced film Nandor Fandor and the Talking Mongoose, also explores the Gef’s mystery. This time with none other than Neil Gaiman (The Doctor’s Wife) voicing the cheeky spirit. Familiar face Simon Pegg (The Long Game) even stars as the paranormal investigator Nandor Fandor. But that big screen cousin will have to be at the top of their game to meet the standard the Big Finish team have set here.

What Lies Inside? absolutely excels in its mandate to make the Eighth Doctor fresh and new again, 21 years after his Big Finish debut

As new beginnings go, What Lies Inside? provides a fantastic new start. The Power of the Doctor was technically Paul McGann’s first appearance in the TV show Doctor Who. So it feels so it feels appropriate for the Eighth Doctor to be running around doing Doctor Who things for the first time in years.

The Eighth Doctor is back doing what he does best. And, to coin a phrase, it’s about time.

 

Doctor Who: What Lies Beneath? Cover by Rafe Wallbank (c) Big Finish Prouctions Eighth Doctor Adventures Paul McGann Nicola Walker Daleks Paradox of the Daleks The Dalby Spook Gef the mongoose ghost
Doctor Who: What Lies Beneath? Cover by Rafe Wallbank (c) Big Finish Prouctions

Doctor Who: What Lies Inside?

They find some old enemies causing havoc on a temporal research station, before a trip to the Isle of Man in the 1930s, where they encounter a famous enigma…

Doctor Who – The Eighth Doctor Adventures: What Lies Inside? is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD box set  (+download for just £19.99) or as a digital download only (for just £16.99).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.