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Reviewed: Big Finish’s Ninth Doctor Adventures Series 3 — Travel in Hope

Big Finish had a nine-month release schedule for the first two series of The Ninth Doctor Adventures, but for the third, it has spread out the 12 episodes over 12 months.

There’s a half-year wait between Travel in Hope, containing episodes four to six, and this February’s release, Buried Threats, which contains the next three. Little seems to link the two, with each boxset mostly feeling like an individual release rather than part of a series so far, so you can comfortably purchase Travel in Hope without needing to have listened to any other Ninth Doctor action from Big Finish.

Below There is the boxset’s first story, and is set in the deepest area of deep space. Vyx Leeson is alone on a ship and keeps having flashbacks to a space massacre. The Doctor finds her, but he doesn’t involve himself straight away after that. Instead, the production team go for a bit more of Alien vibe as a highlights reel of her lonely life (traumatised by flashbacks) takes place. And occasionally there’s a knocking on her spaceship’s hull…

This is stretched out until one day the Doctor communicates with her once again and asks for a game of i-spy. She doesn’t want her time wasted by childish games, but does explain why she’s actually alone in space. She’s the equivalent of a station porter for LeapCore, the commercial successor to T-Mats. Nothing exciting about that, so why is she scared?

It’s an old-school sci-fi story that bides its time before properly introducing the Doctor, and then waits even longer to introduce its threat. Between those two points, Vyx does plenty of explaining under the enthusiastic scrutiny of the Doctor, revealing how much she deliberately limits what she can see in the space below and beyond her ship, and the real reason as to why she’s alone.

The plot accelerates back into proper Doctor Who territory at this point, delivering a harsh message about the dangers of the human race’s future technologies and how capitalism — in a universe where labour is still needed rather than everything being handed over to AI — gets in the way of the right decisions being made.

There’s an emotional conclusion that results in ultimately what the Doctor would have wanted, and is definitely the type of outcome that Christopher Eccleston would have enjoyed turning from words on a page into a performance.

As effective as that is, it then hurts the start of episode two, The Butler Did It, due to its setting feeling too similar. The Doctor lands the TARDIS to a spaceship repair port and basically nothing happens through the first 13 minutes as the Doctor searches for a cup of tea. As he approaches that goal, an alien who he claims to be friends with falls ill and he thinks they have been poisoned by someone nearby. At which point the Agatha Christie-style plot is set into motion.

The Doctor interviews as many suspects as possible, bringing them into the same space together before talking to them privately one by one. Eccleston is full of quips while also trying to assert himself, the usual challenge when he visits a place and quickly encounters trouble, and at one point he does wonder if his interviewing technique is a bit too bold and accusation-focused.

Once others get involved in the interviewing, this becomes a story about the power the Doctor has to instil confidence in those around him. But that has negative repercussions, as if often does, with one of the Doctor’s new friends being targeted.

So everyone is reunited in true Agatha Christie fashion and the Doctor hosts a ‘whodunnit?’ With the criminal yet to be identified, it technically means they can still be up to no good. To detail more would spoil the conclusion, and explain the choice of title.

Run concludes the set and kicks off as an intergalactic parody of US elections featuring Raxacoricofallapatorians, Draconians, the natives of Mars, and the Doctor’s old friend, Alpha Centauri (this time voiced by Jane Goddard), who is the representative for their home planet of the same name. It has a 1990s feel to it too at first, probably due to the inclusion of rocket-powered megalimos and the American accents used for the intergalactic mobsters.

Alpha Centauri is at the start of their career as a senator in the Galactic Federation and doesn’t know the Doctor yet, while Eccleston enthusiastically plays his love for the friendly alien to show the familiarity his character already has with them.

A very nervous Alpha Centauri gives their first speech to the chamber as we get another murder mystery when one of the two presidential candidates gets killed. Sometimes, it leans on the comedic/farcical element of the American political sphere, while at other times, the story goes heavy on the murkier nature of political feuds. And within it, the Doctor pushes Alpha Centauri into being a replacement presidential candidate to act as opposition to Bellatrix Vega.

That puts Alpha Centauri’s life, and the galactic federation, at threat and it’s up to the Doctor to keep peace and power in place. All that’s missing is Josiah W. Dogbolter in this political caper. There’s action scenes, political ones casting a mirror to various infamous periods of Earth ideologies, and an element of mystery that rests on how good the listener’s hearing is.

There’s a very satisfying conclusion as the day is saved, and the Doctor once again instils confidence in someone. In this instance, it’s a young Alpha Centauri.

The cast and production crew from the three stories make great contributions to the behind the scenes material, and it’s clear they all love working with Eccleston.

With that in mind, it’s a surprise Big Finish has not yet announced The Ninth Doctor Adventures will continue into a fourth series. Series three was announced in March of last year, so maybe we just have to wait a few more weeks to find out if Eccleston will continue to play the Doctor…

The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Travel in Hope is available now from Big Finish.

Ida Wood

Reviewed: Big Finish’s Ninth Doctor Adventures Series 3 — Travel in Hope

by Ida Wood time to read: 4 min
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