Big Finish has delivered more Tenth Doctor stories! Sure, David Tennant is absent, aside from the cover, but some of his former guest castmates are present, and a stellar line up of writers.
It’s best we understand that these are not full cast drama’s and that Mr Tennant is a busy man. In this case Jacob Dudman, with his box of many voices, steps in as Narrator and The Doctor while we have an additional guest star each story. Dudman is not an exact replica of Tennant, but he’s very good, and his ability to narrate and carry each story is effortless. That goes a long way.
Speaking of going a long way, there’s an A-list of Big Finish writers on board, all more than capable of threading a yarn. Helen Goldwyn, Matthew J. Elliot, James Goss and Guy Adams offer four different takes on the 10th Doctor era. As great as the 10th Doctor Adventures have been, these chronicles manage to feel as much of the period, if not more so.
When I see Helen Goldwyn’s name on something I know I’m in for a textured tale and in this case, she writes a story and directs the set. I step in cautiously optimistic with reasonably high expectations for a Tennant-less Tenth set. Let’s take a closer look at what we have.
The Taste of Death
Kicking things off with a light romp is Helen Goldwyn. The Doctor has taken Rose to a resort planet for a ‘mini-break’. However, the food proves too good, and people just can’t get enough. The Doctor questions chef Orentino on this and thus begins the road to uncovering what is really going on.
The plot is simple but enjoyable. We’re given a likeable ‘sidekick’, Orentino, played wonderfully by Arinzé Kene. The Slitheen make their appearance here, and we’re spared the humorous sounds of gas, though they are accounted for. The nature and simplicity of the story allow listeners to acclimatise themselves to Jacob Dudman as the Tenth Doctor, making this a great starting point.
Dudman has many roles to play as the narrator, but part of his gift is that he manages to catch the tone of each known companion. His take on Rose is particularly good!
Next up we have Matthew J. Elliott’s Backtrack. We’ve changed companions and have moved on to Martha Jones. The TARDIS has an accident in the time vortex and ends up on crashing a futuristic cruise. A theme begins to emerge.
This adventure feels very of the era. The tone and texture of this story is vivid. It’s the distant future with animal creatures, and the focus is on the immediate problem at hand, no busy subplots here. The problem mentioned is a disease on board which is formed by the mold. Thankfully there are a couple of (more or less,) Doctors who do their best to help out.
Happily, we have Jon Culshaw, appearing as Nathan Hobb, (and more) to be a nuisance to the Doctor. His American accent is effortless and strong, creating a character you can easily visualise. After their excellent Curator and Eleventh Doctor recreation, it’s a pleasure to have Dudman and Culshaw reunited especially clashing heads.
The third story, by James Goss, is set at a rest home. We may not be on a cruise or at a resort, but the theme continues; Trouble in Paradise. There’s no regular companion this time out, but a companion’s mother. Sylvia Noble is by far the star of this story which, when you have Jacqueline King, you allow her the centre stage. It also helps break-up the tone of the box set if you’re listening to them in quick succession.
Sylvia is taking it easy in a rest home with an injured ankle when she discovers the Doctor is working undercover as a nurse. The Doctor reappears some time later when Sylvia, unknowingly, uncovers a mystery within the home. It’s a humorous story that allows the Doctor the chance to take the backseat though Dudman is still on narration duties. It feels the most like a companion chronicle of the set.
The Doctor becomes the companion (to his companion’s mother), which I can imagine may bother the occasional listener. That’s the charm of the chronicle though, especially when told of the Doctor through another. ‘Wild Pastures’ feels the least 10th Doctor era but it’s a unique and enjoyable story with plenty of laughs.
Guy Adams wraps up the Tenth Doctor Chronicles in top form. The Doctor helps rescue Lady Christina (played again by Michelle Ryan), from a sticky situation and proceeds to take her with him on an adventure to save the last of a species of animal.
‘Last Chance’ rises to the occasion and doesn’t go where we may expect it to. Lady Christina was a divisive character from the TV show, but Big Finish is already making her more accessible, ahead of her own upcoming box set. She’s still a thief, but she’s not cruel. She’s against trophy hunting and shows genuine compassion. Ryan has a wonderful voice which works well for audio. She’ll be a great lead. If this story is an indication of what we can expect from her upcoming set, I think fans will be pleased.
This story manages to really pop, and that’s no small part due to Helen Goldwyn. Sound, music, cast and writing all work exquisitely. Its balance of humour and tension works wonderfully, and we’re left wanting more Tenth Doctor Chronicles and Lady Christina.
The chronicle is a terrific way to tell further adventures without relying on specific actors, and these stories stand on their own. Big Finish fans know the real stars are the writers and there are four very different and entertaining adventures, each with a common theme. The sound design and music are full, lush and amongst the best that chronicles can offer.
Jacob Dudman does excellent work, start to finish, and the guest cast ar all wonderful additions. Helen Goldwyn continues to be one of Big Finish’s greatest assets, if you need proof, look at some of her previous work, including a story in this month’s ‘ATA Girl’.
‘The Tenth Doctor Chronicles’ deserves to be a great success, and I foresee this range continuing for a long time with Dudman. That said, it wouldn’t be disappointing if guest stars take the lead on occasion, à la ‘Wild Pastures’ or regular Companion Chronicle sets.
Four narrated stories set in the Tenth Doctor era
The Taste of Death by Helen Goldwyn
The Doctor and Rose sample the high-life on resort planet MXQ1, run by the famous Bluestone brothers. It has everything: exotic beaches, luxury accommodation and extravagant dining. Something’s cooking in the kitchen, and it’s to die for…
Backtrack by Matthew J Elliott
When the TARDIS crashes in the vortex, Martha and the Doctor find themselves on board the time-ship The Outcome, where the host offers temporal cruises at reasonable prices.
But time travellers must never cut corners. Dangerous forces have been unleashed, and Martha finds her medical skills put to the test as she deals with some lethal fall-out.
Time is running out, and the clock is ticking towards disaster!
Wild Pastures by James Goss
Strange things are happening at the Wild Pastures Rest Home. When the Doctor calls on the Nobles to investigate, he doesn’t expect Sylvia to be the one to step up. Soon, they’re in too deep, and the Doctor and Sylvia will need all their faculties to get out alive.
Last Chance by Guy Adams
Trying to spare a few creatures from extinction, the Doctor bumps into an old acquaintance on the African plains – Lady Christina de Souza. They are about to find themselves on the endangered list…
Written By: Matthew J Elliott, James Goss, Helen Goldwyn, Guy Adams
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Jacob Dudman (Narrator / The Doctor), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Michelle Ryan (Lady Christina de Souza), Jon Culshaw (Nathan Hobb), Arinzé Kene (Orentino)
Other roles played by members of the cast
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs