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To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, Big Finish Productions has joined forces with the official BBC audio-book supplier, AudioGo to produce a special range of Audio-books, each one focusing on one of the Eleven Doctors. Released monthly throughout 2013, each of the stories is read by one of the companions from the featured Doctor's era, alongside a secondary voice. Melding the styles of Big Finish's full-cast audio adventures and AudioGo's traditional audio-book readings, these Destiny of the Doctor audiobook's provide a totally new way to listen to stories from the classic Doctors.
These Destiny of the Doctor audios are a strange mix of both a true audio-book and the two-hander Companion Chronicles which Big Finish produce. It is read by Carole Ann Ford out of character, rather than as Susan, but she does provide voices for the various characters. The audio also includes sound effects and some dialogue acting between the two narrators. It works well and feels very similar to the audio reconstructions of the missing episodes in how it fuses both narration and acting together.
The story opens up four months after The Doctor and Susan arrive on Earth in the 1960s - the Doctor is busy locating parts to fix the TARDIS and Susan is attempting to fit in amongst the teenagers at Coal Hill School. However, a series of strange events occur when static in the radio causes calm and reasonable students to develop violent tendencies and hunt out those they deem 'alien' - Meanwhile, the mysterious Mr Rook, a schoolmaster at Coal Hill, is very interested in the Doctor and Susan and the secrets located in Foreman's Junk Yard, such as the strange blue Police Box that is kept there.
It's a bold choice to tell a story set before the TV show, focusing on the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, before we meet them on-screen for the first time, as it is an area rarely covered and there are plenty of blanks to fill in. However, it makes sense for this range of audios, which are threaded through the lives of the many Doctor's lives, to start from the very beginning. It also allows us to see some of the problems that the two of them faced while attempting to fit into 1960's England and avoiding detection.
The story is ripe with references and foreshadowing of future events, which the audience have already seen in the classic episodes, such as when Mr Rook calls Susan 'Unearthly', a reference to the title of the first ever episode, An Unearthly Child, and there are several mentions of Susan's latent psychic powers, which is explored much deeper in the serial, The Sensorites.
One of the most important aspects of writing these 'lost stories' is to make sure that the characters sound true to themselves and that continuity isn't disrupted. I'm glad to say that both Susan and The Doctor are very much characterised in the same way that they appear on-screen, with Susan struggling to fit into a typical teenager social group and the Doctor acts both superior and distrustful of the human race. You get the sense that this is precisely how the characters would have behaved prior to meeting Ian and Barbara in the first episode of the TV show.
I was very impressed with Carole Ann Ford's vocal talents here as she handles multiple characters, each with their own distinct voices and accents. Unsurprisingly, her strongest voice is Susan Foreman, the character who she played in the original TV episodes. She is assisted by Tam Williams, who plays Cedric, but the majority of the voice-work is performed by her, including Mr Rook, who you would expect to be voiced by her male co-star.
Each of the Destiny of the Doctor audios will have a linking theme uniting all eleven stand-alone stories and judging by the contents of this adventure, it appears to be that the current incarnation of the Doctor (Matt Smith) is somehow influencing his past. There is a sequence in the café where Susan and Cedric hear a dedication over the radio to themselves from the Doctor, although the First Doctor is equally as perplexed by the message as they are, suggesting a future incarnation is responsible. Perhaps future instalments of the Destiny of the Doctor series will also see the Doctor influencing his past?
Overall this was a fun adventure, which was very much in the style of the early adventures of the First Doctor - while there was a science-fiction reason behind the aggression of the gangs, it wasn't strictly alien-related. There was the hint of a larger story to be told, and I have the suspicion that we may see one particular scene referenced in a later audio (probably the Eleventh). This is a fantastic start to the audio series and I look forward to seeing more of the Doctor's 'eras' realised in the same manner.