This new release from Big Finish sees the Tenth Doctor pairing up with the Fifth for the middle part of a trilogy of adventures under the Out of Time banner. It’s only a trilogy in a very loose sense, however, and you don’t need to have listened to last year’s opener to follow The Gates of Hell.
The first Out of Time story saw David Tennant’s Doctor meet Tom Baker’s fourth incarnation for what Katie Gribble described in her review as “a masterclass in fast-paced, character-driven frivolity”. It’s a description that doesn’t feel wide of the mark for writer David Llewellyn’s The Gates of Hell which, naturally enough after a Dalek encounter in the first story, sees the Doctors having to fend off the Cybermen.
The Gates of Hell takes place in Paris, mainly below ground in the catacombs. It makes for an atmospheric setting and one that works well with the Cybermen, whose modus operandi is often to bide their time skulking in the shadows before making a move. The Doctors arrive at different times before being united by a twist that, without spoiling the plot, feels very much like something out of the Steven Moffat playbook.
David Tennant and Peter Davison have appeared together on Doctor Who before of course, meeting up in charity mini-episode Time Crash in 2007, and they work well again here. There’s none of the spikiness of, say, Pertwee and Troughton in The Three Doctors (though the Fifth Doctor does get a bit irritated by his successor’s fanboy excitement at the retro TARDIS when there’s a timeline to be put right) and when the story requires them to trawl the archives in Paris for clues as to what is going on in the catacombs they’re happy to get stuck into the books and share what they learn.
Both Doctors are travelling alone but this story’s one-off companion is Tina Drake played by Shelley Conn, whose American accent is very much like Nicola Bryant’s. Drake is a Time Agent (for some reason I found it very amusing to find there was a Time Agent called Tina) who is certainly not overawed to be in the company of two versions of the same Time Lord and proves a capable ally, though we don’t get to know her well.
The episode’s other guest star is Mark Gatiss who has a rather more satisfying role as Paris tour guide Joseph Delon, a man who is tempted by the prospect of immortality. Gatiss gets to play the same character at different times in his life and it’s a part unusual in this kind of story for offering a more complete journey than is typical.
Time travel within a story is an area where audio scripts have to work that much harder to bring off than those for television (on screen we’d be able to see that the Doctor has landed in a different era almost immediately) and I found this adventure’s time hopping elements a bit confusing at times. The techno-babble explanation for how events are connected to a planetary phenomenon is rather skated over, although it has to be said that both Davison and Tennant were always two of the very best lead actors at delivering this kind of speech.
Whether you should choose to invest in Out of Time 2 probably comes down to how you like your Doctor Who on audio; if you want epic adventures offering scale and spectacle, you’re probably more likely to invest in the likes of the new Ninth Doctor series Ravagers or the Tenth Doctor’s other recent Big Finish appearance in Dalek Universe. If, however you don’t want to commit to a journey over multiple box sets, preferring a one-off outing that doesn’t outstay its welcome and offers some of the series’ most popular actors battling a longstanding enemy in a creepy location, Out of Time 2 – The Gates of Hell will be right up your subterranean tunnel.
All in all, it’s a fun, engaging adventure that moves at a great pace, feeling much more in keeping with the Tenth Doctor’s era than the Fifth’s. Allons-y, indeed.