Time never mellowed the Brigadier, neither has it mellowed the polls when it comes to favourite Doctors. In the Radio Times readership polls for top Doctor, Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor came in (sadly unsurprising) last position. Naturally, time favours the recent and the most prolific, but there’s something sad in seeing a particular persona of the Time Lord so frequently underappreciated – for whatever reason.
Certainly in Colin Baker’s era of televised Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor stories may have illustrated good reasons not to appreciate this multi-coloured, vibrantly irritable Gallifreyan. However, the Sixth Doctor has (or certainly should have) seen a regeneration in his cultural perception – largely thanks to Big Finish audio.
Those familiar with Big Finish will know this already; I am preaching to the converted. The Sixth Doctor is cool. Hopefully even cooler than bow-ties, Chesterton/Beatles dancing, and Adric in a blender. Colin Baker’s work on Big Finish has made him a constant favourite. However, if you find a Radio Times’ voter eager to be convinced, Static maybe a good start.
Static is written by Big Finish veteran, Jonathan Morris, and continues the adventures of the Doctor alongside his companions, Flip Jackson (Lisa Greenwood) and Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison). The TARDIS lands in a near-desolate caravan park. Together with a dysfunctional couple, they must face the past, their past, and the mystery of the Static…
The story plays with several trappings conventional to Doctor Who; mystery, horror, and time travel are all deeply embedded in this story. Static is part The Curse of Fenric, part Horror of Fang Rock, and part Before the Flood. I’m cautious about talking too much about the plot and characters as this is a story that really works best cold turkey; the less you know, the more it draws you in.
Where I would like to focus is on the central team of players. I think this might be one of my favourite Big Finish stories starring Colin Baker, and clearly from that statement, one of my favourite Colin Baker stories, period. Here, the Sixth Doctor lacks all the bravado and irritability he’s known for in his screen-persona, and, common to his Big Finish work, settles for inquisitive, protective, and quietly confident. A more mature Doctor and, in some respects, more detective than Time Lord. His relationship with his companions is a dynamic with a reciprocated fondness that makes listening to this team a real pleasure.
The story progresses nicely, starting off mysterious, playing into horror motifs before bringing it home with some science-fiction and time travel. You’ll find some surprisingly character-changing moments within as well. By Part Four, I wasn’t really sure where the story would land.
The biggest issue for me is that there is a lot going on by the last act, and sometimes keeping up with the exposition on top of the co-current events might be taxing if one isn’t paying their full attention. A shout out to David Graham who has a welcome return to Doctor Who, playing two personas of the same character brilliantly. I rarely mention it, but I also really like the CD cover. Hats off to the compositor!
There are some bonuses worth mentioning in this set – we have an extended behind-the-scenes on top of the usual interview track with a good 10 minutes extra. If you’re interested in really getting under the skin of this adventure, this is a great bonus track. Furthermore, there is a stand-alone Seventh Doctor Short Trips tale, The Night Before Christmas, written by Nick Ford and narrated by Stephen Critchlow. It’s a festive tale, belated sadly for this review on the wrong side of the festivities, but gentle and enjoyable enough – perhaps worth saving for a few months and playing on December 24th 2018 against a roaring fire, a glass of sherry, and a hot mince pie. Now or then, then and now, it’s a nice little bit of bonus material.
If you’re looking for a Big Finish that illustrates the very best of Colin, with a story that feels familiar enough to the conventions of Doctor Who without overly replicating or relying on them, Static is for you. This is largely a mystery/horror piece, filled with well-written characters and a few surprise moments.
Static is available now from Big Finish, prcied £14.99 on CD or £12.99 as a download.