Big Finish: 'The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time' Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: 'The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time' Review

Tony’s feeling the sisterhood.
For International Women’s Day 2022 – the Eighth of March, naturally – Big Finish released its second collection of stories focusing on a mostly-female or female-presenting cast from across the history of Doctor Who, showing the particular skills and attitudes of some of the most capable women the Doctor’s ever known.

You could certainly make the argument that any and all of the women the Doctor has known and travelled with are extremely capable. Certainly in the audio medium, some who weren’t allowed to be as adventure-forward as they could have been while in the show have more than come into their own, informed by an evolving 21st century way of writing and presenting them as significantly more than a plot-engine and a “What’s that, Doctor?”-supplier.

At Big Finish particularly, that’s an evolution that’s always ongoing and intersectional – getting new writers, new actors, new producers and directors in with fresh eyes, informed by the experiences and life-journeys of women and female-presenting people, LGBTQIA+ people, BIPOC people, all to broaden the storytelling universe into something brighter, more exciting and more representative than was the case in, say, the era of Classic Who.

For this second Eighth of March collection, there’s a story featuring the Second Romana in her time with the Tharils after leaving the Fourth Doctor behind in E-Space, a story that connects two of the Tenth Doctor’s most energetic and imaginative new companions, Jenny and Lady Christina de Souza, and a story that touches on three impressive women – two of them in their first ‘solo’ outing at Big Finish.

That’s characters, rather than actors – both Anjli Mohindra (here reprising her Sarah Jane Adventures character, Rani Chandra) and Jaye Griffiths (here as Jac, as previously seen alongside Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Stewart in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Zygon Invasion) have added their voices to plenty of other Big Finish titles, but it’s the fist time the characters have had a life outside their original settings and within the Big Finish world.

There are women almost all the way along the line on the production side here, too – directors Helen Goldwyn and Louise Jameson are on the roster, along with writers Lizbeth Miles, Nina Millns, and Abigail Burdess. The last two of those writers are new to Big Finish with this release, too, though they have an impressive list of credits between them. Again, there’s that evolving voice of Big Finish, bringing new voices into the company wherever possible.

Add Emma Haigh on production duties, newcomer Naomi Clarke sharing sound design with Iain Meadows, and cover art by Caroline Tankersley and you end up with one of the most female-forward productions in the Big Finish repertoire. The goal of course is for that not to be a Thing Worth Talking About because it’s so standard. We’re not there yet, but box sets like the Eighth of March, tied as they are to a specific event, and ATA Girl, tied as they are to nothing but roaringly good stories and characters, can only help to normalise the participation of women and female-presenting people in every area of the audio world.

So – enough “I have a dream…”, more reviewing.

Stolen Futures kicks us off here, with Lizbeth Myles taking us firmly into the territory of Romana, freshly free of the Doctor and embarking on her new mission, to free every Tharil she can find, in the company of Biroc (John Dorney), the Tharil whose uprising she had been involved with in Warriors’ Gate.

For those just joining us, a word on Tharils.


Haughty, leonine, fallen from a previous glory, and, in a nod to the likes of Dune, they’re possessed of a unique biological ability to navigate the time winds. As such, they’re enslaved by humans who use them to navigate their time ships.

Because humans, that’s why.

As a science-fiction slave metaphor, the Tharils are right up there, for all Biroc’s haughtiness makes him difficult to exactly like.

In taking the story of Biroc and Romana forward here, what Lizbeth Myles has done is deliver a better, more Tharilly Tharil story than its original source material. Stolen Futures is both a logical continuation of the story, as Romana, Biroc, and K9 seek to release new Tharils from their enslavement, and a challenging new development, as other Tharils besides Biroc enter the frame.

Tyro (David Warwick) is a Tharil with a plan of his own, not to mention delusions of grandeur. Lupan (Nimmy March) takes freedom fighting into areas where it’s more plainly terrorism. Between the two, they involve Romana in a game of hopscotch through time and space, trying to pull a reality together in which they can all – or at least, most – co-exist and fight together, rather than trying, either outright or implicitly, to destroy each other.

