Big Finish, the company that never seems to sleep, have just released a brand new range into their ever-expanding catalogue of titles. ‘Tales From New Earth’ may be a series no one was asking for but may find themselves looking for more of.
Having the rights to the new series but not having many Doctors or companions available must be frustrating. Though ‘Tales From New Earth’ may not be what fans were knocking down the door for, creatively its ripe. It’s a future we’ve seen on-screen a number of times so we are somewhat comfortable in this environment. It doesn’t have characters we’re initially passionate for, like Torchwood or UNIT, but this adds a level of excitement. Think, Dalek Empire or Cyberman. We’re familiar, but not entirely safe.
‘Tales From New Earth’ uses the Tenth Doctors opening music which is slightly jarring at first. However, as you go on with each adventure, and eventually meet the Doctor, it begins to make a bit more sense. Though the Doctor only makes appearances and isn’t the lead his presence is felt and that helps tie the stories together. Still, if the series goes on it would be nice to find its own voice and music and not rely on the 10th Doctor.
Escape From New New York
There are 4 stories in total and though each is an individual adventure this is one cohesive arc. We begin with writer Roy Gil’s ‘Escape From New New York’, where we meet our lead character Devon Pryce. Devon, played by Kieran Hodgson, is a rather ordinary character. He’s an elevator apprentice with his boyfriend Thorn (Matthew Jacobs-Morgan), who is hard working and charismatic and also happens to be a plant person.
We also have Senator Hame, Anna Hope reprising her Cat Person role. Her silky soft and intelligent voice is reassuring and comforting despite some terrible things happening. She attempts to befriend Devon in the midst of both uncovering the mystery of why people are disappearing/ascending. It’s not an easy alliance but the threat of the Lumen forces them to work together.
‘Escape From New New York’ does a good job at building upon the TV stories we already know. It establishes Devon as our lead character and sets the tone and plot for the upcoming stories. It’s not a fast paced adventure, instead it’s a careful set up with character building.
Death in the Forest
The second story is written by Roland Moore and we start to expand more upon in this world. We go out of the city and into a forest to meet Thorn’s parents. Yasmin Bannerman returns as a tree person, but not Jabe. She a cutting of Jabe, named Sapling Vale. She’s passionate and bold and she’s with the Doctor.
Sadly, it’s not David Tennant as the Doctor but Kieran Hodgson pulling double duty. Hodgson does a fine job of being the Tenth Doctor. It’s not exact but it does what it needs to do. The Doctor is by no means the lead character and they use a narrative device to work around it so after the initial shock, if you can accept it, it works nicely.
The Doctor and Sapling Vale are trying to find out what’s hurting so many of the trees when they discover Devon and each has enough information to help the other. This is another slow moving story which does more to establish the world and intentions than it does to tell a single adventure. The threat is expanded upon but so is the fun.
The Skies of New Earth
It all starts to come together in chapter 3. We now know Devon, and understand more of the world. Writer, Paul Morris, seems freed here. He’s not bound by pre-existing characters and it would make sense that this may be the norm for how future stories feel. Though I do appreciate the diversity of tone going on over these stories.
‘The Skies of New Earth’ is a romp with heart. We visit, with Devon, a city in the sky with Bird people who are, like the tree people, facing a threat. It’s no surprise at this point that The Lux seem to have connections here as well, though the twists may be surprising.
Toby Hadoke plays a number of characters in this set, one, for example, is a mediator in a debate which felt like a Doctor Who commentary track. More importantly he plays Oscar McCleod, a Space Bear with a Scandinavian accent! Oscar is likely to go down as a fan favourite and if for no other reason will be a perfectly fine reason to start listening to ‘Tales of New Earth’.
It should be mentioned that the music and sound design, by Wilfredo Acosta, through this set are spectacular! There’s one piece of music, connected with Oscar, which is sure to put a smile on your face.
The Cats of New Cairo
The set concludes with a story by Matt Fitton. Devon and Hame discover that the elite cat may be aware of what the Lux are doing and it could have catastrophic consequences. Our rag-tag group of heroes will do all they can but without the Doctor are they capable?
