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It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for. After twenty-one years, four doctors, countless companions and monsters, and 275 releases, it’s time for the Doctor Who Monthly Adventures to come to a close. But, as the title of this final story suggests, this isn’t really the end… just The End of the Beginning.
Death and the Desert
The first part of this story is called Death and the Desert and sees the Doctor and Turlough join an expedition to uncover a lost Mesopotamian city. Along the way, they are joined by genial local Ibrahim (Youssef Kerkour) and threatened by the menacing John Quarrington (Richard Goulding), who wants to beat them to it.
There’s really not much to this story, and even as I write the details of the plot are fading fast from my mind. Even so, this is by no means a bad script, just a little bit dull, though some of the teases to the greater story arc of this release are tantalising. It doesn’t help that some of the performances seem curiously detached from the other actors, because this was, of course, recorded in isolation.
Overall, an interesting, if not the most exciting, start to this landmark release. Squarely average.
Flight of the Blackstar
Next, we travel to Titan, where the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his trusty companion Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) are looking after their friend Flip, who was injured on one of their previous adventures. While they wait for her to recover, they become embroiled in the machinations of the Freebooters: a gang who have been terrorising the area.
With a view to shutting them down, the Doctor calls on old friend Calypso Jonze (Robyn Holdaway), who we last saw in The Lovecraft Invasion. It’s great to hear them again as, while I wasn’t the biggest fan of their debut story, I thought they were definitely one of the highlights. They make a great addition to this particular TARDIS team, having refreshingly different kinds of relationships with both the Doctor and Constance, and I hope we see them again in the future!
This is very much a space-opera kind of story, with more than a flavour of Star Wars. This gives it a pleasingly unique tone, though it’s certainly nothing hugely original. That said, this is a simple story done well, with a few good twists thrown in to keep things fresh. There are also ties into the greater story arc of this release, which build on those in the previous episode. Strong stuff.
We now shift into the Eighth Doctor’s era, as he and Charley (India Fisher) arrive in 1990s London to visit an art exhibit known only as Darkness! While Charley explores the city, the Doctor visits an old undead friend to catch up. And yes, I did just say undead, because the Doctor’s friend is a vampire! This is a delightful, pulpy, gothic story with some really great ambience, aided by Wilfredo Accosta‘s evocative sound design and music.
Tim Faulkner stars as friendly vampire Highgate, whose relationship with the Doctor is delightful and who gets a lovely emotional arc even despite the story’s short length, while Kieran Bew takes on the role of Dwayne Pherber, the story’s sinister antagonist. Both do a great job, perfectly complementing the tried and true combination of Paul McGann and India Fisher.
Overall, this is another strong part of the overall release, with a tantalising set-up, a slightly less compelling resolution and a brilliant cliffhanger to take us into the epic finale…
The Lost Moon
So, here it is. The final story in the Doctor Who Monthly Adventures. And what a story! Four Doctors! Three companions! A terrifying foe! This is the best part of the set by far, bringing all of those elements together in an exciting, thrilling climax.
We finally meet the mysterious Vakrass, the last of the Death Lords, who has been plaguing the Doctor throughout the set and who is brought to life wonderfully by Kevin McNally, while we also cross paths with fabled Time Lord Gostak (David Schofield). Both characters are not what they seem, bringing some good twists to the tale.
Meanwhile, it’s just such a thrill to hear Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Paul McGann and, briefly, Sylvester McCoy all interacting. They each get their little part in the story, as do their assorted companions, and this is undeniably the best part of the episode.
And, just like that, it’s over. There’s not much fanfare about it, but with this story, the Monthly Adventures finally come to a close! It’s a little anticlimactic, quite honestly, but, like the title of this release says, this is just the end of the beginning. Lots more adventures await for the Doctor and his companions in the future, and only time will tell what those adventures hold…
All in all, this is a fairly strong release, made up of some really evocative and unique stories and settings. This is a great, if a little unremarkable, end to the Monthly Adventures, mirroring the first release The Sirens of Time both in its structure and in its simplicity. All involved do a great job, though I perhaps hoped for something a little more exciting to close out the range. For what it is though, this is good stuff. Recommended.
The End of the Beginning is available now from http://www.bigfinish.com on CD or as a download