In crafting a narrative like this, it’s important to stay on the right side of both the ethics and the characters (let alone the space-time continuum). And in Stolen Futures, Lizbeth Myles takes what in Warriors’ Gate felt a little like a Time Lord saviour complex on Romana’s part, and makes it real, and dangerous, and shows just what Romana is prepared to put on the line to help the people for whom she has essentially given up her home universe.

You have to listen pretty actively to Stolen Futures because of the whole time-hopping, reality-changing thing. But stick with it and Lalla Ward will give you a shouty, ethical, powerful Romana to fix your mind on, and she, as much as any Doctor anywhere, shows herself to be a Time Lord to be reckoned with.

Prism, by Abigail Burdess, has – to put it mildly – a whole hell of a lot going on.

Apart from anything else, it’s a story that has to unite Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan), earthbound as she is despite her fabulous flying bus, with Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter (Georgia Tennant) and her friend Noah (Sean Biggerstaff) – without necessarily taking either of them out of the natural habit of their own spin-off series.

What do you need in order to do that? Well, you need a MacGuffin that connect various points in space and time. That’s essentially what the prism of the title is. But it’s also significantly more than that. With elements of The Bells Of St Johns, and elements of sharp social satire, it’s a story that manages to combine recognisable social media and AI assistant technology – here, “Alethia” takes the place of Alexa or Siri – with anti-tech revolutionaries, swanky parties, diamond theft (that’s our Christina’s intro to the story, naturally), the idea of tesseracts (in the more accepted science-fiction sense than that used in Doctor Who’s Let’s Kill Hitler), planet selling, the ridiculous intricacies of corporate law, and Christina’s old school chums.

Did we mention? A whole hell of a lot going on.

For all that, though, the story beats are well dispersed and timed, and it emerges naturally that both Jenny in her place and time and Christina in hers are working the same case – albeit with very different motives.

When they finally “meet up” – think space/time Zoom and you’re almost there – it’s a joy, and the sheer personality of both the characters and the actors makes a part of your brain devoted to fan service want more of the combination, but in the same part of space and time.

You wouldn’t especially want Christina reformed, because her ethical flexibility over ownership of pretty things is so much a part of her character, but a side-step into time and space, on the basis that if she can’t travel with the father, why not with the daughter, does cry out to that fan service node in your brain. The only question would be whether they’d run together, or whether this is how you ultimately create arch-enemies – too much charisma to ever be in the same room, maybe?

Here, they work brilliantly, each trying to unpick their own piece of the prism puzzle, and having enough space to breathe and take a central role. But when they get together, it’s a pinball moment of lit-up eyes and flashing grins, and working together (along with friends on either side of the space/time continuum), to save a planet, rescue some people who’ve been lost in a dimensional void, stop a takeover bid, rescue Noah from escrow (Don’t ask, just listen), allow an old schoolfriend of Christina’s to regain her soul and memories, and oh yes, of course, shower lots of shiny things on our favourite thief.

As a first Big Finish script from Abigail Burdess, this is an absolute belter – doing an almost ridiculous amount with the run time, flooding the story with some proper hardcore sci-fi, adding the social satire as naturally as breathing, and empowering the whole thing with two immensely powerful megawatt personalities in a way that makes us want more, rather than less, of their company.

Is it hellishly complicated? Oh, absolutely. But like the best Doctor Who, it’s gratifyingly complicated in a series of easily explicable steps, so rather than leaving you behind, it draws you in and drags you on, albeit at an exciting speed that speaks to the truth of both Jenny’s character and Christina’s.

And to top the set, we head to the Amazon, to meet up with Jo Jones in The Turn of the Tides, by Nina Millns.

We could stop the review there, because meeting up with Jo Jones is always a sheer delight. It’s the Katy Manning Factor – she beams light and joy and wonder into everything, both when acting and when simply being alive. But hang on – we’re a long way from finished.

Jo’s sharing the secrets of the Amazon with her relatively new – and relatively serious – friend, Rio (Sheena Bhattessa), when there’s a blip. A big blip. A moon-shaking, tide-tweaking blip that sends the world into relative ecological chaos.