‘The Cats of New Cairo’ does a good job of concluding this set while still being its own tale. This is the most Doctor Who-esque set of the bunch as the stakes are highest. The best thing about this set, however, is that it doesn’t necessarily feel related to Doctor Who. The ties are there but going forward it would likely only serve better to cut those. In fact the entire cast could rotate, and expand, in and out and it would only make this more interesting.
We’ve covered racism, class wars, corporate greed and environmental issues and despite this being far in the future on another Earth, these issues are, and still will be, dealt with. Difficult issues are what the heart of this set has been and could be moving forward. It’s not aggressive moaning about politics, it’s situations which happen to be relevant and set around sci-fi stories. Not a new concept but they’re well tackled here.
Performances are extraordinary, from the outlandish to gentle and real. There are some proper talented actors, both supporting and regular who just make this relatable. Scripts are thoughtful and insightful. The only downside is that they are a bit slow, though that’s deliberate and important for world building. The music is some of the best out of Big Finish. Acosta really delivers everything here and it’s wonderful!
‘Tales From New Earth’ is an interesting concept that was well executed. Though it may not initially grab listeners it feels as though this is a range of stories that’s building a solid foundation. Director Helen Goldwyn has walked this fine wire with her cast and crew safely and smartly. If this range continues to grow and expand it’s not hard to imagine that New Earth will top many people’s favourite list over time. For now we have a good set of stories that are entertaining and well produced. I recommend getting on at the ground floor as this elevator is going up.
Four adventures from the New Earth setting of TV’s episodes The End of the World, New Earth and Gridlock:
Five billion years in the future, after the end of the world in the year 5.5/apple/26: New Earth is the second hope of humankind.
Post-Gridlock, Senator Hame is working to restore her home. The cities, forests and skies teem with strange and wonderful species. Some trace their ancestry back to Old Earth, others came later, but all have their own agendas, and their rivalries.
Now an ancient, powerful force has New Earth in its sights, and everyone must work together to beat it…
1.1 Escape From New New York by Roy Gill
Devon Pryce has lived all his life in the high rises of New New York. A child of the Elevator Guild, he now receives a new calling – from a cat.
Senator Hame is trying to rebuild society, to make it stronger for future generations, but there are those who would stand in her way.
There is a new danger on New Earth, and Devon’s work is only just beginning…
1.2 Death in the New Forest by Roland Moore
On his first mission for Senator Hame, Devon crosses continents to arrive in the New Forest and meet its people.
Trees are dying of unnatural causes. Sapling Vale, a cutting of the noble Jabe of the Forest of Cheem, will help Devon investigate the threat to her people.
So too will an alien, an old friend of New Earth… a time traveller known as the Doctor!
1.3 The Skies of New Earth by Paul Morris
Devon’s work takes him into the skies of New Earth and the great floating city of New Caelum.
Here, a new energy project is exploited by alien powers, and a terrible catastrophe looms. Helped once again by the Doctor, Devon calls on the Bird People of Nest City, as well as the great Solar Bears on their Ice Clouds to stop disaster.
But can the people of the skies put aside their rivalries long enough to make a difference?
1.4 The Cats of New Cairo by Matt Fitton
Senator Hame is summoned to New Cairo by the spiritual leader of Catkind: the Most Exalted High Persian – a personage of great power and wisdom – to report on her investigations.
Here, the camel-like Dromedans still worship Catkind, in the shadows of vast Octahedrons and temples of light. But Hame and Devon have uncovered a conspiracy that threatens the future of everyone on the planet.
The battle for control of New Earth is about to begin…
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
With Adjoa Andoh (Sister Jara), Yasmin Bannerman (Sapling Vale), Anna Hope (Senator Hame), Kieran Hodgson (Devon Pryce), Matthew Jacobs-Morgan (Thorn), Dan Blaskey (The Lumen / Potious / Duke of Brooklyn), Toby Hadoke (The Lux / Oscar McLeod / Dobcheff / Steward / Birdman), Matt Wilkinson (Termiton Jusk), Derek Griffiths (Xylem Maple Dorm); Pippa Nixon (Termiton Uden / Flight Attendant), Nina Toussaint-White (Loba Christata), James Dreyfus (The Most Exalted High Persian); Julian Rhind-Tutt (Berkhoff), Suzy Bloom (Katya), Youssef Kerkour (T’Harr) and Louise Gold (President Grosseteste). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton, Roy Gill
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs