❉ Stephen Brennan reviews two new full-cast audio adventures featuring The Fifth Doctor and his TARDIS team.
In this latest run of Fifth Doctor audios, the Doctor has been travelling alone in a self-imposed exile from his companions, after new companion Marc was partly converted into a Cyberman, leaving Marc, Tegan, and Nyssa on the planet Callanna. This shakeup of the TARDIS Team dynamic leads to a very interesting concept for this pair of stories: Thin Time is about an adventure the Doctor has, and Madquake is about an adventure involving the companions (similar to the New Adventures Birthright/Iceberg, back in 1993). This structure of having the two stories essentially take place concurrently is one l adore, and this is helped by the fact the fact the stories themselves are amazing.
Thin Time by Dan Abnett is an incredibly evocative story, that successfully finds the perfect blend of dealing primarily with the concept of time, without becoming overcomplicated and indulgent. It uses its more limited runtime incredibly well, in fact, it’s the perfect length it needs to be. Thin Time is primarily a character piece, the actual “threat” is more conceptual in nature, and the real joy is seeing how each of the characters reacts to the events occurring around them. And of course, the ending. Hoo boy, what can l say about the ending? I’ve been a bit cagey about sharing any actual story details, but that’s because l truly feel this is a story that needs to be heard, rather than merely talked about. And I shan’t spoil that experience here.
Madquake by Guy Adams by contrast is a far more traditional “Doctor Who-ish” story, featuring Slitheen trying to steal the atmosphere of the planet where Nyssa, Tegan, and Marc were left by the Doctor to recover after the events of Warzone/Conversion. There is a focus on the characters, and how they’re dealing with things, but once the Slitheen come along it feels like the far more interesting character drama takes a backseat to typical cheesy Slitheen action (for those wary of such things, there is a fart, and a particularly wet sounding one at that). I enjoyed this story a lot, but l feel that’s mainly because of the performances of the cast during the slower moments where the characters are just talking. In particular, Janet Fielding has been excelling herself in these last few audios, she really is a hugely underrated actor.
The sound design for both these stories is phenomenal (well, farting not included), Thin Time’s atmosphere comes so strongly from its use of atmospheric ambience, and Madquake perfectly captures the feeling of an alien world that’s tranquil, and yet faintly unsettling.
Overall, l love Thin Time/Madquake. Honestly, in this reviewer’s opinion, Big Finish’s most recent output has been stronger than it’s been for a long time. I’ve been loving all of the Fifth Doctor/Tegan/Nyssa/Marc stories, and l can’t wait to see what’s to come for this team. These stories in particular have come mainly as “two-for-one” stories, perhaps as a trial run for the future releases that will replace the Main Range. If they maintain this high level of quality, then you can rest assured: The future of Doctor Who at Big Finish is in safe hands
❉ Doctor Who: Thin Time / Madquake is now available to own as a collector’s edition boxset (on CD at £14.99) and as a digital download (at £12.99) exclusively from www.bigfinish.com.
❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.