The first appearance of the Eighth Doctor was in 1996 in a TV movie designed to be the pilot for a new TV show. The series wasn’t picked up, though, so by that measure, the Eighth Doctor might be considered to be the least successful of Doctors. In 2001, though, the Eighth Doctor began appearing in a series of audio adventures from Big Finish which continue to this day with no end in sight, so by that measure the Eighth Doctor might be considered to be among the most successful of Doctors. Paul McGann would eventually be featured in more than 30 adventures in Big Finish’s “main range” of Doctor Who audios, but in January 2007 he was awarded his own series of “Eighth Doctor Adventures” released in four “seasons” co-starring Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller.
I’m going to skip over the early audio adventures in the main range for now and concentrate on “The Eighth Doctor Adventures” beginning with season one. This may be an overly ambitious objective, but it is my intention to cover every episode of all four seasons (as listed below). At that point, I will either go back to the beginning, or continue on with the series “Dark Eyes” and “Doom Coalition”. As with my discussion of Dark Shadows audios, I will maintain an index in this initial post.
1.1 Blood of the Daleks, Pt. 1 - p1
1.2 Blood of the Daleks, Pt. 2 - p1
1.3 Horror of Glam Rock - p2
1.4 Immortal Beloved - p2
1.5 Phobos - p2
1.6 No More Lies - p3
1.7 Human Resources, Pt. 1 - p3
1.8 Human Resources, Pt. 2 - p3
2.1 Dead London - p3
2.2 Max Warp - p4
2.3 Brave New Town - p4
2.4 The Skull of Sobek - p4
2.5 Grand Theft Cosmos - p5
2.6 The Zygon Who Fell to Earth - p5
2.7 Sisters of the Flame - p5
2.8 Vengeance of Morbius - p5
3.1 Orbis - p5
3.2 Hothouse - p5
3.3 The Beast of Orlok - p6
3.4 Wirrn Dawn - p6
3.5 The Scapegoat - p6
3.6 The Cannibalists - p6
3.7 The Eight Truths - p7
3.8 Worldwide Web - p7
An Earthly Child - p7
4.1 Death in Blackpool - p7
4.2 Situation Vacant - p7
4.3 Nevermore - p8
4.4 The Book of Kells - p8
4.5 Deimos - p8
4.6 The Resurrection of Mars - p9
4.7 Relative Dimensions - p9
4.8 Prisoner of the Sun - p10
4.9 Lucie Miller - p10
4.10 To the Death - p10
PRISONER OF THE SUN:
“Six years after being captured by the galaxy-spanning organization known only as The Consensus, the doctor lives inside a high-tech complex at the heart of an unstable sun, condemned to an eternity maintaining its systems. A moment’s carelessness could cause the star to collapse and the deaths of billions. Watched over by liquid guards, the Mercurials, the Doctor’s only company at the heart of the sun is his assistant ‘Daphne’—the latest in a line of android helpers. But rebel forces have thei eyes on the sun and its lonely controller—and are prepared to risk even a galactic cataclysm to secure the Doctor’s release.”
I’ll tell you right off the bat this is not one of my favorites. For one thing, I don’t like stories that eat up years of the Doctor’s life, such as happened on Orbis or Trenzalore. This time it’s only six years instead of centuries, but Orbis was only last season. Lucie Miller is not in this story, but Sheridan Smith is. The Doctor has constructed a series of automatons (in which ‘Daphne’ is the fourth), programmed with Lucie’s voice and personality. As far as I know, Lucie’s still traveling around 21st century Europe with the Doctor’s grandson, Alex. I’m glad she didn’t waste six years of her life stuck in two tiny rooms with the Doctor. I’m not exactly thrilled that the Doctor did.
I perhaps gave short shrift to “Prisoner of the Sun” yesterday. It does have several twists toward the end. I didn’t mention, for example, that “Chloe,” the Doctor’s “Lucie Miller” automaton prior to “Daphne,” tried to kill him. There are two factions, the Consensus and the rebels, either of which may be manipulating him for their own ends. He’s aware of it, but there are two factions within the rebel group itself, as well: one which wants his active help, and another which believes he serves better as a figurehead and wants to martyr him.
Toward the end, Chloe shows up. It turns out her trying to kill him was a ruse to give the Doctor an excuse to kick it out of the sun. Chloe has been traveling in the TARDIS gathering intelligence. Chloe is programmed with Lucie’s snarky side, and Daphne represents more of Lucie’s softer side. Sheridan Smith gets the opportunity to play three subtly different roles when the Doctor receives a distress call from the real Lucie Miller at the end.
I said the other day that Lucie and Alex were hitchhiking across Europe in her time, but they are not; they are hitchhiking across Europe in his time. When the Doctor parted ways with Lucie and Alex, the Doctor gave her a communication device able to reach him anywhere across time and space. Because he had been stuck inside the sun and separated from the TARDIS, the message had been holding for quite some time. That’s not necessarily a problem when you own a time machine, but Lucie did indicate that it wasn’t just her in trouble, but the entire human race.
