Reviewed: Big Finish’s The Eighth of March

Big Finish’s celebration of the women of Doctor Who is now available on general release, bringing together some of the strongest female characters from the Who universe including Madame Vastra, Leela, Kate Stewart, River Song, and Professor Bernice Summerfield. Here’s what the Doctor Who Companion thought of the special occasion.

Emancipation

By Lisa McMullin.

River Song (Alex Kingston) always fits in at a glamorous party. She is in her element at a Galactic Heritage event, rubbing elbows with the well to do of the Academic world (galaxy?). She is there posing as Romana (played on TV by Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward), which understandably catches the notice of the Time Lords who dispatch Leela (Louise Jameson) to investigate who is masquerading as the Lord President of Gallifrey.

This is not the Leela of Season 14. Having spent time among the Time Lords (see, or rather hear, the audio series, Gallifrey), she is not her old technophobic self. She understands some of the complexities of time travel, but she cans till get annoyed at technobabble.

Pairing her with River is a joy to listen to as they bounce off each other wonderfully. Leela has no time for River’s meddling and want to get straight to the point. River’s attempts to bamboozle her don’t work and they end up working together.

The story shows once again the difficulties around time travel and knowing one’s own future. A great start to the set.

The Big Blue Book

By Lizzie Hopley.

Considering how long Big Finish has been using Benny, it’s weird that there are very few stories about her time on the TARDIS – leading to some very confused wibbly wobbly timelines. She spent ages with the Doctor (two of them actually) in the books, but not all that long on audio. So I was sad to find that Lisa Bowerman doesn’t feature all that much in this story.

Benny and Ace (Sophie Aldred) have to survive on Earth by getting jobs because the Seventh Doctor has wandered off, as he is wont to do. It starts out as a great opportunity to develop the relationship between Ace and Benny, as the latter is a new recruit to the TARDIS in The Big Blue Book. Instead, we get about half an hour of fun characterisation and about half an hour of Sophie Aldred talking to herself in a library – in what is some of the word describing your surroundings dialogue I have heard in a long while. At times, it is no better than Winter for the Adept from 2000. I really had thought they had gotten beyond such writing methods in nearly 20 years. Such a shame that it comes in a celebratory set.

Inside Every Warrior

By Gemma Langford.

The Paternoster Gang (named after the street they live on, don’tcha know) return for more intrigue and adventure in Victorian London. Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), and Strax (Dan Starkey) are all present for their first story together at Big Finish. If you’ve been a fan of them on television, then you are sure to enjoy this release.

As with any Big Finish debut, it’s fun to hear the cast back together. Their dynamic is fantastic and this chemistry elevates what is a fairly uninteresting story. While it is nice to be back in the Big Smoke, Inside Every Warrior is not as good as Jago and Litefoot’s debut, for example. However, it plays around with your expectations for women in the period, as well as where you expect the story to go.

Narcissus

By Sarah Grochala.

The final story of this set involves UNIT, but it does not feel especially like a UNIT story. People are going missing and they are all involved with a new dating app. It seems much more like Torchwood’s territory than UNIT’s. However, the slower pace and concentration on character is a boon for the story.

We also get to enjoy the first story with two Osgoods (Ingrid Oliver), one of whom is a Zygon. There is less focus on one of them being an alien and more on how the two of them are to live separate lives. It’s a direction that I think is most interesting for the characters going forward.

In conclusion, then, this set is a mixed bag. It demonstrates the range of strong women in this universe, and of course the performances are all great, but a couple of weaker plots let down an otherwise decent release. If you’re a fan of the Paternoster Gang, River, or Leela, however, we certainly recommend picking it up.

The Eighth of March is out now from Big Finish.