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Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE LEGACY OF TIME Review

Matthew Kresal presents a spoiler-lite review of the Big Finish twentieth anniversary release, The Legacy Of Time.

Twenty years is a long time. In the history of Doctor Who, it takes you from An Unearthly Child to The Five Doctors or from Survival to End of Time. It's also how long now that Big Finish, which started as a small company owned and operated by fans, has been telling the Doctor's adventures on audio. Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of audio dramas which branched the Wilderness Era where there was no TV show on air to an ever-expanding universe of spin-offs and adventures. Celebrating this two-decade milestone is The Legacy of Time, a six-episode box-set set all across time and space.

In a way, it's hard to know what to say about it that isn't going to spoil it for listeners. Though six episodes long, sliding back and forth around the Doctor's incarnations, the set as a whole is as much a puzzle box as it is a celebration. From the opening story to the last, little clues are set out to pick up on, eventually revealing the looming threat that comes to fruition in the final episode. It's the kind of storytelling that perhaps only Big Finish, with their built-in loyal audience, could pull off without risking alienating a more general audience such as its parent TV incarnation has.

The set is also the sort of fannish thing that only a licensed spin-off with Big Finish's track record could pull off. Take the opening story, for example, Lies in Ruins by James Goss. Where else would you get Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) and River Song (Alex Kingston), Doctor Who's two space archaeologists, meeting up with the Time War era Eighth Doctor of Paul McGann? A story that not only allows them to interact with one another but also explore the scars the war leaves on the man who refused to fight in it. It's a story that starts off light and gets gradually heavier as it goes along, opening some fascinating windows along the way.

And that's just the opening story.

From there, Legacy of Time offers up one treat after another. John Dorney's The Split Infinitive re-teams Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred's Ace with the Counter-Measures team (first introduced in their 1988 TV story Remembrance of the Daleks) in not one but two different decades across that group's two different series. Later in the set, Jonathan Morris' The Avenues of Possibility re-teams Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor and India Fisher's Charley Pollard during their adventures alongside DI Menzies who appeared with them in The Condemned and The Raincloud Man. That's before reaching the concluding story, Collision Course written by Guy Adams, which brings Lalla Ward's Romana and Louise Jameson's Leela together with Tom Baker's Doctor for a punch-the-air finale. Each of the stories is engaging and intriguing, offering up thrills for fans of these adventures across the last couple of decades, and that's without mentioning a few surprises along the way as well.

For me, two stories from the set stand out in particular. The third story, The Sacrifice of Jo Grant by Guy Adams, brings together two different eras of UNIT from both Classic and New Who. It's a chance to hear the likes of Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and fan-favorite Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) interacting with both an older Jo (Katy Manning) and the Third Doctor (Tim Trealor who makes the most of his slipping into the shoes of the late, great Jon Pertwee). Not to diminish The Third Doctor Adventures (far from it, in fact) but the emotional wallops Adams packed alongside his tale of two UNIT eras coming together far exceeded expectations. Indeed, The Sacrifice of Jo Grant might be the best thing Big Finish has done with this Doctor since the Companion Chronicle The Last Post in 2012 and is worth the cost of the set on its own.

The other highlight of the set, for me anyway, came in the form of Matt Fitton's Relative Time. For a long time now, fans have been wanting Georgia Tennant's Jenny (introduced in the 2008 TV episode The Doctor's Daughter) reunited with the Doctor. With Relative Time, Fitton delivers that in spades but with a twist: Jenny meets up with the Fifth Doctor (played by her real-life dad Peter Davison). Part of the fun of listening to this story is hearing father and daughter bouncing off each other as both performers and characters, their chemistry is undeniable. Chemistry doesn't just make a story, though, and the inclusion of an earlier incarnation of a particular villain alongside a group of people needing saving helps to ramp up the tension. It's a story that packs a wallop in its way and is a satisfying listen in its own right.

Though I wonder how much new listeners will get from this set, in many ways, The Legacy of Time is everything long-time Big Finish listeners could have asked for from a 20th-anniversary set. There's a half-dozen of its Doctor brought together, having adventures. There are tales which showcase many of the characters and writers that the company has brought to the fore over the last two decades. It's also a celebration of everything that has made Big Finish's Doctor Who output what it has been: intriguing, fun, and with a great amount of love and respect for the series that made it all possible.

And long may that continue.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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