Big Finish: Doctor Who: Once and Future: Past Lives, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: Once and Future: Past Lives, Review

With the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who on the horizon, what better time to delve into Big Finish's celebration, which began with an exhilarating audio drama titled "Once and Future: Past Lives". This story is fronted by Tom Baker and features a narrative intertwined with the Meddling Monk and the contemporary operations of UNIT.

The audio adventure begins with a crisis for the Doctor, who is hit by a regressive weapon, causing him to whirl through a succession of his previous forms until he lands on his fourth persona. While the specific Doctor originally targeted remains a mystery, the high-production video trailer suggests some possibilities.

"Past Lives" dives straight into action following the unfortunate event that befalls the Doctor. The story, penned by Robert Valentine, keeps listeners engaged from the outset. Among the dynamic start, the story also includes vocal appearances from actors/Doctors such as Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy, as well as Stephen Noonan, Michael Troughton, and Tim Treloar, before settling into its central plot.

Stabilized as the Fourth Doctor, our protagonist zeroes in on the Monk, portrayed by Rufus Hound, catching him amidst one of his cunning plots. On the isle of Jura, a clever nod is made to the KLF—a duo known for their music and a notorious incident involving the burning of a substantial sum of money. Unlike the KLF, the Monk has grander plans for his resources. His escapades lead him to abduct one of the Doctor's former companions, Sarah, portrayed by Sadie Miller, just as she departs the TARDIS in South Croydon Aberdeen.

The narrative quickly shifts to the Doctor's detection of a mysterious spacecraft hovering above Glastonbury, setting him on a path that intersects with the modern leaders of UNIT. Jemma Redgrave's Kate Stewart and Ingrid Oliver's Osgood are depicted as the custodians of the Black Archive, but the Monk has his sights set on something precious within this secure facility.

While "Past Lives" features numerous heartwarming reunions and has a relatively straightforward storyline, its primary focus on nostalgia works to its advantage. The plot reintroduces us to the Hyreth, ancient warrior dinosaurs, who are a callback to one of the Doctor's earlier conquests. These adversaries are resurrected from a long slumber to face the Doctor once more, although they arguably could have been given more depth within the bustling narrative.

The unfolding events in "Past Lives" hint at a more significant dilemma facing the Doctor, raising the question of what consequences there might be if his degenerations continue in reverse. In an echo of a line from "The Brain of Morbius", Sarah Jane contemplates the true extent of the Doctor's history.

One of the engaging elements of this narrative is having the Fourth Doctor's temperament enriched with experiences from his subsequent lives. His reunion with Sarah Jane gains an additional layer of endearment as he describes his situation as "revisiting a past life". This sets an intriguing premise for the series, suggesting that it will continue to offer new takes on established relationships.

Tom Baker's performance is delightful, and he seems to revel in his role. His chemistry with the updated UNIT crew is notably enjoyable, with Osgood's thrill at TARDIS travel being a standout moment. Rufus Hound's portrayal of the Monk is also commendable—he injects a sense of mischievous joy into the character. The talent of Ewan Bailey and Dan Starkey should not be overlooked either; they bring to life the villains and other supporting characters with vigor.

In essence, "Past Lives" can be summed up as a sentimental journey through the Doctor Who universe. It's a narrative that manages to entertain thoroughly while laying the groundwork for the ongoing series. It's replete with allusions that long-time fans will appreciate and maintains a brisk pace that promises an auspicious beginning for the "Once and Future" series. As the first installment, it raises questions, sets the stage for what's to come, and leaves fans eagerly awaiting the next episode.

Doctor Who: Once and Future: Past Lives is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

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