Christopher Eccleston is back in the battered leather jacket for another box set of Ninth Doctor Adventures. Lost Warriors includes three tales that flawlessly recreate the energy and emotion of Doctor Who’s return
Even though we’re now three boxsets into his renewed adventures, you may still find yourself pinching yourself now and then during Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Lost Warriors, just to make sure this isn’t some wonderfully improbable dream. There may come a time when a Christopher Eccleston release landing in download folders feels like business as usual. But it’s a day very far away, with a heady buzz still accompanying every new set of stories.
It’s a sense of wonder and joy Eccleston enhances with a pitch perfect recapturing of his Doctor’s voice and manner. Of all the Doctors Big Finish have worked with, David Tennant included, Eccleston sounds the most unchanged. Indeed, these recordings feel like they’ve slipped down a time tunnel direct from 2005. He also possesses the same lightning fast response to the scripts. Layer upon layer of characterization and meaning colour and enhance even the most basic exposition. This is a Doctor, and more importantly an actor, who could order a coffee and fill it with a hundred different strata of optimism, joy of life, regret, self-loathing, steely determination, and child like innocence. Followed by a mediation on the class system while paying the tip. It’s a performance every bit as sublime as you remember.
Lost Warriors’ loose linking theme of war veterans allows the scripts to approach the Ninth Doctor’s own troubled past side on
Three great scrips from James Kettle, Lizzie Hopley, and John Dorney give Eccleston admirable support. For Blogtor Who, Big Finish can sometimes work a little too hard to recapture the exact style of a given television era. But these three episodes can’t help but put a broad smile on your face; each one flawlessly recapturing those indescribably exciting weeks in the Spring of 2005.
Linked loosely by their theme of veterans adrift in the aftermath of war, each one is packed with such an ideal balance of humanism, wit, scares and action, it’s hard to believe Russell T Davies himself hasn’t cast an eye over them. Eccleston has said he’s keen to avoid dwelling on the angst and depression implied in the Ninth Doctor’s pre-Rose period. But the theme deftly allows Lost Warriors to approach it side on. These three stories find the Ninth Doctor often sympathizing with the plight of the war weary friends and foes he encounters.
The Hunting Season injects rampaging alien hordes into Downton Abbey, while the Ninth Doctor respects class distinctions about as much as you’d expect
First up, The Hunting Season throws the Doctor into the milieu of a 1930s country house besieged by a pack of angry horse riding aliens. As you’d expect, the Ninth Doctor lands in these Downton Abbey surroundings like a hand grenade tossed into the chandelier. A combination of his psychic paper and “something in the eyes” mark him to Lord Hawthorne out as a member of the upper classes, despite his accent. But he’s promptly wandering about Downstairs, befriending the kitchen staff and standing up to a brutal butler. He’s no less forthright upstairs, particularly when dealing with Lady Isabel’s barely concealed, almost overpowering, sadism.
He also seeks to be a mediating force between the grizzled old World War I veteran and the rag tag band of alien barbarians at his gate. In the Doctor’s vast experience, True Evil doesn’t tend to yell a few threats and then amble off. So he becomes determined to seek out what they actually want. The general answer to that becomes clear to the listener from about the halfway point, but the script neatly sets the stage with several possibilities for how the details may play out. While the Doctor’s seeking to inspire maid Alice to better things also takes a path that’s warmly satisfying.
The Curse of Lady Macbeth provides a celebrity historical which busts Shakespearean myths in a fierce story of motherly protection
Middle story The Curse of Lady Macbeth is the one most tangential to the theme. Hitting the same fine balance as celebrity historicals like The Unquiet Dead, Lizzie Hopley’s story both educates about the ‘real’ Lady Macbeth while giving satisfying cheeky winks to Shakespeare’s play. The setting is Macbeth’s fortress in the Kingdom of Murray, with the man himself away waging war against King Duncan. So the women and children left behind under Lady Macbeth’s fierce protection are the main population of the world the Doctor steps into. But they have more than the uncertain fate of their menfolk to worry about. Something has been stealing into the keep and the surrounding village at night, leaving mothers to find strange, mouthless babies in their cribs. Are these changelings, substituted for the originals? Or is something altering humans for its own purposes?
The TARDIS materializing in the middle of a ritual by Lady Macbeth and two of her ladies in waiting to ward off evil doesn’t make for the most auspicious start to gaining her trust. But soon the two are equal partners in their battle to uncover the truth. Again, for all his throwing of psychic nets, scanning with the sonic, and deductive leaps, the Doctor’s most powerful role here is as a mediator. This time, he helps bridge the two sides of Lady Macbeth’s instincts as a mother; asking if the most powerful weapon in a mother’s arsenal in defence of children is vengeance, or love.
