❉ Lightning strikes twice for fans of Davison and Tennant in this Time-Crash reunion.
More than a decade on from Time Crash, the Fifth and Tenth Doctors reunite, and this time it’s a family affair. David Tennant and father-in-law Peter Davison perform together in a timey-wimey adventure as Cybermen come out of the Catacombs to invade Paris. This is the second release from the Out of Time range, which follows a successful formula of pairing the Tenth Doctor with an incarnation from the classic series, and pitting them against an iconic adversary.
The narrative starts as you might anticipate, introducing the two incarnations of the Doctor separately. Both are aiming for different places and times than where they end up, but arrive in Paris, albeit some 135 years apart. Prior to the two Doctors meeting, Davison seems to take the bulk of the material, and it’s through him we meet the majority of the guest stars. Mark Gatiss is an elderly French gentleman, and Shelley Conn is an American accented Time Agent that the Doctor wastes no time in becoming acquainted with. Meanwhile the Tenth Doctor spends most of his time in the occupied Paris of 1944 talking to himself, lampshaded by a throwaway “Who am I talking to?” line. It’s a bit of a Big Finish trope to have the Doctor talking to themself but Tennant performs it with an enlivening energy, and even now he’s been back on audio for five years there’s still a joy to getting to hear him embrace the medium and Big Finish.
After his first encounter with the Cybermen, the Fifth Doctor is trapped in stasis, allowing for the Tenth Doctor to come along and rescue him in the future — a neat way of joining the two narratives. The Cybermen used for this story are the versions previously featured in the Invasion, and while this may seem a bit of a random choice (indeed David Richardson states in the accompanying interviews it was primarily motivated out of nostalgia) there is a certain neatness to the fact that both that story, and this, feature them skulking in a subterranean environment: the sewers of London and the catacombs of Paris, respectively.
Once the two Doctors meet up, the fun really starts. They recognise each other immediately, which saves a lot of narrative faff, and feels like a tacit acknowledgement of Time Crash. Despite this the Tenth Doctor is playing catchup slightly, while the Fifth takes on a sense of seniority both in knowledge and status. It’s a common feature of multi-doctor stories, established as far back as The Three Doctors, that the older actor takes on such status, irregardless of him technically being the younger and less experienced version of the character. And knowing Davison and Tennant’s family relationship it feels more appropriate here than ever. Once the two characters are together the plot escalates, with the history of Paris changing, and the banter in full flow. There are references not only to the characters’ own eras, but also to a previous memorable adventure in Paris, with Romana getting a pleasing namecheck. There will always be a joy in hearing David Tennant say the names of companions he grew up with, while he is in character as the Doctor.
The history of Paris becomes an essential part of the story, as both Doctors try to trace the paradox and the invasion back to its source. Llewellyn’s love of history, and of the story’s opening setting of the catacombs is clear. Although we don’t end up actually spending that much of the narrative within the catacombs themselves, it seems that the idea of including that setting is what the rest of the story has been structured around and inspired by. Although the scenes of the Doctors investigating the origins of the Cybermen’s Parisian invasion are a bit overly expositional, they’re nicely offset with a short, atmospheric flashback, and get most of the narrative heavy-lifted out of the way around the midpoint, allowing for a faster paced final act.
The plot continues with a further trip back in time, and culminates in a paradox heavy resolution, but wraps up the story reasonably well given we only have a relatively short hour. This story’s joy comes from the two Doctors’ relationship really, and they seem to get on better than many multi-Doctor pairings, although that was also noticeable with the Fourth and Tenth Doctors in the previous Out of Time. There’s a moment where the two incarnations say simultaneously “We’re the Doctor” which is so brilliantly sweet and yet so obvious I find myself wondering why no multi-Doctor story has done it before. And it is moments of sweetness like that which really make this story worthwhile.
If you enjoyed Out of Time 1, and want a story with an equally good plot and equally good moments of humorous fanservice, but with the Fifth Doctor instead of the Fourth, then this release does exactly that. The Tenth Doctor seems so natural paired with classic incarnations that this release has made me wonder about the future, and whether there’s a potential for an Out of Time 4 & 5, after the already confirmed Sixth Doctor and Weeping Angels story. Who wouldn’t want to hear Tennant paired alongside Sylvester McCoy or Paul McGann? And most of all I am certain that David Tennant would have fun himself doing that, just as he has clearly had fun with this enjoyable story. This episode, and the range it’s a part of, are quintessential Big Finish: fanservice, humour, and a great cast. And for that alone it’s well worth checking out; there’s also a reference to Jarvis Cocker! So if that doesn’t sell you on it I’m not sure what will.
❉ ‘Doctor Who – Out of Time: The Gates of Hell’ is available exclusively from the Big Finish website as a collector’s edition CD (for just £10.99) or a digital download (for just £8.99). Big Finish listeners can save money by pre-ordering the bundle, containing all three volumes in the Doctor Who – Out of Time series, for just £27 (as a collector’s edition CD) or £24 (as a download).