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

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - WICKED SISTERS Review

Matthew Kresal helps track down and destroy two god-like beings whose extraordinary powers now threaten all of space and time. How do you spend your Thursdays?
Once upon a time, when the Big Finish monthly range first made the transition to trilogies, there was something called Key 2 Time. Featuring Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor on a second quest for six segments of the Key to Time, its opening installment by Simon Guerrier introduced Amy (Ciara Janson) and Zara (Laura Dodington), two humanoid tracers created by the Key's creators, the Grace. Amy, later calling herself Abby, and Zara were to leave the Fifth Doctor's company at the end of the trilogy, their ongoing adventures chronicled in the series Graceless. After a fourth and presumably final boxset in 2017, their story seemed to be over. In November 2020, however, Guerrier and Big Finish brought their story full circle, reuniting them with the Fifth Doctor for Wicked Sisters.

And with more company besides. As the boxset's opening scene quickly informs the Doctor and listeners alike, Louise Jameson's Leela is along for the ride. Indeed, in her older incarnation from the Gallifrey audios, she's the one who sets events in motion. The sister's powers have begun to threaten space and time itself, to the point the Time Lords have sent Leela to recruit the Doctor to help destroy them. Something that the Doctor, and this incarnation especially, is reluctant to do. An older and wiser Leela with the younger-looking Fifth Doctor is an inspired pairing, especially with bringing Abby and Zara into play as well, setting the stage for both renewed friendships and blistering confrontations.

Indeed, Guerrier's three episodes feel like a mix of Doctor Who and Graceless. On the one hand, there are the big sci-fi ideas that one expects from Who, especially when you throw something like the Sontarans into the mix as Guerrier does in the middle episode of the set. Yet, in keeping with his scripts for Graceless, it's also dealing with morality and the consequences of one's actions, sometimes with tragic and terrible results. It's a combination that might seem to clash on the surface, in particular given how grown-up Graceless could be. Guerrier, to his credit plus that of producer Mark Wright and director Lisa Bowerman, let these two extremes play alongside each other in perfect harmony. It's the kind of storytelling that Doctor Who, even at Big Finish, doesn't often engage in but, when it does, it results in some fascinating listening.

The work of Guerrier, Wright, and Bowerman is further boosted by how strong its four leads are. Peter Davison's Doctor has matured on audio over the last two decades, bringing a presence to the part while keeping the charm of his TV performances. All of which comes into play here, particularly in the finale with Davison handing in one of his best Fifth Doctor performances. Louise Jameson's Leela, older and wiser as aforementioned, with her, not so much the Eliza Doolittle to the Fourth Doctor's Henry Higgins but very much the Doctor's equal, going on a journey of her own. Perhaps the biggest surprise might the titular sisters and hearing Janson and Dodington in the roles again. Having met the actresses at what I believe was their first-ever convention promoting the then-upcoming Key 2 Time at Chicago 2008, it's been a fascinating journey following them and their characters. Here, we hear them at their zenith, and the result showcases their talents both as a pair and as individuals. In some ways, Wicked Sisters shows how far each of them has come in their time at Big Finish, something which is to the credit of both the cast and the company itself.

For fans of the Key 2 Time audios and Graceless, Wicked Sisters is a fitting coda. For those who haven't been on that journey, it'll make for an engaging bit of genre storytelling with the madcap world of Doctor Who playing alongside big questions of morality and consequences. In the final analysis, perhaps, it's a fine example of the storytelling Big Finish gets up to in Doctor Who and beyond.

Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor Adventures - Wicked Sisters is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until December 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

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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