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Our verdict on the latest episodes and products.

Audio Frequencies

From 19th-century Japan to the heart of the Time War, the latest audio adventures place the Doctor in some compelling scenarios…

Reviewed this issue

The First Doctor Adventures Volume Two (featuring the First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara) RRP £23 (CD), £20 (download)

Hour of the Cybermen (featuring the Sixth Doctor) RRP £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)

The Eighth Doctor: The Time War 2 (featuring the Eighth Doctor and Bliss) RRP £23 (CD), £20 (download)

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In an age that fetishises empty spectacle over storytelling – all those comic-book movies where people spend the interminable last reel knocking lumps out of buildings – Doctor Who’s continued devotion to the nuts and bolts of plotting is something to treasure. We’re all stories in the end, said the Eleventh Doctor. And Big Finish, as they often remind us, love stories.

But can you have too much of a good thing? There are times when Doctor Who adventures feel like an overstuffed cushion, splitting at the seams with plots and sub-plots and finicky explanations. Which may go some way to explaining why the pace of earlier serials can seem, to the modern viewer, a bit on the glacial side.

The First Doctor Adventures marks a conscious return to what producer David Richardson calls “a slightly quaint way of telling Doctor Who stories”. John Dorney, whose The Invention of Death opens this second double bill of audio adventures for David Bradley’s mysterious time traveller, describes Doctor Who in its infancy as telling “stories about ideas” – part of the reason why, by the writer’s own admission, the plot here “only turns up in episode three”.

That’s a slight exaggeration. But it’s true that Dr Who, Susan, Ian and Barbara spend an authentically long time faffing and fretting before getting out of the door, after which a good episode-and-a-half is dedicated to the kind of scene-setting they’d crack through before the opening titles of the modern show. This, to my ears at least, is no bad thing. The Doctor has just attempted an ambitious “temporal slingshot” in order to try to return Ian and Barbara to – all together now – London, 1965! (Or thereabouts, anyway.)

Instead, they’ve landed on Ashtallah, home to a race of “unicellular anthropoids” (planet of the amoeba people, basically). “Even by our standards these aliens are pretty… alien,” notes Ian. Though, to be fair, they probably feel the same way about a British schoolmaster in worsted flannels.

Illustration by JAMIE LENMAN
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About Doctor Who Magazine

SERIES 11 COMPANIONS MANDIP GILL AND TOSIN COLE WRITE FOR DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE! READ THEIR DOCTOR WHO DIARY IN THE LATEST ISSUE. Doctor Who Magazine 529 also includes: • Meet the writers and directors of Series 11 • An interview with Roy Scammell, who was part of Doctor Who's stunt team in the 1970s • The life and work of Don Harper, the composer responsible for the soundtrack to 1968 epic The Invasion • Big Finish's Lisa Bowerman answers questions from the TARDIS tin • Games company Gale Force 9 reveal the background to Time of the Daleks • A tribute to Alan Bennion, who played three Ice Warriors in the 1960s and 70s • Part Six of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Time Team watches three pseudo-historical Doctor Who stories • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2013 Eleventh Doctor story Hide • Third Doctor cosplay with Rob Lloyd • Previews, audio, DVD and game reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!