In timely fashion, just as I had finished watching her original televised stories (and just as she is about to return ass a guest in Sarah Jane), Jo Grant appears on Big Finish in a new Companion Chronicle, Find and Replace, encountering not only Iris Wildthyme (a disreputable Time Lady who is also played by Katy Manning) but also Huxley, one of the Novelisors of Verbatim Six (who previously appeared in Ringpullworld, a Turlough Companion Chronicle from earlier this year). Being an Iris story it is by Paul Magrs, and as often with his stories I found it a slightly mixed bag - some really wonderful character moments for both Jo and Iris, and lovely nods to nostalgia, but the plot a little confused and the means and motivation for, of all people, the Third Doctor not really satisfying. It would not really be penetrable for listeners unfamiliar with Iris as a character.
It's Paul Magrs again, having been given a second commission to write a set of Fourth Doctor plays for the BBC. It seems that Susan Jameson's Mrs Wibbsey, the Doctor's housekeeper in his country retreat, is likely to be the companion figure this time, which is good as she is far more interesting than Richard Franklin's reprise of Mike Yates (who appears briefly as an answerphone message). Demon Quest: The Relics of Time begins at a village fete where Mrs Wibbsey, somewhat improbably, has traded some vital Tardis components for several pieces of paper which show the Fourth Doctor appearing in various historical settings; they then travel back to Roman Britain (one for my classicist friends!) to find out who has been making mosaics showing the Doctor's face. It's slightly confusing, and I'm not wild about the Doctor as eccentric country gentleman (which of course is Baker's own persona these days), but shows some promise for the next four episodes; the next will be set in late 19th century Paris.
The Cradle of the Snake is the best of this month's audios. Marc Platt (who else?) brings back the Mara, with the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough visiting Manussa (setting of Snakedance) to try and set Tegan straight after Nyssa and Turlough stupidly interrupt the Doctor's attempts to cure her of her snakey problems. I think the story is totally accessible to those who do not know either Kinda or Snakedance, or even much about Who; Peter Davison is called on to act well outside his usual comfort zone and succeeds; Platt is on form; the guest cast are good (including Vernon Dobtcheff, who was in The War Games over forty years ago, and Madeleine Potter, an American who seemed surprisingly at home in this rather British setting); and we are all set for another three stories (at least) with this particular Team Tardis next year.
Having said that I like The Cradle of the Snake best of this month's audios, I think Project: Destiny by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright is pretty good as well, though you would need to be familiar with quite a lot of the previous Big Finish range to appreciate it fully - I went back and listened again to Project: Twilight and Project: Lazarus, which feature Hex's mother Cassie, and also to The Harvest, which introduces him and the hospital of St Gart's to which we now return, and even his most recent appearance in The Angel of Scutari, but I should have also taken in No Man's Land and maybe even Thicker Than Water. (Mind you, those are almost all excellent stories, so perhaps make a decent listening project as such.) Poor old Hex finds that the hospital and indeed London have been taken over by sinister external forces, and that the Doctor has known more about his background than he was letting on for a very long time; meanwhile the sinister Nimrod, leader of The Forge, a Torchwood-like research centre but much less sexy, is maturing his own evil plans. It's very well executed, and again the guest cast are on top of things. I was rather hoping that it would all turn out to be a dream at one point, but in fact am content with the way it works out.
So in summary: The Cradle of the Snake is excellent and will appeal to anyone with even the vaguest notion of the Fifth Doctor era; Project: Destiny is also very good but more for those who know a lot of the previous Big Finish plays; Find and Replace has its moments; and Demon Quest: The Relics of Time fills up an hour without causing offence.