Big Finish: Doctor Who ONCE AND FUTURE: PAST LIVES Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: Doctor Who ONCE AND FUTURE: PAST LIVES Review

Matthew Kresal catches up with the past.
It seems like only yesterday that Doctor Who was celebrating its' half-century anniversary, with Big Finish co-producing the Destiny of the Doctor series of enhanced audiobooks to mark the occasion. But, indeed, it's been a decade, and we're counting down to the sixtieth anniversary, and Big Finish is offering up another multi-release series to mark the occasion. This time it's full-cast, bringing various Doctors, companions, and more into the fold, launching with this month's Past Lives.
Suitably, it opens dramatically during the Time War, with the Doctor carried into a Time Lord field hospital, only to regenerate. But things take an odd turn soon enough as the Doctor becomes not the late John Hurt's War Doctor or Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor, but his earlier self. It's a trajectory that continues through a quick flurry of cameos of various Doctors before things settle onto an old favorite and things kick off.

Penned by Robert Valentine, Past Lives has a lot on its plate. There's Tom Baker's Doctor (or the future Doctor settling as him), trying to track down Rufus Hound's Meddling Monk. The Monk, meanwhile, is up to his usual tricks for reasons that aren't clear, including picking up Sarah Jane Smith mere hours after the Doctor dropped her off. And in the 2010s, Kate Stewart and Osgood are facing a blast from UNIT's past.

Valentine's script, then, is a multi-headed hydra of a plot. Past Lives has both to function as the opening installment of this anniversary miniseries and as a story on its own. So it's entirely to Valentine's credit (and unsurprisingly, given his track record with Big Finish) that it works as both, partly as a twist on the traditional UNIT and Monk story tropes. If you're a fan of those (and being a Doctor Who fan, you probably are or wouldn't be listening to this), you'll find plenty to enjoy here with familiar voices and settings.

Past Lives is no mere nostalgia exercise, of course. Valentine is smart enough to recognize how much that plays into a series like Once and Future and explores the theme inside his science fiction tale. From the Doctor revisiting an old face to Sarah seeing her Doctor so soon after last seeing him to the villains, that sense of what was and might still linger throughout the hour or so the story lasts. Like all good anniversary stories, Past Lives looks to the past while also looking to what's ahead, laying the groundwork for the miniseries as a whole.

It also helps that it's told to Big Finish's solid standards. Tom Baker is in fine form in this revisiting incarnation, bringing not only aspects of his iconic Fourth Doctor but also offering hints of a different Doctor in places. Sadie Miller, as Sarah Jane, continues to recreate the role her mum played so memorably, impeccably, and even uncannily at times. Hearing her and Baker bouncing off each other wets appetites for more audio adventures with them, without question. Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver have settled into their roles as Kate Stewart and Osgood in their own spin-off range, fitting into their roles comfortably with the bonus of interacting with Baker's Doctor. Rufus Hound's Monk continues to be a delight, particularly as events unfold with his motives (and how far he'll have to go to get out of them) becoming slowly apparent.

Backing the cast is the production itself. Helen Goldwyn's direction brings out the best of the performers and script, despite what comes across in the extras (especially the extended form found in the Special Edition version) as a necessarily complex production. The icing on the cake comes with Howard Carter's sound design and music, both of which have become staples of Big Finish's work for nearly 15 years now. With Past Lives, Carter has delivered some of his best work, particularly with a score that's cinema worthy. This reviewer doffs his cap to Goldwyn and Carter for their work here.

Past Lives is a solid opening installment for the Once and Future anniversary range. With Robert Valentine's script that mixes traditional Doctor Who thrills with poignant themes of nostalgia and time's passing as familiar voices reprise their roles, how could it not be? Especially when it's as well realized as this?

One down, seven to go!

Doctor Who: Once and Future: Past Lives is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 July 2023, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad