Jacob Dudman returns to the role of the Eleventh Doctor in a new series of Eleventh Doctor Chronicles! Set in between The Snowmen and The Bells of Saint John, this run of thirteen adventures will see the Doctor join forces with new companion Valarie Lockwood as he tracks down the mysterious Clara Oswald. This first set, Geronimo!, kick starts the series, introducing Valarie and the overarching story for the remaining three boxsets… but is it any good? Read on for our thoughts!
The Doctor and Valarie
This boxset sees Safiyya Ingar join the Doctor Who family as new companion Valarie Lockwood, a cyberneticist from the future who joins the TARDIS crew when her life is turned upside down by the Doctor. From their very first moments as the character, Ingar gives a stellar performance, capturing in equal measure Valarie’s fierceness and determination, and her softer, more vulnerable side, which is explored in depth throughout the three stories in the set.
Amy, Rory and Clara, the Eleventh Doctor’s companions on TV, are probably three of my least favourite characters in the entirety of Doctor Who, feeling more like a collection of quirks than real people, but the team at Big Finish avoid those pitfalls with Valarie, giving us a well-rounded and compelling character who is the perfect foil for the Eleventh Doctor. Bravo to Ingar for a brilliant debut, and to the writers of this set for creating a character so interesting right from the get-go.
That’s not to say all the focus is on Valarie in this set. The Doctor gets some nice scenes as an underexplored part of his life is delved into for the first time: his search for Clara Oswald. In the first story in particular, Jacob Dudman gives a great performance as his curiosity about Clara is exploited by the villain of the piece, and he’s torn about what to do. He also has a great scene in the second story where he tells Valarie about the Time War and his role in stopping it, proving himself able to handle the Eleventh Doctor’s darker side too.
The set opens with The Inheritance by Alfie Shaw, which sees the Doctor arrive on the doorstep of cybernetics engineer Valarie Lockwood as her life is turned upside down by a series of tragic events. It’s an energetic opener to the series that expertly sets up Valarie’s character, while also having an engaging and original plot. The first half is definitely better than the second, but overall this is a really competent opener with lots of great ideas and lovely character moments. 4/5
The House of Masks by Georgia Cook is up next, taking the Doctor and Valarie to Venice during Carnivale. Attending a party held by the renowned Lady Sicura, the two are caught up in a murderous plot with origins beyond the stars. While the story itself is fairly light on incident, the character work in Cook’s script is excellent, and the tale culminates with a touching conversation between the Doctor and Valarie that really cements the strength of this pairing and is particularly impressive given this is only their second episode together. Good stuff. 3.5/5
The final story in Geronimo! is the aptly-titled The End by Rochana Patel. It’s the most high-concept episode in the set, following two separate timelines: one where the Doctor is about to die, and one where Valarie is. There are some great ideas in the script, which is pacy and dynamic, though the first half is much stronger than the second, and the guest characters are all thinly sketched. Nevertheless, there are some glorious moments for the Doctor and Valarie, and a tantalising cliffhanger for the next set, which makes this, overall, a successful finale. 4/5
I have to be honest, given that the Eleventh Doctor is one of my least favourite Doctors and that this is a recast rather than Matt Smith returning to the role, Geronimo! was one of my least-anticipated boxsets of 2022. By the end of The Inheritance, however, my mind had been completely changed. Jacob Dudman and Safiyya Ingar make an excellent pairing, giving us one of the most compelling Doctor/companion relationships Big Finish have ever created, while each of the writers of the set crafts an era-authentic story that takes the Eleventh Doctor in an exciting new direction. After this, I’m very much looking forward to hearing where the Doctor and Valarie go next. Recommended.
Geronimo! is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com