Big Finish: Doctor Who - Short Trips THE SHATTERED HOURGLASS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - Short Trips THE SHATTERED HOURGLASS Review

Matthew Kresal joins the Time Agency.

The Short Trips range has been home to some of the most intriguing stories Big Finish has produced with Doctor Who in recent years. It's proven the place for experimentation and the chance to tell stories that might not otherwise have a home. 2020 was a year for such stories, from Regeneration: Impossible to the Master-centric entries for Time Lord Victorious. Rounding off the year's regular releases is a Tenth Doctor tale, The Shattered Hourglass.

One of the most intriguing things about this adventure from writer Robert Napton is its focus around an oft-mentioned yet seldom seen part of Doctor Who lore: the Time Agency, first raised in passing in Robert Holmes' The Talons of Weng-Chian. Just one of Holmes' many passing references, the Time Agency became a hat upon which spin-off media placed many hats, even before it formed part of the backstory of Captain Jack Harkness in Modern Who in 2005. Rarely though explored in much detail, let alone taking the Doctor into the heart of the agency.

Until now, that is.

Napton's story features the Tenth Doctor late in his era, between Waters of Mars and End of Time (and likely post-Time Lord Victorious), coming upon the agency at the moment of its greatest triumph. One that sees it time-locking an entire galaxy out of existence and the Time Lord face off against the agency's head: Anna Barnes. Barnes is a nice foil for the Tennant Doctor who would have been played by a major guest star on-screen, one suspects. Here, Barnes (and her minions) face off against the Doctor condemning their actions. As becomes clear as the story unfolds, this is only going to end one way, and how it does so is half the fun of listening to this. Though a big part of that fun comes out of the neat nods to continuity that Napton tosses in that fans of Modern Who, in particular, will pick up on. The result is the kind of adventure that the Short Trips range has excelled at: filling in little pieces with solid stories in their own right.

The Shattered Hourglass is also nicely told. Neve McIntosh, best known to Who fans as Madam Vastra of the Paternoster Gang, brings her Scottish tones as the reader. From Barnes to her various Time Agency minions, McIntosh brings a nice variety of voices along for the ride, with her take on Barnes especially a piece of work to hear. Indeed, if the character should pop-up in a full-cast story, Big Finish would do wise to cast McIntosh in the role given the difference with her Vastra voice. Her take on Tennant is more of an impression, even slightly caricature in places, but still recognizably a version of the Doctor. Richard Fox's sound design and music round off the story and its enhanced audiobook format rather nicely, complimenting both the writing and McIntosh's narration.

All told, The Shattered Hourglass is another solid entry in the Big Finish Short Trips range for 2020. It's also, per recent announcements, the end of the monthly run of the range. Until the omnibus of a half-dozen tales drops in September, this marks a nice temporary stopover and a strong one at that.

Doctor Who - Short Trips: The Shattered Hourglass is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

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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