“Lucie Miller needs the Doctor’s help. The whole planet Earth needs his help. But he is nowhere to be seen. While Lucie struggles to survive a terrible sickness, and even greater threat to the human race is about to be unleashed. And this will be the second Dalek invasion of Earth the Doctor’s grand-daughter has had to endure.”
Most of this story is narrated by Lucie past tense, a recorded message for the Doctor. As the story begins, Lucie and Alex are touring Thailand when a great sickness, a plague really, strikes all of Earth. Most people who get this sickness live only a day or two in great pain. Alex is immune, but Lucie is stricken. She is in so much pain she is confined to a wheelchair initially. Later she has to wear leg braces to walk, and she has lost sight in her right eye.
They finally make their way back to England and are reunited with Alex’s mother. Susan, too, is immune. Earth has been quarantined by its extraterrestrial allies. This plague represents the first phase of the Second Dalek Invasion of Earth. Their playbook is pretty much the same: weaken populace with plague, slave labor, robo-men, shaft and giant engine, etc. (The story is supposed to invoke how people who lived through the first World War felt when the second one broke out.) In the Invasion, the Daleks destroyed Bedforshire to dig a shaft into which a giant engine would be inserted. This time, the shaft has destroyed pretty much all of North America. (More on this in part 2.) Lucie sends a message to the Doctor.
Two years pass. Lucie has finally forgiven the Doctor completely for his deception regarding the death of her Aunty Pat. One day, Susan’s TARDIS key begins to glow, meaning the Doctor has arrived. But he doesn’t appear where susan, Lucie and Alex are; he appears in a large vault somewhere. The vault is filled with priceless art treasures, including the Mona Lisa, the Star of India, the Venus de Milo,the statue of Diana of Ephesus, the crown jewels of several different countries, all capped by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel itself. There he finds Tamsin Drew, cataloging all of the art treasures. The Monk has tasked himself with preserving human culture (or so Tamsin believes).
The Monk is actually allied with the Dalek Time Controller, the strategist behind the Daleks’ time travel plans. The Doctor believed the Time Controller to have been destroyed “two lifetimes ago” (a reference to the Sixth Doctor audio adventure“Patient Zero”). The Doctor holds himself responsible for everything that has happened, and eventually sneaks aboard a Dalek ship to set things right.
Tamsin Drew comes off a lot like Martha Jones in this one, i.e., jealous of the Doctor’s previous companion.
Sheridan Smith plays a somewhat sadder, more subdued Lucie Miller in this one.
CLIFFHANGER: The good guys fire a missile and destroy the Dalek ship the Doctor is aboard. Whoops.
I’m going to go ahead and post my reaction to the second part of the story so that Tracy can respond to both when she catches up and we don’t have to delay this over the weekend. [Tracy, don’t read this until you’ve listened to “To the Death.”]
TO THE DEATH:
“After a last, futile fight-back against the Daleks, Lucie, Susan and Alex are heading home to England in the desperate hope of saving the Doctor’s life. But the true, terrible nature of the Daleks’ plan is beginning to emerge and the Monk has blood on his hands. To defeat the Daleks, it can only be a struggle…to the death.”
Lucie, Susan and Alex pull the Doctor’s nearly lifeless body from the sea. Susan uses her still glowing TARDIS key to lead them to the TARDIS, the Doctor’s only hope, still in the Monk’s vault. Tamsin is finally beginning to see through the Monk’s falsehoods. While Susan and the Monk attempt to revive the Doctor, Lucie and Alex have it out with Tamsin. Lucie has finally completely forgiven the Doctor for lying to her about Aunty Pat’s death and informs him she’ll be “moving back in.” Among the Monk’s stolen art, Alex finds a doomsday bomb.
The Sixth Doctor had previously defeated the Daleks in the future (see “Patient Zero” audio), but the Dalek Time Controller was thrown back into the past. Against everyone’s better judgment, the Doctor wants to use the bomb to go back to the future and destroy the Daleks once and for all. Lucie’s plan is to use a Dalek saucer to pilot the bomb over the crater in North America and stop the Daleks here and now.
Susan, Alex and Lucie go to the saucer, the Monk, the Doctor and Tamsin stay behind. The Daleks attack the vaults and exterminate Tamsin as they deem her to be "surplus to requirements.” The Monk is terribly upset, calling her “my Tamsin.” He confesses that is was he who released the virus that has ravaged the Earth. (Tamsin didn’t know.) He made a deal with the Daleks that would allow him to loot all of the planets the Daleks attacked prior to their destruction. The doomsday weapon was in case they betrayed him. It was also the Monk who interfered with Lucie’s distress signal and who caused the Doctor to arrive too late.
