Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Echoes of Extinction
Time Lord Victorious, the ambitious multi-platform 'festival of Doctor Who' has covered books, audios, comics, an animated Dalek series, a T-shirt, toys and even coasters. Released in 2020, it covered the adventures of the Doctor (in various incarnations) and the Tales of the Dark Times. While the majority of releases occurred last year, one of the six Big Finish audio releases was delayed.
Echoes of Extinction, which stars both Paul McGann and David Tennant as the Eighth and Tenth Doctors, was pushed back from its late 2020 release due to the Covid-19 pandemic; its launch was always designed to coincide with a vinyl version, available in stores across the UK. With the pandemic lockdown forcing the closure of all non-essential shops, the decision was made to push the release back to April 2021. Fortunately, the slow but necessary path out of lockdown means that Big Finish can now unveil their final entry in the Time Lord Victorious saga.
Check out the rest of our reviews and interview with producer James Goss below, featuring our extensive coverage of the Time Lord Victorious content released last year...
- Book Review: Doctor Who -Time Lord Victorious: The Knight, The Fool and The Dead
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who Short trips: Time Lord Victorious Master Thief / Lesser Evils
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of my Enemy
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Mutually Assured Destruction
- Interview with Time Lord Victorious producer / writer James Goss
- Big Finish Review: Doctor Who – Time Lord Victorious: Genetics of the Daleks
- BBC Audio Review: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: The Minds of Magnox
Echoes of Extinction has been written by Alfie Shaw and directed by Scott Handcock. It is available on Vinyl in selected stores and to purchase at the Big Finish site here. Here's the synopsis...
Trapped, a haunted monster waits to consume new victims. It needs help. It needs a doctor. Unfortunately, it also needs to kill whoever it meets. Thrust into immediate danger, and on the back-foot, it will take all of the Doctor’s ingenuity to triumph.
Two interlinked adventures. Two Doctors. One foe.
In our last review for The Digital Fix, the world's biggest Doctor Who fan, my 15-year old son Ben, will join me to discuss the final Big Finish release in the Time Lord Victorious range...
Given the delays in this final Time Lord Victorious release from Big Finish, it would be forget the events leading up to the story and become confused by the wider story arc. Fortunately, such is the clever concept of the over-arching narrative, each story can be enjoyed on their own and there is a lot to enjoy about Echoes of Extinction, even with only a passing familiarity of everything that led up to this release.
It isn't quite the story you might be expecting; the biggest issue for many might be that it's not actually a multi-Doctor story, despite the presence of both the Eighth and Tenth Doctors in Echoes of Extinction. Instead, this is a two-part story, with the first centred on Paul McGann's hero and the second, David Tennant's. There is a thematic link, which we see touched upon more in the Tenth Doctor section, but the clever thing about writer (and producer) Alfie Shaw's script is that you could listen to either of the parts first and still get two full - if short - stories with a natural conclusion.
The Eighth Doctor's story sees him arrive on a space station, where he quickly encounters Melanie Stevens' Orrivian, who is desperate to escape her 'prison'. She makes a solid one-off companion to McGann's Doctor, giving the listener someone new to root for, particularly when they are faced with the larger than life characters in Burn Gorman's genocidal Network and Paul Clayton's robotic butler Edwards. Gorman brings a great deal of menace to the role; the threat of death permeates to the story, with everyone - the Doctor included - at risk of murder. Clayton brings the drollness of his wonderful Torchwood character Mr Colchester to the role of Edwards, a sardonic, dangerous robot that will flip from serving you tea to hunting you down at a moment's notice.
The Tenth Doctor story delves into the narrative from the planet below, dealing with the genocidal fallout of The Network's actions as the Doctor becomes embroiled in a scavenging expedition that goes horribly wrong. It's always great to see the Doctor navigating his way around duplicitous characters; fortunately for the listener, they aren't stock bad guys. Kathryn Drysdale's Jasmine. Arthur Darvill's Cooke and Mina Anwar's Joshi all feel fully fleshed out characters, with Joshi in particular providing depth and humour to the guest spot role.
It's no surprise though, that the performances are all strong, with the immense talent brought together for Echoes of Extinction. From Big Finish and beyond, the actors can carry the narrative on their own; put up against the charismatic performances of McGann and Tennant's Doctors and the results are magic. What is great about the Eighth and Tenth Doctors are the ability in which they handle moral debate with absolute gravitas and there are certainly moments in Shaw's script that give McGann and Tennant the opportunity to deliver.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter that the link to the Time Lord Victorious saga is largely tenuous in the story. Certainly there are reference to the Kotturuh and other elements happening outside this release, but there is enough here to enjoy in isolation. Scott Handcock's taught direction, Shaw's script and the high standard of performances all round make this a worthy addition to the Doctor Who universe. Big Finish does it again...
