Having counted down to number five in the previous post, in this post, I’m going to reveal the top four best Big Finish releases of 2021 that I listened to.
4) “The Curse of Lady Macbeth” by Lizzie Hopply starring Christopher Eccleston from The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Lost Warriors
The story finds the Ninth Doctor (Eccleston) going back to Scotland and meeting the real lady Macbeth, trying to figure out who she is and also solving a mysterious affliction affecting children in the kingdom.
This is a great pseudo-historical. The era and the people have left enough of a mark on history to verify their existence, but also have left a lot of room to speculate. Writer Lizzie Hopley lets her imagination run free, particularly when working in elements of Gaelic myths. There’s also some really good character moments as the story works itself out, and of course a few nice nods to the Scottish play. I also liked how fleshed out and interesting Hopley wrote the real Lady Macbeth (played by Neve McIntosh)
3) The Doomsday Contract by Nev Fountain (based on a script outline by John Lloyd) starring Tom Baker and Lalla Ward:
The Doctor (Tom Baker) receives a summons to a galactic court where the preservation status of a certain planet is at risk and it turns out the planet has been targeted for development. But how much can the Doctor trust his friend who summoned him and runs a nature preserve?
Based on the script outline by John Lloyd for Season 17 of Doctor Who when Douglas Adams was the script editor. This is very much in the same style and tone of Adams’ scripts of Pirate Planet and City of Death. Nev Fountain turns in a script that captures that quality with imaginative high concept ideas, hilarious characters, and some well-done satire of the legal system. It manages to be very funny and offers witty social commentary without ever becoming flippant. If you love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Adams’ other work, this is truly a worthwhile story to listen to and easily the best lost story release in many a year.
2) The Seamstress of Peckham Rye starring Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl written by Jonathan Barnes
The only non-science fiction entry on this list, but what an entry. This 3 hour Holmes Adventure is a wonderful release. (See my full review here.) What can I say about it? Briggs and Earl are very comfortable in their roles and work beautifully together. The guest cast is on point. Jonathan Barnes is probably my favorite writer of Modern Day Holmes stories. He knows these characters inside out and he knows the type of stories that work for them. The Seamstress of Peckham Rye sounds like the type of story Doyle would write if he had to structure his plots for modern listeners. What results is a beautiful combination of accessibility and authenticity that rarely is seen in Holmes Pastiches
1) Monsters in Metropolis starring Christopher Eccleston, Written by John Dorney from The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Lost Warriors
The Doctor arrives on the set of the classic silent film Metropolis only to find that legendary director Fritz Lang has abandoned his previous plans and instead brought in a Cyberman to play the robot part.
This is a story that had mixed expectations for me as lone Cybermen out of time used by the unwary has been done before and quite effectively. Could this really blaze new ground? The answer was yes, most definitely.
The script is a John Dorney classic. It has a fair bit of humor at the beginning. It features well-developed three-dimensional characters who provide quite a few surprises throughout the story. The last ten minutes are absolutely gut-wrenching thanks to the writing and great performances by Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Nicholas Briggs as an unusual Cyberman.
The sound design throughout is great and a perfect fit for a Cyberman story that pays tribute to the classic film. This was an unforgettable story and a highlight of Christopher Eccleston’s long-awaited return to the role.
As I wrote in my full review, I thoroughly loved the Avenger’s Comic Strip Adaptation story, “Mother’s Day.” adapted by Sarah Grochala from a TV Action Comic strip. It was such a brilliant romp and featured the return of the original Tara King (Linda Thorson). Masterful by James Goss featured an astounding number of incarnations of the Doctor’s archvillain the Master all trying to play off of and outdo each other. It’s a bonkers story with a ridiculous amount of twists, but it features many great performances, and Goss deserves credit for making it a coherent story. “Planet at the End “by Timothy X Attack is a superb story from another Ninth Doctor Adventures box set, Responds to All Calls. It features the Doctor landing on a graveyard planet for thousands of extinct species where no one could have sent him a message. This is a story with a lot of great high-concept ideas and some fantastic plot twists.
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