Big Finish brought Elisabeth Sladen back as Sarah Jane Smith in 2002, three years after they had started their run of Doctor Who plays, but four years before she returned to the actual TV series. Here we have Sarah's career as an investigative journalist going through some little local difficulties; but she is the leader of a gang of sidekicks (one of whom is played by Sladen's own daughter). I thought these were all perfectly fine plays, none outstanding but certainly none embarrassing either. In Comeback, by Terrance Dicks, Sarah unmasks sinister consequences of biochemical research in an isolated West Country village. The TAO Connection, by Barry Letts, takes her to Yorkshire for similar dubious biological goings on at a health farm, with the highest political circles involved. Test of Nerve, by David Bishop, is as it turns out a prophetic story of a terrorist attack on the London Underground, linking the bad guys from Comeback to a much earlier stage of Sarah's career. Ghost Town, by Rupert Laight, is a lot more fun, basically Sarah Jane as Scooby Doo investigating a remote Romanian castle where ghostly happenings are upsetting an international peace conference. And finally and most chillingly, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre takes Sarah and friends to India for bio-terrorism, tensions within the team, and a pleasing round-off of the cycle with promise of more to come.
I like to alternate a week of Big Finish spinoffs with a return to the main sequence of BF audios.
Project: Twilight - a rather nifty story of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn in sixties London, dealing with vampires. Some nasty violence though.
The Eye of the Scorpion - fitting into that gap between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani, which was one week on-screen but extends to three novels, fifteen plays, half a dozen Short Trips and a Telos novella, takes the Fifth Doctor and Peri to ancient Egypt where they thwart an alien coup attampt and acquire a new companion, Erimem.
Colditz - Could have been a bit disastrous, since the Seventh Doctor and Ace have a bit of a habit of running into Nazis, but actually turns into a rather good story of time paradoxes. Nasty German guard Kurtz is played by one David Tennant.
Primeval - At last, a good Nyssa/Fifth Doctor play! Nyssa is taken ill and Five brings her back to Traken, centuries before her own time. Lots of nice setting up, though there is a wee bit of Shaggy God story about it.
The One Doctor - A bit silly. Six and Mel find that the planet they are visiting has just been saved from doom by an impostor, pretending to be the Doctor. Real aliens then also turn up, and the Doctor and Mel, and their impersonators, have to take part in a TV quiz and assemble some shelves to save the world again; reminiscent of the sillier bits of The Celestial Toymaker.
The next three Eighth Doctor adventures - first half of Season 28, as some count it - were all very good; one feels that having settled into a certain routine for the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctor stories, Big Finish felt they had to try a bit harder for the less familiar team of the Eighth Doctor and Charley.
Invaders from Mars brings them to New York in time for Orson Welles' famous 1938 broadcast, but, invitably, getting caught up in a real alien invasion threat. Some gloriously funny roles, including the bickering between the aliens, but all done with great conviction.
The Chimes of Midnight is just creepy: the Doctor and Charley trapped in a house where the servants keep on dying horribly - and even more mysteriously coming to life. Clearly some Big Revelation about Charley's nature is being planned.
Seasons of Fear develops the damage done to Time by the paradox of Charley's survival, and leaps between 1930s Singapore, Roman Britain, the court of Edward the Confessor (where we find out rather bizarrely that the Eighth Doctor once got engaged to his queen, Edith) and the Hell Fire club of the mid-18th century. I loved the Roman and Saxon bits, though was a little less convinced by the hell-fire club. The priest in the temple of Mithras reading the parish announcements was a beautiful little scene which also tipped me off to the authors being Paul Cornell and his wife Caroline Symcox.
Anyway, looking forward to the next ones now; though I may take a break from the sequence for some more spinoff plays first.