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

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Big Finish: Doctor Who THE ELEVEN Review

Tony’s in way more than two minds. Fortunately, they all agree.
The Eleven, for those coming fresh to this release, has been a villain in the Big Finish Doctor Who universe for around five years or so. Briefly encountering the Seventh Doctor, he’s been a thorn in the Eighth Doctor’s side since the beginning of the Doom Coalition box set, and he’s the embodiment of a rather obvious, but nevertheless intensely interesting philosophical idea.

We out in Listenerland are familiar with Time Lords and regeneration – we’ve had over 50 years to get used to it since the First Doctor lay down on the floor and changed into the Second. But we understand it as a linear or a cyclic process, one incarnation following another.

The Eleven is a Time Lord with what’s called Regenerative Dissonance – a condition that means all his incarnations stay present in him. There’s a kleptomaniac in there, a raving murderer, a snob, a good man…all available at any moment, and all bickering like a one-man political party.

It’s a hell to imagine, and it might well have grown old very quickly, were it not for the fact that Big Finish got an actor of Mark Bonnar’s quality to embody him. With Bonnar in the driving seat of all the voices in the Eleven’s head, what you get is a fascinating glimpse at the psyche, and the voices we both permit and prohibit from guiding our lives.

We mention all this up front because there’s no particular REASON why the Eleven should automatically warrant a box set with the Sixth Doctor. But the interesting places the idea of Regenerative Dissonance can take you into, and the barnstorming performance of Mark Bonnar, makes it something to look forward to – especially given Colin Baker’s Doctor and his double-edged sword of compassion and outrage. It promises exciting, sparky things before the theme even plays.

What we have here are three stories set on a single world at various points in its development. All For One, by Lizzie Hopley, The Murder of Oliver Akkron, by Nigel Fairs, and Elevation, by Chris Chapman, tell the story of the Eleven’s interference in the affairs of the planet Molaruss. The Molarussians are interesting in their own right – a society where everyone has two minds or personalities (except those ‘unlucky’ enough to be born with just the one – Monominds, as the Molarussians call them with just a hint of distaste).

As such, Molaruss is a planet rife with interest for the multiplicity of minds that is the Eleven.

In Lizzie Hopley’s All For One, we visit a clinic where elements of the mind can be tweaked, treated, even partially or wholly excised – a practice that’s as normal on Molaruss as heart surgery is for us.

There’s some complicated toing and froing to get the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) to the planet, involving a Tardis adrift in the vortex, and when they get there, there are more shocks – the Eleven… has a wife! A wife named Miskavel, played by Lucy Gaskell (who, as it happens, in Mark Bonnar’s real-world wife). The chemistry between them is joyously spiky, with some actual affection it seems on her part at least – though it’s always worth looking for ulterior motives with someone who would marry the Eleven!

All For One is a tale of clones, personality distillations, murder, torture and gloating, and two things come shining through it all. Firstly, Miskavel is an interesting character in her own right, and the universe could stand at least a little more of her beyond the confines of this box set. And secondly, holy mackerel, the chemistry between Bonnar and Baker is good. More, really, than his direct chemistry with the Eighth Doctor, there’s something really gutsy and full-on about his battle with the Sixth in All For One that’ll have you grinning, if not cheering. We’re never entirely sure when this takes place in the Eleven’s chronology as compared to the Doom Coalition set, but if we assume for the sake of simplicity it occurs before that set, it’s a great forerunner.

The Sixth Doctor seems to have heard of the Eleven at least by reputation, and by the end of the set the Eleven calls him an ‘old friend,’ but if this were to be the first encounter between the two Time Lords directly, it would be an interesting statement on the power of fear and physical revulsion. While he’s sorry for the Eleven’s condition, the Sixth Doctor regards Regenerative Dissonance almost with body horror, or with the Time Lord equivalent of a human stigma against mental health issues. Nevertheless, when they meet, the Eleven’s plan is pretty grim and monstrous from the outside, while, from his point of view, he’s trying to do what he can to give himself some peace from the endless quarrelling voices in his head.

Lizzie Hopley sets us up for a belter of a box set with a story that will repay relistening down the line, thanks to its layers of conceptual complexity – mind-surgery is just the start of it! – and whets our appetite for more, much more between these characters.

