❉ If you’re looking for some new Ninth Doctor stories to enjoy you can’t do better than this.
For 13 episodes in the summer of 2005, Chris Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor had undeniably the shortest run in ‘Doctor Who’ of the modern era. Now that Big Finish has the license to do the modern Doctors that’s all about to change. Sort of.
Introducing the Ninth Doctor Chronicles! These audios adventures are like a hybrid between the Big Finish’ ‘Companion Chronicles’ series and an audiobook which is quite unique. In them Nicholas Briggs gets to be the narrator voicing, in turn, the Ninth Doctor and any other character that called for (what I’ve now termed as the ‘Omni-Briggs). Usually he’s joined by a familiar actor from the series proper. For this volume he’s accompanied by Bruno Langley and the lovely Camille Codouri portraying their characters, Adam Mitchell and Jackie Tyler, respectively. It’s an interesting way to make new Ninth Doctor stories while Eccleston’s still dragging his feet.
Let’s take a look at this set, shall we? Ready? Fantastic!
The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott
This story serves as a natural narrative bridge between the War Doctor stories and ‘Rose’, where the Doctor is still quite raw from the Time War and here he still has to deal with some fallout from it. Cavan Scott certainly knows his way around the character and has written a piece that nails this Doctor’s character who’s still struggling after his actions in the Time War.
I’m not going to lie: Between getting used to the format and Briggs’ Ninth Doctor (which sometimes gets too goofy for its own good) and the lack of actors from the show proper to ground the story, you really end up with a lack of interest for half of its run-time. Thankfully the second half kicks into high gear and it’s actually a really nice story with a great supporting performance from Claire Wyatt as reporter Adriana.
Skip this one and listen to it last on the set to fully enjoy it.
The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack
Now this is more like it! I love me a good celebrity historical (and about bloody time that it’s one featuring a woman!) Emily Brontë is an excellent choice and really lends herself to ‘Doctor Who’ quite admirably. The story itself is wonderfully descriptive (but then a story about moors and cities made of glass should be, shouldn’t they?) and sells the romantic adventure of it all. Rose is beautifully written and the Ninth Doctor seems to be having fun too. ‘The Window on the Moor’ also plays around with some of the mysteries surrounding the Brontë sisters that’s also a bonus for fans of the family. A joyous instalment through and through. Special mention to Laura Riseborough who’s simply terrific as Emily Brontë.
The Other Side by Scott Handcock
I was curious to see how’d they tackle Adam Mitchell here but this story seems like a natural piece that fills in the gap between ‘Dalek’ and ‘The Long Game’. Bruno Langley seems to relish being back in the character’s boots and thankfully there’s plenty for him to do here. The characterization of Rose and Nine are pinpoint accurate and it felt really nice to have them back together. In fact this story, out of all of this set really reminded me of Series 1 the most. Which is a good and a bad thing… The villains, the Bygone Horde, really reminded me of the Gelth from ‘The Unquiet Dead’ and so that was a tad disappointing. However, the interplay between the three leads is so enjoyable that it hardly really matters. Overall another fun story, and adding to Adam Mitchell’s story is always welcome.
Also, for some reason in this story and Retail Therapy, Briggs’ Ninth Doctor impression starts to slip up a bit. It’s rather jarring considering it didn’t happen in the first two stories.
Retail Therapy by James Goss
All hail Jackie Tyler! She’s back and it’s about time! Camille Codouri nails the part effortlessly like she’s just got off the set of ‘The End of Time’. This story for the most part is Jackie inadvertently taking part in an invasion but hey! She has good reasons! I like a story that looks into Jackie’s perspective on things. Especially considering the modern era of the show’s fondness for showing us companion’s families, so it’s nice to spend some quality time with them. Jackie’s love for Rose is a motivator for a lot of her actions and we get to see some of that ice between her and the Doctor melt here. Briggs’ best moments as Nine are when he’s bouncing off Camille’s Jackie. It feels authentic. Overall, it’s a really fun little story that rewards you.
Also: If you don’t laugh at the name Glubby Glub, you are dead inside.
It’s a pretty sturdy boxset. All the stories are top notch. ‘Window on the Moor’ and ‘The Other Side’ feel like they are right out of Series 1. ‘The Bleeding Heart’ accurately nails 9th Doctor’s characterisation and sets a perfect template for any pre-Rose adventures for him. ‘Retail Therapy’ is an absolute tour de force for Camille Codouri. There’s not a weak one in the bunch.
Despite some forgivable teething issues with the new format, the only true disappointment with the set is the lack of Billie Piper as Rose. She was sorely needed here. Every story she was featured in the character was superbly written for, yet the lines, to be frank, were wasted on the Omni-Briggs. Maybe next time, eh?
But most importantly, do give a big, big hand to Nick Briggs. It’s a bold move to come in and recreate the Ninth Doctor whilst the main actor is still alive and it pays off. Big time. The impression (should I call it that?) is at best quite evocative of Eccleston which is an achievement unto itself. Especially since it’s unlikely Chris will ever join Big Finish, but Briggs keeps the character’s spirit alive. And why not?
If you’re looking for a nice bit of Series 1 nostalgia or perhaps just some new Ninth Doctor stories to enjoy you really couldn’t do better than this. Add to that the welcome return of Camille Codouri and Bruno Langley and it’s a heady mix. Big Finish takes some risks here and ends up with a new storytelling medium and a way to give fans what they want. It’s like a boxset of bedtime stories. Well, if your dad was Nick Briggs.
❉ ‘The Ninth Doctor Chronicles’ was released on 4 May 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until July 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.
I’m a big fan of the esteemed Nicholas Briggs and I think he’s done (and continues to do) amazing things. He’s a fantastic storyteller, a writer, director, producer and sound designer. However, he isn’t a good impressionist. That might sound harsh and it’s not supposed to. Impersonations and acting are two entirely different things. He may argue that he’s acting the part, with enough accent/delivery to be an approximation of the character, which is a fair point and, as an actor, that’s how it should be. However, when there are pitch-perfect renditions of previous Doctors by other people who act for a living too, who could have nailed it absolutely, then that’s where the role should have gone instead (here’s an example, by a well-known chap called Wink Taylor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MmSS-1Dhe8). The absence of Billie Piper is huge but I suspect he tried very hard to get her involved, but Eccleston’s absence is just too big a chasm of suspense to leap – unless the voice had fooled your ears. Because it’s audio, doing a variable impression is a problem (at times, it is the Ninth Doctor, but it slips in and out), as it is a format where it’s easy to break concentration and lose your imagination when listening. Nick must have a real nightmare juggling so many hats, and juggling them in award-winning and clever ways, but sometimes you have to know your limitations and – regardless of whether it was budgetary or creative – I think he personally should have brought in someone to perform Eccleston whilst he concentrated on the narration and telling the story so well. Sorry, Nick, if you read this. I think you’re an absolute genius with what you can turn your hand to, but it’s just my opinion on trying to just add one plate too many to all that you are spinning.