Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE NINTH DOCTOR CHRONICLES Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE NINTH DOCTOR CHRONICLES Review

Matthew Kresal catches up with an old friend...

In 2005, Doctor Who came roaring back to TV screens around the world. Christopher Eccelston's Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper's Rose Tyler introduced the Time Lord's adventures to a new generation of viewers, some of whom wouldn't have been alive when Sylvester McCoy's Doctor walked off into the proverbial sunset 14 years earlier. Though Eccelston left the role, thanks to Big Finish there's a chance to enjoy four more tales with this Doctor thanks to their May 2017 release of The Ninth Doctor Chronicles.

Readers may note the use of the word "chronicles" above. Ordinarily, Big Finish specializes in full-cast dramas, and the "adventures" range that David Tennant's Tenth Doctor has appeared in or which have featured David Bradley's First Doctor. Elsewhere, Big Finish has employed a different format featuring a returning cast member from the series in addition to a second voice to give them someone to bounce off of in terms of performance. Back in 2013, Big Finish used a hybrid of the two, a talking book very much in the Chronicles style but with the returning performer reading in the third person, for the Destiny of the Doctors series. With Nicholas Briggs having performed the Ninth Doctor release from that range, it makes sense they would return to that for this release. And it is something that suits the set well. Briggs is a solid fill-in for Eccelston, capturing that Northern voice quite well.

There are even moments, such as late in the opening tale The Bleeding Heart, where one may well find themselves forgetting they aren't listening to the man himself. Briggs doesn't aim for an impression but, like Bradley or Tim Trealor, to capture the spirit of the original. Indeed, my only complaint is that Briggs does overplay the "goofy" aspect of this Doctor at times, though it doesn't occur too often. With him also narrating and playing most of the other characters, this release is also a rare chance to hear the man who brings so many of the series' monsters to life stretch his acting legs a bit.

Briggs isn't the only returning performer, though. Both Camille Coduri and Bruno Langley return in the back half of the set, reprising their TV roles of Jackie Tyler and Adam Mitchell, respectively. Coduri slips into her old role splendidly, as she did in the second Tenth Doctor Adventures set elsewhere in 2017 with her bouncing solidly off Briggs' renditions of Rose and the Doctor. Langley's return seems more surprising given he only appeared in two episodes back in 2005. And yet, listening to him and the story he appears in, it was difficult not to want more tales with him. It's something which makes what happened just a few months later all the more unfortunate but, as has been the case before with Big Finish, you can't plan for what you don't know will happen.

The opening stories of the set may lack a returning character from the series, but they do feature two of Big Finish's semi-regulars joining Briggs. The first tale features Claire Wyatt in the semi-companion role as Adriana Jarsdel, a reporter for the galactic news service Cosmic Nine, who gets drawn into events alongside the Doctor with Wyatt playing the cynical character rather well, especially in the latter third of the story where she becomes all the more crucial to the plot. The second story features Laura Riseborough stepping into the second performer seat in a story that gets to show off some of her range as the script has some fun with the format to play with (and against) listener expectations. While they may lack the TV Who pedigree of Coduri and Langley, they prove more than up to the task.

It also helps considerably how well each script captures a different part of the Ninth Doctor era. Cavan Scott's The Bleeding Heart gives us a tantalizing look at a pre-Rose Ninth Doctor, looking for peace but discovering something darker underneath. Una McCormack's The Window on the Moor tale is one of the more surprising of the set since, on the surface at least, it would seem to be your standard celebrity historical story before turning out to be far more (no pun intended). Scott Handcock's The Other Side expands on Adam's character while also telling something of a haunted house story, albeit one with a very 2005 Who twist. Last, but most definitely not least, is James Goss' Retail Therapy which wonderfully captures the style of the episodes set around Jackie and the Powell Estate, expanding on the relationship between Jackie and the Doctor in one beautiful scene midway through that feels very worthy of Russell T Davies' writing. Each of them, in their way, capture something of the 2005 series and it makes this set all the more enjoyable in the process.

When Big Finish teased Tom Baker's return circa 2011, they promised: "It's Saturday teatime in 1977 all over again." With the Ninth Doctor Chronicles, it's very close to being a Saturday night in 2005 all over again. From Briggs' evocative recreation of Eccelston's Doctor combined with his narration, the work of those both returning and new to this era, and the scripts, there are four new stories for this Doctor to savor and enjoy. If, like this reviewer until recently, you've still not heard these after nearly two and a half years, stop holding out and gives this a listen.

Because, as the Ninth Doctor would say, it's fantastic.

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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