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

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: Once and Future: The Union, Review

Big Finish’s commemorative series for the 60th anniversary of "Doctor Who" culminates with "Once and Future: The Union," a thrilling finale that wraps up the epic audio narrative. In this last installment, we encounter an ailing Doctor grappling with his unstable condition, a result of his 'degenerations,' as he stumbles through his complex timeline with increased disarray.

"Once and Future: The Union" is a tale penned by series script editor Matt Fitton, prominently featuring Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor and offering a glimpse into the life of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. Iconic companions also return, with Carole Ann Ford taking up the mantle of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, and Alex Kingston stepping back into the shoes of the enigmatic Professor River Song, the Doctor’s wife.

The story's heart lies within the enigmatic Diamond Array, a pivotal location where the Doctor, while haphazardly uncovering the mystery behind his degenerative state, responds to a desperate call from his granddaughter Susan. There, a showdown with the villainous entity known as The Union unfolds, and the allegiance of River Song hangs in the balance.

With a substantial 74-minute runtime, reminiscent of the extended finales helmed by Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat, "The Union" requires the extra space to give voice to its extensive character roster. The Doctor, portrayed as more unstable than ever, is a melting pot of incarnations, contributing to a whirlwind of personalities and interactions that are central to the story's development.

Contributions from Jacob Dudman voicing the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, and Jonathan Carley’s impressive portrayal of a youthful War Doctor, bring the various iterations of the Time Lord to life. Carley's War Doctor, in particular, is central to the narrative's climax.

The familial dynamic is explored as well, with Susan and the Eighth Doctor sharing a touching reunion. Their chemistry, established in previous adventures, is a highlight, and Fitton cleverly introduces Susan to the New Series Doctors, playing up the generational disconnect with humor and warmth.

"The Union" also treats us to a side journey with the Fourth Doctor and Susan, echoing "Doctor Who's" inaugural on-screen story with a perilous encounter on Earth involving cavemen, adding a layer of nostalgia to the unfolding drama.

The antagonist's plot draws inspiration from classic "Doctor Who" episodes, with The Union embarking on a grandiose plan to harness the energy from entire star systems. Maureen O’Brien’s performance as The Union is dynamic, delivering a villainous presence that stands up to the challenge of facing multiple Doctors.

As the story unravels, the true identity of The Union, hinted at previously, provides a satisfying narrative twist, further enriching the series by integrating a celebrated figure from the show’s earliest days.

Ultimately, "The Union" ties the sprawling saga together with finesse, focusing on character interplay over complex plotting. The narrative neatly circles back to the series opener, "Past Lives," and even includes a nod to Rufus Hound’s Monk.

The conclusion is so comprehensive that it leaves audiences pondering what could possibly be left for November 2024’s ‘Coda: The Final Act.’ Yet, with Tim Foley at the helm, expectations for a compelling addition to the "Doctor Who" audio universe remain high. The series stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of "Doctor Who," celebrating its rich history while weaving an inventive new chapter in its timeless saga.

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

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