Rani Chandra, investigating the story, thinks it’s time to check in with her friend Jo, to see if she knows what’s behind the blip. And, relatively hot on her heels comes Jac (Jaye Griffiths).

Jac’s a character about whom we know relatively little – not even her surname. But we know from all the available data that she’s with UNIT, serves under Kate Stewart in a scientific capacity, and is here to investigate what’s what.

Getting this new band together takes admirably little time in Nina Millns’ story, but it’s when they trek into the forest to meet a character named Mellissa (Indigo Griffiths) that things start to fall into place. Mellissa’s an unusual character who finds it helpful to stay relatively secluded in the Amazon – but Jo has known her all of her life, and knows the story of her parents, and how they came to be here. She also remembers Melissa’s brother, Matasar (Sam Stafford), as a lonely little boy.

Bringing together cultish behaviour, a quest for self-identity, and a handful of nods to Jo’s past with the Doctor, particularly Invasion of the Dinosaurs, there’s planet-killing threat here, as well as treachery and betrayal. But probably the most joyful thing in the story is Jo’s taking charge.

Sure, she uses some techniques and equipment of the Doctor’s to do it, but taking the initiative to change the dynamic of their situation? That’s pure Jo – who trained as Grant and lived as Jones, facing down foes of the Earth both alien and domestic. Nina Millns’ script gives Katy Manning a wonderful chance to step forward and show an evolved, experienced Jo in what has long become her natural habitat, using her nerve, her wits, and – never far from the surface in our Jo – her compassion to make an important difference.

And what of the newcomers? Anjli Mohindra knows Rani Chandra like the back of her hand, and even though it’s now been some years since she played her, the grown-up Rani feels like she beats with the same pulse as she did on TV. Sarah Jane’s natural protégé, she’s thorough, clever, and not someone to be taken lightly.

And Jac? Interesting. On TV, we never got to know much about Jac, and she seemed a pretty cool customer. Out in the field here, with the novelty of command seeming to go a little to her head, Jac’s significantly less cool, but also a great deal of fun. Like early Osgood, she’s less comfortable in control and tends to overplay her hand, but that feels like an intentional character trait, something like the seed of a journey.

Bottom line, we’re biased – we’d watch or listen to Jaye Griffiths do anything – but there’s scope in Jac (when she gets a surname!) to be a lynchpin in something much, much bigger. Because this group is glorious in a whole new way – they’re not, technically, protectors of time. But they ARE protectors of Mother Earth. Jac, Jo, Rani, Melissa. Add in connections to Ace, perhaps connections to Tegan (in at least the Russell T Davies versions of what each of them are doing now), and connections to Kate Stewart and Osgood, and what you have are the beginnings of a more ecologically-centred, female or female-presenting network of planet-savers, in a more Jo Jones/Sarah Jane Smith style than either UNIT or Torchwood. A group of women and female-presenting people who instinctively understand that the planet comes first above all.

Forgive the rambling flight of fancy. The construction of both the storyline of Nina Millns’ tale, and the overwhelmingly positive energy with which it fills you as you listen, embodies absolutely the spirit of International Women’s Day and makes you believe that more, much more is possible. Jac is a character that, now she’s made the leap into Big Finish audio, deserves not only a surname, but an arc, and a place in something new and special.

The second Eighth of March boxset is a bright and shiny thing, such as would catch the eye of Lady Christina. It shows women in a handful of corners of the universe being powerful, self-determining, compassionate, clever, collaborative, caring and cool. It also tells some seriously good science-fiction stories with enormous gusto, and one ecological story with a never-ending hope. The Eight Of March 2: Protectors of Time is a feelgood collection of empowering stories that will leave you wanting more of everything it gives.

The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 May 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Tony Fyler lives in a concrete cave, somewhere on the edge of the sea, with his wife, who exists, and the Fictional People In His Head, who don't as yet. A journalist and editor by day, he has written Some Books, and is more or less always writing another. One day, he may even get around to showing them to people. In the meantime, he's Script Editor and occasional Executive Producer at Third Time Lucky Productions, and a proud watcher of things no-one remembers they remember until they remember.

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