To say I was negative of the Colin Baker Era of Doctor Who would be an understatement.
I didn’t like it much, with The Twin Dilemma and Season 22 in particular being utter garbage.
If you’ve read my reviews, you’ll know that I keep referencing the Big Finish stories Baker did and how he managed to redeem himself as a good actor and a great Doctor. Indeed, in 2001 Colin Baker won a 2001 poll for Best Doctor, which is incredible when you think about it.
So what about those Big Finish stories for those who don’t listen to them? Here’s my take on eleven stories that could replace the ones we got from The Twin Dilemma to the Ultimate Foe and how if these stories were broadcast in their place, the Colin Baker era would be remembered far more fondly, and possibly as the most consistent era of all.
Plot: The Sixth Doctor and Peri visit The Goggle-Box, a sort of museum where you can watch any piece of television media ever broadcast. While there, Peri finds out from a local news bulletin from Baltimore in 1984 that her best friend’s father had died. So they go back for the funeral and are faced with the fact that as far as her family were concerned, she’d disappeared. So it deals with the fallout of that while at the same time, the Cybermen are hatching a plot to convert humans to be like them.
Thoughts: I found this to be an excellent story from the viewpoint of how it deals with the fallout of Peri just leaving. They tried to do this with Rose in The Aliens of London, but given more time in this one it works out better. The Cyberman stuff is good too.
Companion: Evelyn Smythe
Plot: The Doctor discovers an anomaly surrounding a middle-aged history lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University whose family seem to be disappearing from time itself. To investigate further they go back to January 1555 and find themselves caught up in – as Pip and Jane Baker would say – a web of mayhem and intrigue surrounding the monarchy and how the wrong Queen is on the throne.
Thoughts: A solid historical story that deals with William Hartnell Era style issues like interfering in past events. It also deals heavily with the freedom of religious expression at the time. A strong introduction for Evelyn Smythe and a worthy listen for anyone.
Plot: The Doctor & Evelyn find themselves on the Galapagos Islands at the same time as a young Charles Darwin was there. The disappearance of prisoners from the local jail leads to the discovery that a colony of Silurians have emerged from hibernation and are planning their return to the surface at humanity’s expense.
Thoughts: Sure, it’s the standard Silurian script, but it’s done well – a lot better than the Matt Smith story.
Plot: While on the hunt for his favourite takeaway in 1999 London, the Doctor and Evelyn stumble across a casino/nightclub run by cockney gangster vampires. And it just so happens a well-known Vampire Hunter is on the way to destroy them.
Thoughts: An exceptionally dark story, performed expressively by a strong guest cast and full bodied characters. While it begins a long running story arc that spans many stories and two Doctors, listened to on its own it works very well.
Plot: Our intrepid heroes make an unexpected and unwelcome visit to a depressed student from Evelyn’s class. To make the point they want to make (and I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t listened) they tell her the story of the time they landed on a pirate ship searching for treasure. But neither of them are quite able to agree on how the story goes.
Thoughts: This is an absolutely fantastic story with a great conclusion. It’s got a strong cast including Bill Oddie as the maniacal pirate captain. With genuine moments of comedy and drama, it also has the best cliffhanger of any Sixth Doctor story (you’ll know what it is if you’ve heard it). Moreover, it’s got a musical episode, with the cast taking their turns singing for comedy effect. To be blunt, Doctor Who & The Pirates is awesome.
Plot: The story that was the precursor for the Christopher Eccleston story, Dalek, Jubilee concerns The Doctor & Evelyn landing in an altenative timeline where the English Empire rule the world, and as part of their upcoming Jubilee celebrations to commemorate their victory in their war with the Daleks, the rulers plan to execute the one Dalek they have kept as a prisoner.
Thoughts: For Rob Shearman to be asked to convert his Jubilee script into a TV story to relaunch the Daleks is testament to how good this is. A clever and engaging plot with a strong performance from not just the two leads, but also Martin Jarvis as the ruler of the English Empire and yes, even Nicholas Briggs as the Dalek. Superb.
Plot: A sort of Romeo & Juliet style affair on the planet of Világ. The Doctor & Evelyn accidentally find themselves caught up in the local politics, with Evelyn becoming a well-known politician on one side of a warring divide, while the Doctor becomes the special advisor to a Princess on the other.
Thoughts: This is an unusual Doctor Who in that – as I say – it’s more a political drama than a story about an alien threat. But it’s good and in particular, I like how the narrative is helped to flow through the use of “Local News Broadcasts”.
Plot: When Davris is revived and asked by the head of an Earth corporation to use his great genius to work for good ends, he seems to be playing along. The Doctor arrives and insists that he cannot be trusted. Forced however to work alongside his nemesis, on projects such as famine relief, he seeks to uncover Davros before he can put new schemes to create a power-base into effect.
Thoughts: In the same way as these audios show Colin Baker in a far more positive light than his TV stories, Davros does wonders for the credibility of Terry Molloy as an actor. It’s a strong script helped by the addition of some top notch acting talent like Bernard Horsfall and…erm…Wendy Padbury.
Plot: It’s another Davros story, and this time it’s in a situation where the Doctor and Mel are accidentally seperated when the medical vessel they are on is evacuated. While the Doctor gets caught in a Dalek time scoop, Mel finds herself working as part of a scientific research team on the planet her escape pod lands on.
But as it turns out, the “human” scientist she is working for is really Davros, and his “Juggernaut” project is really the creation of the Mechanoids from all the way back in The Chase.
Thoughts: A clever plot and a more than tolerable Dalek story. Again, the cast all do well, and Bonnie Langford in particular is far better than in any of her TV stories.
Plot: The Doctor & Mel land on a planet where a Doctor impersonator is busy swindling a planet after staging a fake invasion that he “managed to defeat”.
But it turns out that a real invasion is brewing and so the real Doctor and companion must work with the fake Doctor and companion to save the day.
Thoughts: A light hearted story that takes the piss a fair bit but works to the strengths of both Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford. Christopher Biggins and Clare Buckfield are also amusing as the fake Doctor and Companion.
Plot: Along with his shape shifting penguin pal Frobisher, the Doctor lands in a mysterious castle and immediately finds himself involved with a society which strictly adheres to a complex and apparently illogical set of customs. While working with the court scribe Eugene Tacitus, the Doctor discovers there’s something more than a little bit fishy going on. Frobisher meanwhile accidentally ends up worshipped as a God.
Thoughts: This is apparently one of – if not the – lowest selling Big Finish audio of all time, because the assumption is that a story involving a penguin as a companion can’t be any good. Poppycock. The Holy Terror is one of the cleverest, darkest and best performed Doctor Who stories ever. By a clear mile it’s my favourite Big Finish and would comfortably be in my Top 15 stories of any medium. It really is that good. Sam Kelly especially is fantastic.
As the story develops, the plot tightens, the twists work and the results are particularly gruesome; so much so that they’d struggle to get this made on TV.
If y0u can only enjoy one Colin Baker story, make sure it’s this one.