The Legacy of Time
Directed by Ken Bentley and Helen Goldwyn
It’s been twenty years since Big Finish started telling Doctor Who stories. Matt Smith was my first doctor, so I’ve never known a time when the show was off the air, but when Big Finish released “The Sirens of Time” in 1999, Doctor Who was cancelled. Today the show’s been rebooted (if on hiatus) but the chance to hear new stories with earlier Doctors and companions is still a uniquely Big Finish experience.
For anniversaries, Doctor Who tends to celebrate with events and that’s what The Legacy of Time is. Featuring multiple doctors and an overarching mystery, this six-episode audio drama is great if you’re new to Big Finish and looking for a chance to sample different Doctors’ runs. It also has a lot to offer longstanding fans, with some exciting, first-time character interactions (like River and Bernice meeting in “Lies in Ruins”) and a couple, well-kept surprises.
While a set like this could sound intimidating, each episode (if less the final one) also works as a standalone story featuring one of the Doctors, so the plot isn’t constantly delivering high stakes and you’re not being bombarded with too many voices. It’s comparable to how some of the recent seasons on TV have been structured, where, at first, it’s just hints of something larger going on but then you start collecting more proof.
“Lies in Ruins”
Written by James Goss
Starring Paul McGann (The Doctor), Alex Kingston (River Song), and Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield)
It’s a meeting of the time traveling archaeologists when River and Bernice are called to the same planet to study its conflicting ruins. The plot’s sturdy but the real draw to “Lies in Ruins” is River and Bernice, and the chance to explore their different approaches to dealing with the Doctor. There’s also a lot of humor drawn from the age difference between them and the Doctor’s current companion, Ria (Alexandria Riley).
“The Split Infinitive”
Written by John Dorney
Starring Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Pamela Salem (Rachel Jensen), Simon Williams (Group Captain Gilmore), and Karen Gledhill (Allison Williams)
The most challenging of the episodes, and also one of the most rewarding, “The Split Infinitive” sees Ace working with the Counter-Measures team in the 60’s, while the Doctor works with them in the 70’s. They’re trying to figure out how a mob boss named Kazan (Vince Leigh) has been pulling off a series of robberies. Both timelines are happening simultaneously, however, so the 70’s team are remembering what happened in the 60’s as it happens. It’s very timey wimey, no spoilers Doctor Who stuff. At first you almost think there’s something wrong with the download – why is the story repeating itself? – but it’s all a matter of getting used to the coinciding timelines and what’s really cool (if mostly unspoken) is how much faith the Doctor shows in Ace. This is a story that rides on her and while the Doctor could’ve sent himself to the 60’s, he sends her.
“The Sacrifice of Jo Grant”
Written by Guy Adams
Starring Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Jones), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), and Ingrid Oliver (Osgood)
It’s impossible not to enjoy a story centered around Jo Grant. What’s unusual about this one is it’s set after Jo and the Doctor parted ways, making this a Jo Jones story, where she’s working with UNIT to close up some holes in time. The whole episode could’ve been set at the waterpark with Osgood and it would’ve been a blast (as much as the Doctor’s appearance is welcome, it’s not essential) but “The Sacrifice of Jo Grant” is a story that takes time for Jo and the Doctor to eat a sandwich and that’s why it’s great. All you want is to watch these lovely characters sit and chat and Adams allows room for that.
Written by Matt Fitton
Starring Peter Davison (The Doctor), Georgia Tennant (Jenny), and John Heffernan (The Nine)
You can understand why the idea of pairing these characters up would’ve been irresistible (Jenny is the Doctor’s daughter and in real life Georgia Tennant is Peter Davison’s daughter and married to the 10th Doctor, David Tennant), but the story (set on a space ship) is too confining and none of the secondary characters leave a lasting impression.
“The Avenues of Possibility”
Written by John Morris
Starring Colin Baker (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charlotte Pollard), and Anna Hope (DI Patricia Menzies)
The Doctor meeting historical figures is my favorite Doctor Who and in this one he meets the man who created the first police force, Henry Fielding. Throw in some parallel universes, accessed by going down different side streets, and “The Avenues of Possibility” is a winner.
Written by Guy Adams
Starring Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), and Lalla Ward (Romana)
When Leela and Romana start remembering separate trips they took with the Doctor to the same place, it’s another round of coinciding timelines, except this time you have “Split Infinitive” under your belt to make it easier. That being said, “Collision Course” carries the burden of falling last and is the one story where not knowing Classic Who can get in the way of telling who’s talking.
The Legacy of Time is available now from Big Finish.
The Legacy of Time