After his remarkable turn in the Tenth Doctor Chronicles, it’s time for Jacob Dudman to turn it up to Eleven.
Big Finish present four original stories from different times in the Eleventh Doctor’s life, joined by Amelia Pond, Dorium Maldovar, Kazran Sardick and Clara Oswald. Impressionist, actor and superfan Jacob Dudman channels his indomitable voice for a dual role as narrator and title character. Dudman’s delivery is simply flawless and he brings a level of confidence to The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles that perhaps wasn’t there in the last release.
The Calendar Man by AK Benedict
The opening story sees Amy and the Doctor tracking a distress call into a far-flung future colony and its forgetful colonists. People are dying every day and only one person in this misty memory maelstrom can remember them. The Doctor must face a figure from his own forgotten past to bring back what’s been lost. AK Benedict’s previous work in audio Doctor Who tends to take on more tangible threats, so it’s great to see a more metaphysical villain for her latest story. The Calendar Man is a clever twist on familiar theme in modern Doctor Who – the Steven Moffat era especially – and some fabulous rendering in the sound design gives it, ironically, an unforgettable presence.
The Top of the Tree by Simon Guerrier
When the TARDIS gets stuck at the top of an impossibly large tree, the Doctor and Kazran find themselves in a fight for survival. Danny Horn played a brief but crucial role in 2010’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Horn’s awkward teen version of Kazran Sardick bridges the gap between his bright-eyed childhood and his embittered future. Here we get to see a little of what took place when he travelled with the Doctor in between Christmas parties with Abigail. Dudman and Horn play off one another extremely well and Guerrier has given them a wonderfully matey rapport. The script is strewn with imaginative takes on alien flora and fauna and the descriptions are vivid. While Guerrier uses his limited cast efficiently, I felt he could have done more with Kazran and tying it in to his arc from the Christmas special. Nevertheless, this is an unusual setting for a Doctor Who story and a welcome change.
The Light Keepers by Roy Gill
Simon Fisher-Becker makes his long-awaited Big Finish debut as Dorium Maldovar. One of the Eleventh Doctor’s shadier allies, it should come as no surprise that Dorium is caught up in the adventure against his will. Roy Gill does a really good job adapting the character to audio and gives Fisher-Becker plenty of orotund dialogue to get his teeth into. At the same time, however, Dorium is in the action more than he ever was on TV and it’s great to hear how he responds to new experiences. Gill has taken an idea originally threaded throughout the ‘Tales from New Earth‘ box set (for which he wrote the opening story) and expanded on it with the freedom of a standalone story. While the villain’s motivations may prove tricky to parse if you’ve not heard New Earth, the main thrust of the script is very character-driven which makes for a strong arc in our guest cast.
False Coronets by Alice Cavender
It was hinted several times that Clara Oswald had a bit of a past with Jane Austen. Big Finish has run with that idea and cast Nathalie Buscombe as the infamous author. But when time goes wrong and Austen is about to lose her head, the Doctor and Clara must fight to make sense of the royal sensibility. Buscombe is a highlight of this release bringing a lot of energy to Austen, which compliments Dudman’s rapid fire delivery as Clara wonderfully. The stakes are high from the very first scene, which makes for an exciting if a little exhausting script from Alice Cavender. The story whips along at a breakneck pace and hits the sugar rush feel of the Eleventh Doctor’s era perhaps more than any other story in this set. A fantastic closing story and a rare insight into Clara’s relationship to history.
After three boxsets in the Chronicles range, it should go without saying by now that Big Finish know how to work around the absence of a busy lead actor. Dudman once again proves to be a remarkable find as he devotes himself to recreating the Eleventh Doctor while crafting distinctive voices for the other roles and delivering clear narration.
The four writers selected for this project have struck up a healthy mix of settings and villains which lend a weight to the release. That said, with the exception of ‘The Top of the Tree’, the writers seem to have restricted themselves to mimicing the format of the Matt Smith era. While this is faithfully done, I would have liked to see Big Finish take more risks and play with the format more. Nevertheless, this is a must-have for any Eleventh Doctor fan and a gangbusters beginning for the Raggedy Man on audio.
Four narrated stories set in the Eleventh Doctor era:
1. The Calendar Man by AK Benedict
Answering a cry for help, the Doctor and Amy arrive on a misty colony world – but nobody thinks anything is wrong. Nobody, except for one young woman, hiding in shadows and scribbling in her notebook.
Soon, Amy is on the trail of missing colonists, while the Doctor strides into the fog in search of a fairy-tale.
But time is running out, and the Calendar Man is flicking through the pages of their lives…
2. The Top of the Tree by Simon Guerrier
On one of their annual jaunts, young Kazran Sardick and the Doctor find themselves in trouble when the TARDIS is tangled in the branches of a very strange, very large tree.
They emerge into a habitat where myriad species fight for survival: an ecosystem of deadly flora and fauna, along with a tribe of primitive humans.
This is a mystery which can only be solved by climbing. But what will they find at the top of the tree?
3. The Light Keepers by Roy Gill
Dorium Maldovar has a problem. The self-styled ‘Beacon People’ are bad for business, and now they’re in his shuttle park, digging for mysterious minerals.
When the Doctor crashes into his life once again, Dorium enlists him to find out what these scavengers are really up to inside their lighthouse.
But a lighthouse signals danger – and this beacon was placed to warn of something more ancient and powerful than anyone knows. Something that is returning…
4. False Coronets by Alice Cavender
On the trail of a temporal anomaly, the Doctor and Clara arrive in a London dungeon, where an unlikely prisoner awaits her execution. This is a 19th Century England where the King has been dethroned, and Republicans bearing false coronets hold sway.
While the Doctor seeks out the source of alien interference in the timelines, Clara recruits some local help – and gets invited to a party.
History has gone awry, and Jane Austen must help rewrite it.
Written By: AK Benedict, Simon Guerrier, Roy Gill, Alice Cavender
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Jacob Dudman (Narrator / The Doctor), Eleanor Crooks (Olivia), Danny Horn (Kazran Sardick), Simon Fisher-Becker (Dorium Maldovar), Nathalie Buscombe (Jane Austen). Other parts played by Jacob Dudman.
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs