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What It Says on the Box

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 19 December 2016
Rating:   7

Big Finish in its endeavor to regenerate interest in its products has shifted heavily into producing these box sets rather than as many new adventures. These sets also make strong ties between the classic series and the new series. This set is probably the ultimate effort in this regard. It says so in the title. We know that several of the monsters from New Who are presented as if the Doctor has encountered them before. So, why not relate some of these earlier encounters? It seems good. To do this as a box set, though, requires adhering to the New Who formula of single-part one-hour adventures. Further, each of our Doctors is companionless, which works out fine for fitting the 6th, 7th and 8th Doctor stories into their sequences of adventures, but is problematic for the 4th Doctor. Big Finish seems to have side-stepped the problem by not mentioning it at all and providing a few stray references to Doctor 4 televised stories, which would place this one as perhaps before Peri. The stories themselves are of a uniform good but not great quality. Probably the standout story, not by much, is the 8th Doctor adventure. On to the stories themselves.

1. Fallen Angels. Doctor 4 meets the Weeping Angels. Basically, this is a riff on "Blink" and offers not much new about the Weeping Angels. A couple of English tourists in Italy get tricked by a mad priest who worships Weeping Angels and gets sent back to 16th-century Italy, where they meet Michaelangelo himself, working on a project from a priest who worships the Weeping Angels. Michaelangelo thinks he is sculpting an angel that he is in fact releasing. Everything else, the listener can guess just from having watched "Blink."

2. Judoon in Chains. This is probably the most original of the stories. Here, Doctor 6 is using a court trial in the 1800s to rescue a lone Judoon on the run from his own people. The Judoon Captain Kybo seems to be gaining in intelligence and sensitivity far beyond any Judoon's ability. Great voicing from Nicholas Briggs pulls off this story. Mostly, the story is The Elephant Man with the Judoon playing Rhino Man.

3. Harvest of the Sycorax. This one is a riff on "The Christmas Invasion." Again, if one has seen the first, then the audio will be probably overly familiar. There is some attempt to give the Sycorax more culture, with art and a religion. However, basically they are the same as in the TV series. The setting this time is humanity in the future, living among the stars and enslaved to medical products provided by a pharmaceutical conglomerate. There is some nice commentary on the overabundance of and dependence upon mood altering designer drugs. It's all entertaining and very Doctor 7.

4. The Sontaran Ordeal. Doctor 8 encounters the New Who Sontarans who are trying to enter the Time War. Dan Starkey is brilliant as a disgraced Sontaran who survives a botched attempt at assassination from his less than honorable commanding officer. This story probably follows the New Who formula most closely in having an interesting idea get sidetracked by irrelevant dangers inserted at moments where the "action" seems to be flagging in favor of dialogue. However, the story does offer us new insights into Sontaran psychology and makes them more believable.

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