THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIOS
OF MORBIUS" AND
& NICHOLAS BRIGGS
BIG FINISH 8TH DOCTOR
CD#3.1 (ISBN 1-84435-
393-4) RELEASED IN
Doctor IS DEAD.
her life on Earth,
night, an alien
front door and
her. Could it
that Lucie’s days
the Doctor are
over? She will
find the answer
the planet Orbis,
all forms of
The Doctor IS DEAD.
His companion, Lucie
Miller, has returned
to her life on Earth,
one night, an alien
visitor arrives at
her front door and
shoots her. Could it
be that Lucie’s days
with the Doctor are
not over? She will
only find the answer
on the planet Orbis,
where all forms of
life FACE extinction.
7TH MARCH 2009 - 14TH MARCH 2009
Big Finish’s third season of eighth Doctor and Lucie adventures has certainly been their most heavily publicised to date. Without a full series of televised adventures to keep us ravenous lot sated this year, Big Finish have looked to plug the gaping chasm with a rather inspired idea – every Saturday night at 7pm from they will make a brand new eighth Doctor and Lucie episode available for download. CDs will be available too, in due course, to those prepared to splash out an additional fiver on their subscription (a no-brainer, surely?), but in the interim we are treated to what is, essentially, a good old fashioned ‘broadcast’ season
of Doctor Who.
The first story to be released in this fashion is Orbis, written by Alan Barnes and Nicholas Briggs, who also directs. In a departure from previous seasons, this story sees the return of the twenty-five minute (well, half an hour!) format. Now whilst this move was essential for Big Finish to be able to stretch the season out to the length of the television series’ usual run, I can’t say that I’m all that keen on the notion. I say this for two reasons – firstly, I struggle to stay interested in any story over a number of weeks (I’m the type who has to record an entire volume of Heroes, or season of 24 before I can sit down to watch them, en masse) and so the reintroduction of authentic two-parters doesn’t appeal to me. Perhaps more importantly though, I’ve always looked on these eighth Doctor and Lucie stories as being a ‘missing link’ of sorts; a grey area where the classic series blends into the new, and as such a return to the old format feels like a significant step back.
Listening to both episodes of Orbis though (in one sitting, of course), such concerns swiftly evaporated as I was drawn back into the world that I had left behind last August. The story picks up the ride around six months after the events of The Vengeance of Morbius from Lucie’s perspective, and a staggering six hundred years after the same from the Doctor’s!
It seems that the Doctor didn’t perish when he fell into the chasm on Karn; the Sisterhood transported him into E-Space, where he decided to hang up his boots and settle down with the jellyfish-like Keltans on Orbis. For Lucie’s part, she was irrefutably gunned down by the Headhunter… but, as is revealed here, with time bullets!
Given the above, the first episode quite naturally spends a lot of time setting up where the characters are now at both physically and mentally. Due to the passage of time, ‘old Doctor’ has long-since forgotten about Lucie and their adventures, and he appears to have attracted a new and apparently rather sweet companion in Selta (Laura Solon). Lucie, on the other hand, is dragged by the Headhunter into the TARDIS, who rewinds the time bullet and tells Lucie that she must help her to find the Doctor on Orbis, otherwise she’ll speed up the time bullet and let it kill her. Very nasty.
“This pink prawn, your protector?”
The first episode also introduces us to the story’s main alien protagonists, the clam-like and hermaphroditic Moluscari. Andrew Sachs (who recently appeared as Adric in Paul Magrs’ divisive Boy That Time Forgot), gives an absolutely astonishing performance as the leader of their number, Crassostrea. The voice that he gives to his character is very distinctive; it sounds like one of the Blue Meanies from the old Beatles movie Yellow Submarine! And, when combined with the percussion of his pincers, the whole, vile picture that the sounds conjure up is absolutely marvellous. Better than the telly, as they say.
