To commemorate International Women’s Day 2019, Big Finish released “The Eighth of March: a collection of four stories, written by women, directed by women and starring some of the female characters from the Doctor Who universe.
This is undeniably a very special release, and thankfully it’s an absolute success! Read on to find out what I thought of each story.
1. “Emancipation” by Lisa McMullin
In her first (released) story for Big Finish, Lisa McMullin teams up River Song (Alex Kingston) and Leela (Louise Jameson) in an exciting tale of assassins and princesses set at a Galactic Heritage Conference.
The plot is gripping from the start. McMullin foregoes any lengthy exposition scenes: the story is full-throttle from the beginning to the end, with River and Leela zipping through time and space, dealing with malevolent queens and uncovering terrible conspiracies.
It pleases me to see that McMullin seems to be writing lots more audio stories in the future; I’m particularly looking forward to May’s Torchwood release Sync and September’s Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon, both of which I’m sure, like Emancipation, will be great.
2. “The Big Blue Book” by Lizzie Hopley
Lizzie Hopley really delivers with the second story in the set, which follows Ace (Sophie Aldred) as she investigates mysterious goings-on at a Liverpool university, including the disappearance of Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman).
The university setting lends itself to some great imagery: the spaceship/library hidden in the clock tower being my personal favourite. The plot itself is rather innovative, so I won’t go into any further details here, but what I will say is that Rosemary Ashe‘s manic (but wonderful!) performance as villain Vassa is one of the highlights of the piece.
The music in this story struck me as being particularly strong, especially the tribalistic tune that played over some scenes. Overall, a very strong entry in the set.
3. “Inside Every Warrior” by Gemma Langford
The Paternoster Gang make their long-awaited Big Finish debut with this story, by newcomer Gemma Langford, and this is the perfect introduction to their audio adventures.
Following Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Caitrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) as they investigate talk of a werewolf roaming around London, this story is a great showcase for all three characters. Each of the gang gets something to do, showing off their particular strengths and weaknesses, and I was impressed at how Langford gave them all some nice development by the end of the piece.
The music here was also very good; my particular favourites were the opening theme and the chorus of “Sontar-Ha” that played during some of Strax’s scenes.
All in all, “Inside Every Warrior” is a wonderful story, leaving me excited both for The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1 to come out this June and for more stories from Gemma Langford.
4. “Narcissus” by Sarah Grochala
Even before the theme tune began to play, I knew this would be a great story. For me, what I’ve heard of the UNIT series so far (which is, admittedly, only three of the seven boxsets) has always been rather perfunctory: delivering some really great stories, but nothing that has wowed me.
With Narcissus, Sarah Grochala does away with my preconceptions, writing a fun, exciting and, above all, innovative entry in the series and, overall, my favourite story in The Eighth of March boxset.
I feel like Narcissus let the characters have a little more personality than some of the regular UNIT releases. We get to see a little more of Jacqui (Tracy Wiles) and Josh (James Joyce)‘s lives outside of UNIT, the two Osgoods (brought to life excellently by Ingrid Oliver) get some development and Kate (Jemma Redgrave) manages to save the day with her quick thinking.
The script almost reminded me of a Russell T Davies era TV story in that it was grounded in the modern world so deeply. This wasn’t a story about bug eyed monsters from outer space, but one of real people going about their lives and just happening to become embroiled in an alien conspiracy.
This is exactly the kind of story I’m hoping for from UNIT in the future: character-driven, full of new ideas and a little bit more grown-up. Excellent.
Directed by the fabulous Helen Goldwyn, “The Eighth of March” is an unparalleled success: a truly marvellous showcase of the women of Doctor Who. All four stories are brilliant, and I can’t wait to hear more from all of these fantastic new writers very soon! Thoroughly recommended.
The Eighth of March can be purchased on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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