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“There is a particular reason. A particular urgency to the message I am tracking. Most secret and most important.”

What a huge month September has been for Doctor Who not only did the Series 9 premiere air but there were also lots of incredible Big Finish audio releases in September. Torchwood returned, the Third Doctor had a box set release, and we received not one but TWO new Main Range Doctor Who stories. The Sixth Doctor story Criss-Cross was released only a day after The Seventh Doctor story Terror of the Sontarans.Criss-Cross was notable for a lot of reasons not the least of which is that even though we first heard her in The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, we now get the proper introduction of Mrs. Constance Clarke in this (first of three) Sixth Doctor Main Range Stories which she features in.

The solicit from Big Finish:

“Bletchley Park. Britain’s most secret weapon in the Second World War.

Inside draughty huts, the earliest computers clatter day and night, decoding enemy transmissions and revealing intelligence crucial to the country’s defense. Leading WREN Mrs Constance Clarke directs her charges to provide vital assistance to the boffins stationed in the Manor House. But a recent arrival among the code-breakers, the mysterious Dr Smith, has attracted the attention of MI5’s spy-catchers…

Over in mainland Europe, Nazi agents are briefed, covert operations planned, and a German submarine embarks on a very secret mission.

As encrypted radio waves criss-cross the planet, unearthly forces stir. And when certain ciphers are cracked, something will emerge to threaten all humanity, regardless of allegiance…”

What kind of thing could render the TARDIS useless? Well that’s what the Sixth Doctor has been trying to find out as he finds himself alone and stranded in Bletchley Park during World War 2. This was a great little historical episode which of course includes the clever Doctor Who twist to events as we know them.

Some of my favorite parts:

  • The Doctor fits right into this setting and the Sixth Doctor, sans the coat, fits right in. The Doctor is using his Doctor Smith pseudonym as he tries to keep a low profile as he works to crack codes and intercept transmissions that could prove vital to finding a fix for the TARDIS.
  • The Companions: It’s interesting, we know from the start that Constance Clarke will be joining the Doctor but you get several character interactions in the course of this story where you find yourself thinking “OH ‘they’ would make a good companion too!” Of course Constance Clarke inevitably joins the Doctor by the end of this one but watching it all unfold and the back and forths that occurred made it a delight.
  • Stand-Alone Factor: This one did have some fun nods to the fact that The Doctor knows Winston Churchill which we know is a nod to the future stories both in the new series as well as the upcoming “Churchill Years” series that Big Finish has forthcoming. Despite little nods like that there weren’t too many moments referencing another story. The fact that this one stands on its own means that this might be a very good story to start a world war 2 history buff on.
  • The History: I like how they tied in the work of Alan Turing into what’s happening and the Doctor seems genuinely impressed with the work of Turing. The more you know about that era in time, the more you’ll like this story. It has a little bit of everything… spies and counterspies, intelligence gathering, code cracking, sci-fi of course, and all set against the backdrop of World War 2. The Doctor is very careful not to greatly interfere  with or alter what is going on in history during this story and it makes for great conflict.

Generally speaking historical stories need to be really interesting in order to hold my attention. It’s especially difficult to go into a faithful historical when coming hot off the heels of a Story about Sontarans losing their cool on an alien research facility…. The real world starts feeling a little humdrum when you listen to Criss-Cross mere days after Terror of the Sontarans. SO there’s a little bit of unfair comparison that happens just by virtue of the release schedule but this is a very well written tale and I was happy to return to some Sixth Doctor Adventures after hearing his regeneration. I generally enjoy a good Matt Fitton tale and this story was no exception. He’s clearly done his research and it aids the tale for sure.

In Summary: I liked this one, it’s not one that hits me over the head with a huge “WOW” factor but I like the idea of throwing a Transmission/code based threat smack dab into an era where codes and code breaking was so pivotal to ending the war. I also really liked this story as a character development vehicle for the human characters. The Doctor starts out with only a slightly better guess as to what is going on and has to discover along the way just like everyone else… so the ancillary cast get a chance to shine and in turn gives Colin Baker several wonderful characters to play off of. Constance Clarke comes with a delightfully human mystery, what HAS happened to Mr. Clarke and why is she so eager to travel with the Doctor rather than find out more. Is it fear of the unknown that drives her to travel with the Doctor? I’m eager to find out more! Another easily won 4 out of 5 stars for this story.

Do you enjoy Doctor Who Historicals? I think my favorites of all time are still Marco Polo and Reign of Terror. Do you have a favorite historical that I should watch or listen to? Let me know what they are by listing them in the comments below or by shooting us a message to letters(at)grawlixpodcast.com.

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