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Four recent Doctor Who audios

As usual, I'm writing these up in continuity order rather than in release order or in the order I listened to them.

Return of the Rocket Men, by Matt Fitton, brings back the Rocket Men of last year's play by John Dorney, but this time with Steven Taylor rather than Ian Chesterton. I've always been sorry that we never find out what happened to Steven after he left the Doctor; here we have a bit of a flashback to what happened before he arrived on Mechanus, the Rocket Men of course fitting very nicely into the space opera sub-genre that is Steven's home. There's some timey-wimey stuff and some introspection by Steven, nicely carried off by Peter Purves forty-six years after leaving the programme; I liked it more than the previous one.

The Uncertainty Principle, by Simon Guerrier, is an ambitious tale of Zoe being interrogated by the company psychiatrist (played again by Wendy Padbury's daughter Charlie Hayes) about an incident with a woman who is both dead and alive and aliens who explode leaving a funny smell behind. It didn't really grab me I'm afraid. It is apparently the third in a series of four with Zoe exploring her blocked memories, so once the fourth is out I will listen to them all again and reassess my opinion.

Big Finish have provided an absolutely superb end to the story of Liz Shaw in The Last Post, recorded by Caroline John a few months before her death in June this year. It is by James Goss, who I find consistently one of the best Who writers (and yet he has never written for Who on television), and takes us through the year that Liz spent with UNIT, through conversations with her mother, who is played by Rowena Cooper, about the series of mysterious deaths that keep on happening. There are loads of lovely continuity references, not only to Season Seven but backwards and forwards as well, and it's well-constructed and fascinating. I'm not one of Liz's biggest fans, but I thought this was a brilliant tribute to her.

Finally, The First Sontarans was a story originally pitched by Full Circle author Andrew Smith for Season 22. but replaced by The Two Doctors. I was a bit dubious about Smith's previous audio for Big Finish (and was even at the time a little underwhelmed by Full Circle, but this is good stuff, bringing the Sontarans to Victorian England in pursuit of the Caveetch, with Rutans possibly (or possibly not) in attendance as well; it's a sprawling narrative with a lot going on, plenty of moral outrage from Colin Baker and wrestling with destiny from Nicola Bryant, and an excellent take on the true origin of the Sontarans, with a well-realised soundscape for all of its varied settings. On the one hand, it's ashame that this never reached the screen; on the other, perhaps it's better to have the pictures in one's head rather than the JNT realisation of them.

In summary: Return of the Rocket Men is a decent sf tale which will be accessible to anyone but appreciated more by those who have seen Steven Taylor in action; I was underwhelmed by The Uncertainty Principle; The Last Post is excellent but probably for fans only; and The First Sontarans works well but probably also better for those who know and care what the Sontarans are.


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