Following my enjoyable experience with the 50th anniversary Doctor Who audio adventure, The Light at the End, and my simultaneous discovery that the older Big Finish audios are on sale for only $3.00 each (for a digital download) or $32.00 for a “season” of 12, I have decided to sample a few more. I started with their first one, The Sirens of Time, which was released all the way back in 1999. This is of course during the long “dark period” of Doctor Who’s 50 year history, when the show was not on the air, well before we knew anything about Russell T. Davies or Christopher Eccleston.
Most of the Big Finish audios are like the regular episodes of the series, featuring just one Doctor in a “normal” adventure, but to start off their line they crafted this tale featuring Peter Davison, Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy all in one story together. The Sirens of Time is four episodes long (each roughly the length of an original series installment), and it attempts to cover a lot of ground. Each episode has a different setting, and features a different Doctor having what seems like basically a completely different adventure. Only in the last episode do the three leads all come together, and figure out what is really going on, deal with the bad guys, save the universe, etc.
The plot works fairly well, with the various streams of the story coming together in a way that I could understand (which isn’t always the case with Doctor Who). It’s always nice to hear Davison, Baker, and McCoy in their iconic parts, and it must have been quite the treat for the fan when it first came out. Colin Baker is the actor who is the strongest as an audio Doctor, maybe because of the three he is the one whose voice was always the biggest part of his performance.
But the adventure is also a little disappointing in that it’s really about the Doctor(s) realizing he has to not do his normal thing (of helping and saving people) in order to do right by the universe. That’s not an unwelcome concept to explore, but as an opening chapter of a new line of stories, it’s a bit disappointing, and doesn’t help us to cheer for the character. There are also a lot of concepts that are tossed out for the story, and they unfortunately overall underdeveloped. The fact that some are held over from a prior, unlicensed series of audio dramas that I have never heard of before is not an excuse, especially not now that it’s nearly 15 years later.
Ultimately, the story’s failings somewhat outweigh its strengths, tipping the scales slightly against it. But it’s not horrible, and thankfully, there are over 200 more of these audio play produced since then, so it’s not like we’re talking about a one-off special or anything. And 50 of those stories are available at those cheap prices that I mentioned (as opposed to $20.00 or so for a more recent release).
So, in the end, not a great episode of Doctor Who, but certainly worth $3.00 to hear Davison, Baker, and McCoy going for it together. You can find Big Finish’s website here.