Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle BF’s latest boxset, full of old and new favourites. Also, Five and the Racnoss. Eh, the door was opened, there was light, they just kind of came in and the others didn’t want to make them sad. Anyway. Let’s go.
SCRIBBLES: Well, that was a rather nice surprise, wasn’t it? I don’t believe either of us were particularly won over by the first outing of this range, but this hits the spot well. Every story here, really, makes an interesting case for the juxtaposition of their classic Doctors of choice with the modern era and find meaning for their characters, all while expanding in logical ways on new series monsters (whereas in the first set, elements like the ending to Falling Angels made me wonder how much the writing even understood the new series). Every monster here, no matter how different the approach, and they do get quite different, feels like an exciting and worthwhile extrapolation of the modern show in a way that Big Finish really has always provided to other eras at its best. And this fresh exploration of modern narrative space befits the writing of the Doctor, too. Even in the weakest story here, every Doctor really gets a chance to shine in a way they rarely do, using the weight of the modern series to inform explorations of who the Doctors once were, and every lead actor rises to the occasion admirably. It feels coherent and polished and high quality, making a case for the existence of this range that actually has me hoping there will be a volume 3 sometime soon.
TIBERE: It’s weird, BF seems, this year, on a big mission to make their most improbable and kind of unneeded projects succeed. The Ninth Doctor Chronicles, UNIT – Assembled (I mean, I wasn’t too into that one, but it was compelling in its own way), and now this. I’m surprised, but happy about it! But back on topic – this is a good set. Very good, I’d even say. Among the many problems of the first one (writers mostly on the less experienced side of things, a general feeling of rushed production, weird picks for who faces what …), one of the most annoying was they way the stories felt like they had nothing to say, nothing to add to the monsters we knew. That’s not really the case, here – no matter the execution, all of these are cool, compelling premises that do really feel like they expand the universe, and feed into the TV stories organically. Mostly, it’s a sort of laboratory for BF writers to throw some cool ideas and concepts and twist the original premises of these creatures in new ways – and yeah, that’s hardly the deepest kind of stories you’ll encounter, and I wouldn’t cry “masterpiece” at any point, but there’s a real joy in that. Those are good romps, solid action movies – that, importantly, don’t use their nature as romps to get stale and uncreative. It’s a lot of fun, and I’d definitely recommend it.