Written By: Nicholas Briggs, Alan Barnes, Matt Fitton, Simon Barnard and Paul Morris
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Producer: David Richardson
Sound Design: Howard Carter
Music: Howard Carter
Script Editor: Matt Fitton
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Number of Discs:
Available on BigFinish.com
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As the title”The Last Adventure” implies, this set culminates with the regeneration of the Sixth Doctor. I listened to this set earlier last week and the “This is Colin Baker” interview later that week. I thought that maybe by letting the story settle in my mind a bit would maybe make it easier to be objective about reviewing this awesome special release boxed set… I was wrong. I thought that maybe reading what other people (with a more critical eye than mine) were saying about this set on internet forums might help me to stay impartial… again I was wrong. I admit to you right now that where this collection is concerned I fear I can not separate my feeling from a personal bias. I like the Sixth Doctor.
In fact to say I like the Sixth Doctor is something of an understatement… he’s gradually become one of my favorite Doctors period, full stop. I didn’t always feel this way but with time I’ve discovered the richness and complexity that Colin Baker infused into each of the characters he’s played. In his interview with Nicholas Briggs he stated that “No one plays the supporting role in their own life!” And you can see very quickly that Colin throws himself into every role and challenge head on and it’s hard not to respect him (and by proxy his Doctor) all the more for it.
If you do not particularly care for Colin Baker or the Sixth Doctor then you should be reasonably prepared to disagree with my review. I will not apologize for loving this story but I will try to eschew my fanboy glee long enough to give you some perfectly valid justifications as to why I feel the way I do. I hope however that you will listen to the story and create your own opinions, I also hope that maybe you’ll agree with some of my thoughts but even if you don’t feel free to comment because I’m eager to talk about these stories. I’ll dispense with the formality and state right from the onset that I would never in good conscience be able to give this story any less than a perfect score of 5 stars. Boom! 5 out of 5 stars! Now that I’ve gotten that pesky rating out of the way let me explain “why”….
Not all regenerations are created equal sometimes the “ole form” just starts to wear a “bit thin” and “pow” you get a regeneration. Then one day you might just step out of the TARDIS to get shot up and are forced to regenerate when surgery doesn’t suit your Galifreyian anatomy. Sometimes however the Doctor is called to be incredibly heroic and self-sacrificing with his regeneration even if (like the 10th Doctor) he doesn’t “want to go”. I’m happy to say that now the Sixth Doctor (who might strike you as overly proud and even a little abrasive at times) fits firmly in the category of Doctors who didn’t go quietly into the night and fought his way through right up to the final moment but in the end he makes a choice quite counter to his curmudgeonly pragmatism which puts him into a place of self sacrifice to save us all regardless of whether anyone would ever know it. This wonderful tale rewrites a previously inexplicable and disappointing regeneration into something both satisfying and heartfelt.
Okay, Kiefer likes the Sixth Doctor and gets the warm fuzzies from a story that rights a wrong, but why should I listen to it?
This box set tale does an interesting out of sequence story that unfolds not how the Doctor experiences things but how the plot was put together. We start with an incredible first act which even the harshest critics of this set, so far, have described as brilliant. “The End of the Line” is the first story and it gives us a delightful murder mystery dinner train kind of story but set in a wibbly wobbly nexus of realities; the kind that only a Doctor Who story could deliver. Not only is the setting and plot compelling but within the first 30 mins Constance Clare in her very first Big Finish appearance shows us that she is a new companion that is every bit of an incredible match for ole Sixy as his TARDIS companion. I’d love to spoil the whole story for you but some of the reveals you don’t see coming in this tale are what help to cement this first story as such a fun little mystery in mist.
The conclusion of disc 1 leads backwards in time to a tale with Charlotte Pollard wherein we get a clever twist on a werewolf story! Who better to face werewolves with the Sixth Doctor than the Edwardian Adventuress herself? This tale for whatever reason seems to be the target of the most criticism but I felt like it was a nice break from the serious nature of the first story, the threats are real and the plot is most definitely forwarded but you can’t skip it because every part of this set builds toward the goals of the Sixth Doctor’s foe The Valeyard (his darkest self). This second part is one part comic relief and another part bread crumb trail full of clues as to what our villain is up to in the stories yet to come.
Enter stage right Jago and Litefoot in the third part of this set entitled “Stage Fright”. The Valeyard ramps up his plans in a creepy and bizarre plot of murder set directly in the theater of Henry Gordon Jago! This one is right up there with the first part in terms of quality and fun for me, I think it’s very clear how much fun it was to make this part and how boisterous the recording sessions must have been. What results is a penultimate chapter of pure gold. It delivers the comedy and incredible chemistry that you expect from Jago and Litefoot stories but the Valeyard really is messing with the Sixth Doctor in this story pulling events directly from the history of the doctor and putting them on display with a great sense of the dramatic.
This all builds to the final showdown entitled “The Brink of Death”. This final story has the unenviable task of revealing the grand scope of the Valeyard’s plan, and resolving it all in a way that also ties into the TV series and offers us an Audio version of a regeneration which is not anything I had even thought about… the Regeneration scenes on TV are hugely visual with touches of audio, this Regeneration needed a twist to make it hugely auditory in a way that invokes visuals. I think they found a very clever work around which made for a very satisfying moment.
A week later I still remember that moment where it all tied together and the doctor chose to direct his path directly to Lakertya despite knowing that the radiation would be quite fatal to a time lord. It snuck up on me and I thought oh no, it’s happening now… I… I’m not ready yet! The Doctor however knew exactly what to do and whether I was ready or not he took the lead straight into fray and saved us all one last time as Six. I do not recommend listening to the end of this story in a busy work environment because it was at this time a co-worker came in with a question and I had to pull myself together to process their request.
If there is one concern with this set it’s that it relies on some past continuity… such as in the case of the Doctor’s relationship with the Valeyard, and when they arrive on the space station that Trial of a Timelord took place, and ultimately the setting of his regeneration refers back to the beginning of Time and the Rani. This would normally be a thing that I’d nit pick but in the context of the Doctor’s last adventure where so much of his history is on display a certain amount of referential call back is not only acceptable but flat out expected. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get a little bit. So if you don’t know the Sixth Doctor at all then obviously this shouldn’t be your starting point but in every other regard I feel these references are not out of context so they become quite appropriate and even necessary.
As much as you never want to see your favorite Doctors go, how they do tends to be something of a big deal. Big Finish thank you for making Colin Baker’s regeneration as rich, intricate, and colorful as the 6th Doctor’s jacket. Out of respect for Colin Baker and his feelings about “lists” and “favorites” I won’t list my favorite regenerations in order but suffice it to say his is now one of mine.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments below or send us e-mail to letters (@) grawlixpodcast.com!