Big Finish: Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Adventures LOST WARRIORS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Adventures LOST WARRIORS Review

Matthew Kresal gets lost...
Only a couple of years ago, the idea of Christopher Eccelston reprising his role of the Ninth Doctor in audio stories from Big Finish seemed nigh on laughable. And yet, as I write these words in the concluding month of 2021, it's not only become a reality but has now spawned three released box-sets (with more on the way). The latest set of Ninth Doctor Adventures, sub-titled Lost Warriors, takes this Doctor into some new territory across three pseudo-historical tales and reunites him with an old foe in the most unlikely location.

Lost Warriors kicks off with The Hunting Season by James Kettle, which very much starts as your standard pseudo-historical. With its inter-war setting of 1935, Kettle's period of choice it that distinct feel of a British costume drama on audio, with the dialogue and sound design allowing the listener to conjure up images from series such as Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs. Of course, this being Doctor Who, with a distinct science fiction element, involving alien hunters and an escaped war criminal to tie into the box-sets theme. It's a heck of a setting for any Doctor Who episode, but with this Northern-sounding Doctor Kettle's script plays up the class aspects of both the period and the genre it's pastiching. All of which comes across in the Doctor's interactions with various characters, including the upstairs pairing of Alex Jennings as Lord Hawthorn and Allegra Marland as his daughter Isabel. It's when the Doctor deals with the downstairs grouping of Annette Badland as Mrs. Goose and Tilly Steele as Alice that the story shines, with some biting commentary on the British class system along the way. The episode's one big flaw, in keeping with much of Modern Who, lies in its rushed and slightly left-field ending, but, even so, the journey to it is a worthy one worth a listen.

Lizzie Hopley pens the set's middle episode, The Curse of Lady Macbeth. Hopley's script presents another pseudo-historical story type that fans of Doctor Who, especially since 2005, will be very familiar with: the celebrity historical. Except that, as the episode reveals, Queen Gruach isn't the Lady Macbeth that millions around the world (including this reviewer) know from Shakespeare's "Scottish Play." Gruach, as embodied by Neve McIntosh, isn't the conniving and eventually guilt-consumed queen but a mother and woman stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, in some ways ahead of her time, yet also very much of her time in others. And into that situation steps the Ninth Doctor and a mystery that the pair of them, with Gruach performing of the role of companion, must solve. It's a stunning performance from McIntosh, who utterly steals the show. Not to mention a strong script from Hopley, who presents a mix of the historical styles of Doctor Who's two television incarnations: the historical-fact focus of early serials combined with the later infusing of genre elements and a historical personality. The result is one of the best stories in the Ninth Doctor's audio run to date.

It is another story to which the honor of best story in the set and strongest of the Ninth Doctor Adventures belongs, thanks to John Dorney's Monsters in Metropolis. On the surface, it would be easy to assume that one ranking Dorney's story as such might sorely be down to the fact that it's a Ninth Doctor and Cyberman episode. This episode does, after all, set about filling a gap that's been there since Eccelston's singular TV season sixteen years ago. To think that is to do Dorney and the episode a massive disservice. Much like Rob Shearman's Dalek episode in 2005, this is far more than a simply Doctor-monster reunion to tick off some fannish box. Indeed, the setting involving the 1925 filming of Fritz Lang's silent movie classic would make that the case, richly evoking a particular time and place. More than that, Dorney finds something new and intriguing to do with both the Cybermen as a foe and with the Doctor's relationship with the would-be tyrants of logic, one that is every bit as powerful on audio as that 2005 Dalek episode was on television. Loaded with classic film references and strong performances, including from the ever-reliable Helen Goldwyn, Monsters in Metropolis exceeds all expectations and takes the entire Ninth Doctor audio range up a notch in the process.

As was the case with both Ravagers and its follow-up Respond to All Calls, Lost Warriors benefits mightily from Eccelston's very presence. There's an infectious enthusiasm to his performance that comes through speakers and headphones, particularly in the lighter moments of all three episodes, including a seemingly effortless ability with one-liners. But there is no light without darkness, something that the more serious moments bring out and for which Eccelston is just as capable of playing to the utmost effect. Like the range itself, this Doctor continues to move from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, Eccelston receives able backing by many of Big Finish's strengths. Director Barnaby Edwards brings out not only the best from Eccelston's Doctor but the supporting casts of the three episodes, from the aforementioned McIntosh and Goldwyn to Peter Bankolé and Nick Wilton in the Cyberman episode. Beyond the performers, composer Howard Carter presents a sweeping, cinematic score influenced but not enslaved to Murray Gold's 2005 scores, while Iain Meadows offers soundscapes from medieval Scotland to the silent film set of Metropolis. All of which showcases Big Finish's talents both in front of and behind the microphone, as well as the ability to employ in the service of darn good storytelling.

Not to mention making this the best Ninth Doctor Adventures release yet and a serious contender for Big Finish's top Doctor Who release of 2021.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Lost Warriors is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 January 2022, 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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