Of course though, one undeniable
advantage of the two-parter is the
big juicy cliffhanger stapled across
the middle, and this one is oddly
memorable. It’s one of those lovely ‘realisation’ cliffhangers, as oppo-
sed to the more traditional ‘peril’
ones, but more than that it has an extraordinary sense of humour about it. At first, the whole excited about the tights / couldn’t care less about Lucie angle is really quite comical, but when the reality of it sinks in, it’s downright brutal. The listener feels like slapping the Doctor, never mind Lucie!
The second episode I enjoyed even more. Like the first, it is polished in every respect but what sets it apart is that it has one or two tricks up its sleeve to boot. I think that listeners could be forgiven for looking for a dues ex machina on the horizon – after all, they couldn’t realistically just add six hundred years or so onto the Doctor’s clock, could they? Character implications aside, it would certainly beg the question of his age.
“And to be honest, I lost track of how old I really was aeons ago. I tend to round it down a
bit, making a few adjustments for variations in year length across the cosmos. I could
be four hundred years old, seven hundred, nine hundred; or in some parts of a partic-
ularly obscure galaxy, I’d be just… two. But however old I am, I wasn’t born yesterday.”
To my delight though, there was no cop-out – quite the opposite in fact. The climax of Orbis hits you like a hammer in the face. The issue of the Doctor’s age is negotiated beautifully by the writers, as are the ramifications of his spending six hundred years on one planet that is suddenly ripped out of his life, not to mention existence. It certainly puts his relatively brief exile on Earth into perspective.
“The universe doesn’t just stop because you’ve opted to play happy families with a bunch
of jellyfish for six hundred years. Someone’s got to do the saving whole of creation stuff,
and frankly I and certain of my associates have been getting rather sick of it…
As much I hate to admit it, the universe can’t do without him. Welcome back, Doctor.”
By the end of the story though, the toys are back in the box (well, there’s probably an arm or two still hanging out of the box, for later stories to pop back in… or not) and the Doctor and Lucie are all set to resume their adventures in our universe. The end of Orbis also ties back into The Vengeance of Morbius very agreeably too, leaving things nice and open for the old ‘other’ Hand of Omega thread to be picked up in a future story.
On a final note, I have to praise the performances of the cast here. This story features one
of the most interesting performances from Paul McGann that we have probably had since Terror Firma, and Sheridan Smith is every bit his equal, stealing most of the scenes that
she appears in. Big Finish stalwart Katarinna Olsson also impresses once again as the Headhunter, and I can’t wait to see her return, remote stellar manipulator in hand…
All told then, the eighth Doctor and Lucie’s third season is off to a flying start – the strongest start that they’ve had yet, in fact. See you next Saturday night at 7pm…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This story holds the record for subjective length! Following his climactic battle with Morbius at the end of the previous season, the eighth Doctor finds himself marooned in E-Space on the planet Orbis, where he remains stranded for approximately 600 subjective years with only the jellyfish-like Keltans for company. This can be taken as proof that the Doctor fibs about his age, which must at least be approaching the two millennia mark by this point in his life.
As the novel Vampire Science is very specific about three years having passed for the Doctor since he left Sam behind (as opposed to about six centuries!) we do not think that the eighth Doctor’s travels with Lucie can feasibly take place during the same “Greenpeace rally” gap as his adventures with Charley and C’rizz. Whilst the Doctor is discernibly insincere whenever the topic of his age is broached, and he could simply
be fibbing about his “three year” sojourn, the fact that he barely remembers Lucie when they are eventually reunited in this story suggests that he’d hardly be likely to remember to go and collect Sam after the events
of Death in Blackpool.
As the final eighth Doctor novel, The Gallifrey Chronicles, sets up the restoration of Gallifrey – an event which must occur for the planet to be destroyed again in the Last Great Time War – we take the view that the eighth Doctor’s adventures with Lucie take place some time after the (first!) resurrection of the Time Lords.
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