A new series of "Doctor Who" has just begun on BBC7! While we patiently wait for the next batch of TV episodes, four four-part Big Finish audio dramas have just started airing. These stories are already available to buy on CD but are being broadcast for the first time. So, if you don't own the discs, these sixteen episodes represent new material!! The season stars Paul McGann as the Doctor. Choosing his stories, instead of going with the audio adventures of the actors more familiar to us in the role, is an interesting move as it places the possibly-forgotten eighth Doctor centre stage.
Paul was terrific as the Doctor in the 1996 TV movie and it is a shame that a series with him in the title role didn't follow. The all-important ratings were excellent in this country beating, incidentally, all but the first episode of the recent revival with Chris Eccleston. In the States, however, this pilot film didn't fare so well and that was where the co-funding came from. British actor, British writer, British director, American money!
The failure can't be blamed entirely on US involvement. There were a lot of problems with the script. Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy said he had a lot of fun making it in Chicago but that he shouldn't have been in it! What he meant was that changing leads 25 minutes into the movie was a mistake. They should've started out with Paul and avoided changing the face of the hero. Introducing a new audience to the concept of regeneration so soon meant the wait for a new series was extended another nine years!!
Those of us who warmed to Paul's performance back in 1996, as well as new fans of "Doctor Who", now have the opportunity to see how the eighth Doctor develops. He is joined on his travels by Charlotte 'Charley' E. Pollard, a 1930s society girl played by India Fisher. In the first four-part story, "Storm Warning" by Alan Barnes, Charley sneaks on board the doomed airship the R101 with the intention of meeting a young American trader in Singapore on New Year's Eve but bumps into the eighth Doctor instead...
The second story, "Sword of Orion" by Nicholas Briggs, finds the travellers up against old adversaries the Cybermen while in the third, "The Stones of Venice" by Paul Magrs, the pair find themselves in a sinking city. In the final adventure, "Invaders from Mars" by Mark Gatiss, writer of the recent Dickens episode, they meet film director Orson Welles at the time of his radio production of "War of the Worlds". Simon Pegg from "The Long Game" co-stars in this story. Listen out for a great joke during the season finale when the Doctor meets a character called Bix Biro and asks him if it's a pen name!!!