THIS EPISODE TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN "THE
COMPANY OF FRIENDS:
BENNY'S STORY" AND
NICHOLAS BRIGGS &
BIG FINISH SPECIAL #IX
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
2010 (N.B. THIS STORY
WILL NEVER BE MADE
IT IS AVAILABLE ONLY
TO SUBSCRIBERS OF BIG
THE FIFTH DOCTOR HAS
BEEN ALLOWED ACCESS
TO A VAULT OF STELLAR
CURIOS, WHERE THE BIO-
ARE AT LAST PREPARED
TO LISTEN TO HIS MANY
SUDDENLY THE DALEKS
ATTACK, UNLEASHING A
THAT WILL NOT ONLY
THREATEN THE JARIDEN
RACE, BUT WILL HAVE
FOR THE HISTORY OF
THE DOCTOR HIMSELF.
The Four Doctors
Each year that I’ve been a Big Finish subscriber, their annual bonus release has become ever more enticing, culminating in this Christmas’s irresistible offering, The Four Doctors, the title of which tells you almost everything that you need to know. I say ‘almost’, because as well as Peter Davison; Colin Baker; Sylvester McCoy; and Paul McGann, The Four Doctors also features the Daleks - absolutely loads of ‘em. And Robomen too. If you haven’t subscribed yet, then I’m betting that you soon will.
What I love the most about this release is its unashamed revelry. Whilst I’ve enjoyed each of Big Finish’s multi-Doctor stories to date, they have all tried to do something a bit outside the box – just look at Zagreus and Project: Lazarus, for instance. It’s as if a sort of snobbery has developed that prevents an author just throwing together a medley of Doctors, giving them a famous foe to fight, and saying ‘off you go.’ I’d be doing this story’s writer, Peter Anghelides, a disservice if I were to suggest that The Four Doctors is that clear-cut, but it certainly does typify the gung-ho, celebratory spirit of the televised multi-Doctor tales, and I applaud that.
we don’t follow the four Doctors’ adventures as
such – it is David Bamber’s character, Colonel
Ulrik, that drives the narrative throughout. It is he
who finds himself hurtling back and forth through
the history of the Doctor; his shoulders that bear
the weight of the past and future of his people. The Four Doctors tells of a costly war between
the Daleks and Ulrik’s people, the Jariden, and
how “temporal leakage” shaped the outcome of
the conflict and the evolution of both races. This adventure’s working title, Reverse Engineering,
whilst a little unassuming, would certainly have
been appropriate as it examines what happens
when the Jariden reverse engineer both a Dalek
Prime and a special weapons Dalek from the
future; how this changes their race forever; and
how the ‘past’ Daleks have to change in order
to redress the balance. It’s a challenging and
compelling tale, particularly as Ulrik is such a difficult character to get a firm handle on, and everything seems to pivot on the excruciating choices that he has to make.
I also like how Anghelides uses the four Doctors, borrowing the most successful elements of past adventures of this type and adding a few of his own. This feature-length episode opens as if it were any ordinary Peter Davison story, only the anomalous use of the series’ original
theme tune betraying its ‘special’ status. The lone fifth Doctor soon runs into trouble, and it falls to the eighth to come to his rescue, Time Crash-style, using his memories of the events unfolding to respond accordingly. The sixth and seventh Doctors are then afforded their own Sirens of Time-style subplots, the latter proving particularly provocative as it sees McCoy’s Doctor stumble upon Michael Faraday, of all people, taking a leaf out of the Jariden’s book and trying to reverse engineer a Dalek! In the end, of course, these three disparate threads are dextrously woven together, and in a lovely homage to The Five Doctors, the four Doctors are finally and fleetingly united – to bicker about dress sense and TARDIS décor.
The production sounds suitably
ominous and raw. Steve Foxon’s
raucous score put me in mind of
Big Finish’s early Dalek stories,
whereas Nicholas Briggs’ Dalek
voices (and the apposite whirrs
and drones that now accompany
them) could have been torn out of
The Stolen Earth. Even the tale’s pivotal Roboman sounds exactly
as he should, pixel monkey Alex Mallinson wholeheartedly embracing the chance to get his acting teeth into something a bit meatier than reading a few fleeting lines of news or grunting theatrically.
Like Christmas, a convergence of Doctors is not something that happens often, but when it does it’s something to get very excited about – and something to enjoy. The writer certainly seems to have enjoyed scripting this tale - he can now claim to have blown up Gallifrey and written a multi-Doctor romp. Who else can say that? – and all those involved with bringing his script to life appear to have shared his enthusiasm. For the listener then, The Four Doctors is as enjoyable as its auspicious billing suggests, and without a doubt the biggest boon of being a Big Finish subscriber at the moment.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The Four Doctors does a magnificent job of providing listeners with no clues as to when its events take place for each of the four incarnations of the Doctor involved. Even the CD’s packaging offers no guidance, and there is no production code to assist either. The only things made explicit here are that the youngest three Doctors recognise each other (presumably following the events of The Sirens of Time, for the fifth and sixth Doctors), but the seventh Doctor claims not to recognise his replacement.
As the four Doctors are without the company of friends here, then it seems reasonable to infer that, for each, these events occur during their respective periods travelling alone. This is by no means certain, however, but for the purposes of placement we will assume that it is.
For the fifth Doctor then, these events likely occur whilst Peri and Erimem are in Monte Carlo, around the time of The Gathering and Cuddlesome (and long after The Sirens of Time). For the arbitrary reason that The Four Doctors was released after The Gathering and Cuddlesome, we have placed it afterwards.
As the sixth Doctor has found himself travelling alone on more than one occasion, his role in The Four Doctors could feasibly fall into a number of gaps after The Sirens of Time. As for Old Sixy this release of follows that of Legend of the Cybermen, we have (again arbitrarily) placed it afterwards.
The CD booklet depicts the seventh Doctor in the costume that he wore during his first two televised seasons, and looking relatively youthful to boot. This being the case, we have elected to place the seventh Doctor’s role in The Four Doctors after The Architects of History – the last release to feature the seventh Doctor on his tod. As such a placement is smack bang in the middle of the New Adventures, this might explain his appearance in the story’s artwork, and perhaps even his garb too (the novel Legacy, for instance, saw the old pullover etc wheeled out again even after the no-nonsense linen suit days had begun).
For the eighth Doctor, again, this adventure could fall in any number of places in his timeline. As his memory is sharp here, we can’t countenance a placement after either The Ancestor Cell or Orbis, and so (on a whim) we have placed it after The Company of Friends: Benny’s Story.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.