No of Episodes: 4, on two discs
Writer: Alan Barnes
Director: Gary Russell
Producers: Gary Russell and Jason Haigh-Ellery
Companion: Charlotte “Charley” Pollard (India Fisher)
Summary: The Doctor is going through his library in search of his TARDIS’s manual. Suddenly, he sees a time-ship on his scanner. It’s caught in a time-loop, causing it to repeatedly crash. Vortisaurs (pterodactyls who scavenge the vortex of space and time) have begun to swarm the ship. The Doctor spins his TARDIS around to intervene, but the vortex causes him and a vortisaur to fall in. The TARDIS materializes inside the R101 airship on its maiden (and sadly only) voyage.
The Doctor meets Charlotte Pollard, “Charley” to her friends. Charley has disguised herself in order to stow away. He also meets Lord Tamworth (the captain), Lt. Col. Frayling (who designed the R101), and Rathbone. Rathbone is harboring a Triskele. Triskele are an alien race who have three personas: the Engineers (good), the Un-creators (evil), and the Law-givers (authority). Can the Doctor intervene before chaos ensues?
Review: I was interested in the Eighth Doctor’s audio dramas from Big Finish after having seen the web-episode “Night of the Doctor”, which chronicles his final adventure before regenerating into the “War Doctor”. Although there are some stories set before “Storm Warning”, this is first audio adventure if you go by production order. It’s a good place to start.
The story flows very well, with no signs of padding. Alan Barnes has created a story that seems like it would fit right in with the Classic era’s pseudo-historicals like “Talons of Weng-Chiang” or “The Time Meddler”. India Fisher is great as Charley, giving her an elegant air. I’m not quite warming up to her as a character, but then there are a few companions that I didn’t like away (like Leela for instance). She seems a good fit for the Doctor, a woman eager to embark on an adventure, no matter the risk.
Barnaby Edwards is another star as Rathbone, a brash man filled with British pride. He is a great antagonist for the Doctor, and I like the way they play off each other.
If you’re curious about Big Finish, this is a great place to start. It has no tie-ins to their other stories (actually, at this point, the continuity of their universe was just starting). And yes, I do plan to review more audio dramas than just the Paul McGann range.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Continuity: The time ship is encountered again in Terror Firma, which reveals that the Doctor was actually amnesiac at the beginning of this story. He finds a book by Mary Shelley, which foreshadows In the Company of Friends (a four-part anthology). Charley’s final story with the Eighth Doctor is The Girl Who Never Was, which closes the first series of adventures. She also travelled with the Sixth Doctor beginning with The Condemned and ending with Blue Forgotten Planet. She met the Fourth Doctor as well in the 50th Anniversary story The Light at the End. (which features Doctors 1-8). The Vortisaur that follows the TARDIS into the vortex is named Ramsey by Charley and becomes an unofficial pet until Minuet in Hell. The Vortisaurs themselves are similar to the demonic creatures who fed on time distortions in “Father’s Day”.
Trivia: Gareth Thomas plays Lord Tamworth. He is best known as Blake in BBC’s cult sci-fi series Blake Seven (created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks). India Fisher has actually played other characters for Big Finish besides Charley. In Winter For the Adept (a Fifth Doctor drama), she plays Peril, and in the Gallifrey drama A Blind Eye, she plays Cecelia Pollard, Charley’s younger sister. She’s also the narrator on BBC’s Master Chef series.