We have here what I like to refer to as a deluxe companion chronicles release. It seems that Big Finish have upped their game in output of these early adventures, which utilise the acting skills of the cast to either narrate the story or to provide the voice of the Doctor. We have a selection of the usual actors whom played the companions to supplement and assist in this. From Carol Ann Ford, Maureen O’Brien, Anneke Wills and Peter Purvis. All of whom are experienced and talented to push the script and the writing along with the purpose of being the substitute for the Doctor, although whether this is my personal preference is up for debate, I find the narration element more of pushing the story forward in a quicker, speedier way, as opposed to purely re-imagining the part of the missing actor. The stand out thing, with this release as before, is that we get the feeling that the sound stage that is playing out before you, is a lot larger and of a bigger ensemble than that which is actually in play. For example the last story in this release feels like it is a full cast drama, when in fact most of it is a single actor playing 80% of the parts from the script.
The thing that makes me stand back with these releases is that they are moving in a more abstract way, they are more like multi layered stories, with, highly engaged threads held within them to provide the narrative content. So they are for example in the first offering here, quite full on, and require your attention, they are not simple stories, they have quite a complex, political Who style telling, more akin to the Gallifrey series which I would consider at the highest dramatic output of Big Finish, as opposed to pure science fiction style of the other ranges in the Who output. In fact “E is for…” in my opinion is much more of the grandiose outing, where as the following story Daybreak again retains the same standards of the the first one, but, is much more in keeping with the originality of the TV first Doctor series, and certainly the third story is again in this vein. However, the last one although much more traditional still gives you feeling that this is First Doctor stories, with the Big Finish twist, and is miles apart from a straight continuation of the original.
There lies why I am little uncertain of how I feel about these companion extra special release chronicles, they are not mere extensions of the original story line they are extensions of the First Doctor’s story line as told by Big Finish, with the writers moving the characterisation and the story lines along with reference to the past but not including all of it’s nuisances, that would make it more historically correct, in relation to the TV variety, I must admit that you have to be in the right mind set to listen to these as they are not the same as say the main range or 4th Doctor releases which have a different energy.
If you are of the classic bent, and like the way that the Big Finish are extending the First Doctor through these releases, then this is a real winner just on the production alone, but, given that we also have the First Doctor releases with David Bradley I am wondering where these sit in the extensive range, especially as we have also the Short Stories and the companion chronicles range still being put out there. There I think needs a little bit of rationalisiation of the ranges, as Nick Briggs himself suggested some time ago with these, otherwise we are going to drown in confusion of what is and isn’t released, we almost have multiple outings of the same Doctor, but told in totally different styles which may or may not compliment each other, and it will prove I think too much and strip the core of the whole release range that Big Finish put out.
So in summary is this release worth the listen and the purchase, overall I would say it is worth the listen, but it does not command the price point of it being a “Special Release” or “Box Set” as to me these are extended releases of the short stories/companion chronicle range, and therefore although I enjoyed the stories here, I find it hard to justify the purchase cost, against the type of release we have.
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