For many Whovians, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor was their first encounter with the Time Lord. He holds a special place for them even in spite of his short tenure. So hearing Big Finish resurrect Doctor Nine in ‘The Ninth Doctor Chronicles’ is fantastic!
If you’re familiar with the ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series, you’ll know what to expect from this type of release. These are not the full-cast audio dramas Big Finish usually puts out. Instead, they’re prose stories with one main narrator and an additional cast providing dialogue for certain characters. As you may have noticed, Christopher Eccleston has not returned to voice the Ninth Doctor.
Voice of the Monsters Nicholas Briggs, takes on narration duties for this release. Briggs previously read the Ninth Doctor’s entry in the ‘Destiny’ series and regularly narrates the ‘Short Trips‘. He’s joined by Camille Coduri and Bruno Langley, reprising their TV roles as Jackie Tyler and Adam Mitchell respectively.
The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott
The opening story sees jaded news reporter Adriana covering peace talks on the planet Galen. When a series of murders puts her in the path of a mysterious, big-eared alien, she’ll learn that empathy can be a killer. This is a slower opening than you might expect from something set in the breakneck New Who era. Luckily, that time is used to build up the world and its inhabitants, which makes it feel very lively. Adriana quickly becomes a very sympathetic character and an excellent partner for the Doctor in this adventure.
The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack
Una McCormack brings us the second story in the release with a tale of Emily Brontë, glass prisons, civil war and alien beasts. McCormack clearly has a good understanding of how the Doctor and Rose speak because the dialogue feels very natural. It’s another slow-burner for the amount of exposition required but the way it’s delivered keeps the pace up. The Doctor runs into another historic figure, played expertly by Laura Riseborough. But it’s really just a passing encounter that I’d like to have see more of.
The Other Side by Scott Handcock
Set immediately after ‘Dalek‘, we see Adam’s reaction to the TARDIS interior just before the trio find themselves at a haunted cinema. The pace picks up with this knockabout story as they’re thrown all over the timelines. Bruno Langley recaptures Adam’s voice right away but there are signs he’s having trouble adapting him to audio. Some of the early line reads feel a bit stilted but this wears off pretty quickly. Handcock remembered that Adam was always meant to be an inept companion and writes him that way. But at the same time he’s not useless, instrumental in saving the day, and you see why the Doctor agrees to bring him along. It adds layers to a character who didn’t have much time on TV.
Retail Therapy by James Goss
Rose and the Doctor find a new fad has overrun the Powell Estate with Jackie Tyler at the heart of it. The Doctor suspects alien involvement, Jackie just wants to feel successful and Rose is caught in the middle. James Goss has delivered another seamless blending of character and story. In particular, a superb heart-to-heart(s) scene between the Doctor and Jackie is a highlight of the story in both writing and performance. The ending is a little confusing but it leads to some great dialogue that more than makes up for it. Camille Coduri is hilarious as ever, slipping back into Jackie from the very first line. This should definitely whet your appetite for her return in another James Goss story next month.
Nick Briggs IS the Doctor
In his capacity as narrator, Briggs injects a distinctive northern twang into the Ninth Doctor’s dialogue. Previously, Briggs has emphasised that he’s not doing an Eccleston impersonation but trying to capture the spirit of his voice. He does that and more, I’d argue he’s being too modest. It’s clear that Briggs has put a lot of effort into emulating Eccleston’s vocal tics and it pays off. Fans really appreciate that attention to detail and it’s why Big Finish is so highly-regarded. With similar releases planned for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (and volume two of this, hopefully), it’s clear that the voice of the Doctors are in safe…larynx.
As a dedicated Ninth Doctor fan, I can’t claim to be entirely objective here. Anyone like me will adore this release, but it absolutely holds up if you’re less familiar with Northern Nine. The set crams a lot of variety, from the bizarre to the domestic, the alien to the native. The guest characters have been chosen well to keep the ties to the 2005 series while still using new ideas and stories. No reliance on nostalgia here. All told, it’s a welcome return to the Ninth Doctor era and I hope Big Finish are inspired to keep on being…fantastic!
Blogtor Rating – 9/10
‘The Ninth Doctor Chronicles’ is available now from the Big Finish website.
Four new stories from the Ninth Doctor’s era, performed by Nicholas Briggs. Featuring Bruno Langley as Adam Mitchell and Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler.
- The Bleeding Heart by Cavan Scott
Galen is a place where people come to heal. The renowned ‘planet of peace’ seems the ideal venue for talks between two warring races. But when death disrupts the diplomacy, Cosmic Nine news reporter Adriana Jarsdel uncovers a different story. Luckily, someone is there to help. A battle-weary veteran from another war. The Doctor has come to Galen – but is he looking for peace, or something else entirely?
- The Window on the Moor by Una McCormack
Emily and her sisters once told each other fables of warring kingdoms: wicked princes, noble dukes, and their battling armies. Now she wanders the moors of her childhood alone, remembering those tales. The TARDIS arrives amid a strange civil war, with prisons made of glass and cities stalked by terrifying beasts. As windows open between worlds, stories and storyteller meet, and Rose comes face to face with Emily Brontë.
- The Other Side by Scott Handcock
Rose has invited a new friend on board the TARDIS, against the Doctor’s better judgement. But when the Time Lord tries to take his unwelcome guest home, a temporal tsunami cuts the journey short. The travellers find the source of the disturbance inside an abandoned cinema. Will Adam Mitchell help or hinder when the Doctor and Rose discover what is lurking on the other side of the screen?
- Retail Therapy by James Goss
Jackie Tyler is a success. Every home should have a Glubby Glub, and Jackie is star saleswoman on the Powell Estate. At last, she’s found her calling and it’s only a matter of time before she can give Rose the life she deserves. But the Doctor isn’t impressed. Jackie Tyler isn’t just filling peoples’ houses with useless clutter. He believes she’s launching an alien invasion…
Written By: Cavan Scott, Una McCormack, Scott Handcock and James Goss
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Nicholas Briggs (Narrator), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell), Claire Wyatt (Adriana Jarsdel), Laura Riseborough (Emily Brontë). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producers: David Richardson & Scott Handcock
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs