The Doctor: missing, believed dead…
The Eighth Doctor’s third season gets underway with the first two-part story Orbis, which picks up from the cliffhanger at the end of the second series. However it seems an odd story with which to begin, and it uses a particular idea which has been done to death in Doctor Who, especially with the eighth Doctor, and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting with it.
That’s not to say that Orbis is uninvolving – it’s old-style Doctor Who, right down to the creatures and planets’ names being derived from their descriptions. The ending might makes you wonder if some foreshadowing for the Ninth Doctor’s attitude to humans, seen particularly in Rose and Father’s Day, is at play here. An oddity. 6/10
Hothouse sees the Eighth Doctor working for the World Ecology Bureau, as his fourth incarnation did in The Seeds of Doom. No surprises that he ends up facing the Krynoids, and Jonathan Morris capitalises on the more easily vocalised parts of the plant creatures’ life cycle within the story. There’s still some friction between the Doctor and Lucie which pops up at unexpected moments, but this particular TARDIS team still comes across as fresh, with Sheridan Smith’s Lucie very much a companion in the mould of Rose and Donna. 7/10
The Beast of Orlok sees the Doctor and Lucie come under suspicion when dismembering starts reoccurring in the small German town of Orlok. Eschewing the idea of multiple accents, this story stars Miriam Margolyes alongside Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith, and she clearly has fun with the tale.
Barnaby Edwards is one of Big Finish’s strongest directors, and while this script is a vast improvement on his debut, he still gives the cast too many lines which work well written down, but not so brilliantly when spoken. The plotting is great, with some myths explained, and some neat reversals along the way, but a further polish on the dialogue would have elevated this to one of the best in the range. 6/10
The Eighth Doctor encounters the Wirrn once again in Nick Briggs’ Wirrn Dawn, which is an unashamed homage to films like Aliens and Starship Troopers, done with the budget that only audio can provide. Colin Salmon and The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ Daniel Anthony are the main guest stars, cast slightly against type, with Briggs misdirecting the audience very successfully on a number of occasions. An enjoyable tale which adds to the mythos for fans but works well as a standalone story. 7/10
The Scape Goat, written by comic book scribe Pat Mills, is suitably weird and surreal (far more so than the Izzy portion of the Eighth Doctor portmanteau release Company of Friends which came out the same month, that strived for the same feel but didn’t quite achieve it). One of those tales where to reveal too much would spoil it, it sees the Eighth Doctor and Lucie in wartime Paris, and combines pathos with some neat wit. 7/10
Despite an all-star cast – Phils Davis and Jupitus – The Cannibalists doesn’t hang together, and the ending could have only been more telegraphed if the entire cast had stopped and said in unison, “Listen to the next couple of lines – they’re very important.” An attempt to be offbeat that doesn’t really work. 5/10
The pair approach the end of their third season with The Eight Truths. Set slightly in the future, it sees a cult hijacked by some visitors from across the stars. Some strong guest stars (Goodness Gracious Me‘s Sanjeev Bhaskar, Stephen Moore and a returning Katarina Olsson) contribute to a slower paced than normal story, although the idea of Lucie being possessed/brainwashed has been used too often.
The final revelation will come as no surprise to anyone with a vague knowledge of Who history but sets the scene for a confrontation between the Doctor and a race responsible for the loss of one of his lives. 7/10
Worldwide Web lives up to its punning title, as the Eighth Doctor and Lucie try to deal with the insidious effects of the Metebelis spiders’ invasion. Loose ends from the three seasons of adventures are tied up, with some long running characters making some surprising decisions. The only weakness in Eddie Robson’s script is that it has some resonances with the ending of Steven Moffat’s series four story featuring River Song but that doesn’t really mar a strong season finale for this range. 7/10