Doctor Who: Peladon

Peladon is a planet that featured in two stories during the 3rd Doctor’s run during the 1970s. These Big Finish audio four stories carry on the drama on Peladon — the environmental issues, the political intrigue both on the planet and among interested parties elsewhere in the galaxy, and the lives of various characters seen in Curse of Peladon and Monster of Peladon.

Peladon

Just a note before I begin: I haven’t seen either of the two Peladon episodes in years and my memories of story details are vague. 

The Ordeal of Peladon

This first story is set near the end of the reign of King Peladon (David Troughton, who played the young prince way back in the 1970s). Aging, he’s  been in semi-seclusion for the past ten years and lets his chancellor Raarlan do most of the work of administration for the kingdom. Unfortunately, this enables Raarlan to do as he likes and keep things from the king. For example, the new mines that have recently opened up in the desert provinces.

King Peladon

King Peladon is worried about a holy man named Skarn who is also in the desert provinces and is developing a cult following due to his claims that the old gods are speaking through him. The king wants to know more about Skarn and wants to understand what the people see in him.

When a woman offers to take him to meet Skarn, the king is eager to go. This means leaving the citadel and taking a long walk out into the desert, with an adventure or two along the way. The meeting is not what the king was hoping for, but then Skarn’s new prophet-like powers aren’t what he imagines them to be either — as the surprise cameo appearance of a Doctor not appearing on the cover art makes clear when he pops up in a flashback and explains the situation.

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Doctor Who: Out of Time 3

Wink

This is the third in a sort-of series of stories in which the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) runs into one of his previous selves and they have an adventure together. In the first Out of Time, he and 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) battled the Daleks in a transtemporal abbey. In the second story, he joined the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) jumping around different eras in Parisian history to stop a very long-term plot of the Cybermen.

This time, it’s the 6th Doctor (Colin Baker). The threat they face is the Weeping Angels.

The Tardis has been kicking up a fuss and, instead of taking the 10th Doctor where he wants to go, lands on Lucidus Silvara, a planet famed for being constantly in the blinding white light of its “thousand cold suns,” except for one day each year when there’s an eclipse and the beauty of the planet is visible briefly in the dim light. This is not that day. The Doctor cannot see the man who calls out to him from the bright light, but people who’ve watched the original Doctor Who series, or listened to these Big Finish audios, recognize that voice right away.

The 6th Doctor had dropped in to see the planet on its annual eclipse day, and doesn’t understand why it’s suddenly so bright again; the eclipse shouldn’t have ended for a few more hours. He’s lost his own Tardis somewhere around here, but of course can’t see where it is. But he soon realizes that he’s talking to the Doctor and not just a doctor, and who else would be in a position to lend a hand? (although he doesn’t care for the “grubby” look of Dr. 10’s Tardis).

The problem of what happened to Dr. 6 becomes apparent, when a Weeping Angel is discovered in the vicinity, coming toward them at “blink” intervals. The Weeping Angels can’t move when someone, even another Angel, is looking at them, but they can move very fast–in the blink of an eye–when that gaze is interrupted.

Actually, there are two of them, on either side of the Doctors.

Dr. 6: “Angel to the left us. Angel to the right.”

Dr. 10: “Here I am stuck in the middle with you.”

Dr. 6 [groaning]: “You’re not one of those Doctors, are you?”

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The Lone Centurion: Camelot

The Lone Centurion 2

Big Finish continues the adventures of Rory Williams (voiced by Arthur Darvill), that unassuming modern lad from Leadworth who, by a remarkable set of circumstances, ended up as an ageless Auton in 120 CE in a shrinking universe without stars.

At the end the Lone Centurion, when Rory abdicated as Emperor and left Rome, he apparently made his way back to Britain. This second set of audio dramas picks up a few centuries later in Wales, where Rory is now living in Camelot and serving as an apprentice to Malthus, the court physician. Since Rory was a nurse in his human life, this is a job he feels more suited to than gladiator or assassin–although he wryly observes that nurses were underpaid even then.

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Diaries of River Song: New Recruit

River Song: “You know, my favorite thing about this time period?”

Liz Shaw: “The discovery of Hawking radiation?”

River: “The boots! Look at them! My legs look amazing!”

River Song joins UNIT during the first part of the 3rd Doctor’s run! The concept of dropping that time-traveling archeologist into that vaguely 1970s/80s-era scientific and military alien-invasion milieu was too tempting to resist, although I was curious about how the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Liz Shaw were going to be portrayed, since Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, and Caroline John have all passed on and are not available for audio work.

