It might seem strange now with Doctor Who products and new content everywhere, but back in the Dark Times of the Long Hiatus we were starved of new stories about our favourite Time Lord and his world. Yes, there were the books. Some of them were really good and it is not surprising that many of the best writers were those which brought back the show and who have since written for the new show. Some of them, however, were dreadful and even the good ones lacked the personal connection with the story that a human voice can give, let alone the voices of the characters themselves. This was the world in which a group of fans, many of which Doctor Who Confidential and DVD extra watchers will have become familiar with started a company to fill that need. The company they started, Big Finish, is still going strong and still producing good Doctor Who audio stories - as well as the occasional clunker. But even the old show produced those, so we forgive and wait for the next classic, of which there have been several. But it all started here. Sirens of Time, like most of Big Finish's products are atypical 'audio books'. They are more akin to recorded radio plays than a single narrator reading the story and doing doing different character voices. Here, and in its other audios, Big Finish casts actors to each role. There is some doubling up of actors in some stories and Nick Briggs playing all the Daleks, Cybermen and similar monsters but these are done with distinct accents so they do listen like you are listening to an episode of the show. Sirens of Time, as the first story, starts with a casting bang. You get the Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy doctors appearing in seperate strands of the story which meet up at the end. Multi-Doctor stories became traditional for anniversary stories on the show, so starting a new media for the show to live in this way made sense and gave the opener impact. It has to be admitted that this is not the best story Big Finish have done. The classics would come later. This is also not an audio for a complete Doctor Who novice, though it would be hard to find one of those now. What this story does do is start up the audio versions of the Doctors of our childhood and set them free of special effects costs and questionable writing and costume choices and it does those things really well. This is the range that let me enjoy the Sixth Doctor - which is much easier with better writing and not having to look at that dreadful costume. It gave me back my dear Five, more Two stories and even at last Tom. And this is the story which let all that happpen, so I am more fond of it than its individual merits perhaps deserve. This is an average Doctor Who story with intrigue and threats which play out like most Doctor Who stories but as a combination multi-Doctor story/pilot for a new method of telling Who stories, a classic would have been unlikely. Though the freshness of hearing those characters again after such a long time is now not such a change, it does lose something. But not the establishment of revitalised versions of the old Doctors and a whole new world of Doctor Who stories to enjoy when the telly is not supplying the addiction. And it all started here. You can find Sirens of Time at Big Finish's own website, where it is available on CD for £9.99 or download for £7.99. The CD is also available at Amazon at £7.60. I would recomend snagging it from Big Finish during one of their periodic sales. Who fans, old and young will enjoy it. I did. May be cross-posted to Ciao.
Until the return of the TV series in 2005, fans of the DOCTOR WHO world were able to enjoy new adventures in both novel and audio formats. There had been a healthy fandom for many years, creating their own audio adventures and releasing them on audio cassette, but in 1999 Big Finish Productions received the official licence to create new stories. The company was led by Gary Russell as the producer, with Nicholas Briggs as director and writer of many of the audio adventures. Both had for a long time been active in the fan world, and now enjoy the honour of working on the new BBC TV series. The audio series still continues and now has over 100 titles in its range. This CD, THE SIRENS OF TIME, was the first in the series. It is available from Big Finish for £13.99 at their website, www.bigfinish.com One of the joys of the Big Finish series is that they have managed to entice all of the surviving Doctors from the original version of the TV show to record for the series, all except for Tom Baker. This first story, which is in four episodes of 25-30 minutes each, features the final 3 Doctors from the original series, played by Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, and Colin Baker. McCoy appears in the first episode, Davison in the second, Baker in the third, and then all three appear together in the final episode. Mark Gatiss, from THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN and who has long been a DOCTOR WHO fan, also appears, playing three different roles. THE PLOT: The Doctor's home planet, Gallifrey, is in turmoil and is facing certain destruction from a fleet of warships in possession of technology greater than that of the Time Lords (The Doctor's race). Each of the 3 Doctors involved in the story are involved in their own deadly adventure, but have to join together to set time onto the right course. Unfortunately someone wants The Doctor dead. CONTINUITY: Each of the Big Finish stories take place in a very definite time within The Doctor's history. With 3 Doctors involved it is quite convoluted placing the episodes in their correct places in the canon. However the Davison portion of the story takes place between "The Five Doctors" and "Warriors of the Deep", the Baker portions between "The Trial of a Time Lord" and "Time and the Rani", and the McCoy portions post-original series and prior to the partly-American funded TV movie in 1996. DID IT HOLD MY INTEREST? The 2nd and 3rd episodes are quite exciting, but sadly the 1st episode is dull dull dull. It is fun to hear the 3 Doctors together in the 4th and final episode, although the ending feels quite rushed, as though the writer suddenly realised that he had to tie up the loose ends with only a few minutes to go. The sound effects are excellent and very much add to the reality of the experience. Multi-Doctor stories are always fun, hence the Children In Need special this year where the current Doctor, David Tennant, met Doctor No. 5, played by Peter Davison. It is quite a novel idea to have the 3 Doctors have their own adventures before teaming up in the final episode - the multi-Doctor stories from the TV show never dealt with the issue like this, instead the storyline was always simply a plot to get the Doctors together on the screen. In the final episode the 3 Doctors bounce their lines off each other nicely and gave this fan a warm fuzzy feeling in the tummy. Rather than having the 'same' Doctor in each episode Big Finish chose instead to feature a guest character to appear in each episode (Elenya/Helen/Ellie/Lyena), and this decision anchors the story and helped to keep my interest. The production values are excellent. The sounds are breathtaking and when I closed my eyes I was able to imagine that a TV episode was taking place. The four-part structure feels authentic, as this was the most common structure in place in the original DOCTOR WHO series. My main problem with the story is that none of the Doctor's have a companion. Whilst this fits continuity-wise it is a shame, as the 7th Doctor in particular seems lost without Ace. However I am glad that Big Finish avoided the trap of overloading the 5th Doctor with too many companions, which was a problem for much of his time in the TV show. To conclude, THE SIRENS OF TIME is well worth a listen if you are a fan of the old series. It has certainly piqued my interest and I have already ordered the second story, PHANTASMAGORIA, starring Peter Davison. I hope that I enjoy it as much. This review will shortly be posted on ciao under the username phurren2006.