The Top Ten Big Finish Stories of 2020, Part Two

Continued from Part One

5) Conflict Theory by Nev Fountain

(From the Sixth Doctor and Peri box set)

The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) are going for therapy on a ship run by Sigmund Freud robots. They both have issues, and their own side of the story to tell.

While Nev Fountain has written some good material for other ranges and other Doctors, his greatest legacy at Big Finish as the definitive writer of this Doctor/Companion team and he once again gets this just right. The story has some hilarious moments, a clever plot that would get an attaboy from Douglas Adams, and enough serious explorations of the characters to make the story well-balanced. I also liked the twist about the villains.

The Doctor and Peri’s cheat in this episode is a bit farfetched. Still, I had such a good time, I can’t make a big deal of it.

4) Restoration of the Daleks by Matt Fitton

(From the Eighth Doctor: The Time War, Volume 4):

This is one of the few Big Finish stories where I literally felt chills as I listened. It’s the massive finale of Fourth box set and features Davros and the Daleks both returning to the Doctor’s universe.

Without spoiling it, this hits its mark beautifully. The acting by all the main cast is pitch perfect: Paul McGann, Rakhee Thakrar, Terry Malloy, and Nicholas Briggs all bring their best to this story. The writing is also on-point. This story ties into a lot of continuity and the writer is given massive “toys” to play with, but Matt Fitton avoids over-indulgence and keeps the plot right on course, with believable and intriguing twists.

This one has great scenes and pairings. Bliss (Thakkar) paired with Davros (Malloy) is superb. Finally, she emerges as the Doctor’s perfect Time War Companion. She didn’t step on the TARDIS for a joyride. Her life has been disrupted by the Time War and she’s willing to take actions the Doctor’s Companions don’t typically go for, particularly when the Doctor’s not around. I do feel this hasn’t been established well throughout the series, but I hope this characterization of Bliss carries for any future sets featuring her.

Also, I adored the scenes with the Doctor and Dalek Time Strategist as we do get to see some real cunning from the Doctor in this story.

The sound design is appropriately cinematic for the scale of this adventure.

3) Barrister to the Stars by James Kettle

(From the Diary of River Song, Volume 7)

In “Barrister to the Stars”, River’s accused of murder at a bizarre space station. River appoints an English attorney from the 20th Century as her barrister. This is a remarkable story, particularly for the writer’s first Big Finish. While the writer cited a number of sources in the extras, the Rumpole of the Bailey influences are clear with the barrister’s asides during Counsel/judge statements and he refers to himself as an Old Bailey hack. This is nearly a perfect Rumpole pastiche but set…in space. David Rintoul is fantastic as the barrister.

There’s also quite a bit of imagination and world building that goes into creating this situation and also the weird and amazing creatures that inhabit it. It’s a wonderful, hilarious, and practically flawless mix of genres.

2) Palindrone by John Dorney

(From the Eighth Doctor: Time War 4) Laths

In a Universe in which the Thals and Kelads made peace, Davros (Terry Malloy) lives as a successful scientist with his beloved wife. However, four days after the Doctor comes through a dimensional portal, Davros and his wife are murdered by interdimensional Daleks, and Davros wakes up after dying to find it’s the previous day.

While this is technically a Doctor Who episode, the focus is on this benevolent Davros from another dimension trying to protect his world and his wife. It’s a different sort of Davros and the concept that time is flowing backwards for Davros and that each day after he’s killed, he wakes up and it’s the previous day are well-played.

The first episode ends with Davros taking a turn that sets the stage for the rest of the story.

The second part of Palindrone continues where the first one left off. Davros is determined to save his world. The Dalek TIme Strategist arrives and tells him that there is only one way, and lays out a plan to save this Universe’s Skaro from the Doctor.

Without spoiling the story, it’s an amazing and stunning tale, thanks in no small part to Terry Malloy’s acting. He carries the production and the emotional power of this story as the Doctor and Time Strategist battle to convince Davros that they’re right and battle for Davros’ soul. Nicholas Briggs deserves credit for a strong performance as the Time Strategist, really making him stand out from the Daleks and be a persuasive force.

  1. Expiry Dating by James Goss

(From the Tenth Doctor and River Song box set)

In Expiry Dating, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) receives a message from River asking for him to go to the Apocalypse Vault. While the Doctor’s intrigued by River and who she he is, he has no interest in being told what to do and thus responds negatively, setting off a string of correspondence between them that goes through the run of the story.

This story has quite a bit going for it. The format allows this big Moffat-like tale with so many fun and intriguing settings and events, but with a very limited cast aided by Glenn McCready’s talent at creating multiple characters. The humor is spot on throughout with so many great lines. Peter Davison’s guest appearance was a lot of fun and sweet, with a different take on the Fifth Doctor, and Colin Baker’s cameo worked well. The story has a satisfying enough conclusion (even if they cheat a bit.) If you want to get really critical, the story’s portrayal of Jane Austen as a merciless killer of supernatural monsters is a bit at odds with the story done in the Eleventh Doctor Chronicles a while back, but I actually prefer this version.

Next week, I’ll my look back at Big Finish’s 2020 with my ranking of Big Finish’s best box sets.

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