Six

Absurdly Entertaining

Jan
27

Review of The One Doctor (#27)
Big Finish Release Date: Dec 2001
Doctor/Companion: Six and Mel
Stars: Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford
Preceding Story: Primeval (Five, Nyssa)
Succeeding Story: Invaders from Mars (Eight, Charley)

Big Finish (BF) has been really good for characters much maligned for their televised appearances. While Ol' Sixie was the last incarnation to which I warmed (even before BF), Mel is one I've never quite managed to appreciate. Until now.

Last year I got my first taste of BF Mel, and while she didn't instantaneously win me over, I found her a heck of a lot less grating than I'd ever found her on television. This time around, I actually quite liked her. Not only was she clever without being shrill, the dialogue even had her poking a bit of fun at herself: "Believe me, when I'm scared, I'll scream the paint off the walls."

Similarly, Ol' Sixie was always the cleverest person in the room without being pompous or abrasive (as he often was in his televised adventures). He, too, was the butt of a gentle joke from time to time (references to his expanding girth, exercise regimen, and consumption of carrot juice all cropped up), but none of it ever felt mean-spirited or overdone.

All of this made for enjoyable listening when the Doctor and Mel stumble across a distress call from a planet in the Generios system at the "vulgar end of time," where "been there, done that" is pretty much the order of the day. The Doctor himself is legend, as they discover when they realize someone else has been using the Doctor's M.O. to run a scam—though a few things have been lost in translation.

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Wholly Satisfactory

Mar
18

Review of The Holy Terror (#14)
Big Finish Release Date: November 2000
Doctor/Companion: Six and Frobisher
Stars: Colin Baker and Robert Jezek
Preceding Story: The Shadow of the Scourge (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: The Mutant Phase (Five, Nyssa)

When I realized the next audio on my list was the first one to include Frobisher the talking penguin (okay, he's actually a Whifferdill; he just prefers the penguin shape), I was pretty psyched. I'd heard good things about the character and was looking forward to his introduction.

Alas, my limited experience with alternative media stories led me astray; as Frobisher was already an established character in comics (a fact which had somehow escaped me), Big Finish apparently felt he needed no introduction in the audio format. I had flashbacks to my first experience with Evelyn, which was frustrating; I'd been so pleased that I wouldn't be jumping into the middle that way again. Unfortunately, the only way to get Frobisher's whole story is to dig into yet another medium, which I am unlikely to do.

So I shrugged away my regrets and focused on the good stuff—like the fact that The Holy Terror was written by Robert Shearman, one of my favorite Who writers. The story has Shearman's usual mix of humor, slightly disturbing imagery, and slow-burn plot reveals, which start right off the bat as we witness a bizarrely pragmatic change of regime. The former ruler—deemed a god by his people—has died, and any who still claim loyalty to him are denounced as blasphemers, for a new god has ascended the throne.

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Proven Formula

Feb
04

Review of The Spectre of Lanyon Moor (#9)
Big Finish Release Date: June 2000
Doctor/Companion: Six and Evelyn Smythe
Stars: Colin Baker and Maggie Stables
Preceding Story: Red Dawn (Five, Peri)
Succeeding Story: Winter for the Adept (Five, Nyssa)

Storytelling in Doctor Who has several tried and true formulae (the most well known (at least by name) probably being "base under siege"), so it was almost comforting when I realized that The Spectre of Lanyon Moor was making use of one of them: the fantastical explanation for an Earth legend (see also The Dæmons, or the more recent (and extreme) example of Death in Heaven).

The exact details of how a 3-foot-high alien troll uses its psionic energy to further its own purposes, affecting the surrounding area in Cornwall of course take a full, convoluted four parts. But it only takes a few minutes to realize this creature is being presented as the basis of a great many stories and superstitions—most notably the existence of Cornish pixies. I found it reassuringly familiar.

Even more reassuring in its familiarity was the presence of the Brigadier. Although he is by this point in time retired (the story, as its Doctor, occurs between the Brigadier's television appearances in Mawdryn Undead and Battlefield), he is conveniently right at the thick of things, on one of those ubiquitous "special assignments" that seem to pepper his later life. Never having met this incarnation of the Time Lord before, the Brig is nevertheless quick on the uptake; he recognizes the Doctor from the manner of his appearance on the scene (among other clues). I loved that he was able to take it all in stride.

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Starting Fresh

Jan
07

Review of The Marian Conspiracy (#6)
Big Finish Release Date: March 2000
Doctor/Companion: Six and Evelyn Smythe
Stars: Colin Baker and Maggie Stables
Preceding Story: The Fearmonger (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: The Genocide Machine (Seven, Ace)

Apparently I just needed to start in the right spot.

After my last experience with a Big Finish audio adventure, I was a little reluctant to dip my toe back into the pool. Although previous forays had been enjoyable, I didn't get as much out of my first Sixth Doctor story as I'd hoped. (Actually, it was only the first full-length one; I've heard a couple of shorts in which Six teams up with Jago & Litefoot.) I wanted to be as enthusiastic about Six's adventures as I'd been about Eight's, but something just didn't quite click.

Good thing I persevered.

Having come into the middle of Evelyn's travels with the Doctor in The Apocalypse Element, I didn't quite "get" their relationship. Starting at its beginning, though, I was immediately charmed by Evelyn's manner with him, and her refusal to take any of his shit. As a 55-year-old woman, she's well established in her life as a history professor and knows her own mind. She has no need to feel in awe of him, as so many of his (especially younger) Companions have initially been. The more mature give and take between them makes for a refreshing change of pace—not least because it shows him not to be the brusque boor he often was in the televised stories.

The particular shape of their initial adventure together didn't hurt matters, either. When the Doctor discovers that Evelyn herself is at the temporal nexus he's been tracking, leading to some Back to the Future-style fading from existence, and realizes he needs to head back to Tudor England to unravel the puzzle, she invites herself along for the ride. After all, how can a historian resist a trip in a time machine?

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The Element of Distraction

Dec
24

Review of The Apocalypse Element (#11)
Big Finish Release Date: August 2000
Doctor/Companion: Six, Evelyn Smythe, and Romana II
Stars: Colin Baker, Maggie Stables, and Lalla Ward
Preceding Story: Winter for the Adept (Five, Nyssa)
Succeeding Story: The Fires of Vulcan (Seven, Mel)

A few months ago when Big Finish was having a sale, I managed to snatch up a few audio adventures for a song. Now that I have a bit of vacation time coming, I thought I'd listen to a few of them. Starting with the earliest release I had in my downloads, then, I jumped into one with Ol' Sixie.

Perhaps it was simply the rigors of preparing for the approaching holiday while caring for a sick child, or perhaps it really was something about the story itself, but for what may be the first time, I found myself unable to enjoy a Big Finish drama to its fullest extent.

The Apocalypse Element follows the Sixth Doctor and his Companion Evelyn as they find themselves pulled off course (surprise!), and subsequently arriving at a time travel conference, where various temporal powers have gathered—including some Time Lords.

Over the course of the play, we learn that Romana, now Lord President of Gallifrey, is missing (along with an entire planet) and that the Daleks are involved. Eventually it comes to light that control of the mysterious "Element," and its use as a weapon of galactic-scale destruction, is the Daleks' objective.

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