The Doctor is captured and taken to the Time Controller. The reason that the shaft for the second invasion is so much bigger than the first is that it is going to be fitted with an engine that will not only move the planet through space, but time as well. The Daleks plan is to turn the Earth into a plague planet and pilot it through time and space infecting every planet it comes into contact with. In a callback to “Genesis of the Daleks,” the Doctor tells the Time Controller he once had the opportunity to exterminate their entire race but did not take it. He assures the TC that if he escapes he will not make the same mistake again.
Susan remains a prisoner of the Daleks, but Lucie and Alex escape to steal a Dalek saucer. Alex attempts to free the saucer Lucie from the magna-clamps holding it in the docking bay. He succeeds, but is killed in the process. Lucie knows she’s on a suicide mission. She can’t hear or see the Doctor, but she knows he can hear and see her. She makes her goodbyes, then the Daleks order her to surrender. She gets some good “famous last words” in response.
“Not likely, mate. You come here, you mess up my planet, you mess up my life, and now you say you’re gonna kill the best bloke I ever met and you think I’m gonna just… what? Just bleedin’ surrender? Well, all I can say is, you don’t know me… you don’t know me at all. And just in case you wanted to know who it was who blew you to pieces, the name is Lucie Miller. You got that? Lucie bleedin’ Miller!”
She explodes the bomb and dies in the process. This results in all of the Daleks, including theTime Controller, and their fleet being dragged into the time warp. Susan and the Doctor are saved by the Monk but the Doctor refuses to forgive him for helping the Daleks, The Doctor expresses distain for the rules of time and vows to be more pro-active in the future. In a callback to “An Unearthly Child,” he confesses he once almost killed a caveman with a rock until Ian Chesterton stopped him. He asks Susan to join him to curb his darker impulses, but she refuses.
When he is alone in the TARDIS, the Doctor listens to a recording which Lucie had made using the temporal interocitor. He claims that he will travel back in time one day and save Lucie before the detonation of the doomsday weapon. His last words are, “One day I shall go back. Yes, one day.”
The point behind this story is that we are often told how dangerous the Daleks are, but rarely is an important character actually killed by a Dalek, for all their shouting “EXTERMINATE!” at the top of their electronically amplified voices. “To the Death” shows the Doctor’s reaction as the ax falls ever closer to himself: first Tamsin, then Alex, then Lucie. All dead. (Well, maybe not Lucie. Maybe.) Will he ever go back and snatch Lucie from the Dalek saucer instants before it explodes? I tend to doubt it, but there’s no reason I can see why he couldn’t. He was attempting to do something very like that in “The Night of the Doctor.”
When I first started this discussion I postulated that, when I came to the end I would either continue on to “Dark Eyes” and “Doom Coalition” or go back to the beginning of the audios to pick up the Eighth Doctor’s travels with Charlotte Pollard (later plus C’Rizz). My co-blogger and I are discussing out options. (One of us wants to go forward, one of us wants to go back.) If/when we do go forward, we’ll continue on a new thread because “Dark Eyes” is really its own thing, not just a continuation. In the meantime, we’ll compromise by listening to the collected adventures of the War Doctor.
While I’m waiting for Tracy to catch up with the “War Doctor” discussion, I thought I’d give an overview of “The Eighth Doctor Adventures” and pick out a few favorite episodes. First of all, all of the two parters are worthwhile, especially those which are season finales. Those would be…
From Season One: “Blood of the Daleks” (Pts. 1 & 2) and “Human Resources” (Pts. 1 & 2)
From Season Two: “Sisters of the Flame” & “Vengeance of Morbius”
From Season Three: “The Eight Truths” & “Worldwide Web”
From Season Four: “Deimos” & “The Resurrection of Mars” and (especially) “Lucie Miller” & “To the Death”
In addition, I like (what I refer to as) “The Zygon Trillogy” featuring Lucie’s Aunt Pat: “Horroe of Glam Rock” (from season one), “The Zygon who Fell to Earth” (from season two), and “Death in Blackpool” from season four).
Beyond that, “Situation Vacant,” “The Book of Kells” and “Relative Dimensions” (all from season four) are all very good.
Season-wise, it’s hard to beat season one with the introduction of the Lucie/Doctor team and the Headhunter subplot running throughout. Season two kept the momentum going from season one, but I believe season three made a misstep separating the Lucie and the Doctor for so long (six months and 600 years, respectively). Season four was perhaps my favorite, with the Doctor and the Monk playing “musical companions,” but season four would not be be as enjoyable without the previous seasons leading into it. There are no bad seasons, or even bad episodes, really; just some I like more than others.
I discovered Doctor Who audios around the same time I started watching the show on DVD. I’m enjoying these Eighth Doctor adventures so much that I find myself wondering why I haven’t been listening to them all along, but I already know the answer. I made a conscious decision to collect the “canonical” TV episodes first, then worry about the audios. I concentrated on the Eighth Doctor first because he’s the one who really didn’t get a fair shake on TV.
When I finish listening to the Eighth Doctor, I’ll likely move on to the Sixth, because he didn’t really get a fair shake, either. These Big Finish audios are easily as good as any of the shows on TV, old or new.