The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure
By Simon Bernard & Paul Morris, Alan Barnes,
Matt Fitton and Nicholas Briggs
Starring: Colin Baker, Michael Jayston,
Miranda Raison and India Fisher
It’s time to tear up all the reference books again. “Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice,” is no longer the final line of The Sixth Doctor. Since 1987 we’ve had to list that incarnation’s regeneration as being caused by ‘falling off exercise bike and bumping head on console’ – but no more. Big Finish have stepped into the breach and, twenty-eight years after the event, finally gifted Colin Baker’s Doctor a more dignified send-off in this handsome box-set containing four hour-long adventures that document his demise.
Each episode is set at a different point during the Sixth Doctor’s sprawling and, at times, confusing, post-trial existence. They are linked by appearances from arch-nemesis The Valeyard – brought to life deliciously by Michael Jayston. Whilst the whole thing is billed as The Last Adventure, it’s only really the final instalment that can be termed as such, at least from The Doctor’s point of view. As far as the Valeyard is concerned, however, they are happening concurrently. This is an impressive set of varied stories that allows us to spend time with an abundance of old friends as they build towards the final farewell for ‘Old Sixie’.
The End of the Line by Simon Bernard and Paul Morris is the opening gambit, and the most self-contained of the selection on offer here. It’s an inter-dimensional whodunit that sees The Doctor and Constance faced with multiple murders amidst reproducing railways. As the observant among you may note – we’ve never actually met Constance before. She is the new companion due to begin her first trilogy with next month’s Criss-Cross, in which the Time Lord will encounter her for the first time at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. We assume that it’s due to the early release of this set that we’re meeting her like this, rather like how we first met Melanie Bush – mid-voyage and with no real introduction - but it absolutely works. Constance, played by Daleks In Manhattan's Miranda Raison, immediately comes across as likeable and capable and we look forward to getting to know her better over the coming months. The End of the Line is a solidly spooky opener, with a belter of a twist in the middle.
Next up is Alan Barnes’ The Red House, a werewolf comedy/horror that revisits the period that The Sixth Doctor spent paired with Charlie Pollard – former companion of the Eighth. (Which reminds us – isn’t it about time for that reunion…?) It’s splendid to hear India Fisher reprising her role as everyone’s favourite self-styled Edwardian adventuress, and scenes of her encountering The Valeyard are what fan wet dreams are made of. A meaty tale that confounds expectations and gives us our first hints of the Valeyard’s endgame.
Stage Fright by Matt Fitton is our favourite of the quartet. Not only do we have Lisa Greenwood back as Flip, but she gets to share the spotlight with Jago and Litefoot – those infernal investigators from The Talons of Weng-Chiang who have spun-off into one of Big Finish’s most admired and longest-running series. This is also where The Valeyard begins to take centre stage with a deliciously bonkers scheme – one that reminds us that no matter how evil he may be, he is, essentially, The Doctor. His gleeful insanity here makes us suspect that the growling glaring prosecutor persona in Trial of a Time Lord was mostly indulgent role-play. We don’t want to give too much away, but look out for Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier as you’ve never heard them before…!
The one that everyone’s been waiting for is The Brink Of Death by Nicholas Briggs. The Doctor, now accompanied by Mel, must fight for his very existence as The Valeyard goes for broke and finally reveals his hand. It’s a script full of intriguing concepts, but, rather like this month’s Fourth Doctor release Return to Telos, this is an adventure that has an awfully huge burden of expectation that it’s constantly going to be fighting against. The ultimate resolution is clever and well plotted, but the journey to get to the regeneration is one that’s restricted by its pre-determined destination – Briggs does well to get us there as entertainingly as he does. Bonnie Langford as Mel doesn’t really have much more than a cameo, and a new character – junior Time Lord Genesta - mostly fills the companion duties. Despite a fairly ludicrous back-story, she’s fun to have around, but script ambiguity makes it unclear as to whether or not she ever existed at all…
The play’s final moments give The Sixth Doctor the regeneration that he deserves. (Quiet at the back!) Briggs neatly segues into the beginning of Time and the Rani without contradicting anything seen on screen, but adding bucket-loads of pathos and meaning to what was once just Sylvester McCoy in a curly blond wig. The Sixth Doctor is dead! Long live the Sixth Doctor!
With Mel’s involvement minimal, and no sign of Peri, this collection is more of a celebration of Big Finish’s Sixth Doctor than his televisual existence, and quite rightly so. It was them who rescued him from the bottom of the polls (sorry Colin) and rehabilitated him with a new lease of life – it feels apt that they should be the ones to (big) finish him off.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to Big Finish
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