In the wake of the whole COVID-19 pandemic, Big Finish–most famous for their original licensed Doctor Who audios–began to release a variety of projects for free on a weekly basis. Some of these are “proper” Doctor Who adventures, some are licensed from other sources, and others are completely original. I have been taking advantage of these, as I’ve written about here and elsewhere. This time around we’re looking at the first episode of the Eight Doctor adventure, Doom Coalition.
Big Finish has been pretty generous with all this free product, but the question is how successful each sampler is at tempting me to buy the full release.
(Daily Doctor Who #62)
Line: Doom Coalition 1 (Episode 1)
Length: 67 minutes
Buying Price: The full Doom Coalition 1 (including four full episodes) was available for download at $35.00, but at the time of this writing is only $17.99 (roughly the same for each of the four Doom Coalition collections.
Comments: Paul McGann’s Eight Doctor has kind of had two different incarnations of Big Finish audio drama runs. The earlier ones (which start back with Storm Warning from 2001, basically exist in the aftermath of the the TV movie (only five years prior), and functioned as part of the company’s “Main Range” of monthly dramas, rotating for a time with past Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in the lead role.
And then later, in 2007, the Eighth Doctor slid out of the Main Range and into his own run of adventures which have been released in different formats. So far, my exposure to these adventures has been limited to these free trials. I heard the first part of Dark Eyes a while ago, and this time around, I had the chance to check out part 1 of Doom Coalition, or more specifically Doom Coalition 1. In total the whole story is four box sets of four stories each.
This one is called The Eleven, by Matt Fitton. The title reflects one of the more interesting ideas I’ve heard from Big Finish—a Time Lord who is driven to criminal insanity by the fact that his current and former personalities all vie for dominance of his body. Sylvester McCoy makes a brief cameo as the 7th Doctor who captures the Eleven (as he calls himself).
However, years later the Eleven is being interviewed by a Time Lord graduate student, and in the process manages to effect an escape. The Eighth Doctor and his companion Liv Chenka then get called in to help, and the story ends up focusing on a game of cat and mouse through the Gallifreyan capital as they try to figure out where the Eleven is and what his goals are.
The story’s cast is obviously headlined by Paul McGann, who is consistently good as the Doctor. Nicola Walker is Liv Chenka, who I have never heard before except for in other sample audios, so I don’t have much of a sense of the character. Mark Bonnar features as the Eleven himself, and has his work cut out for him bringing the different personalities to life. He’s quite good, though the concept is a bit tricky to fully pull off in audio, especially since all the personas spend most of their time in a rushed bicker.
Overall, The Eleven is a pretty satisfying adventure, which does some deep dives into Gallifreyan lore. It obviously ends with things unresolved (spoiler–the Eleven gets away!) but is still a decent standalone listening experience.
Does it tempt me to get more? The script is fine and so is the supporting cast, but it’s Paul McGann himself who really sells his stories, and I’m always up for more.