It’s strange to think that, this time a couple of years ago, all we had to enjoy from Christopher Eccleston‘s Ninth Doctor was his all-too-short run of thirteen episodes on on television. Well, thanks to Big Finish and this latest boxset in the Ninth Doctor Adventures series, this most elusive of Doctors now has a whopping twenty four hours of audio adventures on top of his televised run! As this second series concludes, let’s see what Shades of Fear has in store…
The set opens with The Colour of Terror by Lizzie Hopley, which sees the Doctor and a band of eclectic townsfolk banding together to stop an alien menace lurking inside the red wavelength of the colour spectrum. It’s a story with a highly creative idea at its heart but, set almost entirely in a charity shop, it sorely lacks in scope. This means that the relatively large cast feels a wasted opportunity; the small scale and linearity of the script meaning that there’s really no need for so many characters, and so none of them feels particularly developed.
The best part of this story, its villains, is seized by Roy Gill for the boxset finale- Red Darkness– which teams them up with the Vashta Nerada! Gill’s script is the strongest in the set, seeing the Doctor and a group of colonists on the run from this terrifying coalition of foes while remaining character-driven and focused. Adam Martyn stars here as Callen Lennox, a partially-sighted teen whose best friend is a seeing and talking dog called Conan (Harki Bhambra), and is one of the most effective pseudo-companions in this range so far, note-perfect in performance and well-written by Gill. I know Big Finish seems to have an aversion to giving the Ninth Doctor a new companion but please, please give us more of Callen and Conan!!
Sandwiched between these two tales is James Kettle‘s The Blooming Menace, a barmy story which is kind of cross between the works of P.G. Wodehouse and Day of the Triffids. The story sees a gentleman’s club which infiltrated by a race of sentient flowers, who bewitch men into falling in love with them. It’s fast-paced and chaotic, but has little substance, comfortably taking the lowest score of the set.
And so the second series of The Ninth Doctor Adventures comes to a close. While Back to Earth was undeniably the highlight of this run, each set has had at least one standout story, and it’s been a delight to hear Christopher Eccleston return once more to a role we never thought we’d hear him inhabit again. As yet, a third series hasn’t been announced, but I hope that, when one eventually materialises, it messes with the formula a little bit. We’ve had twenty or so pretty standalone, character-based stories now… let’s see what else Big Finish can do with the Ninth Doctor.
Shades of Fear is available on CD, as a download or on limited-edition vinyl from http://www.bigfinish.com
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