Big Finish: Doctor Who - STORM WARNING Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - STORM WARNING Review

Matthew Kresal gets caught in the storm.

One of the tag lines used for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie proclaimed, "He's back and it's about time!" History, of course, records that the TV movie didn't lead to a new series, and, for some time, it appeared that Paul McGann's era as the Doctor would be limited to his single appearance in the TV movie. Then came Big Finish, and, in 2001, Storm Warning. With its release, McGann not only triumphantly returned to the role of the Eighth Doctor but got a fantastic new starting point.

If Storm Warning demonstrated nothing else, it proved that McGann had the potential to be a fantastic Doctor. Beginning with the story's opening minutes, recorded 20 years ago on 18 May 2000, it finds McGann alone with nothing but sound effects. In those moments he instantly takes back the role and really makes it his own. If one ever needed a single moment for proof that he'd make an exceptional Doctor, they need look no farther then the speech he gives to the characters of Charley and Frayling early in Part Three. In that moment alone lies one of the finest performances you're ever going to find in Doctor Who, regardless of the medium. McGann also shares some fine chemistry with his fellow cast members, especially India Fisher as Charley. His potential was put to full use here, and it makes for a phenomenal new beginning for the Eighth Doctor.

Storm Warning is blessed with an excellent supporting cast as well. There's India Fisher's debut as Charley Pollard, the young "Edwardian adventuress" who will soon become companion to the eighth Doctor. Fisher plays Charley with a sense of adventure, finding herself caught up in something bigger then she could ever imagine, which, coupled with Fisher's immediate chemistry with McGann, sells Charley's debut. Joining the supporting cast is actor Gareth Thomas (better known to science fiction fans as the title character in the BBC's Blake's 7, later resurrected on audio by Big Finish) as Lord Tamworth, Britain's Minister of the Air, who comes across believably as a man trying to do the right thing for his King and country. The cast is rounded off by nice performances from some of Big Finish's repertory company of the era, including Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards, and Helen Goldwyn as the alien Triskelies. All round, it's a strong supporting cast, helping establish a standard that's still part of the company's output today.

Storm Warning also has some excellent post-production work going in its favor as well. The sound design and music by Alistair Lock is a fantastic piece of work and helps to give the story an epic feeling, particularly the score which has a really strong orchestral feel to it. There is also the version of the Doctor Who theme arranged by noted film composer David Arnold which, while perhaps not the best arrangement of the theme ever done, is still an interesting take on a classic. As strong as the performances are, it's the sound design that truly sells the story, and this stands as a fine piece of work even with the passage of two decades.

Finally, there's the script by Alan Barnes who had supervised the first Eighth Doctor comic stories for Doctor Who Magazine, and proves to be an excellent choice for scripting this first audio adventure for this Doctor. Barnes' script takes Doctor Who's traditions for using historical events as a jumping off point for a story and uses it to great effect. By basing his tale on the famed airship the R101, it infuses that unfortunate piece of the past with an excellent science fiction twist. It's also something which gives Storm Warning a ticking clock, for as the hour to the airship's eventual fate gets nearer, the listener is left wondering how things will end. The story also acts as the set-up to a major arc that would feature throughout many of the Eighth Doctor's early audio adventures, which would reach their zenith with Neverland and Zagreus. Barnes' script gives the audio adventures a phenomenal start both as a one-off adventure story and setting up the major story arcs to follow.

"He's back and it's about time!" finally came true as Storm Warning proved to be a new beginning for the adventures of the Eighth Doctor. How could it not be with Paul McGann's triumphant return, the introduction of India Fisher as Charley, not to mention the story's sound design and script? It's with Storm Warning, as much as the TV Movie nearly five years before, if not more so, that the Eighth Doctor's adventures truly began.

And after close to two decades, they show no signs of ending anytime soon.

Storm Warning is one of 11 stories that make up the Eighth Doctor Bundle. Available to purchase at 50% off via the Big Finish website until June 30th 2020.

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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