Reviewed: Big Finish’s Vortex Ice/ Cortex Fire

Following hot on the trails of their last good idea, Big Finish continue to break the mould with their latest Sixth Doctor release consisting of two two-part stories (go back and read that last line again. It’s not incorrect; it just looks odd).

I was really impressed with the previous release, Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul, the latter tale in particular being an excellently sharp story. Big Finish proved they could do something great with an unusual format. Do they get things right a second time around with this newer style of story release? Absolutely they do.

Vortex Ice is a classic Jonathan Morris story if ever you’ll hear one: great dialogue, punchy pacing, and a incredibly satisfying (say it with me) wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey story. For the uninitiated, Morris was doing time-folding stories that went back and forth on themselves before Steven Moffat had even put pen to paper for Doctor Who on TV and he proves here that he’s lost none of his flair for constructing a story like this over the years of writing for numerous mediums.

Perhaps the most fun element is when the listener works out what’s going on within the story – there, at that moment, you realise you immediately want to listen again from the beginning to take it all in.

It also helps that the story has some very creepy sound design, hammering home the isolated underground arena that the TARDIS team find themselves trapped in.

Cortex Fire, by Ian Potter, is perhaps the more ambitious of the two stories; it certainly feels like it has more room to breathe in the world in constructs, with the scale of the city that the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood) arrive in feeling large and vibrant. It’s also naturally nicely populated with interesting characters for the monster of the week to get through. Said monster provided is certainly an intriguing idea as well: theorists who are interested in shadow governments and cover ups will find certain allegories within these episodes that are well articulated, while remaining subtext can be wonderfully overt within certain small scenes. It serves to construct a more interesting Doctor Who story, one not motivated by hatred or insanity but more via conception and misunderstanding.

Vortex Ice/ Cortex Fire continues the strong two-part release scheduled that Big Finish have been offering. Not only do these tales engage the listener but seem to give the leads, Baker and Greenwood, a new energy as they approach Doctor Who from a slightly different angle than they’re maybe used to.

Vortex Ice/ Cortex Fire is out now from Big Finish, priced £14.99 on CD, and £12.99 as a download.