The passion the cast and writer feel for the material shines through in every scene
The Curse of Lady Macbeth also benefits hugely from the clear passion of everyone involved. Christopher Eccleston has long cited Macbeth as a play that fascinates him, and he’s even played the role for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His delight at the Doctor Who model being brought to bear on the character is palpable. Hopley’s determination to set the record straight, somewhat, and explore the Macbeths as not the monsters they’re made out to be also lends an extra bite to the script. Meanwhile many fans may know Neve McIntosh best as Silurian great detective Madam Vastra. But she’s likewise audibly enthused by her passion for both the fictional and historical Lady Macbeth, resulting in what may be her finest performance for Big Finish yet.
Appropriately, Monsters in Metropolis conjours up striking images in a story which uses the Doctor Who formula to spectacular effect
Finale Monsters in Metropolis is the entry which most seamlessly fits into the world of Doctor Who Series One. So on point is Monsters in Metropolis’ recreation of the idiom of the Ninth Doctor era, that in the pre-credits teaser you can practically see the strange ‘puppet’ cloaked in shadow during its demonstration. Before, of course, the cliffhanger scream accompanies the zoom in to the revealed face of… a Cyberman!
Because this classic celebrity historical brings us to the set of cinematic masterpiece Metropolis. But Brigitte Helm’s iconic gynoid costume (“It’s got hips and everything!” says the Doctor) that’s graced a million walls, and a Queen music video, has been jettisoned. Instead, Lang is using a ‘machine man’, having acquired the services of a state of the art puppet. Only the Doctor recognizes the machine man for the dangerous cyborg it really is. But famed director Fritz Lang, played in fabulously bad tempered form by Nick Wilton, isn’t convinced of anything but the Doctor being a lunatic. But before long, there’s a dead body and the Doctor and some new friends are hunting a Cyberman in the sewers under Berlin (“can’t even get his film references right”, quips the Doctor).
A running theme of the Doctor as a mediator between two worlds comes into sharp focus with Monsters in Metropolis
Suitably, this is the episode where the connecting motif of lost warriors comes most firmly into focus. The Doctor finds himself identifying strongly with Dieter, the First World War veteran from the losing side, whose entire generation was all but wiped out, but has survived to see his homeland beset by poverty and want. Meanwhile, the Cyberman itself is a lost fragment of the Cyberarmy, damaged and broken, arrived in this time in error. The result is a kind of companion piece to Dalek, as it pushes the limits of the Doctor’s sympathy for an old archenemy.
The secondary motif throughout this trilogy has been the Doctor as the mediator between two points of view. The film Metropolis itself becomes a lens to bring this aspect sharply into focus. Metropolis’ message is ultimately that the mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart, and Monsters in Metropolis comes to the same conclusion. Like the era it draws on, the script slips a deeply sincere sentimental side between the endlessly witty wordplay.
The final scenes with the Doctor and the Cyberman are perhaps Doctor Who at its most poetic and beautiful. And in parallel, the Doctor’s reflections on the human aspect of this time and place, and the symbolism of Metropolis’ own loss and recovery, are incredibly poignant. It’s no wonder Eccleston heaps praise on this particular script as reflecting the Doctor Who formula at its best.
Lost Warriors will make any listener feel sixteen years younger with three episodes that feel straight from 2005
The three stories in the Lost Warriors collection, reflect a very special time in Doctor Who history. They contain heartfelt emotion and huge laughs, grotesque monsters and bravura action scenes. All in all, it’s like a time corridor straight back to the wonderful world of 2005. And the news that Christopher Eccleston is already recording a second series of box sets can only help solidify The Ninth Doctor Adventures’ place as one of the most exciting things on the Big Finish calendar.
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Lost Warriors is now available exclusively at the Big Finish website, from just £19.99. Doctor Who fans worldwide can now order all four volumes of The Ninth Doctor Adventures, which are available in three formats – collector’s edition CD, digital download or limited edition gatefold triple LP vinyl – exclusively from the Big Finish website.
Listeners can save by ordering a bundle of the entire series for £88 as a collector’s edition box set. Alternatively, they can order as a download for £78.
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Adventures triple LP vinyls are strictly limited to a pressing of 1,000 per volume, exclusive to the Big Finish site. You can order them at £35.99 each, or £132 for the bundle of all four albums.