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 a one-part story that was part of a collection of similarly-lengthed tales, called Forty-Five.
(Daily Doctor Who #111)
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.
The Word Lord
Line: Doctor Who–the Monthly Adventures (#115) / The Seventh Doctor Collection
Length: 27 minutes
Buying Price: A full set of four stories (including this one) costs $4.55
Comments: The Word Lord is the last of a set of four related-but-independent stories released as Forty-Five back in 2008. It features the Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy, alongside of TV companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) and original-to-audio companion (Philip Oliver). The story, by Steven Hall, brings the trio to Antarctica, where a seemingly impossible murder has taken place at the world’s most secure military bunker. After a short time investigating, the Doctor begins to notice a preponderance of the number 45 (or variations thereof), a phenomenon I have often joked about in real lie with the number 47. In this case, it’s not harmless fun, but a harbinger of doom and destruction at the hands of a mysterious being known as Nobody No-One (Paul Reynolds).
Nobody No-One is a Word Lord, which is something like a Time Lord analog from a reality 45 billion dimensions away, who became a bounty hunter intent on capturing or killing the Doctor for various interested parties. He is one of the most inventive enemies that Doctor Who has come up with, finding power, transportation and disguise in errant spoken words. For example, Nobody No-One can use the Doctor’s careless phrase, “Nobody could hurt them in the TARDIS,” to do exactly that, simply by taking the words at their literal meaning. When combined with his ruthless nature and relative invulnerability to harm, Nobody No-One becomes one of the most unusual and challenging enemies the Doctor has had to face.
The Word Lord is a pretty gripping and interesting tale. Sylvester McCoy is very good as the Doctor, which is not unusual but also not guaranteed. At times, I’ve found him to be one of my less favorite audio-versions of the Doctor, with his performance either becoming stilted or overwrought. None of that is a problem here, as his performance is urgent and grounded. His companions, his enemy and the supporting cast all do fine with their roles as well. If there is a disappointment it’s just that the story is over quite quickly, which means there obviously is not time to really develop the concepts deeply. That will have to wait, one presumes, for the sequel story from 2010–A Death in the Family, which features the Doctor facing a regenerated Word Lord in a more extensive adventure.
Does it tempt me to get more? Forty-Five? Not particularly. I’d always enjoy more audio Doctor Who, but this is the last story in that collection, not the first, so I’m not sure how the other adventures could actually tie-in in a satisfying way aside from peppering more “forty-five” references into things. It’s actually more of a teaser for A Death in the Family ($12.99 on the Big Finish website) which features the follow-on confrontation with the Word Lord. That I’d be keen to hear.