❉ A bold and unique set, effectively creating a new season for the Eleventh Doctor, set during his search for Clara.
Having performed the audio voices for the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors since 2018, impressionist Jacob Dudman is obviously wanting to move on to pastures new, and with this latest box set of The Doctor Chronicles audio producers Big Finish have given the range a massive shake-up.
Originally told as part-audiobook stories with just Dudman’s Doctor and a secondary voice for the first box set, the range moved to full-cast for set 2, and now the series receives a further expansion with volume three being the first of four linked box sets effectively creating a new season for the Eleventh Doctor, set during the hitherto unexplored Series 7B period during his search for Clara.
Of course, a new era needs a new companion, and in Geronimo! this role is filled by Valarie Lockwood, a young cyberneticist from future Earth thrown into the Doctor’s life in the tradition of all good companions. Valarie’s steampunk background immediately marks her out as different to any companion the Doctor’s had before, and it’s a strong performance from actor Saffiya Ingar, a fan of the show who’s clearly having the time of their life performing the part.
Valarie’s introduced in The Inheritance, Alfie Shaw’s first episode which sets up Valarie’s world and brings the Doctor and his new companion together. The story wastes no time in getting to the main selling point, the Doctor and Valarie meet as soon as is humanly possible, and it’s immediately intriguing to hear how this initially combative relationship turns into the friendship we obviously know is coming.
It goes without saying that Dudman’s impression is enough to convince you it’s actually Smith reading the lines, and again Ingar gives their all as Valarie. It’s a fast-paced opener for the set, with a death early on setting up some real emotional stakes and an idea genuinely unique to Doctor Who which must be a feat for a show that’s produced over 1,000 audios by now.
There’s also an interesting new storyline set up in the episode for the rest of the box sets, with the introduction of the mysterious “Consultant” character. Although we don’t get anywhere near an answer in this volume, this is clearly something that’s going to continue throughout the series, and makes an intriguing hook for further episodes.
The set continues with Georgia Cook’s The House of Masks, a Venetian period piece throwing Valarie into the Doctor’s world in the tradition of modern series second episodes like The Beast Below or The Rings of Akhaten.
From the off, although there is a traditional Doctor Who plot woven very strongly into the mix, it becomes very clear this is a story all about the Doctor and his new friend, and it works all the better for it. With its clever inversions of a companion’s introduction, there’s an immediate wholesome air between the two, and it’s a joy to hear them spark each other.
The Doctor and Valarie become separated quite early on and stay that way for most of the run-time, really allowing the new companion to take the spotlight and for Saffiya to show off their acting chops in spectacular style. Valarie learns some real home truths about the Doctor, not all of them pleasant, and when the pair reunite at the end of the story it leads to a truly electric confrontation ranking amongst the deepest of Big Finish scenes.
The set comes to an appropriate end with Rochena Patel’s The End, possibly one of the most unique stories in Big Finish’s output and definitely a highlight of the entire range.
Set between alternate timelines with either the Doctor or Valarie succumbing to a deadly virus, it’s possibly a bit of a risk to have the same box set open and close with virus-dependent stories, but there’s enough here in terms of plot and character to differentiate it from The Inheritance. With a fast pace that doesn’t stop from the moment the credits roll, The End is an extremely inventive adventure and really allows us to hear just how much the Doctor and Valarie have rubbed off on each other in such a short space of time.
The extras on this set are pretty much what we’d expect from a Big Finish release, with the usual mix of cast and crew swapping stories about recording, but one interesting change this time round is the decision to start interviewing cover artists.
Although her segment is brief, it’s interesting to hear Carrie Tankersley talk about how her cover came together, and more interviews in this vein on future releases would be very welcome indeed.
Overall, Geronimo is a bold and unique set, setting out a new era of Doctor Who on audio; it’s a strong start and definitely establishes the Eleventh Doctor’s new era as something that’s going to be very interesting to listen to. With three more box sets in the range to come, this is already shaping up to be a fitting swansong for Dudman’s time at Big Finish.
DOCTOR WHO — THE DOCTOR CHRONICLES: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR: GERONIMO!
Written by Alfie Shaw, Georgia Cook, Rochana Patel
Starring Jacob Dudman & Safiyya Ingar
Script Editors: Matt Fitton, Alfie Shaw
Cover Art: Caroline Tankersley
Sound Design: Lee Adams
Music: Jamie Robertson
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Producer: Alfie Shaw
Senior Producer: David Richardson
Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery
❉ ‘Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles: Geronimo!’ is available exclusively from the Big Finish website as a collector’s edition CD and download. Price: £19.99 (collector’s edition CD box set + download)/£16.99 (download only).
❉ Ezekiel Thorp can be found on Twitter: @Praxeus_stan, where he continues to tweet about old magazine covers and anything else that takes his fancy.