New Recruit cover

Like most of these Big Finish audio drama sets, this one contains 4 separate adventures.

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The Horror in the Museum

Horror in the MuseumThe Horror in the Museum was a story  that H.P. Lovecraft either co-wrote with Hazel Heald, or ghost-wrote based on an idea of hers (her version of events versus his). It appeared in Weird Tales coincidentally around the same time as the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum came out; the two have similar settings, although the “Horror” is a bit more horrible.

Like The Curse of Yig, this is one of those Lovecraft stories I know that I’ve read, but can’t say I’m extremely familiar with. In some ways, that gives it an advantage over stories like Rats in the Walls or Haunter of the Dark that I practically know by heart; I first listened to this Dark Adventure Radio Theatre audio adaptation without expectations or close comparisons to the original text, although I did  give the text a quick refresher read online after listening to it a couple of times.

This adaptation does stay fairly close to the original story, with the addition of one new prominent character and a bit of a twist at the end–neither of which is unusual for Dark Adventure. It also has one or two interesting things to say about achieving immortality through works of art. Not a unique sentiment, but in this particular case…

The audio drama begins with two Americans from Chicago visiting Madame Tussaud’s famous Wax Museum in London. Madame Tussaud’s is not the Museum of the title, where the Horror occurs, but it does introduce our two protagonists to it.

Steven Jones is an entrepreneur looking for a terrific new show to bring to the States. He isn’t very  impressed with the historical waxworks he sees, but his publisher friend and potential business financier, Eleanor Patterson*, notices that the queue for the Chambers of Horrors is very long.

Then they see one wax figure that does intrigue: Dr. Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, astrologer, occultist, and reputed magician. In Lovecrafty circles, Dee is best known for his Latin translation of the Necronomicon. There’s something in the lifelike look and craftsmanship of this particular figure that leads Steven and Eleanor to inquire about the artist. They are given directions to the more obscure waxwork show of one George Rodgers.

Wax Museum souvenirs

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Doctor Who: Out of Time 2

Not quite a sequel to Out of Time, the previous Big Finish audio drama with the same title. There’s no continuation of the plot from that story, but the idea is the same–a matchup of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) with one of his predecessors. And since I never can resist Doctors meeting Doctors, here we are again.

Out of Time 2

Paris 1809.  The story begins with the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) on a tour of the Barrière d’Enfer (that is, the Gates of Hell), the catacombs under the city where the bones of the dead are stored.  He was aiming at London 1851, but some kind of time anomaly bumped the Tardis and he ended up here instead. The tour guide, Joseph Delonne, is an aged man who has lived above the subterranean catacombs all his life and claims to know more about them than anyone else. His own father, he says, was killed when their family home collapsed into the vaults beneath in the late 1700s.

Also on the tour is a 51st-century Time Agent, Tina Drake, who seems to know exactly who the Doctor is without being introduced. “Blue box, robot dog.” She’s tracing the same paradoxical time anomaly that disrupted the Tardis back to its source in this particular time and place.

The two break away from the tour group to do a little exploring on their own. Their attention is drawn by an anachronistic flashing red light at the end of tunnel which turns out to be a button to open a secret door.

Inside, they find a troop of about 100 Cybermen in suspended animation. One who seems to be the leader immediately awakes and tells the Doctor that they have been expecting him for some time.

Tina escapes by jumping out with her vortex manipulator, but the Doctor ends in a vault where he is frozen in time. As he sums up the adventure later:

The 5th Doctor

“Catacombs, Cybermen, trapped in a stasis cage for 135 years, this.” 

Paris 1944. The 10th Doctor was aiming at 1922, but ran into that same anomaly “bump” and ended up in the midst of the Nazi Occupation. Fleeing the Gestapo, he seeks a hiding place in the French Resistance underground HQ in the catacombs. As he later describes it: 

“Nazis, Josephine Baker, catacombs, this.”

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The Lone Centurion

Like the Paternoster Gang and the Diaries of River Song, this is another set of Big Finish audios based on a secondary but popular character from Doctor Who.

First, a bit of backstory.

Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) was traveling with the 11th Doctor when he was not merely killed, but his entire existence erased so that no one but the Doctor remembered him. Not even his fiancée Amy Pond, although she was sometimes very sad without knowing why.