You would be forgiven for forgetting this release was even meant to exist. Unfortunate delays pushing the story back about five months can certainly lessen the hype. But now it's here and it's fun listening.
Being able to listen in any order is a technique not used since the story Flip-Flop and as such leads to a more experimental way of storytelling reminiscent of the earlier days of Big Finish. Though it must be said that the previously mentioned story probably delivers on this idea stronger than Echoes of Extinction.
The Eighth Doctor segment is certainly the weaker of the two, being a more disjointed and rushed than the Tenth Doctor segment. Paul McGann is still as great as ever, dropping in jokes and speedily working everything out. Jasmine seems like the weak link here, with not much character in the short runtime while the robot Butler is snarky and fun and the Network just seems a very generic monster but with the added element of killing to make his victims leave him alone. It just rushes through things a bit and ends in quite an incomplete fashion.
The Tenth Doctor segment on the other hand is a fun, short romp as he joins a crew of profiteers to investigate the fallout. Tennant is on great form as ever and it's nice to see him get to tie into the Time Lord Victorious narrative somewhat, even if it is at the last minute. This segment also feels more complete than the last and ties into Time Lord Victorious a lot further than the other mini story, with references to the Kotturuh and the Doctor's very recent actions as the Time Lord Victorious itself. The final scene of this little bit does very much feel like a satisfying mini coda to the entire event.
As it's own story, it does work, maybe not as well as it could have, but it's also not heavily bogged down into the rest of Time Lord Victorious. With one half a bit rushed and the other a fun and enjoyable time, this release feels very 50/50. Still, you can't like every single story, and for what it's worth, Tennant and McGann are great. It's not the amazing multi-Doctor story that it could have been, making the wait feel a little undeserved, but the final scene with Tenth listening to Eighth is a fitting end.
In the behind the scenes interviews, director Scott Handcock discusses the vinyl release of Echoes of Extinction, while Paul McGann talks about the challenges of his first remote recording in lockdown. There's some lovely reflection of his time recording the TV movie back in 1996 and the advice he got from his agent - Janet Fielding, who of course played Tegan! David Tennant goes into the evolution of his lockdown recording, having been involved in a number of new Big Finish stories during 2020. He also touches upon the loneliness of the the Tenth Doctor during this story, without a companion at his side, and the dark path taken as he was confronted with his own hubris in his final stories (in which this Echoes of Extinction is set).
Handock provides great insight into working with each of the guest actors, offering praise and enthusiasm for everyone involved. Burn Gorman, known for his Torchwood role, delights in playing a Doctor Who villain and the huge deal of being in the story featuring a Doctor, given that his Torchwood character of Owen was never quite suitable for the main show! Fellow Big Finish Torchwood actor Paul Clayton also talks his own strange experience of performing as Edwards in a wardrobe, with Handcock on Facetime against a fabric conditioner bottle!
Kathryn Drysdale reflects on the layers to the character of Jasmine and how the role compares to her other Big Finish roles and her time in Doctor Who's Love and Monsters. Arthur Darvill, known largely for his role as Rory, enjoys playing a very different character from the Doctor Who universe as Cooke, while Mina Anwar (Joshi) delves into the unsettling themes of the story and the sense of characters really talking to each other over the course of Echoes of Extinction.
Some closing thoughts on Time Lord Victorious...
While Echoes of Extinction has come out much later than its fellow Big Finish releases, it remains another fascinating element in the ambitious, unfolding story of the many Doctors and their connections to the Dark Times. Told across books, audios, animated TV and more bizarre elements like t-shirt merchandise, there is something hugely exciting about the passion and creativity of this multi-platform narrative. Time Lord Victorious is such a clever idea and one worth celebrating.
As I discussed with Time Lord Victorious producer James Goss in our interview (check it out here), it is a festival of Doctor Who. There's a lot to explore (we only covered some of the wide-ranging content here at The Digital Fix) - from escape rooms to merchandise and everything in between - and one I hope might be repeated again, down the line...
Time Lord Victorious has been a very interesting event. The most inventive thing to come out of this franchise in a good while, it's got a mix of great stories, okay stories and one or two bad ones. But the beauty of it is that you don't have to experience everything. Yes you might get more out of it if you do experience them all, but the event is as big as you like.
It's a shame that the Ninth Doctor was relegated to just one comic. However, the multi Doctor book was enjoyable once it got going, and an interesting conclusion to the whole event. The Tenth Doctor's expanded experience of that one scene in The Waters of Mars adds a whole new layer to his Doctor's character and some meat to the late game Tenth Doctor. This is great fun and it would be really nice to see something similar or another one of these in a few years time.