Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Doctor Who: Other Dimensions - The Sixth Doctor's Last Adventure

The 'Doctor Who: Other Dimensions' series continues as we take a look at the story behind what we saw on TV...

'I'm a Time Lord who's out of time.'

Being the die-hard Doctor Who fans that they are, Big Finish's MO is to expand on the TV series. Think that companion didn't get enough adventures? Don't worry, Big Finish have it sorted. Want this Doctor to meet that monster? You can listen to it on CD or download! Recently, they finally got around to righting one of the biggest wrongs of the classic series - the Sixth Doctor's regeneration. Have a look at the original below:

Not really a dignified way to go for a Time Lord, is it? Thankfully, the four-part boxset The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure (featuring stories from across his life) gives him a much more fulfilling end.

The opener to the mini-series seems to take inspiration from that of the Tenth Doctor's final adventures as The End of the Line resembles 'Planet of the Dead' (perhaps by way of 'Midnight') as it sees an ordinary train pass through an interchange and end up in another dimension. A taught, atmospheric yarn, there are also a couple of jaw-dropping twists that this listener didn't see coming. We also get to meet Sixie's latest companion, Constance Clarke, who we are told was a Wren at Bletchley Park. Miranda Raison does a fine job so I look forward to eventually hearing her introductory story.

The Red House might be the least best of the four, as it lacks the surprises of the first part, although it does sport a fun twist on the usual werewolf tale - and kudos for the use of the original pronunciation of the term (were not where). There is also good use of perhaps Big Finish's definitive companion, Charley Pollard, as the Valeyard uses the Edwardian Adventuress' status as a complicated event in time and space for his own malevolent ends.

The penultimate tale Stage Fright travels to Victorian times (there's a lot of that going on of late) and has the Doctor and Flip team up with the ever-endearing investigators of infernal incidents Jago and Litefoot. Unlike the relationship of equals that he shares with Constance and Charley, Sixie's paternal side is showcased here as he mentors the younger, less experienced Flip. He's also at his most vulnerable as he sees himself as culpable for the Valeyard's crimes - as the villain kills innocent folk in a bid to recreate all the Doctor's previous deaths. Just in time for his next one...

And so the Sixth Doctor finally comes to The Brink of Death, as he fights to save himself and stop the Valeyard's dominion over time. Firstly, a word for Michael Jayston, whose shadow lurks over this boxset. What the Valeyard lacks in subtlety (he's always cackling away like a pantomime villain) he makes up for in style. Jayston's timbrous tones do all the hard work, immediately making the Valeyard a credible threat. Elsewhere, Mel does less than the other companions on show here but is still far removed from the perky screamer she was on-screen. The companion role is actually filled more by the likeable Genestra, a Gallifreyan who dreams of seeing the universe (sound familiar?).

So what of the Sixth Doctor's death? I won't spell it out but suffice it to say that it gives him the self-sacrifice that every Doctor deserves for their regeneration. There is also a timey-wimey edge to it which recalls Steven Moffat's knack for using time travel to up the tragedy.

One of Big Finish's greatest triumphs has always been their reclamation of the Sixth Doctor, turning him from the, let's face it, mostly muddled and misfired character on screen (the fault of the writers, never Colin Baker) into a much more endearing incarnation. Here they followed through with this to, at long last, give him a fitting farewell. It's a magnificent change. And not a moment too soon...

The Regeneration Game - The end is nigh for the Sixth Doctor.

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