The Harvest is the first Big Finish Doctor Who featuring the Seventh Doctor that I’ve had for a while (it’s release #58 in the Monthly Range, and the last Seventh Doctor was #49). It’s written by Dan Abnett (also a comic writer I’m well familiar with for his work on the Legion of Super-Heroes), and was released in June 2004. In addition to Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, it also introduced Philip Oliver as new companion “Hex” (aka Thomas Hector Schofield).
Spoilers (for real)
The Harvest begins, as do many Seventh Doctor stories, with the Doctor and the Ace in the thick of things, trying to proactively suss out some weird goings-on in a hospital in the near future (of 2021!!) The first episode, of four, keeps the Doctor almost completely absent, leaving the action to fall to Ace and her new friend, hospital nurse Hex. This anticipates the Doctor-lite episodes of the modern series, and it works fine because Ace and Hex are both strong enough to carry the story.
Hex is actually the first Seventh Doctor companion created for Big Finish, along the lines of other characters that they had already introduced for the Fifth (Erimem), Sixth (Evelyn Smythe) and Eighth Doctors (Charley Pollard & C’rizz). And it’s only one story but so far he works quite well, interacting nicely with Ace but being completely out of his element with the local monsters at first, but quickly adapting. He is clearly attracted to Ace I’m interested to see addressed, but he doesn’t appear to be chasing after her, and he seems genuinely excited to travel with the Doctor which makes him instantly likeable in a way that I’d say C’rizz isn’t.
One of the best things about The Harvest is the way it kept it’s big surprise under the radar until it was time to reveal it. Maybe it was obvious to others but for me, the discovery that this is actually a Cybermen story worked brilliantly. Once the truth was out (at the end of episode two), the hints seemed obvious, but up to that point I had no idea. Given how many of these spoilers have been blown for me by either unfortunate marketing, unlucky internet activity, or the fact that the story was decades old by the time I came across it, it was nice to actually experience the twist in a fresh way. The idea that some Cybermen were in seeking to restore their humanity is also a unique take on the monsters (even if this turns out to be a feint).
On the whole, The Harvest is quite good, which is less of a sure-thing than it should be. I love Doctor Who, but there is often a lot to criticize in it, and that has included with a lot of Big Finish’s output. But The Harvest works well, with a good plot and some engaging character work by Dan Abnett (who generally brings the same to his Legion of Super-Heroes comic work). Sylvester McCoy has often been far from my favorite Big Finish Doctor, but he’s solid here, and both Sophie Aldred and newcomer Philip Oliver are good as well.