On the 8th of May, 2014, a bright light was extinguished in Big Finish. That day marked the sudden and unexpected passing of Paul Spragg. Until his passing, he was the editor of the company’s free magazine, Vortex, along with Nicholas Briggs, a co-host of the company’s podcast, a production assistant on many, many releases, a voice for the company to their listeners on email, and above all, a kind, gentle, funny man who, from what has been said, made everyone around him happy with incredible ease. He was, is, and still will be, missed by many.
On the two-year anniversary of his untimely death, Big Finish announced a unique writing competition. Those with a flair for writing were given the chance to have their short story turned into a Big Finish Doctor Who Short Trip, read by audio supremo, Nicholas Briggs. Over a thousand submissions were entered and they were all whittled down to one. That one is ‘Forever Fallen’, by Joshua Wanisko. And it tells a story, often mentioned, but never undertaken, until now…
He has a plan
Sean Calvin has a plan. A plan to make everything better. He knows everything will be better because he is a genius. He has developed a way to control all the inhabitants of his colony. But only to make it better, improve it. Then it will be back to normal. Won’t it?
The Doctor doesn’t think so. He’s seen this set up one too many times. The power will go to his head and then… something dreadful will happen. So, the Doctor makes his futile offer. His pointless hope that the villain will think about what they’re doing, and change their mind, realise how stupid they were acting. 900 years, and never was that offer taken up…
Until today. Today, Sean Calvin has changed his mind.
Today, Sean Calvin has taken the Doctor’s futile offer to stop.
The question is, what now?
It’s interesting to think how this idea was never properly taken up in the show proper. Despite the countless opportunities the show presents, they were never really followed up on, or at least, not properly. This Short Trip presents why, as a concept of “What happens after a villain takes The Doctor’s offer?” would tend to be a very character driven story, presenting a mental and verbal conflict, rather than physical. But, as it shows us, if done right, then it can be a very engaging tale, showing how a single choice can change everything and how the repercussions can bleed out into other’s lives. In over 5000 words, Wanisko has presented a tale about desire, regret, determination and happiness. But above all, he shows the one thing that can make a life fulfilled in some people’s eyes; acceptance.
As this is a Short Trip, there is only one voice to be heard, and in honour of his co-host, Nicholas Briggs takes up the mantle of narration duties. He reads it with a sense of realism and seriousness, akin to Lemony Snicket, sans the humorous elements. His attempts at portraying The Seventh Doctor and Ace may not be on par with other attempts, but impressions are not the reason people listen to these. Briggs succeeds in capturing the tone, the mannerisms, the essence of the characters, as well as his soothing descriptive narration. Quite simply, it is never a bore to listen to the voice of the Daleks, when he has an opportunity away from the ring modulator.
Small but important
Neil Gardner also helps immensely on this release, taking on the task of directing, as well as composing and designing the small but important music and sound effects that heighten the experience. As the Short Trips are neither a normal audiobook, nor a normal audio drama, the music isn’t as present as in other releases, but reserved for when it is needed, such as the Doctor’s final conversation with Sean and the subsequent explanation to Ace what has happened. And when they do appear, Gardner’s work suits every moment that it is utilised in.
A plethora of tales and happiness
Some people might say that there is no excuse not to listen to this as it is free. But there is more to it than just that. This is more than just a nice idea that no-one had properly thought of before, more than an attempt by a writer at showcasing his work. This is a story done to remember a fallen comrade, who touched the lives of all he encountered. Wanisko shows acceptance in his story, and that bleeds out into reality. The acceptance that Paul is gone, but that he has left behind a plethora of tales and happiness. And that, no matter what else happens, he will never be forgotten.
BLOGTOR RATING: 10/10 A fitting tribute to a fallen friend.
For Paul Spragg (29th December 1975 – 8th May 2014)
Until now, an offered chance from the Doctor has never stopped the villain’s schemes.
Until now, the android armies, the powerful space stations, the mind-control rays, have gone unchecked to disastrous effect.
…But then what happens?
Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Joshua Wanisko
Directed By: Neil Gardner
Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)