Nigel Fairs, charged with delivering the middle of the set, then takes us in an entirely different and much, much quieter direction. Written mostly as a series of two-handed scenes, The Murder Of Oliver Akkron is necessarily a lot more subdued, and essentially involves the Eleven handing over control of his body to the Eight (or Father Octavian if you prefer), who is the ‘Good Man’ persona usually smothered and derided by all the screaming others in the Eleven’s make-up.

Having escaped from the facility in Episode 1, the Eleven and Miskavel popped forward a little in the planet’s history, where the Eleven, mostly using his Eight persona, has been wowing the crowd – writing a book about his history, hanging out with some monks, and becoming something of a spiritual leader in his own right, without having to hide his past.

The Oliver Akkron of the title is actually the President of Molaruss, and there are interesting parallels between his history and that of the Eleven. An unstable two-mind as a child, he was rehabilitated, and went on to develop a chip that allowed people to share psych-broadcasts. That in itself helped elevate him when he made a speech that was largely credited with saving the world from falling into anarchy and despair – and his path to the Presidency was assured from there. Now he sits and works in a high retreat, literally ‘looking down on the people,’ as the Eleven puts it.

His murder is not especially complicated, but it is a cleverly played piece of sleight of hand, and Nigel Fairs constructs his story both to shed more light on Akkron and the Eleven, to pay tribute to the impressive deviousness of Miskavel, and to clear the way for the Eleven’s own ascension to a place of power in Molarussian society. It’s an elegant, highly crafted piece of work, and especially in the two-hander between Mark Bonnar and Simon Slater, who plays Akkron, it’s more cerebral and less frenetic than much mainstream Doctor Who – there’s no ticking clock here, and it all feels very natural. It’s only when we learn a deeper truth about Oliver Akkron that the ending you’ve been waiting for, the drop of a second shoe, kicks in, and when it does, there’s a power to it and a logic in letting the Eight have some prominence that absolutely delights.

Elevation takes us forward again in the affairs of Molaruss, about five years from the events of All For One.

The Eleven and Miskavel are in power on the planet, and discipline has been tightened more than somewhat. The Eleven frequently uses Oliver Akkron’s technology to broadcast to his people, and gets their approval and appreciation beamed straight back to him too – it’s sort of Big Brother meets the Riddler technology, the Eleven beaming information into, and just possibly out of, his subjects’ minds.

Cue the return of the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clake, neither of whom appeared in the middle episode at all, giving a pleasing “It’s not all about you” vibe reminiscent of the Missy and River Song box sets.

Everything seems to be in order on Molaruss. Has the most unstable of Time Lords managed the impossible – taking over a planet and making life better for everyone? It certainly seems so, despite the Sixth Doctor’s initial scepticism.

The story turns on the question of what happens if you elevate someone who believes they’re better than you to ultimate power, and then keep feeding their ego. There’s also a certain Frankensteinian vibe under the surface of this story – the Eleven has always been told, from the Time Lords on, that his condition is an aberration. What happens when he tries to make more people like himself, so they can understand his existence and be closer to him than anyone with just one or two minds, like the Molarussians, can ever be?

There’s some fabulous technological usage in Chris Chapman’s tale, and without giving away too much of the plot, we get to hear many new sides to Constance Clarke, some of which are emotionally affecting. As a Wren from the England of the 1940s, there’s plenty that’s bottled up and swallowed down in Constance’s makeup, at least as far as she shows herself to the world. Hearing some of those repressed instincts rise up makes Elevation both great fun and potentially horrifying – how would you do with your innermost coherent thoughts fused into a personality that randomly had control of your mouth and your body?

There’s also – and yes, #SorryNotSorry – some delicious real-world satire, as we discover that the Molarussians held a referendum to allow the Eleven to carry out some ghastly experiments on them, without ever realising either quite how much it would hurt, or that several million of them were statistically likely to die as a result.

By the end of The Eleven, we’ve learned a lot more about the multiplicity of minds that make up the character, gained a great new maybe-villain in Miskavel, dabbled with some Biological Blade Runner vibes in Lizzie Hopley’s story, lived through a quiet murder mystery with Nigel Fairs, and engaged in not a little political and techno-satire with Chris Chapman. Colin Baker’s on sparkling form here, and Miranda Raison sounds like she has great fun, particularly in Elevation.

It’s a set that gives you a full banquet as Elevenses, and encourages gluttony, making you want more confrontations between this Tardis team and Mark Bonnar as the Eleven. The versatility he pours into the role has always been breathtaking, but in this box set, he turns it up to… well, you get the picture.

Doctor Who: The Eleven is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 October 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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