But Rory wasn’t gone very long. A couple of episodes later, when the Doctor and Amy were at Stonehenge in 120 CE waiting for a large and mysterious box called the Pandorica to open, Rory returned as an Auton in the form of a Roman centurion–plastic body, but looking just like the old Rory and containing a human mind that remembered being a British man in the 21st-century. Let’s not go into the hows and whys of that. It’s a bit complicated.

The fatally injured but not-quite-dead Amy ended up being placed inside the Pandorica for more than 1800 years, held in stasis until the giant box was opened by her younger self and she was healed. The Doctor jumped straight on ahead to arrange this event in 1996, but plastic Centurion Rory opted to remain with the Pandorica in Roman Britain and protect Amy through the passing centuries. By the time they met again in 1996, the Lone Centurion had grown into a figure of legend.

So, what was Rory up to between 120 and 1996? This trio of comedic audio stories fills us in on the early days of his adventures, beginning in Rome.

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Doctor Who: The End of the Beginning

Not to be confused with The Beginning of the End, which is a film about giant grasshoppers crawling on photographs of Chicago. This Big Finish audio drama is about the Doctor in four regenerations in four different time periods,  but all of them eventually facing the same cosmic crisis.

The End of the Beginning

A brief prologue introduces us to the Kethlar Death Lords—an “ancient order of ruthless warriors”—who were engaged in a great war eons ago. Only one survived their final battle and, while floating aimlessly through the millennia, he “declared war on the Universe.” This survivor, Vakrass, is the narrator of this opening piece, and provides occasional bridging comments between the three short dramas that follow.

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Doctor Who: Expiry Dating

And two other audio stories featuring River Song (Alex Kingston) and the 10th Doctor (David Tennant). It’s especially noteworthy that this set was recorded during these months of social isolation. Each of the actors involved recorded their own part from a “studio” set up in their own homes.

Expiry Dating

Expiry Dating

Given the method of recording, it seems appropriate that much of this first story in the CD set is in the epistolary style. It’s a delightful follow-up to the 10th Doctor’s first encounter with River Song in Silence of the Library.

After receiving a “message in a bottle” from River on a piece of psychic paper — which allows for immediate response — the Doctor engages in a correspondence/conversation with this mysterious woman who claims to know him so intimately even though he’s only just met her. He’s interested in finding out who she is, without giving away “spoilers” regarding her fate at the Library.

10th Doctor

“Who are you? How do we know each other? How do I know I can trust you?”

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Doctor Who: Out of Time

While most of my purchases of Doctor-Who-related audio dramas from Big Finish have been about companions whom I’ve wanted more stories about, I remain a sucker for any interactions between Doctors; I’ve been that way since I first saw The Three Doctors as a child. I enjoy the contrast of personalities and the sparks that fly whenever a given Doctor clashes with his previous or future selves.

So when I learned about this one, featuring two of the most popular Doctors from the original and new series, I just had to have it. I was hoping for a lot from the interaction, and was not disappointed.

Out of Time

The Cathedral of Contemplation is a unique example of trans-temporal architecture: a massive structure that rotates carousel-like outside of Time itself, with doors opening to different times and places as it spins. This makes it irresistible to the 10th Doctor (David Tennant — Dr 10, as I’ll be calling him hereafter), who is at this point traveling alone after the loss of Donna Noble and before he faces his next regeneration.

He’s welcomed at the Cathedral by the Abbess in charge; she makes some curious remarks about a “coincidence” and, even though he doesn’t recall ever being there before, tells him that he always visits when he’s in trouble. Well, “someone else, and all of them you.”

The Abbess says that the Doctor can go anywhere he wants within the Cathedral, except for the Panoramic Gallery, which is what he’s come specifically to see in hopes of picking up some new travel ideas. The door to the gallery is locked, but he’s not going to let a little thing like that stop him from getting in. He twiddles the lock with his sonic screwdriver as soon as he’s alone…

Meanwhile, Dr 4 (Tom Baker) is painting in the gallery, working on frescoes with an assistant, a young woman named Jora whom he’s met at the Cathedral. She’s run away from her military after a traumatic battle and is in hiding.

While they’re taking, some sort of strange temporal disturbance occurs at the door, and a man comes in. “Oh, hello.”

“Do I know you?” asks Dr 4.

He doesn’t recognize the visitor, but the visitor certainly recognizes him.

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