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The Return-  My wife and I have been watching “old” David Tennant episodes on Sunday Mornings. As Big Finish began to unveil new offerings from the modern series it was so clear that David Tennant was uniquely suited to audio drama. So it seemed an absolute shame that for so long the Big Finish license would not allow them to create new Big Finish audio dramas for his doctor. When Big Finish finally acquired the license it was AWESOME and I was very excited with each new announcement. Classic Doctors with modern monsters? YEP! Modern UNIT gets its own series? YEP! River Song interacts with the 8th Doctor? Sure why not?! And TORCHWOOD?! Oh hell yeah!  But it somehow felt like an incomplete victory, it felt like we were left waiting for something… bigger.  What could we possibly be waiting for? New stories from old new doctors (yep a very 10th doctor way to explain it… WELL…. It’s one way to explain it… WELL I guess there’s other ways to explain it… oh you get what I’m saying). The War Doctor was a delightful surprise (and one of my favorite offerings) but what I think we were all expecting was David Tennant as the 10th Doctor in Big Finish.

When the announcement came that it was actually properly happening it was very exciting but it also just made sense. Finally Big Finish was making full blown modern Doctor stories. The Modern era had finally, fully, and firmly arrived. The icing on the cake? Catherine Tate! Of all the companions to make the jump to audio with the Tenth Doctor? Donna Noble just makes absolute perfect sense. Surely any of the 10th Doctor companions would have been welcomed but Catherine Tate is simply masterful. The command she has turning a phrase and adding any humor, drama, wit and sass that she pleases continues to be a joy to hear. THIS is what we’ve been waiting for.

Now onto the stories themselves!…

1.1 Technophobia by Matt Fitton-

“Then again, robots running amok?… DONNA! We’re on!”

The Solicit from Big Finish Reads:

“When the Doctor and Donna visit London’s Technology Museum for a glimpse into the future, things don’t go to plan.

The most brilliant IT brain in the country can’t use her computer. More worrying, the exhibits are attacking the visitors, while outside, people seem to be losing control of the technology that runs their lives.

Is it all down to simple human stupidity, or is something more sinister going on?

Beneath the streets, the Koggnossenti are waiting. For all of London to fall prey to technophobia…”

This story was such a pitch perfect way to open the set. Matt Fitton shows once again that he knows how to write the modern series for Big Finish. The pacing, the dialogue, the commentary on modern tech dependance… perfect. Also right away in this first story it is clear that Howard Carter… was NAILING the sound of the Tenth Doctor’s era. All three stories sound like they belong in series 4. Hats off to the sound team!

This first story is my hands down favorite of the three and (as you’ll see) that’s high praise because all of these stories fit so well! The way we are thrust in like there hasn’t been almost 10 years since the 10th doctor’s run was perfect and the duo slips effortlessly back into their characters as if no time at all had passed. The conceit that technology itself is the thing to be afraid of makes for a very clever and interesting twist. This story was an absolute joy.

5 out of 5

1.2 Time Reaver by Jenny T Colgan-

“Ooh something dropped, something ‘lost’ and everything lost on Calibris belongs to ME!”

For this story the Solicit from Big Finish reads:

“Calibris. The spaceport planet where anything goes. Where anyone who doesn’t want to be found can be lost, and where everything has its price. Where betentacled gangster Gully holds sway at the smugglers’ tavern, Vagabond’s Reach.

The alien Vacintians are trying to impose some order on the chaos. Soon the Doctor and Donna discover why. An illegal weapon is loose on the streets. A weapon that destroys lives… Slowly and agonisingly.

The Time Reaver.”

David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Dan Starkey, AND Terry Molloy?! Oh my goodness with a cast like that it’s a proper welcome to Big Finish to be sure! This one was a very well put together second story set on a properly alien planet with futuristic tech. This one also feels quite like an RTD era story. Unfortunately this type of tale was a little much for my own tastes even on T.V. but… I have to admit that’s MY bias and nothing to do with how well it’s executed. This cast is brilliant, the sound is brilliant, and it gives us something different to watch the Doctor deal with. If you liked stories like Gridlocked in series 3 or even The Long Game in Series 1 then you should really enjoy this one. I found myself enjoying it in spite of my biases.

4.5 out of 5

1.3 Death and the Queen by James Goss-

“Very good ladies, this is the Doctor, we’re off to the battlements he says the sky is falling in.”

For this story the Solicit from Big Finish reads:

“Donna Noble has never been lucky in love.

So when, one day, her Prince does come, she is thrilled to have the wedding of all weddings to look forward to. Though the Doctor isn’t holding his breath for an invitation. And her future mother-in-law is certainly not amused.

But on the big day itself, Donna finds her castle under siege from the darkest of forces, marching at the head of a skeleton army.

When it looks like even the Doctor can’t save the day, what will Queen Donna do to save her people from Death itself?”

A nice way to end the set and firmly gives Donna Noble the spotlight. Make no mistake Donna is the hero of this story and James Goss gives her plenty to do. This wonderful story was a wonderful bookend for this set and gives us an almost fairy tale historical with the added alien threat. The Doctor is in tow to make sure Donna doesn’t get hurt and to aid in the eventual resolution but Donna is ready to save the day throughout. Cool to see Goss’s work here outside of his exemplary work on the Torchwood range. Goss has been busy for Big Finish and there’s a reason, he brings them quality and when it’s quality we come back for more; this tale was no exception.

5 out of 5

Final Thoughts on the set overall-

There are no surprises here, this set is as good as we have grown to expect it would be. It captures all the magic of TV’s Series 4 with all the careful consideration we could hope for. The tag line for Big Finish is “we love stories” and it’s never more apparent as when Big Finish takes on a new range or a new box set and lovingly hits a homerun with the content. It took me back to the 10th doctor era and this set is sure to be a huge seller and a colossal hit for them. Yet again… not surprised that the Big Finish servers crashed the day this released. Their team fixed the site straightaway and I was listening to this set by mid morning. That’s how beloved the 10th Doctor is. He’s crash your website level beloved… and if you love the 10th doctor… you will love this Set.

Overall this set earns a 5 out of 5 stars without even breaking a sweat.

Agree? Disagree? This set was huge news. Personally I harbor a secret hope that someday the 9th Doctor will find his way into a Big Finish recording booth, it’s secret because I don’t want to jinx it. Who are you hoping for next? Is it still too soon for Matt Smith to make his return? I’d be excited for any and all of the above but… who would YOU like to hear next? Tell me in the comments below or send us e-mail to letters (@) grawlixpodcast.com!

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  1. Randal Silvey

    Finished listening to these today. I agree with the high praise all around but interestingly my taste in these are flipped compared to Jesse's. I was a little cold to Time Reaver at first but it ended up drawing me in and becoming my favorite of the three adventures. The writing and audio production truly painted a picture of the setting. This one has some dark stuff… Dredd dark.

    Death and the Queen a close 2nd (and still withing the 5 out of 5 star range). This is generally NOT my kind of story but I was fully into it. Ridiculously fun and I agree that Tennant and Tate hit all three stories just as on target and in character as ever but here they both really nail it. It was here that I realized how much I enjoyed and missed Tennant's particular take on the Doctor. Meanwhile Tate is given the primary focus of this story and it works so well. The writing here and Tate's performance perfectly captures what made Donna Noble such a strong and unique companion.

    In truth I was never a big Donna Noble fan but the Doctor/Donna duo is one of the most interesting Doctor/Companion dynamics of the modern series. In retrospect she is one of the strongest companions the Doctor has had. All three of these stories nail that aspect well, the final story most of all.

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