Traditionally Big Finish’s Main Range adventures offer one story over four episodes for Doctor’s Five, Six and Seven but they’ve been trying something new. ‘Shadow Planet’ and ‘World Apart’ are two separate stories, offered in two parts within one release. They did this first with Doctor’s Five then Six and this is the Seventh Doctor’s go at the, somewhat New Who style, hour long adventure.
On top of format, the other special treat from these stories is that we are teleported back with Hex! That’s right! Hex is back for a new adventure, or two. These stories likely take place early to mid way through Hex’s run with Ace and the Doctor, but if you don’t know who he is, it won’t hinder the experience. You just need to know that he’s a companion that travelled with them.
Ace is bored while the Doctor is busy “enhancing the TARDIS” and chooses their next destination, bringing the Doctor and Hex to the new planet, Unity. A place that “brings you face to face with yourself”. We learn that Unity can pull out your “shadow self”, a darker, meaner version of yourself that are the elements of you that you don’t like. Quite literally, your shadow self is extracted by the power of the planet, a doppelganger of you will come out. Naturally this can only mean trouble.
‘Shadow Planet’ is the first entry and is written by AK Benedict, who has done numerous Torchwood audios and even one of the Class novels. ‘Shadow Planet’ gets underway quickly, with only two parts available it must, as there is a lot of story to tell. It’s an enjoyable story that gives us double the Ace and Hex and it’s maybe more than we can handle. The shadow selves are glum and grim and do everything in their power to ruin everything around them.
The cast and crew do a fine job but Ace, played by the one and only Sophie Aldred, especially feels extra giddy and shiny, perhaps in order to make her Shadow self seem more unbearable. It doesn’t feel like our regular Ace performance, and I guess it shouldn’t, but it’s somewhat distracting and may be a direction choice rather than a performance one. Regardless it’s not enough to keep this from being an enjoyable story. Ken Bentley is director of both entries and is a Big Finish regular who knows how to make the most of his cast and crew.
Sound design by Steve Foxon is top notch but it’s Foxon’s Music that makes everything work. It’s pure 80’s at its most electronic and entrancing. Part Doctor Who part Vangelis this music is moody, atmospheric and steals the show.
‘Shadow Planet’ does a fine job of telling a story that is full of fun ideas but may have benefited from more time to explore those ideas, or round out some of the characters.
Blogtor Rating 7/10
Story 2 is a three person show with only the Doctor, Ace and Hex around. The exciting conclusion of ‘Shadow Planet’ leads us directly into an entirely separate story ‘World Apart’. Despite a reference, and taking it’s intro from the formers conclusion, the two could be listened to alone without reference. Besides some themes and ideas (and most of the cast and crew) the two are great companion pieces but don’t rely on one another.
The TARDIS is seemingly targeted, and hit, by a planet in the vortex, leaving The Doctor, Ace and Hex to explore this brand new world. The Doctor is like a child discovering a new toy and is almost absentmindedly giddy picking up rocks and learning all he can about this new world. On the other hand Ace and Hex are very flirtatious and don’t mind the Doctor being on his own and not paying them much attention. That is until the Doctor seemingly abandon’s them and Ace and Hex are left alone and need to survive.
For any issue of performance or direction that ‘Shadow Planet’ may have had, ‘World Apart’ makes up for it and more. Sophie Aldred is at her absolute finest as she stands centre stage owning this story and doing what Ace does best. Surviving. That’s not to say that Philip Olivier as Hex and Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, aren’t great, because they are. Olivier, odd as it sounds, does such a great job acting cold and shivering, you might wonder if he’s actually cold recording this, before it’s mentioned that the planet itself is cool. McCoy, is always top notch and here as he plays it giddy and guilty, giving a natural performance that has the Doctor being a hero and failure at the same time.
Writer Scott Handcock has done a truly outstanding job stripping away most of the Doctor who tropes and comforts and allowing us to go on what almost feels like a Divergent Universe adventure. A whole new world with what seems little hope. It’s less about plot and more about character and learning about our three heroes. While this story may not have needed to go on longer, it certainly would have been welcomed and interesting to know more.
Ken Bentley takes us through an emotional adventure. Wisely he guides his cast and crew through what feels like a longer adventure than it is as he builds tension and atmosphere, pulling the best from all involved. Foxon’s sound design is again coupled perfectly with his music. This simple story feels desolate and hopeless except for our heroes and so much of it is all down to Foxon.
World Apart is gripping and engaging and delivers real emotion. It’s too bad not every story can be this good but then that’s what makes this one standout. Absolute pitch perfect performance from everyone involved.
Blogtor Rating 10/10
These two stories are nothing alike on the surface, one is a traditional Doctor Who adventure while the other is a an emotional drama, but both tackle similar themes and explore our inner selves. Doctor Who is at its best when it asks questions or poses challenges and in this case it does both. It adds layers to its characters an excepts at least a little from its listeners. On top of that you get two stories and nothing but the best from a cast and crew that put their all into it.
Shadow Planet/World Apart is a great double bill with variety and should not be missed for fans of this TARDIS team.
Average Rating rounded up 9/10
Doctor Who – Shadow Planet / World Apart is available for purchase and download on Big Finish’s Website.
Shadow Planet by AK Benedict
Troubled? Anxious? Tormented by self-doubt? Come to Unity, the psychic planet! From our therapy centre beside Unity’s idyllic shores, the Unity Corporation can help you overcome all your problems. How? By using a patented combination of technology and Jungian psychology, we can bring you face to face with your shadow self. The hidden you. The dark you. The you that no-one knows…
Rest assured: the process is perfectly safe. Nothing can possibly go wrong. And that’s guaranteed!
World Apart by Scott Handcock
If you’re reading this, it’s too late.
There’s no way off this planet.
You will never escape Nirvana.
Sylvester McCoy(The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Belinda Lang (Mrs Wheeler), Sarah Thom (Sandy/Captain Karren), Nickolas Grace (Professor Grove), Ben Mansfield (Loglan/Shadow Loglan). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs