The Twelfth Doctor has made his first appearance on Big Finish. Unfortunately, Peter Capaldi is absent but the spirit of his portrayal has been successfully captured in the first of, we hope, many exciting new adventures.
When Big Finish announced they had acquired the rights to all of Modern-Who up to the end of Peter Capaldi’s run, fans began to speculate widely. We’ve already had David Tennant return alongside Billie Piper and Catherine Tate. Bernard Cribbins and Jaqueline King will also appear alongside the Tenth Doctor later this year. Bruno Langley returned in the Ninth Doctor set. John Barrowman and the whole Torchwood team have already been around Big Finish for quite some time up to now, as had River Song. Even Michelle Gomez’s Missy recently had her own boxset too.
Peter Capaldi will always be a firm fan favourite. After all he is one of us. Although his appearance in a Big Finish recording studio might be a while-away yet, stories set within the Capaldi era are something to be excited about. ‘The Astrea Conspiracy’ from Lizbeth Myles is a perfect case in point and an excellent introduction to the world of the Twelfth Doctor on audio.
Written by Lizbeth Myles
The first thing that will surprise many listeners is how much this story feels like a Twelfth Doctor adventure. It has the same kind of tone as ‘The Girl who Lived’. The Doctor is travelling alone, presumably sometime after ‘Hell Bent’ and between Christmas Specials, seemingly invading someone’s life.
This isn’t the same grumpy Twelfth Doctor we had at the beginning of his tenure. This is the Twelfth Doctor between Series 9 and 10, bridging that character change. He feels very much like he could still be the grumpy old-man but, for the most part, Myles gives us the more fun loving and rule-breaking version of the character we came to know and love alongside Bill and Nardole.
Lizbeth Myles has the characterisation for the Twelfth Doctor down perfectly. From his strange attire to his ‘attack-eyebrows’. She also pays great attention to the way he moves and acts. Throughout the story it never feels unauthentic to the era it is set in. It is really easy to see Peter Capaldi performing this story on television.
The story itself is particularly refreshing. Aphra Behn’s story will not be familiar to most listeners. It attracts our interest, throwing in lots of espionage and conspiracies, twists and turns to keep the listener’s attention. Plus the interaction between the Doctor and Aphra, two people who feel very much like one another, is excellent.
Also this is a rare, purely historical tale. For it’s forty-minute run-time, there are no invading alien forces or strange phenomena to distract the characters. It is just the Doctor having to help out someone who would otherwise have inadvertently changed history. It all makes for a great listen.
Narrated by Neve McIntosh
For a first outing into a Big Finish Short Trip, Neve McIntosh is excellent. Effortlessly bringing the story to life and breathing life into the Doctor. She feels like she has been doing these readings all her life. With Capaldi absent from the title role for the time-being, it only makes sense to have the story read by someone from his era. The strong script from Lizbeth Myles is only elevated further by McIntosh’s powerful reading. McIntosh of course brought Madame Vastra to life on television and gives us a glimpse of the highly anticipated ‘The Paternoster Gang’ boxset.
Her take on the Twelfth Doctor is pitched just right too. No one other than Capaldi could do a truly convincing take on his Doctor and McIntosh doesn’t opt for a straight up imitation. Like many of the readers across this range, rather than trying to copy the performance of the leading actor, they just place emphasis on what made that particular incarnation of the Doctor great in the first place. McIntosh takes the lighter side of Capaldi’s character and effortlessly brings it to life, creating a convincing take on Capaldi’s incarnation while never allowing it to feel like it isn’t Capaldi actually performing the piece.
With Capaldi not on the cards at this particular time, it seems for now that we will have to have other actors from his era performing his stories. McIntosh sets a high standard for others to follow. In such capable hands Capaldi’s absence won’t be felt as sorely. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more readings like this from McIntosh in the near future.
‘The Astrea Conspiracy’ is a very enjoyable first outing for the world of the Twelfth Doctor in Big Finish. Lizbeth Myles has brilliantly brought this particular era to life, hard to do given the demand at the moment for it’s star but fully appreciating and replicating the character and his tenure. Hopefully Myles will get to tell some more Twelfth Doctor stories in the very-near future.
Nicholas Briggs is also excellent in the directorial role here, helping to capture the essence of the Twelfth Doctor’s era whilst keeping the story going at a modern and enjoyable pace. It’s also to great to hear that version of the theme-tune again! Neve McIntosh is simply brilliant as the narrator and the perfect choice to deliver this strong opening adventure.
The Twelfth Doctor is back and ‘The Astrea Conspiracy’ is a story not to be missed!
Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.
The conspirators sit in Antwerp, plotting to kill King Charles the Second. Aphra Behn’s mission is simple: get former lover William Scot to turn against his treasonous comrades. But her money is running out and the complications don’t stop there. A strange Scottish man arrives at her inn with troubling news.
William Scot is out and the Doctor is in.
Producer: Alfie Shaw
Script Editor: Alfie Shaw
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Lizbeth Myles.
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs.
Neve McIntosh (Narrator)