THESE FOUR EPISODES
"ASSASSIN IN THE
FOR SOME REASON, THE
SECOND EPISODE OF
"100" TAKES PLACE
PRIOR TO THE FIRST.
JACQUELINE RAYNER (1),
ROBERT SHEARMAN (2),
JOSEPH LIDSTER (3) &
BIG FINISH CD#100
TIMES, DATES, NUMBERS,
HE EMERGES FROM THE
UPON FOUR SEPARATE
ANCIENT ROME, GOES TO
SOMETIMES, A TIME
LORD'S LIFE CAN BE
1. 100 BC 2. MY OWN PRIVATE WOLFGANG
3. BEDTIME STORY 4. 100 DAYS OF THE DOCTOR
Big Finish’s one-hundredth monthly release is a very different animal to the much more hyped, multi-doctor, fiftieth release that now feels like so very long ago. In fact, “100” has much more in common with a short story anthology than it does with “Zagreus” or indeed any of Big Finish’s monthly audio releases to date, save of course for this January’s superlative “Circular Time”, which was the first monthly release to pioneer the single-episode story. What sets “100” apart from even “Circular Time” though is that each of these four episodes has been penned by a different writer, and what’s more, each of these writers is in some key way responsible for the success of the range.
“I don’t recall having done a story that was below ‘OK’…
and that’s tough when you’re churning them out. In fact, I’d put it higher than that:
the majority of them are ‘good’ and above…
And there seems to be an endless supply of writers
with imagination who can write for my Doctor.”
- Colin Baker
In the CD Extras, executive producer Nicholas Briggs – who also directed “100” – talks about why Colin Baker’s Doctor was chosen for this very special release. And, even given that late September is normally the sixth Doctor’s slot in the schedule, Briggs states that it is rather fitting for Big Finish’s one hundredth release to be a sixth Doctor story as Colin Baker is, for all intents and purposes, ‘the Big Finish Doctor’ – the definite article. It is undoubtedly a sentiment that it is difficult to argue with (though I am sure that Paul McGann’s loyal devotees may disagree) and I for one am pleased that it was the team of Colin Baker and Maggie Stables that were given the opportunity to bask in the glory of this celebratory release.
Of the four episodes that comprise “100”, Paul Cornell’s “100 Days of the Doctor” is definitely the one that feels the most commemorative. Like all the stories on the two CDs,
the plot itself is simple and effective but this episode stood out for me simply because of the glut of wistfulness that it contains. Not only do we see the Doctor spying on his past and future selves, but we also see him get wrapped up in the events of “The Seeds of Doom” in
a parallel timestream, bump into Benny Summerfield, and even crack a few in-jokes about never running into his first four incarnations. Cornell even, surprisingly poignantly, gives the Doctor a short speech about how he expected his sixth incarnation to be “short and sweet”, yet it did not pan out that way and he has been given the chance to grow older and wiser.
Robert Shearman’s episode, “My Own Private Wolfgang”, quite true to form is the most bizarre of the four. As it has been so long since Shearman last contributed anything to Big Finish’s monthly range, his indelible style seems even more pronounced than ever before;
it really made me appreciate just what a fine writer he is. The story itself is admittedly ‘daft’ but it is also grounded in an intriguing concept and as such is remarkably compelling. The performances are all very good to boot - John Sessions does an incredible job in playing all the various Mozarts featured with their diverse voices and even more diverse personalities!
Oddly, the first episode on the first disc is set, from the Doctor and Evelyn’s perspective at
least, after “My Own Private Wolfgang”, which is presented second. “100 BC” by Jacqueline Rayner is a very funny and outrageously silly little skit that structurally is inseparable from a short story, right down to the twist at the end. As much as I enjoyed it though, I do think that Rayner’s script completely debases the companion that she helped bring to life – the Evelyn Smythe of “100 BC” is petulant, reckless and seems to have discarded everything that she has ever learned whilst travelling with the Doctor. Nevertheless, if you do not take it too seriously, “100 BC” is definitely an entertaining way to spend half an hour.
Finally, I think it has to be said that one of the best things to come out of Big Finish’s first
one hundred monthly plays has been the discovery of Joseph Lidster. This young man has rapidly become one of my favourite Doctor Who writers full stop; plays like “Master” and “The Reaping” are so fantastic that it is hard to do them justice in a review. There is not one of his audio plays that I would describe as being anything less than breathtaking; Briggs
calls it “emotional maturity” or “kitchen sink angst”, but it is more than that. Lidster is able to take the most basic, everyday things and realise them so vividly that they seem utterly real. He then takes these very real worlds and plunges them right into hell. It came as little
surprise to me that his “Bedtime Story” is by far the most relatable story of “100”, and of course, it is also by far the darkest. How fitting then that Will Thorp of “The Satan Pit” two-parter – perhaps the darkest Doctor Who story ever – was cast in the leading role.
And so on balance “100” does exactly what it says on the tin. It is an audio anthology; a nostalgic, reverential, and deservedly congratulatory release that showcases the very best that Big Finish has to offer – past, present and future. Roll on “200”…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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